Category Archives: July 4

When choosing to live in St. George is also part of the job

When Meg Rasmussen took the job of executive director of the Georges River Land Trust (GRLT) she and husband Brian Higley had to decide where in the watershed they wanted to live. Although they considered a number of different communities, they ended up choosing St. George, where they bought an old farmhouse at the end of Watts Avenue in Tenants Harbor. Their familiarity with the peninsula through Rasmussen’s parents, who had been living near Drift Inn Beach for the past 25 years, was part of the reason for settling here. But there were other factors as well, including the opportunities they’d like their young daughter, Alita, to have.

“We were already in love with the town,” Rasmussen says, “with the character of the landscape, the villages, the coast—and we had good connections with people here. But what ultimately decided it was that we loved the school. We talked with people there about their philosophy of expeditionary learning—we were really intrigued by that and by all that this school does to connect students to the environment.” In 2018, as Rasmussen points out, the St. George School was named “School of the Year” by the Maine Environmental Education Association, a group whose mission is to build “an environmentally literate Maine where powerful learning experiences connect individuals to the state’s landscapes.”

In many ways, too, in choosing to live in St. George the couple was choosing to be part of just the sort of community the GRLT would like to see flourishing throughout the Georges River watershed.

“St. George is a community that already has a lot in place in terms of tools for promoting conservation,” Rasmussen says, referring to the town’s very active Conservation Commission and its Comprehensive Plan, which urges respect for the things that contribute positively to the town’s quality of life—among them accessibility to its natural environment. These tools, she says, help give conservation-minded people here a strong voice in local decision-making. That means a town like St. George can become a place where “people and nature are allies. For me it’s not about freezing things in time and just fossilizing what things look like, but about having a healthy community where development doesn’t wreck the natural world.”

Rasmussen came to the GRLT from the Hudson River Valley where she had the position of Senior Park Planner with the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, a large environmental group. A landscape architect by training, her work involved leading a series of major capital projects totaling over $15.8 million and involving dozens of design professionals, contractors, staff and organizational/municipal partners. But when she learned from her mother, Jane, that the GRLT was looking to hire a new executive director she was already scanning the horizon for new challenges. “I was looking for a way to make a bigger difference,” she reflects. “I was a small part of a big organization which was doing great, but that could continue doing great without me.”

Rasmussen says she is enthusiastic about the GRLT’s work, particularly its pursuit of collaborations aimed at preserving the rural character of watershed communities and connecting people of all ages with nature. In Hope, for example, the group recently worked with Maine Farmland Trust to make it possible for a young family with a farming business that produces charcuterie to purchase Taylor Place Farm, 125 acres of farm fields, woodland and blueberry barrens on the southern slope of Philbrook Mountain—in the process, importantly, permanently protecting it as farmland. And in Thomaston, the GRLT worked with the town’s Conservation Committee, Sidecountry Sports, the Oceanside Middle School and other local businesses and organizations to create the Oyster River Multiuse Trail in the Thomaston Town Forest. The trail is suitable not only for hiking but also for mountain biking and will support a new physical education program at the school aimed at using cycling as a tool for students to achieve academic, health and social success.

What Rasmussen has to offer the GRLT at this point in the organization’s more than 30-year history of conservation activism, she believes, are the skills she honed as a project manager with the Scenic Hudson Land Trust.

“I didn’t really see anything to fix at the GRLT as I was interviewing for this job. It seemed more like there was all this passion and energy with a culture that is very strongly grass-roots and very strongly hands-on, but you’ve got to focus that energy. The land trust movement has been changing over time. A lot of land trusts like the GRLT started with people around a kitchen table, a group of dedicated volunteers. Now land trusts and non profits in general, I would say, have had to up their game in order to attract philanthropic dollars because donors want results for the money they provide. They want to be sure that they are giving to an organization that can make an impact, that can pool everybody’s resources and do something that one person couldn’t do on their own. So I saw that potential. I thought that what I could bring to the GRLT would be some focus and some large land trust experience for how a very successful land trust can operate.”

To that end, Rasmussen and the GRLT board and staff are now engaged in a lot of strategic planning. “It’s important to look ahead five years—this will be fun,” she says, acknowledging that for many people strategic planning doesn’t fit their description of “fun.” “But that’s the project manager in me,” she adds with a laugh. “From an organizational point of view, I would like to see the GRLT become financially sustainable so it can do exciting work that inspires people in the watershed to have a strong voice for what happens in their communities.”

