Source – Press Herald Thu, 21 Sep 2017 03:27:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to find a CSA that’s right for you Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:40 +0000 Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, have traditionally been a way for farmers to help fund their upfront costs of planting and cultivating long before the harvest comes. The farmers in Maine who produce winter CSAs are a widely varied group, and as a result, they tend to come up with some surprising and innovative “crops.” Here are a few that speak to very specific needs and desires.

LIKE BERRIES IN WINTER? Some winter CSA producers put in a packet of frozen berries. The Foot Hill Alliance, comprised of five farms in Western Maine, near the New Hampshire border, might include frozen blueberries, cranberries or even raspberries, depending on what they’ve got. Visit to sign up for a share.

NEED SKIN CARE? Rooted Earth Farm in Casco provides a CSH. That stands for Community Supported Herbalism. It’s year-round and farmer/owner Sara Tryzelaar gears the monthly box of goodies, shipped through the mail, to the season, but she is also happy to tailor the monthly deliver to specific problems. Like say, acne. “I have a really popular line of acne products, she says, Pimple Potion among them. Prices range from $30 to $55 a month. Visit for more information.

LIVE OFF THE MAINLAND? Turner Farms on North Haven offers a winter CSA, focused mostly on greens, with special treats as available. It serves about 40 customers on both North Haven and Vinalhaven, with delivery to the ferry terminal. Details on pricing and time frame for this coming winter are still being worked out, so check the website in coming weeks if you’re an islander who must have greens. Visit for more information.

WANT YOUR VEGETABLE HORIZONS BROADENED? A lot of the farmers running winter CSAs like to throw in surprises. At North Branch Farm in Monroe, you might see exotics like tatsoi or celeriac. Visit to learn more. At Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred, which runs an alliance featuring products from about 15 vegetable farmers, as well as meat and grain producers, burdock made an appearance in the share. “That didn’t end up being a big hit so we didn’t do it again,” farmer Tom Harms said. “But we thought it was kind of groovy.”

LIKE SURPRISES? A lot of Maine winter CSAs will slip you something special and unexpected in the winter months. Wolf Pine Farm includes local specialty items with just about every winter share, which might be oats from Aurora Provisions or flour from Maine Grains, local sea salt or raw honey. Jill Agnew, who runs the oldest winter CSA in the state, at Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus, might slip in fennel and occasionally, a small homemade gift, like her own kimchi. Visit for more information.

WANT JUICE? New Beat Farm in Waldo County has a new add on to its winter CSA, a cider share. Eight 1/2 gallon deliveries for $32, arriving with your regular CSA shares, available every three weeks and delivered to Portland for pick up. (Regular shares often feature a special item, like organic cornmeal from Songbird Farm). Visit for more information.

LIKE TO KNIT WHILE YOUR BEEF STEWS? Nezinscot Farm in Turner offers a CSA-style pre-buy that goes year round and serves as a pre-buy for shopping at the farm store (translation, pay ahead and then buy as you please). Which means everything from canned goods to fresh meat, including chicken, beef, pork, goose and duck, seasonally. And sometimes even fiber and craft supplies, including wool from the farm’s animals. Shares never run out and run from $400 to $3,000. Visit for more information.

NEED DOUGH? You can sign up for a bread CSA that runs all year long. Brazen Baking is available through Brazen Baking in Waldoboro. Basic shares start at $20, which gets you a loaf a week for 4 weeks. No phone number unfortunately, but they have a Facebook page and a website, Wolf Pine sometimes puts bread in its winter shares, made by Borealis, with Maine ingredients.




]]> 0, 15 Sep 2017 09:50:49 +0000
Maine farms make CSA shares a year-round endeavor Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:10 +0000 About nine years ago, Tom Harms noticed some long faces in October. His family farm, Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred, was wrapping up its summer CSA and customers were picking up the last boxes they’d been receiving all season as part of the farms Community Supported Agriculture shares.

“They were all sad, like, ‘Now you are going to make us go back to the supermarket until next June?’ ” Harms said.

That’s when Harms and his wife and farming partner Amy Sprague decided to venture into the world of winter CSAs as a means of keeping customers year-round. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association doesn’t track numbers of winter CSAs, but the practice is increasingly popular with young farmers who are pushing the boundaries of four-season agriculture.

But even with more and more fresh produce available in the state year round as farmers employ high tunnel or even heated greenhouse methods to grow in Maine, winter CSAs are not for the faint-hearted. As a farmer, you’ve got to come up with the goods at a time when the world is brown and grey and white. And you don’t get a season “off.” Not that most farmers don’t work year-round anyway, but most get a break from customers when the snow flies.

Harms took a popular approach, forming an alliance with other farmers throughout Maine and beyond. For his meat share, he found a farmer to supply grass-fed beef from Vermont, for instance, and Sprague started planting more root vegetables on their home farm. Now they have over 400 customers in a winter CSA that serves up goods from roughly 15 vegetable farmers and five other producers who rotate in and out depending on what’s available. It could be mushrooms from Mousam Valley in nearby Sanford. Or he might call up his friend Jim Amaral at Borealis Breads. “I just reached out to him and said, ‘Jim, do something fun.’ So he gets to have 400 guinea pigs in my shareholders, eating whatever he makes with ancient grains or whatever he is playing around with that day.”

Harms and Sprague haven’t sold their produce at farmers market in years, and though Harms said he misses the socializing somewhat, the year-round CSA is more reliable. “One of the more awesome parts of it is that all of your food is sold and you don’t have to worry about rainy days and busy times and all of the other stressors of the farmers market,” Harms said.

Jill Agnew of Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus has the double distinction of being the first farmer in Maine to adopt the modern CSA model, back in 1989, and the first to run a winter CSA, which she started that same year. The farm already had an orchard to bring in customers in the fall; while they were picking up apples, they could take a box of say, root vegetables and other storage crops home. “And I don’t really care to leave the farm that much,” she laughed. She also got a nudge from her brother-in-law, whom she had been regularly supplying with bags of food from the farm. “He’d say, ‘You know, a lot of people would be really into getting these bags of food.’ ”

Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred has 400 customers who participate in their winter CSA. Amy Sprague and Jessie Robb harvest Delicata squash at the farm on Tuesday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The year-round aspect of her CSA never daunted her.

“I’m always up for a challenge and the whole concept of it just made so much sense to me,” Agnew said. “Everybody eats root crops all winter, and we were all behind the idea of encouraging people to eat food seasonally and locally.” She set up some satellite pickup locations, including one at her sister’s house in Falmouth, but she also has customers who come to the farm, where she stocks other goodies, like her chevre, meats from Farmers’ Gate or value-added products like gingered carrots.


Not every winter CSA works out. At Oyster River Winery, farmer and winemaker Brian Smith started one a couple of years ago that was straight out of a Currier and Ives print: Meats and cheese and bread from local farmers and producers, topped off with wine from Oyster River and delivered by a horse-drawn wagon along an 11-mile route in the Rockland area. But there were logistical issues, including the complications of liquor laws that kept other members of his alliance from helping with deliveries. Smith said he might revisit a CSA in the future, but for now he’s selling wine in his club.

A tempting winter months bacon and sausage club run out of Old Crow Ranch in Durham (5 pounds every four weeks for $60) is also on hiatus, said farmer Steve Sinisi, thanks to equipment and labeling issues. He’s focusing instead on sales of whole animals, predominately through area butchers. “Our meat ordering system is really like a modified CSA,” he said.

Most winter CSAs have at least a slightly modified approach.

Amy Sprague harvests Delicata squash at Wolf Pine Farm. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Another longtime player in the year-round CSA game, Nezinscot Farm in Turner, uses the term CSA but participants in that “all-diet CSA” program don’t get deliveries. Instead, they pay a lump sum in advance and are invited to shop in Gloria and Gregg Varney’s farm store, where they can get everything from craft supplies to farm cheese, meat and canned goods. In the 20 years Gloria Varney has been running her CSA this way, she has never wanted to shift to a more traditional CSA model. “It’s a lot of work to put together boxes,” she said. And this way, customers can choose to spend only $10 one month and $300 the next, depending on their needs.

Then there is Sara Tryzelaar, an herb farmer in Casco who makes skin-care products and tinctures and sells them through her Etsy shop and through a monthly, year-round CSA. Or as she calls it, a CSH, with herbalism standing in for the word agriculture. Tryzelaar is in her seventh year with the CSH and has between five and 30 people in it at any given time. She tailors packages to individual customer needs and to seasons. So in the spring customers get a homemade bug spray, and in the fall, something to help with the arrival of cold season.

“The cool thing about using local plants is that a lot of the plants that are ready to harvest go along with what you might need at that time of year,” she said. “I just harvested elderberries over the last few weeks and am making tinctures.”


As Tryzelaar notes, winter CSAs are just starting to become a bigger thing, an area of agriculture growing naturally into a void.

“I actually like to focus more on the winter as far as advertising because summers are a little crazy,” she said.

At Wolf Pine Farm, the farmers took a hiatus from summer CSAs for a few years and when they tried to get back in, found the competition stiff.

“It has been really challenging to get our numbers back to where they were on the summer shares,” Tom Harms said. “We celebrate the success of the movement, but it is getting more crowded.”

Young chickens in their coop at Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred, which has 400 customers participate in their winter CSA. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Other farms said they too favor their winter CSAs because the off-season is so much less competitive. North Branch Farm in Monroe runs a winter share from mid-October to mid-February. They started the winter CSA in 2011 and have about 55 families who sign up regularly (they’re still signing people up for 2017-8018). It made good business sense.

“There were over 20 farms in Waldo County doing summer CSAs this year and only three doing winter CSAs,” said farmer Seth Yentes. “Also, I like doing the crops (for a winter CSA). They are high-calorie crops instead of light, pretty things.” Vegetables like buttercup and delicata squashes.

The biggest challenges are storage and packing. “Because sometimes things freeze,” Yentes said.


The logistics can be brutal, says Harms of Wolf Pine. He might be receiving a pallet of potatoes for the alliance’s CSA at the same time as he’s negotiating processing chickens from his own farm.

“I spend a lot of quality time with an Excel spread sheet,” he said. He tries to inventory shares as efficiently as possible for equal distributions. “Sharify. That is my verb of the day.”

If that’s the verb, teamwork is the noun for alliances like his at Wolf Pine. The Foot Hill Farm Alliance is comprised of five farms in Western Maine and just over the border in New Hampshire. All the farmers have connections to Tom Earle of Earle’s Family Farm in Center Conway, New Hampshire, and they all contribute a little something different to the vegetable winter CSAs they’ve been running for about six years.

Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred currently has 17 pigs. Staff photo by Derek Davis

“It’s more about sharing the actual crops,” said Dylan Watters of Old Wells Farm. “Like we don’t really have the land base to grow a lot of potatoes, but other people do. And three or four of us have high tunnels.” Next week, he said, he’ll be pulling out the tomatoes and planting spinach, lettuces and bok choy, all for the alliance’s winter CSA. It takes a lot of planning and balancing among the five farms to pull off a group CSA, he said.

“There’s a lot of teamwork involved,” agrees Natalie Beittel of Hosac Farm, one of the Foot Hill Alliance Farms. They get together to discuss crops and to get boxes ready for distribution. “It is pretty fun.”

But Tom Harms of Wolf Pine might have the champion of fun winter CSA distribution models. They arrange pickups of shares at craft breweries in Portland, Kittery and Lewiston. Just in case anyone needs a case of beer with their box of veg.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0 Schutski loads a van with Wolf Pine Farm vegetables before heading to Portland to deliver summer CSA shares. The Alfred farm has 400 customers who participate in its winter CSA, which includes goods from other food producers, too, through a farmers alliance.Sun, 17 Sep 2017 09:04:12 +0000
Propagating native seeds turns out to be harder than you might think Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Propagating native plant seeds should be easy. It happens in nature, with no help from humans, so it seems logical that if humans try to help the seeds along, they should be able to produce healthy plants.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

“Unlike with vegetable seeds, you can’t just plant them in the spring and have them come up,” said Shawn Jalbert, who propagates native plants at Native Haunts, a nursery he owns in Alfred. He was speaking at a wildflower symposium last month at McLaughlin Garden in South Paris. “With some of these plants, four or five years later they will just be germinating.”

Many seeds have to go through many steps before they produce a plant. Take hobblebush, for example, which goes by the Latin name Viburnum lantanoides and is a common understory shrub in hardwood forests. Before it can produce seedlings, it needs a warm period, followed by a cold period, and then another warm period.

The black tupelo tree, native to southern Maine, produces its seeds inside a fruit, as do many plants. To germinate, the fruit flesh must be removed from the seed. The seed has a tough husk, so it then has to be scarified or scratched, which usually happens when an animal eats it. After that, it still must go through a cold period.

“Mother Nature’s plan is to keep seeds dormant,” Jalbert said, “and it isn’t just to irritate us.”

If seeds lie dormant for several years, they will be ready and waiting if disasters – say fires – eliminate the parent plants. Another advantage of is that the seeds can widely dispersed by animals.

“The fruit is saying, ‘Here’s a food source. Poop me out farther away from the mother plant,’ ” Jalbert explained.

A lot of plants need moist conditions to germinate, Jalbert said, among them mountain laurel, swamp milkweed, pitcher plants and native rhododendrons. The best way to get them to germinate is to put your containers with the seeds in a Ziploc bag.

Barbara Murphy, a former Cooperative Extension educator who taught the Master Gardener program for many years and now with her husband, Michael, is proprietor of the Wake Robin nursery for native plants in Paris, said soil conditions are also important for native plants.

“A plant’s habitat is where you would find that plant in nature,” Murphy explained. “In the garden, you want to recreate that habitat in terms of soil, moisture, light and air.”

Many plants that are native to northern New England still exist here but are rare. Humans aren’t necessarily to blame. It may be that the conditions they need to survive are rare. Take alpine plants, for example, which are popular in rock gardens. In nature, they grow above the tree line in places like Mount Washington. They require very little soil, as they grow in the cracks of rocks. Alpine plants are short to withstand strong winds, and they must tolerate deep snow, too.

Or consider woodland perennials, like red trillium and pink lady slippers, which get sun only early in the season, before the tree leaves come out and block the sun. To get healthy woodland perennials in the nursery, Murphy plants them in sand, packing the plants close together, replicating how they grow in the wild. Neither of these types of plants will thrive in typical garden soil.

“The whole history of adding organic matter to the soil to make our plants thrive is starting to be questioned,” Murphy said. “Ornamental plants are lean plants by nature.”

Red trilliums, she added, will rot if the soil is too rich.

Lois Berg Stack, another retired Extension educator, said choosing natives is not the sole consideration when selecting plants for a garden. You have to choose the right natives, plants that will perform a task.

“If your garden is only beautiful, you are missing half the point,” she said.

Depending on your property, you might want plants that will control erosion, feed wildlife, create wind breaks that will lower your heating costs and, perhaps, out-compete invasive plants, she explained.

To pick well, first determine what conditions you have.

“You have to be brutally honest with yourself on that,” she said, meaning that all the wishing in the world will not make a plant that requires full sun flourish in a very shady yard.

None of this is meant to discourage gardeners from planting native seeds. Far from it. Yes, you will have to do some research if you want to start plants from seed. And even if you start with the plants themselves, you’ll still have to find or create the right habitat.

Since it could take several years of hot, cold and moist spells before your seeds even germinate, get started now: do the research, then collect or buy native seeds that you can propagate in your own garden.

If you pick the right ones, your garden will mimic the natural areas around your region. The plants will feed pollinators and other animals that are native to your area, many of which are threatened by ever more people and ever more development. And that is a garden that as useful in addition to being beautiful.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0, 15 Sep 2017 09:26:13 +0000
Train conductor Joe Feero will get you to the fair on time Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Joe Feero has taken more trips to the Common Ground Country Fair than even some truly die-hard Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) members, but he hasn’t gone to it. There’s a riddle in here. Read on to find out the answer.

JOURNEYMAN: Feero hasn’t actually attended the fair. He’s too busy serving as conductor for the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad, the train that runs from Thorndike and Unity to the fairgrounds every September, shuttling people to the fair from satellite parking lots. “I’m the eyes and ears” of the train, he said. How did he get that job? Or rather, jobs: “I am the executive director and a conductor and the track guy and an equipment guy.” All of these are volunteer jobs; Feero works full time in a social services agency. Volunteering for the Common Ground Country Fair train is what happens when you have an interest in history, a love for trains and grew up with a grandfather from Brooks who was a “track guy” for that very railroad.

END OF THE LINE: The train runs all day for the three-day fair. “We haul around 4,000 people to the fair,” Feero said. He and the other train crew, from engineers to ticket takers (volunteers, all) like to joke that they are the only commuter railroad in Waldo County, and for three days in September, that’s true. The volunteers are part of the Brooks Preservation Society, the nonprofit that oversees the old Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the line, which runs through Waldo County and was originally planned as a route from Belfast all the way to Montreal (it petered out after 30 miles). The fair gig helps out MOFGA by eliminating at least some traffic from the home stretch to the fair, and it raises funds for the preservation effort to maintain the tracks (leased from Maine’s Department of Transportation) and locomotives going.

THE FAST TRACK: An adult combination ticket for the train and fair admission is $23. The beauty in that is skipping the last painful few miles to the fair via the roads, and that the train ticket gets you unlimited rides that day. Buy a scythe and want to stash it in the car and then go back? Not a problem. The train runs about every 30 minutes from Thorndike and about every 50 minutes from Unity. Feero may not be getting off the train at the fair, but he sees the point of riding it. “The benefit is, obviously it is a fairly short walk from the station to the fair. (It’s right there) And it is nice to wave to the traffic as you go through it.”

MOVING ON UP: Like a commuter train, the fair trains do not guarantee a seat for all. “It can be crowded. But it’s a short ride.” The group is adding more coaches to provide more seating. “Every year that we have done the train we have tried to make it better.” There’s a warm atmosphere on the train, he said, a mix of people with and without children and a lot of repeat customers. “I have seen quite a few of these kids kind of grow up in the in the nine years I have been doing it.”

HITCHIKERS: Oddest customers he’s seen over the years? “Occasionally some livestock.” Come again? Well, people do buy things at the fair, and for some that might be an axe, for others some apples and for still others, animals. “We have had chickens and rabbits.”

TEMPTATIONS: So he’s never been to the Common Ground fair. Does he know what he’s missing? The train station at the fairgrounds is in the woods right behind the fairgrounds. This means Feero can kind of sort of see what’s going on through the trees. Mostly he gets a vivid hit of the fair’s olfactory pleasures. “We just smell the food.” Nobody offers to bring him anything? “I try to bribe people and tell them I won’t let them back on unless they bring me something, but it never works.”

OUTSIDE SUPPORTER: Just because Feero doesn’t get to go into the fair doesn’t mean he doesn’t support its values. “I think organic farming and sustainable living is important. I’ve always been a supporter of both as important to a healthy environment. Local food production helps make communities stronger. It is better for us, the environment and our children.”

PRIVATE CAR: Like many of the train enthusiasts who work for the nonprofit, Feero owns a little piece of the rail magic. Specifically for him, that’s a 1914 caboose built by the Portland Terminal Company. It came to him with as a real fixer upper, including with a leaking roof. “I just wanted to see it saved.” What does his grandfather, still alive and in his 80s think about his caboose? “He thinks I’m foolish. Everybody who has been around railroads knows when you get old equipment, it is a lot of work.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0, 18 Sep 2017 09:20:37 +0000
Climate refugees could see safety in Maine Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 At first, all eyes were on Hurricane Harvey. Then attention turned – momentarily – to the wildfires raging out West before riveting on Hurricane Irma.

Cascading natural disasters in a warming world raise the specter of mass dislocation. Sea-level rise, drought, wildfires and floods could displace hundreds of millions of people. Following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans lost about 90,000 residents, a third of whom settled in Houston – where Harvey affected roughly 100,000 homes.

“Climate change could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project, observed last year. “We’re already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal.”

People will move across borders and within nations in search of habitable settings. Low-lying coastal communities in the United States face the prospect of “managed retreat” – the deliberate demolition of vulnerable properties following buyouts or abandonment. To date, few people have opted to voluntarily relocate – preferring the familiarity of their home surroundings, despite increased threats.

But that dynamic could change as devastating storms proliferate, policy-makers overhaul the flood insurance program, and sea-level rise extends beyond “nuisance flooding.” A recent study published in Nature Climate Change predicts significant population losses by 2100 in Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Virginia.

“It’s hard to predict where people will go,” notes Aaron Strong, a professor of coastal and marine policy at the University of Maine. Human behavior “is one of the hardest things to model in terms of climate change impacts.”

Greater variability and weather extremes will occur everywhere, and no setting will offer a safe haven from climate disturbances. But Maine’s federally designated disasters tend to be less intense and costly relative to many other states, notes Evan Richert, former director of the State Planning Office, based on his review of federal emergency management data; those differentials could potentially lure to Maine businesses that seek “less disruption and less cost.”

Climate projections indicate that Maine will remain relatively wet, despite periodic droughts. Having the attributes of abundant land and water could make the state a magnet for those escaping hotter, drier or storm-torn settings.

“The population of Maine will increase dramatically in the next 20 years,” predicts Paul Mayewski, director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute. “I truly believe that.”

Might climate migrants drive a new wave of growth in Maine, which in recent decades has seen population remain nearly stagnant? What impacts would such an influx have on infrastructure, land use, traffic and the power grid? Where might the newcomers work?

Few people appear to be asking these questions, much less answering them.

Gov. LePage feels little need for forward-looking research (having abolished the State Planning Office in 2012), and the Muskie School of Public Service – which might have tackled these questions – lost many key faculty members in 2014 because of budget cuts.

So climate adaptation planning happens largely now at the municipal level. There, it is “still really focused on the physical end – culverts, waterfront redesign and flood management,” notes Cynthia Isenhour, a professor of anthropology at the University of Maine.

That technocratic approach, she cautions, can exclude people who need to be part of the conversation. “What I worry about is the human dimension. How can we adapt in ways that don’t favor those already best able to adapt?”

Climate migrants from other states and nations could bring new energy, skills and diversity to Maine, one of the nation’s most white and gray states. Communities like Portland and Lewiston-Auburn have welcomed many international refugees in recent decades, and a strong network has evolved to support them. (The Trump administration is obstructing such entry temporarily, but a recent poll found that 64 percent of Americans believe that immigration strengthens the country.)

If the number of climate migrants spikes markedly in Maine, there will be “a huge role for planners and municipalities,” Isenhour says, to guide where people settle and what supports are in place for them. Cultural tensions could increase, something sociologists have already observed between economically challenged residents and what are termed “amenity migrants” (those seeking a higher quality of life, often more affluent retirees).

In-migrants would likely concentrate around metropolitan areas, which could aggravate sprawl and traffic congestion. Communities that anticipate rapid growth can adopt measures to encourage infill development and to maintain the open space that protects groundwater, mitigates flooding, offers recreation and preserves wildlife. Maine’s 1989 Growth Management Act provides a framework to help guide comprehensive planning, but Richert acknowledges that increased population pressures would require “honoring the act in an even more serious way.”

“If we do this in a planned way, it could be wonderful,” observes Cameron Wake, professor of climate and sustainability at the University of New Hampshire, underscoring that “if.” Wake would like to see new growth directed toward inland communities, revitalizing existing town centers. With careful zoning, many settings could accommodate greater population density and still offer a high quality of life.

Facing an age of “weather on steroids,” we urgently need to look beyond short-term forecasts and face up to the far-reaching effects that climate disruptions will have – as they ripple out across the nation and around the globe. What will the “new normal” of climate-related migration mean for Maine? And who will help answer that question?

Marina Schauffler provides research, writing and editing services to nonprofit and social enterprise organizations through Natural Choices (

]]> 0 - In this Aug. 29, 2017 file photo, Interstate 69 is covered by floodwaters from Harvey, in Humble, Texas. Just two weeks ago, President Donald Trump rolled back an order by his predecessor that would have made it easier for storm-ravaged communities to use federal emergency aid to rebuild bridges, roads and other construction so they can better withstand future disasters. That decision is now being questioned with the Texas Gulf Coast and much of Houston under water in the wake of Harvey. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)Sun, 17 Sep 2017 10:11:57 +0000
Tintypes portraits will take you back to days of old Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Cole Caswell’s subjects at the Common Ground Country Fair wear modern clothing, and sometimes they smile, but otherwise their tintype portraits look as if they had just stepped out of the 19th century.

