Photos by Angela Poulin, Central Maine Photography staff
Photos by Angela Poulin, Central Maine Photography staff
OK, this is the time of year when I stick out my neck, and defy all the experts when it comes to predicting the upcoming winter – I was right last year and they were wrong. All of the ads on TV and radio this past month or so were reporting a tough and harsh 2016-17 winter for Maine. The one common denominator in all of these brainwashing advertisements is that the sellers were pushing snowblowers, snowmobiles, ridiculously large trucks with plows, home heating materials, etc. Get the drift?
Well, I have come up with something that contradicts even the usually reliable publications on that subject.
As in the past, if you have read this column, I rely more on Mother Nature to provide me with the signs of the impending winter months.
First, we will go to the annual cicada, you know, the little guy you never see that gives off that loud buzzing sound during the hot summer months. Old farmers lore says that from the date you first hear its call, the first killing frost will occur 90 days later, following the full moon. We have a little controversy on that issue this year. Traditionally, you will hear it anywhere from early to late July, bringing the first killing frost in October. This year, with the strong objections from my wife, I have yet to hear one. However, she claims she heard them back around July 15, and continues to insist she has heard them, as recently as last Saturday. Their sound is usually quite distinct. If they have been buzzing, they are extremely faint. My wife has claimed for some time now that I am going deaf, much to the differing opinion of my doctor.
It is called the annual cicada because it makes an appearance yearly, as opposed to the periodical cicada, that you hear about in the news, that occurs in large swarms only every 13 – 17 years.
Cicadas typically live in trees, feeding on sap, and laying their eggs in a slit in the bark.
Cicadas have been featured in literature since the time of Homer’s Iliad, and as motifs in art from the Chinese Shang dynasty. They are also eaten in China, where the nymphs are served deep fried in Shandong cuisine.
But, I’m venturing away from the topic.
The second indicator of what I am believing will be another mild winter is the placement of bee hives. All summer, I have heard reports from various people of them finding the hives in the ground or at the bottom of trees and tree stumps. Many have been stung while mowing their lawns. That is a usual telltale sign of below normal snowfall. When we have winters with higher than normal precipitation, bee hives are usually located higher, sometimes in trees or under eaves of outbuildings.
A third sign is the common yellow onion. My mother told me many years ago you can tell the severity of an upcoming winter by how the onion peels and its strength. The easier it is to peel, and the milder the taste, the more tame the winter. If an onion is really strong, and is difficult to peel, it means a harsh winter. My wife and I have onions with almost every meal, so we have peeled our share, and they have peeled awfully easy this summer.
Finally, old faithful, the wooly bear caterpillar. For those who don’t know, old folklore states the wider the red band on a wooly bear, the milder the winter. Usually by now, mid-September, you would have seen many of these fuzzy little creatures. So far, I have seen only one, and the rust-colored band on this particular one was very long, occupying possibly one-half to two-thirds of its body. I’m predicating my prediction on this one sighting, which, scientifically, is a small sample size.
So, with all the evidence presented, I will make a bold prediction that we are facing another mild winter ahead of us. But, I can’t tell you whether it will be as mild as last winter, but relatively speaking, milder than an average Maine winter.
Just don’t tar and feather me if we end up with mounds of snow and below zero temperatures. I can only foretell based on what the natural data suggests.
Oh, WALLS, you did have The Town Line talk-talk ready to send for publication on September 15, but the people of our U.S.A. brought so many memories, good, bad, and ugly of our fateful 9/11, 15 years ago, you told me you just couldn’t send your usual bit of froth with all those sad stories that were told by those who survived that disastrous day or stories of those who are no longer with us. Yes, WALLS, 9/11/2001, may be 15 years ago, but for us who remember it well, it is a day that will forever be another “day-in-infamy.”
Aside from seeing the horror that those in New York City had to live through, my mind turned to my friend Linda, who used to be the manager of East Madison’s Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She lived in a NYC apartment and usually took the subway to the USPS Office in Manhattan, but this 9/11 was a work day that gave her an appreciation of the beautiful blue sky above, so she opted to walk. Yes, she says that God gave her a beautiful day for walking, but chose to give the passengers of the planes’ flying into those towers his word that he had another job for them to do for him. Yes, so many stories were told by their survivors yesterday……and I remembered Linda, WALLS.
