Lake Living vol. 23, no. 1

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FREE spring 2020 • vol. 23, no. 1

On Food plus

boathouse mystique a better bathroom designed in denmark food sovereignty


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editor’s note

Life is full of uncertainty and change, which is not always a bad thing. There can be opportunity in not knowing the outcome of our endeavors. Think about it, if we knew ahead of time what was in store, we might never achieve many of our greatest goals. And although the bestlaid plans can go wildly off track, compromise is there to save the day. Stephen Thomas and Leigh Macmillen Hayes both know more about the art of compromise after tackling their recent home renovations. A renovation, it turns out, is rather like a relationship. Both can be messy, disruptive, frustrating and unpredictable, but they can also be incredibly informative and ultimately rewarding. If there had been room, I would have included all the hilarious details of Stephen’s seemingly doomed relationship with his new bathroom, from the cursed mirror to the real story of the retrofitted vanity. At the end of the day—after all of the drama—it was worth it. He loves his new bathroom and appreciates it even more for the many ways it challenged him along the way to completion. When I read the note Leigh’s husband added to her birthday card this past November, it resonated with me how much of what we accomplish depends on compromise. Whether it’s something as seemingly simple as choosing a color schematic, or as terribly important as choosing a president. Which is my backdoor way of reminding you how important it is to get out and vote this November. Change is good. Laurie LaMountain Editor & Publisher Laurie LaMountain Staff Writers Leigh Macmillen Hayes, Marguerite Wiser Contributing Photographers Leigh Macmillen Hayes, Stephen Thomas, Charles Linden, Diane Darneille, NEAAO and Patch Farm Graphic Designer Dianne Lewis Proofreader/Copy Editor Leigh Macmillen Hayes Lake Living is published quarterly by Almanac Graphics, Inc., 625 Rocky Knoll Rd, Denmark, ME 04022 207-452-8005. www.lakelivingmaine. com e-mail: lakeliving@fairpoint.net ©2020. All rights reserved. Contents of this magazine may not be reproduced in any manner without written consent from the publisher. Annual subscriptions are available by sending check or money order for $20 to the above address.

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spring 2020 • vol. 23, no. 1

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8 boathouse mystique

20 food sovereignty

12 a better bathroom

23 on food

14 a compromised remodel

25 all one at home

by leigh macmillen hayes

by laurie lamountain

by leigh macmillen hayes

by marguerite wiser

by laurie lamountain

by leigh macmillen hayes

18 designed in denmark

by laurie lamountain

cover photo patch farm vegetables with highview farm butter and rosemont market bread


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Boathouse Mystique by leigh macmillen hayes

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or more than a century, water has lapped below quaint, wood-framed boathouses that grace the shores of many of the lakes and ponds in western Maine. Truly, they epitomize lake living as they were designed to store canoes and smaller craft, as well as protect polished wooden boats. Some of these remnants of another era are two storied, allowing boaters to drive into the bay below and dock the boat, then walk upstairs to changing rooms and slip into wool swimming dresses before wading into the water. The upper rooms also may have served as reception areas for guests, or a clubhouse of sorts. They were usually accessed by sidewall staircase. Their utilitarian purpose was important to early 20th-century rusticators who came to the lakes region for the summer months, given that trains, stage coaches, and boats were the primary form of transportation. Roads were few and the same was true of automobiles. If their storied past lives have been recorded, they’ve been difficult to find, but the oral tradition certainly has withstood the test of time. And so I visited a few of them and chatted with various owners and historical society directors to try to learn the

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tales of these lakeside garages. I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did. Dr. William Decker, who according to Bridgton, Maine 1768 - 1994, “lived on the George Farnsworth place in North Bridgton [and] did not practice here because of a speech impediment” built a double-decker boathouse on Long Lake circa 1907. The actual boathouse featured a deck around the inner walls and down the center, which created two boat slips. A garage-style door on the water side was opened and closed as needed. The boats were raised and lowered via a lift mounted to the ceiling

framing. Any time of the year, this structure served as a shelter, and in winter the boats were safe and secure as they were hoisted above the water. Once the building was refurbished into a summer home some years ago, a few features were retained in the living room which speak to its glory days. Dr. Decker’s signature is visible on the beams, and the hooks that were part of the lift system have remained in place, giving the room a historical ambiance. The second floor still features the original side-by-side, two-over-two windows and


beadboard wall treatment that was typical of rustic retreats in Victorian times. According to a story Anne Wold of North Bridgton shared about Dr. Decker’s boathouse, which her son Larry owns, the doctor had a clubhouse (think man cave) on the second story. Apparently he lived up the street with his mother and a housekeeper and didn’t particularly care for his mother. To escape, he’d disappear to the second story of the boathouse and play cards with his comrades. A small cupboard inside the upper room stored a 6-Volt battery used to produce electricity for those occasions. As for his housekeeper, he married her once his mother died. Another boathouse built circa 1905 and situated next door to the Decker building was originally owned by Mr. Arnold, a teacher at Long Lake Lodge. The lodge was actually a summer tutoring school for boys. This structure is smaller than Dr. Decker’s, but it also had a front door on the water side and room for a boat to slide into its lower berth. One lot south is a much larger boathouse that is now a year-round home owned by Dave Yarin and Beth Murphy. Built in 1914, theirs was a working boathouse with 25-feet over the water, much like a marine garage. It was built upon granite stones and had a center garage door. The great room, which now spans the front of the building, was the original work space. Moorings out front may have served like a wait line at the local Prompto 10-Minute Oil Change. Work probably took much longer than ten minutes and much of it may have been the result of structural repairs caused by run-ins with rocks and such. As the Yarins imagined it, there was probably a transom to lift a boat up and out of the water. When the former owners repurposed the building to a home in 1996 following state regulations, the great room was created and the garage door to the boat slip below was removed. But, especially in the spring, the Yarins can hear waves sloshing below their feet. Similar to the Decker building, side stairs led to the second story, and a wooden trap door could be closed to keep mosquitoes at bay. The second story features hardwood floors and beadboard on the walls and ceiling and built-in benches creating a cozy area for those card games of long ago. Topped off, of course, with cigars and glasses of Scotch. Two rooms across the front of the upper floor may have served as changing rooms, while the Yarins suppose a smaller

third room could have been for those who wished to bunk for the night. At one time French doors opened to a small balcony on the second floor, but disappeared during a remodel and the house now features a first-floor porch. It’s like boathouse row in the neighborhood and there’s even a smaller one built for canoes at what was once Long Lake Lodge. On Highland Lake in Bridgton, a small boathouse was constructed in 1916 as part of a compound for Swedish-Norwegian opera star Olivia Fremstad. Built in the style of her homeland, she called the elaborate cottage and its out buildings “Nawandyn,” a name supposedly meaning spirits of air and water.