Caswell, an artist and photographer, runs a tintype photo booth every year at the fair where people can have their portraits taken – with or without some odd props (bones, chainsaws, pitchforks, a jar of bugs) – and then watch and learn as the picture is processed right in front of them.

“I like to think of the Common Ground Fair booth as an art project,” Caswell said. “It’s this collection of rural portraits of the people of Maine.”

Caswell has been making tintypes for about 10 years. Because it’s a complicated process – one portrait takes 30 steps – getting good at it takes time and repetition. So a couple of years after Caswell learned the craft, he took to the streets of Portland both to make a little extra money and get some practice.

Why the interest? “The process that makes a tintype, called wet plate collodian, was the first moment in the history of photography when communities could afford a portrait,” Caswell said. “So photography came to the common person. It was also a moment in history when the photograph was able to go exploring and be used to document far-away places. And I was really interested in exploring unknown places and adding this historic tool into my abilities as a contemporary artist.”

At the Common Ground Country Fair, held in Unity this year from September 22 to 24, Caswell sets up what he calls “an explorers’ shack” that “carries all these weird objects of curiosity” that people can use as props in their portraits. He gets repeat customers from year to year. Each 4X5 portrait costs $40.

The tintype process uses chemicals, but Caswell says most are either used up in the process or they can be re-used later.

Caswell enjoys answering fairgoers’ questions and will talk people through the process, if they’re interested. He particularly enjoys Friday, when school groups come to the fair. He sells fewer portraits, he said, but it’s fun to explain tintype photography to the students.

“I’m not super interested in the re-creation of history, but I am interested in a slipping of history and this idea of moving between spaces,” he said. “The tintype process sees a different spectrum of light than we see with our eye. Everyone looks a little bit different in a tintype, and it’s a really great process and way to share photography with people.”

Caswell also does private sittings, as well as photo booths at weddings, museums and other events. A 5X7 tintype costs $80, and an 8X10 costs $180. See samples of his work at


]]> 0, 14 Sep 2017 19:18:57 +0000
Try fermenting your herbs before winter arrives Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Other than a pot of sauerkraut I made circa 2010 and a few unplanned projects involving jugs of apple cider stored and forgotten in the dorm fridge in my basement, I’ve not dabbled much in DIY fermentation. I love kimchi, kvass and kombucha; lacto-fermented pickles of all sorts; soy, fish and Gochujang sauces; and cultured buttermilk, kefir and skyr. But I generally buy all of the above from experts who have the technique, time and temperament to wait for the right types of bacteria to force bubbles to break the surface inside a fermentation crock.

That said, I am forever on the prowl for simple ways to preserve both woody perennial herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary and leafy annual ones like basil, parsley, dill and cilantro before my locally sourced ones die off for the winter. I’ve dried and frozen them, encased them in oil inside ice cube trays and stuck them in bottles of vinegar.

This year, though, I am fermenting them for a whole host of reasons. The ingredient list is short (herbs, salt and water), the prep is simple (combine said herbs, salt and water), and the ferment is short (just five to 10 days) while the shelf-life is long (several weeks at room temperature, two to three months in a root cellar or up to six months in the fridge). In the end, I get two culinary products. Herbs that taste like a slightly tangier version of themselves to use in all sorts of dishes (like Turkey Meatball Soup with Fermented Herbs; see recipe) and an herbaceous brine that goes well in vinaigrettes, mayonnaise and bread.

According to Shannon Stonger, author of “Traditionally Fermented Foods,” there are two methods for fermenting herbs: the chopped paste method; and brine-fermented fresh herbs, where the leaves are left whole. You really only need to use a little of these herbs at a time, so smaller jars are best to avoid waste. I still stick the stems of the herbs into a bottle of vinegar to provide flavor and prevent waste on that front, too.

Fermenting brings a blast of herbaceous summer flavor that extends the season. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

For the brine-fermented fresh herbs, pack a sterilized 8-ounce (237-ml) class jar with herb leaves (either a single variety or any mix you particularly fancy) that have been pulled from their stems, leaving about 1/2-inch of headspace. Next, dissolve 1 teaspoon of Maine sea salt in 8 ounces unchlorinated water and pour the resulting brine over the herbs, again leaving about 1/2 inch of head room. You’ve got to weigh down the herbs so they stay submerged in the brine during fermentation. You can buy weights for this purpose. But since I don’t own any, I used wide-mouthed mason jars to hold the briny herbs and nestle smaller glass tops from Weck jars into the mason jars to do the job.

To employ the chopped-paste method, remove the herb leaves from the stem as before, but chop them finely. Transfer the chopped herbs to a small bowl and for every 1/2 cup of herbs, stir in 1/2 teaspoon Maine sea salt. Transfer herbs, salt and any brine in the bottom of the bowl to one or two 8-ounce (237-ml)-size jars, as needed. Pack them down tightly and check the level of the brine. If it hasn’t come up above the level of the herbs, create a strong salt brine (1 teaspoon Maine sea salt to 1/2 cup unchlorinated water) and add it to the jars until the brine just covers the herb paste. Place a weight on top of the paste.

With the weights in place, cover the jars and let them sit on the counter to ferment until the contents of each are bubbling and tangy, between 5 and 10 days, depending on the herb. Some herbs – especially basil – will oxidize and darken. Those are still safe (and delicious) to use. Once fermentation is complete, transfer the jars to cold storage, where the only thing left for you to do is to remember to enjoy them. As they sit in the brine, the fermented herbs mellow while the brine’s herby flavor strengthens, so taste both before stirring them into dishes.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a new cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at:



Like many things fermented, fermented herbs are widely used in Eastern European cuisine. Frikadelki is a Russian or Ukrainian soup for which small meatballs are gently poached in a root vegetable broth flavored with fermented parsley and thyme.
Serves 6

1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
1 tablespoon fermented parsley paste, plus 1 teaspoon brine
1 1/2 teaspoons fermented thyme leaves, plus 1 teaspoon brine
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound waxy yellow potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
1 bay leaf

Grate the sweet onion into a large bowl. Add the ground poultry, 2 teaspoons of fermented parsley, 1 teaspoon fermented thyme leaves, and pepper. Use your hands to gently combine all of the ingredients. Form the mixture into approximately 36 (1/2-ounce) meatballs, about the size of a walnut.
Heat the butter over medium heat in a large pot. Stir in the diced onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, broth, 4 cups cold water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Gently place the meatballs into the simmering broth, and cook until both they and the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes more. Remove and compost bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of fermented parsley and 1/2 teaspoon fermented thyme, plus 1 teaspoon brine from each jar. Divide the soup among 6 warm soup bowls and serve immediately.

]]> 0 Burns Rudalevige lowers a meatball into broth while cooking a meatball soup with fermented herbs.Thu, 14 Sep 2017 19:24:53 +0000
For larger shallots next spring, plant them now Sun, 17 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Shallots are among the tastiest members of the onion family. They also are among the most expensive.

In Maine, most people plant their shallots as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring, and they harvest them in late summer. As far as I can determine, local seed stores sell shallot bulbs only in the spring.

But if you want larger shallots earlier in the season and are Zone 5 or warmer, you can try planting in the fall – but you will have to get the bulbs from online companies.

Pick a sunny area with loose, weed-free soil. One suggestion is to use the area where you just harvested your potatoes. Add compost and/or fertilizer.

The recommended planting time is first frost – early October along most of the coast. Plant the shallot bulbs about a half an inch deep, broad end down and pointed end up, about 4 to 5 inches apart in rows that are about a foot apart.

Because Maine is on the edge of the recommended area for fall- planted shallots, mulch the plants with straw, pine needles, leaves or something similar once the ground freezes.

In the spring, remove the mulch and keep the area well weeded – shallots hate competition. They will be ready to harvest in late June or July.

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2017 19:09:12 +0000
Ornamental cabbage and kale’s purpose in life is to look pretty Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Ornamental cabbage and kale are easy ways to bring color to your garden in fall and winter – usually until the first heavy snow of the season covers them up.

The ornamental brassicas, like their cousins – the brassicas you grow in the vegetable garden to eat – are annuals, but they are worth the trouble of planting each fall for the bright colors they provide.

The flowering brassicas were bred by hybridizers simply to look good, emphasizing their ruffled foliage in red, purple, yellow and other bright colors.

These plants will not grow much after you plant them, so if you want a large, striking plant, spend the extra money for the larger specimens. They don’t tolerate heat well, so don’t plant them until late September or early October, when night-time temperatures will be 50 degrees or below. They will survive temperatures as low as 5 degrees as long as they don’t suffer a sudden drop in temperature. Mild frosts will intensify the colors.

Ornamental cabbage and kale can be planted from seed outdoors, but you’re too late for that this year. Next year, plant the seeds sometime between mid-July and early August. Do so in rows about 18 inches apart, with six inches between the seeds. Don’t cover the kale seeds, because they need light to germinate.

The seeds should sprout in a week or two, and when the plants are 3 inches tall you can thin out the weakest-looking ones, and leave them about 18 inches apart.

]]> 0, 08 Sep 2017 10:05:23 +0000
It may seem counterintuitive, but try planning your garden in the fall Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Looking out the window at our backyard, I am disappointed. One clump of black-eyed Susan stands out, and I can see a bit of cream-color on some hosta leaves. Otherwise it is all green – different shades of green, yes, but green all the same.

Most gardeners do their garden planning in the spring, but to me it makes more sense to do it in the fall – especially for ornamental gardens that feature shrubs and perennials. (Plan your vegetable garden in late winter when you are going through the seed catalogs, but make notes now on this year’s production.)

In my home, the backyard garden is important. It is what I see from my office desk (also known as our second-floor guest room), what my wife Nancy and I both see from the kitchen sink, and it is where we go when we sit on our patio.

It also is a tough environment for growing pretty plants – mostly shade because of the Norway maples on our neighbor’s property. And the Norway maple roots extend into our perennial border, taking nutrients and making the area tough digging.

Earlier in the season, the garden shines. We have magnolias, azaleas, rhododendrons, daylilies, viburnums, a wonderful woodland peony, narcissus, blood root and white arabis growing along the front edge. But by fall, all these beautiful bloomers have gone by.

Yellow echinacea Skyprayer2005/

We are doing our fall shopping with the goal of providing flowers for late summer and early fall in that section of the garden. We already have purchased some yellow and some white echinaceas, a Limelight hydrangea and a yakushimanum rhododendron (known for the fuzzy underside of its leaves) named “Ken Janek,” although that last is a spring bloomer and probably won’t be planted in the backyard; a spot along the driveway also needs help. I’m looking for clethra that might improve the backyard garden too.

But enough about our garden. Some people think I write about it too much already. This column is about your garden, specifically why you should assess and change it between now and when the ground freezes.

Shopping in the spring, you tend to pick spring bloomers. It’s a natural impulse – they are in bloom then so they look best in the nursery. If you went plant shopping once a month, always buying plants that are in bloom, your garden would probably have color all season long, but I suspect many of you haven’t been back to the nursery since before Memorial Day.

Now that it is September and the temperatures are cooler, take a leisurely walk around your grounds, noting each plant and, if possible, how it did during this growing season. Did it bloom, and if so, when and how profusely? Did the blooms go well with nearby plants? Does the plant look healthy? Were there times when, as in our backyard in the fall, almost nothing is in blossom?

Ideally, you would have made notes as the season progressed, and I know some people who do that. But our summers tend to get busy with company and day trips in addition to picking fruits, vegetables and flowers as well as tending the gardens. We never get around to taking notes.

On the other hand, your memory of the garden now is a lot better than it will be next spring, so figure it out now.

And then shop. Although a lot of the plants at your local nursery will not be in bloom, the tags will tell you when they would bloom and you can match that up with your garden’s blah periods. Also, the staff at locally owned garden centers know their stuff, and in my experience they are always willing to help.

One question I get from new gardeners is whether they can plant perennials, trees and shrubs this late in the season. The answer is yes.

While the air temperatures are cooler, which is more comfortable for both the plants and the gardeners than is the heat of summer, the ground is much warmer than it is in the spring – which promotes root growth.

As always, you have to water the plants profusely when you plant them – filling the hole with water and letting it drain before you put in the plant, and then watering again after the plant goes in. And water every day it doesn’t rain, stopping only when the ground freezes. Don’t fertilize in the fall, because that promotes tender new growth, which can be damaged by winter weather.

The other reason to buy plants in the fall is because that is when the garden centers lower their prices. We needed the Limelight hydrangea for our backyard, but because of a fall sale the second plant, our “Ken Janek” rhododendron, was half price (buy one plant, get the second at half price).

The sales won’t be the same at every nursery, but they all have some kind of sale on now. Special fall plants like chrysanthemums will be full price, but the nursery stock will be bargains. If the plants aren’t sold now, the staff will have to take care of them all winter – and that takes both labor and money – so the nurseries are trying to unload plants. Review your garden, take notes and go shopping. That’s what I’m going to do.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0 hydrangeaThu, 07 Sep 2017 18:41:52 +0000
Have a real beer flight tasting in your own home Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Tasting flights were once something reserved for fine wine or Scotch. These days, most local craft breweries offer flights of beer so customers can sample some of everything.

Now you can play beer sommelier (or cicerone, if you want to be more precise), and construct tasting flights at home with a piece of pro equipment – beer paddles made by Jeremy and Amparo Randall, owners of JT Woodworks in Lewiston.

It began a few years ago when the couple made some cutting boards from scraps left over from a hardwood floor installation. A company in Australia found the boards online, and asked JT Woodworks to make beer paddles. A side business was born.

Amparo Randall works in the business full time; Jeremy Randall is a home brewer who participates in the woodworking business when he’s not at his full-time job as a software developer.

The wood for the paddles – primarily walnut, maple and ash – comes from Fat Andy’s Hardwood in North Yarmouth. Someone in Freeport does laser engraving on the boards.

“A lot of people like to have their names engraved on the boards,” Jeremy Randall said. “They’ll come up with a fictitious brewery name and have that engraved on the board. We’re small enough that if they want them customized a little bit, we’ll do that.”

Most of the boards have three, four or five “holders,” or indentations, for glasses, and they cost $10-$15, depending on the size and amount of customization.

“We had a customer last year who wanted it to look like a ski, so I think there were 24 (holes),” Jeremy Randall said, laughing.

The boards are sold only online, mostly on the JT Woodworks site.

The Randalls also make shelving and cutting boards, but the beer paddles have become such a huge part of their business, they have expanded to make tasting boards for wine and spirits. Even ice cream parlors have purchased the boards for ice cream tastings, and the Randalls think ciders will be next.

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2017 18:52:22 +0000
Green Prescription: Make your own deodorant, and go easy on the toilet paper Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 DEAR GREEN PRESCRIPTION, You mentioned in an earlier column about making versus buying toiletries such as deodorant, mouthwash, and toothpaste. How do you do this? — CLEANING GREEN

DEAR CLEANING, The truth about DIY green swaps for toiletries is either depressing or uplifting, depending on your perspective. Because you will be shocked when you realize how easy and thrifty it is to be a greener cleaner when it comes to hygiene. Moreover, there are so many recipes for toiletries in print and on the Web that I can’t do them all justice here. But I will offer my experience switching to homemade deodorant, because that’s my own latest personal triumph. Here’s what I have learned: Essentially, if you can get a decent amount of baking soda to stick to your pits, you will pass most people’s smell-o-meters. Mixing said soda with equal amounts of plant fats like shea and/or cocoa butter will both help it stick and condition your underarm skin. Adding a few drops of essential oil, like tea tree or lavender helps with sniff tests. Be warned though: While DIY hygiene is fast, cheap and low waste, each body is different and some folks have sensitivities to some of these ingredients.

DEAR GREEN PRESCRIPTION, What’s the deal with toilet paper? Do I have to give it up to live a zero-waste lifestyle? — PAPER WASTER

DEAR PAPER, While I acknowledge that die-hard zero wasters would advocate that you eschew the Charmin, there are some thoughtful ways to reduce your reliance on TP without completely abandoning it. First, seek paper that is a) post-consumer waste recycled, b) chlorine-free, and c) wrapped in paper instead of plastic. For example, you can find the very reasonably priced Marcal recycled toilet paper in bulk at places like Sam’s Club if you don’t feel like shelling out for Seventh Generation. Then try to use less paper in general. Even a few less sheets per use will gradually add up to less paper waste overall. Finally, you might consider a bidet toilet attachment, which can help significantly reduce your need for toilet paper.

Lisa Botshon is a professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, where envelopes are routinely reused. The child of back-to-the-landers, she lives in a household that is skeptical of her zero-waste efforts.

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2017 18:50:46 +0000
Waste not when it comes to those broccoli leaves Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Americans are pretty picky about what their broccoli looks like, Cornell University horticulturist Thomas Bjorkman reports. He’s the lead researcher for the Eastern Broccoli Project, a scientific and agricultural effort looking for ways to grow broccoli year round east of the Mississippi River, to reduce our region’s dependency on broccoli from California.

Ninety percent of the broccoli eaten on the East Coast is trucked in from California, where warm days and cool nighttime temperatures and humidity levels cater to existing breeds’ temperature comfort zone, around 62 degrees. The steady nighttime temperatures result in tight bunches of small, dark green beads (technically flower buds) that pull together in mature and attractive domed crowns. Hot and humid summer nights in the East cause the buds to bolt prematurely to yellow-green flowers that don’t pass muster in the finicky retail broccoli market. But they are still very much edible.

In the lab, Bjorkman’s team of germplasm scientists are using conventional crossbreeding techniques to produce cultivars that won’t bolt until nighttime temperatures consistently top 70 degrees. In the field, cooperative extension specialists are conducting trials of these new seeds. It’s not that Eastern farmers can’t grow broccoli – Maine has a long tradition of both spring and fall crops. The new crosses could shorten the time between the two harvests by extending the spring crop into summer and letting farmers plant their fall crop earlier.

Ingredients for Broccoli Greens with Smoky Bacon. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

But the new seeds won’t be available commercially until the summer of 2019. So what can we eaters do now to help cut the carbon footprint of this particular brassica? Well, buy local broccoli even if it is not as uniformly picture perfect as you’re used to seeing in the grocery store, for starters. In spite of its irregular looks, it will be fresher and taste better than the average California broccoli crown that took 7 to 10 days to make it from the farm to your fork.

And while you’re waiting for more local broccoli crowns to become more available thanks to the Eastern Broccoli Project, ask a farmer or a neighbor who already grows the stuff for a bunch of the plant’s fleshy leaves. They typically get composted alongside the woody stalks. What a waste! They are just as edible as kale or collard greens, and they are very nutritious. A 4-ounce serving has 100, 60, and 30 percent, respectively, of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamins C and A, and calcium, plus 5 grams of protein.

In spite of the best marketing efforts of Foxy Organics, a West Coast company that sells bunched whole leaves and bags of chopped ones as “BroccoLeaf,” the idea of eating broccoli greens has not (yet) taken the nation by storm. But the idea is a good one, especially if you factor in the sustainable eating practice of root to leaf cookery.

Raw broccoli leaves taste subtly of their raw flower buds, but they can be pretty tough. So if you want to eat them raw, it’s best to whizz them into smoothies or shred them into slaws. I was able to source my bunch by issuing a general social media request, which eventually landed me in a North Yarmouth master gardener’s sizable patch. She’d already harvested the crowns, and I was more than welcome to the spoils. To clean the leaves, I soaked them in a gallon of cold water mixed with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon salt for about two hours. This is a combination used typically to coax the worms out of broccoli heads, and it also works wonders to loosen any worm larvae clinging to the leaves. Once rinsed and wrapped in a clean towel, the leaves will keep in the crisper for up to a week.

Stemmed, chopped and cooked broccoli leaves have the same texture as any other hearty cold weather greens, and they soak up the flavor of whatever else is in the simmering pot. Also, broccoli leaves make great baked “chips.” Any kale chip recipe will suit these leaves just fine.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a new cookbook from Islandport. She can be contacted at:


Broccoli Greens with Smoky Bacon. Treating broccoli leaves like collard greens or kale leads to delicious results. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup


Georgia-born chef and cookbook writer Virginia Willis trained in France, came of age working for Martha Stewart in New York, and is now an outspoken proponent of fresher, healthier Southern food. She makes this recipe (published in her “Basic to Brilliant, Y’All” cookbook) with mustard greens and smoked turkey neck. But I only had broccoli greens and dry-cured, deeply smoked local bacon. When I asked her what she thought of my substitutions, she didn’t hesitate to give me her generous Southern blessing. In her book, she suggested serving the greens with crisp, homemade garlicky croutons for contrasting texture.

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 ounces smoky slab bacon, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, quartered

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 pound broccoli leaves, tough stems removed and chopped

2 cups fruity white wine, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer

4 cups chicken stock

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the pieces start to crisp. Add the onion and cook, turning until all sides are golden, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the greens, stir to coat in fat, and cook until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and season the mixture lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are very tender, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into serving bowls with plenty of the flavored broth.

]]> 0 add contrasting texture to Broccoli Greens with Smoky Bacon.Fri, 08 Sep 2017 10:03:12 +0000
Bowdoin College grad Sam Brody knows climate change Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Perhaps you saw Sam Brody on NBC News, explaining why Houston is prone to flooding, or read quotes from him in the Wall Street Journal, or heard him on NPR’s “Marketplace.” Since the catastrophic arrival of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, the director of the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores at Texas A&M University has been very busy explaining flooding to the world. The rain had just stopped when we called the Bowdoin College graduate to talk about his journey to expert status, how he managed to stay dry in all that rain and what Merrymeeting Bay taught him.

GAME CHANGER: Brody admitted right off the bat that he was exhausted. “I think I have given over 50 interviews over the last few days.” Primarily, he’d been talking about the reasons for the flooding in Houston and what humankind can do to protect its coastal cities and towns from future extreme weather. We wanted to hear about his roots in environmental studies. He said he arrived at Bowdoin College in 1988 thinking maybe he’d be the next great American novelist. He even got to live in the dormitory where Nathaniel Hawthorne had lived (and likely, caroused with his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). But the very first class he walked into changed his life.

WATER WONKWORLD: It was an introductory environmental studies course taught by Professor Ed Laine. “Ed was an oceanographer and was teaching, essentially, systems planning.” Although Brody had never given land use planning a thought before, “That first day I was like, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’ ” He majored in environmental studies and anthropology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. No novel writing happened, but for his final project as a senior, Brody completed a study of Merrymeeting Bay and the

complications of an ecological system fragmented by many jurisdictional boundaries (Bath, Brunswick, Bowdoinham, to name a few) which would all have to participate in collective decisions for its future. He focused on water quality issues. “I remember going around to each town and looking at their policies.”

SUMMER DREAMING: To this day, he says, “Merrymeeting Bay is near and dear to my heart.” Maine too, he says. One of his early jobs was with Evan Richert, an adjunct professor at Bowdoin who later became the director for the Maine State Planning Office (an office established in the 1960s and eliminated under Gov. Paul LePage) working on coastal issues. “I am basically doing the same thing, or taking the same approach, today” (but with better mapping technology). Brody earned two graduate degrees, one in environmental studies from the University of Adelaide in Australia and another in resource policy and behavior from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He came back to Maine to work for the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment and on that stint in the state, met and married a Brunswick native, Korin Wilk Brody. They were fixed up, despite his insistence to the fixer-upper that he was done with blind dates. “I am a nice Jewish boy from Baltimore. I had been fixed up so many times.” Nonetheless, he opened the door “and that was it. The universe shifted.” They reluctantly left Maine for his doctorate program in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he focused on city and regional planning.

