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Posts Tagged ‘maine’

Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/CSM.
Workers with Bangs Island Mussels, a Maine-based aquaculture company, harvest multiple lines of kelp in Casco Bay.

Humans never stop having to make adjustments. Consider all the confusing updates to your phone, problems with your printer, and the like. You are always having to learn something new.

Similarly, businesses have always had to adjust to market changes, floodplain dwellers have had to move to higher ground, families attacked by invaders have had to move to other countries … the list goes on.

Meanwhile, in Maine, lobster fishermen are having to consider new sources of income.

Stephanie Hanes wrote at the Christian Science Monitor, “The landing dock of the Portland Fish Exchange is busy this afternoon, in a way that almost reminds David Townsend of when there were still groundfish to catch in Casco Bay, when this pier was piled with cod and haddock … back before the fisheries collapsed.

“Now Mr. Townsend waves down to Justin Papkee, who has maneuvered his boat up to the dock. Mr. Papkee is a lobsterman. But hours earlier, he and his crew harvested thousands of pounds of sugar kelp, hauling the seaweed onto his boat from the ropes where it had been growing, cutting off the leafy blades and stuffing them into half-ton potato sacks. …

” ‘We love the new business,’ says Mr. Townsend. ‘This is the thing of the future.’

“Briana Warner smiles when she hears this. This is a new tune for the dockworkers, who not long ago grumbled about how their lives had descended to this, landing ocean weeds. But as the boats keep coming in, their enthusiasm for her efforts has grown. …

“It is her company, Atlantic Sea Farms, that is buying all of it, part of an ambitious effort to revamp not only Maine’s working waterfront, but also the way the state is fighting, and adjusting to, climate change. …

“Ms. Warner says, ‘We are presenting a climate change adaptation tactic that also does no harm, and in fact does positive things. … It makes the ocean better. It makes our coastal ecosystems better. It makes our coastal economy better. And it makes the consumer healthier.’ …

“The story of seaweed here in Maine, and how it is evolving into what some are calling Maine’s new cash crop, is part of a global story. … But it is also intensely local. And this, climate activists say, makes it even more important for understanding how humans around the world might adjust to a quickly changing planet.

“While few researchers would discount the importance of sweeping climate actions by international organizations and countries, there is a growing sense that, at least in the short term, real change will come from variations of what is happening in the waters off the coast of Maine. These will be place-specific initiatives. They will be based on cooperation and unity, not only between humans – the environmentally minded businesswoman and the sometimes conservative fishermen – but also among people and nature: the carbon and the kelp and the restaurateurs. …

“ ‘There’s no one silver bullet,’ says Susie Arnold, a marine scientist at the Island Institute, a Maine nonprofit focused on preserving the state’s working waterfront. ‘It’s going to take everybody. And at this point, we’ve taken such a toll on the Earth that there are going to have to be trade-offs.’ …

“For generations, life in this sparsely populated, ruggedly proud Northeastern state has focused on the ocean. Although Maine’s coast is only about 228 miles from north to south, when you include the various bays and inlets, the state’s shoreline measures more than California’s, totaling some 3,478 miles. Studies show that more than 80% of the household income in some communities traces back to fisheries. …

“For a generation now, lobster has been king of Maine’s seafood industry. It forms the base of a billion-dollar-plus business in the state, which provides the vast majority of domestically caught lobster in the United States. … And the people who hoist the traps take pride in crafting their own stringent measures to protect the fishery. They have imposed regulations on everything. ….

‘Lobster fishermen are notoriously good stewards of our coastal ecosystems,’ says Jesse Baines [of Atlantic Sea Farms]. ‘But we all know that the seasons are more variable every year.’

“Yet the seasons are not just more variable, starting unpredictably later or earlier. On the water, they are also warmer.   

“ ‘The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest bodies of warming water in the world,’ says Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. ‘And frankly, it’s incredibly scary how fast it’s happening.’

“The reason, scientists say, is climate change. As humans release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the air warms. Much of that heat is absorbed into the oceans. There are also ocean currents that some scientists believe are being disrupted. A shift in one particular circulation pattern has allowed warmer water coming up from the Gulf Stream to push away colder water coming down from Labrador, leaving warmer, saltier currents entering the Gulf of Maine. And that has prompted the lobster population to shift northward. …

“The warmer water has caused other species to migrate to the area, including the endangered right whale. Legal battles have erupted among the lobster industry, interest groups, and the federal government over protecting the mammal. Looking at all of this, economic development experts throughout the state are worried about the risk of so much of Maine’s economy being dependent on lobster. …

“Before she and her family moved to Maine, her husband’s native state, in 2013, Ms. Warner had spent nearly a decade as a U.S. Foreign Service economic development officer based in multiple African countries. There, she watched the struggles of individuals and communities working against forces far larger than themselves. And so she recognized what she was seeing in Maine.

“ ‘It’s just really devastating to see an industry that has taken such a leadership role in conservation and has no ability to stop the volatility because of the greater world’s usage of fossil fuels,’ she says. ‘No matter what the lobster fishery does, they can only control so much because the ocean is just warming.’

“The industry needed another way to make money, she realized – one that would be ecologically helpful instead of harmful. …

“The seaweed known as Saccharina latissima, or sugar kelp, is a yellowish brown alga that grows along rocky coastlines. It takes the shape of an elongated lasagna noodle, with crinkled edges, and can grow up to 16 feet long.