That 9/11 occurred when Herb Paradis was conducting theatre tours to New York City. He talked with me about it and said that he wished there was something his touring group could do for a Maine gift to those who risked their lives to comfort others. I suggested Maine apple pies, and so it was. When North Star Orchards asked why I needed so many apples, I told them and, in their own generous way, they donated the apples. This isn’t the end of the story, WALLS.
There was a fire station close to where the tour was staying, so Herb delivered 52 Maine apple pies, and many thanks to the firemen there. Yes, Herb told me that firemen do cry!
So, faithful readers, you have now learned that September 11, 2016, was a day that we could mourn the dead and injured of 15 years ago, but it was a day for Maine to be proud for its expression of caring for our neighbors, even though they are several states away. Lest We Forget, faithful readers, lest we forget.
Brief comments on some cds this week.
Randy Newman: The Best of Randy Newman; Warner Archives/Rhino, CD, released 2001.
Singer/songwriter Randy Newman was one major talent emerging in the mid-60s. His songs evoke our glorious and unique American gothic past in all its quirky, sometimes scary, frequently funny individuality, yet connected by our shared bond. Linda Ronstadt scored a hit with his anti-slavery, tongue-in-cheek ballad, Sail Away, Judy Collins with I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today. The late Harry Nilsson devoted an entire LP to such Newman titles as Dayton, Ohio, 1903.
The above contains 21 tunes from his Reprise catalog; they include the two already cited hits, Rednecks, Short People, Dixie Flyer, Louisiana 1927, You’ve Got A Friend In Me, Feels Like Home, Same Girl, I Love L.A., Miami, etc. His voice is on the average side but the lyrics and music more than compensate.
Dvorak and Elgar: Cello Concertos, performed by cellist Maria Kliegel with Michael Halasz conducting the Royal Philharmonic; Naxos 8.550503, CD, recorded November 8-10, 1991.
I commented a few weeks ago already on the Dvorak Cello Concerto via another recording and would like to make a couple of statements on the Elgar. The composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) wrote this piece at the end of World War I. Despite a botched performance and very cool audience response at its first performance, the work would subsequently achieve major stature through performances and recordings by cellists Pablo Casals, Andre Navarra, Anthony Pini, Jacqueline DuPre, Ralph Kirshbaum, Yo Yo Ma and several others. Back in 1983, I attended a magnificent concert featuring Janos Starker playing the Concerto with Sir Alexander Gibson conducting the Houston Symphony during my 16 years of residence there.
The music takes a few patient hearings to appreciate its hidden beauties but will lift its veil through some persistence, having an introspective, melancholy poetry of considerable depth. The Kliegel/Halasz collaboration is quite moving in both works. A nice mid-priced CD.
Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!
Always glad when I receive the Solon School News to share with you. There is a fall open house and space night on Wednesday, September 21, from 5 – p.m. See the school, visit your child’s classroom, attend a Planetarium Show in the large indoor dome of Northern Stars Planetarium (shows at 5, 5:45, and 6:30 p.m.). Enjoy space snacks, shop at the PTO book fair.
Students will be able to enter a raffle to win a space-related door prize.
Solon Elementary School has a very active PTO, which has provided lots of special activities and items for the students over the years. Please consider joining the PTO. For information, contact PTO President Alicia Golden or the school.
The PTO generally meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. They are sponsoring a book fair during the week of September 19-23 to promote reading in the school. Students will be able to visit the book fair and purchase books, and the fair will be open to parents during open house on September 21. The proceeds from the book fair will be used for new books for the classrooms and the library.
Remember to send in your Box Tops for Education labels! Every boxtop helps the PTO rai8e money for school activities.
The PTO is looking for new parents to join them. They look forward to new members from the new families.
A message from the principal says, “Because I also serve as the Pre-K-5 principal at CCS and Garret Schenck, I am not at the Solon School fulltime. I will be there Thursday mornings, mid-day on Wednesdays, and Tueday and Friday afternoons. The school secretary Mrs. Lisa Weese can help parents with any issues they may have and can help you make contact with me if you wish to.”
Mrs. Debby Haynie continues to serve as the lead teach and will help handle discipline issues. They are pleased to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students again this year under the district’s community eligibility program. Students can buy milk or juice for snack or to go with a cold lunch if they wish for 30 cents.
Again this year the students will have healthy snacks provided through a Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Grant Program. Those will be available five days a week this year.
Please contact them if you have any questions.