In 1926, Eleazer Winslow Clark, who had overseen construction of large wooden sailing ships at his firm in Bath, Maine, purchased the Fremstad property. A year later, he constructed a larger two-story boathouse that still stands by the water’s edge and he converted Fremstad’s small boathouse to a cottage. A Scandinavian-style balcony blends in with the one Fremstad had designed for the main house on the property. Now known as Nawandyn Estate, the property is owned by Clark’s grandson Hopewell Darneille and his wife, Diane. Though the season prohibited me from visiting it, Diane told me that it is a post and beam structure measuring 51’ x 31’ as it extends over the water. Built in the typical U-shaped formation with a 7’-wide dock, it was originally supported by columns of large rocks held in place by log cages. That system was damaged by ice jams during the winter of ’82-83 and now steel beams and concrete support the building. Watercraft can still pull in to the firstfloor boat slips, which span the buildings 44’ length. “Throughout its 93-year history,” said Diane, “the boathouse has held a large power boat, a variety of non-powered watercraft and since 1955, an AlumaCraft rowboat.” Large pulleys attached to major structural beams raise the heavier boats out of the water. The second floor was designed with a large open area and three small rooms that, again, would have served as changing rooms. The floor, made of ‘heart of pine,’

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doesn’t have any knots. Large windows, and glass balcony doors plus wooden benches surround the room. “Historically,” said Diane, “the room included an old record player and large collection of 78s, as well as a Baldwin-Hamilton upright piano, suggesting dancing and music. Today, it’s used primarily for socializing and games including ping pong and cards.” About twelve years before Olivia Fremstad built her summer retreat, Charles E. Cobb and his wife opened Camp Wyonegonic for Girls on Highland Lake. Two years later, they established Wyonegonic Club for older girls on Moose Pond. By 1907, Wyonegonic Camps had officially moved to Moose Pond in Denmark. Lee Ann Shand of the Denmark Historical Society told me that at the turn of the century there wasn’t a road to Wyonegonic Camps. To attend camp, girls needed to travel by train to Hiram or Brownfield, stage coach to Denmark’s lower village, and then boat for the lake portion of the journey. Mr. Cobb, therefore, built two boathouses as storage sheds for camp supplies and boats. Since this was all pre-World War I, a time when upper middle class families vacationed for the entire summer, father may have stayed in the city. Mother would have accompanied her daughter(s) to camp and then stayed at the Denmark Inn or one

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of several cottages also built by Cobbs in the location of today’s Bicentennial Park. No one knows exactly when the boathouses were constructed, but based on the architecture there is suspicion that the one closest to the dam went up prior to 1900. According to Lee Ann, the boathouse staff took in camp supplies and stored boats. During the off season, building projects related to the camps and repairs were completed in the space. Two power skiffs, named The Richard and The Elizabeth after the children of Charles Cobb, were used to transport mail, equipment, supplies, and people. Except for vegetables grown at local farms, everything was delivered via the boats, which made nine stops for Wyonegonic Camps and Winona Camps for boys, also owned by the Cobbs. The boats would probably have fit into the two bays of the smaller boathouse. By the 1930s, the area was changing and road construction led to a transition away from using the two waterfront sheds as they were originally intended. Steve Sudduth, who along with his family owns Wyonegonic Camps, said that when his parents, George and Carol, purchased the property from the second generation of the Cobb family in 1969, they bought the boathouses as a separate acquisition. In his mind’s eye, Steve remembers them

full of stuff much like a long-term storage shed. “In that corner was a metal pile,” he said pointing to an imaginary space, “ and in that corner, oak planks kept under cover. There was a roofing supply area, a cement mixer we touched once every three years or so, and room for a boat. He recalls that for at least 15 years, a 1961 Falcon was stored in one of the boathouses and it was eventually sold as a functioning, intact vehicle. A large barge, however, still in use as a utility boat for dock work and the like, did get stored in the one of the boathouses each winter. “I have vivid memories of moving the Wyo barge up the ramp,” he said. “And hand bailing it. As a fifteen year old, I was a member of the grunt crew; we bailed all day.” He sold the shed closest to the dam to Pat and Loren Largey in 1993. The boathouse still features two bays with a deck in the center, plus an attached workshop. While on the road side there are doors, the water side is completely open to the elements. Steve later sold the longer boathouse to the Gills of Denmark, who recently resold it. Rather than boat bays, it had a large access ramp on the gabled end and was more warehouse-like in structure. Two sets of French doors open on the road side, but there are no windows or doors on the water side of the building. Henry Banks of Denmark remodeled another on Moose Pond that was built circa 1920. “It had been open for one boat,” Henry said, “but the structure had shifted. I built a floor across it so you can no longer drive a boat in but the owners store life jackets and such. It was grandfathered so I couldn’t change the size or function.” There are so few of these structures left. Some, such as the Stone boathouse built circa 1901 on Kezar Lake, that Cathy Stone of Lovell Historical Society described as a small, one-storied building with a ramp, collapsed in the 1960s. Those that still stand hearken back to the day when boats were built of wood, and sun and rain would ruin them. The boathouses lengthened the life of a boat. Today’s fiberglass boats sit beside a dock or on a trailer all summer and are stored in shrink wrap for the winter. It’s a different era. Since the 1970s, the construction of any new boathouses has been prohibited by Shoreland Zoning, but those standing can be repaired, remodeled or restored. And while their histories and styles may be varied, one thing is certain: boathouses hold a certain mystique. R


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before

a better bathroom on a budget

by laurie lamountain

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hen Stephen Thomas bought his lakeside house in 2014, he knew that the second-floor master bathroom didn’t work for him—it had a “ginormous” pink jacuzzi and makeup counter that he was never going to use—but he was also mindful not to personalize it to the extent that it wouldn’t appeal to a future buyer were he to put the house on the market. According to real estate economists, “a simple bathroom remodel—replacing a toilet or adding a double sink—carries the biggest bang for the buck of any home renovation you can possibly make—$1.71 for every $1.00 spent, which is three times more effective than a kitchen renovation.” Having flipped a number of houses, he had a fairly good idea of what he was up against and opted to save money by finding and lining up subcontractors himself. He also took on the task of gutting and clearing the 10’x18’ space, which meant getting rid of the fixtures, including the ginormous jacuzzi tub that had to be lowered down from the second-floor balcony. Additionally,

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he researched and purchased all the materials, although he relied on the advice of the subcontractors before sourcing materials for the six-foot glass enclosed shower. “I’ve walked through $60,000 bathrooms and asked myself ‘how do I get a bathroom that looks like it’s in a $5,000,000 house without spending all that money?’” When he flips a house to sell, Stephen takes time to re-envision the house before he even takes a hammer out, and he applied the same principle to his bathroom. He knew he didn’t want another tub (he already had a hot tub) and that he wanted a much bigger shower than the 3’x3’ one that was there. He wanted a Smart bathroom, where he could play music, adjust the water temperature in the shower, control the lighting, and even take phone calls with voice recognition. He didn’t want to go through the expense of replacing and replumbing the two-sink vanity, but he didn’t want to keep the dated oak finish, so he painted the base and brought the doors and drawers to a commercial cabinet store where they spray

painted them for $100. Not only did he save the expense of buying a whole new vanity, he saved by not replumbing everything. He wanted to replace the mirror over the bathroom vanity with a front-lit LED unit similar to what he had seen in hotels, but at a local bathroom supply store it cost around $3,000. After some on-line research, he got it for around $600. When it came to choosing tile, he discovered there were loads of options that varied wildly in cost per square foot. The one he chose for the floor was a matte porcelain tile that cost $1.75 a square foot at Lowe’s and looked a lot like white Carrara marble tile he saw at the local tile store for $25 a square foot. He rationalized that nobody was going to notice the difference on the floor so much as they would the wow factor of the glass shower and all the accessories. He got a quote from an audiovisual store to install high-end Sonance speakers in the ceiling for around $3,000. He then bought them at Best Buy and installed them himself for around $1,000. S t e p h e n ’s s t o r y i s about achieving a highend bathroom at a fraction of the cost, but it’s not about doing it on the cheap. He knows there are things that are worth spending more for—and it’s not always the bells and whistles. He points out that a large part of his investment isn’t even visible, but he has the assurance of knowing that what you can’t see is done properly. “It’s either pay me now or pay me later. I just try to make the ‘pay me now’ part as painless as possible,” says Stephen. The shower is a prime example. He consulted several subcontractors and did a lot of homework before he chose one he felt confident would install the shower in a way that guaranteed he wouldn’t end up paying later. He relates the unfortunate example of friends who had spent a small fortune renovating their bathroom, only to have to gut it a year later because it wasn’t done right. They ended up spending thousands more to remediate the hidden mold that resulted from their botched project. “Different guys want to do it different ways. One tile guy said ‘you don’t need this waterproofing membrane on the walls or the floor’ and I had done a tremendous amount of research on the best way to do