“It is high in a variety of nutrients, and also has a gelling capacity that makes it a useful ingredient for everything from cosmetics to ice cream to toothpaste. And like all plants, kelp absorbs carbon while giving off oxygen. …

“The idea of kelp as both a food source and an environmental solution is not new. Indigenous people in the Americas harvested kelp for generations. In Asia, it’s part of a multibillion-dollar seaweed farming industry.  

“But in the U.S., where far fewer people eat seaweed, there has been scant commercial interest in kelp farming until recently. … Although seaweed currently makes up only a small percentage of [the aquaculture] industry, it is the fastest-growing subsector, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. …

“ ‘The kelp is sucking carbon dioxide directly out of the water, and actually reducing the acidity of the water in its general vicinity,’ [says one kelp farmer]. ‘So if you put the kelp close enough to the mussels, we have measurable, significant evidence showing that the kelp halo effect helps the mussels grow bigger and faster.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Dudesleeper/Wikimedia.
“Herbie,” a notable American Elm in Yarmouth, Maine. America lost nearly all its graceful elms after the arrival of Dutch elm disease.

My father used to talk about the beautiful elms near his childhood home in Syracuse, New York, before the advent of Dutch elm disease. The trees’ graceful vase shape provided lots of shade on hot days.

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson at the Washington Post has found a few surviving elms in Maine, where people take good care of their trees.

“It’s a sunny September day in Castine, Maine, and I’m standing in a stranger’s yard debating how best to hug a tree. Not just any tree, but an American elm, a fully mature Ulmus americana.

“I want to hug this elm for practical reasons. At least that’s my justification. I remember hearing somewhere that your arm span roughly equals your height — 5-foot-7 in my case — and I wonder if I can better decipher the size of this elm by encircling it. I’m sure my hands won’t come close to touching. The trunk is massive, channeled by thick gray ridges of bark and reaching high overhead to an elegant vase-shaped canopy. The light has changed under its shade; the sun filtered through so many leaves creates a chlorophyll coolness.

“This tree, which is tall enough that a schooner coming into Castine Harbor could navigate by it on a clear day, has been here awhile. I know from the literature on the Castine elms that many were planted in the 1850s. … This elm, with its view of the water, has seen villagers ship off for a Civil War, a First World War, and then a second one. It has survived its own pandemic, Dutch elm disease, which leveled the elms of Europe before hitting America in the 1930s and felling over 70 million of its species. So, truth be told, I wouldn’t mind hugging this particular tree just for the hell of it. This tree is a miracle. …

“Castine is one of the few places in America where you can still see hundreds of mature Ulmus americana. Roughly 300 survive in the historic village and surrounding area by a recent inventory, which is an exceptional number. Exploring Castine is a trip back in time to a landscape no longer visible anywhere else. A town shaded by mature elms, some nearing two centuries old. The town motto: Under the Elms and By the Sea. …

“Castine is one of North America’s oldest settlements. In the 1600s, Europeans coveted the land for its auspicious trade location on the Eastern Seaboard and its deep-water harbor, never mind that the Abenaki, Penobscot and Mi’kmaq tribes already lived here. Castine, bounded by Penobscot Bay and the Bagaduce River, has the feel of an island, but it’s really a peninsula that’s shaped like an ax head lying on its side. …

“Around the same time that New Yorkers were waking up to discover these elms [in the 1930s], an arborist in Ohio discovered Dutch elm disease in a tree there. The elm bark beetle had arrived from the sea, carried in the hull of a ship. Elm wood burls bound for the ports of America and meant to be used as veneer in decorative furniture carried the castaway, Scolytus multistriatus. The tiny beetle likes to feed on the sapwood of the elm, and it carries on its body a fungus, the spores of which infect a healthy elm by needling their way into the tree’s vascular system. Soon the tree is no longer able to carry nutrients or water to its outer branches. The elm is effectively strangled. …

“By the 1960s, the blight had spread across the country. ‘People speak of worrying about the trees,’ the novelist Elizabeth Hardwick wrote from her home in Castine in 1971. … ‘The great old elms, with their terminal woe, are dying grandly,’ she wrote.

“Most of America’s elms were dead by the 1980s. ‘It was an ecological calamity that changed the face of the American nation,’ … [Thomas J. Campanella, author of a cultural history of the tree, Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm] wrote. But not in Castine.

“ ‘There was action taken back in the late ’60s and early ’70s by several townspeople to save the trees,’ Don Tenney tells me.

“Tenney holds what is quite possibly the greatest public office ever invented, that of the Castine tree warden. It’s Tenney’s job, along with the elected Tree Committee, to care for the town elms, about 75 of which are actively being treated to stave off Dutch elm disease.

“Back in the 1970s, no real treatment existed. Richard Campana of the University of Maine was one of the early researchers to try to create a serum to inoculate against the disease. Castine’s elms were injected with his experimental fungicide; Tenney, who is 75, remembers those early interventions: ‘One summer there were these orange tanks strapped to the trees all over town, and they were pressurized to deliver the fungicide. It was a total experiment.’

“Some believe it was this treatment that helped save many of the elms. Others [posit] that it is Castine’s unique topography, on a wind-swept peninsula, that made it hard for the beetles to take purchase here. Still, the disease found its way to Maine and on neck to Castine, and now, arborists fear, it’s on the rise.”

More at the Post, here, where you can read about the tree’s chances in the future. P.S. Maine also has a miracle chestnut tree, here.

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Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe (WHAT a picture! Rinaldi is among the best.)
Virginia Oliver tossed back an undersized lobster as she and her son, Max, haul traps in Maine.