Also, there is a raffle with tickets being sold at the Thrift Shop. The items can be seen in the thrift store and tickets are ($1 or 6 for $5). The drawing will be at the dinner on November 12.
The Lending Library at the Embden Community Center is open any time the Thrift Shop is open.
There will be a Musical Variety Show at the Solon Congregational Church on Saturday, September 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. A light buffet will be served. Admission is by donation.
On Sunday, September 18, Dan Schall will be making his annual trip to the North Anson Congregational Church to deliver a wonderful message and share his beautiful voice with all who attend. I heartily recommend you to attend, he is very inspiring.
Percy’s memoir leaves you with these words: “Lord thank you for another day, Within this life of mine, Give me the strength to live it well, Whatever I may find. Bestow from your abundance, Whatever I may lack To use the hours wisely, For I cannot have them back. Lord thank you for another day, In which to make amends For little slights or petty words, Inflicted on my friends. For sometimes losing patience, With problems that I find, For seeing faults in other lives, But not the ones in mine. Lord thank you for another chance, In which to try to be A little more deserving Of the gifts You’ve given me. For yesterday is over, And tomorrow’s far away, And I remain committed, To the good I do today!” (words by Grace E. Easley).
I’ve pulled off a lot of April Fool jokes in my day and always took sadistic pleasure in tricking my family members and friends. The best April Fool joke of all, however, was the one my friends orchestrated for me.
My wife and I were scheduled to attend a political event in Portland one night and were running a little late. We dashed into our hotel, frantically changed from casual to evening attire, and headed out to a nearby home for a pre-event cocktail party with friends.
I had changed clothing a little too frantically, as it developed, because I was wearing a dark suit and bright yellow socks. My dear friends were quick to let me know that I was fashionably incorrect. After some good-natured ribbing, my host got serious and insisted I borrow properly colored socks from him. My wife and other companions joined the chorus and became (I thought) a little too preoccupied with the stupid socks.
It got to the point where I stubbornly refused to change into basic black. When they became increasingly insistent, I got my back up, pulled off one lonely sock and replaced it with one borrowed black one – and that was that!
We arrived at the political event, donned our name tags and proceeded to circulate through the crowded gathering. Although the room was dimly lit, the very first person with whom I smoozed asked about my socks. Puzzled though I was that the socks were even visible, I patiently explained my stubbornness and silly insistence by wearing socks of many colors.
I moved on through the crowd and soon encountered Maine Sen. William Cohen for whom the fundraiser was staged. He immediately asked: “Milt, what’s the story with your socks?”
Chagrined, I repeated the whole chain of events on how it happened I wore socks of different colors–boring though the whole incident had rapidly become.
Senator Cohen then introduced me to a Congressman from California and a number of other dignitaries, each of whom were chomping at the bit to quiz me about the darn socks. Can you possibly imagine how boring it was to waste a whole evening at a cocktail party talking about your stupid mismatched socks!
When the evening came to a merciful end, I tore off my nametag and read on it what one of my so-called friends had written there: “Hello! My name is Milt. Ask me about my socks!”
Milt Huntington is the author of “A Lifetime of Laughter” and “Things That Make You Grin.”
Major League Baseball Chicago Cubs All Star pitcher and former Boston Red Sox, Lee Smith, was on hand at the renovation site on Wednesday, September 7, for a ground breaking ceremony and celebration dinner. Lee Smith reflected on his all-star career and how Waterville’s completely accessible replica of Wrigley will positively impact the youth of Waterville, statewide and beyond!
This ceremony also honored and recognized Hall of Fame college baseball coach, Dr. John Winkin and Maine native Clyde Sukeforth, a former MLB alumni who was instrumental in signing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues.
A special tribute was given to Fran Purnell who coached, managed, and developed baseball in Waterville at this very field for over 45 years. Fran still coaches the “Challenger Program” for kids with disabilities, a program that will be the cornerstone of the new $1.4 million Purnell Wrigley Field sponsored by Major League Baseball Tomorrow Fund, The Harold Alfond
Foundation, North East Turf, Inc., the city of Waterville and numerous other benefactors.
Purnell Wrigley Field joins the Harold Alfond Fenway Park, in Oakland, as the only two licensed replica turfed fields in the country – located right here in Central Maine. CEO, Ken Walsh of the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA at the Alfond Youth Center said, “These fields give kids the opportunity to feel like real Major League players! The turf not only gives everyone the chance to play but extends the baseball season here in Maine, giving kids more time to develop their skills and learn sportsmanship while playing the game they love. The Purnell Wrigley Field is truly a grass roots community project built on the support of many and varied contributors of monetary and in-kind gifts. It’s a wonderful project honoring the legacy of some terrific ‘home town’ heroes.”
