Elvis in the garden: a neighborhood garden competition in Palermo

The Palermo Community Garden in summer. (Contributed photo)

by Jim Metcalf

The air smells warm and fresh. The leaves have that bright new green color, only seen at this time of the year. The grass is soft to walk on as we move over to the garden that we left bare last fall. We all hear the call for planting again this year. But this year things are going to be different. Our garden is going to be a showplace with arrow straight rows, bushels of the tastiest vegetables and not a weed within a hundred yards of the garden.

This year our garden will easily win the Best Garden of the Summer award. Every August for many years an unknown judge has always placed a blue ribbon tied to a stake at the edge of one of the gardens in Palermo, noting that garden as the best of the summer. No one ever saw or knew who awarded this prestigious prize, but as years went by the competition became more intense. No longer were weeds allowed to grow and rows became straighter and freshened up with frequent hoeing. Hilda and Lloyd Leeman on Leeman’s Arm spent an hour or two in their garden every morning. As a result of their work, they found the blue ribbon hanging on a post among their rows on more than one occasion.

Hilda and Lloyd’s Garden was back of the red barn at the old house on Leeman Arm. Their garden, full of corn, tomatoes, greens, peas, beans, carrots and other root crops was right out of a photograph in a farm journal magazine. The garden provided them with fresh vegetables along with plenty of stock for making the best sauerkraut and canned vegetables to last all winter.

As generous Mainers they always canned and froze more than they could use in case other families were in need during the winter. All summer they put a box at the edge of the camp road. The box was filled every morning with fresh vegetables for campers and anyone else who wanted to enjoy the taste of fresh home-grown vegetables. The box never remained full very long.

Just on the other side of the barn, Archie Leeman grew the best corn mostly for his annual corn party on one Sunday afternoon in August. Scores of families, town folk, summer campers and friends would show up with salads, desserts, and drinks, but the main feature was fresh corn. The cooking pots of spring water were heated over an outdoor fire. But only when a rolling boil was achieved did Archie run across to the garden to pick baskets full of fresh corn. It was husked and dropped into the boiling water for just a few minutes then served with fresh creamery butter and salt. Then the corn eating and enjoyment ritual was repeated and repeated until everyone could not eat another bite of this golden yellow treat.

Following in the footsteps of these great gardeners, Gary Leeman started a nice vegetable garden above the old barn in a stony patch of ground. He too produced fine crops of vegetables for summer enjoyment and winter canning. Gary was known as the innovator and experimenter in the garden. He was the first to grow a variety of white skinned cucumbers which looked quite different but were very easy to spot among the green vines. The white cukes had thin skins never needing peeling while tasting great fresh or pickled in the many canning jars he and his wife Sharon put up.

Since Gary’s Garden was closer to a stand of trees, his was the target of birds and other vegetable enjoying creatures. He developed a way to hang white plastic grocery bags on stakes which every breeze would fill with air to scare anything out of the garden. In fact, if anyone wanted to raid the garden on a breezy moon lit night, they might have second thoughts with these white air-filled ghost-like bags moving around the unseen stakes.

Gary like the others competed for the blue-ribbon best garden award. He was a good musician and band member who wanted to add a little instrumentation and unique style to his garden to convince raccoons to stay out of the corn and maybe impress the unknown best garden judge. He designed the Elvis scarecrow who stood in the garden with a guitar hanging on his neck, playing as the ghost shopping bags rocked and rolled around the vegetables. We believe that Gary added music from a portable radio to the Elvis scarecrow. If he did, it would have had to include Blue Suede Shoes and Don’t Be Cruel to plead with the raccoons to stay out of the corn.

I think that Gary’s Elvis scarecrow received honorable mention one year for Best Musical Garden. All the gardeners speculated on who awarded the best garden blue ribbon but the judge has never been exposed. Many of those great and generous gardeners are gone now but their memories remain every time we pass the old barn and grown over gardens. All the children and friends who had opportunities to partake of Archie and Penny’s corn feed or who picked up a few fresh vegies from the box aside the camp road or just admired the straight, neat, well-manicured award-winning gardens wonder if we can ever reproduce these beautiful producing gardens.