Water covers a country road in Sargent, Texas, on Sept. 1, nearly a week after Harvey crashed into the Texas coastline as a Category 4 hurricane. Associated Press/Eric Gay

AGGIE SPIRIT: He sped through his doctorate in three years. “I was thinking about taking some time off.” Then the phone rang. It was Texas A&M. “They have some of the best coastal programs in the world,” he said. But Texas wasn’t exactly on his or his wife’s wish list of places to live. They decided to give it a try for two years. “That was 15 years ago.” They still come back to Maine as much as they can in the summer. This summer it was to a rental cottage on Orr’s Island, and from there Brody would take runs through Bowdoin’s (new to him) Coastal Studies Center. “I was like, ‘Wow, I wish this was here when I was a student.’ ”

PUBLISH AND FLOURISH: He applied for a National Science Foundation Career Award, making a bid to look at natural hazards around flooding, and received it. “That led to a book and then another book.” And talks around his research, which to his mind hadn’t changed that much, but which his audiences suddenly found much more interesting. “Ordinarily, I would go and talk about it, and it would be a snore fest. And then I started talking about wetlands and habitat and related that to observed flood damages, and people went crazy for it.” The idea that reducing human impact on flood areas would make a difference was in fashion.

WE DON’T LIKE IKE: Brody’s position at Texas A&M changed after Hurricane Ike in 2008. The administration faced the question of closing for good the university’s satellite campus in Galveston, which had been seriously damaged by Ike. “Or do they double down and become leaders in the this area of coastal sustainability? This being Texas …” They doubled down? Yes. “They started a research center, and I came down to direct that.” The Galveston campus is now a special-purpose campus serving about 3,000 students. “Everything is focused on coastal marine issues.”

THE TROUBLE WITH HARVEY: Regional watershed approaches (like say, Merrymeeting Bay in the early 1990s) has long been the focus of his work. Key to those approaches is smart development that allows for natural barriers, like wetlands, to remain and considers the ultimate impact of creating impervious surfaces through building and paving. (Houston, American’s fourth largest city, has no zoning laws.) Brody has had national and international support for these ideas, but not so much in Texas proper. “I have been talking and writing and speaking and cajoling people for the last 10 years, which I think is why I am so tired from Harvey.” But he senses a shift. “The discussion about the pattern of development and impervious surfaces has really gotten louder and more frequent. I feel like there is hope going forward and this major disturbance will be a starting point for new conversations.”

DRY FEET: The Brody family was stuck inside their Houston home for three days because of the high water. With teenage boys. But no water entered their house. That wasn’t luck. That was planning – earlier this year when the Brodys were shopping for a new house. Brody took a careful look at elevation and drainage. “While Korin was looking at granite countertops, I spent a lot of time choosing a house that I thought would never flood.”

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT: It occurred to him during their house shopping that average buyers aren’t able to tap into that kind of information easily. Zillow might give them crime rates, but it wouldn’t give them flooding odds. Homes that had been flipped, post-Hurricane Ike in Houston, for instance, might be advertised as “never flooded per seller,” but that was only because the seller hadn’t been there for Ike. “The public thinks that if you are not in the FEMA floodplain, you’re not going to flood. Not true.” A month before Hurricane Harvey hit, the university shared the app that Brody had developed, Buyers B-Where. “There are days when we have exceeded 50,000 users.” He hopes that the app can eventually be extended to the rest of the country. “That is the kind of stuff we need to be doing.”

THE PRICE OF PREDICTION: Although this has been his life’s work, watching it play out around him is not what he expected. “It is something I have studied for as long as I can remember. But the personal drama is stronger than I could have realized. I have gone all over the world talking about this, and then to have it happen. It is almost surreal.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0, 08 Sep 2017 10:06:26 +0000
Artist Adriane Herman’s changing lives, one project at a time Sun, 10 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The death of her dog, Browser, crumpled Adriane Herman. She was sorting through the emotional baggage of a difficult spell in her life that included a divorce and issues with work and family. When Browser died in June 2014, Herman was brought to her knees, confronted with a toll so heavy she had no choice but to begin letting go of things, emotionally and physically.

Herman, an interdisciplinary artist from Cape Elizabeth who teaches visual art at Maine College of Art, began spending time at the landfill, and grew ever more curious about the parade of people who drove up in their cars and trucks and unloaded piles of trash, debris and personal belongings – the detritus of life and other things far more personal.

She watched as they threw their stuff into the bins and piles, drawn by their gestures of release and inspired by their ability to shed. “The tide comes in and washes out, and it brings things in and cleans things out. But humans tend to hold on to things. We don’t tend to let things go until we’re forced to,” she said.

At the dump, Herman began to learn to let go and process the grief in her life. “I let go of my dog. If I could let go of my dog, I could let go of anything,” she said.

The process of letting go led Herman to her latest art project, “Out of Sorts,” an exhibition at Speedwell Projects in Portland that will explore the cycle of consumption, release and recycling, both physically and emotionally.

It opens Sept. 16, and is the latest in a long series of exhibitions and projects in Maine and the Midwest that Herman has mounted related to the themes of consumption and letting go. She recently closed an exhibition of prints inspired by her time at the landfill in Cape Elizabeth.

Herman, 50, has shown her art at the Portland Museum of Art, Center for Maine Contemporary Art and the Brooklyn Museum, and is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.


“Out of Sorts” is about how and why we recycle in our physical and emotional landscapes, and asks viewers to consider consumption from a personal, community and global perspective. She wants people to think “about how we eat, drink, work, play and clean,” and the attention we pay to the implications of disposability and excess to the planet and our culture. She also wants to show people how they can reduce consumption and save money for their communities by recycling more wisely, and to help them plan strategies for personal release.

Among the items on view are five bales of recycled materials on loan from ecomaine, the nonprofit waste-management agency that handles recycling across southern Maine, as well as photos of Herman’s of trash being incinerated and recycled material being sorted at ecomaine’s Portland plant. The exhibition will include benches made from salvaged wood and upholstered with fabric printed with Herman’s photographs.

On view through Oct. 14, “Out of Sorts” also will include several date-specific events. On Sept. 29, ecomaine’s Environmental Educator Katrina Venhuizen will talk about how to be better recyclers and the importance of composting food waste, and Herman has scheduled what she calls “witnessed releases” – opportunities for people to shed emotions and possessions they are ready to live without.

The first, “Surrender Sunday” on Oct. 1, will create a place for people seeking to let go of something that weighs on them and talk privately with a sensitive and compassionate listener. She created a similar event last year on the Eastern Prom. When the exhibition closes Oct. 14, Herman will host an “Emotional Value Auction,” reprising an event she presented this spring when she was artist in residence in Yarmouth as part of a Kismet Foundation program.

The auction is a non-currency exchange between someone who wants to release something that holds emotional value or burden and another person who is interested in taking it on. The person disposing of the item writes up the story behind it, explaining why it’s meaningful. The bidder writes a statement about why they want it and their intention for it.

It becomes an emotional exchange of physical objects between strangers, said Jocelyn Lee, who owns Speedwell Projects and participated in Herman’s previous Emotional Value Auction at the Yarmouth History Center.

In Yarmouth, Lee offered a hand-blown glass perfume bottle, a gift from her mother when Lee was in high school. “It reflects my mother’s values around what we collect and keep in our homes and how we decorate,” Lee said in an interview. “It reflects class and taste, and my mother’s tastes are not my own. It’s very precious and Old World, and very fragile. I was constantly moving it so the cats wouldn’t knock it over. I kept moving it around. I hated it.”

But Lee didn’t hate her mother. She loved her mother very much, and when she died in 2008, Lee was devastated.

In her note to the potential bidder in Yarmouth, Lee wrote, “I offer this hand-blown dressing table perfume bottle as a way to purge, cleanse and reflect on my relationship with my mother. It’s been nine years since her death and I’m just beginning to look at the multitude of ways she’s impacted me.

“May someone find a use and purpose for this lovely object.”

And someone did.


The bidder, a 50-year mother of two, wrote that she was “called to the object” because of Lee’s awareness of the “deep complexities of the mother/daughter relationship.” She continued, “My mother is almost 80 and our relationship is a tapestry of joy and pain. It opens up space in me to look at this object, to think of its owner, and to hold in my own heart the universalities of the mother/daughter relationship.”

Katie Worthing, director of Yarmouth History Center, said the auction became a community-building event because it involved the exchange of personal stories. “It certainly brought people together in a way that hadn’t happened before. People met folks in town they hadn’t met before, and this very thoughtful community was created around this exchange. It was lovely.”

Worthing wasn’t sure about the idea at first. It was hard to explain, and a bit complicated. But people got it, and right away.

“There was an immediate acceptance of the idea,” she said. “People brought in things from their closets that they hadn’t used in years. We got a couple dozen objects that ran the whole gamut, from the ordinary – a purse or glass bottle – to others that were heirlooms, like a crochet bedspread. The bidders were very thoughtful, and it was really touching.”

The history center proved to be a perfect place for the exchange, because it functions as a site of release in its daily operation, Worthing said. “People come in all time with heirlooms and things that have been in their house that have emotional value connected to them. We take those objects in and tell their stories when we put them in exhibitions,” she said.

Venhuizen, the ecomaine educator who is working with Herman on “Out of Sorts,” readily accepted the challenge of talking about recycling in an art gallery, which will be a first for her. Her job requires a lot of community outreach, and she routinely arranges tours of the ecomaine plant. Last year, about 1,800 people took the tour. Herman’s art installation will allow ecomaine to reach a different audience, she said.

Ecomaine is loaning Herman five recycled bales for the exhibition. She will have one bale of aluminum; two bales of No. 1 plastic, which are common drinking bottles; and two bales of Nos. 3-7 plastic, which include things like ketchup bottles and gallon jugs.

Herman and Venhuizen settled on those because they are dynamic and interesting to look at, and they’re not messy. “We thought they would be the least-smelly ones. Milk jugs and laundry detergent smell and may leak. We want to make sure the gallery is respected and that people will want to come in and not be turned off,” Venhuizen said.

Lee welcomes the bales into the gallery. “They’re actually beautiful objects,” she said. “They look like minimalist sculptures, but they are archaeological objects of our culture. From a distance, they are shiny and colorful, and they look like art. But then you come up close and you realize, this is all the stuff that we take for granted, get rid of and don’t think about again.”

Herman wants people to think about them again, so they act responsibly in their consumption and disposal. She calls them “communally created cubes.”

As an artist, her job is to make people ponder and think. She’s a problem solver and a teacher. In the press release for “Out of Sorts,” she calls herself an “experience broker.” She didn’t create the bales or use her artistic touch to enhance them. But it’s her vision to present them as art objects as a way to move people toward living more healthy lifestyles, personally and communally.


Mo Dickens will attest to that. He lives in Kansas City, and met Herman when she taught at the Kansas City Art Institute 20 years ago. Herman returned as a senior lecturer in 2015. During her recent residency, her car broke down, and she hit Dickens up for rides to church every Sunday. Dickens was happy to help his friend, but not thrilled about going to church. Still, he picked her up every Sunday and began witnessing how Herman changes lives. At church, she began talking to parishioners about letting go of things, and arranged what she calls a “Freeing Throwers” event where people ceremoniously tossed things away and talked about what they were releasing.

Herman took photos as people talked and tossed.

One guy threw away his smartphone, and pledged to spend more time with his family. Another tossed medical bills. Herman convinced Dickens to give up junk food. “I have a reputation in Kansas City for eating crappy food, and a lot of it,” he said. “She got a picture of my hamburger box flying toward the Dumpster and my gut hanging out of my jacket. When I saw the picture, I said, ‘Geez, I didn’t think my gut was that big.’ ”

He lost 27 pounds in three months, and has kept the weight off. But they didn’t stop there. Together, Dickens and Herman applied for and received a grant that rewards innovative art projects in non-traditional places. They made posters of the “Freeing Throwers” event and placed them in Kansas City buses, and recorded audio ads that played on the buses’ PA systems encouraging riders to join Dickens in giving up junk food and donating to thrift shops. The ads were triggered by GPS, and timed to play near fast-food restaurants and second-hand stores.

Dickens cried as he talked about Herman’s impact on his life. “It was an adventure being a temporary artist,” he said, laughing to break the tension on the phone. “Getting my health in order was a powerful thing and something I had been needing to do. I have family members who are overweight and in some cases way overweight.”

Dickens thanks his friend in Maine each time he steps on the scale.

“Out of Sorts” feels especially apt right now, as piles of trash and people’s personal belongings pile up on the streets of Houston, lost to stormy weather. People are letting go, by the force of nature and by personal will.

“Letting go is very hard,” Herman said. “We can do it if we are forced to. We let go at a funeral. We let go of our stuff when we clean out a room and make room for the baby. But it’s very hard, and it becomes a ritualistic release.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 bale of recycled aluminum ecomaine loaned to artist Adriane Herman for her project, "Out of Sorts." The five bales included in the exhibition are "actually beautiful objects," said Jocelyn Lee, who owns Speedwell Projects gallery in Portland. "They look like minimalist sculptures."Thu, 07 Sep 2017 18:59:00 +0000
Apple guide: What’s in season now Wed, 06 Sep 2017 19:51:41 +0000 0, 07 Sep 2017 11:29:56 +0000 Map: where to find weird apples in Maine Wed, 06 Sep 2017 19:50:02 +0000 0, 06 Sep 2017 16:05:42 +0000 Plants can be natural pesticides Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Insects are everywhere, with more a million different species on earth. Some are helpful and beautiful, like bees and butterflies. Others cause trouble, like mosquitoes and ticks that suck your blood and spread illnesses. Some leave you alone but eat your fruits and flowers.

When I saw that Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay was offering a member-only tour about plants that repel unwanted insects, I jumped at the chance to join the tour. I was “wait listed” – clearly I’m not the only one who’d like some help warding off garden bugs without resorting to pesticides – but received notice the day before the tour that I could participate.

Jen Dunlap, a staff horticulturist, led about 15 of us through several core gardens (the ones closest to the visitor center), talking about different plants as we saw them, describing what pests they repel and providing hints on how to grow them.

Some of the best insect-repelling plants turn out to be herbs we grow to flavor our food.

“All of the fragrant herbs have volatile oils that are released in cooking,” Dunlap said, “and those same oils are released by the heat of the summer.”

Those herbs – including basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, dill and fennel – repel flies, mosquitoes, moths, earwigs and a host of other insects.

More than half of the 90-minute garden walk was conducted in the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses – covering touch, smell, sound, sight and taste. The garden shows how to mix ornamental plants with herbs and vegetables.

First, most of the herbs and many of the vegetable plants are attractive in their own right. And, since the fragrant herbs repel so many pests, having them in the garden improves food production.

Alliums, the onion family that includes leeks and chives, are grown as both ornamentals and food crops, and all of them repel pests, Dunlap said. So rather than limiting your onions in one area of your vegetable garden, you can intersperse them throughout your gardens, covering a larger area. You might grow them in your flower gardens, as well.

Sometimes plants get rid of pests not by repelling the troublemakers but by attracting insects that kill insects you don’t want. For instance, the herbs dill and fennel, along with the ornamental annuals alyssum and calendula, are hosts to the tachinid fly. I’ve written about the tachinid fly before as the insect whose eggs show up as white spots on the backs of Japanese beetles and eventually kill them. It turns out tachinid flies also kill sawflies, cabbage worms, earwigs, gypsy moths, cutworms, tent caterpillars, squash bugs and others. (Earwigs, incidentally, though they eat plants, among them hollyhocks, zinnias, dahlias and shasta daisies, do have benefits, Dunlap said. They break down soil in compost bins and prey on aphids and flies.)

Calendula, dill and alyssum are annuals, but they self seed, so you probably will have to plant them only once, while fennel is perennial.

Mints repel ticks, Dunlap said, and ticks are responsible for the recent epidemic of Lyme disease. In theory, mint should be planted in everyone’s garden, but mint is a thug, spreading wildly, strangling nearby plants and almost impossible to eradicate. One that is less aggressive, Dunlap said, is hairy mountain mint or Pycnanthemum verticillatum. During the tour, the mint’s dainty white flowers were covered with bees – a bonus.

A shrub that repels ticks is beautyberry, or callicarpa, which has pink flowers in summer and purple berries in the fall. It does have a lot of winter dieback, but usually recovers.

Lavender is one of the best moth and insect repellent going. “That is why people put lavender sachets in drawers of clothing and have used it in laundry,” Dunlap said.

It is a beautiful, fragrant ornamental and easy to grow. Catmint has many of the same qualities, but is not quite as strong-smelling nor as effective. If you have cats, however, they will love it.

In addition to hosting the tachinid fly, calendula repels flies, moths, aphids and mosquitoes, Dunlap said, mostly by aroma. It is an attractive plant with long-lasting, daisy-shaped flowers.

Marigolds are the first plant many gardeners think of as insect-repelling plants, and for good reason. They work well, Dunlap said, especially on caterpillars.

And chrysanthemums, usually planted for their fall display of color, also repel a wide variety of insects. The once-popular organic pesticide pyrethrum is derived from chrysanthemums, specifically pyrethrins, which are the active source of the plant’s insect-repelling power. Pyrethrum is less popular than it once was because it turns out it kills beneficial insects as well as pests.

For most of Maine this next plant won’t help, but for those few who are in Zone 6 – right along the coast from about Owls Head to Bath and in the southern tip of York County – try planting four o’clocks, aka Mirabilis jalapa. The attractive flowers bloom late in the day – when the light begins to decline – and, unusually, several different-colored flowers bloom on the same plant. The botanical garden sits in the heart of Zone 6, and excepting occasional dieback, the four o’clocks survive fairly well there. Why would you want to bother with such a finicky plant? Because it lures Japanese beetles and then poisons them. That is my kind of plant.

Dunlap says in cooler zones you might have a microclimate, such as the western side of the house or where the drier vents, that would enable you to plant four o’clocks. I wonder if I could move the drier vent to the west side of our house.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0, 31 Aug 2017 18:51:12 +0000
How to protect your pup’s paws this winter Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Once there was an Akita named Kaya. The burly dog had dry, sensitive paw pads and walked around in discomfort, especially in the winter when the sting of salt and ice made things worse.

Luckily for Kaya, she lived with Sara Tryzelaar, owner of Rooted Earth Farm in Casco, where Tryzelaar and her partner grow herbs for use in natural body products and herbal apothecary goods. The 5-acre farm follows sustainable practices, using no pesticides, herbicides or chemicals – not even organic ones.

Kaya inspired Tryzelaar to move beyond the tinctures, teas and salves she makes for people and concoct something special for her dog that would soothe her paws not only in winter but on the hot pavement of summer as well. The result was her “Paw Protector” balm for dogs. It contains chamomile and calendula, known to be soothing to irritated and dry skin, as well as shea butter, beeswax and coconut oil.

“The herbs help with dry patches on the skin,” Tryzelaar said. “The oils and the beeswax are what coats them to protect them against the hot pavement and ice and snow.”

Unfortunately, Kaya has since crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. But Tryzelaar has discovered the Paw Protector also helps her new canine companion, Charlie – a chihuahua who gets dry patches on his skin.

Charlie is from Down South, Tryzelaar said, “so he absolutely hates the snow and ice. He’s always cold, so he wears sweaters almost year round.”

The balm is safe for humans, so skin care can become another activity to share with your dog. And it’s no problem if your dog likes to lick his paws occasionally – everything in the balm is edible.

A 1-ounce jar costs $9; a 2-ounce jar costs $15.50; and a 4-ounce jar costs $23.

Paw Protector is available on the farm’s website,, and on Tryzelaar’s Etsy shop, It can also be found at Bittersweet Barn in Casco, Webbs Mills Eats & Craft Brews in Casco, and EllieAnna Gift Shop in Lewiston.

]]> 0, 01 Sep 2017 11:33:20 +0000
Paul Naron aims to grow the best indoor farmers market in the world Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Paul Naron whips out his measuring tape. Is that vendor with the popsicles infringing on unpaid territory, creeping past his or her rented 4 feet of booth space? Trailed by his assistant, Maddie Newton, he prowls the United Farmers Market of Maine like a smallish tiger in shorts, baseball cap and a hardware store apron.

He gives a running commentary of the unmanned booths as he goes; it’s midweek and the market is only open on Saturdays. This vendor with the woodsie geegaws hasn’t sold much and probably won’t be around much longer, Naron says, but that’s OK – Naron and Newton are four to five people deep in prospective vendors eager to get into what Naron says is already the best indoor market in Maine. His ambition is for it to be the best indoor farmers market in the world – never mind that Belfast has a population of fewer than 7,000 – and Naron is thrumming with the excitement of someone who senses an impossible goal might be attainable after all.

“These guys have a llama farm,” Naron says, waving the measuring tape at another booth.

“Alpaca,” Newton corrects, softly. She just graduated from Unity College in May, within days of the opening of Naron’s dream market, and has been helping him manage vendors, details and his streak of perfectionism since then.

Naron stops at Fancy Plants, a plant-based food stall. “My girlfriend is addicted to this stuff,” Naron says, rapping the measuring tape on the counter. The chalkboard sign says “Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free.” Addiction possibilities seem limited, at least to us. “Trust me,” he says.

How’s the Nitro coffee sold at the Farm House Coffee Roasters stand, the trendy stuff infused with nitrogen? “I can’t drink coffee,” he said dryly. “For obvious reasons.”

When Kate Hall of Graze Maine, a Northport microgreens producer, was considering applying to be a vendor at the United Farmers Market, she got a tour from Naron himself. His style is hands-on, even if it means driving two hours to convince a farmer to rent a booth (rates start at $31.50 a month for a 4-foot space) or being inside when he could be out sailing.

Hall was new in the business, with less than a year under her belt, although already she was selling to restaurants, including Suzuki’s Sushi Bar in Rockland and Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn.

“He made this comment to me, like he’d see me ‘when you get your act together,’ ” Hall remembered. She could have taken it as an insult, but instead, it felt like a challenge. “And I just looked at him. And I was like ‘Yeah, I have got my act together.’ ”

The exchange established a connection. “I really like Paul,” Hall says.

“He just wants to make sure that we are all as invested in this as he is,” she added. “I have a lot of appreciation for what he has done as a businessman and for the local farmers. Not many people would invest so much money in other people and in the community this way that he has.”


Naron, 67, is a Baltimore native who made a tidy living with a hardware chain in southeast Florida. He started with a staff of four and sold the business when it had expanded to over 100 employees. About eight years ago, he bought a house in Belfast, a place he knew from sailing and had come to like very much. The house he bought was on a corner and had a great view of Belfast Bay. To the left of it and just across the street was an old window factory belonging to Mathews Brothers, which has been manufacturing windows in Belfast since 1854. They were using the 1980s building, which isn’t much to look at from the outside, as a showroom, but the factory was elsewhere in town, out on Perkins Road.

The building was for sale, and Naron eyed it. It came with about an acre of land. It seemed suited to some sort of retail business. Those were skills he already had. He knew what a commercial property this size (30,000 square feet) would go for in booming Portland down the coast. “I was staring at this building,” he said. He made an offer. They didn’t bite. He kept staring.

One of Naron’s earliest memories is going to Lexington Market in Baltimore with his grandfather and watching fishmongers shucking oysters. As an adult, he visited indoor markets in Canada, including one in Frederictown, New Brunswick, that struck him as an indoor market done right. He is a believer in buying both lettuce at the farmers market, and a nice lunch, and then eating the lunch in a place with a view.

As Naron mulled over a growing vision of an indoor market like that, in Belfast, he reached out to townspeople and farmers and managers at the Belfast Farmers Market.

“He came to us five or six years ago,” Anne Segeese, the manager of the Belfast Farmers Market, which is on Fridays, is 37 years old and also runs year-round, moving to a greenhouse in Belfast’s Aubuchon Hardware store from November to April. “He always references one up in Canada. He even sponsored a field trip up there and took a couple of market managers,” she said.

“We all got to know each other pretty well,” Segeese added.

But by the time Naron made another offer on the Mathews Brothers building, the one that was accepted, they’d made up their minds. “In the end, we decided to decline his offer and the primary reason was that it would be his gig. He called the shots.”

