SOLON & BEYOND, Week of September 15, 2016

Solon and Beyondby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

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).

Pages In Time: Those darn socks

by Milt Huntington

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.”

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of September 8, 2016

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

First, WALLS, you must extend appreciation to The Town Line’s Roland Hallee for telling about the ‘plant growth’ at Webber Pond. For better or worse, those green things growing are also being monitored by the Lake Wesserunsett Association in Madison by the Lake Quality Committee. And, that is a perfect lead-in to the Somerset Woods event to which Lew and I were invited for a great and interesting evening at Canaan Farmers’ Building a couple weeks ago.

Somerset Woods President Jack Gibson led the really fine event , which also introduced Amy Rowbottom’s wonderful cheeses that she makes and sells at Crooked Face Creamery and at the Skowhegan Farmer’s Market. WALLS, wasn’t it superb to see so many folks that we hadn’t seen for a long time? What’s more, this was the first sonservation and awards celebration to be held since Somerset Woods was formed in 1927, likely the oldest land trust in Maine. Louise Helen Coburn (1856 – 1949) of Skowhegan, botanist, historian, poet, author, philanthropist and visionary, initiated the Somerset Woods Trustees and was its first president. She was our famed Governor Abner Coburn’s sister.

Speaking of the trustees, presently, besides “Jack” Gibson, Atty. Ernest Hilton, Gregory Dore, Davida Barter, Joe Dembeck, Dr. Ann Dorney, Kate Drummond, Robert Haynes, Eric Lahti, Roger Poulin, Atty. Warren Shay and Chris Young hold that position. Executive director is Nancy Williams.

Honorary trustees are: Donald Eames, Kirby Hight, William F. Reid, Jr. and Clinton Townsend and very deserving trustees and members were presented awards: Conservation: “Bill” Townsend and ‘Will” Reid. Stewardship: Patty VanHorn and Jeff McCabe.

A special presentation was made to Roger Poulin for Roger Poulin Trail.

What a pleasure it was to have Tom Abello, director of external affairs, the Nature Conservancy, as the keynote speaker. Yes, Tom’s message was especially interesting and I asked him to be on Now You Know that is hosted by Chris Perkins on Ch.11, as I learned that there is so much to know about conserving Maine lands and, particularly, we must care about Somerset County lands.

Never to be forgotten to tell you faithful readers about is the special tribute made by the Skowhegan Garden Club at Coburn Park. Yes, there’s a new Mountain Laurel planted there by the club.

Well, WALLS, you generously spoke of Roland Hallee’s telling about Webber Pond, but Percy of Solon & Beyond left all of our faithful readers with his special memoir on September 1. Quote:

“There’s a special art to living…… Don’t waste your time in waiting for the world to come to you. You have to climb the mountain to appreciate the view!” Percy said more, but, surely, his words are a great message for everyone.”

Yes, WALLS, this is a special message as students begin their 2016-2017 school year.

Identifying oversized mosquitoes

by Roland D. Hallee

Have you ever gone to bed on a warm summer night, and seen this thing flying around that resembles a large mosquito?

It happens to me all the time at camp.

Sitting up in bed, grabbing the book I’m reading, or possibly a magazine for some light and quick reading. And, there it is, buzzing around the light, and becoming extremely annoying. It looks like a giant mosquito.

A crane fly.

A crane fly.

One of my relatives recently posted a photo on Facebook of that exact same insect on her arm. In the posting, she notes, “it’s a good thing I’m not afraid of spiders.” Wait a minute, this insect has six legs. All arachnids have eight legs. That is not a spider.

Well, I quickly fired off an email to my biologist contact at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with the photo. It didn’t take long to receive a reply.

His response was, “this is a cranefly, a true fly in the order Diptera, and probably from the family Tipulidae. There are over 1,500 species of Craneflies in North America and possibly several hundred in Maine. The adults are harmless, some species not feeding at all, and some species feeding predominantly on nectar.”

In colloquial speech, the cranefly is sometimes called Daddy Longlegs, a term also used to describe opiliones, or harvestmen, both of which are arachnids. The larvae of the cranefly are known commonly as leatherjackets.

