Lake Living volume 23, no. 2

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FREE summer 2020 • vol. 23, no. 2

Suddenly Summer! plus

fish food lea turns 50 100% employee owned perfect picnics


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editor’s note

Even before it was summer, we knew this summer would be different. Instead of viewing it wholly through a lens of loss, however, we have an opportunity to experience it as an act of retrieval. Over the last few years, I’ve found myself coming into fall with a sense of reluctant relief. The dizzying pace of recent summers left me longing for the endless, unscheduled days of childhood, when turning over a rock or examining the contents of a tidal pool engaged every fiber of my being. Then my “cartwheels turned to car wheels,” and it seemed like the world went into overdrive as well. Summer became a blur of activities and events that challenged my introverted tendencies and left me feeling exhausted by Labor Day. The wonder of the season I most looked forward to was lost to a host of commitments on the calendar. Now, with our calendars categorically cleared by nature, we have no choice but to slow down—and, hopefully, to notice. Maybe this is the summer you teach your children how to identify trees by their bark, or point out the constellations in the sky from the vantage point of a blanket spread out on the back lawn? Maybe it’s time to apply yourself to the meditative task of convincing a fish your fly is food, or to spend an afternoon preparing a lavish picnic that you can savor while watching the sun set behind the mountains? This summer, more than ever, the world welcomes us to wonder. Laurie LaMountain Editor & Publisher Laurie LaMountain Staff Writer Leigh Macmillen Hayes Contributing Photographers Peter Smith, Captain Will Benson, Leigh Macmillen Hayes, Norm Hutchins, Jr., Lakes Environmental Assn., Eve Saint Ramon, Susan Holland, Ethan McNerney 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: ©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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summer 2020 • vol. 23, no. 2





6 fish food

by laurie lamountain

8 lea turns 50

by peter lowell, steve collins, roberta hill, jean preis & orrin shane

12 100% employee owned

by laurie lamountain

14 nature knows no pause

by leigh macmillen hayes

16 suddenly summer! 18 nature in relief

by leigh macmillen hayes

20 perfect picnics

by laurie lamountain

24 summer bookshelf

reviews from bridgton books

cover photo val bamboo in vénus bleu by eve saint ramon

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Fish Food by laurie lamountain


Flies founder and owner, Peter Smith, says the first thing he wanted to be as a kid was an entomologist, and in a relative way he has achieved that goal. Smith operates S.S. Flies out of a studio next to his house in Denmark, Maine. These days, depending on whether it’s saltwater or freshwater flies he’s tying, he’ll complete 10 to 20 in an hour. On an annual basis, he ties between 9,000 to 11,000. It’s been a long time since Smith tied his first fly. He spent a significant part of his boyhood learning-by-doing at a fly shop in North Conway, New Hampshire. It wasn’t so much an apprenticeship as it was an initiation into the craft that would eventually become his calling. Fast forward a couple of decades or so to 2002, when he took a trip to coastal Florida on a mission to sell his saltwater flies that landed him a single, hard-won order. That one wholesale order, however, from Jeffre Cardenas’s Saltwater Angler in Key West, quickly earned Smith a name and following in the saltwater fishing world. Orders from top-notch captains and guides encouraged him to place a small ad in a fly fisher publication that would give him access to a more lucrative retail market. It was a smart move that immediately resulted in a steady stream of orders. Based on that success, the retail website was launched in 2006 and S.S. Flies production grew to 25,000 flies in 2019. Smith gave S.S. Flies a goal of selling as many or more flies than L.L. Bean in 2020, but a tight labor market kept him from expanding. He needed two tyers to ramp up production and, as he put it, “fly tyers are hard to find. I literally couldn’t get enough labor to meet the demand.” Then the pandemic hit and traveling fly fishers, like all of us, were grounded. April, which accounts for about thirty percent of his business, “got blown up.” For the foreseeable future (whatever that is), S.S. Flies is a one-man operation. Despite that, Smith is confident he can survive with what he can produce on his own. “In the Bahamas, throughout the Florida Keys and all along the Gulf Coast, S.S. Flies has a strong reputation. There’s probably not a lodge in Belize that doesn’t know of my company. Jack Nicklaus is a client. I


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expect it will be like this for the next couple of years, but there’s a certain number of my customers who are recession proof. They’re going to fish their thirty days a year and no one is going to stop them. Who knows what another year will bring? For all I know, I might be dusting off those old plans.” Even in the best of times, custom fly tying is a niche business. There are lots of small-scale tyers, but for them it’s more avocation than vocation. And there are very few commercially available flies that meet the standards of serious anglers. “I was probably the only business in the States that was hiring people, doing volume, and selling flies nationally and internationally. It’s a very hard business to make it. You have to have really high quality. That’s part of my business model.” At the same time, volume is essential. Especially when you consider his retail price range is from $2.75 to $12 (he no longer does wholesale). He estimates that he can produce ten to twelve saltwater flies an hour and probably eighteen to twenty freshwater flies, but to do that he says “you really have to put your head down.” It also has to do with developing more efficient, and sometimes ingenious, methods to produce greater yield. Ironically, even though there are plenty of people looking for part-time work right now, he doesn’t have the volume he had when unemployment was low and sales were up. There’s also a standard of quality he’s not willing to compromise. Training

is necessary and takes time. He points out that most commercial flies are produced in Sri Lanka, Kenya and Vietnam mainly by women who have no idea what fly fishing is. Saltwater fishing is different than deep sea fishing in that it’s on the shallow saltwater flats that are only 2 to 10’ deep. Permit, bonefish and tarpon come up on the flats to feed. The captain cuts the engine and maneuvers the boat from a poling platform in the stern so that the angler can basically hunt for his catch from the bow. Through a combination of teamwork, tides, and knowing where they are, they are able to sneak up on the fish and proceed to convince them that their fly is food. According to Smith, it’s a strategic process that plays out right in front of you. Freshwater fishing, with the possible exception of bass fishing, is all about the insects. Eggs laid in the water hatch nymphs that spend two months to seven years on the bottom in their larval stage (mayflies go from egg to adult in as little as two months and dragonflies can take up to seven years). When the nymphs finally emerge to adulthood at the surface is when they’re most vulnerable to feeding fish. The fly tyer’s task is to imitate that bug at its various stages. “There are standards. There’s blue winged olive, Baetis is the genus name, in every water. Everyone knows trout eats those bugs, so all kinds of people come up with their super-duper pattern to imitate blue winged olives,” says Smith. Despite the efficacy of the tried and