Several dozen Unity College students and staff visited Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument on September 10, in advance of a Unity College talk later this week by Lucas St. Clair, the successful advocate for creation of the national monument.
The goal of Saturday’s outing was to get to know Maine’s newest destination and to scout recreational, curricular, and other opportunities afforded by the new designation. Members of Unity College Student Activities led 33 Unity College students – clad in hunters orange Katahdin Woods and Waters T-shirts – and other members of the Unity College community on hikes, a visit to the ranger station in Millinocket, and other local attractions as part of the trip.
“We had been following developments on the formation of the national monument quite closely,” Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said. “When we heard this exciting news, we wanted to be among the first to bring our students there to check out the possibilities.”
Khoury called the monument designation “a powerful act of philanthropy, of private and public entities working together to share the awesome responsibility of stewarding our natural resources for future generations.”
On August 24, President Barack Obama signed an executive order under the Antiquities Act creating the 87,500-acre Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. The move capped a multi-year campaign that balanced values of conservation and industry in an area riven by the collapse of numerous paper mills.
Obama’s order praised the land as rich in culture, natural beauty, and “significant biodiversity,” designated the area a national monument, and directed the National Park Service to manage it for a diverse range of public use.
The monument encompasses the Katahdin region, already a popular destination for outdoor recreation and home to a wide diversity of wildlife, spectacular mountains (including Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak), important historical resources, and areas of great cultural significance. The monument contains opportunities for hiking, camping, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and snowmobiling; those uses are fully protected and enhanced under the president’s order.
“Not every place in the country has an environment where a new national monument is formed. Our students have a bird’s-eye view of it,” Unity College Associate Professor of Parks and Forest Resources Tom Mullin said. “This is really a perfect live example of conservation in action – a chance to see how preservation works, both at a policy level and on the ground, only two hours from campus.”
The field trip came in advance of a talk on the Unity campus this week by the person who spearheaded the drive to create the national monument.
Elliottsville Plantation Inc. President Lucas St. Clair, who led the successful campaign to have his family’s land declared a national monument, will speak at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts, 42 Depot St., Unity, as part of the annual Maine Woods Forever roundtable, 10:30 a.m. Friday, September 16. The event – a partnership between Unity College and Maine Woods Forever – is free and open to the public and the media.
“America’s Environmental College continues to help convene conversations that matter deeply to the people of Maine,” Khoury said of St. Clair’s talk. “With academic programs ranging from Wildlife Biology to Adventure Therapy and Parks and Forest Resources, Unity students and faculty are in the perfect position to help evaluate and experience the economic, environmental, and social impact of a major initiative like the new national monument.”
“Because Maine is our classroom, I’m looking forward to talking with Mr. St. Clair about the educational opportunities that could accompany formation of the national monument,” Khoury said. “This is truly a significant development for anyone who loves Maine, appreciates our natural resources, and understands their importance to Maine’s economic and social health.”
“As an educator, I’m excited to hear more about the process that led to this historic decision,” Mullin said. “Our students will benefit greatly hearing from Lucas how a major national monument came to be, and how it will be implemented going forward.”
Several members of the Pslermo Historical Society visited the Penobscot Msrine Museum on August 31 during the museum’s free admission for Waldo County residents.
Vassalboro voters will have two local referendum questions and one local election on a Nov. 8 ballot, in addition to state and national decisions.
The referenda ask if voters will approve amendments to the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance and will appropriate up to $58,600 from surplus toward a $293,000 project to build sidewalks in East Vassalboro, with a federal grant covering the bulk of the cost. If the audience at the Sept. 8 public hearings on the two questions was representative of the town, the second question will be the more controversial.
The election is for Vassalboro’s representative on the Kennebec Water District, for three years. Gary Coull currently holds the position. Nomination papers are available at the town office; signed papers must be returned to the town clerk by Monday, Sept. 26, for candidates’ names to appear on the ballot.
Copies of the proposed shoreland zoning ordinance amendments are available on the Vassalboro website. Major changes involve rules for enlarging shorefront camps and houses that are too close to the water to meet current requirements.