Are you ready for another story about someone loving their job at an advanced age? Brian MacQuarrie of the Boston Globe interviewed a 101-year-old woman who still fishes for lobster — Virginia Oliver of South Thomaston, Maine.

“It’s not yet 5 a.m.,” he writes, “and the landing at the Spruce Head Fishermen’s Co-op is shrouded in predawn fog that obscures the waters beyond. It’s time to go to work, and Virginia Oliver and her son Max approach the dock in the dark in a 30-foot lobster boat.

“They tie up under the stark, mist-speckled glare from an overhead light. Bait is brought aboard, equipment adjusted, and Max peers into the gloom as he eases the boat into Penobscot Bay.

“In the world of Maine lobstering, it’s a scene that is repeated countless times up and down the state’s rugged coast. But here’s the difference: No other boat has a 101-year-old lobsterwoman aboard, and a fully working one at that.

” ‘I grew up with this,’ said Virginia Oliver, a Rockland woman who began lobstering when she was 8, just before the Great Depression. ‘It’s not hard work for me. It might be for somebody else, but not me.’ …

“The fog began to burn off shortly before 7 a.m., and … Max pointed out a ‘sweet spot’ for lobstering among the many small, rocky islands.

“His mother came to work this day with a bit of makeup on her face, her blue eyes and a pair of small earrings twinkling in the hazy dawn. …

“Virginia Oliver has been working these waters since she first accompanied her lobsterman father as a young girl. After raising four children, she returned to the bay with her husband, who died 15 years ago. Since then, she has continued to venture from shore, three mornings a week, to a saltwater world as familiar as the street where she was born and still lives.

“ ‘When I first started, there weren’t any women but me,’ Oliver said, dressed in olive-green overalls, a blue sweatshirt, and high boots. ‘My husband and I used to go out in all kinds of weather. There aren’t as many lobsters today, though. They’re way overfished, like everything else.’

“Oliver’s job is to measure the lobsters, using pliers to place tight bands around the claws of the keepers, tossing the undersized overboard, and stuffing small pogies into bait bags.

“Naturally right-handed, Oliver has worked the pliers with her left hand since she broke her right wrist several years ago. Despite the change, her hand movements seem remarkably supple and strong. …

“Oliver is meticulous when she measures, tossing back lobsters that are only a hair shorter than the 3¼-inch legal minimum from the eye socket to the rear of the body shell. She also can’t keep egg-bearing or reproductive females, a state requirement that helps bolster the lobster stock. …

“Max Oliver, 78, does double duty as helmsman and hauler, emptying every trap that a hydraulic wheel pulls from the water. Between mother and son, they have choreographed an intricate ballet of demanding, physical work that’s conducted quietly and efficiently.

“Max chuckled over his mother’s stamina and work ethic.

“ ‘It’s pretty damn good, that’s what I call it,’ he said, maneuvering the boat in low water past pine-studded islands. ‘She might give me hell once in a while, though,’ he added with a laugh. ‘She’s the boss.’ …

“Her son drives her to the boat during lobster season, which for the Olivers stretches from the end of May to the beginning of November. They rise about 3 a.m., go to bed at 10 p.m., and look mildly amused when asked how they manage it.

“Oliver said she doesn’t nap when the lobstering is done for the day. There’s shopping to do; there are errands and trips to the post office.

“ ‘I find plenty of housework, too. I don’t like to do it, but I have to do it,’ she said. … ‘I still drive — a GMC four-wheel-drive truck. As you can tell, I’m pretty independent.’

“Her three sons and one daughter range in age from 76 to 82. One of them, 79-year-old Bill, waited at the Spruce Head Co-op this recent morning as he prepared to go lobstering in a separate boat. His mother’s work habits seem to run in the family.

“ ‘Someone asked me, why don’t you retire? I said, “I can’t. My mother would break my neck.” ‘ “

Read more and enjoy all Jessica Rinaldi’s amazing photos of this woman at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Erin Clark/Globe Staff.
Visitors pose with Birk, one of five trolls created by artist Thomas Dambo in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.

Who doesn’t love trolls? Especially big, ol’, harmless trolls amenable to selfies?

Steve Annear, a reporter who gets all the fun assignments at the Boston Globe, recently wrote an article about the Danish trolls that have shown up in Maine.

“These trolls, including one that stands nearly three stories tall, aren’t dastardly by any means. They come in peace, settling in Midcoast Maine to share an urgent message with those who discover them tucked away in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay: Please appreciate and take care of the planet, before it’s too late.

“ ‘These are nature’s protectors,’ said Gretchen Ostherr, president and chief executive of the gardens, the largest botanical garden in New England.

“Later this month, visitors to the 323-acre property may discover a series of five giant, whimsical troll sculptures, each immersed in nature and made from reclaimed and recycled wood and other natural materials.

“The exhibit, called ‘Guardians of the Seeds,’ is the work of Copenhagen-based artist Thomas Dambo, and was put together by a team of people, including community volunteers, during the past seven weeks. …

‘I really want it to stir two things,’ Ostherr said. ‘That people have a wonderful, connected, restorative experience, and that they are inspired to take care of their planet’ and become stewards of the woods.

“The Maine display officially opens May 29. While it’s similar to dozens of other eye-popping troll sculptures Dambo has built across the world and part of a shared narrative, the storyline of the Boothbay trolls is unique.

“In the United States, Dambo’s trolls have drawn crowds in Illinois, Florida, and Kentucky, with much fanfare. But the arrival of the mythical creatures to the woods of Maine marks a first for New England.

“Officials from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens first reached out to Dambo in 2019 as they discussed ways to have more visitors ‘share the magic of the gardens,’ Ostherr said.