Meaning, longstanding rules, typical at farmers markets, about say, the vendors also being the producers, could be put aside. The Belfast Farmers Market operates as a democracy, with committees discussing and voting on changes. They didn’t want a boss, no matter how generous.

But the new market, Segeese says, is “beautiful.”

“It is a great asset to Belfast,” she said. Not that there weren’t anxieties about competition and duplication. She’d have rather that Naron chose a different name. He changed it from the United Farmers Market of Belfast to the United Farmers Market of Maine, but the website is still There’s been enough confusion that the Belfast Farmers Market rebranded itself in many materials as “the original market serving Belfast.”

“We needed some way to say, ‘Hey, we are still here,’ ” Segeese said. “I had a city councilor say to me, ‘I heard you guys are moving over to Mathews Brothers!’ ”

So far the markets seem to have a different customer base, Segeese said, with Naron’s market making a lot of people who can’t ditch work on Friday to shop happy.

It’s also appealing to new vendors. Kate Hall was ready to expand her customer base for Graze, but traditional farmers markets weren’t that appealing to her. “Because I didn’t have time to break down and set up.”

Ditto for Lou Harris, the farmer behind Abraham’s Cheesery.

“We never really did farmers markets,” Harris said of his Newport goat farm, which produces goat meat, milk, cheese and yogurt. The beauty of his 8-foot booth in Belfast is that the freezer and refrigerator case stay put. Convenient and “so much cleaner,” Harris said. “You are not reaching into a cooler full of dirty ice to get your product out.”

“It’s a totally different beast,” Segeese said. She hopes that Naron keeps the place thriving, long after the summer tourists are gone; no hard feelings, she said.

“It was not all fruits and rainbows, but we’re cool,” she said.


The very same day Naron closed on the Mathews Brothers building, he ordered windows for a 3,000-square-foot corner of it, the one that faces the bay, same view as his house basically but mostly hidden (the window factory had had some windows, but small ones). Now shoppers can sit at the tables and watch the boat traffic in Belfast Bay.

“This is really where it all started,” Naron said, resting – briefly – on one of the tables he built himself for the room, borrowing the model from the ones chef Erin French built for The Lost Kitchen in nearby Freedom. “To make this room.”

When he was driving around to farms and inviting vendors to come visit, he used the room as a lure. A room with a view, where people would not sit with their laptops or phones (in Naron’s world, a hugely disappointing social evolution) but rather, with each other.

“I wouldn’t have done it without this room, this place where people can break bread together and have this beautiful view,” he said, “because that is the soul of the place.”

The transformation from the real estate closing to the market’s opening day in late May was only about 18 months, he said. But he’s far from done. What you see at the market is only half the building’s capacity, and he’s busy mapping out a commercial kitchen and possibly an event center in those hidden spaces (the Belfast Maskers rented the space for its production of “Annie” this summer).

“There might be a world-class restaurant here at some point,” he said, mentioning chefs from top Maine restaurants who he said were interested in opening a restaurant together in Belfast. “But I’m not counting on that.”

Even on a down day in early August, the United Farmers Market of Maine was filled with activity. Workmen were delivering the equipment for a hydroponic growing station that Kate Hall will help oversee (“We want to be able to show people things growing,” Naron said). Downstairs, off the loading dock, artist David Hurley was putting the finishing touches on a 24-foot-tall lettuce leaf (his carrot was already up), and then an Amish couple showed up.

Mary and Levi Miller had taken both bus and taxi to get from Sherman to Belfast. They had an appointment to see Naron, to show him their traditional baskets. With the help of the taxi driver who had brought them on the last leg, they set up their wares in the room with the windows.

But problematically, they were looking for someone who could sell their goods for them. It would never be feasible to take public transport on a three-hour journey each direction every Saturday morning.

Naron was nonplussed. “I love the look,” he said under his breath. Mary and Levi Miller were in full Amish garb, from bonnet to breeches. Naron examined the baskets. He picked up potholders that cost just a few dollars. He pushed a woven basket that was also a lazy Susan and watched it spin. “I love lazy Susans,” he said.

When things go wrong at the market, like when the fish guy’s freezer stopped working, Hall said Naron typically steps in to buy whatever has been lost. Or in some cases, the extras “That has happened more than once.”

With the Millers looking on, their likely three-hour journey home ahead of them, and no future at the United Farmers Market of Maine ahead of them (the place is humming with technology; not exactly Amish country). Naron began to pile up potholders onto a lazy Susan, wondering aloud, would the lazy Susans work in this room? Did they go with anything?

Not really. But he sent Newton off to cut the Millers a check. He’d buy a few things anyway. “The least I can do is pay for your cab ride,” he said.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0 stroll the aisles at the United Farmers Market of Maine in Belfast.Sun, 03 Sep 2017 23:35:54 +0000
Aster cultivars will brighten your fall garden Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Asters are a native fall-blooming perennial that come in varied heights, colors and forms. Most work well as cut flowers.

New England asters and New York asters, the two main groups of native asters, have recently had their botanical names changed to Symphyotrichum to distinguish them from the Old World flowers that retained the botanical name aster.

The species aster grows about 3 feet tall, has a white or pale blue daisy-shaped flower that is only about half an inch wide and looks like a weed. It does help pollinators and should be allowed to grow in garden edges, but you won’t want it to be a garden centerpiece.

The cultivars will brighten up the fall garden, however. Some of my favorites are “Alma Potschke,” which is pink; “Purple Dome”; “Vibrant Dome” and “September Ruby.”

Many people who buy asters now treat them like annuals, but if you water regularly and put them in a partial- to full-sun location they should survive the winter. Planted in the spring, they will be true perennials, and will be sturdier and less leggy if you cut them back sometime in June.

]]> 0, 31 Aug 2017 19:15:25 +0000
Make soup stock from whatever’s at hand – fish heads, ham hocks, chicken feet Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 While certainly not as devious as the three witches Shakespeare created to stir the pot at the beginning of Macbeth’s fourth act, I am willing to toss almost anything into a bubbling cauldron if it will result in superior soup. Stopping short of eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, I’ve happily experimented with the growing number of soup-starting products now on the market – that would be farmers market, meat market, fish market and supermarket, I am pleased to report. Seeing oxtails and duck backs on offer on a regular basis both signals a renewed awareness about which ingredients simmer down to really good stock and pushes forward a basic tenet of a greener home kitchen: Use every last bit.

Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal, another pretty prolific Brit, acknowledges in his latest book, “Heston Blumenthal at Home,” that making a stock can be as simple as throwing the picked-over carcass of Sunday’s roast chicken (locally sourced, of course) in the pot with some aromatic vegetables, covering all of the ingredients with cold water, and simmering the mixture gently for an hour or two. The broth will have a roasted, reheated flavor. It will be tasty, economical, serviceable, and, not least, sustainable.

Taking stock to the next level, though, “is one of the most exciting and worthwhile challenges in the kitchen,” Blumenthal tells home cooks in his book. And it requires judiciously chosen ingredients. Lucky for us, we live in the trendy age of bone broth.

Bone broth is made by simmering bones for many hours in water with a splash of vinegar. Believers say the resulting collagen-rich elixir reduces inflammation while building up the immune system and helps shore up leaky guts while fortifying brittle (human) bones. Detractors say it boils down to plain old soup stock that carries a ridiculously fat price tag.

Ingredients for ham hock pea and herb soup. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Regardless of where you come down on this particular debate, the bone broth movement has made sourcing the choice components Blumenthal espouses a much easier prospect, says butcher Kaitlyn Weikel, who spends her days breaking down local, whole animals at The Farm Stand in South Portland. There you’ll find pigs’ feet and smoked ham hocks in the fresh meat case and frozen beef knuckles, marrow bones, chicken backs and lamb necks in the freezer case. The only stock option she’s not seen coming across her cutting board in great supply is chicken feet, which are available from a variety of small-scale organic poultry farmers for between $2 and $4 per pound. They’re also available in Asian groceries in Portland. If you don’t see a bone you want at your local butcher shop, just ask, or better yet, call ahead; most are willing to source them for you.

Weikel is quick to mention that local fishmongers have a ready supply of fish heads and lobster bodies that are ideal for stock. And she points to the growing group of Maine mushroom growers who can be tapped for dried caps and tough fresh stems that simmer down to some serious vegetarian umami-filled stocks. And finally, she calls out vegetable seconds bins (The Farm Stand has one, and several have popped up in larger grocery stores, too) as the perfect place to find ugly, inexpensive vegetables that will work just fine in stock. I, too, in the past, have touched on techniques for making meatless stocks from spent corn cobs,parmesan rinds and pea pods.

Back in my kitchen, I always put Sunday’s (or Monday’s or Wednesday’s, as the case may be) chicken carcass in a stockpot. To add depth, I also throw in a raw chicken back or two that I’ve either cut from the whole chicken myself when I butterfly it to reduce roasting time or bought from a chicken farmer who had them bagged separately from cut-up chicken parts at the processor to avoid waste. When you are making a stock that includes any or all raw bones, skimming the foam that rises to the stop with a metal spoon results in a clearer broth.

The columnist cuts meat from a ham hock to use in soup. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

If I’ve found beef or lamb bones to use in stock, I employ a 5:1 ratio of raw bones to mirepoix, a mix of two parts onion to one part each celery and carrot. For every five pounds of bones in the pot, I pour in one gallon of cold water. Vegetable and fish stocks only need to simmer slowly for 45 minutes to an hour. And when I say slowly, I mean at a rate of 5 to 10 bubbles breaking the surface per minute. Rapid bubbling equals cloudy stock, and you don’t want that. Chicken stock should simmer slowly for 3-4 hours and beef and lamb for 6-8 hours.

To pull out the deepest flavors possible from the beef and lamb bones, I start by searing them in a hot oven (450 degrees F) for about 30 minutes. This extra step gives the meat still clinging to the bones more color and deeper flavor, and provides an opportunity to deglaze the pan with liquid to pull up all the stuck-on, yummy bits and add them into the stockpot for even more flavor.

Homemade stock is indeed more work than opening a container of bone broth, but as the saying goes:

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a new cookbook from Islandport. She can be contacted at:

Ham Hock, Pea and Herb Soup Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh


Seeing as I am making references to all my favorite famous British writers, I’ll cop to cribbing the idea for this recipe from another one, Nigel Slater. In his book, “Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food,” he outlines a simple recipe for whizzing a quick, smoky ham hock stock with frozen peas and fresh herbs for a thick, tasty soup that will help warm you up on cool Maine autumnal evenings.

Serves 4 to 6

1½-2 pounds smoked ham hocks (1 large or 2 small)

1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and halved

2 whole cloves

4 cups fresh or frozen shelled peas

2 large cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped parsley, stems and leaves

1/2 cup chopped basil, stems and leaves

1/4 cup chopped scallions

Black pepper

Place hocks in a deep pot with just enough cold water to cover. Pierce each onion half with 1 clove and add the halves into the pot. Bring to a simmer, skim off the foam that rises to the top with a metal spoon. Cover and simmer until the meat is heated through and tender, 45-50 minutes.

Remove the hocks from the cooking liquid and set aside to cool. Lift the onion halves out, too. Remove the clove from each and return them to the pot. Add the peas and garlic cloves to the pot. Cook until peas are tender but still bright green, 3-4 minutes.

Combine the herbs in a bowl. Add 2/3 to the pot. Cook for 1 minute longer. Use a blender to puree the soup. Add black pepper to taste.

Tear the ham from the cooled hock in large pieces. Toss the ham pieces with the remaining herbs. Spoon the soup into 4 warm bowls. Divide the herby ham among the bowls and serve hot.

]]> 0 Hock, Pea and Herb SoupThu, 31 Aug 2017 19:25:58 +0000
New York chastises EPA chief over river’s Superfund cleanup Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 ALBANY, N.Y. — The $1.7 billion Superfund cleanup of the Hudson River is not protecting the public’s health and the river as initially promised, New York’s environmental commissioner contended last week.

Commissioner Basil Seggos criticized the six-year dredging project performed by General Electric Co. in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Seggos was particularly scornful of an EPA assessment this summer that it could take 55 years or more before all species of fish in the river are clean enough to eat once a week.

“This is unacceptable,” Seggos wrote, echoing previous criticisms by the Cuomo administration official. “A remedy that will take generations to safeguard public health and the environment is clearly not protective.”

Boston-based GE removed 2.75 million cubic yards of polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the river north of Albany under an agreement with the EPA.

The EPA released a review of the work this summer that found, based on the data so far, the cleanup will protect human health and the environment in the long term. Critics pushing for a broader cleanup have noted that a large amount of PCB-contaminated sediment remains in the river.

Seggos said the state is nearing completion of its own sampling program to measure the true extent of contamination.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency would consider Seggos’ comments along with all the others they received.

GE spokesman Mark Behan questioned New York’s critical stance in an email that said PCB levels in the upper-Hudson water declined in some spots by as much as 73 percent in the first year after dredging.

“New York State approved and oversaw the dredging project and was instrumental in every major decision related to the project,” Behan wrote. “Its criticism flies in the face of the most up-to-date scientific data from the river itself.”

]]> 0 - In this May 7, 2015, file photo, crews perform dredging work along the upper Hudson River in Waterford, N.Y. When New York state officials release results of their own contamination testing of Hudson River, it could be the state's latest salvo against the EPA, which is defending a $1.5 billion Superfund cleanup of the river. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:32:22 +0000
EPA’s Scott Pruitt’s push to roll back vehicle emission standards is a disaster Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0000 As ineffectual as this president appears, his Cabinet members are stealthily orchestrating destructive changes. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is intent on subverting that agency’s mission. At the behest of automakers, he is now reconsidering vehicular emission standards that help protect public health, save consumers money, and guard against further climate disruption.

The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently opened a review of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards for model years 2022-2025. The standards were updated in 2012 and 2007; before that, the country saw no meaningful increases in fuel efficiency for a quarter-century.

Raising fuel efficiency in vehicles offers far-reaching benefits, improving air quality (by limiting atmospheric particulates) and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that destabilize Earth’s climate. Transportation contributes more of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions than any other sector. In Maine, transportation accounts for 53 percent of CO2 emissions– far higher than electric power (10 percent), residential use (16 percent) or industrial use (12 percent).

Consumers like the demonstrated savings of higher fuel-efficiency standards. Even when gas prices are low, a strong majority prefers automakers to keep improving fuel economy (87 percent in a recent Consumers Union survey.

Targets set for the model years from 2017-2025 would save an estimated 2.4 million barrels of oil a day by 2030, and markedly lower what drivers spend annually on fuel. By 2025, a new vehicle could save the buyer an estimated $6,000 over its lifetime, even factoring in a higher purchase price.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specifies by 2025 a combined average standard for passenger cars and light trucks just under 50 mpg. Vehicle window-sticker ratings run well below the CAFE standard, so average on-the-road economy would more likely be around 35 mpg.


Since the 2012 standards were finalized, vehicle manufacturers have not only met but exceeded them without affecting sales. Like dutiful dieters, automakers trimmed excess weight (with lighter materials and smaller engines), achieving goals that once seemed daunting.

But then President Trump offered them an all-you-can eat buffet, promising to end “industry-killing regulations” (although there was no evidence the standards had done anything but encourage innovation).

Now automakers envision putting the “diet” on hold, spending a few more years lapping up the fat profits offered by large, gas-guzzling vehicles. This binge, though, could prove costly. Countries like India, Norway and France have already announced phaseouts of gas-only cars and the global marketplace is increasingly focused on low-emission vehicles. American automakers won’t remain competitive unless they hold to stringent standards.

If the EPA and NHSTA freeze or roll back emission standards, we will pay with every breath we take – especially here in the tailpipe state. “It would be an unfortunate step backward for Maine in particular,” notes Lance Boucher, director of public policy for the American Lung Association of Maine. Particulates and smog from large swaths of the Northeast end up here, contributing to some of the nation’s highest asthma rates. Any weakening or delay in the CAFE standards, the lung association asserts, will increase health threats to vulnerable populations like children, older Americans and those living with lung diseases.

Maine committed more than a decade ago to the strict emissions standards of California, but it cannot limit imported pollution if the federal uniform standard is dismantled. The Trump administration strategy, notes Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Project director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, “is dismemberment piece by piece.” If the Trump Administration succeeds in its effort to undercut federal emissions standards, a decision to be made by next April, it might then challenge the right of states like California and Maine to maintain more stringent standards.


What’s being proposed is not conventional regulatory reform. William D. Ruckelshaus, who directed the EPA under two previous Republican presidents, recently told the New York Times that Pruitt’s approach appears more like “taking a meat ax to the protections of public health and the environment and then hiding it.”

The attack on emission standards will face fierce and prolonged legal battles, but could still set back national efforts to rein in carbon emissions. A big concern, Voorhees reflects, is that “we don’t really have time to waste.”

Maine’s Sen. Edmund Muskie, lead architect of the Clean Air Act, once noted that he saw citizens losing confidence in their government’s capacity to “stop a disastrous retreat from the goal of environmental quality set so resolutely not so long ago.” That sentiment rings even truer today as we face a presidential administration bent on disassembling safeguards protecting human and planetary health.

Stopping this “disastrous retreat” depends on a strong chorus of protest from citizens, community leaders, environmental advocates and health care providers. Muskie’s clean air legacy is on the line, and he would certainly endorse activism: “Political power in our system,” he exhorted, “is still yours to use, if you will.”

Marina Schauffler provides research, writing, and editing services to nonprofit and social enterprise organizations through Natural Choices (

]]> 0 Pruitt was a longtime critic of the EPA before he was appointed to oversee it.Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:26:32 +0000
Alan Hutchinson, ‘champion’ of land conservation in Maine, dies at age 70 Wed, 30 Aug 2017 22:26:08 +0000 Alan Hutchinson’s name may not be familiar to many Mainers.

Yet the names of the places that Hutchinson quietly helped to protect – such as the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Big Spencer Mountain and the northern shorelines of Moosehead Lake – will be known to generations of people who hike, hunt, fish, paddle or work in the vast forestlands of Maine.

A “champion” of land conservation, Hutchinson died unexpectedly Sunday at his home in Orono. He was 70.

During his 20 years as executive director of the Forest Society of Maine, Hutchinson played a major role in conserving more than 1 million acres in Maine at a time when the state’s timber industry, land ownership and outdoor recreation trends were changing dramatically. He also built the Bangor-based Forest Society of Maine from a small nonprofit into one of the nation’s largest land trusts.

“He was incredibly effective, a very, very gracious man and a gentleman at every turn,” said Tim Glidden, who worked with Hutchinson for several decades, first as director of the Land for Maine’s Future program and more recently as executive director of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Glidden said Hutchinson never sought credit for his work, but his efforts to balance the importance of maintaining Maine’s working forests with the desire to protect those lands from development yielded long-lasting benefits to the state.

“His tribute is going to be the working forestlands of Maine,” Glidden said.


Hutchinson was an avid outdoorsman who worked for 24 years as a wildlife biologist at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife before becoming the Forest Society of Maine’s first executive director in 1997. In his new capacity at the young organization, he pioneered the use of “conservation easements” that allowed landowners to retain title and usage of the land while protecting its ecological and recreational values. And over the years, Hutchinson helped negotiate or implement some of the largest land conservation deals in Maine and national history, with the Forest Society of Maine holding or managing many of those easements.

In 2003, for instance, the Forest Society acquired a conservation easement on 282,000 acres along the West Branch of the Penobscot River – and also the north and south branches – that allowed the land to remain in forestry but protected it from development. As part of the deal, the state also obtained 47,000 acres that included historic Pittston Farm, the shores of Baker and Seboomook lakes, and the headwaters of the St. John River.

The Forest Society conserved 8 miles of shoreline along the northern portion of Moosehead Lake as well as 4,000 acres on Big Spencer Mountain, which dominates the landscape north of the lake.

Hutchinson also played a major role in the controversial negotiations with Plum Creek Timber Co. over the company’s massive rezoning request in the Moosehead Lake region. By the time state regulators approved Plum Creek’s development concept plan in 2009, the Forest Society of Maine and its partners, The Nature Conservancy and the Appalachian Mountain Club, had secured conservation easements on 359,000 acres in the Moosehead region.

Other conservation projects completed during Hutchinson’s tenure include 21,000 acres around Nicatous Lake, 36,000 acres in the Debsconeag Lakes region, 22,000 acres in the boundary headwaters of the Kennebago River and, most recently, 13,875 acres in the Gulf Hagas-Whitecap area. The list also includes smaller projects important to local communities, such as Caribou Bog in Bangor, Branch Lake in Ellsworth and the 5,000-acre Amherst Mountains Community Forest.

His death is “such a huge loss to our community,” said Karin Tilberg, a former deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation who has worked as Hutchinson’s deputy director since 2011.

Tilberg said Hutchinson’s approach to conservation respected the diverse “public values” of Maine’s forests, such as their recreational lands, wildlife habitat and economic benefits.

“He had the ability to bring different perspectives together around shared goals, and his quiet leadership kept people working together on projects until success was achieved,” Tilberg said. “And he just loved the North Woods.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Hutchinson “devoted his life to preserving working forests and Maine’s pristine environment.”

“Alan’s invaluable contributions to the forestry community will be deeply missed, but he will long be remembered for his leadership and vision,” Collins, who worked with Hutchinson to secure millions of dollars in federal Forest Legacy Program grants for Maine, said in a prepared statement. “His tireless work to preserve Maine’s forests has created a rich legacy that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors to our state for many years to come.”


In terms of acreage, the Forest Society of Maine is the fourth-largest land trust in the United States and the eighth-largest conservation organization when including national groups such as the The Nature Conservancy, according to the Land Trust Alliance. Sylvia Bates of the Land Trust Alliance said Hutchinson was a soft-spoken but influential member of the Leadership Council that serves as an advisory board to the national organization.

“He was very well-respected, and the Forest Society of Maine is an organization that has been looked up to by other organizations around the country,” said Bates, the director of standards and educational services at the alliance. And on a personal level, Bates said she has many fond memories of discussing with Hutchinson – a longtime acquaintance – different places to paddle in Maine, some of which are now permanently protected because of his work.

“He leaves a very important legacy of protecting a lot of special places that are very dear to many of us,” said Bates, a New Hampshire resident.

A memorial service for Hutchinson is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at Brookings-Smith Family Reception Center, 163 Center St. in Bangor.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

]]> 0 longtime executive director of the Forest Society of Maine, Alan Hutchinson played a role in conserving more than 1 million acres in Maine. He died Sunday at age 70.Thu, 31 Aug 2017 09:47:49 +0000
Interactive map: With dry weather, drought comes creeping back into Maine Tue, 29 Aug 2017 17:23:00 +0000 A drier-than-usual summer has brought a return of drought conditions to coastal and eastern Maine, but the dry weather’s effects remain mild compared to the much longer-running drought of 2016.

Geographic data from the United States Drought Monitor shows how “abnormally dry” conditions spread and intensified across coastal and eastern Maine during July and August. The state received some relief from a heavy rainstorm on Aug. 18, when Portland recorded 1.91 inches of rainfall.

Click and drag the slider below to watch drought conditions spread over the past 6 weeks:

* As of August 29.
SOURCE: National Weather Service, University of Nebraska National Drought Mitigation Center
INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @c_milneil
]]> 0, 29 Aug 2017 15:25:07 +0000
Farmer Ben Whatley turns his parent’s land into an evolving farm Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Ben Whatley is the tall young man who sometimes slips away from his booth at the Brunswick Winter Market to play a little bluegrass in the corner. He grew up in Topsham with parents who had given up farming for practical reasons. As a young adult, Whatley had the idea that he’d become a lawyer. Then he spent some time on a working farm and the die was cast. We talked with him about drought, the lesson he learned from a bad year in cantaloupe and how his brother’s wedding opened up new possibilities for Whatley Farm.

THE GRADUATE: After college, Whatley decided to try out an internship at Broadturn Farm in Scarborough before applying to law school. Broadturn was a fledgling business then. “I got introduced to a lot of things there and got to experience it while they were still blurring the lines between their homestead and their business.” He made the rounds of law schools. But the law started to seem less appealing, especially “when I realized that I was going to have to get through law school.”