Craneflies are found worldwide, though individual species usually have limited ranges.

The adult crane fly, like mentioned earlier, resembles an oversized mosquito, and has stilt-like legs that are deciduous, easily coming off the body.

The adult female usually contains mature eggs as she emerges from her pupa, and often mates immediately if a male is available. Adult craneflies have a lifespan of 10 – 15 days. Cranefly larvae (leatherjackets) have been observed in many habitat types on dry land and in water. They are cylindrical in shape, but taper toward the front end, and the head capsule is often retracted into the thorax. Larvae may eat algae, microflora, and living or decomposing plant matter, including wood. Some are predatory.

Some lavae species consume some living aquatic insects and invertabrates, which could potentially include mosquito larvae. Many, however, because of their short lifespan, never eat at all.
Despite widely held beliefs that adult crane flies prey on mosquito populations, the adult crane fly is anatomically incapable of killing or consuming other insects.

Crane flies are generally thought as agricultural pests. Since the late 1900s they have become invasive in the United States. The larvae have been observed on many crops, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, pasture, lawn grasses and ornamental plants. It is harmless to humans, can be a nuisance to agriculture, but I wish it would stop reading over my shoulder.

I’m Just Curious: Dart’s escape

by Debbie Walker

Apple Tree Notch is the home of the Bailey fairy family and many of their friends. Mom and Papa Bailey had noticed that as their fairy children grew older their home became busier.

Their children could in a matter of seconds turn their quiet little home under the apple tree into a very busy, crazy home. Can you just imagine Momma Bailey trying to clean her home when three little children came flying through the door? Some times they were running, sometimes flying, flitting and scurrying between Momma and Papa trying to tell them about their adventures that day.

Well, this day was no different. All three of the Bailey children came rushing through the door and following closely behind was their friend, Dart. He was a very excited young dragon fly. They all began flying and flitting around between the parents and of course Dart was “darting” around, that was how he had gotten his name.

Papa finally stood up from his chair and said, “Everyone stop, there are too many talking at the same time, Momma and I just can’t understand. Dart it sounds as if you are the one with the adventure, so you may tell us. Daisy, Fern and Twig settle down while Momma and I listen”.

It was hard for the excited three to settle down. They were excited remembering how Daisy had escaped the big house behind Apple Tree Notch. The child, Tristin had almost put Daisy in a vase of water as a present to her parents. The escape had been a close call and now this!

Dart began to explain. I was just flying around with some friends. We were playing a game of chase. One of my friends made a quick swoop past the open door of the house. “I missed him and flew right into the house. I saw the people there but they didn’t see me, so I hid behind the curtain.”

“A short time after the house got quiet I thought everyone had left. So I started trying to wing my way out from behind the curtains. Sometimes I still can’t control my wings as well as I would like to.”

“I heard the mother of the house say to herself, ‘what is that noise I hear?’ I knew she was looking for me. That made my wings flap even harder against the window.”

“The woman moved the curtain out of the way and she caught me in her hand. I was so scared, but I got out and flew, only to land behind another curtain and I knew she was still after me.

Papa, Momma, I was so scared. I was afraid my wings would get torn or something worse.”

“The lady was still after me. I couldn’t help flapping my wings and again she found me. You won’t believe what the woman did. She grabbed me and I thought that was it for me. The woman spoke to me. She said “little dragon fly if you will slow down just a second I will help you out.” The next thing I knew I was on her open hand and she let me fly out the door! That’s when I almost hit Twig as I was flying away. That woman let me go, just like that and I’m not hurt at all!”

Momma and Papa saw the sparkle of light from the Sprite, the guardian of all the local children. They saw him fly out the door so they knew everything was alright.

Momma had been fixing dinner while Dart was telling his story. She said “Well Dart with all that flying you must be tired and hungry.” The whole family giggled as they looked at Dart. He had lit on a cushion and fallen fast asleep.

No harm was done. They ate dinner as Dart slept dreaming of his release by the woman. Apple Tree Notch is certainly full of adventures, but for now things were quiet.
Contact me at, subject line: Dart. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy a little kid’s stuff.

