Page 1

Fall/Winter 2016

Cecil County Life


Milburn Orchards: A quintessential Cecil County business Page 8

Complimentary Copy

Inside • Painted Sky Alpaca Farm • Centuries of history at St. Anne's Church

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Cecil County Life Fall/Winter 2016

Table of Contents






In the Spotlight: Milburn Orchards


Birds of a feather


Cecil County novelists publish debut novel


St. Mary Anne’s Church has roots in the 1700s


Finding a balance in life and art


Photo essay: Where in North East, Charlestown, and Perryville?


The Painted Sky Alpaca Farm


Supporting the Conowingo Dam

68 Cover design by Tricia Hoadley Cover photograph by Jie Deng 6

Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Welcome to Cecil County Life Letter from the Editor: Milburn Orchards is at its most beautiful in the fall, which is just one reason why thousands of people make it a destination during the golden months of September, October, and November. For this issue of Cecil County Life, we talked to Melinda Milburn Palmeri, one of the owners of this family business that traces its roots to 1902 and has been recognized as a Cecil County Business of the Year as well as an inductee into the Cecil County Business Hall of Fame. Our writers and photographers traveled throughout Cecil County as we put this issue together, meeting many interesting people along the way. Since 2002, Mitchell and Linda Dickinson have owned the Painted Sky Alpaca Farm in Earleville. Writer Richard Gaw recently visited to learn more about the business of alpacas. Writer Lisa Fieldman talked to members of the Cecil County Bird Club about their efforts to keep an eye on migrating hawks and to protect and advocate for birds in a variety of ways. Also in this issue, we profile artist Sue Eyet, who takes bits of the past and gives them new life. We also talk to Kimberly and John Rodgers, who have published their debut novel, “Mogul,” under the pen name “K.J. Rodgers” earlier this year. “Mogul” is the first book in an exciting trilogy that they are working on. We explore the interesting history of St. Mary Anne’s Church. The church in North East has roots in the 1700s, but is still a vibrant part of the community today. In the photo essay, “Where in North East, Charlestown, and Perryville?” readers are asked to test how well they know this area of Cecil County. How well can you identify where certain photos were taken in and around these Cecil County communities? The staff of Cecil County Life always enjoys the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who help make Cecil County such a wonderful place to live and work. We welcome comments and suggestions for future stories. Please enjoy the holiday season, and we look forward to seeing you again in the spring of 2017 when the next issue of Cecil County Life arrives. Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher, randyl@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553 Steve Hoffman, Editor, editor@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553, x. 13

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


——————|In the Spotlight|——————

Milburn Orchards: A leader in agri-tourism and a family tradition in Cecil County

Photos by Jie Deng


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


amily is a very important at Milburn Orchards. During Fall Festival Weekends that take place from mid-September through the end of October, hundreds of families pick their own apples, raspberries, or grapes. They enjoy lunch with an enjoyable view of the orchard. They buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the farm market. Children spend pleasant hours roaming in the corn maze or visiting with the “barnyard buddies,� like goats and chickens, that live on the sprawling 400-acre property on Appleton Road in Elkton.

Continued on Page 10

Photos by Jie Deng

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Milburn Orchards Continued from Page 9

Through the years, Milburn Orchards has evolved into something more than a family farm—even though agriculture remains at the very heart of what Milburn Orchards is. Today, Milburn Orchards is a leader in agri-tourism, and a destination for thousands of people from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and beyond who are looking for a unique farm experience. “There are so many activities for families. A family could spend a whole day here,” explained Melinda Milburn Palmeri. She loves the fact that families share good times and make so many special memories at Milburn Orchards. As a member of the fourth generation of her family to run the farm, Melinda’s roots on this land run deep. “I’ve been here all of my life, really,” she explained during an interview in late September. “It’s a farm, so there’s a lot of work involved.” Numerous members of the Milburn family help out in ways big and small. Melinda manages the farm with her siblings, David Milburn and Jay Milburn, and their cousin, Nathan Milburn. But there is always someone in the family—a wife, a son, a cousin—who steps in to run the


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Photo by Jie Deng

cash register or to direct traffic to the parking areas during busy times. The beginnings of Milburn Orchards can be traced back to Esma and Mary Milburn, who settled on the Elkton property in 1902. Esma and Mary were already farmers, and had previously run a farm in Chesapeake City. They found the soils of Cecil County to be rich, and they were able to make a living off the land. There are strong connections that link each generation of the Milburn family to the land. “The house I live in is the house that he built,” Melinda explained, referring to her great-grandfather, Esma. Melinda said that, growing up on a family farm, which was being run primarily by her father, John, and her uncle, Evan, at that time, she didn’t realize how special an opportunity it was. But then she went away to college, and quickly discovered what a unique environment a family farm offers. Melinda said that her own children are reaching the age where they really appreciate the unique qualities that a life on a farm offers. Not Continued on Page 12

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Milburn Orchards Continued from Page 11

everyone gets to grow up in a place where the family works together for the common good, and where the freshest fruits and vegetables are readily available. Each crop demands its own special care and will be ready for harvest at its own time. The fresh fruits and vegetables grown at Milburn Orchards include peaches, cherries, apples, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, nectarines, plums, pumpkins, and gourds. Farm-to-table offerings and locally grown produce have become extremely popular during the last decade or so as consumers realize that fresh fruits and vegetables are important ingredients to a healthy diet. “I’m so glad that people are seeing that there’s no comparison to locally grown fruits and vegetables when it comes to taste and nutrients,” Melinda explained. “There is nothing like when your food is fresh. And you’re also supporting a Continued on Page 14


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

“We always try to make this a better experience for our visitors.” ~ Melinda Milburn

Photo by Jie Deng

Milburn Orchards Continued from Page 12

local farmer.” In addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables, the farm market at Milburn Orchards offers a line of country jams and jellies, local honey, and delicious local cheeses. The hot apple cider donuts are a favorite for many guests. Melinda explained that they started offering hayrides and facepainting as a way to attract more visitors to the farm, and the added attractions quickly became popular. “We brought in the agri-tourism part of the business,” Melinda explained. The hayrides during harvest season were so popular that they had to add another hay wagon the second year, and then another and another. With each passing year, the Milburns added new attractions so that families could come back time after time. “We realized that people were really wanting this kind of experience,” Melinda explained. One of the most important functions of Milburn Orchards is offering people the chance to step on to a working farm. It’s Photo by Steven Hoffman

Milburn Orchards is a fun destination for families throughout the area.


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

an opportunity for youngsters to learn where the food that ends up on their dinner table comes from. “I want every kid to be able to go out and pick their own fruit,” Melinda said, explaining that the U Pick adventures are very popular with families. “That’s such a great experience. There are families who come out year after year to do this.” Milburn Orchards added an Easter Egg hunt that has been growing in popularity each year. They also offer harvest breakfasts that feature the particular crops that are just coming to harvest. Continued on Page 16

Photos by Jie Deng

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Milburn Orchards Continued from Page 15

One important new initiative that visitors probably aren’t aware of is Milburn Orchards’ efforts to become more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Melinda explained that half the farm’s electrical needs are now provided by solar power, and plans are in place to eventually generate enough solar power to meet all the farm’s electrical needs. Because of Milburn Orchards’ commitment to the environment and the community, as well as the rich history of the family business, Milburn Orchards was named as the 2015 Cecil County Business of the Year, and was inducted into the Cecil County Business Hall of


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Photos by Jie Deng

Fame that same year. “That was pretty neat,” Melinda explained. Milburn Orchards is more than 110 years old, but this family business has as much family involved as it ever has. Melinda explained that Jay’s wife, Ilene, and David’s wife, Sara, are both very involved, especially during the busy season. “We have nieces and nephews who help. There’s a lot of family and a lot of our friends who help out. There’s really no way that we could ever do it without them.” Milburn Orchards is open to the public seven months a year—July through December. During the week, Photo by Steven Hoffman

Milburn Orchards on a recent fall afternoon.