APPLYING HIMSELF: After another internship, at a market garden farm in North Carolina, Whatley broached the subject of starting a farm on his parents’ property in Topsham. Or restarting it; the family has farming in their blood. His father grew up on a farm in Auburn, and when his parents bought their land in Topsham in the 1980s, they had 1,000 laying hens and some crops. But those were the days of $1 a dozen eggs and “organic was a dirty word,” and once they started having kids, they decided to do something more practical. His father started Morningstar Stone and Tile, a masonry business, today a thriving venture. But both he and his wife work with their son, focusing on the livestock at Whatley Farm. “He moonlights as a farmer.”

MELON MELANCHOLY: In the Brunswick-Topsham area, Whatley has a reputation for growing a fine melon. But thanks to drought conditions in the midcoast, his customers will have to turn elsewhere this year (try Fairwinds for one). None of the melons made it; the ground was too dry for them to get established enough to produce fruit. “That was one of the things that we had that was planted on some unirrigated ground. Usually we have gotten away with planting there. We were kind of gambling on that. And lost.”

Ben Whatley operates Whatley Farm, an organic farm in Topsham that he started with his parents five years ago. Staff photo by Derek Davis

WATER WORLD: What recourse do you have, as a farmer with land that isn’t irrigated in a summer this hot and dry? Whatley has a 600-gallon water tank on a trailer, used primarily during transplanting. But it’s not practical to take it out and spray, say, young melon plants that aren’t thriving. “To cover an acre with an inch of water would take like thousands of gallons. You really need to have an irrigation system.” But even that isn’t a perfect fix. “It is really no substitute for a good rain.”

LESSONS LEARNED: Whatley said he’s got a new perspective after this summer. That unirrigated field is on leased land, eight miles from Whatley Farm, and Whatley doesn’t plan to renew the lease. He wants to focus on the home base, which is 50 acres, most of it in woods with four acres cleared for field crops. “I’m going to focus more on investing in irrigation on our place. I think we’re going to be able to grow more on less land.”

WEDDING VOWS: The other eye opener was his brother’s wedding in July. The family dug in hard to clean up the farm – including moving some of the equipment from his father’s masonry and stone business – so the young man could marry on the farm. “It showed me we can clean this place up and make it safe for people to visit.” And to participate in farm life, whether by staying in the yurt Whatley is thinking of erecting or attending a community event. “I’m trying to find a way to (make) part of the business be experiences too, and not just products.” The next step is to get more events on the schedule; already a butchery workshop – breaking down a half a pig – is slated for Oct. 1 (visit for more information on that closer to that date).

THE TROPICS: He’s also working on new crops, including ginger root, lemongrass and turmeric. This last one, turmeric, is a red variety from Hawaii. “We just started doing that, and we’ll have it here for the next month or two. It has been really fun. I want to have more tropical plants in the greenhouses.” The greenhouses are new, too, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Farms for the Future and a low-interest loan, and the pair of them add up to about a quarter acre. “We haven’t really realized the potential of them yet, but I am going to be focusing on that a little more next year. I do like being able to just walk out the door and be in the greenhouse.”

TRANSITION TIME: Whatley has been spending less time at farmers markets this year. He’s had more management duties on the farm, having lost some employees, including a few who went off to start farms of their own (Leaf & Caul in Washington, which is focusing on pork, and Good Dirt Farm up the road in Bowdoinham). “I just found I really need to be here every day.” He’s content to be digging deeper into what the farm has already got. “I want to keep it beautiful and really human-scaled.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0 Whatley operates Whatley Farm, an organic farm in Topsham. When he was younger, he thought he'd be a lawyer.Thu, 24 Aug 2017 18:44:59 +0000
Handwoven Passamaquoddy baskets from the ’60s sold to fund conservation efforts in Maine Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 What do you get the Mainer who has everything?

How about a hand-woven herring scale basket that’s been in a time capsule since the 1960s?

These ash baskets, made for the herring pearlessence industry, were woven by Passamaquoddy craftsmen for companies that used them to gather fishermen’s discarded fish scales.

The companies processed the opalescent material on the scales into coloring for lipsticks, paint and other products.

The baskets were collected by a well-known Jonesport-area fisherman named Oscar Look, who stored 800 of them in his warehouse. Look’s baskets, made in the 1960s, have never been used.

Fast forward a few decades. Look died in 2007, and three fishermen from Jonesport eventually took over his wharf and warehouse, where they discovered the baskets. They struck a deal with Save Passamaquoddy Bay to sell them as a fundraiser.

For nearly a decade, Save Passamaquoddy Bay – a coalition made up of Downeast residents, Canadians and members of the Passamaquoddy tribe – fought corporate developers who wanted to bring a liquefied natural gas terminal to Passamaquoddy Bay in Washington County.

They succeeded, but were left with numerous legal bills and research costs.

The group sold many of the baskets to help fund their battle, and now the rest are for sale through a partnership with the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).

Practically speaking, these wooden baskets were long ago made obsolete by cheap plastic baskets and the disappearance of Maine canneries. But now they are collectors’ items.

Gretta Wark, senior director of philanthropy at the NRCM, explained that the baskets with a green stripe were made for the Mearl Corp. of Eastport. A handful of baskets made for Argenta Products, also based in Eastport, feature a reddish-brown A and a stripe that circles the basket. The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Wark said, has an Argenta basket in its permanent collection.

The baskets cost $200 each, plus tax and shipping. Seventy-five percent of the sales will help Save Passamaquoddy Bay pay off the last of its legal bills and “protect the bay from inappropriate development.” The other 25 percent will go to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

]]> 0, 25 Aug 2017 10:13:33 +0000
Want to add color to your fall garden? Think chrysanthemums. Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Chrysanthemums are a traditional – and perhaps trite – plant for adding color to the fall garden. People usually plant them in September, enjoy them until the first frost hits and then toss them in the compost, ready to repeat the process again the following year.

Those gardeners are treating chrysanthemums as annuals, even though they’re actually perennials and will come back year after year if treated right – which would be more sustainable and save you money.

First, pick a location with at least five hours of sun each day. Water the ground around them, not the leaves, heavily when you first plant them and regularly after that. If they’re in full sun, they may require daily watering.

Chrysanthemums come in many styles. The blossoms can be shaped like daisies, pompoms or anemones or they may have long, curved spidery petals. The colors can be typical fall hues, such as orange, maroon and yellow, or less traditional hues, like pink and white.

The earlier you plant chrysanthemums, the better their chances to survive the winter. To give them the very best chance, you’d plant them in the spring – but since most garden centers sell them only in the fall, you’d have to start your own seed.

“Clara Curtis” is one of the hardiest varieties, but it’s pink. “Mary Stoker,” with yellow single flowers, and “Apricot Moneymaker,” with bronze anemone-type flowers, seem more suited to fall. The University of Minnesota Extension has a long list of hardy varieties; go to

Once the chrysanthemums are established, you should cut the stems in half so the plants don’t get too tall and flop over.


]]> 0, 25 Aug 2017 10:11:00 +0000
It’s a scramble to source local, organic soybeans Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 It’s no secret I am a committed omnivore. Ingredient lists for Green Plate Special recipes published over the years comprise everything from raw root vegetables and oysters from the Casco Bay and Damariscotta River to crispy pork crackling and extraordinary edimentals from my flower garden.

But I’ve never really served up much information about soy in this column. Frankly, the only soy-based ingredient I’ve included in my regular cooking repertoire thus far is soy sauce, which, I must admit, is neither local nor sustainably sourced.

Currently in my cabinet are bottles of Kikkoman soy sauce, San-J tamari and Whole Foods 365 Organic shoyu. The label on these bottles – with the exception of the Whole Foods’ ‘organic’ designation, which tells me that no genetic modification or synthetic fertilizers were involved – detail neither where the soy was sourced nor how the beans were grown.

But in the course of a recipe testing project I was conducting for another cookbook writer earlier this summer, I fell in love with Go-en Fermented Foods miso, a mellow fermented soybean paste made in Maine by Nicholas Repenning and his Japanese-born wife, Mika. For that test, I was mixing different brands of miso into squash puree to give it some umami gravitas.

Heiwa tofu of Belfast, left, and miso from Go-en Fermented Foods of Whitefield, bottom, combine to make miso soup. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Since then, I’ve had my eyes opened to the versatility of miso, a fact Japanese cooks have known for centuries and contemporary culinary trend setters are exploring wildly. I’ve now stirred it into tomato sauce (Repenning’s suggestion), had it in soup, smeared it on top of fermented rice balls, and used it in a marinade for meat (see Miso-Maple Pork, Zucchini and Apple Skewers recipe below).

For my taste, this locally made miso has a richer flavor and far more interesting texture than more established national brands. Plus, it comes in reusable glass jars instead of plastic (albeit recyclable) tubs, and it’s trucked from nearby Whitefield.

But since soybeans are not a crop typically grown in this region, I wondered where the beans used to make this miso were grown. Do locally made soy products fall into the category of foodstuffs like coffee and chocolate, exotic spice mixes and rubs, and in most cases, beer and wine – where the “Made in Maine” label will be as green as I can get because sourcing the raw ingredients for them is a climatic impossibility?

The prospect of sourcing local, organic soybeans is indeed very challenging, explained Jeff Wolovitz, owner of Maine’s only commercial soy beanery, Heiwa Tofu, in Rockport. Since he and his wife, Maho Hisakawa, started making tofu commercially nine years ago, they’ve brought in just two pallets of soybeans (out of more than 100 in total) that were grown outside of New England. Those beans came from the Midwest, about three years ago, he figures.

It was an absolute last resort as Wolovitz simply could not meet the demand for his tofu (he makes upwards of 2,000 pounds of it weekly) in the month or so in late summer that year while he waited for the organic bean harvest here in Maine.

Christine Burns Rudalevige glazes pork and zucchini kebabs with local miso. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“I am always looking for more farmers willing to grow soybeans in Maine. I started this business because I wanted to make a value-added product built on local agriculture. That was the whole point,” Wolovitz said. Over 90 percent of the 50,000 pounds of non-GMO, organic soy beans used to make Heiwa Tofu annually come from Maine, typically from farms in Skowhegan, Benedicta and Patten.

Wolovitz also taps a regular source from Massachusetts and another on the New York/Vermont line near Lake Champlain.

But it’s always a scramble as none of the local farms from which he buys grows soybeans exclusively because deer, disease and weed pressure can quickly make a field of soybeans not worth a Maine farmer’s time and effort. Wolovitz added that these diversified local farmers don’t have the specialized harvesting and cleaning equipment that mono-crop producers do, which means he must spend more time prepping the local beans that then get soaked, ground and strained to make tofu.

Is the scramble worth the effort? “If I had a dime for every customer who asked where the beans came from,” Wolovitz mused.

Repenning concurs that his customers’ interest in eating miso made with organic, regional beans (he too sources as much as possible in Maine but also brings in some beans from Massachusetts) is certainly a driving factor in his own long, slow process of cultivating Maine soy bean connections.

The lesson an eater looking to eat greener in Maine can learn from the budding soy-based, value-added product scene in Maine is this: It pays to keep the pressure on. Demand locally produced foods that are locally sourced, as well. If you keep asking, they will grow it.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a new cookbook from Islandport. She can be contacted at:

Miso-glazed pork and zucchini kebabs (made with local miso from Go-En Fermented foods of Whitefield) are ready to serve. Staff photo by Ben McCanna


Miso-Maple Pork, Zucchini and Apple Skewers
This marinade works well with chicken, salmon and firm tofu, too. But Go-en Fermented Foods miso maker Nicholas Repenning says he’s converted many a soy-shunning meat eater to miso by marinating pork in it. You can use a tougher cut of meat without long cooking, like the pork shoulder called for here, because the enzymes in the miso work quickly to tenderize it.
Serves 4

1/3 cup mild miso
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup rice wine (mirin), sweet white wine, or water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger root
1 pound pork shoulder meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into 3/4-inch wedges
8 wooden or metal skewers

Combine the miso, maple syrup, wine or water, oil and ginger in a large measuring cup.
Place the pork in 1 non-reactive container and the zucchini and apples in a second non-reactive container. Pour one-third of the marinade over the pork and one-third over the zucchini and apples. Reserved the remaining one-third of marinade.
Stir the ingredients in both bowls to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
After the marinating time is up, alternating, thread pork, zucchini and apple pieces onto skewers. Lay the skewers on a grill grate over medium heat.
Baste with the remaining marinade and turn often until the meat is no longer pink in the center (cut to test), about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

]]> 0 tofu of Belfast, left, and miso from Go-en Fermented Foods of Whitefield, bottom, combine to make miso soup.Fri, 25 Aug 2017 10:11:36 +0000
Like sneakers, there is a type of sedge for every conceivable landscape Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay uses sedges throughout the property, partly because there are so many species that can be used in different ways.

“You can pretty much find a sedge for any condition,” said Bill Cullina, president and CEO of the gardens. “They grow in mountaintops and in swamps, on beaches and in the woods.”

One of the most versatile is the Pennsylvania sedge, which despite its name is also native to Maine.

“The nice thing about it is that it’s turf-forming. It will grow in dry soils and takes full sun,” which makes it a good substitute for lawn grass, Cullina said, plus it grows only 6 to 8 inches high. Ergo no mowing.

Actually, you shouldn’t mow any of the sedges, so a homeowner who plants them would need to be comfortable with a tall lawn.

Here are other sedges you can find in the gardens:

Carex lurida, which is especially pretty when the seed heads come in.

Carex grayi, which has seed clusters that look a medieval weapon, with spikes protruding from a ball at the end of a stick. This sedge helps stabilize the shore of the botanical garden’s pond.

Carex muskingumensis, AKA the palm sedge although it is not related to palms. Its leaves whirl up the stem rather than coming entirely from the base. This sedge is native to areas around Ontario and Minnesota.

Carex platyphylla, a Maine native that thrives in woodlands; it has silver, evergreen leaves. Carex plantaginea is similar but green. Both are shade tolerant.

• Carex morrowii originates in Japan, but easy to find at local nurseries. It is variegated, evergreen and takes sun and part shade.

]]> 0 Thu, 24 Aug 2017 19:07:53 +0000
Edgy sedges offer architectural look, anchor the soil Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Sedges grow everywhere in Maine – from arid mountaintops to bogs, along the sides of fresh-cut roads through forests and under the canopies of those forests. More than 200 varieties grow in the state. Oddly, though, one place you find very few of them is in the gardens around Mainers’ homes. While some nurseries sell a few varieties, they are not on most people’s gotta-have-it list.

Maybe they should be.

At a talk I attended earlier this summer, Thomas Rainer, co-author of “Planting in a Post-Wild World,” said sedges – along with ferns – are one of the most versatile ground covers for the garden. Other experts sing their praises because they help control erosion and have an attractive architectural look. Sedges range widely in color, from yellow to gold to green, and some have seed heads in interesting and unusual shapes that move attractively in the wind.

Just what is a sedge and how can you tell if the plant you are looking at is one? Sedges are graminoids, as are grasses and rushes. In an interview, Glen Mittelhauser, one of seven co-authors of the 712-page tome “Sedges of Maine: A Field Guide to Cyperaceae” (2013), referred to an old mnemonic rhyme that helps people – horticulturalists, gardeners, students – differentiate the graminoids: “Sedges have edges. Rushes are round. Grasses have joints all the way to the ground.”

Sedges have edges because the leaves are usually triangular, and you can feel the edges on them. Rushes are smooth and solid, as well as round. If you run your fingers along a grass stem you feel nodes, where the grass stem expands along the entire stem.

The largest group of sedges are Carex. All of the sedges I was able to find that are commercially available are in the Carex family.

Mittelhauser says that while some of the sedges do best in shade, others like sun; and while some are drought tolerant, others like wet soil. “There are so many species, and the growing requirements are species specific,” he said.

While sedges do have flowers, they are small and the plants are wind-pollinated, so they don’t do much for pollinators, he said.

“They do have a small nutlet that that could be edible,” he added, “but I don’t know of a lot of wildlife that consumes sedges.” Alison Dibble, another co-author of the sedges field guide, said – at least partly in jest – that “sedges tend to be high in silica content, so they could be useful on a camping trip to scrub out the frying pan.”

What sedges really do best, she added, is prevent soil erosion. They have good roots; in addition, the seeds survive a long time when they’re buried in the mud or soil.

“That is why when roads are built during a lumbering operation, sedges spring up on the side of the road,” Dibble explained. “Those are seeds from a long time ago that were finally exposed” to the sun and the air and are suddenly able to germinate.

Dibble has taken sedges from the wild and put them in her garden, and some have done quite well.

“A lot of them have an architectural look that would appeal to a gardener,” she said.

But she warned that people should be careful about moving sedges because many of the specific species are rare enough to be of concern to conservationists. It’d be fine to move anything that is on your own property, she said, and anything that is growing along the edge of the road would probably be OK, too.

Incidentally, if you are interested in the other graminoids, you’ll have to wait. “A Field Guide to the Grasses and Rushes of Maine” – which Mittelhauser also worked on – is under peer review, and is due out next year.

It is something to put on your gotta-have-it list after you have digested the sedge book.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0, 24 Aug 2017 19:14:50 +0000
Treading Lightly: Freedom for all to ride or walk in the great outdoors Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Walking and biking are not just for the young, fit and able-bodied. And the benefits of these activities extend far beyond merely exercise or recreation. Fortunately, Maine is home to several organizations and programs that help seniors and people with disabilities get outside for a walk or a ride. Before I tell you about a couple of these efforts, let me start with a story that illustrates why they’re so essential.

I met Bangor resident Annie King recently when I taught a class in defensive walking (think what you were taught about defensive driving; now apply that idea to walking) at Miller Square on Harlow, a facility for seniors in Bangor where she lives. Annie rolled into the room in a motorized wheelchair and joked that I’d been hired because of “the crazy adventure” she’d recently gone on with her friends.

Annie said she and her friends, Diane and Marcia, decided to visit the farmers market one Sunday in June. Annie and Diane use motorized wheelchairs, and Marcia is legally blind and uses a white cane. Annie also has to carry her oxygen tank. “We went down to the market, across from the library, and cruised around,” she said.

“It was a nice day, so we said, ‘Let’s go down the next street,’ ” Annie continued. They turned down Franklin and then stopped at a little park on Kenduskeag Stream, where they sat for a few minutes so Marcia could catch her breath.

“You know, I’ve never been to that bagel place. Let’s go there,” Annie suggested to her friends. They followed the stream to Central Street and, after a snack at Bagel Central, headed home.

“It started to rain on our way home, and we ducked under the portico of one of the buildings while it poured,” Annie said, laughing. They had gone less than a mile.

A full, rich mile.

“It was our little adventure, just being free to get out and be with the rest of the world and not having to answer to anyone,” Annie said. “I don’t think you’re ever too old for an adventure.”

Which brings me to two Maine programs that help people who need assistance go on their own everyday adventures.

Two weeks ago, I stopped by the Back Cove Trail in Portland with my dog Lola to talk with some folks from Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, among them Leo Albert. He greeted Lola warmly.

“I’m lucky to live near the Green Belt path in South Portland,” Leo said. “I can’t use this for long periods,” he said, pointing to the four-wheeled walker he was sitting on, “but I use my motorized wheelchair, and I know every dog. Every one of them. I bring treats, and they nuzzle around my chair for them.”

Portland Wheelers pilots pedal adaptive cycles for riders along the Back Cove Trail in Portland. Photo courtesy of Portland Wheelers

Leo started working with Maine Adaptive this summer to modify the recumbent tricycle he has barely used for the past 13 years, because of a painful leg length discrepancy.

He pointed to one of the tricycles parked nearby and said he was looking forward to riding it. “Riding will make a big difference for my leg circulation and relieve the pain in my legs and back. Plus it’s something I can do anytime from where I live.”

Maxine Michaud was pedaling on the cove, training for the Great Maine Getaway MS Ride on a Maine Adaptive tricycle. Max, as she calls herself, has multiple sclerosis and limited use of one of her legs. To get around, she uses the tricycle as well as an experimental, Maine-designed Afari, which helps her walk over uneven terrain.

“There is no such thing as being unable,” she told me. “It’s being differently abled. That’s all.”

She credited her involvement with Maine Adaptive (she got involved on a dare in 2012) with keeping her in her “happy place, doing everything I do. I don’t need any pain pills, I don’t need any anti-depressants. This is it. This keeps me above the clouds looking ahead. I soar.”

Another program, Portland Wheelers, also helps people get outside and connect, in their case, people who are physically or mentally unable to bike, even with adaptive equipment. The organization offers free recreational rides to people of any age who are living with a significant disability.

I took a spin with Doug Malcolm, the group’s founder and director. I sat in the “wheeler” seat with Doug, the “pilot,” pedaling just behind me on one of the program’s tricycles, a setup that made for easy conversation. We rode along the Eastern Promenade, soaking up the view.

“We’re yakking all the time when we’re riding,” Doug said. “Wheelers and pilots both love it. As pilots, we get to hear wonderful life stories. And when we’re in a pod of two or three trikes, we’re often laughing it up, because someone always seems to be telling a joke.

“We know from Canadian research, and a study we’re involved in ourselves, that if you get people outside riding in groups on a regular basis, it can dramatically improve levels of depression, appetite, sleep patterns and a sense of connectedness,” he said.

As a sustainable transportation consultant, I’ve come across similar findings, and not surprisingly they always make me eager to get out and walk and bike more. Annie, Leo and Max offer me a glimpse of the future I can feel hopeful about stepping into.

Sarah Cushman, a sustainable transportation consultant and former master-certified auto mechanic, is always looking for sensible solutions to help folks save money and comfortably get around via public transportation, sharing vehicles, on foot and by bicycle. Contact her at

]]> 0 Michaud takes a break from her training with Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation at the Back Cove Trail in Portland.Thu, 24 Aug 2017 18:37:56 +0000
After decades of blight, Mainers could help save the American chestnut tree Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 SACO — Tom Klak is getting soaked by rain as he checks on his little orchard of 100 American chestnut saplings on an organic farm down the road from his house. The young trees, planted in rows 10 feet apart, have trunks as thin as straws and just a few of the long, canoe-shaped leaves that are the hallmark of an American chestnut.

But Klak doesn’t mind the showers. It’s been an incredibly dry summer, and one of his precious trees has already died, despite the six thorough waterings he’s given the orchard. The ground, he says, is “absolutely like a desert.” The American chestnuts in this orchard, protected by a solar fence from hungry deer, are being grown from the seeds of wild Maine trees that Klak and his students collected last year and sprouted over the winter in greenhouses at the University of New England (UNE). Klak, a professor of environmental studies at UNE, is also the chairman of the gene conservation committee at the Maine chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF).

The Saco orchard is one of four so-called “germplasm orchards” that Klak, his students and their research partners created around the state this summer to help preserve the genetic diversity of the surviving chestnut trees in Maine’s forests.

It’s the latest project in a much grander, national plan to bring back the American chestnut, a tree that was once as much a part of the American identity as a pilgrim’s footprint or frontier tales of Daniel Boone.

Maine’s chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation is particularly active in these national conservation efforts.

Out of the rain, Klak talks about how the tree that was once known as the “redwood of the north,” used to make everything from flour to floorboards, is now “functionally extinct.”

“I think of it as the miracle tree,” Klak said. “It just has so many positive qualities, and that’s what motivates me to work so hard on bringing it back.”


Four billion American chestnut trees once grew in the eastern forest, from Maine to Mississippi, according to Jared Westbrook, director of science at the American Chestnut Foundation based in Asheville, North Carolina. One out of four trees in Appalachia was a chestnut. They were so abundant that the Spanish explorer DeSoto wrote during his 1540 expedition: “Where there be mountains, there be chestnuts.”

The American chestnut was a keystone species, meaning many animals – including turkeys, bears, raccoon, deer and squirrels – relied on them for food. Unlike oaks, which shed their acorns in boom-and-bust cycles, chestnut trees are consistent providers. In autumn, the chestnut burrs on the forest floor could be a foot deep.