before

this. Schluter® makes a waterproof membrane called DITRA that you put down on the floor of the bathroom before you tile it. Then there’s the shower itself and there are like six different ways you can do a shower. In the old days, they used to hot mop a shower pan for the shower floor. Then they went to using mortar. They would make a big bed of mortar and custom slope it so the water would drain. Now they have these Schluter systems that are foam with a waterproof membrane on top and uses a pre-sloped waterproof shower pan.”

a few more tips

tile considerations Large tiles won’t work for a shower floor because the floor slopes. Stephen chose a 1”x3” herringbone tile that requires more grout but is less likely to slip. Big box stores often have large format tiles for less. Large format tile requires large format mortar, but saves a little because more coverage translates into less labor. Matte finish is recommended for a bathroom; gloss is extremely slippery when wet. Each bundle of tiles is from a different dye lot (think production run) with identifying codes, so it’s important not to mix dye lots

Without getting overly technical, because Stephen readily admits to OCD, suffice to say that it’s worth it to do your research and invest extra in newer technology. Once the Schluter shower system was installed, it had to be water tested to make sure there weren’t any leaks, which takes a couple of days of monitoring that needs to be factored into the work flow. Stephen likens it to Dominos. “The plumber comes and he does his thing and he’s not thinking that he has to make sure the plumbing is exactly where it

needs to be for the tile guy to come in and to do his thing. Even before that, the glass guy’s going to come . . .” The next big hurdle was figuring out how to get an 83”x72” piece of 3/8th-inch thick glass up to the second floor. They ended up renting a lift and one of the installers rode with it up to the master bedroom balcony. Stephen was more than a little apprehensive because there had already been a couple of mishaps that began with breaking the old mirror above the vanity when they were removing it. He comes from a superstitious family and, despite running the broken pieces under water and burying a piece in the yard, the next piece of bad luck was getting zapped by a faulty outlet. Then there was the moment when they were removing the pink toilet and it broke. A friend, who was carrying the bagged pieces downstairs, gashed his leg open on a broken shard and had to be rushed to the emergency room. Fortunately, the $2,000 piece of glass for the shower and the installer made it safely to the top. Also fortunate was that when it came time to install, the framing had been done with the weight of that giant piece of glass in mind. Thinking ahead and planning for what comes next is the single best way to avoid costly mistakes that can really blow your budget. It’s why Stephen has learned from experience to take the time up front to “measure three times; cut once.” In the end, what would have been a $30,000 bathroom renovation ended up being a third of the cost at around $10,000. And even though Stephen invested a lot of his own time in research and labor, he figures he saved money by having all his dominoes in a row. Bottom line, he got a better bathroom for less. R

as you may end up with tile that varies in shade, size, color and even texture. A good rule of thumb is to buy 20% more than you think you’re going to need.

shop around Aside from planning, com-

accommodates the size of the space it’s serving. A larger space/shower requires a larger capacity fan. Stephen calculated cubic feet per minute needed for an 8’x10’ room with a 6’ shower.

what to avoid Stephen has this last bit of advice, “If people say ‘we’ll help you,’ you want to think twice. Do they know what they’re doing?” The other consideration with any remodel is don’t go with the latest and greatest fad because in five years you might hate it. Think timeless and always in fashion.”

exhaust fan Make sure you get one that

parative shopping is probably the best way to save money on a renovation. Don’t take the first estimate or price you’re quoted. It pays to shop around.

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wanted new appliances, new countertops and a new floor. He thought an extension of the room would make sense. Then a three-piece bathroom got thrown into the mix. After that, a mudroom was added. And voilà, welcome to the Hayes kitchen remodel. It feels like it’s been a long journey, because, well, it has been. We’d imagined a makeover for years, but for most of that time it was just a suggestion here or comment there. Finally, about two years ago we contacted a residential designer who stopped by and talked about some possibilities. And then months passed where we didn’t act and, though we’d expected to have something new in place by the fall of 2018, the kitchen was still the same old space. It was on my birthday that November, a raw, rainy day that found us at home rather than hiking a trail, when we finally sat down with graph paper and began to consider what the space might look like. Suddenly, we were both excited and the next day I contacted the residential designer again. She couldn’t meet with us until January 2019, so we put our plan on hold, but both felt we were ready.

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A Compromised Remodel by leigh macmillen hayes

After the layout took form (as you may have read in LL spring 2019), with a few edits here and there, we hired an interior designer to help us make decisions about materials, placement, colors, textures, and every little detail imaginable. Our hope was to create space that fit in with the integrity of the farmhouse as naturally as possible. In the spring of 2019 we were in high gear and certain that by September we’d have a brand new kitchen. By July, the refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher (I was most excited about the latter because I’d never had one before) were delivered to the barn. And we’d packed up the kitchen, summer kitchen, which served as my office, and butler’s pantry, filling our living room from one end to the other with boxes atop boxes. And then the rains came. And contractors got backlogged with work. And our project got put on the shelf. Finally, in mid-August, excavation began and a beam was placed under the structure because our intention was to gut the back end of the house, but keep the kitchen fireplace/chimney intact. Huge pieces of split granite were pulled from under the structure and wooden beams

were built to support the upstairs portion. While a basement exists under the front (original section of the house built circa 1870), there was only a damp crawl space below the back addition. The plan was to replace the granite with a cement frost wall and then build another frost wall ten feet out to support the new space. In the midst of building the outer frost wall first, a suggestion was made that we might consider filling the entire space with cement and install radiant heat into the slab rather than digging out the crawl space and adding different fill to improve drainage issues. It was determined that it would save us money and be more structurally sound. As we discussed all of this with several contractors, a few artifacts were unearthed. During a previous renovation, bottles imprinted with a “Dr. F. E. Stevens, Bridgton Pharmacy,” as well as Frank P. Bennett, Pharmacist, both circa 1900. This time a bottle with the word “cocaine” imprinted on it was found in the dirt and we realized the original homeowners had probably used it to create their own tinctures. Structural demolition day finally arrived and suddenly the kitchen we’d known for


THE DECISION MAKING STYMIED ME, BUT HE WAS RIGHT. WE HAD DONE IT TOGETHER. over 25 years disappeared. As avid fans of HGTV, we imagined that within six to eight weeks we’d be using the newly created space and greeting Trick or Treaters from our new front door. What we failed to realize is that though the “Property Brothers” may be a reality show, television and real life aren’t synonymous and the builder didn’t have a crew of 37 hiding off camera and ready to quickly tear the space apart and complete the rebuild. Eventually, there was nothing left but the fireplace and I took to telling people we were having an open house. I think the ones who appreciated it most were our next door neighbors because for the first time they could look from their kitchen right through the opening where ours had been and see up into the field beyond. By then, it was autumn so they could truly enjoy the colorful display of the trees that line the stone walls and mammals who frequently pass through. At first, without walls, the space felt so big. When the walls went up it shrunk. And

I became concerned that we hadn’t made it large enough. Remember, I’m the one who didn’t originally see the need for more space. To reassure me, Allen cut life-size pieces of the built-in bench, kitchen table, island, appliances and cabinets from cardboard boxes and placed them appropriately. That did the trick. Finally, windows went into place, and electricians, plumbers, and heating contractors joined the scene. With all the comings and goings, compromise became a constant. Suddenly, we had to place final orders for cabinets, countertops, flooring, sinks, backsplashes, and lights. We needed to decide where the light switches should be located, choose a color schematic, locate a bureau for a bathroom vanity, and yada, yada, yada. Actually, on my birthday card this year, Allen wrote, “I have enjoyed more than almost anything making decisions about our new kitchen because we’ve done it together.” The decision making stymied me, but he was right. We had done it together.