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Milburn Orchards Continued from Page 17

many different group tours and school tours take place. Schools in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania participate in the tours. During weekends in the fall, thousands of visitors flock to Milburn Orchards for a fun outing. “The fall is a special time here,” Melinda explained. “Our number-one crop has always been the apples, and that’s the harvest time for them. There are a lot of other crops in the fall. It makes our farm very pretty with all the colors.” The family members entrusted with the operations of the farm will continue to find new things to attract people to Milburn Orchards. “We always try to make this a better experience for our visitors,” Melinda explained. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

Photos by Steven Hoffman

Since the farm was started in 1902, Milburn Orchards has always been family-owned.


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—————|Cecil County Outdoors|—————

Birds of a feather Bird Club members keep an eye on migrating hawks

Photo by Lisa Fieldman

Hawk Watch coordinator Pat Valdata scans the sky for migrating hawks.


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

By Lisa Fieldman Correspondent


he Cecil County Bird Club is looking out for our feathered friends. The CCBC was started in 1994 and is a chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society. “That sounds really scientific, but it is just a group of people who like birds and like to go birding,” said Maryanne Dolan, president of the club. The members not only watch birds, but they advocate for them as well. With 55 members, they may not be the largest bird club chapter in Maryland, but their enthusiasm makes up for their size. The club gathers each month, from September through May, to listen to speakers, go on field trips and enjoy the fellowship of fellow bird admirers. The club also puts on educational programs and information exchanges. “You don’t have to be a member to attend our meetings, lectures or field trips,” Dolan said. However, the club is always looking for new members, with a special interest in attracting young bird watchers. It’s an ideal hobby for families and participants of any age. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 51.3 million Americans report that they watch birds. Birding is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in America. Continued on Page 22

Photos by Lisa Fieldman

Above: A red-tailed hawk rests on a fence post. She was part of the educational program provided by Scales and Tales. Left: I’m ready for my close-up!

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Bird Club Continued from Page 21

The Cecil County Bird Club has improved habitats for pollinators and birds. A few years ago, they wrote to the Maryland DNR and asked them to stop mowing a large grassy area at Turkey Point. Open grasslands are an important habitat for birds, providing cover, nesting sites and insects for food. “They agreed to let the areas become meadow,” Dolan said, “and it is just wonderful. There are butterflies and dragonflies; the whole area is alive, and that’s good for the birds.” Many birds eat insects, so the meadows increased their food sources. The area has remained uncut for more than three years, and on a recent breezy day, the meadow was aflutter with yellow butterflies and honeybees. The meadow project started when a butterfly enthusiast came out to Turkey Point for the first time in several years. He was discouraged by the low count of butterflies he found. “He was so disappointed because he used to find about 50 species of butterflies, and there were only a few species there,” Dolan said. He said that mowing was destroying the habitat. “I said, ‘You know, we can write a letter’ and that’s what started it,” she Photo by Lisa Fieldman

A Great Horned Owl with handler Brian Feyock. They consider her a diva because she loves the sound of her own voice and will hoot continuously.


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

said. “I’m always amazed that there are people out there who are very receptive to doing the right thing if they are given a nudge.” The club also stepped up to the plate at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area to help ground nesters. Birds such as Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks and Northern Bobwhites nest in the hay fields at Fair Hill. “Unfortunately, the common farming practice of cutting hayfields in May and June means that all the nestlings and fledglings are killed,” former club president Sean McCandless said in a press release last year. “That’s a big reason why these species are in such steep decline.” These birds used to nest on the prairie, but have adapted to hay fields and pastures. The club, along with the MOS, asked Fair Hill and their mowing contractor to alter their haying schedule from spring to mid-July. This gives the nestlings time to fledge. They agreed, and designated approximately 100 acres of grassland as a preserved habitat for the groundnesting birds. The club worked with the Maryland Ornithological

Photo courtesy John Powell

The club, in conjunction with MOS, was instrumental in protecting the nesting sites of grassland nesting birds on 100 acres of land at Fair Hill NRMA.

Continued on Page 24



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Bird Club Continued from Page 23

Society and obtained funding to have signs made for the Fair Hill hay fields to educate the public about the program. Bird club treasurer Pat Valdata explained, “It’s been very cool to see how many birds are nesting. We monitor the space and count the nests. It’s great to see the Bobolinks -- they’re pretty unusual to have around. This is a great nesting habitat for them.” This time of year, club members spend a lot of time at Turkey Point in the Elk Neck State Park. The Point is a great migratory area for all birds due to the bordering North East and Elk rivers. Valdata coordinates the Hawk Watch. Every day, from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, a club member arrives to count migrating hawks. “Like all other hawk watches in the country, we count the hawks as they’re heading south,” Valdata explained. “We note the different species and what time we saw them.” The bird watchers send their data to a central hawk counting organization called Hawk


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Photo by Lisa Fieldman

Scales and Tales is an educational program run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Migration Association of North America, which then compiles all data received from watches all over the country. “We have about 14 to 15 species of hawks we see on a regular basis,” Valdata said. “We also get turkey vultures, black vultures and eagles going through.” Sadly, the numbers are going down nationwide. “Every hawk watch across the country showed lower numbers last year and we don’t know why,” Valdata said. That’s a problem ornithologists are working on, and the numbers compiled by groups like the Cecil County Hawk Watch provide real-time data for the scientists. “Back in the 1990s, we were getting approximately 4,000 hawks going past Turkey Point every season,” Valdata said. Since she took over the hawk watch, the numbers have dropped, and they are seeing around 2,000 migrating through. According to last year’s data, only 1,251 migrating hawks passed through Turkey Point in 2015. Kestrels, red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and red-shouldered hawks are residents, meaning they will return to Elk Neck State Park in the spring to lay eggs and raise their young. The park’s resident bald eagles relocate to the Conowingo Dam for the winter, where they are assured a plentiful food Continued on Page 26

Photo by Lisa Fieldman

‘This tiny Screech Owl sits so still people don’t realize it’s alive,’ handler Tabitha Aguirre explained.


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Bird Club Continued from Page 25

source. They will also return in the spring to raise their young. “In November, you can see almost 200 bald eagles at the dam,” Valdata said. Some are resident eagles and some are migrating. They stop to feed at Conowingo and decide to winter over. In mid-October, the club held a Hawk Watch event at Turkey Point in conjunction of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. For this annual event, park ranger Melanie Rice and Cecil County Bird Club members were on hand to greet the public and talk about birds. Also participating were some feathered friends from Scales and Tales, along with their handlers. Naturalist Allie Bays held a broad wing hawk while a group of excited Girl Scouts called out questions. Many families participated in the event, and all enjoyed the opportunity to see these birds of prey up close. Brian Feyock, of Scale and Tales, handled a magnificent Great Horned Owl. All of the birds brought to the event were victims of auto accidents, and once rehabilitated, they were deemed unreleasable. Feycock explained that Scales and Tales cares for the birds, and has 17 that they bring out for educational programs and appearances. On a table, sitting on top of a wooden log, was a tiny screech Continued on Page 28

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Photo by Lisa Fieldman

Naturalist Allie Bays shares information about the behavior of hawks.

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Bird Club Continued from Page 26

owl. Her handler, Tabitha Aguirre, said the owl sits so quietly that most people think she is stuffed. “She weighs as much as a hot dog,”Aguirre said, laughing. A beautiful red-tailed hawk also made an appearance. The hawk calmly sat on a fence rail, surveying the crowd. The handlers from Scales and Tales shared anecdotes about the birds on display, as well as general information about bird biology, behavior and habitats. Throughout the event, people wandered over to the Hawk Watch area and talked about which birds were migrating through. People excitedly compared notes on the birds they were seeing in their backyards, or on hikes through the park. Bird song was a constant soundtrack in the background. It’s through these types of outreach programs that the public is educated about birding and caring for the environment, and the impact we have on our wildlife population. As people headed down the trail towards the lighthouse, Valdata and Dolan continued to scan the sky for migrating hawks. The first was spotted an hour into the watch, at about

Photo by Lisa Fieldman

The view from Lighthouse Point, an excellent spot for bird watching. 28

Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

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Cecil County Bird Club president Maryanne Dolan also serves on the board of the Maryland Ornithological Society.