After a thoughtful moment, she adds quietly, “In taking this job I just thought maybe I would be at the right place at the right time.” —JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman


GRLT using conservation easements to benefit St. George

The Meadowbrook preserve

Conservation easements allow people to protect the land they love. This year Georges River Land Trust (GRLT) is working with landowners and local and state-wide partners to protect two very special properties in St. George.

Both sedge wrens and community members are benefitting from the successful conservation of Meadowbrook, a 23-acre parcel on Turkey Cove Road near Otis Cove. Its protection ensures that a variety of birds can count on the wetlands, marsh and upland forest for habitat. Meadowbrook also offers excellent birdwatching and hiking opportunities.

The other property, in Long Cove, is a GRLT conservation easement project currently in process (stay tuned!) and will ensure that a stretch of iconic coastline remains intact.

By holding these conservation easements, Georges River Land Trust is assuming the responsibility for conserving these community gems forever, benefitting local wildlife and the St. George community.

PHOTO: Carol Arness

What is the Fourth of July?

Independence Day postcard from the early 1900s

The recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day was very impressive. One of the media reports about D-Day that was surprising was about the number of people that either did not know what it was about or did not understand some of the background, such as who was fighting who. This made me wonder if facts were lost after 75 years, what did people know about the 200+ years-ago events surrounding the Fourth of July?

The Fourth of July—or Independence Day—was the day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, the document that marked the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain. The document was approved two days earlier, on the July 2, but signing was delayed a few days. Some believe it was signed about a month later, but Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin all said that they signed it on July 4.

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote that July 2, 1776, would be celebrated as the “great anniversary festival” and that it “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations.” Adams was off by a few days as the document that was approved on July 2 was printed and distributed with the date it was signed—July 4.

The Independence Day celebrations of the past were much more eventful in St. George than now. In the July 9, 1903 issue of the Harbor Beacon (a Tenants Harbor newspaper) it was reported that “a large number attended the party in Odd Fellows hall, Friday evening. Saturday a greater number attended the celebration on Barter’s Point and to the ball game and boat ra ce, at the same time listening to the good music furnished by Mathew’s band.”—John M. Falla

‘Everything is textural for me’

Sara G. Lee demonstrates punch-needle technique

St. George has a wonderful reputation for generously welcoming new artists who add to the creative diversity found on this peninsula. Sarah G. Lee, who with husband Jim recently moved to Schumaker Lane near Howard Head, fits right in with her unique works that interpret coastal Maine’s rugged beauty. Lee alternates working with two quite different mediums: acrylic painting on canvas and needle-punching fabric that she makes into pillows. But she finds that the two mediums inform each other.

Born in Connecticut, Lee spent childhood summers at her family’s home on Deer Isle. Later, after attending New England College in New Hampshire where she studied visual arts, she moved to Maine, settling in Blue Hill where she raised two daughters. Eventually she moved to the Portland area where she began a career in retail management that also involved interior design.

“I think where my paintings come from had to do with harnessing all those wonderful childhood memories. When I moved from Blue Hill to Portland, that was when I began craving this coastline, the pink granite, the spruce. So that’s when my painting really started evolving. I paint from memory, it’s an emotional response.”

Lee’s paintings reflect wonderful childhood memories.

The connection with her punch-needle work, she ways, is that both her painting and working with yarn and fabric are about texture. “Everything is textural for me. In my paintings I start with an underlayer and then I begin layering on top of that. I’ll even get out my sander to make some reveals.”

Punch needle is textural in a different way. It is a form of textile art where yarn is threaded through a specialized needle and then punched through fabric leaving a small mounded loop on the underside. When completed, the underside becomes the finished side of the textile. When Lee started the punch-needle work she used a tufting gun. “A tufting gun is kind of what a sewing machine is to hand sewing. You can push a lot of wool through fabric rapidly and I thought this is kind of like painting with yarn. But then I went from the tufting gun to hand tufting because I’m a knitter and I love a lap project.”

As with her paintings, her punch-needle designs also take their inspiration from the coastal environment. “The color play reminds me of a certain place or time. The colors of the fog laying on the ocean, the pink net floats against the worn wooden dock, the colors of kelp tossing in the waves, bright orange periwinkles, purple mussels, the hull of a boat. Stuffing the pillows with Maine pine needles enliven sensory memories I hold dear.”