The challenge is ours and the judge who awards the Best Garden Blue ribbon could still be traveling around town this summer looking for a place to plant the stake with the Blue Ribbon. Gary is still planting his white skinned cukes and corn, but this year he lost his prime garden space to land development. However, wherever Gary plants this year you will see Elvis, the rock and rolling musical scarecrow, shake and shimmy the vegetables into tasty perfection.

Mikala Ferland named Ezhaya scholarship winner

Mikala Ferland

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce has announced the 2022 Joseph B. Ezhaya scholarship winner.

Mikala Ferland was selected as the scholarship recipient from a field of applicants.

Mikala is one of the top students in her class at Lawrence High School, in Fairfield. She also completed a Health Science Certificate at KVCC while still a senior student. She values citizenship and responsibility, along with having a passion for music and martial arts. Her stated mission is to make a significant difference in the lives of others as she moves forward.

Mikala was a member of the National Honors Society and served as secretary and representative of her class during her high school tenure. She assisted in teaching and has participated in martial arts for over seven years. She has a long list of musical accomplishments in her background. Mikala serves as a lifeguard at the Alfond Youth and Community Center (AYCC), in Waterville, since 2020 and has dedicated over 320 volunteer hours at Camp Tracy.

Mikala will attend Kennebec Valley Community College’s nursing program, in Fairfield, in the fall.

The Joseph B. Ezhaya scholarship was established in memory of Joe Ezhaya, a community leader who was known for his generosity and dedication to civic engagement.

Box Dam fish ladder dedicated in Vassalboro

From left to right, Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Nate Gray, of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

The Alewife Restoration ribbon cutting celebration was held in Vassalboro on May 19, with Gov. Janet Mills present to cut the ribbon at the new fish ladder installed on the Box Dam.

[See also: After 200 years, alewives set to return to China Lake and These fish have been waiting 200 years for this moment.]

The new fish ladder at the Box Dam that will allow alewives to migrate naturally toward China Lake. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

Vassalboro resident and alewife restoration activist Ray Breton. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

Vassalboro Town Manager Mary Sabins addresses those in attendance. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

Landis Hudson, Executive Director of Maine Rivers, right, speaks at the ceremony, as Gov. Janet Mills, left, looks on. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

Carrabec High School announces top 10 seniors

From left-to-right, top row: Emma Baker, Julia Baker, Abigayle Ballard, Cheyenne Cahill, Tyler Edwards. Bottom row: Shyanne Holmes, Courtney Rollins, Trinity Slate, Brandon Smith, Garrett Wilson.

Carrabec High School, in North Anson, top ten students in the class of 2022.

Emma Baker is the daughter of Dean and Melissa Baker, of Embden. Emma will be attending Suny Plattsburgh University in New York for computer science.

Julia Baker is the daughter of Eric and Kelly Baker, of Embden. Julia will be attending Kennebec Valley Community College for nursing/general studies.

Abigayle Ballard is the daughter of Kevin Ballard, of Wiscasset, and Terry and Adam Soosman, of Embden. Abigayle will be attending Kennebec Valley Community College for business/barketing.

Cheyenne Cahill – Valedictorian, is the daughter of Michael and Kimberly Cahill, of Embden. Cheyenne will be attending the University of New England majoring in applied exercise science.

Tyler Edwards is the son of Heather Wahler, of Embden. Tyler will be attending the University of Maine for new media.

Shyanne Holmes – Salutatorian, is the daughter of William and Jennifer Holmes, of North Anson. Shyanne will be attending Thomas College majoring in business.

Courtney Rollins is the daughter of Duayne and Jenney Rollins, of Solon. Courtney will be continuing in the work force.

Trinity Slate is the child of Stacey Slate, of North Anson. Trinity will be attending the University of Maine at Farmington for International and global studies.

Brandon Smith is the son of Kenneth and Rebecca Smith, of Anson. Brandon will be attending Thomas College for their public accounting program.

Garrett Wilson is the son of Jonathan and Susan Wilson, of Embden. Garrett will be attending a four-year college.