9 a.m. A sharp-shinned hawk came soaring over the point. “It’s almost comical,” Valdata said. “Just about every day, a sharp-shinned shows up at 9 o’clock.” That day, the watch progressed slowly. While there were many other birds migrating, the hawks were not plentiful. It was a slow day for migration due to the wind coming out of the southwest. The hawks don’t like to fight the wind, so they opt to stay put until the wind is more favorable. By noon, only five hawks migrated through. Valdata noted that, on a normal day, they would have spotted at least 20. “Only birds that are really determined are coming through today,” she said. But the data gathered from slow days is just as important as high migration days. Anything we can learn about the migratory habits of birds is important to ongoing research. The National Audubon Society describes bird watching in this way: It’s basically a lifelong scavenger hunt played across the entire earth. It’s equal parts science and poetry, hoots of triumph and quiet reflection, adventures to far-flung corners of the world and discoveries in your own back yard. The Cecil County Bird Club welcomes anyone with an interest in birding, from the beginner to the seasoned enthusiast. For more information, visit www.cecilbirds.org. Information on the Maryland Ornithological Society can be found at www.mdbirds.org. You can view the migration counts on sites such as www.ebird.org (for all birds) and www.hmana.org (for hawks).

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——————|Cecil County People|——————

Husband-and-wife writing team publishes debut novel

‘Mogul’ is the first book in a dystopian fiction trilogy that they’ve plotted out

Courtesy photo

Kimberly and John started writing their book in 2012. It took several years to write and edit the book. 30

Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


Courtesy photo

“Mogul,” the first novel by Kimberly and John Rodgers, was published earlier this year.

Courtesy photo

John and Kimberly Rodgers

new work of dystopian fiction arrived on bookshelves in June. The name of the author on the cover of “Mogul” is K.J. Rodgers, but some people in Cecil County already know that “K.J. Rodgers” is, in fact, the nom de plume of the husband-and-wife writing team of Kimberly and John Rodgers. Kimberly and John are both educators. She teaches sixth-grade language arts in the Oxford Area School District. He teaches business education and computer science classes at Bohemia Manor High School. While Kimberly and John are avid fans of dystopian fiction—they sometimes read it aloud to each other in their free time—they lead a decidedly non-dystopian existence as they raise their young daughter in a charming home in the Cecil County countryside. Before Kimberly and John attempted to write their own novel, they were simply fans of the dystopian fiction genre. “We’re dystopian fiction addicts,” Kimberly admitted with a laugh. “I love the different worlds and how these characters develop in it.” The couple worked their way through the “Hunger Games” books, “The Selection” series by Kiera Cass and many other dystopian fiction series that have earned wide audiences in recent years. Then, one day in 2012, they started tossing around ideas for a dystopian book of their own. Convinced that they had a good story to tell, John and Kimberly started writing the opening chapters of their book. Over the next months, in between grading papers and developing lesson plans and caring for their young daughter, they found time to work on “Mogul.” Continued on Page 32

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Writing Team Continued from Page 31

Plotting out the story arc was a significant challenge, but it helped that they knew from the start that their characters were on a journey that would take more than one book to complete. “Mogul” is set in a futuristic society that is approaching the technological singularity. The heroine is 16-year-old Regan Salvatore. She is a well-intentioned teenager who wants to follow the rules and make her family happy. Her boyfriend, Grant Halden, is a computer prodigy who has been away all summer working on a mystery Consul Project with his father. Since both of the authors are teachers, it’s not surprising that a significant portion of the book relates in some way to school life and the challenges and emotions that all teenagers face. On the first day of the new school year, Regan meets Beau Conway, a new student from the farmlands. Every time that she talks to Beau, Regan finds herself looking at the world in a different light. He challenges her, and teaches her about forbidden history, wide open spaces, and the importance of making her own decisions. With Regan, Grant, and Beau, there is a clear love triangle already in place. The authors like all three of these characters that they have developed. “In every story, you have to fall in love with the main characters,” Kimberly explained. “I mostly developed Regan.” She gave the character some of her own characteristics. For example, Kimberly likes to paint, so in the story painting is one of Regan’s hobbies. John wrote many of the scenes involving Grant, who has an interest in computers. John’s own knowledge about computers was helpful. Technology plays a central role in “Mogul,” exploring the concept of singularity—the hypothesis that the invention of artificial super-intelligence will abruptly unleash runaway technological growth with uncontrollable consequences. Currently, experts don’t agree on when we’ll reach the point of singularity, but some believe it may arrive within just 15 years. Technology run amok is always good fodder for fictional books and movies, and John said that he certainly sees where technology could be a serious threat to humanity if it isn’t managed properly. “I think it depends on who gets control of it,” he explained. As with any good work of fiction, there are political and social overtones layered into the story. “Mogul”


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Courtesy photo

“Mogul” is the first book in a trilogy.

takes place during a time when the United States no longer resembles the country that it is today. “There are no states,” Kimberly explained, “just central cities.” Beyond the central cities are the farmlands, and then the wild lands, each different area revealing something about the world that “Mogul” is set in. As they neared completion of the first draft, Kimberly and John still didn’t know how the story would wrap up. But then, as they reread and refined the work that they had completed to that point, the ending came in a creative burst. They were surprised by the amount of editing that was involved with writing a book, but they forged ahead with the goal of finishing the project. At this point, they still hadn’t told many people about their project because they didn’t want to start the book and not finish it. “It took us about a year to write, and it took about a year to edit it,” Kimberly explained. Once they had a completed manuscript, then came the difficult task of finding a publisher. They sent the book out to publishers, not knowing what to expect—would it be well-received? Would it even be read? “There are only so many publishers who will take unsolicited manuscripts,” John explained. “We wanted to have somebody who would really read it.” They found Page Publishing, a New York-based Continued on Page 34

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Writing Team Continued from Page 33

company that handles all facets of publishing and distributing books. More rounds of editing and rewriting followed. According to John and Kimberly, the writing of the novel was a truly collaborative effort. After numerous rounds of revisions on the manuscript, their individual writing voices merged into one. “It’s definitely fifty-fifty,” Kimberly explained. “I don’t think even we could tell who wrote what now.” The authors were very pleased when, earlier this year, they were able to hold a copy of their book in their hands. “It was a lot of work,” John said, reflecting on the project. “But we’re so proud,” Kimberly added. The husband-and-wife writing team is currently about halfway finished with the second book, and more excited than ever for the possibilities for Regan, Beau, and Grant. They are hoping to finish the first draft of the novel by the end of the year.


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Photo by Steven Hoffman

Kimberly and John Rodgers at their home in Conowingo.

“Mogul” is available at bookstores and online booksellers. For more information, visit www.kjrodgers.com or visit their Facebook or Twitter pages. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


——————|Cecil County History|——————

A history of faith


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

St. Mary Anne’s Church has roots in the 1700s and is still a vibrant part of the community

This silver chalice and plate were given to the church by Queen Anne of England.