Vassalboro now limits expansion to 15 percent of the existing structure, defined by floor area or volume. The proposed ordinance would allow up to 30 percent expansion, defined by floor area only. Depending on and varying with the distance between the building and the water, there are other size and height restrictions conforming to state standards.
At a Sept. 8 public hearing, Codes Officer Richard Dolby and planning board members emphasized that the changes, most of which copy recent changes in state guidelines, would make it easier for many waterfront property owners to enlarge their homes or camps.
“The [planning] board has gone a long way to utilize the allowances that the state thinks are reasonable,” Dolby said.
Veteran board member Douglas Phillips called the proposed ordinance “far less restrictive” than the current one and “a welcome change for people who have shoreland property.”
If voters reject the changes on Nov. 8, the current ordinance will remain as it is.
A second public hearing, on the request for funds for East Vassalboro sidewalks, found the audience of about 30 people divided into three groups. Some people want the sidewalks; some cannot see where they would fit in the built-up area; a few object to spending town money on a project that would benefit only a small section of Vassalboro.
To the last group, sidewalk proponent Holly Weidner replied that more than 2,500 vehicles go through East Vassalboro daily, bringing people from all parts of town and outside to the boat landing, library, Grange Hall and other public buildings. Sidewalks would make the area safer not only for residents but for drivers and cyclists.
Patrick Adams, manager of bicycle and pedestrian programs for the state Department of Transportation, emphasized repeatedly that no decisions have been made about finding space for a sidewalk. His role, he said, is to balance needs of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to maximize safety for everyone.
The state will rebuild Route 32 in the next few years (the original 2018 date might be pushed back to 2019) and will add five-foot shoulders on each side, creating a wider vehicle pathway that will encourage drivers to go faster, he said.
Residents said drivers already routinely ignore the 25-mile-an-hour limit, leading to a discussion of enforcing speed limits as a complementary or alternative way to increase safety. Enforcement, too, costs money; it is not a permanent solution and would be paid for entirely by the town, Weidner said.
Because houses are close to Main Street on both sides, people were concerned that a sidewalk would come almost to homeowners’ front doors, would eliminate parking space for their vehicles in their driveways and would limit parking at the post office (if the sidewalk were on the east side of the street).
Adams said if Vassalboro voters approve the sidewalk project on Nov. 8, the first expenditures will be for planning. Only then will engineers decide which side of Main Street can better accommodate a sidewalk and how to adjust it to existing conditions. He believes most of the work can be done within the existing road right-of-way.
Vassalboro will participate in design work, and if the result is not satisfactory, “the town” could opt out of the project and the remaining expenditures, Adams said. He declined to define “the town,” saying that deciding if the selectmen, voters or some other body should approve or reject the design was a local decision.
A new issue in the sidewalk debate is maintenance. Vassalboro has not maintained existing sidewalks in North Vassalboro, which long-time local residents concluded date from the 1960s. However, earlier in the day Adams told selectmen the town would be required to plow and sand and as necessary repair East Vassalboro sidewalks.
He explained that because federal money will help with the project and because the federal government is becoming fussier about maintaining projects, the state will also become stricter.
Because selectmen just learned of the maintenance requirement, they had not discussed potential methods or costs, Selectman Lauchlin Titus said. Board members plan to collect information in time to provide estimates before the Nov. 8 decision. According to a fact sheet prepared for the hearing, Vassalboro received a Federal Transportation Enhancement grant in 2013 for safety improvements in East Vassalboro, including sidewalks. The current plan calls for sidewalks on Main Street from the boat landing to the Grange Hall and on Bog Road to the library. (ep)
Federal funds require a 20 percent match from Vassalboro. By piggybacking on the state’s Route 32 reconstruction, the state will pay for the shoulders that would otherwise have been part of the sidewalk costs. Titus said the Vassalboro Budget Committee endorsed the $58,600 appropriation on a 7 to 3 vote at an Aug. 25 meeting. The project has also divided the selectmen; Titus and board Chairman Philip Haines support it, Robert Browne thinks it is a costly non-solution to traffic problems in East Vassalboro.
Completion of the state project will be followed by five-year moratorium on any additional construction, including town projects.
The two public hearings were followed by a short Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting at which the board approved the ballot questions for Nov. 8. Board Chairman Philip Haines thanked planning board members for their work on the shoreland ordinance.
The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting will be Thursday evening, Sept. 22.