For me, it’s great feeding fish. It’s like, I convinced that fish this was actual food; kind of broke that interface between man and nature. Do that with a brook trout or a tarpon, it doesn’t matter, it’s still a thrill.”

true standards, he acknowledges there’s an obsessive rank of anglers who want to know every bug name, when they’re hatching, how they’re hatching, what water . . . S.S. Flies “Justa” series (Justa Para, Justa ‘Merger, Justa Spinner, etc.) are what he refers to as “stop being picky and go fishing” flies. They are classic patterns that have been around for centuries and that he intentionally avoids embellishing. The materials he uses are a mixture of natural and synthetic, but because he started tying in the ‘70s, he mostly uses natural materials. He sources his ostrich hurl (plumes) from a third-generation outfit in California that got its start in Hollywood and whose main business now is supplying feathers for Mardi Gras. Fox tails are sourced from a furrier in New York City. In all cases, he buys his materials by the pound. “If you play with these materials in water, you can see how they move and how they wiggle and how they sparkle. I want a permit fly that’s imitating a crab to imitate the crab’s movement. And if you watch small bait fish swim, they have a certain wavy movement to them. When that fly is moving through the water, I don’t want it static. I want it to have some life to it. So it might be blending a thick, synthetic material like Super Hair with Cashmere goat, which is long, fine and has a natural sparkle. It’s searching for that movement that makes big fish think it is a little fish.” In the case of Boehm’s Gurgler and Magic Worm patterns, the foam along the top accomplishes two things. It adds floatation that keeps the fly in the surface film and with the lip in front, and splashes and pushes water, which causes commotion. The intent with the Boehm’s Gurgler is to mimic a wounded baitfish. The Magic Worm imitates a newly hatched marine worm by staying in the surface film and leaving a distinctive V-shaped wake. “For me, it’s great feeding fish. It’s like, I convinced that fish this was actual food; kind of broke that interface between man and nature. Do that with a brook trout or

a tarpon, it doesn’t matter, it’s still a thrill. Although every time I see a tarpon chasing my fly, I get weak in the knees.” When asked if he test drives his product, Smith is quick with his response. “I do like to fish. I used to go to the Keys a lot. I’m probably doing more freshwater fishing than saltwater these days. I’ve caught several 18 to 20” brook trout. That’s kind of cool to do, especially now. It’s very socially distanced.” When he’s not tying flies or fishing, he’s either in the garden or tending the pigs and chickens. It’s a self-sufficient life that currently keeps him close to home. No trips to the Keys this year. Too bad because apparently the saltwater fishing has been great this spring. “The captains I’m talking to in the Keys

are like, ‘We’ve never seen it this good. Too bad we don’t have clients.’ Well, it’s because you don’t have clients that it’s that good! Usually, even people who aren’t fishing are buzzing around in boats and the fish are getting run over and scared and spooked. You take all those boats off the flats—this happened after Irma—and the fishing gets great because the fish are not being picked on.” He takes a thoughtful beat and adds, “It’s kind of like, damn, it’d be good to get to the Keys right now.” R

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LEA Turns 50

by peter lowell, steve collins, roberta hill, jean preis & orrin shane

1970s: The Birth of LEA and Lake Protection in Maine


n May of 1970, prompted by a Bridgton resident’s alarm over suds on Long Lake, Phil Chute organized a meeting that resulted in the creation of Lakes Environmental Association. While Helen Richardson’s suds turned out to be a natural phenomenon, there were genuine and significant abuses of land and water quality occurring. The one that spurred Peter Lowell’s initial involvement in lake protection was the decimation of a natural sand beach, an island, and a wetland at the north end of Highland Lake in Bridgton. Lowell was fresh out of Colby College and distraught over the rapid changes to the shoreline of the lake that served as his boyhood playground. Returning home and seeing thoughtless development in some of the most sensitive areas of the lake was eye-opening and inspired him to speak out. Developers were filling shoreline wetlands, clear cutting, and building roads with no regard to, or awareness of, erosion control. The term watershed was unknown, and water quality monitoring was uncommon, sporadic and infantile across the state. Phil Chute, who was by then president of LEA, recognized Lowell’s passion and recruited him to serve as president in 1971. In 1972, Lowell was appointed LEA’s first executive director. Under his direction, the organization’s mission and scope grew quickly. An initiative to ban detergents containing phosphorus was led by LEA members; Holt Pond Preserve was established in 1972; statewide legislation began in earnest in 1976; and the Stevens Brook Trail was opened in 1978. In the span of a decade, LEA had expanded its reach to cover the primary areas of concern essential for broad-based environmental protection: lake testing, advocacy, legislation, trails and preserves, legal action, and technical assistance. The Association had effectively evolved into Maine’s strongest advocate for lake protection with a budget of $8,000 and 158 members.


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Peter with performer, singer, and song writer Will Holt, his son Courtney and LEA director Hu Caplan at the dedication of Dolly Holt Trail

1980s: Coalescing to Fight Nuclear Waste


he decade of the ‘80s was filled with numerous accomplishments for LEA, including shoreland use regulation, watershed studies, work on Bridgton’s solid waste facility and sewer system, and establishment of an intern program. The most notable accomplishment, however, arose in January 1986, when the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the Sebago Batholith was under consideration to be a high-level nuclear waste repository. That was the polite name for a nuclear dump, a hole in the ground into which the country would put nuclear waste that would remain toxic for 10,000 years or so. The Sebago Batholith is the sheet of granite, approximately 60 kilometers (km) in diameter and from one-half to two kilometers in thickness, underlying Sebago Lake.