By John Chambless Staff Writer


hen the Declaration of Independence was new, people had already been meeting for worship at St. Mary Anne’s Church for about 70 years. And the church has been active ever since. Today, the four-acre church property stretches from the North East Creek to South Main Street in North East, surrounded by a stone wall. “Sometimes, people drive by and think it’s a museum. If I’m out working in the garden or whatever, people will ask what time it opens,” said the church Rector, John Schaeffer, during a tour of the church grounds. “I say, ‘Well, we’re open on Sundays, and we’re here on Wednesdays.’ It’s not a museum.” Schaeffer, who arrived at St. Mary Anne’s with his wife last February from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, said, “This building and this church yard are a sacred trust. We have so much history here. It’s a glorious place.” In his time as the leader of the Episcopal congregation of about 450 people, Schaeffer has learned much of the history of the church. Continued on Page 38

Photos by John Chambless www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


St. Mary Anne’s Church Continued from Page 37

When he leads services on Sunday mornings, with the weight of all that history, “It’s humbling,” he said. “We have not only this property to maintain and cherish, but we have a community to serve. We do operate one of the largest food pantries in Cecil County.” The church looks much the same as it did when it was built in 1743, replacing a much smaller wooden 1709 structure whose foundation lies beneath the present building. The rounded ceiling gives the interior wonderful acoustics for singing. A bell tower was installed in 1904, moved from its previous position on another wall of the church. The interior was refurbished in the 1950s. But history is everywhere, both inside and outside the building. A cornerstone located just below ground level on the southwest corner of the building bears the etched initials of the Rector and Vestrymen of St. Mary Anne’s, dated 1743. Before American Independence, the church


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Above, the altar at St. Mary Anne’s Church. At right, Rector John Schaeffer rings the church bell.

Gravestones, both marked and unmarked, fill the cemetery around St. Anne’s. At the lower right is the oldest known photo of the church.

was part of the Anglican Church of England. Around 1715, Queen Mary Anne of England bequeathed a large sum of money to support the Church of England in the colonies. St. Mary’s Church received a huge Bible dated 1716, a Book of Common Prayer dated 1683, and a silver chalice and plate that is still used on holidays and special occasions at the church. It is believed that, in recognition of the gifts, the church changed its name to reflect the giver -- St. Mary Anne’s. Continued on Page 40

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St. Mary Anne’s Church Continued from Page 39

Schaeffer said the land bordering the church held shops and houses in the 1700s – notably a brick works on the riverbank behind the church, and businesses along Church Point Road that runs from Main Street to the river. It is believed that the bricks used to build the church came from the brickyard, only 100 feet or so from the church site. In its early years, North East was a busy river town full of tradesmen and businessmen, with fertile farm fields surrounding the village. Nancy Ball, a longtime member of St. Mary Anne’s, said she’s the church’s “unofficial historian,” and detailed some of what is known about the history. “We’re very fortunate that we have most of our early Vestry minutes,” she said, “along with the registry of births, deaths and marriages. We also have a big book of Maryland laws from the late 1600s that’s very boring,” she added, laughing. Through the 1700s, today’s North East Creek was a major transportation route, since the only roads


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

The interior of the church was redone in the 1900s.

From left: The front door of the church, the stairway to the balcony, and a view of the pipe organ.

were widened footpaths that had been used by the area’s Native American tribes, and those trails turned into muck whenever it rained. Given its history and location, the church was at the crossroads of the American Revolution, and Ball noted that church minutes from the era mention British troops in the area, looking for supplies.

“The English appears in our Rivers and Bays and our Vestry thereby being disturbed could not meet & therefore cannot be accountable for any fines imposed,” the minutes noted in September 1777. In 1733, church notes record that Rev. Walter Hackett Continued on Page 42

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


St. Mary Anne’s Church Continued from Page 41

baptized many people at the church, including one Native American and one black man. Such an act would certainly have been extremely controversial at the time, Ball said. “We do know that there were Shawnee in the North East area, but soon after the white settlers came, they moved West and ended up in the Conestoga, Pa., area. So there weren’t that many left to convert here,” she said. “In the original church, there were box pews that were rented by local families for an annual fee,” she explained. “No one else could use the pew. If you couldn’t afford a pew, you sat upstairs in what they called the ‘gallerie.’ This has never been a wealthy church or wealthy town, so they needed somewhere for all the people to sit.” There are no surviving records for early burials in the cemetery, Ball said, although there are several plain, flat stones inserted vertically here and there, suggesting graves of people who could not afford to have a stone carved. “It’s in the Vestry minutes that people were coming into the cemetery and burying people without checking with the Vestry first,” Ball said. “In defense of that, there were years when we did not have clergy, and the Vestry met only every

Gravestones dating to the 1700s stand near the church.

three years during those periods.” The area’s gravelly soil is difficult to dig, she said, “and it’s noted in the minutes that they admonished the sexton for not digging the graves deep enough. It must have taken Continued on Page 44

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St. Mary Anne’s Church Continued from Page 42

him days to dig one deep enough.” Ball said North East was a prominent region for commercial hunting and fishing in the 1800s, with meat shipped by rail to nearby cities for sale. Before that, the area was known for producing baskets, and there was a rolling mill in town that was part of the Principio Works. “There’s a diary quote in our records from a man who was on his way to Philadelphia to sign a treaty with the Native Americans, and he had come up the river and spent the night here,” Ball said. “He describes the town, in around 1750, as having two ‘ordinaries,’ which is what they called inns, a bakery, two or three houses, and a mill. He didn’t mention the church, which surprises me, because he would have landed here by the church, at the foot of the street. He also mentioned that he and his group decided to ‘lay on board’ that night because of the impression they had of the town. That’s the earliest mention of the the town of North East that anyone’s aware of. “This really was the frontier at one time,” she said. “In Maryland then, you could pay your taxes in wild animal hides. Actual money was very scarce.” During the Civil War, Maryland was a border state between the Union and Confederacy, and as a sign of that divided loyalty, from 1874 to 1891, a former chaplain in the Union Army served as Rector of St. Anne’s, and from 1891 to 1904, the rector was the last surviving member of Robert E. Lee’s staff. Ball is proud of the long history of St. Mary Anne’s, and of the fact that it


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

A display case holds artifacts from the church’s past, including these two bricks which were marked with the footprint of a person.

is still an active congregation. The church and grounds are not on the National Register of Historic Places, although the possibility has been discussed in the past, she said. “It’s great that this is still a functioning church,” she said. “So many old churches are gone, or turned into shops or restaurants. It’s still a very vibrant church. There’s a lot of history here to be proud of.” St. Mary Anne’s Church is at 315 S. Main St., North East, Md. Tours can be arranged. Call 410-287-5522, email office@stmaryanne.org, or visit www. stmaryanne.org. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com. An early baptismal font stands in the entryway to the church, and a display case holds the 1700s keys.

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life



Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Chesapeake City’s Fifth Annual Winterfest of Lights Schedule of Events

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Lion’s Club Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Pell Gardens • Ceremony begins at 6:00 p.m. • Santa will arrive in a horse-drawn carriage following the Tree Lighting

3rd Annual Comedy By The Canal at the Chesapeake City Volunteer Fire Company – North Side Firehouse • Buffet Dinner 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. • Show begins at 7:00 p.m. • Tickets - $25.00/person No one under 18 admitted! • Contact John at 443-566-2598 for information and ticket reservations Continued on Page 48

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Chesapeake City Continued from Page 47

Saturday, December 10, 2016 Christmas Historic House Tour • 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. • Contact Mary Iopolla at 443-553-0071 for information and ticket reservations

Recurring Events Santa at Franklin Hall Saturdays & Sundays 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Dec. 3 & 4, nd Dec. 10 & 11, and Dec. 17 & 18


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Carriage Rides South Side 0 p.m. m to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 – 3:00 Saturday, Dec. 10 – 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 – 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. North Side Sunday, Dec. 11 – 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18 – 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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——————|Cecil County Life|——————

North East Lions Club establishes Cecil College Scholarship

Although the Cecil College Foundation recently received a $20,000 donation to establish the North East Lions Club E. Leon DeMond Scholarship, it actually has a history of more than 50 years. Established in 1965 in memory of an exceptional club member, E. Leon DeMond, the scholarship was originally available for a North East High School graduate to use at any college. Looking to relinquish the bookkeeping duties while still keeping it local, the North East Lions Club decided to partner with the college to make it a scholarship solely for Cecil students. “There is a lot of additional background work that goes on when you give scholarships along with just picking someone based on the criteria,” said Greg Smith, secretary of the North East Lions Club. “All in all, it seemed better to put this in a place where it would happen automatically on a recurring basis and allow us to put our energy into other community activities.” Open to graduates of North East High School, the scholarship can be used toward the pursuit of any Cecil program that leads to a twoyear degree. Recipients will receive $1,000 annually for two consecutive years. With about 46,000 clubs and 1.4 million members, Lions International is the world’s largest service club organization. Founded in 1947, the North East Lions Club 50