At the same time, brilliant ideas popped up. We’d intended to have a sliding barn door between the kitchen and new summer kitchen. As the crew removed a wall to create an opening to the stairway, they discovered some decent boards that might be used to build the door. But then Allen had a brainstorm. Why not take two doors (from the former water closet and food pantry) and join them together to become the “barn” door. Why not? Could one more old door be used for the bathroom’s pocket door? Why not? And over the cricket, that wee pointed roof above the entryway, why not install a wooden fan that had once graced the hardware store’s front door. Why not? That one was a little bit more difficult for me to swallow, but in time I came to agree that it worked. As cabinets and countertops went into place, the bench for the kitchen table was built, and lights were installed, we became impatient. We just wanted the job to be done. Weekends that Allen had off found us painting and sanding, but we ended up call-

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ing in professional painters who made the job move along much more smoothly—both literally and figuratively. Fast forward, well, sorta fast forward for this has all taken much longer than we expected, to 2020. We’re slowly moving into this marvelous space and most enjoying all the light that greets us. One of our main goals had been to have more windows so we could see more of the mammal and bird activity that takes place in our yard and the field and forest beyond. To that end, our window count in those rooms went from eight to sixteen. We’d also wanted one front door rather than a front door and a summer kitchen door to the driveway thus confusing visitors who never knew which door to use. The former front door entryway became part of the new hallway to the stairs and the summer kitchen door space became the mudroom. Previously, a kitchen radiator served as the “mudroom.” Having a mudroom may seem silly now that our sons are grown, but we spend so much time outdoors that it makes perfect sense to us. And, because we’re both on the other side of 60, we wanted a downstairs bathroom, and asked that it have infrastructure in place should we need to make it handicap accessible. We also know that if we should need it, the new summer kitchen/office can transform into our bedroom and the mudroom can become a closet. But for now, we shall enjoy them as they are intended. I wanted something simple. He wanted something more. We compromised. And that, in the words of one of my favorite poets, has made all the difference. R

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n the midst of horsehair plaster and insulation flying through the air as walls were pulled down, artifacts were discovered behind the lathe, including several clipped newspaper articles, an advertisement for Black Silks at Horatio Staples on Middle Street in Portland, and my favorite: a letter dated 1881. Biddeford June 19th 1881 Dear Grant I should like to see you very much. I go to school. I am in the third rider and Batons Artithmetic. I have got a cart with a seat on it. We have got seven little chickins. We went down on a Little Rock in the brook to fish. We caught nine minnows but four of them died. Papa bought a lead pencil for me. I pick potato bugs for papa and he pays me one cent for ten. Write soon, from Allie

Grant, it turns out, was actually Ulysses Grant Stuart, who at the time was 16 years old. His father, Amos Stuart, had built the house in 1870 when Grant was five. Such a find brought us closer to appreciating the history of the property and the people who had first lived in the space we now call home. These finds helped us understand that Amos had probably added the kitchen and summer kitchen circa 1881. We’d always thought that had been the work of a subsequent owner. We added our own “time capsule” so that a future renovator may discover a timeline of the house’s ownership as well as two copies of Lake Living, both of which include articles about the house.


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Designed in Denmark by laurie lamountain

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hen Charles Linden first came to Denmark, Maine, to view the house he and his wife Suzi would end up purchasing in 2014, he recalls the landscape reminded him of his summer home in Sweden—the country, that is. Charles, who has Swedish roots, spent many of his boyhood summers in Sweden. He distinctly remembers having forgotten how to speak English when he left Sweden to return home at the age of four. It was an experience that has influenced his life in many ways and he still owns property there. “Everything is intentionally designed over there, even the gas stations. I used to spend a lot of time in Stockholm. There are a lot of furniture galleries with Scandinavian design and I just fell in love with it. It’s just very clean and simple. In fact, I worked at a Swedish furniture company in Atlanta [Georgia] for a while and I put together the furniture. I loved how easy it was. I can put IKEA stuff together with my eyes closed because of that. For me, it just makes sense.” Talk with Charles long enough and you’ll find yourself feeling a bit jet lagged. The reason he only summered in Sweden was that his Swedish-born parents had already immigrated to California, and then later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where his father founded an engineering company. In

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fact, Charles worked there as a designer/ draftsman for years, until he tired of working in the family business and enrolled in a two-year graduate program in design at Creative Circus. Not only did he land a job at J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency right away, he was immediately promoted to art director and found himself working with a client list that included Ford Motor Company and the United States Marine Corp. “The reason I went into graphic design was because of the time I spent in Sweden, growing up surrounded by design, especially furniture design. It was my inspiration,” says Charles.

Fast forward, and Charles was back on a plane, this time bound for Maine with Suzi. Before they married, Suzi lived off the grid in Alaska. After they married, they lived a reverse version of Green Acres. They loved each other but Suzi wasn’t in love with Georgia. They needed to land in a place that spoke to both of them. “It was a compromise, a nice balance between Alaska and Georgia. The suburbs were killing Suzi, but the lack of electricity and Wi-Fi in Alaska would have killed me. And when Suzi drove me down Denmark Road, past the dam and the magical island, I felt like I was back in Sweden.” Graphic design was an accommodating career choice for Charles when he and Suzi, who describes herself as a self-taught contemporary outsider folk artist and a spiritual punk, made the move from Atlanta to rural Maine. The internet made it possible for him to continue working remotely for the ad agency. It didn’t take long, though, for Charles to be bitten by a decidedly different design bug. When he was a kid in the ‘70s, he had been given a pair of trick waterskis by a Swedish waterski champion who was a friend of his parents. Years later, when he found them in the back of a closet in Maine, Suzi remarked that they looked like skate-