“ ‘We loved the story of the trolls, and Thomas’s focus on the trolls being about biodiversity and taking care of the planet and the forest,’ she said. ‘It perfectly aligns with our mission, which is about connecting people with plants and nature.’ …

“Dambo, 41, said he built the faces and feet in his workshop (a.k.a. ‘troll factory’) in Denmark before they were transported to Maine. But the bulk of the sculptures were constructed on site using several tons of recycled materials, their positions and designs inspired by the precise spot in the woods they call home. …

“It’s the first international project Dambo has done since the coronavirus all but shut down the art world last year. He said he hopes the sculptures will bring people out of their homes to appreciate the great outdoors while also educating them about society’s wasteful habits.

“ ‘My art is about trying to convey the message of the importance of taking care of our natural world, and being better at recycling,’ he said. ‘I try to use the trolls as a medium for being the voice of nature, and how nature perceives us.’ ”

More at the Globe, here. By the way, while we’re on the subject of amazing gardens in New England, be sure to visit Bedrock Gardens in Lee, NH, where my brilliant friend, Jill Nooney, one of the founders, displays her wildly imaginative sculptures made of found objects, mostly metal.

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Photo: Robert Klose.
This shop in a low-income neighborhood of Bangor, Maine, has had the same owner since 1980.

People in my town love our independent bookstore, which seems to have been able to weather the pandemic so far. If I bought a book there before I was vaccinated, the staff would either mail it or offer curbside pickup. Now at last I feel comfortable going inside. Does your town have an indie?

Robert Klose wrote recently for the Christian Science Monitor about an indie bookshop in Maine. “The Dutch Renaissance humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam once wrote, ‘When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.’

“This thought came to mind as I drove through one of Bangor, Maine’s poorest neighborhoods en route to a small, offbeat, secondhand bookstore that distinguishes an otherwise careworn street and bears the lofty moniker Pro Libris Books. …

“What a wonderful, wonderful thing to have a bookstore in one’s midst, especially in a place where other needs may incessantly intercede, and in an electronic age when so many bookstores – whether of the small, independent, mom and pop variety, or mega-outfits like Borders – have evaporated from our communities, seemingly overnight.

“Pro Libris Books is an unassuming but well-ordered cave of a shop occupying the ground floor of a peeling-paint clapboard building. … The owner, Eric Furry (is there a more appealing name for a bookseller?), has plied his trade since 1980 and, happily, still turns a profit.

“Mr. Furry, a small septuagenarian with an outsize crop of salt-and-pepper hair, touts his business as ‘A Reader’s Paradise.’ This seems to be enough to attract the rich variety of types I have observed there. …

“As I wander the stacks, dividing my time between titles and observing the other visitors, I note the interplay between patron and proprietor. Not everyone is there to buy. If I’m not mistaken in my interpretation of body language, my impression is that many are there to be – and I choose this word carefully – comforted. The familiar titles, the affordability of the volumes, the quirky touches (a coffin-turned-bookcase from the set of a Stephen King movie; a bumper sticker announcing, ‘Maybe the hokey-pokey is what it’s all about’; Mr. Furry’s roaming cat) return me to the consideration of what we need, of what is indeed essential. When I am visiting Pro Libris Books, I find myself siding with celebrated author John Updike, who once said, ‘Bookstores are lonely forts, spilling light onto the sidewalk. They civilize their neighborhoods.’ …

“When I broached the topic of necessity [of bookshops] with him, he recalled a woman who gave him a $20 bill for a $9.50 sale and told him to keep the change, remarking, ‘I just don’t want you to ever go away.’ And then there was the man who sent him $80 out of the blue because he was worried about how Mr. Furry was faring during the pandemic-induced lockdown. I asked about his survival secret. The answer: ‘Low overhead. And a loyal clientele.’ More here.

By the way, I never lose an opportunity to tell book lovers that https://bookshop.org/ has everything. Plus it gives a portion of sales to indies. Unless you think Amazon needs more money, please check it out.

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Photo: Hog Island Audubon
Rosalie Haizlett at work during her artist residency at an Audubon camp in Maine.

January is a time of year that gardeners turn to seed catalogs and travelers start to make plans. This year many travelers are remaking plans for adventures they had to cancel last year. Maybe it will be safer now. Who knows?

There’s a kind of vacation I particularly like reading about — artists’ retreats — and this one in Maine is intriguing because it combines a love of birds with an artistic pursuit. The three 2020 artists, whose residencies were canceled, have been invited back for 2021, and I desperately hope for all of us — especially those of us who haven’t felt able to take risks this year — that the world will be safe enough for a bit more fun and satisfaction by then.

Hog Island Audubon alumna Lindsay McNamara writes, “Nestled along the Gulf of Maine and Muscongus Bay, lies a forested island in a small Maine fishing town. Hog Island is rich in history and has also been instrumental in the environmental education movement in the US. Since 1936, residential sessions at Hog Island Audubon Camp have been led by some of the most respected naturalists and environmental educators in the nation, inspiring scores of scientists, school and university educators, and conservation leaders.

“In 2014, Audubon added artists to that list. The Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program brings artists across disciplines and subject matter from all over the world to enjoy hands-on nature discovery in a creative, rustic retreat setting.

“Over the last six years, nearly 20 artists have joined the Hog Island family. I had the honor of asking these talented folks about their experiences on the Island.