A BOOK REVIEW: Angel of Death by Jack Higgins

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Angel of Death by Jack Higgins; Putnam, 1995, 311 pages.

A thriller from 20 years ago.

I offer a passage that conveys the narrative page-turning power/humor of this book:Angel of Death

“Mullin took Dillon back to the entrance, and as he opened the Judas gate, there was a hollow booming sound in the distance.

“What was that?” Dillon said in alarm.

“Only a bomb, nothing to get alarmed about, my wee man. Did you wet your pants then?”

He laughed as Dillon stepped outside, was still laughing as he closed the door. Dillon paused on the corner. The first thing he did was peel away the moustache above his lip, then he removed the rain hat from his pocket, unrolled it, and took out a short-barreled Smith & Wesson revolver, which he slipped into his waist band against the small of his back.

He put the hat on as the rain increased. “Amateurs,” he said softly. “What can you do with them?” and he walked rapidly away.

All types of story possibilities are suggested by this passage, only four pages into the novel. A U.S. Senator Patrick Keogh has agreed to negotiate a cease fire between IRA and loyalist Ulster groups in the Northern Ireland of the mid-’90s. Meanwhile, a very secret group, the January 30th gang has targeted the senator for termination as part of a larger plan to create horrible chaos by a series of random murders, with zero consistency, and thus heightening the element of terror among the finest investigative agencies.

Jack Higgins

Jack Higgins

Since 1959, novelist Jack Higgins, now 87 and living on Jersey, which is part of the Channel Islands, has penned 84 novels, of which 21 feature the ex-IRA gunman/now good guy, Sean Dillon, a very formidable, resourceful and, when necessary, ruthless agent. Angel of Death was his fourth appearance and the story cuts more quickly to the chase than the time to open this book for reading purposes. No more spoilers – get it!

SOLON & BEYOND, Week of September 8, 2016

Solon and Beyondby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

I am starting this column with a much appreciated e-mail message from Emmons and Barbara Pinkham: “Many thanks for the wonderful article regarding our historical society in The Town Line edition we received today. We always read your column and were delightfully surprised to see the organization in your column. We had a wonderful reception to our invitation for people to view our new building. It has taken us about six years with the help of volunteers to see our dream come true.

“Next on the agenda will be a barn to house farm equipment and also a Blacksmith shop. We still have more work ahead of us but are willing to see the completion of this project which hopefully will benefit the citizens. of Lexington and Highland.

“Since some Historical Societies had events on September 20, we are issuing an invitation to attend a special open house on Saturday, September 10, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and on Sunday, September 11, from 1 – 4 p.m. Most sincerely, Emmons and Barbara Pinkham.”

My many thanks to you folks for your kind words, it is always a great pleasure to hear from those of you who read my columns. My goal has always been to give my friends, known, and unknown, words of Love and Laughter to make their lives happier. Have been trying to remember how many years I’ve been writing for several different papers, and as near as I can figure, it’s over 40! (All the other papers are no longer in business) but The Town Line is always there every Thursday, probably partly because of the great editor! (suppose I”ll get a raise for that one?)

The monthly public supper at the Embden Community Center will be spaghetti, on Saturday, September 10, at 5 p.m.

Just a reminder to those interested, that the Adult Ed will be starting up at Skowhegan on Monday, September 12, for the Painting Club. I’m looking forward to old and new members!
Lief and I celebrated our fifth anniversary by going up to camp at Flagstaff last weekend. Dave and Pete were there and Peter, Sherry and Mazy went up also. The weather was perfect, blue skies and lots of sun. Lief and I love sleeping in the bunkhouse, the toilet seat in the out house was cold in the middle of the night but that’s all part of the adventure!

Came across this saved piece of history about the area that I had cut out of a Sunday paper in 2002, entitled Treasured Memories of a Place Now Covered in Water, written by William David Barry. (It was a review of the book, “There Was A Land”) And he wrote, ” On the face of it, 70 authors focusing on one subject, in one volume, does not suggest a good result. However, in the case of “There Was A Land,” a source book on life in the plantations of Flagstaff, Bigelow and Dead River before their destruction in 1949, we are given a treasure.” Later in the article he writes, “There Was A Land” might honestly be called the longest obituary ever written for a Maine community. Yet it is a story that proves as uplifting as it does wrenching. What we have in these pages is an unmatched community scrapbook – diaries, recollections, articles and photographs that describe a hardscrabble but fully functional community before the flood.”