boards. It was a eureka moment for Charles, who immediately stripped the hardware off the skis and set about sourcing trucks (the hardware on which the wheels are mounted) and wheels, and then figuring out how to precisely position them on the boards so so they wouldn’t bind and cause crashes. Through a fairly lengthy process of trial and error, he got it right and Linden Longboards was launched. Charles continues to make and market his boards, despite a slight dip in longboarding popularity. After all, he has acquired a lot of trick waterskis that he has stripped, meticulously refurbished and neatly stacked in his studio/workshop. Which is why the designer in him sought another application for all those old wooden boards. Once again, Suzi was there to assist with inspiration. She had come across a bunch of vintage tubular metal chair frames that had been discarded, and it occurred to her there might be a way to repurpose them using the ski boards. The result is Linden Chair, a custom line of benches and chairs that echo his Scandinavian sense of design, yet are perfectly at home in a Maine lakes setting. As with the longboards, each piece of furniture is uniquely crafted with skis dating to the 1950s, ‘60s and ’70s—no two are alike. Their beauty lies not just in the clean, simple lines with exotic wood and sleek metal, but in their nod to a brilliant-butbygone aquatic era. They recall the reign of past champions—Ricky McCormick, Mike Suyderhoud, Larry Penacho among them—and of Cypress Gardens, then known as the water ski capital of the world, where enthusiastic crowds gathered to witness shows performed with daring precision by trick skiers. Cypress Gardens closed in 2009, but its dazzling history lives on in this most unexpected way. “Growing up in the ‘80s, I always liked the surf aesthetic. For me, it wasn’t about the neon graphics, it was more about the vintage boards and inlaid wood,” notes Charles about the connection between longboarding culture and his sense of design. “I don’t like design just for the sake of design. It’s got to have function.” When he attended the Inman Park Festival in Atlanta with his longboards last April, he brought three benches along and sold all three before the festival officially opened. Luckily, the couple who bought the first pair were from Cape Cod and he was able to deliver them post-show. But it took him by surprise, and it confirmed that

Scandinavian design is a design movement characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality that emerged in the early 20th century, and subsequently flourished in the 1950s throughout the five Nordic countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. source: wiki

there was indeed another purpose for his stockpile of vintage skis. Despite the enthusiastic response he has received so far, he is committed to maintaining a small, boutique presence with his furniture, just as he has with the longboards. He has since become acquainted with fellow furniture maker Brent Legere, with whom he’s discovered he also shares a background in commercial art. Brent, who owns Lovell Box Company and Western Maine Slabworks in Lovell, graciously offered Charles space in his showroom to display a couple of his benches for sale. An article featuring Brent and his businesses appeared in the fall/winter 2019 issue of Lake Living. Speaking of which, Linden benches and chairs are perfectly suited to lake living. Their form makes them an obvious fit. Then there’s function. Sitting on one is

reminiscent of being on the water; there’s a bit of bob to them. And they are equally at home on a dock or indoors. Seven to eight layers of spar (marine) varnish make the boards pretty much impervious to the elements. Chrome is actually more vulnerable to exposure than the varnished wood. In fact, most of the time Charles spends refinishing the frames is down to rust removal. The good news is, he’s developed a way to weatherproof the chrome frames as well. These days, Charles finds himself contemplating new design ideas for Linden Chair. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next. One thing is for sure, whatever it is, he can proudly say it was designed in Denmark—the town, that is. R To see more of Linden Chair visit lindenlongboards.com or find them on Facebook and Etsy.

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@mainewoman

•Food

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f you grow a few carrots, or bake a few pies, or make a few jars of pickles, should you be able to sell them to your neighbors and local community without state and federal oversight? The people of Porter, Maine, think so. They are joining a growing movement of 74 Maine towns that have adopted Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinances. These ordinances allow producers to sell

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Sovereignty• by marguerite wiser

directly to consumers without federal or state oversight, licenses, fees and inspections on products grown and sold locally. Food sovereignty was introduced in 1996 by La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement of farmers aiming to combat the negative impacts of globalization on local food systems. The movement, started by farmers from Europe, Asia, Central America, Africa, and North America,

defined food sovereignty as the right of a community to define its own diet and shape its own food system. The issue emerged in Maine in 2011 when Maine’s Department of Agriculture sued a small farmer in Blue Hill, a town that had passed the ordinance, for selling raw milk at his farmstand and local farmers’ markets without a license. While the farmer ultimately lost his case in Maine


Supreme Judicial Court, the episode ignited the region and led to many more towns passing Local Food and Self Governance Ordinances. Heather Retberg, a farmer in Penobscot who has been involved in this issue for a decade explained, “The LFCSGO was crafted to protect and preserve the traditional foodways and relationships we all have to each other in our communities more than it was crafted to make something new happen. The original ordinances were a response to threats from agency-level (and corporate influenced) rulemaking that could easily and were already resulting in the disappearance of small farms across the state.” Continued work on this issue led to the 2017 passage of Maine’s Food Sovereignty Act, one of the nation’s first laws confirming citizens’ rights to buy and sell food amongst themselves without state or federal oversight in towns with LFCSG ordinances. Each municipality must still ‘opt-in’ by passing their own ordinance. According to a document from the group Local Food Rules about “Talking to Your Neighbors” written by Jesse Labbe-Watson of Midcoast Permaculture, the ordinance, “exempts direct farm-to-consumer sales, roadside farm stands, farmers’ markets and community potlucks from regulations designed for industrial-scale producers.” Since the initial uproar in 2011, the movement for food sovereignty has rippled across the state. Closer to home, Dan Davis has been instrumental in bringing the Local Food and Self Governance to the Sacopee Valley region. He heard about what was happening in Hancock County, read up on it, was impressed by how the community banded together and fought back, and saw the potential of this type of ordinance to really benefit his area. Davis then volunteered to serve on Porter’s Comprehensive Plan Committee. The group worked with the Planning Board to draft language for their Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinance. Using templates of many other towns, Porter’s version includes many federal and state laws that support rights-based ordinances. Davis sees this as a really helpful tool for small towns to use to chart their own futures, make space for local people to innovate and succeed, and for communities to thrive. “This isn’t a radical idea . . . It’s thrilling to tell you the truth.” Local Food and Self Governance lowers the barriers to entry for folks, allowing new

With locally produced and purchased foods, the consumer has the responsibility and the ability to vet the product they are purchasing. and small businesses to grow and evolve naturally. Davis noted, “It eliminates the burden of overhead startup capital and debt and allows the individual to initiate and realize an idea.” It’s often difficult for people starting out in farming or small-scale food production to receive a bank loan, and they don’t often have startup capital available. The food sovereignty approach, “allows you to beta test your product with friends and family and if it’s in demand in your region your market increases,” said Davis. The business grows and can put away some money, solidifying its financial standing. This makes it possible to apply for loans or purchase new facilities in the future if the business wants to go to the next level, applying for a commercial license.

When the ordinance was introduced in Sacopee Valley, it was met with some initial concerns about food safety because the products sold would not be overseen by any federal or state agencies. The town of Brownfield, which recently passed the ordinance, addressed some of these concerns. A town document answering frequently asked questions on the ordinance notes that while food safety is always a concern, “There are no absolute guarantees in any system and despite the vast array of FDA, USDA, and other governmental agencies oversight, there continue to be food safety problems in the industrial food chain. The source of the food, the number of hands touching the food, and the processing of the food all exacerbate the problem of maintaining food safety.” Davis also explained to folks in his community that federal laws have been stripping away identification information on food products, making it harder to track down the sources of contaminated foods, and reducing the accountability. In contrast, the type of face-to-face exchange required by this ordinance is very traceable and contained. With locally-produced and purchased foods, the consumer has the responsibility and the ability to vet the product they are purchasing. Davis pointed out, “In a small community, if you provide a poor product word moves fast and essentially you’re out of business within two days. So it’s really in the best interest of people in the community to beta test their product, to be comfortable with it, and to stand by it... so the ownership and accountability is there on a different level where its not on a mass industrial scale.” It also is important to note that the ordinance only covers locally-produced food products sold directly to a consumer in that municipality. It doesn’t cover sales to restaurants or larger distributors. Additionally production of meat and poultry products is still required to comply with the Maine Meat and Poultry Inspection Program. The Brownfield FAQ document states that “Producing local food under the ordinance does not relieve anyone of personal responsibility or protect a producer from liability.” Advocates for food sovereignty also point out the issue of one-size-fits all regulations, where scale is not taken into account. The issue was enhanced by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, a federal law that applied industrial scale regulations to all levels