Public response was immediate, negative, and inchoate. Ad-hoc groups came together to protest the proposal, but with little or no common strategy or goals. Sensing that this anarchy would lead to unconstructive opposition, Lowell set LEA’s efforts toward forming a coalition to coordinate resistance efforts. By the end of February, the Alliance against Nuclear Dumps had formed. LEA advocated for a campaign that emphasized a rational discussion of the technical fallacies and shortcomings of the proposed repository and the offer of safer alternatives. It became the clearing house for technical information and a mainspring in developing legal and technical strategy. In April, the DOE held a public hearing in Naples. About 3,000 people turned out, with the vast majority opposing the proposal. Before the end of July, with little fanfare, the DOE’s proposal for an East Coast repository was withdrawn and a single site in Nevada selected. None of this was done in a definitive, decisive fashion, of course, leaving the issue in a zombie-like status. The elections of 1986 shifted the fulcrums of power and only added to the confusion surrounding the repository’s future. The whole ill-considered program sort of petered out in a ridiculous anti-climax, not with a bang, but a whimper. Looking back over the campaign, LEA Board President Dr. Hu Caplan remarked, “I think it was the first indication that LEA was at a partnership level with the community.” The facts would suggest that “leadership” might be more appropriate than mere “partnership.” The whole effort brought a new sense of comity to Maine’s environmental and community action populations, and showed an effective template for action.

1990s: LEA Expansion and Education Efforts Take It to the Next Level


n the spring of ‘ 92, fresh from completion of a self-designed major in ecology and ed-

Roberta Hill (far left) on a field trip to Adams Pond with area students

ucation. Roberta Hill heard that LEA might be hiring a summer intern. She recalls an interview with Lowell at the LEA office, during which, “he asked a few straight forward questions; I answered them, and he offered me the job. I was ecstatic—my first job in my new field of environmental protection!” Hill soon found herself “back in school,” this time in an old aluminum canoe with Lowell teaching her how to take a Secchi reading and providing a crash course in Limnology 101. Recognizing that she would also need a more careful and systematic education, Lowell then linked Hill up with Jean Pries, who had been doing much of the water testing at the time and was a vital member of the LEA team. Under Preis’ tutelage, Hill quickly became adept in her primary role as LEA Lake Tester. By fall, the decision was made for Hill to stay on as permanent staff. Though education was always part of LEA’s mission, Lowell wanted knowledge about lakes and how to protect them to reach a younger audience. There was an abundance of excellent lake curriculum circulating at that time, but there seemed to be some persistent obstacles in place, preventing much of this information from reaching the classroom. Hill recalls a day when Lowell came into her office with a box full of books, notebooks, folders and loose photocopied sheets . . . all the lake curriculum material he had been collecting for some time: “He said something like, ‘OK, here you go, let’s figure out a way to get this information into the classroom.’ I am not sure Peter knew exactly how well this challenge suited me at the time, but I do remain grateful to this day for the trust that he put in me.” It wasn’t long before Hill had sketched out a three-pronged educational approach that would come to define Living Connections: LEA’s school-based, K-12 environmental education program. Experiential learning through direct discovery in nature would be the first element. Doing “real things”

would be next. All students would identify, research, develop, and carry out an outdoor project at or near the school that would benefit water quality, local wildlife, and the community. Thirdly, classroom instruction, guidance and encouragement would help the students tie it all together by facilitating access to the knowledge and skills needed for them to be successful in their project and capable of sharing their results, as well as discoveries, with others. It was within this framework that the first Hey You! cruise took place in 1993 as the culmination of LEA’s sixth-grade education program. The ‘90s were also a decade of expansion. LEA’s landowner technical assistance program, the Clean Lake Check-Up, was launched in 1991. And in 1994, an ambitious fundraising campaign was undertaken to renovate and expand the LEA office. Much of the work was done by LEA members, volunteers and community contractors in time for LEA’s 25th anniversary.

2000s: Milfoil in the Spotlight


s other New England states reported losses of millions of dollars in property values from infestations of non-native aquatic plants, Mainers became aware that these species present an imminent and increasing threat.

Peter up to his neck in Milfoil on the Songo River

To get ahead of the curve, LEA partnered with the Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program to organize the first Milfoil Summit. LEA member Jim Tabor worked with Representative Rich Thompson of Naples, who sponsored “An Act to Prevent the Spread of Invasive Aquatic Plants.” As a result, Maine passed the first such statewide law in the nation, known informally as the Milfoil Bill. It banned the movement of a wide range of invasive aquatic plants, required all boats and trailers to be free of plant fragments, and required the state to develop plans to educate the public. According to Lowell, “Milfoil changed the nature of LEA’s work. We were determined not to let it change the nature of our lakes.” LEA then took the next step to pilot a Courtesy Boat Inspector (CBI) program with a team of 14 volunteers and six LEA staff members. Over the next few years, LEA trained hundreds of courtesy boat inspectors, who checked boats at high-use launches all over the lakes region. In an effort to encourage boaters to address the problem on their own, LEA designed and installed Maine’s first boat wash station at Woods Pond in Bridgton. In the coming years, LEA continued this effort and partnered with towns and lake associations to construct additional wash stations at Trickey Pond, Moose Pond, Highland Lake, and Peabody Pond. With massive infestations of variable-leaf milfoil in the Songo River and at Sebago Lake State Park’s boat launch, LEA was faced with the serious challenge of how to prevent thousands of boats that navigate these waters every year from spreading these noxious plants. In response, LEA reached out to funders, foundations, and area businesses. The organization was awarded a substantial grant from the Libra Foundation, which was used to build LEA’s first suction harvester. Local marinas chipped in to loan boats, supply dock space, and provide maintenance on LEA equipment. Early experts in the state predicted that milfoil infestation in the Songo River would be “impossible or very difficult to eradicate,” but by summer of 2008 it was “over 99% gone,” according to Dr. Daniel Buckley, Professor of Biology at University of Maine at Farmington. The suction harvester and large underwater barriers helped LEA achieve this remarkable feat. Previously undocumented patches of milfoil, however, were soon found in Brandy Pond. And so the work continued…