Both Lee and her husband, whom she met in Portland, are pleased to have made the move to St. George, but not only because Lee’s two daughters and three grandsons live in the area. “We were in that stressful corporate thing. One day we said to each other what are we doing? So we just said ‘uncle’ and left.”

Hanging out at the Metal Shop

Now a full-time artist, Lee calls her professional enterprise Spruce Tree Studio. “I have felt so embraced by and welcomed to this art community, like I’ve never experienced before!” Lee remarks. Recently, she gained welcome visibility for her work when she opened a seasonal shop in the Metal Shop building that was part of the old Lilius Grace Institute on Main Street in Tenants Harbor (the shop is called “Spruce Tree Studio at the Metal Shop”). There, Lee is selling her punch-needle pillows, her acrylic paintings, specialty yarns, punch-needle supplies and the work and products of several friends, one of whom is local blacksmith Noah Bly. “You have to have metal in a Metal Shop!” Lee laughs. Already the shop has become a sort of hangout for knitters and yarn spinners and punch-needle students.

(Spruce Tree Studio at the Metal Shop is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 11am until 5pm. You may learn more about Lee at sprucetreestudio.com or contact her at sprucetreestudio@gmail.com/@yayamarm on Instagram.) ­­—Katharine Cartwright (Julie Wortman contributed to this column.)

A day in the life …

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

American Robin fledgling

In some circles, June 20 is considered the longest day of the year even though technically the day in the fall when clocks “fall back” is the longest (25-ish hours). In any event, this year June 20 started out wet in St. George. It came complete with a duck swimming in a pond that had been in our yard since a couple of days prior. Things changed (a little) around midday as the rain let up and the skies opened (kinda). My responsibilities for the afternoon were focused on a son getting healthy and waiting for a phone call from the bike store letting me know I could pick up my bike. So staying close to home was a no-brainer. And besides, there’s always plenty to see in the neighborhood.

With the rains this spring, searching for mushrooms has been fun and productive. On this solstice afternoon several species of Jelly mushrooms, such as Tree Ear and Orange Jelly, looked “extra gelatinous” and full of rainwater. And there was an Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) down the road that has been particularly fun to watch this June. Oyster mushrooms are a tasty, “choice” edible, much appreciated and sought after. But as with any mushroom, there is more to Oysters than edibility. The fungus that creates the Oyster mushroom is mainly a decomposer —living in logs and helping to turn them into soil. The fungus, however, can also be carnivorous. As they decompose the substrate they reside in, the fungus makes tiny lassos with their hyphae and “capture” nematodes (roundworms) that cruise by. After securing the nematode, the fungi kills and digests it, obtaining essential nutrients, i.e. nitrogen, that may not be plentiful in the surrounding environment. And as if that weren’t cool enough, the Oyster mushroom fungus is also a major player in mycoremediation, where fungi-based technology is used to decontaminate an environment. Mats variolated with Oyster mushroom have been used to clean up oil spills with much success and fanfare. It was a no-brainer to let this Oyster release it spores into the neighborhood. The more oysters the merrier.

Northern Flag Iris and a silver-bordered fritillary

There is a meadow out back that used to be a chunk of the back yard. That was the next destination this particular afternoon. Northern flag irises were thriving and being downright distracting. Steady winds and a noticeable lack of sunshine didn’t stop the buttercups, daisies and chickweeds from attracting butterflies such as Silver-bordered Fritillaries, Northern Crescents and Common Ringlets. Butterflies, in fact, were a central reason for having this former chunk of lawn “go meadow.” And spiders were everywhere. A crab spider on a daisy had snatched (and was feasting on) a fly that came in for nectar or pollen. Visit flowers at your own risk.

On that solstice day there was also bird activity, of course, with one American robin fledgling making a racket. Twice it approached me begging for food as I was looking at insects. I didn’t have earthworms in my mouth or a reddish colored shirt on. I honestly had never seen that bird before. At one point it took to the air and tried to land on me! Not aggressive-like, just hungry. On another approach it came so close I had to back up to take photos of it. The male parent showed up a few times to feed this youngster some huge worms that were flooded out of their homes. Apparently, though, any dad would do for this robin.

