Category Archives: May 9

New owners of Craignair Inn already offering some new ‘branding’

The new owner-operators of the historic Craignair Inn in the Clark Island community of St. George say that they don’t have big plans for changing how the inn had been operating when Joanne and Michael O’Shea were the resident innkeepers. At least not right away.

“I don’t feel we have to change anything huge—for the first year we want to keep things running as is,” says Lauren Soutiea, who with her husband Greg Soutiea took over ownership of the inn from the O’Sheas at the beginning of 2019. The staffing has stayed the same, work by local artists still hangs on the walls and the Soutieas continued offering the inn’s popular winter “burger night” fund raisers directly after moving in. But it is already clear that the young couple will be “branding” the inn in a new way just by being themselves.

Toward the end of this month, for example, members of Zoom Multisport, the largest triathlon team in the Boston region, will take over the Craignair for a weekend gathering. It was at Zoom that the Soutieas first met about 10 years ago and many of the friends they made there came to their wedding on Peaks Island in September 2016, participating with Greg and Lauren in the Lobsterman Triatholon the very morning of the big day. So it is very much on the Soutieas’ agenda to make sure that the Craignair is runner- and biker-friendly. “We will try to organize some runs for guests and have some running and biking routes available,” says Lauren. The couple has also already made a connection with Steve Cartwright, who manages Blueberry Cove Camp’s annual half marathon in August and hope to be able to offer discounted room rates for the event.

Likewise, in April a group called Wild but Well came to the inn to hold a health and wellness weekend, again through a personal connection with the Soutieas—this time through a “plant-based” restaurant near Boston.

“We’re both vegans,” says Greg. “So we eat no meat or animal byproducts.” Not surprisingly, the Soutieas are planning to expand the Craignair’s summer menu to include two or three vegan options. Greg notes that during this past winter’s burger nights the vegan option they added to that menu scored an encouraging number of takers and since then the couple has met a number of vegan people in this area who say they are eager to have another dining venue available to them.

The Soutieas’ decision to take up inn keeping came after a couple of years of exploring the idea. “We were working for other people and spending a lot of time away from each other,” Greg explains. “We like to travel and we always stay in local spots, in B & B’s especially.” A conversation with the proprietors of a B & B in Vermont where they were staying before a bicycle race made the idea of running an inn together very attractive. In addition, Greg had been working in property management and had a background in marketing and advertising while Lauren had a strong background in data analysis—and both had considerable experience in various aspects of the hospitality industry—so the prospect of owning and operating a small inn in a beautiful location seemed not only attractive but entirely feasible. They hoped to find a suitable property in either New England’s mountains or along its coast.

“We came to visit the Craignair Inn on the perfect summer day in August in time for a beautiful sunset,” Lauren says, smiling at the memory. When they discovered that the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) was raising money to purchase the majority of Clark Island and open it to the public as a preserve, the couple was confirmed in thinking that this was the right place to be at the right time. “We’re working with MCHT to see how we can help,” Greg notes with enthusiasm. The couple have toyed with calling the inn “Craignair Inn by the Sea,” highlighting their intention to make the most of the inn’s picturesque location.

The big question these early days of learning all the ropes at the Craignair, the Soutieas admit, is how the couple will balance inn keeping with their love for endurance sports, something Greg calls “a hobby like anything else.” These days his big passion is for ultra marathons—50-mile, 100-mile and 24-hour track events that can require a training schedule of about 100 miles a week. This year he ran the Boston Marathon twice—first from the finish line to the start before the official race and then from the start to the finish line during the official race. Lauren, meanwhile, who also qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon (a repeat Boston Marathon competitor, she had the bad luck of being among the 10,000 runners who qualified for the event this year but were prevented from competing because there were too many qualified runners to include them all) has been focused on training for Iron Man triathlons, which consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon run raced in that order and without a break. “When we leave the house to go train,” Lauren explains, “Greg will run the entire time but I will run and swim and bike—we end up training a similar number of hours.”

But right now, the Soutieas say, running the inn is their priority, so they haven’t scheduled themselves for any endurance events this summer. Afterall, as anyone who has a seasonal business in St. George well knows, keeping up with the summer’s demands can easily be its own sort of marathon.­—JW

Colson Scholarship awareness fundraiser May 18

Russell and Cathy Lawrence are honoring Ralph “Bud” Colson’s 90th birthday with a lobster stew fundraiser at the St. George School on May 18 at 2pm in support of the Frances and Ralph Colson Scholarship Fund, which the Colson’s set up to benefit St. George high school graduates who will be furthering their education at a college, university or technical program.