People also relied on the tree, gathering nuts to sell; to fatten livestock; and to make flour, ice cream and beer. They roasted the nuts, candied them and stored them for winter. Chestnut wood, which is incredibly rot resistant, was used in barns, homes and fencing, and for railroad ties.

Then along came the chestnut blight, a fungal pathogen accidentally introduced in shipments of young trees from Japan in the early 20th century. The disease swept through the eastern forests, and within 50 years, the pure American chestnut was gone.

Healthy trees, that is. Some trees remain – and even produce nuts – but all are susceptible to the blight, and it’s rare that one would survive for decades like their ancestors once did.

The vast majority of American chestnut sprouts in eastern forests don’t even make it to their first flowering, according to the American Chestnut Foundation.

Scientists are using the trees that do survive in several ways to try to save the species:

Thirteen of the American Chestnut Foundation’s 16 chapters are participating in a hybridization program in which American chestnut trees are crossed with Chinese chestnuts, which are more resistant to the blight.

The most blight-resistant trees that result from that cross are then back-crossed to create a new generation of blight-resistant trees with more American chestnuts characteristics. And so on. Eventually, these hybrid trees are one-sixteenth Chinese chestnut and 15/sixteenths American chestnuts.

If the hybrid tree were a 180-page book, the Chinese chestnut genes would represent 11 pages, according to Bill Powell, a forest biotechnologist at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry and co-director of the American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project.

“We’re now at the point where we have the sixth generation in Maine,” Klak said. “We’re in the process in the next couple of years of selecting what we consider the best 10 percent of the trees that are relatively blight resistant. That’s a major step forward at the state level.” (Maine’s chapter of the ACF was founded in 1999, after locals became concerned that the infamous ice storm of 1998 would speed the demise of the state’s remaining chestnut trees.)

Those 10 percent are chosen both for their looks – their American chestnut characteristics – and level of blight resistance. Researchers in Virginia will then use genetics to further whittle down to the top 1 percent of disease-resistant trees.

Maine has 13 breeding orchards scattered around the state in which fourth-generation hybrids are being used to produce the fifth generation of disease-resistant trees, Klak said. And the state has five seed orchards, where a sixth generation of the most disease-resistant trees yet are growing.

“Maine is like the A student in the American Chestnut Foundation,” Westbrook said. “They are really ahead of the game in terms of planting their seed orchards.”

Six of the disease-resistant hybrids were planted in July at Harbor View Park, part of an “edible hillside” planned by the West End Neighborhood Association.

Scientists at the State University of New York have been working on a transgenic chestnut tree by inserting a wheat gene into the American chestnut genome. The gene detoxifies the fungal blight so it can’t kill the tree. If this tree is declared safe to use by the federal government, it will be up to each state, including Maine, to decide whether or not to propagate and plant it. (See sidebar.)

Scientists are also working with a virus that attacks the fungus and protects the tree. Maine is not involved in this project, but could benefit from it, Klak said, which is “useful to think about because our ultimate solution is very likely to be a blend of these solutions, a combination, a layering of solutions that will be the best protection for the tree.”

Not all states that once had American chestnuts in the wild still have them. But those that do, like Maine, are collecting nuts from these wild trees and growing them in orchards as a way to preserve the local biological diversity.

Klak’s project at the University of New England is partnering with Unity College and the University of Maine-Orono.

Like the other Maine orchards already mentioned, his four additional conservation orchards are scattered around the state.

“We’re totally excited to be able to support the preservation of these trees,” said Jim Rough, owner of Wild Meadow Farm, where the Saco orchard is located. “It’s been a fun project to be a part of.”

The other orchards are in Georgetown; Dover Foxcroft, which is on the northern edge of the American chestnut range in Maine; and Long Island, a 4,800-acre island that is almost entirely protected by Acadia National Park. These orchards are planted with seedlings grown from 15 different source trees, or “mother trees,” from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and even Tennessee and the Carolinas. Maine still has plenty of wild trees, although most are probably dying from the blight, Klak says. But preserving the genetic diversity of the remaining wild trees is important because Maine is on the edge of the chestnut’s range, Westbrook says. There is less blight here than in the south, and some trees are “escapes,” he said. Take, for example, the nation’s tallest known American chestnut, a 115-foot-tall beauty discovered in Lovell two years ago.

“I think that one’s an escape,” Westbrook said. “It hasn’t gotten the blight yet.”‘

Maine trees might also have some important, adaptive diversity for cold tolerance built into them, which the scientists hope to exploit; it’s far easier to do so when the trees are in orchards than when the scientists must trek through forests to study their specimens.

Though Maine’s chestnut trees have less genetic diversity than those in Appalachia, Klak said, “What we do have is a lot of wild trees producing seeds. A lot of other states don’t have that.”


Klak tracks down wild trees in a variety of ways. Last October, for instance, he got a call from a Cumberland farmer, who told Klak that he had trees that had produced a lot of burrs. Klak visited and found “beautiful, old wild trees,” including one that was 60 feet tall.

He was too late to gather more than a handful of seeds, so he plans to go back this fall and harvest a lot more.

Klak also knows the kind of habitat the American chestnut likes, which helps narrow the search.

The trees are found on well-drained, sandy soils, a preference that led Klak to a particular spot in Kennebunk that was basically a big, glacial outwash.

One of Klak’s students is using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map all the trees they’ve found around the state.

Klak usually starts collecting seeds in early October. It’s a race to get to them before the birds and squirrels.

American chestnuts have both male and female reproductive parts, but they still have to be close enough to other trees to produce seeds.

“There’s a lot of what they call isolates in Maine – big, beautiful chestnut trees that are too far away from any other chestnut tree to reproduce,” Klak said.

Once Klak finds seeds, he puts them in moist peat moss in a plastic bag and places them in the refrigerator to simulate winter. Without that exposure to cold, they won’t grow. They sprout in January.

Klak teaches a course on ecological restoration every spring. This year, he used the American chestnut project as a lesson. He had his students pot the sprouted seeds, grow them out, and plant them in the new orchards.

The saplings are now about 2 feet tall.

It will take about five years for these trees to make their own seeds. Even if they get the blight, they will still be able to reproduce.

In a parallel project, scientists in Asheville, North Carolina, are screening for resistance to a second pathogen that affects the roots of the American chestnut.

The pathogen, which has killed trees in the southeast, is spreading north because of climate change, Westbrook said. It is expected to reach New England in the next 80 years. Maine is sending seeds to that project.

Ultimately, Westbrook said, the idea is to cross that research with the transgenic chestnut trees “and combine resistance to two pathogens in a single tree.”

Klak is hopeful that, no matter how long it takes, the American chestnut can be saved, and some day other species in trouble, such as ash and hemlock, too.

“It would be an amazing ecological turnaround,” he said, “and it could be a model for ecological restoration as a whole. We have a lot of trees that are being subjected to different kinds of pathogens. So if we can turn this around for this keystone species, then it could be a model for bringing back healthy forests.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, ME - AUGUST 18: University of New England professor Dr. Thomas Klak stands near one of 100 wild American chestnut trees he has growing in Saco, on Friday, August 18, 2017. The nursury is part of an effort to preserve the bio diversity of the tree specie in Maine.(Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer)Fri, 25 Aug 2017 16:36:47 +0000
Will a genetically modified tree harm the environment? Sun, 27 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 A genetically modified tree doesn’t necessarily come with all the baggage of genetically modified organisms in breakfast cereal.

No single corporation with deep pockets is behind the creation of the new transgenic American chestnut tree, which contains a gene from wheat that makes it resistant to chestnut blight. (The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, which has come under fire for its work with GMOs, is one of many donors to the project, but so are the Camp Fire Fund of America and the Lions Club.)

To begin with, there are no plans for big monocultures of chestnut trees.

And the motive is to save a species.

“We are not patenting the blight resistant American chestnut trees so that once we have regulatory approval, all people will be able to propagate them themselves,” the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project says on its website.

But if the federal government approves the dissemination of the transgenic chestnut tree developed at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, “It will inherit the controversy that is associated with GMO,” says Tom Klak, an environmental studies professor at the University of New England.

Before it can be passed out to the states for propagation and planting, the tree must undergo review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – a process that is expected to take at least two years.

“They have to show that putting this gene in from wheat doesn’t have any unintended consequences,” said Jared Westbrook, director of science at the American Chestnut Foundation. “Namely, does it affect the growth of the tree? Does it affect pollinators? Does it affect any of the beneficial fungi, like the fungi that colonize the roots and help them take up nutrients?”

Westbrook said that even within his organization’s own ranks, there’s concern that the genetically modified tree may be seen as an ecological magic bullet.

Scientists worry that the fungus that causes chestnut blight could evolve and one day overcome the tree’s disease resistance.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 24 Aug 2017 18:30:37 +0000
At long last, a peach of a harvest for growers in Maine Wed, 23 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 That groaning you hear is the sound of a peach tree leaning over in a local orchard, its fruit-laden limbs about to snap under the weight of this year’s crop.

Peaches are hard to grow in Maine, and crops the past couple of years have been so dismal that growers could practically count on one hand the number of peaches they got, if any.

But this year’s harvest is peaking now, and “it’s a major bumper crop,” said Guy Paulin, owner of Brackett’s Orchards in Limington, where he tends to 150 trees.

“The trees are really loaded, and it’s been kind of dry, so the peaches are a little bit smaller than usual,” he said. “But we’re lucky to have peaches at all, because most years we’re too far north, and we just don’t get the production we should.”

Paulin and other growers say this is the biggest peach harvest they’ve ever had, even after thinning the trees regularly to give the fruit room to grow and keep branches from breaking.

“We should have thinned more,” said Ann Stevens, who has been growing peaches with her husband, Howard, for 30 years at Foxes Ridge Farm in Acton. “We’ve got a lot of peaches.”

Last week, a little overwhelmed, the Stevenses opened their orchards to pick-your-own visitors for the first time ever so their fruit could be harvested and eaten before it rots.

At Libby & Son U-Picks in Limerick, “We actually already had our best year ever on peaches, and we’re not even halfway through them,” said Aaron Libby, one of the owners.

He credits the months of January and February, which were “really perfect for fruit growing.”

Renae Moran, a fruit tree specialist at the University of Maine, backs that up.

“It was a good winter for peaches because we didn’t have a week of temperatures in the 70s,” she said. “That’s what undoes peaches. It tells them that springtime is here, and they start growing too soon. Then we get another deep freeze and it kills the flower buds.”

Stevens said peach trees produce blossoms about an inch to inch-and-a-half apart, “and this year I think every blossom set a peach.”


Peach orchards are more common, and larger, in the southern part of the state because of the fruit’s sensitivity to cold. The northernmost peach trees in Maine are grown in Enfield, about 40 miles north of Bangor, Moran said. Across the state, so few peaches are grown here that no one keeps statistics on the size of the crop.

Last year, commercial growers in southern New England saw their flower buds wiped out by a deep freeze in February that they labeled “the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.”

Art Kelly, owner of Kelly Orchards in Acton, harvested just a dozen peaches last year off his 3½ acres of peach trees. This year, “we’re kind of struggling to keep up with the picking, to tell you the truth.”

In Maine, peaches do better when they are grown on warmer hilltops where colder air drains into the valleys below. Joel Gilbert, owner of Berry Fruit Farm in Livermore, has hilltop trees, and this year the crop is “the best I’ve ever had, absolutely, and the quality is just fantastic.” He’s had to hire help to thin the fruit so it won’t be too small.

Backyard orchardists also are having a bountiful year. Jesse McAvoy of Westbrook, who has planted 90 percent of his half-acre homestead into food crops, saw his first peach tree bear fruit for the first time this summer.

“We ended up, shockingly, with about 36 pounds,” he said. “They’re not huge peaches, so there was a lot of them.”

McAvoy made nine half-pints of salted brown sugar peach jam and froze the rest of the fruit for use in smoothies or more jam.

“I couldn’t believe how juicy they were,” he said.


Peaches may be scarcer in Maine than in other parts of the country, but for the Maine eater, they have the advantage of not being picked too early, only to sit – hard as a rock – on a delivery truck for days until they reach a grocery store.

“A tree-ripened peach is supposed to be soft,” Gilbert said, “and the juice runs down your face and your arms when you eat it.”

Kelly said he generally picks his peaches just a day or two before he knows they will be eaten. The timing is delicate.

“I’m out there every day biting peaches and squeezing peaches and looking at the color,” he said.

Portland restaurants are benefiting from this year’s bounty. Scales, on the city’s waterfront, is making peach butter and putting the fruit into galettes. At Central Provisions on Fore Street, roasted local peaches are being served on a thyme biscuit with sweet corn ice cream. Union, the restaurant in the Press Hotel, is offering a summer peach and roasted jalapeño gazpacho.

Peach growers prefer simpler preparations.

“I was thinking today a peach pie would be nice,” Paulin said.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, ME - AUGUST 22: Coralstar peaches at Libby & Son U-Picks farm in Limerick. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 18:31:01 +0000
Warming ocean taking a toll on Gulf of Maine’s kelp forests Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:05:06 +0000 APPLEDORE ISLAND – When diving in the Gulf of Maine a few years back, Jennifer Dijkstra expected to be swimming through a flowing kelp forest that had long served as a nursery and food for juvenile fish and lobster.

But Dijkstra, a University of New Hampshire marine biologist, saw only a patchy seafloor before her. The sugar kelp had declined dramatically and been replaced by invasive, shrub-like seaweed that looked like a giant shag rug.

“I remember going to some dive sites and honestly being shocked at how few kelp blades we saw,” she said.

The Gulf of Maine, stretching from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, is the latest in a growing list of global hotspots losing their kelp, including hundreds of miles in the Mediterranean Sea, off southern Japan and Australia, and parts of the California coast.

Among the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, kelp forests are found on all continental coastlines except for Antarctica and provide critical food and shelter to myriad fish and other creatures. Kelp also is critical to coastal economies, providing billions of dollars in tourism and fishing.

The likely culprit for the loss of kelp, according to several scientific studies, is warming oceans from climate change, coupled with the arrival of invasive species. In Maine, the invaders are other seaweeds. In Australia, the Mediterranean and Japan, tropical fish are feasting on the kelp.

Most kelp are replaced by small, tightly packed, bushy seaweeds that collect sediment and prevent kelp from growing back, said the University of Western Australia’s Thomas Wernberg.

“Collectively these changes are part of a recent and increasing global trend of flattening of the world’s kelp forests,” said Wernberg, co-author of a 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that 38 percent of kelp forest declined over the past 50 years in regions that had data.

Kelp losses on Australia’s Great Southern Reef threaten tourism and fishing industries worth $10 billion. Die-offs contributed to a 60 percent drop in species richness in the Mediterranean and were blamed for the collapse of the abalone fishery in Japan.

“You are losing habitat. You are losing food. You are losing shoreline protection,” said University of Massachusetts Boston’s Jarrett Byrnes, who leads a working group on kelp and climate change. “They provide real value to humans.”

The Pacific Coast from northern California to the Oregon border is one place that suffered dramatic kelp loss, according to Cynthia Catton, a research associate at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Since 2014, aerial surveys have shown that bull kelp declined by over 90 percent, something Catton blamed on a marine heat wave along with a rapid increase in kelp-eating sea urchins.

Without the kelp to eat, Northern California’s abalone fishery has been harmed.

“It’s pretty devastating to the ecosystem as a whole,” Catton said. “It’s like a redwood forest that has been completely clear-cut. If you lose the trees, you don’t have a forest.”

Kelp is incredibly resilient and has been known to bounce back from storms and heat waves.

But in Maine, it has struggled to recover following an explosion of voracious sea urchins in the 1980s that wiped out many kelp beds. Now, it must survive in waters that are warming faster than the vast majority of the world’s oceans – most likely forcing kelp to migrate northward or into deeper waters.

“What the future holds is more complicated,” Byrnes said. “If the Gulf of Maine warms sufficiently, we know kelp will have a hard time holding on.”

On their dives around Maine’s Appledore Island, a craggy island off New Hampshire that’s home to nesting seagulls, Dijkstra and colleague Larry Harris have witnessed dramatic changes.

Their study, published by the Journal of Ecology in April, examined photos of seaweed populations and dive logs going back 30 years in the Gulf of Maine. They found introduced species from as far away as Asia, such as the filamentous red seaweed, had increased by as much 90 percent and were covering 50 to 90 percent of the gulf’s seafloor.

They are seeing far fewer ocean pout, wolf eel and pollock that once were commonplace in these kelp beds. But they also are finding that the half-dozen invasive seaweeds replacing kelp are harboring up to three times more tiny shrimp, snails and other invertebrates.

“We’re not really sure how this new seascape will affect higher species in the food web, especially commercially important ones like fish, crabs and lobster,” said Dijkstra, following a dive in which bags of invasive seaweed were collected and the invertebrates painstakingly counted. “What we do think is that fish are using these seascapes differently.”

]]> 0 shows a sample of a red shrub-like seaweed collected in the waters off Appledore Island. Kelp forests are critical to the fishing industry but are disappearing around the world.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:51:52 +0000
How-to: Braid garlic for storage or decoration Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:29 +0000 Use the garlic from your garden to make a garlic braid – don’t cut off the stems when you harvest it. Soft-neck garlic is better: its thinner, more flexible stalks are easier to work with. If the garlic is too fresh, it will develop mold.

When you braid, the stems should be half brown but still pliable. You’ll need eight to 10 heads of garlic, natural jute or raffia, and a flat surface to work on. If you’ve ever made a French braid, you can braid garlic.

Begin the braid

Lay out three bulbs with the stalks facing toward you.

Add to the braid

Add a fourth bulb to the center and merge with bulb A.


Incorporate the remaining bulbs

Add another bulb on each side, merging the bulb on the right with B and the bulb on the left with C. Repeat until you’ve used up the garlic heads.


Braid and tie

After you add the last garlic head, continue braiding the three streams of stalks until you have about 5 inches of thick braid below the last bulb. Tie the braid off with jute or raffia. Hang it in a cool, dark place. Braided garlic is attractive, handy and tasty.

Source: Lee Valley Tools, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

]]> 0, 18 Aug 2017 13:47:42 +0000
Maine fishermen, scientists combine forces with goal to save shrimp fishery Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 For more than 20 years, Dana Hammond made close to half his annual income shrimping. But his shrimping profits began to dwindle in 2013. That season, regulators were alarmed by the lack of shrimp biomass in the Gulf of Maine, and the amount he was allowed to catch was cut 72 percent. The fishery was closed entirely in 2014. It hasn’t reopened since and Hammond, who fishes out of Portland on his boat the Nicole Leigh, has been trying to make up the deficit from his other main source of income, groundfishing.

But Hammond isn’t ready to let shrimping go. It’s an ideal winter fishery for him, allowing him to stay close to shore during rough and cold weather. He’s so vested in the future of the fishery that this summer he went to sea with the Northeast Fisheries scientists who conduct the annual summer survey, the main source of data that determines the status of the fishery every year.

“I didn’t get paid,” Hammond said. “I went anyway because I want to make sure they are doing stuff right.”

Hammond’s goal is to help the scientists be better fishermen – the more they catch, the more likely it is his fishery will reopen. Or better put, the more shrimp the survey finds, the better chance it is that there will be another season for Maine shrimpers. The survey concluded earlier in August and though its findings won’t be available until late October, it is the key to determining whether Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will decide at its meeting in early to mid-December whether to reopen the fishery for the tiny Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) in 2018.

In the event that the fishery does reopen, it will likely follow different rules. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has, with the cooperation and input of local fishermen, developed a new Fisheries Management Plan, updated in consideration of the recent problems in the shrimp fishery. That plan, known as Amendment 3 will be finalized at a meeting in Portland on Aug. 31.

Typically, putting the regulatory side of a fishery in contact with those who do the fishing entails some tension, distrust even, the kind that can make for a combative relationship. The people who make their living on the water don’t want to be told what to do and how to do it, especially not by people who came up in the world of petri dishes and test tubes, not traps and trawls.

But as the Northern shrimp fishery faces the most extreme challenge in a history that spans nearly a century, the relationship between shrimpers and scientists has become, cautiously, more collaborative. The more so the better, from the perspective of fisheries biologist Peter Chase, who oversees the annual survey for the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Science Center. He’s used to getting a lot of questions about the survey as soon as he comes ashore in summer – starting with, “did you see a lot of shrimp?” Moreover, he understands the frustrations of the fishermen. Some of them “have been vocal about complaining about our survey,” he said. “Others have been really helpful.” Like Hammond.

“It shouldn’t be an us-versus-them thing here,” Chase said. “I don’t want to put anyone out of business.”

“We want to be in this together,” he added. “This is research that I am hoping will show that the resource is coming back.”


Every summer, the Gloria Michelle and a crew of about 10, led by Chase, traverse the Gulf of Maine. It makes research hauls at 84 points across the Gulf, most randomly selected by computer, and the team of scientists aboard count, measure and assess every shrimp (and any other fish) that comes up in its nets. That’s the survey regulators rely on most, but there two other sources of data. The states of Maine and New Hampshire use a fishing boat, the Robert Michael, for an annual spring and fall groundfish survey that includes shrimp, focusing on the state’s inshore waters where shrimpers typically make their catches. A third survey, in the Gulf of Maine in the fall, is conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

None of these are fishing trips, said Maggie Hunter, a biologist with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources who has worked extensively with the shrimp fishery, and the distinction can be puzzling to some fishermen.

“We aren’t out there trying to find the most shrimp,” Hunter said. “It is a completely different mindset from what a fishermen might do. When we show them on a map where we’re going, they are going to say, ‘You’re not going to find shrimp there.’ ”

After four years of crewing on the Robert Michael for research trips, Hammond understands the shift in mindset. But he wants to bring his fisherman’s expertise to the vessels. Recently he has served as a consultant on the “doors” that spread the net open when the Gloria Michelle trawls. The old ones are of such a vintage model that they pre-dated his 25 years in the business.

“I haven’t ever seen any like that since I have been fishing,” Hammond said.

The Gloria Michelle, built in 1974 to be a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico, came into the possession of NOAA’s Fisheries Service after it was seized in a drug bust. It was a free boat, but it came with old equipment.

Dana Hammond has had to rely on groundfishing since the shrimp fishery crashed and was closed entirely in 2014. But shrimping is an ideal winter activity for him, since it allows him to stay close to shore during cold or rough weather. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“The industry never liked our doors,” Chase said ruefully. The scientific crew isn’t wild about the 1970s-style technology either. They’re too big to get over the rails easily (or as safely as the crew would like) and sometimes get mired in the mud at the bottom while trawling, Chase said, noting that “trawl door technology has come a long way.”

How well the doors work affects the catch. If they don’t spread properly, less comes in on a haul, and that’s what Hammond worries about (although Chase said the old doors did a fine job of spreading the net).

“I just got tired of the data being wrong over time,” Hammond said.

It’s not that he thinks the scientists are bungling anything deliberately. But he views gear with a different eye. This June, when Hammond joined the crew of the Gloria Michelle, he helped the scientists adjust to the new equipment he’d suggested (it’s the same he has on his own boat). He also cast a critical eye over the rest of the boat and did some tinkering.

“There were simple things that I fixed in the three days that I was on board that any normal fisherman would have fixed right away,” Hammond said. “Just simple things on the boat, safety-wise, that a fisherman would know how to do.”

“I’m not throwing the scientists under the bus,” he added. But they aren’t fishermen, Hammond said, and as such, they move at a pace he sometimes finds frustrating. Still, he’ll keep chipping in to help them with their work. “I would rather just go fishing,” Hammond said. “But if somebody doesn’t change something, there is going to be none of us shrimpers left.”


The East Coast Northern shrimp fishery can be traced back to the late 1920s. According to a 1952 assessment of the then young fishery, in the 1920s draggers out of Gloucester would bring in small numbers of the shrimp when they were groundfishing. Sometimes they’d sell the tiny pink shrimp on the Boston market, although most were consumed by the fishermen. Then General Seafoods Corporation started investigating the potential for a commercial fishery; southern shrimp were already wildly popular in the United States. The company sent out draggers in the summer of 1927, landing as much as 3,000 pounds a day from the region east of Jeffrey’s Ledge.