Courtesy photo

Chris Ann Szep, left, Cecil College vice president of institutional advancement and government relations, and Dr. Mary Way Bolt, right, Cecil College president, recently welcomed North East Lions Club members Michelle Manfredi, second from left, president; Greg Smith, secretary; and Diana Wilt, treasurer; to the college’s North East campus to formalize the North East Lions Club E. Leon DeMond Scholarship.

has a goal of “We Serve.” The club provides funds for eyeglasses and eye exams, and it loans medical equipment to people at no charge. It also supports boy scouts, baseball teams and families in need as well as other educational endeavors, including sportsmanship awards and an annual donation to a student at the Cecil County School of Technology entering a trade. Personally, Smith has attended productions at the Milburn Stone Theatre and has seen his grandchildren perform in some of the shows. One of his grandchildren took Spanish classes at Cecil as a high school student. “Everyone in this community is aware of Cecil College and knows someone who goes there,” said Smith. “Other local Lions clubs we spoke with had already done this and encouraged us to follow in their footsteps.” In addition to this new opportunity, Cecil College also has Lions scholarships supported by the Port Deposit, Rising Sun and Cecilton clubs.

Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

——————|Cecil County Arts|——————

Sue Eyet:

‘I’m fascinated with the little objects of life.’ Photo by Kenneth Jones


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Finding a balance in life and art Sue Eyet takes bits of the past and gives them a new life By John Chambless Staff Writer “I’m fascinated with the little objects of life,” Sue Eyet said, sitting at her home studio space, surrounded by drawer after drawer of tiny pieces of the past. “I’m a hunter-gatherer when it comes to tiny things. I love the quality of the old fragments, before the world went plastic.” From an unruly tangle of cast-offs, Eyet brings order and balance, creating mobiles that pivot gently in the breeze – made of meticulously arranged antique eyeglasses, zipper pulls, bobbins, handmade wooden clock gears, paintbrushes, brass stencils, beads and baubles by the dozens. Behind each construction is an artistic sensibility that says these objects belong together, that they are conversing with each other, and with us, across the centuries. Eyet’s family is originally from West Virginia, but she has lived in Cecil County since 1980. She has marked 46 years of marriage to her husband, Jerry, since July of 1970. “I was Continued on Page 54

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Sue Eyet Continued from Page 53

always creative in school, but there was no opportunity to go to art school,” she said. “I’ve always had a compulsive passion for art, and it was always working with small objects. I’m totally self-taught.” Her creativity has taken her through several mediums, starting with a 1975 adult education class in stained glass. Working with small glass pieces and assembling them into artworks eventually led her to make baskets using traditional methods, beginning in the early 1990s. Eyet worked a day job for years at Aberdeen Proving Ground as an engineering technician, but, “In my heart, I’ve always been an artist,” she said. She and her husband have raised two daughters, and they have teenage grandchildren. In 1987, she left her day job to open her first business, Susquehanna Country Crafts, in a building that now houses the Smokehouse Photos by John Chambless

Handmade wooden clock gears are turning up in Eyet’s work lately.


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Restaurant on Jacob Tome Memorial Highway. Becoming immersed in the local art community, Eyet met artists Bobby Hansson and Maggie Creshkoff, who lived nearby. Hansson was trying to complete his book, “The Fine Art of the Tin Can,” and needed some organizational help and artworks to fill several categories. “I ended up doing eight or 10 pieces for the book,” Eyet said, pointing out the detailed pieces in her copy of the landmark book. “I started tearing through piles of tin cans and working on things. In an effort to help my friend, my life was changed forever. I became totally fixated on taking something that has lost its value and giving it a facelift and creating something with a new life. It totally turned me in a new direction.” Working with cast-off objects and repurposing them in art has sustained Eyet through some serious health challenges in recent years. As a result, she has scaled back, and the former church building in Perryville that once held her gallery and studio is now the home of the Reed Learning Center. Eyet has set up a studio in the lower level of her home, where she has a workbench surrounded by neatly organized drawers full of bits and pieces awaiting her touch. It isn’t lost on her that, by trying to find balance in her life, she has turned to creating perfectly balanced mobiles in the past two years. Her combinations of little objects are so well-planned that they seem completely natural. Of course, you think, the paintbrush goes with the tiny Continued on Page 56

Tabletop pieces combine antique wooden shuttles and Eyet’s delicate balance of tiny treasures.

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Sue Eyet Continued from Page 55

glass vials of pigment, as well as the clock gear and perhaps a zipper or two. “Sometimes it takes a while to think about how to use these things,” she said. Sometimes, a drawer full of objects will sit for a long time while she considers the right place for them. Recently, she has been incorporating antique eyeglasses into the mobiles, and making a series of tabletop pieces whose bases are burnished wooden shuttles from a long-ago hand loom. By elevating seemingly unrelated antique objects to the level of art, Eyet fell neatly into the recent steampunk art movement. “It was inspiring when it became really popular,” she said. “A lot of the steampunk fans like my work.” “My mobiles have not been been seen by many people,” she said. But that’s about to change.


Eyet created these two tin-can figures, Elvis and Rosie the Riveter, for a landmark book called ‘The Art of the Tin Can.’

Eyet will have a show at the Cecil County Arts Council in Elkton beginning on Dec. 2, so her focus is on getting a body of brand-new works together. The theme is kinetic art, so she is busy making mobiles and ‘stabiles,’ which are her tabletop pieces. She is also creating wall



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pieces that combine an old book as the base with a brass gas light fixture that holds a mobile near the wall. “This is the first show of its kind at the Arts Council,” she said. “This show has been on my bucket list. I’ve been in tons of group exhibits, and I always thought that someday I would have a solo exhibit, but I was too lazy to go after it,” she said with a chuckle. She has decided to start checking off items on that bucket list, streamlining her life to focus solely on her art. But she also wants to give to others. For the past nine years, she has been the resident artist and art services coordinator at Ashley Addiction, Inc., an alcohol and chemical treatment center in Havre de Grace. “I do jewelry classes there, and I have met thousands of amazing people, and I love them all,” she said. “My goal there is to create an environment that supports their healing, encourages them to develop a healthy pastime when they leave, and to build self-confidence. In doing that, it’s amazing the joy it has brought to my life.” For four days a week, Eyet works with people recovering from a variety of alcohol and chemical dependencies. “It’s good for my soul to watch them heal,” she said. “If I can make a five-minute difference in someone’s day, then I’m successful.” Eyet’s family and friends “have been incredibly supportive,” she said, Continued on Page 58

Eyet created this self-portrait metal piece after battling breast cancer several years ago.

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Sue Eyet Continued from Page 57

also crediting her involvement in the Trashy Women artist cooperative with supporting her for the past 11 years. The artist group creates whimsical art out of repurposed objects, and has put on successful group shows regionally. “We love each other like sisters,” Eyet said. People who know her artworks will supply Eyet with raw materials – sometimes the contents of their junk drawers, and sometimes they give her leads on antiques that she can repurpose. She’s a frequent Ebay shopper, searching

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the world for little things that other people might discard. “If it speaks to me, I’m buying it,” she said with a grin. “Frequently, people can look at my work and say, ‘Oh, that triggers a memory.’ You just never know what connections people will make with these little things.” Sue Eyet’s exhibition, “Fragments of Life,” opens on Dec. 2 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Cecil County Arts Council (135 E. Main St., Elkton). It is accompanied by an open exhibition titled “Life in Fragments.” The exhibitions continue through Dec. 30. Call 410-392-5740. or visit www. cecilcountyartscouncil.org. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@ chestercounty.com.