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of food production. Davis noted, “It essentially destroyed the cohesion of a community by applying industrial standards to every scale and basically criminalized the everyday activities that you know of in any small rural town in America: people making pies and cookies for cheerleader squads or baseball teams, raffles trying to raise money for kids projects, bean suppers. Applying federal large scale industrial standards to that is untenable and excessive.” With this type of legislation there is no differentiation in the standards and regulations applied to a local country store selling pickles to their neighbors or a multinational corporation like Walmart with an exponentially larger range of distribution. When Davis explained to Porter residents what types of things were in violation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, he found that people were surprised by it and more open to the idea of food sovereignty. When this issue began in Hancock County, Heather Retberg recalled, “The rules had only recently changed and simple words changed to re-define us and what we were doing that made it unlawful if we couldn’t afford to comply with new facility requirements.” When looking back at what the Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinance has done for her community, Retberg also noted, “The greatest impact is a quiet one—that we’ve all been able to continue, that we’ve been able to deepen our networks of food relationships and foodways. Perhaps the ‘splashiest’ change is that we’ve attracted new (young) families to our area and to other communities in Maine with food sovereignty ordinances in place.” In addition to benefiting individual producers, the Local Food and Self Governance Ordinance sets its sights higher—to revitalizing and creating resilient, thriving local economies. Davis said, “A goal, at least in our town, is to re-leverage and revitalize the rolling foothills and prior farmland by introducing this ‘definition of self,’ ultimately attracting more active young families to the area to begin to produce for their community.” And there is evidence that this is possible. Following the passing of LFCSG ordinances in western Hancock County, Heather Retberg has seen new farms begin, small farms expand offerings, and people relocate to areas where these ordinances are in place. She noted that her own farm, Quill’s End, “would had to have quit years ago if not for the local laws in place to protect this way of life.” Davis is also hoping that the ordinance’s

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The ordinance affords upside potential to create farmers and sellers of local products here where they otherwise do not exist, and should allow our home enterprises and homestead farms scattered throughout the municipality to expand, increase visibility, and be more successful although utilizing a smaller distribution radius. passage will attract new folks to settle and farm in Sacopee Valley as it has done in other regions. In addition to helping existing producers expand and thrive in the local food system around Porter, Davis said, “The ordinance affords upside potential to create farmers and sellers of local products here where they otherwise do not exist, and should allow our home enterprises and homestead farms scattered throughout the municipality to expand, increase visibility, and be more successful although utilizing a smaller distribution radius.” In Hancock County, “The feedback has mostly been of deep gratitude and . . . relief, I think,” said Heather Retberg. “Working on local law has given people a greater hope beyond a mere hope that farming can produce a livelihood, that our communities have a chance at feeding each other instead of a reliance on trucks and shipping; it’s also sparked hope that when small groups of us get together, using democratic tools, we can affect change that helps create the world we want to live in, and we can start right in our communities.” Nearby towns are also getting on board with food sovereignty. Brownfield and Sebago have passed ordinances and interest has been expressed in Oxford, Fryeburg, Naples, Baldwin, Parsonsfield, Denmark, and Stow. This is particularly exciting to Davis, who learned that there are state laws

in place that say when abutting communities share the same values or goals they can make and form interlocal agreements. Heather Retberg provided this advice to those interested in this issue: “Talk to your neighbors, learn about local governance, engage with each other and town selectboards and city councils.” She added that in its inception, Local Food Rules was getting lots of requests for information on the ordinance, so they created a website, www.localfoodrules.org, to help people get started. According to Retberg, many people who were already selling produce, baked goods, and other products feel that they can now do it openly, not having to stay quiet and ‘off the radar’ about it. In Porter, Dan Davis was excited that the two public hearings held on food sovereignty had great turnout and were attended by lots of younger folks. He sees it as an optimistic sign for the future of a thriving local community in the Sacopee Valley. Davis noted that in Blue Hill and Hancock County townspeople were already farming and defending their right to do so, while in Porter the focus is on creating an environment for people to start as new farmers. “This is about laying the framework for the next generation, for the next 25 years. We’re literally reconverting forest back to farmland and open space, rejuvenating orchards and farms. It’s quite exciting.” R


On Food by laurie lamountain

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ew things have changed over the last several decades as much as our eating habits. Some of the reasons for this rapid shift are obvious: the proliferation of fast and processed food, changing family structure, and changing meal patterns. We’re also eating a lot more than our parents and grandparents did, largely due to the fact that food is cheaper, quicker and easier to get, which accounts for the steady rise in obesity. It used to be that when there was less food available (think Depression Era), people necessarily ate less, and what they ate they often grew or raised themselves. Now that giant corporations account for so much of our so-called food supply, we are consuming a lot more flour, sugar, and fats, with most of the latter in the from of soybean, corn and canola oil. We’re also eating a lot more meat, mainly factory-farm produced. Add to that exponential growth in the snack industry, and the result is we’re eating more, but not necessarily better, food. Some studies show that we are currently purchasing more snacks than food (yes, there is a difference). I’ve often thought that we keep eating because what we’re eating is not satisfying or nourishing our bodies. It’s as though our involuntary system keeps hoping our voluntary actions will give it the nutrients it needs to function optimally—instead of a lot of empty calories. What’s interesting is that as economic disparity becomes more distinct in our culture, so does the difference in our eating habits. Organically grown fruits, nuts,

grains and vegetables, eggs and meat from animals that are fed an organic diet free of antibiotics and additives, raw milks and cheeses, real sourdough bread all cost more because they cost more to produce. In almost all cases, they taste better than foods that are ultra-processed, homogenized, and grown or raised conventionally, but not everyone can afford them. And not everyone is willing, or has time, to prepare meals with them, even though I would argue that a slice of crusty sourdough bread topped with fresh tomatoes and cheese made with milk from grass-fed cows popped in the toaster oven for five minutes beats a slice of Domino’s pizza any day. In her excellent book The Way We Eat Now, Bee Wilson explores the notion that there’s a high price to pay for cheaper, low quality food. She references a former professor in food policy in London who points out that “cheap meat is not cheap if the result is diet-related disease and pollution,” and she herself wonders “are bad bread and cheapened meats the price we pay for living in modern prosperous societies? Or is there another way?” It’s a good question. Does a lack of time, or money if you’re at the bottom of the economic ladder, necessarily mean that you’re doomed to consuming cheap, processed food? On a recent trip into Bridgton, a supermarket marquis advertising “Hamburger Helper 10 for $10” caught my eye. I was reminded of my days as a college student, when a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