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2010s: Creation of the Maine Lake Science Center and New Leadership


n addition to milfoil, several Maine lakes were newly identified as succumbing to algae blooms, often with little to no warning. Data from all over the state showed water quality in some of our most pristine lakes was declining. With more lakefront development on the horizon and lake water temperatures increasing faster than air temperatures due to climate change, top lake experts in the state were increasingly worried about the future of our waters. These concerns led to the signature achievement of LEA’s fifth decade: Lakes Environmental Association’s Maine Lake Science Center. After interviewing numerous highly-qualified applicants from all over the country, Dr. Benjamin Peierls was hired and began work in January 2017 as the Center’s inaugural research director. With the evolution of the Science Center, LEA has steadily expanded initiatives to better understand our waters. From statewide research collaborations to remote monitoring buoys and spatial analyses of lakes, the Maine Lake Science Center has put LEA at the forefront of lake research. The center serves as a hub for worldclass lake research by providing support for scientists in Maine and beyond who come to

Colin taking a shallow sediment sample on Highland Lake

study our lakes. In addition, the property’s unique location adjacent to Bridgton’s intown Pondicherry Park has made it an ideal venue for expanding LEA’s field and classroom trainings and educational offerings. The building features an upper level


Stay Healthy-Stay Tuned • Denmark, ME

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conference room with A/V facilities and sweeping views of the surrounding woodlands. The lower level has accommodations for visiting scientists. An attached wing houses staff offices and a full wet lab for lake research. The grounds provide storage for LEA boats and equipment, interpretive trails for environmental education, and a low elements nature-based challenge course. At the end of 2017, after 46 years of energetic and innovative leadership for the Lakes Environmental Association, Peter Lowell stepped down as executive director. Ensuring the right candidate for his replacement was of the utmost importance to both Lowell and the board. Colin Holme, who joined LEA in 1999 after graduating from the University of Maine at Orono with a degree in Natural Resources and Marine Sciences, took over as executive director in January 2018. Colin has stated that his goal is to grow and strengthen partnerships within the community. He is adamant that the future of our lakes lies within everyone’s hands. He feels that: “It is not just the responsibility of LEA or lakefront landowners. We need to get all residents and visitors on board, too. Whether you live on the lake or not, it is in everyone’s self-interest to keep our water’s clean.” R

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100% Employee Owned by laurie lamountain None of us washes our rental cars. — A Passion for Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Nancy Austin Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is a business model that has been in existence since 1974. ESOPs, which are enabled by federal law and regulated by the IRS and Department of Labor, allow tax-free income for businesses and provide tax-deferred growth investments for employees. Essentially, they are designed to enable employees to own part or all of the company they work for, without investing their own funds. Or as Robert Fogg of Q-Team Tree Service puts it, “An ESOP is basically a retirement plan that holds company value, as opposed to mutual funds or cash. Employees are set up with an account and are allotted value on a yearly basis when the company increases in value. Paying down debt and/or growing the company both translate into increased value.” Fogg recently converted Q-Team to an ESOP after thirty-three years in business. It’s only been fifteen months and Q-Team is just completing its first reappraisal. ESOP companies must be appraised in the beginning and yearly thereafter. Fogg is feeling good about his decision. For one thing, there’s the assurance that it will give him an

eventual path to retirement without having to sell the company to an outside buyer or employee(s), thereby allowing continuity to the company management. To illustrate how it works, Fogg uses small numbers. “You take a company that is worth $100. You create an ESOP Trust and sell the company to the trust for $95. The ESOP Trust promises to pay the previous owner the $95 (or it gets a bank loan to cover the purchase cost). You now have a company that, on paper, is only worth $5 because it’s a $100 company that owes $95. You then GIVE that $5 company to the employees. The previous owner(s) also become employees (and stockholder) in the new company, but they and any immediate family members cannot own more than 49% of the new company, so other employees collectively become the majority owner (51%+) of the new company. From there, the company can use the tax savings and increased profits (due to improved productivity) to pay off the purchase price and grow the company back to and beyond the original value of $100. Even the past owner(s) has a chance to stay and ‘grow the company again’ and eventually cash out again as partial owner(s), along with the rest of the employees.” Having said all that, Fogg is also realistic. He understands that it’s a long term thing. “Setting up an ESOP was a big decision for me and it wasn’t cheap, but I felt the tax savings and other advantages would make it worth it. It starts slow, like a snowball rolling downhill, but can become huge eventually. I think the employee ownership factor will kick in mentally once people start to see actual value in their stock account.”

Worker ownership is not some hippie pipe dream. It’s a powerful opportunity for Americans to form what Ralph Nader calls a “left-right alliance.” Employee-owned enterprises embody and encourage many bedrock principles of conservatism: hard work, personal responsibility, accountability and entrepreneurship. Chris Busby, Mainer publisher and editor-in-chief


Tom Nile

In the meantime, the benefits beyond immediate tax savings are extensive. He points out that recruitment and retention are improved as people are more likely to want a career where their effort will be reflected in company value that they can eventually cash out. Productivity, waste and safety are all improved as employees have much more of a stake in the outcome. Giving employees a true sense of ownership in the company is a morale booster. And they become owners without having to pay a dime. “Over the years, we have been lucky to have some incredible people employed at Q-Team, and many of them are still here as owners of the new ESOP company. This gives them a golden opportunity to grow the company and create wealth for their retirement.” One of those employees is Tom Nile. Nile has been with Q-Team for twelve years and has seen the positive effect of employee ownership from his perspective as crew leader. He’s noticed that crew members take better care of the equipment. And even though employees have to be three-years vested before they can receive dividends, he feels by then they are all in. At 36, he’s cognizant of what it takes to prepare for the future and feels social security, even combined with his 401K, isn’t going to cut it. ESOP provides him the assurance of a better retirement. Howell Laboratories Inc. (HLI) has been designing and manufacturing equipment for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard since 1964. In the ‘70s, owner Pete Howell brought in investors who subsequently purchased Shively Labs (SLI) in 1980. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of HLI, SLI designs and manufactures broadcast anten-