Last year Ralph presented the town with a check for $50,000 to further endow the scholarship which he and his late wife Frances created 16 years ago. When that gift was announced, the Lawrences were surprised that many people in St. George were unaware of the scholarship, so Russell began work on spearheading an awareness fundraiser that would also recognize Ralph’s milestone 90th birthday.

In addition to the lobster stew dinner, there will be a live auction featuring a Puffin 8 1/2’ fiberglass skiff with oak seat, oars, 3 hp motor along with many other marine-related items.
Tickets to the event are $15. For information and to donate auction items call 207-372-6363 or 207-242-3386.

Salinity and alewife restoration: middle-level students investigate

Measuring salinity in the creek

by Alison England

“I can remember when I was in 4th grade at the school, I would watch the middle-level kids working on the marsh project,” says Brooke Hoppe, now a 7th-grade student at St. George School. Classmate Evie Thissell adds, “When you enter middle school, you start to do things for the community and this is a big project for the community.”

Ever since St. George School became its own municipal school unit in 2015—and Brooke’s brother Hunter helped net and carry the first returning alewives into the marsh in June of 2016, the first in over 30 years—students at the school have been using their science knowledge and skills to help the town’s alewife restoration efforts. No one knows all the reasons why alewives haven’t re-established their run into the Tenants Harbor marsh, despite re-stocking by the state during the springtime years of 2009-2014.

“I like that we are trying to make a difference in our community and that we are trying to help the alewives to bring them back. I like that we are doing this as a class,” notes Evie. “Last June (2018), when Bre and Madison saw two alewives in the stream, half the middle-level kids came down during recess to see them. Later, some kids netted and helped the fish into the marsh. Now, that was a big day.” On that day Chase Jansen remembers, “The alewives were using the high tide to get in. I thought it was so cool how they just timed that, I was astonished.”

This past late winter another notable event was observed with the nor’easter storms that came along starting in March. High tides during the storms flowed right over the dam and into the marsh.

This led to new thoughts about big tides. Colby Hooper explains, “Last year’s 7th-grade studies of the tides showed us that it took a 10.3-foot tide to flood into the marsh. On June 14, 2018, when alewives could be breeding, the 7th grade took water samples and found a salinity of 4 parts per thousand which means for every 1000 water “parts,” there are 4 “parts” of salt. This might not be harmless to alewives or their fry, or at least that’s what we wonder.”
Colby’s class brainstormed their questions. They wondered about things such as: How do the tides affect the water quality? Is the water quality different in different parts of the marsh? How salty is the water in the marsh compared to the ocean water? Can we compare how the salinity changes over time?

Brooke explains, “After discussing questions in class, we went to the marsh and took samples of the water in different parts of the marsh. We wanted to know how much salt was in the marsh water. Our results ended up to be 0 ppt (parts per thousand) and others ended up 1 ppt, and we concluded that there was not much salt at all in the marsh when we sampled. To measure the amount of salt in the marsh we used an instrument called a refractometer. A refractometer is an instrument to test the salinity of water.”

Evie adds, “Since we didn’t find much salt, we’re thinking that’s because of all the rainwater flushing the salt out. But something is off with the alewives, they aren’t coming back and we don’t know why. We probably have flooding tides every month and they might bring in a lot of saltwater. Maybe there were some big tides when the alewives ran last spring.”

Alewives still run strong enough to harvest in other places in coastal Maine. Ella Cushman told her classmates, “My dad goes to Warren and gets alewives there. Sometimes I go with him.  They put the alewives in crates and bring them home to the Co-op and use them for lobster bait. That’s when the fish are running, and they are a good bait option for summertime. The fish are stored in a freezer. They catch a lot of lobster. Sometimes herring are really expensive, hard to find, and the alewives don’t cost as much as herring.”

Even though we probably won’t ever harvest alewives here, Colby says, “Alewives are important for our community because alewives are the center of the food web. They are a source of food for other fish in the ocean and lots of other animals too, like eagles and osprey.” Brooke adds, “If alewives used to be here and they’ve gone away, then they belong here.”

Thanks to the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s Middle School Grants (“Engaging Maine Middle School Students in Protecting the Nature of Maine”), the class is carrying out a project this spring to raise alewife eggs. Brooke explains “We have the same amount of alewife eggs in different tanks. The tanks have different salinities. We’ll see how different amounts of salt affect how the eggs survive and develop.” Colby adds, “This will help us understand what might be happening in our marsh and how it might be affecting our run.”