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————|Cecil CountyPhoto Essay|————— 7



Where in North East, Charlestown and Perryville? By Carla Lucas Correspondent The “Where in Cecil?” game continues. This time, we visit the south-central and southwest corner of Cecil County, from North East to Charlestown to Perryville, where all roads lead to water. How well do you know this region? Can you identify the exact locations from the photos? Get all 19 right and you are a Cecil County Genius. Get 15 to 18 correct and you are a Cecil County Fanatic. Get 10 to 14 correct and you are a Cecil County Expert. Get five to nine correct and you are a Cecil County Novice. There’s no way you can’t get less than five. If you do, you need to get out and explore North East, Charlestown and Perryville some more!



4 6


Continued on Page 62 www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 61







Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com







Continued on Page 64 www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 63

North East 1


Second floor, Booksellers Antiques and Bean, Leaves Etc., North East Steak and Main, North East

2 8


Gilbert Lighthouse Pavillion, North East

Wood’s Ice Cream Alley, North East



5 and 10 Antique Market, North East St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church, North East


North East Fire Company, North East


Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

North East Town Pier, North East



11 The sign and shed are both found at the 107 House, which holds the Charlestown Museum, Market Street, Charlestown.

Former site of historic Charlestown Wharf, now modern public wharf, Charlestown


The Wellwood, Charlestown



Pilings at the Avalon B Public Parking Lot, Charlestown. Private dock, Charlestown.

Continued on Page 66

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 65



15 Perryville Rail Station, Perryville


Lower Ferry Park and Pier, Perryville

17 Railroad overpass by Town Hall, Perryville

18 Beside Rodger’s Tavern, on the Old Post Road, Perryville 66

Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

Perryville United Methodist Church, Perryville

19 Susquehanna Bridge, Perryville

www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


—————|Cecil County Business|—————

In 2002, Mitchell and Linda Dickinson purchased a 20-acre farm in Earleville... Over time, it’s become the working personification of a couple who wanted to change their lives for the better...and did 68

Cecil County Life | Fall/Winter 2016 | www.cecilcountylife.com

The Dickinsons stand beside what will become their alpaca fiber mill, which is scheduled to open at the end of the year.

All photos by Richard L. Gaw

The sweet and soft treasures of the Painted Sky Alpaca Farm By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


o enter the Painted Sky Alpaca Farm on Knight House Road in Earleville is to open yourself up to a welcomed kind of vulnerability, one most easily aligned with the feeling of being transported to a serene soundbooth of nature. Your transformation occurs when you arrive, when the seemingly endless chain link of fencing throughout the 20 acres rattles by your vehicle like a series of dominoes tumbling, one by one. Then the alpacas magically appear. As of a recent October morning, there are 34 of them, pearl white and brown and black, all dotted across the meadows, arching their skinny necks in a dance of curiosity. They walk slowly in the direction of your vehicle. You are timid at first, but not for long. The alpacas -- with names like Tink and Dusty and Cinnamon -- surround you in the docile act of connection. You reach out with your

hand and run your fingers through their fleece, and you realize that you have never felt anything so soft and gentle. You are mesmerized by their giant black eyes and, less than five minutes after you arrive, you know what Mitchell and Linda Dickinson, the owners of the Painted Sky Alpaca Farm, feel every day of their lives -- that the animals that populate their farm are four-legged therapists, in charge of slowing down time and allowing the white noise of life to dissipate. For nearly five decades, the Dickinsons owned and operated Sheeran Direct, a well-respected fulfillment business in New Castle, Del., where they provided storing and shipping services for some of the largest companies in the world. They built the success of their company through the support of loyal employees and the old chestnut working model of “Our word is our bond.� Eventually, the Dickinsons witnessed a new corporate Continued on Page 70 www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


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culture dawning, where it became less important to cultivate good working relationships and more important to save a nickel in procurement services. At the same time, their work schedules were chewing up whatever sense of lifework balance they had tried to build for themselves. Seventy-hour work weeks became the norm. They were always on call. They worked holidays. “We would leave every morning and go to work to New Castle -- 45 minutes back and forth -- and get home late at night,” Linda said. “At some point we said, ‘We have a really great life, but we’re not really living life.’ We were in Linda Dickinson of the Painted Sky Alpaca Farm connects with one of the 34 alpacas on the the fulfillment business, but we didn’t farm. feel like we were being fulfilled.” In 2002, they moved with their son Christopher to a compliment the females -- such as physical conformation, 20-acre farm in Earleville, thinking that a change of pace fleece characteristics, color genetics and temperament. -- and place -- would allow them more time with their What began as a smattering of passers-by to the farm four horses. quickly grew and now, seven days a week, people of all “Somebody told us that when you have your own farm, ages visit the farm to admire the beauty of the animals. you won’t ride anymore because you’ll be spending your Seniors on tour buses. Motorcycle groups. Schoolchildren. entire time taking care of the farm,” Mitchell said. “They Parents and their young children. Adults with challenges. were right.” “It’s like ‘Field of Dreams,’ Linda said. “’If you build it, On a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard one year, the they will come.’ At first, we were amazed at the number Dickinsons saw their first alpacas and fell in love immeof people who came out. Once we saw the interest level diately. They began to pore through any literature they from the people, and the rewarding feeling that we would could find about how to start an alpaca farm, and in get by seeing their enthusiasm, that’s when we decided to 2012, the entire family visited an alpaca farm in Denton, open our farm to the public.” Md. They stayed there for what felt like ten hours. The next step for the Dickinsons may be their largest The business plan ball began to roll quickly. They undertaking yet: They plan to open and operate an alpaca planned to purchase a starter herd of three, but that fiber mill on the farm. It’s currently under construction, number quickly grew to eleven when they discovered and is planned to open by the end of the year. that alpacas are the most color diversified livestock in It’s for a good reason: Alpacas are native to South the world -- coming in 22 natural colors. Linda’s brother America – from the high altitudes of the Andes of Chile, helped Mitchell build alpaca pens for both males and Peru and Bolivia – where they have been kept for their females, they merged their business with another comluxurious fleece for thousands of years. There’s another pany, and Mitchell retired. After continuing on with the reason: 95 percent of all alpaca fiber is produced in South new company for the next three years, Linda retired in America and is shipped to Asia. Consequently, only five 2015 to join Mitchell full time. percent is shipped to the United States. Today, the Dickinsons raise and sell huacaya alpacas “Part of the problem is that you can’t send your fibers to (pronounced whah-kai-ah), as well as operate a gift store, the big mills, who are processing wool and don’t break located on the farm, that sells products made from alpaca down to process alpaca fiber,” Linda said. “Alpaca farms fleece by local artisans. They also provide breeding and have to send their fiber to specialty mills, and it takes as agisting services, taking into account the attributes of the much as a year to 18 months to process and deliver that farm’s females and look for males with higher qualities to fiber back to the farmer.” 70

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Each piece of apparel comes with a tag denoting the name of the alpaca whose fleece was used.

Painted Sky Fiber Mill will be Maryland’s only fiber mill dedicated to processing alpaca, alpaca blends and other exotic fibers. It will offer traditional fiber processing services turning raw fibers into yarns, rovings and batts. Eventually the Dickinsons hope to offer alpaca farms the option to have their yarns turned into hand knit or hand woven, ready-to-sell U.S.-made finished goods. Eventually, the mill will provide alpaca owners with an option to have personalized garments and accessories made from the fleece of their own alpacas, woven by local and regional artisans. Soon after Mitchell retired from the only business he had known in his adult life, he was approached by a friend, who asked him that now that he was retired, if there was anything he wanted to pursue in his life. “I realized that I couldn’t answer that question immediately, and when you can’t answer that question -- if there is nothing else you have ever thought of doing -- you have a problem,” he said. “So many people we know who are in big business are terribly unhappy.” Now, the life he leads with Linda is one spent largely in the company of three-foot-high animals -- animals he refers to as “living stress balls.” “We believe that we are being guided through this,” Mitchell added. “Things have sort of fallen in place for us and we feel we are very blessed in our life. We love meeting new people and sharing our ‘Alpaca Lifestyle’ with them.”