“As bird nerds, it is no surprise that our conversations began with talks of favorite birds on and off the Island. Tom Schaefer, author of Nature’s People: The Hog Island Story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon and 2014 AiR, … explained, ‘As far as birds are concerned, it’s hard not to be impressed with the Atlantic Puffins, but I’d have to say the Osprey I scared up while hiking the perimeter of the Island was my favorite. In 1981, Osprey were still making their comeback. Pretty exciting bird for my life list.’

“Other favorite Hog Island birds included … Roseate and Arctic Terns, Winter Wren, Bald Eagle, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Common Loon. 2019 AiR and watercolor painter Rosalie Haizlett explained, ‘My favorite bird on the island was the Common Loon, because I could hear its wails so clearly from my little cabin in the evenings. The sound was simultaneously melancholy and calming and while at first it gave me an eerie feeling, I soon grew accustomed to it and enjoyed it.’

“Chats quickly shifted to favorite birds in general. … 2017 AiR and painter Michael Boardman joked, “As an artist I should say ‘the bird that sits still long enough to sketch,’ but it’s really a Snowy Owl.’

“2015 AiR, program coordinator, and printmaker, Sherrie York said … ‘As an artist, I am particularly drawn to birds with a strong graphic character. I often joke that Harlequin Ducks, with their bold and bright plumage, must have evolved just to inspire printmakers. …

“ ‘As a group, the birds that inspire me most are those that have some sort of direct relationship with water: seabirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. I grew up and lived most of my life in Colorado, in the arid interior of the United States. A couple of years ago I moved to Maine, and now live about 20 minutes from Hog Island. Both places are strongly tied to water but the relationships are very different. Whatever our human relationships to water might be, water birds can connect us and help us understand the challenges and needs of our particular region.’ …

“Many artists spoke of an elevated sense of place. Mr. Schaefer elaborated, ‘Hog Island is three-hundred-plus undeveloped acres in one of the most beautiful summer destinations on the planet. Mecca for hikers, climbers, birders, sailors, artists — vacationers of many different feathers.’ …

“ ‘That cabin, that island, and the world that envelops it gave me the room that I needed to think about some of the themes I’m obsessed with: birds, how we should think about them, what they mean in our lives, and what we mean in theirs,’ explained 2018 AiR and author Mark Hedden.

“2015 AiR and playwright Rebecca Gilman shared, ‘One night, I was startled awake by the weirdest, loudest sound. … It took me a while, but I eventually figured out there were seals out in the water, barking. I grew up in Alabama and I live in Wisconsin, so that was a first for me.’

“Ms. Haizlett explained … ‘I would often see students of all ages sketching in the woods or on the beach, and it made my heart happy to see people connecting with the natural world through the arts, which is how I also learn most effectively. I was invited to teach several nature illustration workshops while I was there, and those art and nature parties where some of my favorite experiences at Hog Island.’

“Oil painter and 2019 AiR Ralph Grady James shared his fondest memories: ‘First, I loved hearing the loons calling on the water while sitting on the cabin porch as the sun set. I also loved seeing the lobster boats tending their traps. It is not often in these days having that much peace and quiet away from others especially surrounded by the beauty in that place.’ …

“Paper artist and 2018 AiR Ingrid Erickson shared, ‘One of my fondest memories of Hog Island is of sitting on the porch in the evening, as the sky turned inky and filled with stars after my last solo walk on the beach. The night sky over Hog Island on a clear night is probably the least light polluted view of the night sky I’ve had in some time.’ …

” ‘My time on Hog Island,’ [Ms. Haizlett concluded], ‘was a beautiful confirmation to me that I’m on the right path.’ ”

More at Hog Island Audubon, here.

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Photo: Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Jars of Teddie Peanut Butter on the shelves in Market Basket, Nashua, New Hampshire. Teddie is increasing production to meet new demand.

But wait! There’s more. More, that is, on civic-minded businesses pivoting to meet the pandemic challenge. Whether it’s companies like Teddie Peanut Butter increasing production to prevent shortages (here), or the companies that are suddenly making something new, it’s all good.

Here’s a nice story by Leanne Italie at the Associated Press that was broadcast on WEARTV about a small sail company.

“On the coast of Maine, Eric Baldwin and his staff of two usually spend their days selling, repairing and washing sails for boats. They transform their surplus sailcloth into tote bags to bring in extra money.

“But when the coronavirus outbreak slowed business, they turned their industrial sewing machines to a new task: making cotton masks for caregivers and others who need protection from the disease.

‘We wanted to do something to give back,’ Baldwin said from his North Sails workshop in the small village of South Freeport, about 20 miles north of Portland. ‘Doing something like this just makes you feel good.’

“The 53-year-old Baldwin, who has operated his shop, known as a loft, for about 25 years, got the idea from employee Karen Haley. They went to work immediately and are now shipping to recipients as far away as Arizona after word spread on social media that masks were available. …

“Haley’s mother is a quilter. She raided her mom’s stash of cotton remnants to turn into double-ply rectangles called for by a mask pattern they found on a hospital website. Baldwin’s former wife got a Jo-Ann fabric store to provide elastic at a discount.

“Although they still have orders to fill for totes and sails, a portion of each day is dedicated to masks. Baldwin’s other worker, Alan Platner, volunteered to sew masks at home as well. …

” ‘I have every intention of keeping both of these people employed, and we’re not at a point yet where that’s even close to being in jeopardy, but I do think in terms of the tote business. I would be shocked if that picks up. We’re essentially missing the tourist season,’ Baldwin said. …

” ‘The response from the people has been overwhelming,’ Haley said. ‘They’ve been so appreciative of what we’re doing. The recipients include a woman who works for the Department of Homeland Security whose husband is an EMT. Others are nurses and nursing assistants. One is a social worker who makes home visits.’ …

“There’s been a run on elastic so when their stash is gone they might have to quit. He’s scrounging for more.