Evie Thissell and Brooke Hoppe

Brooke says, “The challenging thing about this project is that we can’t just get an answer, we have to figure it out. It’s not like a math problem where the math is already there and we just need to learn it. It’s something that no one has studied in the marsh before.” She and Ella agree. “It’s important work that feels like a tradition to us because the past St. George classes have been working on it for a while. It’s fun to go outside and work on a project that is going to help our community.”

(Seventh-grade students Brooke Hoppe, Evie Thissell, Chase Jansen, Colby Hooper, Ella Cushman, and Hayzel Poland participated in the middle-level salinity project. They wrote the informational pieces and reflections about the project from which teacher England quoted for this narrative.)

CDC launches community garden

St. George residents who want to grow their own vegetables, but don’t have a suitable place to grow them, have an opportunity to participate in a new community garden located on the grounds of the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor. Eight 10’ x 25’ plots (protected by deer fencing) that people can share or work individually are available on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting Alane Kennedy at the Community Development Corporation (CDC) office in Tenants Harbor at 47 Main Street (207-372-2193 or info@stgeorgecommunity.org).

The community garden project, which has been spearheaded by CDC Advisory Committee member Dale Pierson, is an outgrowth of the Community Cupboard which the CDC launched last year. The plan is to have the plots ready for planting by May 24. The town’s transfer station will supply compost. For their part, gardeners will be asked to adhere to a simple set of guidelines to guarantee the garden is kept clean, neat and free of chemical herbicides and pesticides.

Volunteers interested in making themselves available to mentor novice gardeners or otherwise be helpful can also sign up at the CDC office.

Dental clinic visits St. George May 15

St. George Community Development Corporation (CDC) announces a mobile dental clinic at 47 Main Street in Tenants Harbor on May 15, 2019, from 3-7pm.  The mission of the dental clinic is to provide residents of all ages with high-quality dental care.  A focus on the long-term benefits of good oral health is important to the ongoing health of all St. George residents.

The clinic, to be run by Tooth Protectors, Inc., has been arranged for by the CDC’S Wellness Committee, which has been discussing the value of oral health over the past year.

“Tooth Protectors, Inc. is a mobile dental practice, specializing in preventative care within Maine communities and schools,” says Tooth Protectors spokesperson Amanda Ray-Noonan.  “We invite community members of St. George to schedule an appointment for our mobile clinic in Tenants Harbor to address their oral health concerns.”

Tooth Protectors accepts MaineCare and other dental insurance.  Financial assistance for out-of-pocket costs may be available through the CDC for community members who are under-insured or without insurance. Community members can schedule an appointment by contacting Alane Kennedy at 207-372-2193 or info@stgeorgecommunity.org.

St. George CDC is a local 501c(3) non-profit in Tenants Harbor whose mission is to work with the St. George community to improve access to healthcare, education and housing and to support economic and community development.  Learn more by visiting www.stgeorgecommunity.org.
—Alane Kennedy, Administrator, St. George Community Development Corporation

LBJs (Little Brown Jobs)

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Brown Creeper

Spring is here! The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the grass is greening (and begging to be mowed!). Goldfinches are gold, cardinals are bright red (granted, they are red year round) and waves of brightly colored warblers, vireos and other songbirds are making their way north eager to join in the local scene. Currently residing somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, these colorful tweeters will make it here soon, timing their arrival with the greening and opening of leaves. These insectivorous songbirds will feast on the leaf-eating “bugs” associated with such greenery, and then fill the bellies of their newly hatched offspring with insect after insect. Only to be eaten by a bigger predator—and a food chain is formed! “Raised on insects,” as they say.

Songbirds, of course, have been showing up for a while now, long before the oaks and maples even considered producing those leaves. These “early” birds weren’t at the mercy of insect/leaf-based food chains, no. Instead they may have obtained nourishment from seeds found on the ground and along roadsides. Or maybe they are master seekers and found insects hiding within tree bark and under fallen leaves. From the habitats the early birds frequent it should be no surprise that these tweeters are often draped in shades of browns and greys, mottled and marbled for camouflage. Yes, these are the birds of roadside bursts, the brown forms that erupt when a vehicle passes, only to return moments later. They are “Little Brown Jobs” or LBJs.

Take a closer look at a flock of LBJs and their diversity becomes apparent. While the majority of LBJs may be the ubiquitous Song Sparrow or Dark-eyed Juncos (Little Grey Job!), local flocks of such “numerous” birds will attract random, less common, migrating species in a “safety in numbers” type of gathering.