EVENTS: Wreath laying ceremony in Vassalboro

photo: www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

American Legion Post #126, in Vassalboro invites the community to join them as they lay wreaths at the various veteran monuments in Vassalboro on Monday, May 30, 2022

The wreath laying ceremonies will begin at 9 a.m., on Main St., North Vassalboro, at Main St. Veteran Monument. From there they will proceed to the bridge on Oak Grove Road to lay flowers in honor of those lost at sea. Next they will gather at the flagpole and monument at the North Vassalboro Cemetery, on Cemetery St. From there they will go to the Recreation Field in East Vassalboro. Their final stop will be in East Vassalboro at the Civil War Monument, at Monument Park.

Fish kill on Webber Pond appears to be tied to parasite

One of numerous dead largemouth bass found on Webber Pond. (photo by Roland D. Hallee)

by Roland D. Hallee

VASSALBORO, ME — Over the past couple of weeks there has been a noticeable fish kill on Webber Pond, in Vassalboro. On the east shore of the cove, dozens of dead largemouth bass have been washing ashore. The question that has been asked is why only largemouth bass have been affected.

photo by Roland D. Hallee

Fish kills have occurred before on Webber Pond, and also on China Lake, but it usually affects all species of fish, and not one in particular.

Jason Seiders, resource supervisor for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife provided some information on the subject. There has been ongoing work relating to the fish kill. The occurrence appears to be pond-wide, and not just the east shore.

Seiders says, “our staff has visited the pond multiple times to collect water quality information and to collect specimens for our fish pathologist. The ultimate cause of fish mortality appears to be high levels of parasitization by a protozoan called Chilodonella.” (Chilodonella uncinata is a single-celled organism that affects the gills and skin of fresh water fish, and may act as a facultative parasite of mosquito larva). “Chilodonella is found throughout Maine and is usually relatively benign to fishes,” Seiders adds, “unless the fish have undergone elevated levels of stress. Stress acts as an immunosuppressor to fish, and the causes of stress include a wide variety of issues.”

Seiders went on to say that since this event seems to involve almost exclusively adult largemouth bass, it is unlikely to be anything related to a discharge or point source of pollution. Those types of events would typically kill indiscriminately, not just one life stage of one species. Some likely causes of stress to adult largemouth bass in Webber Pond include: high fish numbers, rapid changes in water temperature or dissolved oxygen levels, and spawn and pre-spawn stress. The actual cause of the initial stress may never be known.

“I realize that an event such as this is disturbing. Fish kills like this are not uncommon for central Maine waters; this one is quite similar to one experienced in the Cobbosseecontee drainage a few years ago,” he explained.

For more information on fish kills, read the blog article written by the IF&W fish pathologist back in 2020, at https://www.maine.gov/ifw/blogs/mdifw-blog/when-be-concerned-about-finding-dead-fish-maines-lakes-ponds-and-rivers-summer.

According to Seiders, Webber Pond is a very productive warm water fishery, one that has often been called a “bass factory”. Webber Pond provides outstanding habitat for warm water fishes such as largemouth bass, which will likely speed along any recovery to the population.

While numerous bass have perished during this event at Webber, this will not cause the entire population to be wiped out. Animals that feed on the bass will be unharmed because the identified protozoan is harmless to wildlife. The IF&W staff will continue to monitor Webber Pond to assess potential impacts to the bass population in the short and long term.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, contact Seiders directly and he’ll help as best he can. He can be contacted at Dwayne.J.Seiders@maine.gov.

Karen Normandin appointed president of KVCC

Karen Normandin

Board of Directors gives unanimous support

FAIRFIELD, ME — Maine Community College System (MCCS) President David Daigler announced recently that Karen Normandin has been appointed president of Kennebec Valley Community College, in Fairfield, effective June 1.

Normandin has been serving as acting president of Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) since May 2021.

“I am honored to have been selected as the next president of Kennebec Valley Community College,” Normandin said. “This college has a long history of providing excellence in academic programming and workforce training opportunities. We are on an extraordinary journey of growth and transition.”

“As we move forward, I am excited to be in a leadership role, working with the faculty and staff to continue the great work that KVCC is known for in this community,” she said. “I look forward to continuing that tradition and strengthening the ties to our community.”

Normandin has worked at KVCC for more than 30 years, serving in multiple leadership positions, including vice president of student affairs, enrollment, marketing and recruitment; dean of student affairs; director of educational support services; and director of TRIO student support services.

“Karen is a champion of the KVCC community and will be an excellent leader,” Daigler said. “She has a deep understanding of the college and an unwavering dedication to its people and the broader community. I look forward to working with her to advance the college during this critical time.”