“Even if he’s no longer able to produce the masks in Maine, the effort is likely to continue elsewhere. Baldwin put out the word to other North Sails lofts around the country, letting them know what he was doing. Four have already offered to begin making masks, including shops in San Diego, Chicago and Annapolis, Maryland.” More.

Meanwhile in Rhode Island, as @angusdav noted on Twitter recently, “Kinder Industries shifted production today from boat canvas to PPE face shields at our industrial park in my hometown Bristol, RI. 3M raw material truckload arrived today; manufacturing begins Monday. 1st 8,000 to R.I. hospitals. Ready to supply others.”

Please give a shout-out to other companies stepping up during the pandemic. We need to remember them down the road.

Photo: AP/Robert F. Bukaty
In this Monday, March 23, 2020, photo, Eric Baldwin examines the stitching on a cotton mask, one of hundreds he and the employees at his sail-maintenance business are making for coronavirus caregivers at North Sails in Freeport, Maine.

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Photo: Story Hinckley
By following strict “passive house” standards, a multifamily affordable-housing complex in  Portland, Maine, slashes heating costs.
“Sometimes we turn off the heater because we feel so good,” says one resident.

The modern tendency to look at the old ways of doing things as some sort of backward stage of human development is being proved misguided again and again. In this story, heating and cooling costs are slashed by using an approach that, in part, taps the wisdom of first century BC.

Story Hinckley writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Cities like Portland, Maine, have realized this energy-efficient design for the affordable housing sector – for residents who can really benefit from lower heating costs.

“Passive house-certified buildings are slightly more expensive to build upfront, but the heat and electricity bills are less than half of what it typically costs to heat a similar building in Portland.

“Passive house design is more than just an architectural novelty, says the team behind Bayside Anchor. It is also a necessary tool for residents or homeowners who care about long-term affordability. As the need for affordable housing grows across the United States, proponents say cities should move beyond building low-income housing as cheaply as possible. …

“Says Greg Payne, director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition and development officer at Avesta Housing, the nonprofit affordable housing provider that manages Bayside Anchor, ‘We have to promise that [the building] will be affordable for 45 years.’

“Before moving to Bayside Anchor two years ago, MD Islam, his wife, and their two young children lived in a home without heat.

“ ‘We had to suffer a lot,’ says Mr. Islam, who works at a local recycling plant. ‘Now my family – everybody – is happy. We feel very comfortable.’

“A high-tech ventilation system exchanges indoor air with fresh air from outside, all while retaining the temperature of the indoor air. Thick walls (with 10 inches of insulation, in Bayside Anchor’s case) and triple-pane windows keep the building airtight so very little heat escapes. Instead of a central heating system, each apartment has a small electric baseboard heater. …

“ ‘Sometimes we turn off the heater because we feel so good,’ says Mr. Islam. …

“Property manager Lucy Cayard [says] the passive house design has helped her build a deeper connection with the residents. Since much of the building takes care of itself, the building’s staff can put their time and resources elsewhere.

“ ‘We get to focus more on people’s needs and not the building’s needs,’ says Ms. Cayard. …

“The concept of passively heating and cooling a building is probably as old as architecture itself. Writing in the first century B.C., the Roman architect and military engineer Vitruvius observed that buildings in warmer climates tended to have northern exposures, with windows facing away from the sun, while those in cooler climates had southern exposures. Modern passive house techniques trace some of their history to energy-efficiency efforts in the U.S. during the OPEC oil embargo. The principles underlying Bayside Anchor’s design are further based on techniques honed by scientists in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. …

“But with a national shortage of 3.7 million affordable rental homes, according to a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, new building approaches need to be explored. For example, says Mr. Payne, almost 600 households are currently on the waitlist for one of Bayside Anchor’s 36 affordable units.

“ ‘We are watching it happen all across the country,’ says Jesse Thompson, the Portland-based architect behind Bayside Anchor. ‘What’s different about Maine is that it’s the affordable housing folks who are the most progressive, who are moving the most quickly.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Erin Clark for The Boston Globe
Cities as different as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Providence, Rhode Island, are paying people experiencing homelessness to do maintenance of public spaces. In the photo, two men are cleaning up gardens along the Back Cove Trail in Portland, Maine.

Three cheers for cities that come up with creative ways to address homelessness! I’ve written about the practice of offering public-service work to people experiencing homelessness in New Mexico and Rhode Island. Now a city in Maine is testing the concept.

Brian MacQuarrie writes at the Boston Globe, “Seven men, stooped and sweating, tear fistfuls of crabgrass and milkweed from a tangle of overgrowth in a large public garden. It’s dirty work for $10.90 an hour, the minimum wage in Maine’s largest city, but there’s not a complaint to be heard.

“ ‘People are always coming by and telling us, “Thanks for helping — it’s looking good,” ’ says Jeff Vane, 49, standing knee-deep in urban brush. …

“Portland officials are inviting panhandlers to put away their signs and put on a pair of work gloves. They clean parks, beautify public gardens, and even place flags at the graves of veterans in exchange for a small paycheck and a possible path to better, lasting employment.

“ ‘It makes you feel good about yourself, makes you feel that you’ve still got it,’ Frank Mello, 49, says of the job. ‘It shows I’m not the homeless bum that people think I am.’