Roger Collard unloads totes of shrimp from the hold of the Theresa Irene III after the boat tied up to the pier at Camp Ellis in Saco in January 2006. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

But that was the extent of the company’s experiment. Then in 1936, a Norwegian who had helped establish his country’s shrimp fishery teamed up with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to study the Gulf of Maine potential for shrimp. In the summer months, the shrimp were offshore, but during the winter, they moved into more shallow coastal waters, where fisherman from Pemaquid Point down to Gloucester were able to pull in 30 pounds an hour.

By 1938, 13 boats were dragging for shrimp in the Gulf of Maine, and getting 7.5 cents a pound for them. The catches were uneven and the market uncertain; the American public was more familiar with and interested in southern shrimp. By 1942 a cannery in Friendship was processing shrimp and in 1945 the shrimp fleet had increased to 31 boats. But in subsequent years, the catch continued to fluctuate and it wasn’t until the 1950s that the fishery took off. In 1969 shrimp landings were up to a record 24 million pounds.

The state of Maine began surveying the fishery in the 1960s, although on a much more limited basis than today’s surveys, according to Maggie Hunter. “At most, they did about 20 stations,” Hunter said.

In 1978, regulators shut the shrimp fishery down for the first time after a drastic reduction in biomass. “The stock recovered pretty quickly,” Hunter said. In 2002 regulators allowed only a very short season, just 25 days, Hunter said. But again, the stock rebounded, with successful spawning seasons. In 2010, the catch was over 12 million pounds, the highest it had been in over 30 years.

But just two years later, shrimpers caught one-third that amount, and the sharp decline in the biomass led to the current closure. The main difference in this unprecedented stretch of closures is that it corresponds with increasingly warm waters in the Gulf of Maine, which researchers attribute to climate change.


Why does that matter for Northern shrimp? For starters, they like cold water, so much so that the Gulf of Maine represents their southernmost habitat.

Shrimp have a life span of about five years. They start their lives as male and transition to female when they’re about 3. They spawn in late summer and females move into inshore waters with their eggs as winter nears. The eggs hatch and feed inshore. But recruitment, i.e. the abundance and survival of that spawn, has been at historical lows for the period between 2010 and 2015. It could be timing, with the eggs hatching in January or even earlier because the water is warmer than usual, but before the longer days of sunlight in February help the algae they feed on reach the level of growth the shrimp need – an already narrow window of opportunity grown narrower.

The Gloria Michelle, used to assess the shrimp fishery. Hammond recommended new gear to help the scientists in their work – the Gloria Michelle was built in 1974. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Hunter said the shrimp born in 2015 is below average, but still the best anyone has seen since 2009. Those shrimp are still too small to catch, however, and what’s harvestable now is almost entirely the shrimp born in 2013.

That 2013 year class of shrimp began spawning early, Hunter said, at two, and “quite a few of them” at age 3 rather than 4, the usual age to spawn. “So they are really working hard to do their part,” she said. Problematically, 2018 will mark the end of most of their life spans.

If you’ve eaten Maine shrimp in the last couple of years, you’ve most likely been eating shrimp from that year class – and paid a lot for it. Cooked and processed, a pound of shrimp is going for $25 at some fish stores, like Cantrell’s in Topsham.


Given that the shrimp fishery is closed, where is that shrimp coming from?

In the last three years, regulators have allowed a small number of trawlers and trappers (who use traps that are very similar to lobster traps) to go out for limited hauls. The Maine shrimpers turn over data and some specimens to the Department of Marine Resources, but are allowed to sell the rest. In New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where traditionally about 10 percent of the total catch of Northern shrimp is made, a few vessels have also been cleared for research catches.

Hunter is still finalizing the report, which will be presented at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section meeting on Aug. 31. But her preliminary findings for 2017 were that some of the fishermen assigned to the research catch came up short of getting the full catch they’d been alloted, landing about 33 tons when they would have been allowed to take 53 tons.

The Massachusetts shrimpers averaged 300 pounds a day, a quarter of the amount they were allowed to catch, and New Hampshire shrimpers landed closer to 200 pounds. Maine shrimpers fared better.

“The guys in western and midcoast Maine got their limit more often than not,” Hunter said.

At the docks, they were rewarded with steep wholesale prices, up to $7 a pound (perspective: shrimp fetched 13 cents a pound in 1980).

In some cases, the shrimpers may have been foiled by finding their usual fishing grounds filled up with lobster gear; with the shrimp season closed, the lobstermen wouldn’t be expecting them. Or maybe some of the shrimp had moved offshore sooner than usual, driven away by higher water temperatures.

“There is no question that the shrimp is really at a low spot,” said Arnie Gammage, a longtime shrimp trapper out of South Bristol and a member of the Northern Shrimp Advisory panel working with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on a new management plan for the fishery, assuming, that is, that it will reopen.

“Some people don’t agree with the numbers from the summer survey,” Gammage said. “But it always seems to reflect what we see.”


Gammage knows there’s a lot of pressure to reopen the shrimp fishery this winter. But he doesn’t think it should be rushed.

“If the numbers aren’t any better, I don’t know how they can justify having a season,” Gammage said. “We really can’t afford to kill any shrimp that has got spawn on it.”

He’s 64 and says he probably won’t go shrimping again. But he’d like his sons and grandsons to be able to. “I just think we need to take every step possible to try to bring this fishery back. I don’t want to see it open, just out of greed for people to make a little money in one year. That’s my opinion and nobody else’s opinion.”

But Hammond fears the fishery is in danger of being forgotten, by distributors, by customers and by fishermen.

“We all want a sustainable fishery, but you’ve got to let us go. We are going to lose all our markets if we just keep it closed,” he said.

Hammond took part in the 2016 research catch and said he easily made his quota. “In my opinion, there is enough shrimp that the season should be open,” he said. But not full-scale, he said. “Maybe ease into it.”

The closures have made him confident the lack of shrimp is not the fault of fishermen. “In four years of being closed, if it hasn’t changed, then it isn’t overfishing,” Hammond said.

Peter Chase doesn’t disagree. In the 12 years he has been running the survey for the Northeastern Fisheries Sector, he’s witnessed the numbers drop radically. “We had periods where when we got into shrimp, we would get 8 to 10 baskets (a bushel) in a 15-minute tow,” Chase said. Now, he said, “If we got a full basket of shrimp, we would be like, ‘That’s a big tow!’ ”

“I think the general consensus now is that the issues with the shrimp is that this isn’t an overfishing situation,” Chase said. “This is, I think, more related to changing environment and warming waters.”

Whether the Maine shrimp survives, let alone rebounds, may then be out of mankind’s hands. Either way, they’re already missed.

“They are probably my favorite seafood,” Arnie Gammage said. “That is all I ever ate when I went out to a restaurant. I just never got sick of them. Now I am sick because I can’t get them.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0 shrimper Dana Hammond worked with scientists this summer to collect data on the fishery. The findings, which will be available in late October, will help determine if the shrimp fishery will reopen in 2018.Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:46:30 +0000
There’s no need to throw away potato skin peelings Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Aspiring chefs are taught to expect an 80 percent yield on every potato they peel. The lesson speaks to portioning and price control. If you know you’re going to lose 20 cents on every dollar you spend on spuds once you remove their skins, you can determine how big a dollop of monochromatic mashed potatoes to put on the plate while keeping food costs in check.

Modern nutritionists, too, have weighed in on what gets lost when a potato is peeled, a practice that was mainstreamed into America kitchens as pesticide use increased and logic dictated that cutting off the skin would cut down on eaters’ exposure. Using several online nutrition calculators, I surmised that the flesh of a small baked potato provides 113 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, 26 grams of carbohydrates and good amounts of vitamins C and B-6, niacin and thiamine. But for another 15 calories, the skin serves up an extra gram of protein and 3 more grams of carbohydrates and boosts iron and potassium levels by 70 and 35 percent, respectively.

But who’s calculating the environmental costs of wasting one-fifth of every potato consumed in the United States? Who’s adding up the water and energy expended to grow this wasted food?

Per capita consumption of processed potatoes – French fries, crispy chips, frozen products and dehydrated flakes – stands at 78 pounds per year. Commercial processors are adept at generating revenue from this potential waste product. They extract the starch for use inside and outside the food industry and offload peels to farmers for animal feed or to be re-use as seed tubers to start next season’s potato crop.

But the average American also consumes 33 pounds of fresh potatoes annually. Shaving off 20 percent of that weight amounts to over 6 pounds of perfectly edible, nutritious food per person. In Maine, home cooks could make a dent the 8.8 million pounds of potato peel that stands to be wasted here in the next 12 months by knowing when and how to prepare and serve their peels.

Bacon fat enriches the skins. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Firstly, go local for sure, and organic whenever possible to avoid eating pesticides that potatoes soak up from the soil. According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, 36 different pesticides have been found in conventionally grown potatoes. Higher concentrations are located in the skins than are found in the flesh. The Maine Potato Board says that since Maine’s winters are longer and colder than in many other areas of the country, fewer potato pests thrive here. As a result, Maine potato growers use just one tenth of the active ingredient pesticides averaged nationally. So eating conventionally grown Maine potato peels is less risky than eating their counterparts in Idaho, Oregon or Washington. But there is no shortage of certified organic Maine farmers who grow potatoes (142 farms, according to MOFGA, to be exact), most of whom sell direct to consumers through farmers markets, CSA shares and farm stands.

Secondly, learn when you can buck the peeling habit and cook potatoes with the skins intact. New potatoes and fingerlings in the market now should be boiled, steamed and roasted in their entirety. They require nothing but a gentle wash to remove any dirt. A good scrubbing would needlessly wash away the tender, sweet skin.

No need to throw away potato skin peelings. They can be made made into sweet and spicy potato skin chips. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Thirdly, minimize the need to peel fall potatoes at any time of year by choosing wisely and storing properly. Like most fruit and vegetables, potatoes will tell you when they are in good shape: they should be firm and smooth, with dry skin and shallow eyes, and without sprouts, cracks, blemishes or green tinge. The last signals the presence of solanine, a compound that tastes bitter and is toxic in large quantities; any green bits should be shaved off and discarded.

Store potatoes in a dry, dark place, ideally between 55 and 60 degrees. Never refrigerate them, which accelerates the vegetable’s conversion of starch to sugar – which you don’t want.

Lastly, fine-tune your cooking rituals and your palate to know when it’s time ditch the peeling process. Virtually any potato preparation can accommodate skin.

To boil or steam potatoes whole, use a sharp knife to make a slit in the skin to avoid it splitting unattractively in multiple places as the potato expands during cooking. Disregard any recipe instruction to peel potatoes before chopping and roasting or shredding and frying as the skins add flavor and texture to those treatments, both good things to have in any potato dish. For mashed, push the boiled, skin-on spuds through a ricer before stirring in butter or sour cream and seasoning. The finished dish will be pretty smooth, but if brown skin bits turn out to be aesthetically unpleasing, next time, peel the potatoes and toss the peels with some recycled bacon fat to make these chips, a tastier prospect than letting them rot on the compost pile.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a new cookbook from Islandport Press based on these columns. She can be contacted at:


Brown sugar and spices, including smoked paprika, cayenne and thyme, are sprinkled on potato peels to make sweet and spicy potato skin chips. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh


This recipe is adapted from one published in Tara Duggan’s Root to Stalk Cooking. I like to use a paring knife instead of a vegetable peeler to remove the skins from potatoes destined for my daughter’s favorite creamy white mashed potatoes (they just wouldn’t be her favorites if I left on the skins). The paring knife gives these chips a bit more heft and me a little more leeway as to how long they can sit in the oven before burning to a crisp. If you need some time between the peeling and the making of these chips, place the peels in a bowl and cover them with water to prevent browning for up to a day. When you’re ready to bake the chips, drain the peels and squeeze them dry in a dish towel.

Serves 4

Peels from 4 medium russet potatoes
2 tablespoons warm rendered bacon fat (or olive oil)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Place a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven; preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a serving plate with piece of recycled paper bag.

Place the peels in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the bacon fat (or olive oil) over them and toss to coat.

Combine the sugar, salt, paprika, cayenne and thyme in a small bowl. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the peels and toss to coat. Spread the peelings on the hot baking sheet in a single layer, skin side down. Sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture; roast for about 12 minutes, until the skins start to crisp and brown. Use a spatula to stir them around to promote even crisping, then roast for 3 to 6 minutes more.

Transfer to the paper bag lined plate. Serve immediately.

]]> 0, 18 Aug 2017 10:54:21 +0000
Shrink wrap may protect Maine boats, but it can harm the environment Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Before long, the recreational boating season will draw to a close and owners will batten down their craft for the winter. Many will choose the low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic better known as shrink-wrap. It works well to protect boats from the elements, but comes at a high price – both financial and environmental. The boat owner pays the former fee; we all pay the latter.

“Disposal is problematic to say the least,” acknowledges Susan Swanton, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association. Every spring, boat yards and boat owners pull tons of this plastic off watercraft, and most of it goes to landfills or incinerators.

No one has tabulated how much boat shrink-wrap gets discarded each year. But most boats require at least 15 pounds of wrap, and Maine has more than 100,000 registered so it’s a large volume of waste.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is exploring ways to address this challenge, but DEP Environmental Specialist Elena Bertocci says there are no formal rules regarding boat wrap and no available funding. The state legislature recently created a Maine Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program to help municipalities redirect more materials into recycling, but did not allocate funds to it in the current biennial budget.

LDPE (No. 4) plastic can be recycled, typically into items such as composite lumber or plastic bags. Recycling shrink-wrap from boats, though, is complicated and labor-intensive; in Swanton’s words, “it’s a real challenge.” Ben Holloway, of Coastal Boatworks in Newcastle, concurs – having worked to separate the wrap for recycling since 1996 when his yard first began using it.

The plastic wrap can never touch the ground when coming off the boat, he explains, and must have all straps, vents and doors removed. It’s hard to bundle by hand so an on-site baler may be needed. The LDPE market can get glutted in spring, Holloway says, so to get any return on the plastic, his yard tries to store enough for a trailer load (40,000 pounds), but that can take several years.

Coastal Boatworks and Maine Mobile Shrinkwrap collect the most boat shrink-wrap for recycling, each in the neighborhood of 7 tons per year, according to Bertocci. Typically, they sell it to Casella Waste Systems in Scarborough.

Holloway gets little monetary return from recycling the shrink-wrap and says he keeps at it year after year because “it’s the right thing to do.” Other yard owners would participate as well, he adds, but the state “is not helping out with grants, tax breaks [or] incentives.”

The DEP is starting a pilot project at the Belgrade Transfer Station encouraging boatyards to bring clean shrink-wrap there for recycling. The site will also gather LDPE from a local lumber company and other businesses that receive pallets covered in plastic. It will be a test case, Bertocci says, to see whether this can “be done in an economically feasible manner without grants.”

In the waste management hierarchy, source reduction and reuse comes before recycling. Many boatowners avoid shrink-wrap by using polyethylene or canvas tarps, which typically last for several seasons (and often can be reused later for other purposes). Some boatyards are returning to tarps as well, Swanton says, which work well as long as people tie them securely.

A small percentage of Maine’s cast-aside shrink-wrap finds its way to a second life half a world away. Alison McKellar, an enterprising community volunteer in Camden, collects clean and dry shrink wrap and sends it – along with medical supplies and other donations – to NuDay Syria, a New Hampshire group that ships materials to Syria where the shrink wrap is used for impromptu shelters and supplemental cover.

McKellar faces the same challenges as boat yards interested in recycling – training people to keep the wrap clean and dry and finding adequate storage space. Wet shrink wrap can ruin other humanitarian supplies in shipping so she often has to go to extra lengths to dry out the used wrap. “People love the idea,” she says, “but it’s difficult.”

McKellar would like to see a ban on disposing of boat shrink wrap in the waste stream, a move that could create more financial incentives for reuse and recycling. However, a disposal ban might also prompt a spike in roadside dumping.

Another approach would be to legislate an upfront “product stewardship” deposit that helps to address the full cost of this plastic over its life cycle. Maine requires a similar deposit for paint (to cover the recycling cost of unused paint) and recently came close to adopting a deposit for mattresses.

Product stewardship legislation helps taxpayers by shifting recycling costs from municipalities to the consumers who directly benefit from the product. A modest added deposit fee might not be too onerous for boat owners, given that they already pay upwards of $10 per linear foot for shrink wrapping.

If Maine legislators want to encourage greater reuse and recycling of boat shrink wrap, they could direct the Maine DEP to set up a system and determine a fair means of funding it. There’s a dire need for innovation and support – so that all boatyards and boat owners can do the right thing.

Marina Schauffler provides research, writing and editing services to nonprofit and social enterprise organizations through Natural Choices (

]]> 0, 18 Aug 2017 11:01:22 +0000
Dishing with food scientist Mary Ellen Camire Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Mary Ellen Camire is professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine. She’s also the director of the University of Maine Sensory Evaluation Center, where much of her research focuses on how consumers respond to Maine-specific commodities, like seaweed, potatoes, berries and grains. We talked with her about her background in nutrition, why where you eat matters when you are taste testing and how the lab works with new local foods.

TEXAS TIME: Camire studied biology as an undergraduate at Harvard and she met a professor there, famed nutritionist Jean Mayer, who inspired her to go on to get an advanced degree in nutrition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “Then I married a food scientist, and he worked for Frito-Lay (in Texas), and they asked me to help with some food testing.” She started with orange juice and experimented with mixers for things like Baccardi drinks. “You wouldn’t want to launch a product and then find out it gives people a bellyache.” While in Texas, she got a Ph.D. in nutrition science from Texas Women’s University. Her dissertation research involved high-protein, high-fiber Cheerios. “I still haven’t seen that in the store yet.”

MAINE MOVE: She applied for the job at the University of Maine in the late 1980s, joining the university’s lab in 1989. At that point, the university had already been doing sensory evaluations since the 1930s. “We’re really the only lab of this kind in New England. Cornell is the closest.” Does she work only on foods that are produced in Maine? “Occasionally, we work with products that aren’t from Maine, but absolutely, our research focus is on crops and products from Maine.”

ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO: One of the very first jobs she worked on at the lab was trying to figure out what to do with the waste from processing potatoes into chips and fries. “We were doing sustainability before it was even trendy.”

WHAT ELSE? They’ve experimented with the invasive green crabs – everyone wants to find a way to eat them – and wild blueberries. One of their missions it to figure out what to do with the culled blueberries from processing (you know, the red and green ones that get raked along with the ripe berries). “Some are going to compost, but we were trying to find value-added ways to use them as ingredients.” Like extracting the pectin and finding ways to get the nutritional parts of the berries into say, dog food. Often the lab will work with companies that have landed a USDA grant. “We will provide the consumer testing for them so they will know if their concept is on target.”

TOP SECRET CHEF: The lab has done some tinkering and tasting with a soy drink involving wild blueberries. Yum, where can we get that? With this particular concoction, apparently, nowhere commercially, yet, although that thesis was completed in 2004. “The timing on these things is really funny. Ideas come up, and 20 years later, they come to fruition.” Or sometimes, the lab doesn’t know where or what happens to their results, because many companies don’t want their research shared, so “it’s hard to track how our information gets used.”

BIG GREEN: “We’re doing a lot with seaweed because the industry is really taking off. Most of the new companies don’t have a food scientist on staff.” Her students have been helping Ocean’s Balance with a kelp bar, a particularly hot item right now (like a protein bar, but kelp-based). “There are about four companies trying to do that.” Ocean’s Balance recently brought a kelp puree onto the market (it’s available at the Portland Food Co-Op and Harbor Fish, among other local outlets) and Camire thinks purees are winners, especially for those who balk at the taste of seaweed. “It doesn’t taste fishy.” Other seaweed products that might be coming through the lab include a seaweed broth. “That will certainly make the vegans happy.”

ON THE ROAD: The lab is in Orono, but often they’ll hold sensory evaluations in other locations, like say, Belfast or Portland. The lab isn’t an ideal setting to see how a new food goes over, Camire said. “Because that is not necessarily how people eat. And we want to see how a person would enjoy the food. Like if we were testing lobster rolls, we might want to take it to a beach. That is a big area in sensory science, understanding the role of emotion and context in how people select foods.”

REWARDS PROGRAM: Camire loves seeing her food science students go on to success. Which she says more often than not involves working on the corporate side of things. Three of her former students have gone on to be vice presidents of food companies (none in state). As she herself has aged, she’s gotten more interested in working with older populations, specifically in trying to find ways to make important nutritional products, like whole grains, more palatable for a generation that isn’t necessarily accustomed to buying bulgur wheat. “I like working with older people. I am getting there myself.”

THE NUTRITIONIST’S DIET: How does Camire herself do in terms of healthy eating? “I am a big advocate for eating different, varied foods. I don’t necessarily eat bread every day. Right now? A lot of greens, including bok choy, My partner planted two whole packages of pea pods so we are eating a lot of stir fries.” And her side gig helps with health too: “I am licensed as a Zumba instructor.” Sometimes, she says, “I wonder why I am working seven days a week. But I don’t get bored.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0, 18 Aug 2017 10:56:05 +0000
Here’s what you can do to deal with the drought Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 This summer’s drought – the second straight year coastal Maine has dealt with a shortage of rain – snuck up on us.

We started the year with a plentiful snowpack, rain was above normal in April and May and about normal in June.

“People were complaining about it being too wet to get on the fields to plant crops and cut hay,” said Glen Koehler, a fruit-tree specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Orono.

In late June, it stopped raining along the coast – although weather forecasters kept predicting thunder showers. Those showers provided some heavy rain for the inland mountains and foothills but dried up before hitting the coast.

Now some statistics: As of August 15, Portland’s rainfall deficit is approaching 5 inches. It’s just an inch or so over the all-time driest June 1 to August 15 on record, according to meteorologist Dave Epstein. As he wrote recently in the Press Herald, “it’s dry out there.”

There was nothing sneaky at all about the drought of 2016. It started with a meager snowpack and continued with rain much below normal through the growing season until some fall rains provided relief for the aquifers and wells before winter set in. Trees and other plants that couldn’t be irrigated turned brown.

Another factor has tempered the severity of this year’s drought, as Koehler explained. “The temperature this year been a little below average,” he said, “and moisture stress is highly affected by higher temperatures.”

In 2016, temperatures were warmer than average.

Dry leaves on a nannyberry tree in Saco on Tuesday. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

OK, so we’re not as bad off as last summer, but that’s not to say we’re home free.

“As far as wild plants go,” said Bill Cullina, president and chief executive officer of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, “two years of drought is especially hard on trees and creates stress that makes them more vulnerable to disease and cold damage.”

Cullina added that while the early-season rain this year was a benefit overall, it has a downside: The foliage on many plants was lush and soft from the early rain so suffered more damage than it might have otherwise when the rain stopped.

The botanical gardens have an efficient drip-irrigation system for much of the property, but for areas without irrigation they have had to water by hand or let the plants turn brown.

A drought like the one we are having this year harms newly planted specimens more than it does established plants. Allie Pierson of Pierson Nurseries, a wholesale dealer in Biddeford and Dayton, said that the nursery waters all of its plants every day. The staff advises purchasers to continue daily watering at first, and then wean them off the daily watering slowly so the new plants aren’t so water-dependent when they are placed in the landscape.

With the expansion underway at the botanical gardens, many new plants have been installed this year, Cullina said, and they require frequent hand-watering – as the irrigation system is not yet in place – which takes hours every day to accomplish. Both Pierson and the botanical gardens have water on site – aquifers at the gardens and aquifers and retaining ponds at Pierson – so frequent watering doesn’t cost more than the electricity to run the pumps, which Cullina described as insignificant.

OK, so that’s what the professionals are doing about the drought. Now what should you do on your property?

“We tell people they should do what they want, based on their comfort level,” said Kookie McNerney, a home horticulture coordinator at the extension’s Cumberland County office.