A few hours later, after my wife came home from work, I was free to go further afield and take a crepuscular visit to the marsh, hoping to see a sunset—and was not disappointed. But more importantly I found a fish head at my fourth favorite otter latrine above the beaver dam which made me happy. Telltale whiskers identified this head as formerly being a part of a Hornpout or Brown Bullhead. The bull’s head, literally. They are native to Maine and can weigh up to a pound or so. A nice treat for Larry, the local female otter. Or maybe one of the others. Either way, it was fun to learn about these Hornpouts and learn that they live in the marsh. So a bullhead head and sunset rounded off what turned out to be a pleasant solstice.

My destination was set for the next few days—any animal head is worth repeat visits. And the butterflies, flowers and oyster mushrooms too. Fun to watch flowers go to seed and yummy edible mushrooms decompose. I ended up missing the bike store call, but saw a Luna Moth the next day directly because of missing it. So things worked out alright in the end.

Hope you had a good solstice, too!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Girl Scout Troop 1831 heading to Orlando in 2020

St. George Girl Scout Troop 1831 is headed to the Girl Scout National Convention in Orlando, Fla., in October 2020. All ten of the troop’s active members have committed to going. This is a major event where the girls will be part of workshops and planning meetings on what they can do to change the world for the better. Thousands of Girl Scouts will be attending from all over the world.

This is such an incredible experience for these girls to be a part of. The troop will be doing several money-earning events for the next year to help pay for the $15,000 needed to pay for this trip. We will be at this year’s St. George Days selling handmade fire pokers and doing a bake sale with everything made from Girl Scout cookies. We will also be doing several other bake sales, bottle drives, a car wash, babysitting events and much, much more.

There has not before been a whole Girl Scout troop from Maine committed to going to a national Girl Scout convention. These conventions happen every three years in locations across the country. Our Girl Scouts are amazing and everyone should know.
—Dawn Gauthier and Patty St. Clair

Remembering Anne Klapfish

When news spread of Anne Klapfish’s sudden death at age 69 on the morning of June 20, many in the St. George community were not only shocked but deeply saddened because Anne held down a special place in the hearts of so many of us—sometimes because of, sometimes despite the fact that she was a colorful, opinionated, fanciful, imaginative, generous, often painfully direct, self-indulgent, reflective and self-aware person. In short, one way or another she made an impact on people wherever she went.

For those reading this who didn’t know her, however, Anne Klapfish was more than a memorable personality. After all, memorable personalities abound in St. George. The thing is, her store, Stonefish, both when it was located in Port Clyde and then when it came to Tenants Harbor in 2014, made St. George more of the kind of town it used to be before Rockland and other larger Route 1 venues began dominating this part of the midcoast’s retail scene. With Stonefish in place, a shopper didn’t need to leave the peninsula to find, as she noted in this year’s Dragon ad, “a thoughtfully curated selection from around the world: apparel, decor, antiques, the peculiar.”

But for Anne her store, it must be said, was more than a source of income, though that was important to her. It was also a creative outlet for her fanciful inner life. Through it she told stories of times past, offered quirky takes on life’s disconnects and conjured possibilities. She filled it with romance, adventure and humor. Her punch-needle pillows, imaginative collages and idiosyncratic ornaments were both unexpected and delightful. And, importantly for St. George, through what she created at Stonefish, Anne helped re-establish a climate of retail sophistication here that others have since joined in nurturing. This is no small achievement. To the lighthouse, to the art galleries and studios, she helped add another dimension to why someone from away might want to visit this peninsula and contribute to its prosperity.

Anne’s practical interest in retail success was also matched by her desire for St. George to be a vital community in ways that went beyond the purely economic. Thus it was that in 2003 she proposed to a group of friends and acquaintances the idea of a Thanksgiving weekend event called “Yuletide in St. George,” an old-fashioned Christmas fair that was admittedly intended to be a Black Friday sort of occasion for her and the town’s other seasonal retailers, but that she also envisioned as something more. As Anne said in a Dragon interview in 2017, “Yes, it’s a shopping day, but it seems to me that over the years it’s become a time when in this community everybody just comes together in a spirit of conviviality and respect.” What she especially liked about Yuletide, she said, was that people would come for “all the right reasons”—to be part of a community and to support all aspects of what this community has to offer, whether its special kind of commerce or its many good causes.

Yes, there is no doubt that Anne Klapfish for a long time will be missed both by those who knew her well and by those who visited her store or merely knew her through random local encounters. She was a big personality who unexpectedly played a big role in making St. George a better community. —Julie Wortman

PHOTO: Julie Wortman