It seems strange to me that many people still don’t know that Flagstaff Lake flows over land that was once home to several communities. When asked by the usual question, “Where did you grow up?” And I tell them Flagstaff, their mouth drops open, and they ask where it was.

OK, enough history, but I do recommend that you read the book, “There Was A Land.” – and when I get to writing about that area, you can maybe understand.
Percy’s memoir will be short this week,” “Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.” (words by Beaconfield).

The birth of the muscle car era

by Roland D. Hallee

Arguably the most exciting time in the U.S. auto industry was the muscle car era. Although purists will make their case that it began with the 1948 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, most car enthusiasts, including myself, will point to the 1964 Pontiac GTO.

1964 GTO

1964 GTO

The GTO actually evolved from the Pontiac Tempest that was introduced as an entry-level compact in September 1960. It would later drop the moniker Tempest in favor of the LeMans line, which was an upgrade feature for those who wanted a more deluxe coupe. I owned a 1963 LeMans. The engine was a 195-cubic-inch 4-cylinder engine named the “Trophy 4” because it was derived from the right cylinder bank of Pontiac’s 389 cubic-inch V8. The engine produced enough horsepower to out perform rival Ford’s 6-cylinder engine.
Originally, in 1964 and 1965, Pontiac offered the GTO as an optional package.

1963 Tempest LeMans

1963 Tempest LeMans

By the early 1960s, General Motors management banned divisions from being involved in auto racing. With that ban on factory-sponsored racing, Pontiac’s managers began to emphasize street performance.

The GTO was the creation from an upcoming second-generation Pontiac Tempest with a larger 389 cubic inch V8 engine from the full-sized Catalina and Bonneville. By promoting the big-engine Tempest as a special high performance model, they could appeal to the younger, speed-minded market, which Ford was at the time preparing the sporty Ford Mustang variant of the second generation Falcon.

The name, which has been tossed around for years, was inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO, the successful race car. It is an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato, or “officially certified for racing in the grand tourer class.”

1971 LeMans

1971 LeMans

Sales manager Frank Bridge, who did not believe it would find a market, insisted on limiting initial production to 5,000 cars. His prediction proved wrong as the GTO package sold a total of 32,450 cars in 1964.

The Tempest line, including the GTO, was redesigned in 1965, adding 3.1 inches to the overall length while maintaining the same wheelbase. It included a simulated hood scoop. A seldom seen dealer-installed option consisted of a metal underhood pan and gaskets to open the scoop, making it a cold air intake. Its effectiveness was questioned, but it allowed more of the engine’s roar to escape.

In 1966, GTO became a separate Pontiac model instead of being an option package of the Tempest LeMans. The entire body was restyled that year, gaining more curves to the sheet metal to give it the “Coke bottle” look that was popular at the time. Sales increased to 96,946 that year, the highest production figure for all GTO years. Although Pontiac had strenuously promoted the GTO in advertising as the “GTO Tiger,” it became better known in the youth market as the “goat.”

The 1967 model brought on few styling changes. The louvered-covered tail lights were replaced with eight tail lights, four on each side. Rally II wheels with colored lug nuts were also available. The grill was changed from a purely split grill, to one that shared some chrome. A total of 81,722 units were manufactured that year.

More changes came in 1968 with a redesigned A-body that included a more curvaceous, semi-fastback styling. The overall length of the car was reduced by 5.9 inches. The concealed headlights were a popular option. More innovations were the hidden windshield wipers and the hood mounted tachometer.

The Judge 1969

The Judge 1969

In 1968, “The Judge” was introduced. It had a Ram Air III engine, Rally II wheels, Hurst shifter with a unique T-shaped handle, wider tires, various decals and a rear mounted spoiler.

