NORTH BERWICK — Hardscrabble author Carolyn Chute shook off the effects of a lingering cold to regale fans with stories of her life in the woods and her populist efforts to improve the lives of everyday Mainers during an appearance Saturday afternoon at a funky new art gallery in North Berwick.

Seated in a wheelchair to rest a chronically painful foot, her hair pulled back behind a red bandanna and a glass of water in a mason jar at her side, Chute signed copies of the 691-page “Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves,” the latest in her series of novels about the “other” Maine hidden behind blue tarps, junk cars and run-down homes that populate the rural landscape.

She named the book after a sign she carried at a living-wage rally in Augusta in the early 2000s. She kept the sign in her house, and then appropriated it as the name for her book because she liked the way it sounded when read aloud. Chute, 67, is best known for her 1985 novel, “The Beans of Egypt, Maine,” which was later made into a movie.

Gayna Shey Thomas fingered a worn copy of that book as she approached Chute, who was seated in the corner of Blackbird Gallery and Studio. She asked Chute to inscribe it, “One potato picker to another,” a nod to their shared working-class upbringing. “You’re the first author I’ve ever read who got it right,” she told Chute.

“Thank you,” Chute replied. “It means a lot to hear you say it like that.”

Chute didn’t read from her latest book at Saturday’s event, and joked that few people probably would actually read it, given its length. “But you can always use it as an anchor for your windjammer,” she said.

Instead, she mostly engaged in quiet, private conversations with the 50 or so folks who came to meet her and view the art at the gallery’s spring opening.

Carmel Curran Blanchette drove up from Framingham, Massachusetts, to meet Chute. She read “The Beans of Egypt, Maine” in a sociology class about income disparity. Chute’s book, as well as “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich, were part of the curriculum.

Blanchette has been a fan since, and brought two books for Chute to sign Saturday. “I don’t collect (signed) books, but this is someone I’ve admired for a long time. This is very special,” she said.

Chute apologized for her cold, waving off every attempt for a handshake with her handkerchief. But she was not reserved in her conversation. She answered every question that came her way, and engaged in animated conversations with a long line of admirers.

She doesn’t write much anymore, because, she said, “I’m too old. I don’t have the fire.” She stopped writing several years ago when her typewriter broke. She doesn’t use a computer or correspond much by phone or email.

She wrote “Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves” in the 1990s as part of a much larger manuscript, which she is breaking into four or five books. The first was “The School on Heart’s Content Road” in 2008. The new book, published late in 2014, is the second, and she has at least two more to follow. But none of those books represents new writing, she said.

She never intended to be a writer. “I wanted to be a farmer’s wife,” she said. Her first attempt at writing was pornography when she was 13 or 14. She does not recommend writing as a career, and instead suggests farming. She is encouraged by Maine’s growing community of young farmers. “I don’t know if it’s going to save the world or not, but I am pleased to see young people getting into it,” she said.

She does not farm herself. Plants shrivel up and die when they see her approach, she said. But she’s good at raising trees, which grow in abundance up to her doors at the home in North Parsonsfield she shares with her husband. “They do fine,” she said. “If one falls over, we cut it up and burn it.”

Chute lives in “an unfinished house which has begun to rot.” It’s a simple, poor life, she said. Like the rest of us, she’s glad winter’s over. She fell and broke her glasses a few months back. Her foot hurts. Her knee aches.

She’s ready for spring, and whatever follows. She’s agreed to a few events – like the one in North Berwick on Saturday and another May 12 at Traip Academy in Kittery – for selfish reasons: “I wanted to get out.”

That was reason enough for to draw Thomas – who lives in Newmarket, New Hampshire – to the gallery for the chance to meet the author she admires most. Chute signed “The Beans of Egypt, Maine” just as Thomas asked – “From one potato picker to another.” For good measure, Chute included a smiley-face and a couple of XXs and OOs.

“May God bless you and keep you in his care,” Thomas said.

“Well, thank you,” Chute replied. “I need it.”