“Portland’s program, nearing the end of its second year, is not intended to erase panhandling, city officials say. Some men and women who ‘fly their signs’ at Portland intersections, most of them homeless and desperate for money, will never be persuaded to put them away.

“But it’s an effort that passes legal muster. Both Portland and Worcester, Mass., for example, had banned panhandling with ordinances that were overturned by federal courts, which ruled that they infringed on free speech. …

“Panhandlers are pitched on the program as a way to leave the streets, connect with benefits such as housing vouchers and food stamps, and find work in the future through a day-labor agency that partners with the city. Participation is voluntary — workers can drop out of the Opportunity Crew program at any time. But so far, no one has been asked to leave for failing to do the job or follow the rules.

‘I’ve always kind of believed that if you give someone a hand up, and if they’re so inclined, that’s all they’re asking for,’ City Manager Jon Jennings said in an interview. ‘I just don’t see as many people panhandling now.’

“The Opportunity Crew has a budget of only $40,000 per year, but the benefits go far beyond dollars and cents, city officials said. Through [late August], 281 bags of trash had been collected this year and 121 syringes removed from public spaces, said Aaron Geyer, who supervises the program. A total of 936 hours had been logged by crews of 6 to 10 people who work Wednesdays and Thursdays from April until October

“ ‘They show up on time in the morning, and they’re ready to work,’ Geyer said.

“The cost of a crew is pegged at $1,300 per week, and business sponsors that help pay for the program are promoted on city signs at the cleanup sites. …

“So far, 17 men and women have found jobs after participating in the Portland program, which Jennings said he hopes to expand. …

“Frank Mello [gives] each of his teenage daughters $40 a week from his Opportunity Crew earnings. The children’s mother died three months ago from a heroin overdose, he said.

“ ‘Basically, I’m working for my children. They need me right now,’ Mello said in a gravelly voice, straightening up as sweat poured from his face. …

“ ‘We all know each other, you know,’ Mello said, smiling and nodding toward his fellow panhandlers. ‘Now, we want to work.’ ”

Read more at the Globe, here. A previous blog post on the concept is here.

 

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Photo: Greta Rybus for the Boston Globe
Carolyn Lukensmeyer, who leads the National Institute for Civil Discourse, hosted a civility workshop in Damariscotta, Maine, that drew more than 100 people.

Here’s an idea I hope will catch on: speaking civilly to people with different views. My friend Nancy attends a Concord group that does that and she loves it, despite her horror at some of the things other participants say.

Nestor Ramos writes at the Boston Globe about a civility exercise in Maine. “If a sudden, smiling plague of newfound civility sweeps the nation, infecting partisans on the left and right with virulent strains of respect and dignity, maybe it will have started here, in an idyllic town on the river.

“More than 100 Mainers showed up at a Quaker meetinghouse here for a forum about how to be civil while discussing politics — or in other words, how to talk to your uncle about Trump without devolving into red-faced shouting and sarcasm. In a left-leaning town of about 2,000 in a starkly divided county, it wasn’t quite group therapy. But it was something close.

“ ‘You wouldn’t be here tonight if you didn’t think this was serious,’ said Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the University of Arizona-based National Institute for Civil Discourse, who came to Damariscotta to lead the civility training. Maine is one of four states where the organization is launching an initiative called Revive Civility. …

“People came because they couldn’t talk to their friends and their neighbors, they said, or because their children were barely speaking to each other. Some said they’d come because they simply couldn’t bring up anything political anymore.

“ ‘I have a couple of friends who are quite liberal and we just agreed not to talk about it,’ said David Spector, a conservative voter from nearby Newcastle, who came because he’s tired of what he sees as increasing incivility in political discourse. …

“Civility doesn’t mean agreement, of course, and there are some divides that no amount of respect will bridge. But we’ve reached the point at which we regard even those who earnestly disagree with us on matters of legitimate debate as mortal enemies. Civility demands only that you see them as people, and treat them with respect.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.

More on how to do an event like this here.

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We all know that chestnut trees were wiped out by disease, right? Well, maybe not.

Susan Sharon at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network has a hopeful story.

“A century ago American chestnut trees dominated the eastern woodlands from Georgia to Maine. Growing straight and tall they were prized for timber. Wildlife depended on the nuts they provided every year.

“People ate the chestnuts, too, scooping them up by the sackful every Fall. Then came an exotic blight accidentally introduced from Asia and the species was virtually wiped out.

“That’s why scientists are excited by a recent find in western Maine, a record-breaking find that is raising their hopes for the future.

“The unusual discovery was made from the air. Dr. Brian Roth, a forest scientist with the University of Maine was surveying areas most likely to have habitat conditions favorable for chestnut trees and – voila! Flying over some woods in Lovell he saw a telltale sign.

” ‘In July, when nothing else is blooming, this tree will have a large amount of white flowers in its crown,’ says Roth. …

“This is not just any tree. This is an American chestnut tree worthy of the record books. …

“As girth goes, this chestnut tree is not so impressive. It’s on the skinny side. And most people wouldn’t pick it out as distinctive in a forest lineup. But when it comes to height, this American chestnut reigns supreme.

” ‘We think it’s around one hundred years old,’ says Roth. ‘It’s over 100 feet tall, which makes it the tallest [chestnut] that we know of in North America.’ …

” ‘We’re quite interested in these native trees, one for getting them into the population, our breeding program, as well as where do these trees grow?’ Roth says.