When I was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, my bunk mate had a “Judge” and we made frequent trips to visit his relatives in  Georgia and Florida. We usually made good time on the trips, until one day, reaching speeds of 110 mph, we were unable to outrun a county sheriff in a souped-up 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle 396. The car was unmarked, and we had no way of knowing he was a sheriff’s deputy. He let us off easy.

More design changes came in 1970, doing away with the hidden headlights in favor of four exposed round ones. The nose retained the protruding vertical prow theme, although it was less prominent.

By now, there were other manufacturers competing for the muscle car market: the Oldsmobile 442, Ford Boss Mustang, Buick Gran Sport, Dodge Charger and the Mercury Cougar, just to name a few.

The only time I actually owned a muscle car was when I convinced my wife that the Olds 442 was a family car. Mine was a 1966 version, but that’s a story for another time.
The Judge was still available in 1970, but with an option of the 455-cubic-inch V8 engine. But, by now, sales of the GTO began to decline, and the new styling did little to help sales. Punitive surcharges by insurance companies, and the increase in gasoline prices began to take its toll on the entire muscle car market.

1965 GTO

1965 GTO

By 1971, the GTO received another facelift, similar to the LeMans, which I purchased that year. It was the closest I ever came to owning a GTO. The LeMans came with a 350-cubic-inch engine.

By now, the wife was a little wiser.

David Pearson drove a 1971 GTO in the NASCAR Winston Cup series that year.

In 1972, the GTO reverted from a separate model line to that of being an option package for the LeMans.

New federal regulations in 1973 didn’t lend well for the GTO either. Laws now stipulated that front and rear bumpers had to be capable of withstanding 5-mile-per-hour impacts with no damage to the body. The result was the use of prominent and heavy chrome bumpers. The overall styling of the 1973 Pontiac was generally not well received by the car buying public.

In contrast, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo were better received because of the their squared-off style and formal rooflines. Oldsmobile also received better reviews with the Cutlass.

1966 GTO

1966 GTO

The 1974 model then underwent drastic changes, which in my opinion was the beginning of the demise of the GTO when it was turned into an entry into the compact muscle market made popular by the Plymouth Duster, Ford Maverick and AMC Hornet. Pontiac moved the GTO to the compact Pontiac Ventura, which shared its sheet metal with the Chevrolet Nova.
Sales were an improvement over 1973, at 7,058 but not enough to justify continuing the model.

During the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, a GTO concept car with a heritage-inspired ”Coke-bottle” shape, grille and hood scoop, was introduced to the world. It was only a design experiment and had no engine.

In 2004, the Pontiac GTO was relaunched in the U.S. market in the form of a rebadged, third-generation Holden Monaro. The revival prompted executives to import a Holden Commodore-based vehicle. Even though it was one of the best vehicles that GM offered at the time, it could not be purchased in the United States. It was determined that importing the car from Australia could be a profitable venture.

GM had high expectations to sell 18,000 units, but the Monaro-based GTO received a lukewarm reception in the U.S. The styling was frequently derided by critics as being too conservative and anonymous to befit the GTO heritage. Given the newly-revived muscle car climate, it was also overshadowed by the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum and the new Ford Mustang, which featured more traditional muscle car aesthetics. Only 13,569 Monaros were sold in 2004.

The GTO continued to exist until it was announced in 2006 by GM the general manager that 2006 would be the last model year for GTO. The explanation was the inability to meet new airbag deployment standards for 2007. The final production numbers for the 2006 model were 13,948, an increase from 11,069 the previous year.

The last GTO - 2006

The last GTO – 2006

The last Pontiac GTO came off the assembly line in Australia on June 4, 2006.

Next time, more muscle cars.

Berry nice! 10 or so yummy berries to make into recipes of berry bliss

by  Emily Cates

It’s berry time, one of the best times of the year! Although the drought has begun to affect many plants, hopefully the berries in your yard and favorite foraging areas are going strong. If you find yourself with more berries than you can feast on right then and there in the berry patch, then by all means, bring your delectable harvest into the kitchen and preserve it for later enjoyment. The following article will look at a handful of common and abundant berries in our area, when they are most likely to be ripe, and suggested methods to preserve them.