Fox Sparrow

One of my favorite (darned tootin’ I have favorites!) early season LBJ species is the Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca). And measuring in at seven inches, this large sparrow often stands out within LBJ groups. Fox Sparrows are a lesson in diversity on their own—with 16 recognized subspecies in North America! Locally we see the “Red” subspecies (spp iliaca) as they make their way to breeding grounds in way northern Maine and up through Canada and west to the Hudson Bay. And while some years there may be few to zero “Red” Foxes around, conditions this spring resulted in many Redd Foxxes being observed in St. George—including five in my yard alone! A subtle and secondary harbinger of spring, Fox Sparrow migration is just one of many LBJ lessons for the learning.

Chipping Sparrow

White-throated Sparrows are often as numerous as they are noisy (“Pure, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada”). They also add a touch of texture within LBJ flocks with their yellow lores and distinctly patterned head. Savannah Sparrows have an even subtler golden hue, while Chipping and Swamp Sparrows toss “red caps” into the LBJ world. There is a subdued beauty with LBJs that is “right in front of you” while not being “right in your face.” Nice mix.

 

Snow Bunting

 

A surprise LBJ that turned up in the yard this April was a winter-plumaged Snow Bunting. Not an uncommon visitor to the peninsula in fall and early winter, Snow Buntings are often observed in large flocks, flitting in grassy fields and marshes, especially those close to the shore. To have a solo Bunting spend an afternoon of one of the (countless) windy days, recharging and gaining energy from seeds in neighborhood driveways was a first for me. Wouldn’t argue with a repeat session any time!

Where sparrows may be the LBJs of roadsides and grasslands, forests have a set of LBJs of their own. Winter Wrens may not be a “traditional” LBJ, but they fit the profile. They are little, they are brown, they are early returners and they are surprisingly tricky to see even though they are loud and consistent. Another favorite LBJ of the forest is the Brown Creeper. Creepers return at roughly the same time as Winter Wrens, but their soft and delicate song paired with their habit of sticking close to tree trunks make them easily overlooked. Once located, watching a Brown Creeper work its way up the trunk of a tree is a delight to observe. Creepers use their stiff tail feathers for support as they search for tasty insect treats hiding in cervices in tree bark. Inching their way up, higher and higher, only to fly and land low on another tree and start the climb and search all over again.

Migration is a joy to watch in all forms, be it mammal, insect, crustacean or whatever. LBJs are a group that provides a hint about migration. A glimpse of an event that is ongoing, endless and continuously around us. And if warblers take the cake for songbird migration in northeast North America, I guess LBJs might be seen as a tasty appetizer. And some days, depending on who shows up, LBJs may even be the dessert eaten before the meal. Especially if the dessert was a chocolate chip cookie (CCC).

See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

 

Celebrating perseverance

When I was in 4th grade, we had a ringer on our softball team. Her name was Alexia Cruz. Our strategy was to try and load the bases the best that we could and Alexia would come in as clean up. She would rocket that ball, flying past second base, soaring over the head of the center fielder, and landing oftentimes in the woods. With those easy runs scored, the team would erupt in exultation, dancing and cheering, as we celebrated yet another win. Alexia went on to an illustrious high school and collegiate athletic career, earning eight varsity letters and captaining Harvard’s track and field team in the early 1990s. However, I digress. All this is to say that the 3rd/4th grade girls team that St. George put up for the annual Mussel Ridge Basketball Tournament this year did not have an Alexia Cruz. What they did have was a group of young girls with tremendous courage and fortitude, exemplifying perseverance.

St. George MSU has embraced expeditionary learning and thus one of our foci is character development. Students and teachers are engaged in discussions and activities that center on habits of success. St. George has defined those as safety, respect, responsibility, perseverance and collaboration. Students reflect frequently on those qualities and they are part of each trimester’s report card.

Perseverance. A quick google search gives the definition as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” The Bouncing Dragons’ season started with a rudimentary understanding of basketball. Only two girls had played on the team last year, so for most everything was new. Dribbling, passing, shooting, defense, offense—all of these things took time, explanation and practice. Lots of practice.

Throughout the season, these girls grew as basketball players. The Mussel Ridge Tournament asked the girls to face off against teams from Camden and Rockland. Despite all their hard work, the girls lost both of their games, 41-4 and 40-2. But it is not the losses or scores that one needs to focus on. For those not able to make it to the games this past March, what you would have seen was a team full of energy and drive, resilience and determination. They ran the court, played hard defense and put up shots. They communicated with their teammates and supported one another. And they had fun.

When a foul shot was sunk, scoring the first point of the second game, the crowd erupted in cheers—startling the player and making her break out in a huge smile. Until the last minute, those girls defended against shots and ran the court with conviction. The girls’ grit and perseverance won the respect of the crowd.