“The North Carolina-based American Chestnut Foundation is devoted to restoration of the American chestnut to its historic range. … Dr. Jared Westbrook is the American Chestnut Foundation’s geneticist. …

“He says more than 60,000 chestnut trees have been planted so far. To help them out, the group is using a virus that infects the chestnut fungus and makes it weaker. But Westbrook says only 500 trees, the toughest and the best of the bunch, will ultimately be selected for reintroduction to the wild.” Listen to the story here.

The poet Marianne Moore once wrote, “I rejoice that there are owls.” Today I rejoice that there are chestnut trees.

Photo: MPBN/Susan Sharon
Here’s the evidence. People are excited about finding a 100-year-old chestnut tree that survived blight in Maine. Other chestnuts are being nurtured in the South.

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In an article by the “Cooperative Development News” at Mother Earth News (by way of twitter), I read about a group of Somali Bantu refugees in Maine who started a cooperative farm.

This interests me particularly because when I was at the magazine, I acquired a couple articles about Somali refugees adjusting to life in Lewiston, Maine, through farming.

Here’s the story: “A group of Somali Bantu refugees have started a cooperative farm in Maine … Thousands of miles from Somalia, on 30 acres in Maine’s second-largest city, they’ve begun to feel like they’ve come home.

“New Roots Cooperative Farm, though just recently started by four new Americans, is already a success story. Combine the complexities of farming with the uncertainty of navigating a system that is unfamiliar — and, at times, unfriendly — to newcomers and you’ll understand just a fraction of how far New Roots has already come. They’re inspired to help one another and the community, too.

“ ‘Our aim is not only to grow food and run a business ourselves but to help our community and teach them about how to run a business,’ says New Roots farmer Batula Ismail. …

“The group used to farm before being forced from their homes during Somalia’s tumultuous civil war period. … After arriving in Maine, they got back to farming at Cultivating Community’s New American Sustainable Agriculture Project at Packard-Littlefield Farm in Lisbon, Maine. The program empowers New Americans to launch independent farm businesses, to adopt new leadership roles in the community, and to attain increased economic independence for themselves and their families.

“Now, with a decade of experience at Packard-Littlefield backing them up, the group is ready to put their education to the test. When Gendron Farm, a dairy farm in Lewiston was divided into several parcels in 2015, New Roots worked with Cooperative Development Institute, Maine Farmland Trust, Land for Good, Cultivating Community, and many others to preserve 30 acres as a working farm.” More here.

I’ve been interested in Somali immigrants since living for three years in Minneapolis, where there is a large population. I was friendly with one man who worked in our apartment building, ran for mayor, and got a job as a community liaison for a US Senator. Very nice guy. I loved his stories about being a child in Somalia, soaking up geography from international radio news, and pausing for a camel to get off the field when he was playing soccer.

Photo: Jenny Nelson/Maine Farmland Trust
Bantu refugees start a cooperative farm in Maine.

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I got to see some pretty cute videos this week. Suzanne and Erik had just returned from taking the the kids on a trip to warmer climes, and my one-year-old granddaughter learned to speak “goat.” How great to be able to capture her conversation on a smartphone!

Goat, as you may know, consists of a one-word vocabulary delivered with varying degrees of urgency: “Baaaaaaa.”

I’m thinking she and her brother will relate to this June 2015 story about some baby goats in Maine.

From WPTV.com: “Winifred and Monty are three-week-old Nigerian dwarf goat siblings who love to play together on Sunflower Farm.

“In a few weeks they’ll be moving to a new home as pets and milking goats, so their current owners like to spoil them.

“On this particular cold day, they were treated to some new pajamas!

“They had no interest in going out in the rain though. They preferred to keep their new clothes pristine!” More here.

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Ingenuity can make a business out of almost anything. That’s what you may conclude after reading how a small Maine company is making something useful from lobster shells.

Tom Bell has the story at the Associated Press: “A startup company in Maine is developing a children’s bandage coated with a substance extracted from crushed lobster shells that would promote blood-clotting and is resistant to bacterial infection.

“The company, Lobster Tough LLC, shipped Maine lobster shells to a processor in Iceland for testing, and so far, the results are promising, said Thor Sigfusson, an Icelandic investor in the company. …

“ ‘My dream will be to use the massive amounts of lobster shells that are being thrown into dumpsters,’ he said. …

“The lobster shells must be dehydrated to remove weight and lower shipping costs. Lobster Tough this winter is shipping a portable dehydration machine from Iceland to Maine. The company eventually plans to build a $2 million dehydration plant somewhere on the Maine coast, said Patrick Arnold, an investor who lives in South Portland. …

“The bandages would be the first commercial product developed through the New England Ocean Cluster, a new business incubator in Portland.”

More here.

Photo: Tasty Island

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Casey Kelly has a story at WBUR’s Only a Game on a sport enabled by the removal of dams on the Penobscot River in Maine.

The recent removal of two dams (and upgrades to others) in Maine’s Penobscot River made available over 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and other fish — and also made the river available to whitewater enthusiasts.

“The dam removal was the culmination of years of restoration efforts by several groups. The Penobscot Nation, for whom the river has been vital for centuries, helped lead that effort.

“ ‘The creator put us here, in the Penobscot River Valley,’ said James Eric Francis, Sr., the director of cultural and historic preservation for the Penobscot Nation. ‘We are surrounded by the sacred river.’

“Last month, paddlers from all over the country gathered for a race celebrating the removal of the dams.” More here, including a video.

Here’s how freeing the river came about. It was a major collaboration by disparate groups committed to identifying and acting on the values they held in common.

Photo: Craig Dilger for The New York Times  
The dismantling of the Veazie Dam is also giving 11 species of fish better access to 1,000 miles of spawning habitat.

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