Let’s start with the berries that ripen earliest. Honeyberry, otherwise known as Haskap, Edible Honeysuckle, or Lonicera caerulea, ripens in the early part of June. It grows on a small bush and is a good producer of elongated blueberry-like tangy berries. They are said to make delightful jams and desserts, though I will confess the ones in my garden never even make it into my kitchen before being gobbled up by birds and I.page4pict6

Next in line are the strawberries, which likely need no description. The tasty, dreamy, sweet ruby-hued treats meet a similar fate as the honeyberries in my garden – though I’ll point out that many strawberries freeze well and are amazing in pastries, sauces, jam, and wine. They’re also not bad dehydrated.

After strawberries will be Juneberries. Known also as Serviceberry. Shadbush, Saskatoon, or Amelanchier, this wonderful native plant of varying forms is not only a beauty in bloom, but a delight when fruiting. I literally have to fight the birds for each and every berry on my shrubs! Though blueberry-like in size and appearance, the juicy berries taste very sweet with an almond-like, small, unobjectionable seed. Though, again, this is another fruit that gets consumed exclusively in my impromptu garden pig-outs… they are said to be good in cakes, cobblers, pies, smoothies, jam, jelly, and used by Native folks in pemmican.

Next after Juneberries are pie cherries. All right, they’re stone fruits, not berries- but I couldn’t resist putting them here! Often called sour cherries, some cultivars (such as “Evans”) aren’t unpleasantly sour when fully ripe, and may even be relished on the spot from the tree. These fruits are legendary in pies, cobblers, tarts, cheesecake topping, syrup, sauce, fruit leathers, and cherry soup. Try dehydrating them or freezing them, too.

Somewhere among these fruits of summertime you’ll find currants ripening. Red, white, or pink currants shimmer on their strigs like sparkling, translucent jewels ready to adorn a royal consort. These beauties are spirited and sprightly, refreshingly tart like lemonade. Currant “ice” is an easy treat relished in summertime: Run the gently cooked berries though a food mill, freeze the sauce, break up the crystals into a sorbet-like consistency, and voila! Currants have also been made in times past into ketchup, jams, jellies, and wines. Black currants have a much more intense, heady aroma to them, and are oftentimes used in jams, jellies, cordials, elixirs, tinctures, and wines. They dry well and the dehydrated berries can be encapsulated for herbal supplements, or ground into teas, smoothies, or other delicious drinks. Gooseberries, which are in a similar family, are sweet and oftentimes enjoyed fresh and in pies. (Please be aware, however, that members of the Ribes family are thought to be involved in the spread of White Pine Blister Rust, and are banned federally in much of our area. It is a reality, though, that currants do grow around here and it is possible you will stumble upon one sooner or later, whether grown by a rogue neighbor or a rogue plant in Nature. So use good judgment and common sense!)

I’d be remiss if I omitted raspberries and blackberries. Though I often find the seediness of these berries and thorns on the canes objectionable – the joy that results from having a berry picking party with friends who really love these berries – more than compensates. Raspberry or blackberry tarts, syrup, juice, wine, cheesecake toppings, crisps, cobblers, jams, and jellies are agreeable delights.

Around this time you might find some cloyingly sweet, ripe, blackberry-looking mulberries on a mulberry tree. Of course, the birds will have noticed this, too. And, of course, the best fruits that remain will be found out of reach. What to do? Simply lay down a sheet under the tree and give it a good shake! Then eat them fresh, in smoothies, cakes, fruit leathers, and wine. The sweetness in mulberries can be complimented well with something tart in a recipe, if desired.

At some point the blueberries will start ripening, depending on the earliness of the cultivar. Mmmmm…..blueberries! They’re my dad’s favorite fruit, and I can see why. Next to a carton of freshly picked berries still warmed by the sun, his favorite treat is a tub of plain yogurt sprinkled with handfuls of frozen blueberries. Simple, yet profoundly delicious and nutritious. Who of us hasn’t enjoyed a yummy blueberry muffin, bread, pie, cobbler, jam, jelly, juice, smoothies, fruit leather, or wine? Highbush or lowbush, it doesn’t matter, I love them all.
Elderberries will also make an appearance. If they’re picked before the birds find them, they’re good in pies, juice, cordials, tinctures, elixirs, and wine. I like to add them to applesauce to give the sauce a beautiful infusion of color.