nas. The two were held as a privately-owned company until 1995, at which time some of the original investors wanted to divest. The president at the time, Paul Wescott, investigated what options they had and realized that selling would likely mean loss of jobs for employees, so he explored other options. They formed an ESOP Trust and took out a bank loan to buy out the investors who wanted out (70-80% ESOP in 1995) and used company profits to pay down the loan over the next several years. Between 1995 and 2013, the remaining private investor was bought out and HLI became 100% employee-owned. In a conversation with HLI president Joe McDonnell, I mention that I’ve been educating myself on ESOP and find it to be a democratic model for the workplace, in which employees have individual investment and collective gain. In return, the company has the benefit of loyal, hardworking, motivated employees. It’s a win-win. “Generally, people seem to be happier because they feel like they have a stake in what’s happening here. We still have management and management has to make decisions, but it’s not making decisions in favor of some private shareholder who’s far away from the company. We have a fiduciary obligation to make decisions in the best interest of the employees. And we talk about that all the time with the employees and they understand that.” When HLI bought out the remaining investor in 2013, they were able to become an S-corp (S-corps have tax advantages that Ccorps do not). Only 100% employee-owned companies are able to have S-corp status. One could argue that a mature ESOP could get complicated. With growth comes increased revenue, which benefits everybody because the share price goes up, but there are also increased dividends to be paid out to employees. Adding to this is that once an employee reaches 55, they are allowed to diversify and sell up to 25% of their shares back to the company, which in turn means the company has to have revenue to buy those shares. The rationale is to protect employees so that they don’t reach retirement with 100% of their money in the ESOP and end up taking a huge hit if the company has a bad year. According to Menke, a nationwide ESOP advisor, the average age of ESOP companies is sixteen years. McDonnell wagers there are ESOPs out there that are 30 or 40-years-old, but probably not a lot of them.

That said, the benefits far outweigh the “downside of success.” The biggest benefit of ESOP has been the interest and motivation among employees. In the beginning people weren’t retiring right away, so they didn’t realize what they had; it didn’t mean as much to them. Convincing someone in their 20s of the benefits of long-term investment is a harder sell. That said, McDonnell points out that in a company like HLI, there is a natural tendency to have low turnover, but he is still confident that ESOP status makes HLI more attractive to new and perspective employees. The other appealing aspect with HLI is that they’ve had ESOP status for twenty-five years, which means the returns are much greater than they were in the beginning. McDonnell tells of a machinist at HLI who was approaching retirement age and announced to management about a year and half ago that he had made the decision to shorten his commute. Bob loved his job but was tired of spending an hour and a half on the road every day. His new job was the total opposite of what he was used to at HLI; in place of cooperation, there was backbiting and competitiveness. Within three months, he was back at HLI. McDonnell notes that ESOPs typically have fewer layoffs, and when someone leaves HLI they don’t usually hire them back,

but they took him back in a heartbeat. Neither HLI or Q-Team has had to furlough employees during the shutdown. McDonnell points out that ESOPs generally fare better in an economic downturn because employees have a shared stake in the outcome. They are invested. “In general, most employees roles do not change, with the exception of key people who may become board members, but their attitude toward their job may change because they will eventually have much more of a stake in the overall profitability of the company,” says Fogg. From an ownership standpoint, the advantage to ESOP is a good succession path. Many Maine businesses are owned by baby boomers who are getting ready to retire without an effective succession plan in place. Maine currently has around fifty ESOP companies, among them Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Revision Energy and Sebago Technics. Fogg’s snowball metaphor is a good one. ESOPs have the potential to provide employees 4.5 times more than a traditional retirement savings plan such as a 401K. It’s a sustainable working model that gets broad support from both sides of the political spectrum. Socialists see them as a way to share the wealth and capitalists see them as a vehicle to economic growth. It’s good to know they can agree on something. R

Bob Breau

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Nature Knows No Pause text and photos by leigh macmillen hayes

Traffic ceased Factories closed Planes grounded Noise diminished Air cleared Birds nested Mammals mated Flowers blossomed Amphibians chorused More of us noticed

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fairy shrimp


t’s been there all along. Nature that is. But in the midst of the world’s current frantic spin with a constant barrage of newsflashes making us question some of the most basic tenets of daily life, the landscape out our backdoors has become even more special. It’s into that space that I disappear for hours on end each day and though all seems on track in the natural world, I still find myself greeting its gifts as if for the first time. Perhaps it’s been the same for you? Maybe this was the first year you spotted a fairy shrimp swimming in a vernal pool, or saw the teeny, ribbony, magenta flower of a beaked hazelnut, or counted more lady’s slippers than ever in bloom, or witnessed craneflies canoodling on a fern frond. Did you notice that more wood frogs quacked and spotted salamanders danced in vernal pools this year? Have you seen the constellations stand out in the night sky like never before? The simplest reason is that with our world on standstill, we’ve been given this opportunity to see and simultaneously have given other beings a chance, such as allowing more amphibians to cross roads successfully and return to their natal vernal pools on rainy April nights because our vehicles were parked. Thankfully, we live in a place where the landscape provides a grounding for us as we realize not everything has come to a halt. In a Maine Calling program aired on May 12, 2020, Adrienne Leppold, wildlife biologist for Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and director of Maine Bird Atlas, and Doug Hitchcox, naturalist at Maine Audubon, told host Jennifer Rooks and her radio audience that because more people

beaked hazelnut flowers were walking, hiking, biking, and planting as they looked for ways to engage with nature and seek the calmness it provides, citizen, or as it’s now becoming known, “community” science (community deemed a more inclusive term) programs have seen a sharp uptick in participation. Observations for the phenology program Signs of the Season, for example, increased by 36% over the last year. What does this mean for our future on Earth? A couple of years ago one of my mentors, Kevin Harding, recommended Marc Bekoff’s 2014 book entitled Rewilding Our Hearts. It seemed timely to revisit Bekoff’s work in which his intention is to use the big picture challenges of “climate change, population explosion, and constant damage to Earth’s ecosystems and loss of diversity” as the backdrop to encourage us all to change how we think and act. “Rewilding our hearts is about becoming reenchanted with nature. It is about nurturing our sense of wonder. Rewilding is about being nice, kind, compassionate, empathetic, and harnessing our inborn goodness and optimism,” writes Bekoff. In the first chapter, he states, “Our effects on other species are wide-ranging and far-reaching, and we most likely understate the extent of our destructive ways. As with climate change, we often don’t know or fully understand what we’ve done or the extent of our negative impacts. Even worse, we have no idea how to fix the ecological problems confronting us, whether we are at fault for them or not.” That reminded me of a photograph our youngest son sent from the Brooklyn Bridge one morning in March as he had to walk almost two hours to the film editing office where he works in Manhattan.