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Alpaca Farm Continued from Page 71

Painted Sky Alpaca Farm is located on 95 Knight House Lane, Earleville, Md. 21919. Individual, family and group tours are available. Large group tours are booked in advance and a small fee is charged. Individual and family visits are free of charge. A gift shop, where alpaca clothing and accessories are for sale, is located on site. The farm is open seven days a week, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.paintedskyalpacafarm. com, or call 410-275-9423. To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@ chestercounty.com.

Maryland Alpaca & Fleece Festival November 12 & 13th Howard County Fairgrounds West Friendship, MD Bring your fiber and drop it off at the show!

A gift shop on the farm offers apparel made from the fleece of the farm’s alpacas and created by local artisans.


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So you want to know more about alpacas? What is an alpaca? Alpacas are members of the camelid family. The camels that most people are familiar with are the ones with humps; the dromedary of Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Asia, and the Bactrian camel of China and Tibet. However, there are four other camelids (without humps) that are indigenous to South America: two of them, llamas and alpacas, have been domesticated for thousands of years; whereas the other two varieties, guanacos and vicunas, continue to roam in wild herds today. The alpaca comes in two breed-types: huacaya (pronounced wah-KI-ah) and suri (SOO-ree). Huacayas, the more common type, account for about 90 percent of all alpacas, and have fluffy, crimpy fleece that gives the animals a teddy bear-like appearance. Suris, on the other hand, grow silky, lustrous fleece that drapes gracefully in beautiful pencil-locks. How long do alpacas live? Generally, around 15 to 20 years. The longest documented lifespan of an alpaca is 27 years. How are alpacas different from llamas? People often confuse alpacas with llamas. While closely related, llamas and alpacas are distinctly different animals. First, llamas are much larger, about twice the size of an alpaca, with an average weight of about 250 to 450 pounds, compared to an alpaca whose weight averages 100 to 200 pounds. Llamas are primarily used for packing or for guarding herds of sheep or alpacas, whereas alpacas are primarily raised for their soft and luxurious fleece. Are alpacas an “exotic species,” or are they considered simply “livestock?” Alpacas have been raised as domestic livestock for thousands of years and since the end-product of alpacas is their fleece, like sheep, they are classified as livestock by both the United States and Canadian federal governments. Do alpacas spit? All members of the camel family use spitting as a means of negative communication. They do get possessive around food, and thus may express annoyance by spitting at other alpacas that they perceive are encroaching on “their” food. Also, they often spit at one another during Continued on Page 74 www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


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squabbles within the herd (usually involving two or more males). From time to time alpacas do spit at people on purpose, but it is more common that humans get caught in the cross-fire between alpacas, so it’s best to study their behavior and learn to avoid the most vulnerable situations. Do alpacas make noise? Alpacas are very quiet, docile animals that generally make a minimal amount of sound. They generally make only a pleasant humming sound as a means of communication or to express concern or stress. Occasionally you will hear a shrill sound, called an “alarm call,” which usually means they are frightened or angry with another alpaca. Male alpacas also “serenade” females during breeding with a guttural, throaty sound called “orgling.” Are alpacas dangerous? No — they are safe and pleasant to be around. They do not bite or butt and do not have sharp teeth, horns, hooves, or claws as other types of livestock do. They move gracefully and adroitly about the field and are therefore unlikely to run into or over anyone, even small children. Occasionally, an alpaca will reflexively kick with its hind legs, especially if touched from the rear, but the soft padded feet usually do little more than just “get your attention.” Continued on Page 76


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Mitchell Dickinson snuggles with one of the flock.

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Alpaca Farm Continued from Page 74

Is it OK to have just one alpaca? As a general rule, the answer is no. Alpacas have very strong herding instincts and need the companionship of other alpacas to thrive. Gender-appropriate (or neutered) llamas sometimes will successfully bond with an alpaca. Otherwise, it is best to provide each alpaca with a companion alpaca of the same gender. Are alpacas easy to care for? They are a small and relatively easy livestock to maintain. They stand about 36 inches high at the withers (where the neck and spine come together); weigh between 100 to 200 pounds; and establish easy-to-manage, communal dung piles. The alpacas need basic shelter and protection from heat and foul weather, just like other types of livestock, and they also require certain vaccinations and anti-parasitic medicines. Their fleece is sheared once a year to keep them cool in summer. Additionally, their toenails need to be trimmed on an as-needed basis to ensure proper foot alignment and comfort. Interestingly, alpacas do not have hooves — instead, they have two toes, with hard toenails on top and a soft pad on the bottom of their feet, which minimizes their effect on pastures and makes


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them an “environmentally friendly� animal. How much space does it take to raise an alpaca? Because these animals are environmentally friendly and require so little pasture and food, you can usually raise from two to eight alpacas on an acre of land, depending on terrain, rain/snowfall amounts, availability of pasture, access to fresh water, etc. They can also be raised on a dry lot and fed grass hay. Consult with your local USDA office for specific local recommendations. Are alpacas clean animals? Yes, they are much cleaner than most livestock. Alpacas have minimal aroma and tend to attract less flies in the summertime than other forms of livestock. Furthermore, alpacas often defecate in communal dung piles. There may be three or four of these areas in a pasture, spread throughout about 10 percent to 20 percent of the pasture. This makes for easy clean-up, reduced opportunity for parasites, and better overall hygiene in the herd. What do I need by way of shelter and fencing? While the shelter requirements vary depending on weather and predators, as a general rule alpacas need at least a three-sided, open shelter, where they can escape from the heat of the sun in summer and from icy wind and snow in winter. If predators (dogs, coyotes, bears, etc.) are present in your neighborhood, then a minimum of

five-foot-high, 2-foot x 4-foot no-climb fencing is strongly recommended. Traditional horse fencing with 6-foot x 6-foot openings is not recommended, as curious alpacas have been harmed by putting their heads or legs through the openings. What do alpacas eat? Alpacas mainly eat grass or hay, and not much— approximately two pounds per 125 pounds of body weight per day. The general rule of thumb is 1.5 percent of the animal’s body weight daily in hay or fresh pasture. A single, 60 pound bale of hay can generally feed a group of about 20 alpacas for one day. Grass hay is recommended, while alfalfa should be fed sparingly, due to its overly rich protein content. Alpacas are pseudo-ruminants, with a single stomach divided into three compartments. They produce rumen and chew cud, thus they are able to process this modest amount of food very efficiently. Many alpacas (especially pregnant and lactating females) will benefit from nutritional and mineral supplements, depending on local conditions. There are several manufactured alpaca and llama feeds and mineral mixes readily available; consult with your local veterinarian to ensure you are feeding the appropriate diet for your area. Alpacas also require access to plenty of fresh water to drink.

Can alpacas thrive in locations with very hot or very cold climates? Generally, yes. Alpacas are amazingly resilient animals and have adapted successfully to the extremes of both very hot and very cold climates. In hot, humid climates, alpaca owners need to take extra precautions to make sure that the alpacas do not suffer from heat stress. These include: shearing fleeces early in the year, providing fans and ventilation in the barn, offering cool fresh water for drinking, and hosing off their bellies (where heat is dissipated) on very hot days. Does the birthing require human assistance? In most cases, cria are born without intervention, and usually during daylight hours. A cria normally weighs between 15 and 19 pounds and is usually standing and nursing within 90 minutes of birth. The cria continues to nurse for about six months until it is weaned. Are alpacas easy to train? Alpacas are very smart animals and are fairly easy to train. It is best to start training them when they are young so that they will accept a halter and learn to follow on a lead. Many owners also enjoy training them to walk through obstacles; some even compete with their alpacas at shows where they walk over, through, and around

Continued on Page 78

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Alpaca Farm Continued from Page 77

objects and also jump over small hurdles. Also, it is helpful to train alpacas to ride in a trailer or van if they ever need to be transported to a show or another farm. Alpacas are easy to transport, as they normally cush (lay down with their legs folded under them) when traveling. So what do you DO with these animals? Alpacas are raised for their soft and luxurious fleece (sometimes called fiber). Each shearing produces roughly five to ten pounds of fleece per animal, per year. This fleece, often compared to cashmere, can be turned into a wide array of products from yarn and apparel to tapestries and blankets. The fleece itself is recognized globally for its fineness, softness, light-weight, durability, excellent thermal qualities, and luster. In addition to selling the fleece and the animals, many alpaca owners operate a retail store selling alpaca endproducts—either on or off their farms. Products are sold directly to consumers at their store or over the Internet. Many also sell alpaca products through craft fairs, farmers markets, and retail sites. Sales of these end-products can provide considerable supplemental income to alpaca owners.