was an affordable meal. The stick of margarine (really?) added to the expense, but it still fit within my budget. These many years later, I wondered as I waited for the traffic light to change just what was in Hamburger Helper, and I made a mental note to look it up later. After enriched elbow macaroni, the next five ingredients are: corn starch, salt, wheat flour, modified whey and sugar. There are sixteen additional ingredients, one of which is “natural flavor.” I also looked up the ingredients in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and felt grateful that my standards have improved since college. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of the American population still relies on such affordable staples. Faced with a choice between ten Hamburger Helper meals that, according to the package, will feed a family of five and a wholesome family dinner made with real, organic ingredients, a lot of families feel they have no choice. Contributing to this dilemma are government subsidies that drive down the cost of corn and sugar, two of the first five ingredients in Hamburger Helper, making them key ingredients in an industry motivated by profit margins. Think about it, if our government subsidized the cultivation of greens, we would likely be eating a lot more of them. Or as Wilson sees it, “populations are unlikely to start making better food choices until governments start to see that money spent on regulating the quality of food for everyone is never money wasted.” Ironically, income is not an absolute dictator of how we eat. While my focus is local, the scope of Wilson’s research is global. She notes, “the biggest surprise to come of the data was the highest-quality overall diets in the world are mostly to be found not in rich countries but in the continent of Africa, mostly in the less developed sub-Saharan regions.” Assuming those regions are more rural than urban, and therefore more traditional, I would think that trend extends beyond Africa. I base some of that supposition I’ve often thought that we keep

eating because what we’re eating is not satisfying or nourishing our

bodies. It’s as though our involuntary system keeps hoping our voluntary actions will give it the nutrients

it needs to function optimally—

instead of a lot of empty calories.

lakelivingmaine .com 23


on where I live and how the people I know eat. We still cook meals and sit down to eat them. And as Marguerite Wiser contemplates in her excellent article on food sovereignty in this issue, we also place a huge value on knowing where our food comes from. While Wilson elucidates the extent to which industrial food, social media, snacking, work demands, and real or perceived time constraints have all contributed to a vastly different approach to eating in the socalled developed world, it occurs to me that it has coincided with the loss of a deeper, emotional connection to our food. A Lean Cuisine popped in the microwave does not provide the same sustenance or satisfaction as an attentively prepared mushroom risotto. Preparing a meal is an important part of consuming it. It connects us to the food. Living close to the land that feeds us provides an even greater connection. We are lucky to live in a region where farmers’ markets and farm stands abound. Even our local supermarkets offer a decent selection of organic products. A less expen-

sive option is to grow your own food and process or freeze the surplus, and our rural landscape provides plenty of gardening space. I grew up in a household where a significant portion of my summers were committed to helping my mother prepare, process and freeze the bounty from our garden. Though I was less than thrilled at the time, I’m glad I have the know-how to do all of that. A friend not only grows and preserves 90% of the vegetables her family consumes, but also keeps a year-round brood of laying hens for eggs. Additionally, she and her next-door relatives order around 50 meat bird chicks in late summer that they raise to adulthood and then take an entire weekend in fall to “process.” Over the years they have invested in a scaulder and plucker to make the job easier, but it’s nevertheless an exhausting weekend in which everyone plays a role. Her husband is in charge of keeping the processing team well fed. I have great respect for anyone who goes to such lengths to determine what’s on their plate. Having raised chickens for a few years

way-back-when, I know what’s involved and am too lazy to do it now. But what I will do is pay more per pound for locally-raised meat—much more. Ironically, we probably don’t spend a lot more on our meat budget than other families because we eat less of it. For one because of the price, but also because it truly seems that the meat we buy is more satisfying; less is more. If you believe, as I do, that carefully and consciously preparing a meal is the foreplay to consuming it, you can see how growing your own food provides an even deeper connection. Before we even sit down to eat, we’re nourished by the ritual of planting, harvesting, chopping, smelling and cooking the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor. That connection seems primal to me; the hunter-gatherer that persists in our DNA. When you eliminate those connections, the act of eating is not as fulfilling—which would explain why people keep eating even when they’ve had more than enough to eat. Something in them still hungers for that ancient connection to their food. R

breakfasts of champions

and placed under the broiler in the toaster oven until the top is puffed up and browned; 3 to 4 minutes. We usually eat only half of the frittata and save the rest for a lunch sandwich made with toasted sourdough bread the next day. Another favorite breakfast is made with sweet brown rice that I’ll usually prepare the night before because it takes about 45 minutes to cook. In the morning, I place a generous handful of Patch Farm spinach in a medium saucepan and fill it with cold rinse water, then drain the spinach of nearly all the water and place the pan over high heat. As soon as it starts to hiss and the spinach has wilted, the heat is reduced to simmer for only a minute or two more. I then transfer

the spinach and any remaining liquid to a bowl and place it in a warm toaster oven. Using the same saucepan to bring an inch of salted water almost to a boil, I’ll crack an egg or two into the water, cover the pan, turn off the burner and set the timer for exactly four minutes. Just before it dings, I remove the spinach from the toaster oven, drain the remaining liquid, place a large spoonful of rice over it, and then spritz with Bragg’s amino acids before placing the poached egg on top. Spice & Grain in Fryeburg carries the sweet brown rice, as well as spray bottles of Bragg’s aminos. We are fortunate to get fresh eggs from the aforementioned friend, but Patch Farm and Spice & Grain also have them.

H

aving never mastered the art of the omelet, I’ll often whip up a Sunday morning frittata. I keep it simple: heat some extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan and throw some quartered cherry tomatoes in for three to four minutes or until they become soft and have given up most of their liquid. Chopped peppers or paper-thin zucchini slices are also excellent, as is a bit of minced garlic, but it’s best to add them after the tomatoes have had a chance to pan-roast on their own for a few minutes. I then add four beaten eggs to which I’ve added a good glug of milk and seasoned with salt and pepper and some chopped fresh herbs, like thyme or rosemary. I cook this over a low heat until a spatula can be cleanly run around the edge and the bottom begins to brown (about 7 minutes). At this point I sprinkle freshly chopped scallions over the top, along with a generous handful of grated cheddar cheese. The pan is then removed from the heat

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F

We Are All One At Home

or many of us in the lakes region of Maine, the prospect of living in a war zone is something we only hear about from news reports and books. But for some among us, Maine has come to define the American Dream, a place where as James T. Adams coined the term to mean in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” To make that possible for recent Arab immigrants, the New England Arab American Organization (NEAAO, pronounced Naeoh) was formed by Zoe Sahloul in 2014. As founder and executive director, Zoe knows first hand the need for social support throughout the immigration experience. War broke out in her home country of Lebanon when Zoe was seven years old. For the duration of the contest, which ended in 1990, her childhood was lost and education opportunities squelched. “Imagine you’re not a human being anymore,” Zoe explained when we met recently. “You’re not seen as a human being. You are trained to say, ‘I’m so glad today I was not the one who died.’ You really become voiceless. When I was growing up in this area [of Lebanon] that I really love, I have all my family there, but you see how

by leigh macmillen hayes

you are treated in your own country. I left when the war ended, when they said, ‘Now everything is going to be good.’” Zoe and her husband didn’t expect things to improve in their homeland. They realized it was not a place to start a family or a place where she would have a voice as female, despite the promises, so in 1992 they immigrated to Canada with $800 in their pockets. Eventually, she and her family moved to the United States, first living in Michigan and then moving to Maine. Learning a foreign language as a young adult and moving to a country that did not understand her background, Zoe had to work hard to acclimate. Her command of the English language is amazing. Through her experiences in the two North American countries, Zoe found her voice. Her goal in starting NEAAO in 2014 was to help other Arab American women do the same. The impetus behind founding the organization was that she had long worked as an interpreter and was in that role during an eighteen hour surgery for an abused pregnant woman. While not all Arab American women suffer from domestic violence, for some it has long been a part of life. They may have suffered at the hands of their parents, in-laws, and husbands or all of the above.