wood frogs Yes, the office was closed and he was working remotely, but his boss asked him to grab some files and rather than the normal onehour train ride, he chose to walk, donning a mask, of course. In the photograph, the streets are empty of pedestrians, vehicular traffic numbers two, and there are no boats zooming about on the river below. And then there’s the Manhattan skyline outlined in blue, exactly the color we get to witness on any sunny day here in Maine, especially since airplane contrails no longer leave their gaseous designs across the atmosphere. As I continued to reread Bekoff’s book, other visions flashed through my mind and I thought of the corridors that our local land trusts have worked diligently to create. And with that came the memory of an article I wrote for Lake Living in 2015 entitled “Land That We Trust.” I began with this: My happy moments are spent wandering and wondering in the woods of the lakes region. And photographing and sketching what I see. And writing about the experience. And trying to find out the answers. Honestly though, I don’t want to know all of the answers. For the most part, I just like the wandering and wondering. I went on to mention some of the flowers and shrubs and ferns and mosses and lichens and trees and animals and amphibians and birds and insects with whom we share this world. And before I concluded with a brief description of five local land trusts, I came to the realization that people, too, are part of the landscape.

lady’s slipper Bekoff encourages us to figure out how to live in this place together, not only with our human neighbors, but with non-humans as well, for after all, it was their home before we made it ours. “What we do,” writes Bekoff, “does make a difference and rewilding our hearts is about fostering and honoring our connections to one another and all life.” We need to figure out how to cultivate it and take care of it, rather than trying to dominate and control it for our own purposes. Perhaps now that we are giving our planet a chance to breathe as we’ve all learned to work remotely, consolidate our driving trips, and limit our food waste, positive results will follow. Twenty-one years ago, the late theologian Thomas Berry wrote, “The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.” In another passage, he commented, “When we awaken to a revelation that the industrial world, as now functioning, can exist for only a brief historical period, we might begin to consider just how we can establish a more sustainable setting for our physical survival and personal fulfillment.” Perhaps because of and in spite of the pandemic, we have arrived at a world Thomas Berry envisioned on the eve of the new millennium. We all need to continue to rethink how we do what we do. Perhaps working

remotely for even a few days a week is a possibility. Maybe we don’t need to use so much toilet paper. Could it be that only one trip/week to the grocery store is enough? Might our malls become housing for the homeless? What if we all paid more attention to nature and decided we need to do more to protect the Earth? Even as the world returns to “normal,” continue to wander outdoors if you can and let the anomalies pull you into their realm. Ask questions. Acknowledge that it’s okay if you don’t understand everything you encounter. Let your eyes tune in. Notice those diminutive subtleties such as the beaked hazelnut flowers that oft go unappreciated for so few can actually see them. The flowers have now transformed into the beaked nuts for which the shrub is named. Have you seen them? Perhaps not because they dangle below the leaves, hidden except to those who search. While The Now is controlled by forces beyond our understanding, somehow daily occurrences in nature are possibly more eloquent than ever. I don’t know about you, but I give thanks for being able to appreciate these offerings. I can only hope that The After is influenced by the learnings we have made, rather than a return to The Before. In the meantime, may we find ourselves awakening to the solace the Earth has always and continues to provide whether it be out a door or through a screened window. And may we find hope for the future in the knowledge that our planet knows no pause. R

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Suddenly Summer!

Je suis Swing is a French swimwear and clothing brand created by seamstress and stylist Val Bamboo, who captures the elegance of the 1930s through ‘60s in every piece she passionately designs and creates.

Despite a challenging market, the latest Je Suis Swing collection, VÉNUS, has been released and received with great success. In creating it, Val Bamboo has committed to an eco-responsible and 100% French production—from fabric, to boxes to labels. Made with an extensible jacquard fabric with a slight seersucker effect labeled OEKO-TEX, this fabulous swimwear collection is ultimately chic, unique and comfortable. Je Suis Swing creations can be ordered online at, with international payments easily made through PayPal. Joséphine

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Délice de May

le petit baigneur noir

Vénus Rose

Le Petit Baigneur

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Nature in Relief by leigh macmillen hayes


t all begins with the background. In Sue Holland’s case, that renders back to her high school years when the guidance counselor insisted she enroll in the traditional Home Economics class. Sue wanted to take Wood Shop. “Wood Shop is for boys. Home Ec is for girls,” he insisted. Until, that is, Sue’s mother intervened and the teen became the first girl in her school to break tradition. At graduation four years and many shop courses later, she received the Industrial Arts award. The skills she learned have served her well. Sue, you see, is a wood carver who transforms a plain slab of pine board into a relief sculpture. In much the same way, the layers of her life have continued to inform her art. She grew up in Pennsylvania, but has been a Maine transplant for at least a decade. Her career prior to retirement was at a garden center where her artistic talents were further honed. That and her love of mammals play a key part in the landscape she creates both on the ground and in wood. “I graduated from high school with high honors,” Sue says, “and everybody wanted me to be a math teacher. That was not my passion. I just like working with my hands.” Outside of high school, she’s had no formal

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training, but her natural ability is manifested in her yard and log cabin in Parsonsfield. Even the gardens are much like the carvings for she began with the ledge upon which the house sits and added layers and layers of organic material and plants and design to create an incredibly appealing space out of a foreclosure property. In a relief carving, Sue sculpts threedimensional figures that protrude from

the background, thus creating an illusion of space and depth. For low relief works, she uses one piece of wood and creates different layers with the figures projecting only slightly from the surface, while her high relief work includes several layers. One of her favorite things to carve is oak leaves that curl both outward and inward creating an illusion of dancing in the breeze much the way they do on the oak trees that shade her backyard. “I make patterns and trace them,” she says of the finer details such as fish and loons. For these features, she runs the piece of wood through a planer so she’s not starting with such a thick slab, then the cutting begins. “The loon’s beak needs to be thinner,” says Sue, “so I sand it down until it’s the right dimension. And I sand the body to round it off because it is rounded.” Recently Sue created a mural for friends who live in Denmark, Maine. Laurie and Andy wanted something to fill some of the wall space above a beam in their open-concept, timberframed home. Their thought: a landscape scene about the same size as the 11-inch Douglas fir beam. Sue’s thought: the sculpted piece would get lost if it was the same size. So she increased it. In fact, she more than doubled it and the