When the final game was over, several of the girls asked if they would have time to do some more drills. They gathered in the hallway as the boys warmed up for their game. Clapping and cheering, the girls did their celebratory dance party, calling each girl into the circle to do a signature move. They closed with their chant, “Let’s have fun! Goooooooo Dragons!”

Learning is often measured by one’s ability to transfer skills to new environments and challenges. As educators, we hope that the lessons students experience at St. George, both academic and character-building, stay with students and help them grow into happy and confident adults. With the myriad of challenges that life throws us, perseverance is a skill that can serve one well. The Mussel Ridge tournament was difficult. The girls did not win their games. But for anyone standing in the hallway that night, those girls were winners. These St. George Dragons were a shining example of perseverance and we hope that they will carry that skill beyond the walls of St. George School.

—Amy Hufnagel (Hufnagel is the behavior specialist at the St. George School. Her husband Joe, along with Angela Vachon and Shasta Minery have been coaching the Grade 3-4 girls basketball team.)

PHOTO: Shasta Minery

Kitchen garden talk: Deer prevention? (Part two)

Dale Pierson, Martinsville: In my vegetable, berry and small fruit areas, I use row covers when plants are young so I can get easy access during the most critical time and can do later seedings.  Deer rarely bother them when covered.

As the plants grow larger and most of my cultivating/weeding has lessened, I remove the row covers as the plants need the light and many row crops can not stand the extra pressure from wet fabric and may get squashed or diseases can get a start in our moist climate.  I have then used a deer fence (netting) rolled over the rows of susceptible plants, so I can still unroll and do some work on the areas under cover.  This works to some degree but if the deer are extra hungry or the crop is one of their favorites, they will push the fence down and eat what is accessible or what grows up through the mesh.

I have used pepper and repellents sprayed at intervals.  They are expensive and do have to be reapplied after rain or as new foliage grows. I have tried other repellents that you place in the garden area but they too seem to fade quickly.

Last fall I drove some stainless pipe into my rocky soil and capped them for the winter.  This spring I am going to insert fiberglass stakes into the pipe and then hang deer fence 7.5’ tall  all around the garden as soon as my early spring planting and tractor work is done.  This means more hand work after the fence goes in but I hope the fence will work.  I will remove the fence each fall as I do not like the look of a sagging black fence all year. I will still use row covers when I need to as this helps with insect issues also.

In tree and shrub areas, I wrap my fruit trees and our favorites with deer fence for the late fall thru late spring to keep the deer from browsing during bud set, over winter and bud break. After bud break there is usually enough other food for them not to be so problematic.
A pellet gun does make them nervous if they are in the yard during daylight but their favorite feeding time is after dark.

Music I have not tried or sensing lights as I do not want to interrupt our sleep with sporadic sounds and flashes, as my bedroom looks right over the garden area.

I probably should have spent a lot of money at the beginning of developing our gardens and fenced the whole place but that seemed like overkill at the time.

I believe since it is not likely that the deer pressure is going to be reduced, our community is going to have to come up with a town-wide approach to reduce the deer population to a more reasonable population if we are not going to have our yards look like prisons with high wire year round.

That is enough  before I wonder why I have a garden and landscape at all.

Chris Bly, Turkey Cove: I run an extension cord out to the garden. I mount a motion detector socket on a post or wall—something that gives it a better view. Instead of screwing in a light bulb to the detector, I screw in an electrical plug socket. I got both of these at Lowes. I got an old blender at Lisa’s at the Transfer Station and plugged it into the motion detector. So at night when the deer come wandering in, the blender turns on and they run away. The tricky part is protecting the blender from rain. It needs to be under a plastic bucket or something. Also there is a timer on the motion detector for one, three, or 10 minutes. I use three minutes, but one minute might do. Sometimes the wind sets it off. Hopefully it’s not right outside your bedroom window.

Bethany Yovino, Wallston: My veggie garden has fencing around it. We put up an inexpensive fence of that wire coated green stuff with metal stakes. It’s only five feet tall, but the deer have not jumped it yet. I also use a product called Bobbex deer repellent around the other garden spaces in my yard. It works well if you remember to reapply! And one more thing—we have DOGS, lots of dogs! We recommend that every household should have multiple dogs to keep the deer away.

Suzanne Hoyt, Clark Island: I’ve gone with fencing to keep out deer as nothing else I’ve tried, including all the ones mentioned in March’s “Kitchen garden talk” column, have worked.
On another topic, I found the column on sourcing seeds very informative. I still buy from Johnny’s, although I’ve moved toward FEDCO recently and was happy to see them on the list that DID NOT support Monsanto.