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What about the fleece? Let’s start by comparing alpaca fleece with wool from most breeds of sheep. In general, alpaca fleece is stronger, lighter, warmer, and more resilient. Finer grades of alpaca fleece (known commercially as “Baby Alpaca”) are believed to be hypo-allergenic, meaning it does not irritate your skin as sheep’s wool sometimes does. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca fleece contains no lanolin and is therefore ready to spin after only nominal cleaning. Prized for its unique silky feel and superb “handle,” alpaca fleece is highly sought-after by both cottage-industry artists (hand spinners, knitters, weavers, etc.) as well as the commercial fashion industry. Alpaca fleece has a great variety of natural colors, making it very much in vogue: 16 official colors (white; beige; and shades of fawn, brown, black, and grey) with many other subtle shades and hues. White, light fawn, and light grey can be readily dyed, thus offering a rainbow of colors for the fiber artist. Alpaca fleece can also be combined with other fine fibers such as merino wool, cashmere, mohair, silk, and angora to attain incredibly interesting blends. Do I need to purchase a registered alpaca? Simple answer: yes. Anytime you are investing money, you need to take all the necessary steps to help assure that your investment maintains its value and registered alpacas do just that.

Area businesses are honored at ‘Cecil County Business Hall of Fame’ Seven local businesses were inducted into the Cecil County Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 21, and one – Old Dominion Electric Cooperative – was named “2016 Cecil County Business of the Year.” The seven businesses inducted into the Cecil County Hall of Fame are: • City Pharmacy of Elkton, Inc.; • Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding Program; • Galvinell Meat Co., Inc.; • Old Dominion Electric Cooperative; • Orbital ATK; • Patriots Glen National Golf Club; • W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. Together, they make up the “Class of 2016” in the Cecil County Business Hall of Fame. Businesses or organizations could nominate themselves or others for the award. This year’s nominees were in seven categories – agri-business; hospitality/tourism; manufacturing/distribution; nonprofit; retail business; R&D; and service. The honors were announced at the Cecil County Business Hall of Fame Gala at The Wellwood in Charlestown. Co-hosted by the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce and the Cecil County Office of Economic Development, the second annual event was created to recognize and celebrate the dedication, innovation, economic impact, and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by businesses located in or serving Cecil County. This year’s Business of the Year, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), has been operating in Cecil County since 2003. ODEC has donated to the Cecil County community, including schools, fire departments, charities, nature centers and more. Employees also volunteer in the community through Habitat for Humanity, the Cecil County Boys and Girls Club, the Fair Hill Nature Center, libraries, and area schools, among other organizations. On Oct. 21, a first-time certificate was presented to Milburn Orchards for their support and participation in the “I Love Cecil” community pride campaign. Milburn Orchards was thanked for showing their love for the Cecil County community. For information about the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce, contact Katie Lewis at 410-392-3833. To learn about the Cecil County Office of Economic Development, contact Jason Zang at 410-996-6292. Visit www.cecilchamber.com or email info@cecilchamber.com.

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————|Cecil County Environment|————

Photos courtesy of Exelon Generation

The Conowingo Dam has served as a source of clean, reliable energy for millions of residents and businesses in the Chesapeake Bay region. Now, Exelon Generation, the dam’s owner and operator, is helping to pave the way for the future of the Bay’s ecosystem

Exelon Generation: Partners in the future of the Chesapeake Bay By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


t is nearly impossible to dispute that when it comes to Maryland’s leading players in the effort to provide clean, reliable energy for millions of residents and businesses in the region, the Conowingo Dam has been at -- or very near -- the top of that list, since 1928, the year the dam opened. The hydroelectric facility -- owned and operated by Exelon Generation -- is Maryland’s largest source of renewable electricity, producing more clean energy than all other sources combined. It produces 1.6 million megawatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power


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more than 159,000 typical households for an entire year. It prevents 6.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and has avoided the burning of 2.8 million tons of coal in the past ten years – enough to fill M&T Bank Stadium four times. It is also an economic engine for the region, delivering $273 million in economic benefits to Maryland. Now, Exelon Generation has another job to do. Over the course of nearly a century, more than 170 million tons of sediment has built up in the vicinity of the Conowingo Dam, that flows past the dam and into the Chesapeake Bay, threatening its entire ecosystem. So while the dam itself has not directly been a part of the ecological problem that faces the bay, Exelon Generation is being asked to become part of the solution.

On July 7, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan held the state’s first Conowingo Dam Summit, where he announced the formation of a multi-agency work group to seek innovative solutions for reducing pollution that threatens the Chesapeake Bay. Hogan and officials in the state informed Exelon Generation of their intent to accelerate the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay by identifying cost-effective dredging solutions, including the beneficial or innovative uses for the sediments and associated nutrients near the dam itself. Hogan said the dam’s sediment problem has been “ignored for eight years” and said that a dredging operation -- at a pricetag of $250 million -- might be the answer to the bay’s pollution problem. “The time is now to find ways to accelerate the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, and we are calling for innovative minds to step forward with good ideas to foster collaboration and partnerships so we can tackle this problem from all angles with everything we’ve got by finally addressing the problem of sediment here at Conowingo Dam,” Gov. Hogan said. Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay has been a huge goal of the current administration, and has been since Hogan first ran for office in 2014. This year, the administration invested $53 million in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, the highest level of funding since the Fund was established. Hogan is not alone in this initiative. Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton, Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, Secretary of Planning Wendi Peters, Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder, and Acting Director of the Maryland Environmental Service John O’Neill are also on board. At the state’s request, Exelon Generation is funneling $3.5 million into as many as 50 separate studies -- in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers -- in order to gain more detailed information about how sediment and nutrients from behind Conowingo are impacting the Bay. The results of those studies are expected later this year. Exelon Generation Director of Communications Marshall Murphy said that while the company is concerned about the significant cost of dredging -- and whether it would provide a cost effective tool to help the ecosystem -- it is approaching its role as just one stakeholder in a multi-stakeholder, multi-state project. Continued on Page 82 www.cecilcountylife.com | Fall/Winter 2016 | Cecil County Life


Conowingo Dam Continued from Page 81

“As the owner and operator for the dam, we have a important responsibility to work with all parties to arrive at a regional-based, sceince-based solution related to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay,” Murphy said. “Everyone acknowledges that there is sediment building up behind the dam, and it is there as a result of a number of actions over the decades. Our job is to work with the State of Maryland, to participate in a support mode. We will continue to work with them as the Governor refines his thinking around the request for information.” While Exelon Generation continues to study the problem, there is another hurdle for the company to climb. In 2014, Exelon applied for a new 46-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to continue to operate Conowingo, at the same time state officials made it known of their intent to reject Exelon’s certification status. Subsequently, Exelon pulled its request for licensing until its studies are complete. “We are working to arrive at a decision by state and federal officials that will allow us to continue the operation of the dam, and that process is moving forward,” Murphy said. “While the licensing process moves forward, we continue to provide information


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to Maryland for their use in arriving at a water quality certification. “We are committed to seeing the license of the dam successfully renewed for its next operating cycle, and we have done a tremendous amount of work in order to do so.� To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@ chestercounty.com.

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Cecil County Life Fall/Winter 2016  

Cecil County Life Fall/Winter 2016