Your established lawn, herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees are not going to die as a result of the so-far-moderate drought that we have had this season. Yes, the lawn will go brown and dormant, but it will green up again if we have fall rains, McNerney said. Perennials may die back earlier than normal, but they will come up again next spring. Trees and shrubs may go brown and drop their leaves early, but will survive.

But if you want to water, go ahead. But do it properly.

Jodi-marie McCarthy of Saco waters her garden plot at the Saco Community Garden. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Water at ground level, preferably using drip irrigation. Watering from overhead, as with traditional sprinklers, gets the leaves wet and allows some fungal diseases to form. Water early in the day, and especially avoid watering in the evening so the plants don’t stay wet all night, which also promotes fungal disease. McNerney said she is seeing quite a few rust and fungus diseases this year as a result of improper watering.

On a personal note, I was a bit embarrassed when my column on the mid-season status of my wife and my gardens appeared. In it, I wrote that I had yet to drag out the sprinklers and that our rain barrels had not gone dry. That was all true when I wrote the column on July 20. Although we had gone a couple of weeks without rain at that point, showers were in the forecast, so I wasn’t worried.

But by the time the column appeared in print and online 10 days later, those showers still had not materialized. Nor have they as of my writing this column on Aug. 13. I have since irrigated our entire property, and the rain barrels have gone dry. Also, I have been regularly hand watering all our flower containers, the shrubs we planted this year and the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. We have now sprinkled our entire property twice, and we will have irrigated a third time by the time this column appears – unless we get significant rain between now and then.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0, ME - AUGUST 15: Jodi-marie McCarthy of Saco waters her garden plot at the Saco Community Garden Tuesday, August 15, 2017. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Fri, 18 Aug 2017 10:56:46 +0000
New life for old guitar strings Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Betina Clark got tired of watching her musician boyfriend toss out used guitar strings. There must, she thought, be something she could do with them to save them from the trash.

Clark, a jeweler who lives in Portland, thought back to when she was little and made bracelets out of her father’s colored electrical wire. “To this day, I still wear the first bracelet I ever made,” she said.

So she started experimenting and now her business, Stringin’ Along with ME, is based on jewelry made out of recycled guitar strings. She’s expanded from the guitar and also uses strings from cellos, the bass, violins and fiddles. All of her pieces have a hand-forged or hammered aspect to them, she said, “and I keep the integrity of the string as part of the design element.”

She gets the strings from a variety of sources, including musicians themselves. Some give her their used strings so they can sell the jewelry as keepsakes to fans. Clark also attends music festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, and gathers strings there. Customers who have bought her pieces in the past save up their strings to bring to her.

“I just had a customer bring me a can of neatly wound guitar strings and a box of bass strings that he had been saving,” Clark said. “And every so often I’ll get a bundle of strings in the mail from someone who saw me or picked up my card.”

Her favorite pieces are memorial pieces commissioned by grieving families. One woman ordered a set of bracelets for her daughters, made from their late father’s old guitar strings. Another woman did something similar for her daughter, and then called back to say her late husband’s mother wanted one, too.

“Those are the biggest honor to do,” she said, “because of what they mean to people.”

She makes bracelets ($20), earrings ($20-40) and pendants ($30-50), and says the earrings sell the best. And she sells more of the jewelry to non-musicians than to musicians.

Clark often works as a street vendor during First Friday Art Walks, but she is also has a booth at Portland Flea-For-All every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also find her designs at Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine in Portland and Bath, and at One Lupine Fiber Arts in Bangor. Clark shows her new pieces on Instagram (@silversun65) first.

To order online, go to

]]> 0, 18 Aug 2017 10:55:24 +0000
A rose is a rose is a rose – unless it’s an Earth-Kind rose Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Four years after the city of Portland replaced all of the hybrid tea roses at the Karl Switzer Rose Circle at Deering Oaks with lower-maintenance varieties, the experiment has shown that some roses – often considered a notoriously fussy plant – can thrive on neglect: no fertilizer, no pesticides and no watering.

“These roses survived last year’s drought, and that says something” about how resilient the plants are, Portland City Arborist Jeff Tarling said as he and John Shannon, horticulture supervisor for the city, gave me a tour of the circle earlier this month.

The Rose Circle was designed in 1927 as a bed of mixed flowering plants, but under Switzer, parks superintendent from 1939 to 1972, it morphed into just roses.

For years, the rose circle served as a test bed for the American Rose Society, which selected All-America Rose Selections as the best introductions of the year. But those hybrid tea roses required a lot of care, Tarling said. They had to be fertilized and watered, and often treated with insecticides and fungicides. Then, each year, the roses had to be cut back, mounded with nearly 12 yards of soil to cover each rose’s bud graft (where the flowering part of the plant is connected to the root stock), and then mulched with straw. With only two full-time and two part-time workers tending all of the city’s plantings, including the 52 planters with thousands of tulips downtown each spring and annuals after the tulips go by, the rose circle had become too labor intensive.

After consulting with Peter Kukielski, then curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden (he now lives in Portland), the city arranged to have the Rose Circle become a test garden for the Earth-Kind Rose program run by Texas A&M University; it’s the only Northeastern test garden, in fact. As the name implies, Earth-Kind roses are intended to be kind to the Earth, conserving water and reducing the use of chemicals. The test runs for four years, so the lab work, so to speak, will be over at the end of this growing season, but the university still must analyze and publish the results.

The city received three specimens each of 21 different rose varieties and was required to follow specific rules for planting. The site for each plant was randomly selected. Watering was allowed the first year (using a sprinkler system donated by the producers of “The Preacher’s Wife” when that move was filmed in Portland), but no watering is allowed after that. Pruning is also off-limits. City gardeners were allowed to add compost to the rose bed before the planting was done, and add mulch after the planting was complete; they can replenish the mulch as needed each spring. Other than that, though, it has been plant ’em and forget ’em.

Some roses have been done better than others, which is what any trial garden is designed to show. Some have died. Others have grown and bloomed profusely.

While peak bloom for the rose garden is late June, several of the bushes still had plenty of blooms when I visited on Aug. 1, and Shannon said another flush of blossoms often comes in late August and early September. Under the rules of the study, the roses in the circle may not be deadheaded. But Mainers growing Earth-Kind roses at home could deadhead, which would encourage blossoms to continue through much of the summer.

“Once the hips form, it tells the plant to shut down,” Shannon said.

Tarling and Shannon say they will contact the Earth-Kind next year officials to see where the test goes from here. They expect the city will be sent roses to replace the ones that have died, but say the changes could be more extensive.

Tarling and Shannon would not say which of the roses are performing best in the study. Just by looking at them, though, Shannon thought one of the Home Run series (the label had gone missing, so we didn’t know its exact name) and Ruby Ice were doing especially well. Two different colors of the popular Knock Out series had some blooms in early August. One called Apricot Drift, which my wife Nancy and I have in our garden and is so low that it acts almost like a ground cover, also had an extended bloom time.

Once the results are analyzed, they’ll be posted to the Earth-Kind website, so Mainers will be able to check which roses can excel in Maine with little care. If you visit the website now, it’ll tell you which varieties already have the Earth-Kind seal of approval.

If I were to add roses to our garden, those would be the ones I’d choose.

TOM ATWELL is a freelance writer living and gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0 Karl Switzer Rose Circle in Deering Oaks Park in July 2015. The garden was named for the man who was superintendent of the park from 1939 to 1972. Four years ago, it became a test garden for roses than require significantly less water, fertilizer and manpower to maintain.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:39:59 +0000
Green Prescription: In an eco-quandary? Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 DEAR GREEN PRESCRIPTION:

What are your thoughts on entertaining (summer barbecues, birthday parties, etc.) with sustainability in mind?



It’s more than possible to have a lot of fun while producing little waste! There are so many ways to reduce carbon footprints while hosting a great party. Consider these, for example:

Send out evites instead of paper invitations.

 Use “real” plates and silverware rather than paper and plastic. In a pinch, use compostable plates and utensils.

 Buy snacks in bulk.

Avoid bottled beverages.

 Make or buy reusable decorations. We’ve been featuring the same “Happy Birthday” sign for nearly a decade in our house; now it doesn’t feel like a proper birthday until we’ve attached it to the wall.

For kids’ birthday parties, go for presence over presents, and nix the loot bags to boot. If this makes you feel miserly, though, and you have some time and inclination, green bloggers recommend sending out things like seeds for planting, or homemade playdough in mason jars.

 Not least, remind guests of your green aspirations, and set out dirty dish drop-offs, recycling containers, and compost bins.


I’d like to compost at home, but I am afraid of flies in my kitchen. What do you suggest?

Heart in the right place


Fear flies no more, aspiring composter! The good news is that composting is super easy once you get the hang of things, and you can avoid most critters with a little care. First, use a glass or metal container with a tight-fitting lid for kitchen waste. These generally keep fruit flies out entirely, but you can also invest in a fancy compost counter bin with charcoal filters like this one – they’re carried at Bed Bath & Beyond, among other places.

Another way to avoid infestations is to freeze your compostable kitchen waste until you have the time and inclination to dump it outside. One reader tells me that she pulverizes food waste in a blender before freezing, which cuts down on bulk. Either way, if flies don’t detect the food scraps, they won’t hang around.

Finally, frequent disposal of food waste will give the little buggers little chance to feast. Aim for a daily discard, and you should end up fly-free.

LISA BOTSHON is a professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, where envelopes are routinely reused. The child of back-to-the-landers, she lives in a household that is skeptical of her zero-waste efforts.

]]> 0, 14 Aug 2017 06:51:12 +0000
Regina Grabrovac believes in blueberries for all Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Regina Grabrovac is the food programs manager for Healthy Acadia – Washington County, running everything from farms to schools programs to gleaning operations. We heard that because of the wild blueberry glut, she was looking for gleaners who wouldn’t mind picking up a blueberry rake. We called her to talk about her efforts to get some of those unwanted berries into the hands of hungry Maine families. Along the way we learned how the Machias resident got so interested in agriculture and why she uses a cider press to educate Washington County schoolchildren.

CITY GIRL: Grabrovac knows agriculture, having worked with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in the 1980s, distributing organic produce, helping farmers find markets, and farming or gardening herself, on Mount Desert Island, in Surry and then in Machias. But she’s originally from New York City. How did a city girl turn into a country woman? As a teenager she attended John Bowne High School in Queens, which had an agricultural program. She tended chickens, grew her own crops and spent two summers working on farms. This was not her neighborhood school; in fact, she spent an hour on the bus and subway to get there from Manhattan.

Regina Grabrovac is the food programs manager for Healthy Acadia – Washington County. Photo courtesy of Regina Grabrovac

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Which was her choice. Why? “I always say that it was my grandmother.” Her grandmother was Quebecois and had grown up on a dairy farm. When she told stories to her granddaughter, “They were cloaked in this ‘it was a horrible life’ tone,” Grabrovac said. “However, she was so passionate about telling the stories that it was clear that underneath she also felt that it was a wonderful life. She would tell me how scared she was when she would have to bring the bull in, or how cold it was. But what I heard was the love.”

PARENTAL PRESSURE: Her mother was supportive of her decision to go to John Bowne for high school and on to College of the Atlantic (Grabrovac ultimately graduated from Marlboro College in Vermont). But she seemed to think that after college Grabrovac would give up her fascination with farming. “For the next ten years after that, she would say, ‘when are you going to get a real job?’ ” But in the late 1980s, Grabrovac got a letter from her mother with a newspaper clipping inside (in the way of all mothers, pre-Internet), and it was “about how organic agriculture was the hottest thing.” She knew then, the question was laid to rest.

PHASE TWO: It was about 2008, long after Grabrovac had settled down with writer Paul Molyneaux and moved to Machias (Surry was getting a little crowded for him), that she discovered her next passion. She attended a farm-to-school workshop and not long after, put in a grant proposal for a coordinator for a farm-to-school program in Washington County. She didn’t get that one, but she got the next and went to work for Healthy Acadia, which serves both Washington and Hancock counties, facilitating community health initiatives. In 2014 she became a full-time employee. She runs gleaning programs, coordinates efforts to ease food insecurity and connects local farmers to the community. Especially in schools.

CIDER PRESS RULES: Washington County has about 4,000 schoolchildren,, Grabrovac said. She’s worked with about half of them. The level of engagement in the farm-to-school program has differed from school to school, with some simply hosting a fall harvest meal, while others have embraced school gardens. Her most tried and true tool for reaching students, she said, is the portable cider press (“not light, but I can get it into a small vehicle!”). Kids love it and it’s a way of engaging them in their own neighborhoods, she said.

HOW’S THAT? Apple trees are everywhere in Washington County, she said. “I looked around and I said, ‘We have schools that do not have an abundance of resources. But we have apples.’ ” So she turns her students into foragers, telling them to go look around their own yards and communities. “Not looking for fancy apples,” she said. “I just tell them to harvest whatever is in their neighborhood.” They’d bring them in and use them to make cider. And she hopes, connections. That program, aptly called the Apple Project, started with funding from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and is now a Healthy Acadia program in both Washington and Hancock counties.

REGINA APPLESEED? Grabrovac also runs pruning and grafting workshops, through Healthy Acadia and open to the entire community. For her own pleasure, she keeps a resource list of 60 sites in Washington County where heritage apple trees grow. “There is this historically significant resource that is in almost every yard.” Is she Down East’s John Bunker? “I am the John Bunker of Washington County when John was maybe in his 20s,” she said. “I am way behind the curve.”

BLUEBERRIES FOR ALL: She’s also the production manager for two community gardens, one at Washington Academy, one at the University of Maine at Machias. Both supply food pantries. When Grabrovac heard the glut in wild blueberries was driving prices down to the point that some farmers had decided not to harvest, she went into action. With the blessing of Welch Farm in Roque Bluffs, she’s leading a gleaning operation this week and next. And she’s looking for a few volunteers. “It is daunting,” she said, “because a lot of people here know how to rake blueberries, but they want to get paid to do it.” (Call Healthy Acadia’s office at 255-3741 if you want to rake.) Her hope is to get at least a pint of fresh wild blueberries to everyone who visits local food banks. But she’s wistful about the berries that might end up rotting on the vines. “I wish we could create the means to harvest all the berries that are going to go unharvested.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols


]]> 0 GrabrovacFri, 11 Aug 2017 14:46:37 +0000
It’s not too late to plant radishes Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 For my family, radishes are a spring crop. I plant them at the same time as I plant our peas, usually mid-April, to produce one of the first vegetables of the season. The first radishes are ready for harvest in mid-May.

But since radishes go from seed to table in about a month, you can plant them as late as early September in southern and coastal Maine and still get some to eat before the first hard freezes arrive.

Radishes are easy to plant. Loosen the soil, and plant the seeds 2 to 3 inches apart. The seeds will sprout in three to 12 days, and are ready to harvest when the leaves are about 6 inches tall. Pick them quickly after that, because if they are left in the ground too long they’ll turn woody and tasteless.

Radishes are good raw by themselves or in salads, and can also be used in a mixture of roasted vegetables. My editor says they are delicious braised, too, adding that cooking them softens their raw heat.

My favorite radish is the French Breakfast variety, which are half white and half red. A friend from college likes these the French way – with butter, but that’s a bit much for me.


]]> 0, 11 Aug 2017 14:43:02 +0000
Pudding for people who can’t eat pudding Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Alyson Mayo’s chocolate pudding comes frozen. You can let it thaw to pudding consistency, but chances are you won’t want to wait.

Mayo’s “Gert & Lil’s” puddings – she also makes one that’s chai flavored – are vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free. The chocolate version is, well, chocolatey and rich. It’s made with a coconut milk base, but you would never know it because you can’t taste the coconut. Eat it frozen on a hot day, and it feels like a decadent treat from the local ice cream truck.

Mayo created the new product because she missed eating pudding. She has her own dietary restrictions, including being gluten- and dairy-free. When she was growing up, Mayo’s father would re-invent recipes to meet her restrictions, and she remembers how good it made her feel that someone would do that for her.

When she became an adult, she started experimenting in the kitchen herself. “When I came up with something good,” she said, “I wanted to share that with other people so they felt like ‘Oh wow, somebody made something that I can actually eat.’ ”

But Mayo doesn’t think of her puddings as a product just for people who can’t eat dairy.

“Everybody will like it,” she said, “but it’s a special treat for people who are restricted.”

Mayo has one other product on the market, “Evelyn’s Almond Vanilla Cookies,” and she’s still developing others, such as an almond milk version of the pudding. Both the cookies and the almond milk pudding were made for a 2-year-old niece who has severe food allergies.

For now, Gert & Lil’s puddings, named for Mayo’s late grandmothers, are being sold only at A. Wilbur’s Farmstand at 44 Independence Drive in Freeport (just off Lower Main Street), but we decided to write about it anyway so we could tell you about this little wooden shack that’s filled with locally made artisanal foods.

The Farmstand sells the 4-ounce pudding cups for $3.75 each.


]]> 0, 11 Aug 2017 14:41:17 +0000
Want to be ‘green’ even after you’re gone? Here’s how Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 People who spend their lives trying to lessen their impact on the natural world increasingly want to die that way, too.

Green burials are becoming more popular across the country and in Maine, too. Though there’s no one place to go for data on the trend, many figures point to its increasing popularity: Two decades ago no cemeteries advertised green burials in the United States. Now more than 150 do so, according to Lee Webster, author of the green burial guide “Changing Landscapes.” The nonprofit Green Burial Council, which works to develop standards for green burials, has had more than 4,000 people sign up for online updates since 2011. And a Harris Poll in 2015 found that 64 percent of respondents were interested in green burials, compared to 43 percent in a similar poll in 2010; the poll questioned more than 1,200 people over the age of 40.

“The interest over the past few years has been growing exponentially, as more people understand the problems with conventional burials,” said Webster, a former Green Burial Council board member. “Twelve years ago I signed up for Google alerts about green burial stories and got one every six months. Now I get one every other day.”

Many people are embracing the idea of being buried in simple, wooden caskets or natural fiber shrouds, with no concrete vault. That way everything put in the ground, eventually, will become part of the ground. With most conventional burials, where a metal or chemically treated wood casket is placed in a concrete vault, there is a permanent impact on the land.

Chuck Lakin of Waterville, a longtime coffin maker, buried his wife in January at Rainbow’s End, a nonprofit green burial ground in Orrington, near Bangor. He was able to be involved in the process, driving her body to the cemetery himself in a pickup, and is happy to know he and his late wife are helping the planet’s long-term future.

Chuck Lakin stands inside one of his handmade coffins in his workshop in the basement of his Waterville home. A longtime advocate of home and green burials, he held a green burial for his late wife in January. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

“I consider it a gift from her to me,” Lakin, 72, said. “Everything (in the plot) is completely biodegradable, and it’s in a wooded, natural area. I felt like the process was much more personal.”

So how does a person decide whether to have a green burial? How does one get started? Here are some things to consider when pondering a green burial in Maine and some resources to help with planning.


The two most important parts of a green burial, in terms of lessening the impact on the environment, are the choice of casket or burial container and the omission of a concrete vault to hold the coffin, said Kate Kalanick, executive director of the Green Burial Council. The nonprofit organization, based in Ojai, California, and begun in 2005, works with scientists, lawyers and funeral professionals to develop standards for green burials. Cemeteries and funeral directors, after meeting the standards, can be certified by the council.

Concrete vaults are used to help keep a cemetery level, so it can be mowed and landscaped. And there is a long-held belief in the United States that concrete vaults help protect the casket and help make that burial plot the permanent resting place of the deceased, said Webster, a New Hampshire resident who is serving as president of the National Home Funeral Alliance. “It’s a very American idea that we deserve to own this piece of property after we’re gone. We need to re-examine that idea.”

Concrete is not biodegradable, and making it expends a lot of fuel and energy. Many metal caskets or certain treated and adorned wooden caskets, won’t degrade either.

Other elements of most green burials include using a natural rock as a headstone, instead of a cut and quarried headstone, and using a burial ground that is left in a natural state. Cemeteries typically have fine lawns that require regular mowing and treatment with lawn chemicals, while green burial grounds are usually meadows, fields or woodlands with maybe a few paths that are cleared occasionally. Organizations like the National Home Funeral Alliance offer advice on green burials at home, say in the backyard or the meadow by a person’s house, but be aware that such burials require approval from the local government. Though not strictly an issue of environmental impact, most green burial advocates discourage embalming, and green cemeteries don’t accept embalmed bodies. That’s largely because of the possible health hazards to the workers preparing a body for burial, Kalanick said. Some critics point to studies that say exposure to embalming fluid increases the risk of cancer.


One might think cremating a body would be more eco-friendly, as ashes can be scattered about the landscape. But green burial advocates say it’s unclear whether the process is environmentally benign, according to the Green Burial Council. Cremation takes a lot of energy and heat. Recently, an alternative form of cremation, known as alkaline hydrolysis, has become available. That process uses heated water and requires just one-tenth of the energy that incineration does. Direct Cremation of Maine in Belfast is one place that offers the new process.


For people who want to do an entire green burial from start to finish, with no embalming, no funeral home, and the greenest possible burial ground, the Green Burial Council offers several resources. The group’s website,, allows people to download “Your Green Burial Planning Guide” with a checklist that includes things like identifying a price range, considering spiritual aims, choosing containers and picking grave markers. The website also offers a Top 10 questions list, with answers, about green burials and another primer called “Going Out Green.”

Similar information, including Q&As and resource lists can be found at, and the website of the National Home Funeral Alliance at

With the average cost of a conventional funeral today ranging from $8,000 to $10,000, totally green burials with no involvement from a funeral home can offer big savings. At Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington, owner Joyce Foley said a standard green burial at her cemetery costs about $2,100, including the plot, the casket, the cost of digging the grave and an engraved rock for a marker. Foley says many of her customers do hire a funeral director as well.


Any funeral director can help you with a green burial, says Webster at the National Home Funeral Alliance. In arranging your own green burial, you pay only for the plot, the container and the cost to dig up the ground. But you need to keep the body until burial, on ice or refrigerated, and you need to transport it. If you hire a funeral director to take the body, you pay for that service.

Some funeral directors have training in green burials, such as David Floryan, a funeral director for Jones, Rich & Barnes in Portland and Lindquist Funeral Home in Yarmouth. Both are certified by the Green Burial Council. Floryan sells biodegradable wicker basket caskets, and biodegradable shrouds. The funeral home can keep the body refrigerated, without embalming, until burial, Floryan said. The funeral home can also offer calling hours, though many who are interested in a green burial prefer a simpler graveside service.

Depending on what his funeral home is hired for, he says the total cost of a green burial might be about the same as a conventional one.


Maine has at least two all-green burial grounds, Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington and Rainbow’s End in Orrington. Burr Cemetery, a private cemetery in Freeport, offers both conventional and green burials. Other than these three, consumers need to check with individual cemeteries to see if they allow burials without concrete vaults.

Since it opened about 10 years ago, Cedar Brook has sold 207 plots and had 55 burials, said Foley, the owner. The rural, wooded burial ground is part of 150 acres owned by Foley’s longtime life partner, Peter McHugh. A family burial plot on the land that dates to the 1700s sparked McHugh’s interested in being buried on his own land, in a green way. McHugh died in 2013.

Like all cemeteries, green cemeteries have to be approved by the state’s Division of Environmental Health.

Foley sells lots for $800 for a single or $1,400 for a double. The cost to dig up the land varies by season: In summer, it’s $600, in winter $800. A wooden coffin will cost $400 or so, and a shroud or blanket will cost less. People can pick out a rock from the property and have it engraved for $100.

When people pick their plots at Cedar Brook, they often pick one near a tree, embracing the idea that their remains will nourish that tree.

Picking out a green burial plot, knowing that your death or the death of a loved one might help enrich the soil can be comforting, Foley said.

“I had man here from Massachusetts yesterday, with cancer, and when we were walking he saw a hummingbird,” said Foley. “He told me that coming here was one of the most enjoyable experiences he had in a long time.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 210-1183 or at:

Twitter: @RayRouthier

]]> 0 Lakin stands inside one of his handmade coffins in his workshop in the basement of his Waterville home. A longtime advocate of home and green burials, he held a green burial for his late wife in January.Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:36:05 +0000