The MCCS Board of Trustees unanimously supported the appointment.

“Karen has extensive experience and deep ties to the students, faculty and staff at KVCC,” said Board Chairman Bill Cassidy. “Her proven leadership skills will serve the students, faculty and staff well.”

Normandin is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Leadership at Capella University. She has a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Ball State University, in Indiana, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Anselm College, in New Hampshire.

In 2020, Normandin was a John T. Gorman Fellow, which identifies and develops leaders in the public sector, and she twice received the KVCC President’s Award in recognition of her leadership within the KVCC community.

She serves as vice chairman of the Kennebec Behavioral Health Programs Advisory Board; executive board member of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce; and previously served on the Nursing Advisory Board for KVCC, in addition to being a member of multiple professional organizations.

Normandin was selected from an initial field of more than 40 candidates following a national search.

Normandin succeeds Dr. Richard Hopper, who is currently interim president of Greenfield Community College, in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Kennebec Valley Community College, with campuses in Fairfield and Hinckley, enrolls about 2,300 students engaged in more than 35 programs of study.

Tristan Morton earns second of four medals

Fr. Skehan pins Tristan with the second of four medals “Parvuli Dei”. (photo courtesy of Chuck Mahaleris)

Tristan Morton of Pack #603 was recognized by the Catholic Council on Scouting at a Mass in St. Mary Church, on Wednesday, April 27. The Mass was led by Father John Skehan and attended by the students of St. Michael School, in Augusta, where Tristan attends the fourth grade. After blessing the award, Fr. Skehan pinned Tristan with the second of four medals “Parvuli Dei” that follow Catholic Scouts as they mature in the understanding of the church and their faith. Reverence is one of the 12 moral elements of Scouting. Pack #603 is chartered at the American Legion Post #205, Augusta.

Northern Light welcomes Sydney Scott

Sydney Scott

Northern Light Inland Hospital welcomes Sydney Scott, PA, physician assistant. Sydney joins the team at North­ern Light Cardio­vascular Care, lo­cated at 244 Kennedy Memorial Drive, on the hospital campus, in Water­ville.

Sydney is an experienced PA and is board certified by the Na­tional Commi­ssion on Certification of Physician Assistants. She received her Master of Physician Assistant Studies from Chatham University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Sydney believes, “It is important for both the provider and patient to listen to each other and to build a relationship of respect and empathy.”

For a referral, please contact your primary care provider. Or for more information, call Northern Light Cardiovascular Care at 861-8030.

Blood donations needed ahead of summer

When schools let out for summer and families set off on vacation, the American Red Cross typically sees a decline in donors, which can impact patient care. It’s critically important that donors make an appointment to give now before heading out for summer activities to help maintain a stable blood supply in the coming months.

Unfortunately, the need for blood doesn’t take a summer break. Volunteer donors are the only source of blood and platelets for patients with blood disorders, trauma victims and those experiencing difficult childbirths.

In thanks for helping boost the blood supply, all who come to give through May 19, 2022, will receive a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice and will also be automatically entered to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps eight. Details are available at rcblood.org/camper. Those who come to give May 20-31 will receive an exclusive 20-ounce Red Cross aluminum water bottle and customizable sticker set, while supplies last.

Donors can help save a life in just an hour. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, platelets or plasma, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Health insights for donors

The Red Cross is testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies for a limited time. Results may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus after vaccination or past exposure, regardless of whether they developed symptoms.

Plasma from routine blood, platelet and plasma donations that have high levels of COVID-19 antibodies may be used as convalescent plasma to meet potential future needs of COVID-19 patients with a weakened immune system.

The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose infection, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who have been asked to quarantine or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation until they are symptom free for 10 days and feeling well and healthy.

At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.

Donors can expect to receive antibody testing results and sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

Blood drive safety

The Red Cross follows a high standard of safety and infection control. The Red cross will continue to socially distance wherever possible at blood drives, donation centers and facilities. While donors are no longer required to wear a face mask, individuals may choose to continue to wear a mask for any reason. The Red Cross will also adhere to more stringent face mask requirements per state and/or local guidance, or at the request of blood drive sponsors. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at a drive.

How to donate blood

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.