“What we try to do [at NEAAO] is advocate for our women, to pave the way for them and show them that they have different choices here in the United States,” she said. “To help them find their voice and use it.” To that end, she is not only working on a masters degree in social work, but she also has trained with Through These Doors (TTD), formerly known as Family Crisis Services. As a hotline volunteer at TTD, she found that women sometimes opened up and shared their experiences. One of her goals has been to help them stand up not only to an abuser, but also to the community that has preconceived notions. Through NEAAO, which is a 501(c)3 organization, women meet others in a similar situation so they may overcome a feeling of isolation. Though they may come from various countries, all New Mainers are welcome at the NEAAO headquarters in the Westbrook Community Center, where they can meet and attend sewing and craft workshops, take courses in citizenship, language, and cooking, or even earn certification in child development. “What’s rewarding with all this,” said Zoe, “and this was in our mission, is for us to build a bridge between the cultures. We try to uplift our community and help

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them with their different needs. But again, to be that bridge for the host community; to give them the tools to interact with this new culture. To get rid of the fear that lack of knowledge creates. These are things that are going to bring us together.” Recently, NEAAO received grants from Inclusive America and the Onion Foundation. With the funds, a 35-foot recreational vehicle has been purchased, which will help the organization provide mobile outreach to towns like Bridgton and Naples. The plan is to offer activities such as music and crafts for children, but also to provide outreach materials for their parents. NEAAO has also teamed up with TTD for a rural grant through the Federal Office of Violence Against Women. “This grant,” said Zoe, “gave us the opportunity to collect best practices and research different resources on domestic violence for New Americans, design culturally appropriate services and materials, and staff positions in the lakes region.” Helping Zoe to reach out to local communities is a young woman named Samar Khuder from Iraq. Samar tells a compelling story of her own assimilation into the United States. “Leaving my country felt very challenging at the beginning when I had to leave my school, my friends, my relatives, basically everything that I was used to and I had to adapt to the new people and their style of living.” When her family first fled Iraq, they traveled to Syria, and somewhere in the back of her mind she thought that the war in Iraq would end and eventually she, her parents, sisters, and brother would be able to return home. That, however, was not the case and instead they immigrated to Massachusetts when Samar was in middle school. Her mother and sisters were afraid to wear their hijab when they first arrived and so they took the head covering off until a few weeks later when they realized other women were wearing them. Language was also a huge barrier for Samar even though she’d studied English in Syria and she recalled an American teacher asking if she understood something. “She didn’t realize,” said Samar, “ that I didn’t even understand what the word ‘understand’ meant. I had to push myself to learn the language as fast as possible because I was just put in a baby’s position where I didn’t know how to communicate with people. I overcame the language barrier and, after that, everything was easier. Right now I’m about

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to graduate from college and hopefully attend graduate school to study dentistry.” Samar’s start with NEAAO began when she volunteered as a 4-H Ambassador to help Arabic kids with chemistry experiments. Zoe recognized Samar’s abilities to communicate with others and knew there was a need to help Arab American families in the lakes region, where resources are much more limited than in communities where NEAAO has a presence: Westbrook, Portland, Biddeford, and Augusta. Following in Zoe’s footsteps, Samar also trained with TTD so she can serve as an advocate not only for the families, but also for any who suffer from domestic violence. Through the joint grant, Samar is working with Erika Simonson and Stephanie Noyes of TTD, which has long had a Bridgton office, to offer support groups in the area. They hosted a program for children at Naples Library that helped Samar begin to make connections with local families. She’s also offered programs out of the Bridgton Community Center and recently spoke at First Congregational Church in Bridgton. On her plate are many ideas of how to get the word out to the residents of western Maine.

“Leaving my country felt very challenging at the beginning when I had to leave my school, my friends, my relatives, basically everything that I was used to and I had to adapt to the new people and their style of living. ” samar khuder, iraq

“We wanted to partner with NEAAO,” said Erika, “to bring awareness to the lakes region of the services in place. I think some of the information NEAAO has put together has been really helpful to us in our work at Through These Doors. As a partner, and with other partners we work closely with, such as social service providers and law enforcement, one of the things we do is is talk about the myths around Arabic folks living in our community. We need to change thinking around those myths and really understand who is in our community and who is part of our community. For me, starting to break those barriers down and having it be a place of support and community are the really big things.” Stephanie pointed out that their work at TTD reaches people across the span of life from working with school kids to victim survivors to elders. Said Stephanie, “ I’ve been doing this specific work in the lakes region for seven years in April, and I’ve really, really learned that ‘meet people where they’re at’ is the mantra I go by. Particularly in the lakes region, because it’s so rural and because the barriers to access are so unique. Consider our winters; that’s a barrier right there. We’re bringing everything to the com-


munity members and we’re really practicing that mantra of meeting people where they’re at. And it’s not for specifically direct service, it’s to raise awareness and create an atmosphere of collaboration, which can be just a beautiful thing because it builds trusting relationships.” Working behind the scenes in this collaborative picture is Melinda Thomas, former proprietor of Clipper Merchant Tea House in Bridgton. She has a long history of working toward Women’s Justice and now serves as program assistant at NEAAO. Melinda said, “One of the things that we take very seriously in NEAAO is that we do want to, as part of the groundwork, lay the education about myths of all New Mainers; the kinds of thinking that people can easily fall into, the assumptions, how a lot of us who are even doing the work have to constantly look at our own biases and put them aside. For example, the idea that women who cover [with hijab] are oppressed. One of the beautiful things about the grant is that beyond providing direct service for survivors of domestic violence, it’s allowing us to go out into the community and put the information out there.” For all of these women, one of their favorite events of each month occurs on the third Wednesday when New Mainers, the NEAAO staff, representatives from TTD, police, principals, and church and synagogue leaders come together for a community luncheon. Zoe sees that as a chance to meet neighbors. Some women would not leave their homes out of fear, but first Zoe donated a 7-passenger van and since has purchased a ten-passenger van to pick them up and bring them to the luncheon or any event. All of this work she does on a pro bono

basis as executive director because she has such a strong belief that it’s important for people of all walks of life to sit down at the same table, eat together and connect on a personal basis. As Zoe explained, “When a need arises, you know the person and feel comfortable asking for help.” As she once again reflected on her immigration in 1992, Zoe said, “I brought everything [to Canada] to survive—all the pain, all the fear, all the losses—and it made me strong. To find a place where I can call home and find my place and find my voice. This is what I feel I’m doing when they say, ‘Oh, you are only a woman.’ I say, ‘Yes, I am only a woman but I have a voice. And I listen to you. You are going to listen to me now.’ In this country, you feel that you are treated as a human being. Your voice matters. And this is what I adore about living here. You matter.” Both Zoe and Samar have found a country where dreams do come true. It’s a place where they can join other Mainers during the holidays, be easily embraced by someone’s family and not judged for their origin. “For me, my friends became my sisters; their parents my kids’ grandparents. When I felt this is home is when I had my support system. To be welcomed to their home,” said Zoe, “To not be judged for who you are, where you come from, for your tradition, it is really priceless. And this is what we hope one day most of us would feel.” So . . . when you see the long RV covered in faces of Maine kids and the motto “Together Home is Here” written on the side featuring an American flag inside “Here,” stop by and see what Samar and her coworkers are up to and get to know your community members a wee bit. After all, we are all one at home. R

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