finished product was 25 or 26 inches high. Her work is organic as she carves a story of a place and its people. The couple wanted a moose and because Andy is a fisherman Sue knew they needed to include a fish. “It’s personalized,” she says. “I like to do custom things for people that have meaning.” In this particular piece Sue added turkeys that she knows roam her friends’ property, a fox that was running because of an approaching black bear, a loon swimming toward shore not at all bothered by the moose in the water, and fish jumping while a hawk watches. And on the wall space above the mural, a bald eagle circling in the sky. Though she doesn’t include color in all of her work, sometimes as in this case, it helps to pull out the details. And an antique stain picks up the beam’s color making a natural transition. The home she shares with her husband, Pete, is her gallery from the gardens and garden trellis to the front door and living room stairway. The latter piece, which graces both the open stair rail and second floor seam on the back wall, began because originally Sue wanted to replace the rail’s square spindles. Pete said no to the project because he thought that would require too much work. “Then I heard banging in the base-

“Then I heard banging in the basement,” he adds with a grin. “And I stayed away.”

ment,” he quietly adds with a grin. “And I stayed away.” The basement is Sue’s workshop. It is there that all scenes that have been forming in her mind’s eye come to life. For high-relief carvings such as the stairwell and her friends’ project, she begins by carving mountains 3/8-inch thick. The second layer of mountains and trees is a half inch. And the third layer of shrubs, more trees, and mammals is one inch. Each begins as a flat piece, but with various tools and a router, she cuts out space around the features and adds incredibly fine details to make them seem realistic. All layers are added as the piece is installed, thus while she’s working, she has to constantly prop one layer atop another to make sure the placement is correct. “At the end I have to make notches to know where the next layer fits,” says Sue. “For instance, in the second layer, I might carve out a space for the back of the shrub so it

will fit in the right spot.” At one time in her past, Sue worked with clay which was much more forgivable than wood. “Once something is gone, it’s gone,” she says of the wood. But her motto is adapt and overcome. After spending hours bringing a moose to life, antlers and all, it slipped from her hands. A broken leg and antler were glued back together and you’d never know as you study the details of the scene before you. When I ask how long it takes to complete a carving, Sue replies, “Over one hundred hours. I have a tendency to get carried away. My mind keeps going and I keep going.” Perhaps so, but listening to her chat and laugh and looking at the works she has carved with great joy out of the grounds surrounding her home and the pine boards that become wall sculptures, it’s obvious she finds relief in nature. R For more imformation: unique79ta@

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Perfect Picnics

ethan mcnerney

by laurie lamountain

Hacker’s Hill

f ever there were a summer that lends itself to picnics, this is it. Think about it; it’s a perfectly acceptable way to maintain social distancing while enjoying all the season has to offer. Of course, after months of being stuck inside, we’re all eager to get out of the house. Drive by any of our many trailheads, public parks or beaches and you’ll see that even the outdoors can get crowded, so here are a few uncrowded picnic spots you might try. Hemlock Bridge Road Fryeburg Located at the junction of Route 302 and Denmark Road, Hemlock Bridge Road turns to dirt after about a mile and a couple of miles beyond that sits the historic Hem-

pink pickled turnips

1 pound small turnips, trimmed and peeled 1 small red beet, trimmed and peeled 1 red chili, halved lengthwise (optional) 1/2 c red wine vinegar 2 tbsp kosher salt 1 1/2 c water 1 tsp sugar 2 tsp sea salt

Halve turnips and beet, and cut into slim wedges. Place them, along with chili (if using) in a 1-quart canning jar (or 2 pint jars). Bring vinegar, salt, sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Pour the liquid over turnip mixture and let cool. Cover and chill at least 1 week before using. For full-on, hot pink pickles, let them sit for 2 full weeks. Once opened, the pickles will keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. Makes 1 quart.

jam jar salads

10 oz stock or water 1 c medium grind bulgur wheat 1/2 tbsp dill, chopped 1/2 tbsp mint, chopped

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lock Covered Bridge. There’s a picnic area just to the left after the bridge. Mid-summer evenings, especially after a rainy spell, can be buggy, so you might want to plan this one accordingly. Bring your own chairs and leave no trace behind. The skies are big out here, bird life is abundant, and the views of the western mountains are expansive. Hacker’s Hill Casco Hacker’s Hill Preserve, located just off Quaker Ridge Road, provides 360˚ views of the White Mountains, Pleasant Mountain and the lakes region. Weekdays are probably a better bet if you’re looking for a secluded picnic spot. Thanks to Loon Echo Land Trust, the preserve is open to the 1 red beet, cooked and diced 1/2 cucumber, diced small bunch radishes, sliced 7 oz feta cheese, crumbled 2 heads little gem lettuce (baby romaine), shredded Dressing: 2 tbsp Dijon mustard 1/4 c white wine vinegar 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp honey salt and pepper to taste

public and, with the exception of Tuesdays and Thursdays, the gate is open to vehicle traffic from 8am to sunset. Plan your picnic so it finishes at sunset, when the views to the west can be breathtaking. Denmark Bicentennial Park Denmark Open to the public from dawn to dusk, Denmark Bicentennial Park is a perfect place for a family picnic. An impressive pavilion, cut and erected by local timber framer Andy Buck, provides shelter to several picnic tables. There’s plenty of parking, a playground for kids, and a dock along the shore. The park is conveniently located along Main Street (Route 160) beside the dam at the foot of Moose Pond. a layer of beet, cucumber, radish, feta and finally lettuce. Combine the dressing ingredients in a separate jar, cover and shake to emulsify. You can either drizzle dressing on top of each salad before putting the lids on and packing them up, or you can pack the dressing separately. Serves 8.