The final berry we’ll look at for now – Aronia, will ripen towards late summertime. Though relatively uncommon in our area, it’s starting to catch on. Aronia berries are sweet but astringent when eaten off the shrub, but the juice and wine is delectable and said to be highest in antioxidants of any temperate fruit. I like to toss in a handful or two of the berries when I make other sauces. They are also good in pilafs.

Whatever berries you encounter this summer, may they and their creations be berry-great!

Squirrels: my cultured, refined little thieves

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

I know I’ve written about gray squirrels in the past, but, I have to tell you about the two in particular that have made their home in my backyard. High in a tree, overlooking the garage, sits a large squirrels’ nest where these two reside. You rarely see them together, but when you do, it’s a comedy act rivaled by none.

I refer to them as my cultured squirrels. They have done such amazing things, that I have dubbed them Martha and Stewart because of some of their etiquettes.

For starters, my backyard is peppered with black chestnut pits. I learned a long time ago those nuts are a staple for these scavenging rodents. Annually, my wife and I visit a cemetery in China where there are horse chestnut trees. We gather a bagful and feed them to the squirrels, a little at a time.

Well, the black chestnuts were a mystery until about 10 years ago when I learned there is a black chestnut tree in the middle of Waterville, about 150 yards from my house – by the way the crow flies. These squirrels obviously make that journey to ac­quire those nuts, stash them in the nest, and discard the pits. I have to rake up the pits because the last thing I need is another tree growing in my backyard.

page12pict1We watch them frolic around, chasing each other up and around the large pines in the backyard. We even hear them running across the peak of the roof to our house in the early mornings. Once recently, they actually looked like they were dancing on our porch railing. I had never seen that before, but there they were, face-to-face, with front feet wrapped around each other like they were about to dance to a Mozart waltz.

But, what had transpired before that was what really astonishes me. Next to the porch, on a bench, are my trash cans. One metal, one plastic. Now, quite a while ago, the squirrels had chewed a hole through the plastic lid. I repaired the hole and it stayed that way for about a year and a half. The other morning, I noticed the patch was removed. So, I applied another. Meanwhile, my wife and I did some sorting of various foods in the pantry, and discovered a container of some outdated crackers – mini crackers about the size of a nickel. We bagged them with the rest of the weekly trash, and deposited the bag into the trash can outside for Friday’s pickup.

A few days later, I noticed one of the squirrels sitting upright on the railing, chomping away on what looked like one of the crackers. So, I couldn’t help but sit and watch his next move. Sure enough, from my vantage point, I could see where this squirrel didn’t bother to undo the repaired patch, he chewed a new hole through the lid. He jumped off the railing, went down the hole into the trash can, and came out with another cracker. I watched him do that about six times before he noticed me, and left the area.

I went outside, looked inside the trash can, and the bag containing the crackers was split open. So I placed a brick temporarily over the hole. Here’s my question: How did that squirrel know that crackers were present in a plastic bag, tied securely at the top, and deposited into a plastic trash receptacle, with the lid snapped on tightly?

It boggles my mind how keen a sense of smell these little critters have.

I wrote this column last Thursday, and thought I was finished. Well, Martha or Stewart, were back to their old tricks. I spotted one of them sitting on the railing licking a paper muffin cup. My wife and I had muffins for breakfast that morning, and he was cleaning up the leftovers. Then, I noticed in front of him, a K-cup from our Keurig coffee making machine, which it had opened at the top, and was literally having coffee grounds with his muffin. I couldn’t tell if it had a pinky in the air while doing this.

It had enlarged the hole where the brick was sitting on top of the trash can, and gone inside to help himself. Normally, that bin would have been empty, but I had missed the trash pickup the previous week, giving Mr. or Mrs. Squirrel the luxury of two trash bags to pillage through.

The trash is now gone, so I guess the next step is to dispose of the plastic can, and purchase another metal one. I don’t mind feeding the squirrels, but my trash is personal.