pork katsu scotch eggs

Bring the stock to a boil and pour over the bulgur wheat, cover and leave for 20 minutes to soak. Chill and then lightly toss with the chopped herbs. Layer the salads into 8 jam jars, with bulgur wheat at the bottom, followed with

olive magazine


4 eggs, room temperature 6 tbsp soy sauce 3 tbsp mirin 4 mild pork sausages (or 1 lb. ground pork) 4 spring onions, finely chopped small chunk ginger root, finely grated 1 tsp sesame oil 4 tbsp AP flour 2 eggs, beaten 1 c panko breadcrumbs peanut oil for deep frying Curry Sauce: 1 onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed small chunk ginger root, finely grated oil for frying 1 tbsp AP flour 1 1/2 tbsp mild curry powder

continued on page 22

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olive magazine

continued from page 20

1 tsp ground turmeric 12 oz. chicken stock 1 tsp soft brown sugar 2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

Carefully lower eggs into boiling water. Cover and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water before placing in a bowl of iced water for 10 minutes to cool completely. Peel and put in a freezer bag with the soy sauce and mirin. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight if you want to prep ahead). To make the curry sauce, cook the onion, garlic and ginger in a glug of oil until softened. Add the flour, curry powder and turmeric, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the chicken stock, then stir in the sugar and tomatoes, and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend the sauce with a handheld immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Remove sausages from casings (if not using ground pork) and combine with the spring onions, ginger and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, then flatten each portion into a round on a piece of plastic wrap. This will make it easier to form around the eggs. Drain the marinated eggs and lightly dust them with flour. Place each egg on a meat round. Use the plastic wrap to mould the meat mixture around each egg, ensuring there are no gaps. Roll each scotch egg in flour, then the beaten egg, then breadcrumbs. Repeat with the beaten egg and breadcrumbs to make a double coating. Chill until ready to cook. Heat peanut oil, no more than 1/3 deep in a shallow pan, to 350-375˚. Cook the eggs for 5-7 minutes, turning a few times, or until golden and crisp. Serve with the curry sauce for dipping. Makes 4

italian picnic loaf

Ciabatta Dough: 1 cup 2 tbsp water (divided) (tepid) 1/2 tsp honey 2 tsp active dry yeast 2 c AP flour 1 tsp salt 1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves 2 tbsp+ olive oil

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Mix 1/4 cup of water, honey and yeast in a small bowl, let sit for 5 minutes, then stir. Measure flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center, and add the yeast mixture and remaining water. Mix together and stir in the salt just before completely blended. The dough will be loose and sticky. Sprinkle the top with 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour. Cover the bowl with a large tea towel, place in a warm, draft free area and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour. Carefully move the dough from the bowl to the prepared baking sheet, making sure that the floured surface of the dough remains on top. Using a spatula or dough scraper, form the dough into a flattish round. Use your fingers to press small indents into the top of the dough and then drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Toss the rosemary leaves with a little olive oil and scatter over the top. Place 5 or 6 ice cubes in a pan on the bottom of the oven to create vapor or add the pan when pre-heating the oven and pour 1 cup of very hot water into the pan before adding the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool completely before slicing in half horizontally. Can be made a day ahead. Filling: 3 handfuls baby spinach 3 balls mozzarella, sliced small jar roasted red peppers, drained and torn into pieces 5 oz Italian salami Olive Salad: 1 c green olives, pitted and chopped 1 small finely chopped shallot 2 tsp capers 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Combine olive salad ingredients (can be done a day ahead to add flavor). Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Spread half the olive salad on the bottom half of the bread. Add the spinach followed by the mozzarella, salami and peppers, seasoning as you go. Finish with the rest of the olive salad. Wrap tightly and let sit for at least an hour before eating. Serves 8

lemon and blueberry bars Dough: 1 1/3 c AP flour

7 tbsp salted butter 1/4 c granulated sugar 1-2 tsp milk Lemon and blueberry topping: 1 c blueberries 1 1/2 c granulated sugar (less if you prefer tart) 4 lemons, zested and juiced 4 eggs, beaten 1 c AP flour

Preheat oven to 375˚. Butter an 8” square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving the ends overhanging. Combine flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until breadcrumb texture. Add sugar and pulse a couple of times more. Add 1-2 tsp of milk and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer to baking pan and, using the back of a spoon, flatten to an even thickness. Bake for 20 minutes until golden, then cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 350˚. Purée the blueberries in a food processor, then push through a sieve. Combine in a pan with 2 tbsp of the sugar and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Cook on medium-high for 3-4 minutes until thickened. Whisk the lemon zest and juice with the eggs and the rest of the sugar until light and foamy, then gradually whisk in the flour. Pour over the base and drizzle the blueberry purée on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until just set. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars. Serves 8

contessa cocktail bottles 6 oz Aperol 6 oz gin 6 oz dry vermouth 6 pieces orange peel

Combine equal measures Aperol, gin and vermouth and divide between 3 reclosable bottles, adding 2 twists of orange peel to each bottle. Chill until needed and serve in small glasses over ice. Serves 6 (2 per bottle) All recipes adapted from

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If you are curious, but apprehensive, about going down into a bat-filled, spiderwebbed, dark cavern, don’t despair. Will Hunt has done it all, and you can explore via armchair by reading his fascinating, non-fiction work Underground. Hunt, a self-proclaimed urban explorer, got his start in an abandoned tunnel near his home in Rhode Island before branching out to the New York City lost subway and sewer systems. He investigates prehistoric caves, buried cities, and nuclear bunkers, but my favorite involves a threeday “camping trip” traversing the underground catacombs of Paris. In recounting his adventures, the author peppers them with mythological, spiritual and philosophical insights from the land beneath our feet, as well as humor. Writing a novel about an aspiring writer trying to write a novel has been overdone in my opinion, however, Lily King’s new novel Writers and Lovers was such a pleasure to read that I’m going to overlook it. Casey is in her early thirties, working in a dead-end job with nothing to show for it besides over $70,000 in student loan debt. For years, she has woken early to write and revise her story, while her peers have become finan-

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cially successful and begun raising families. Her artistic faith is tested, and she is torn between two men; one who represents the security and stability she could use, and the other a free spirit. I’m guessing this novel is somewhat autobiographical because the story seems so genuine, which to me, is testament to how great the book is. Another recent read, American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins, stirred up quite a bit of controversy over the winter. Cummins, who is Puerto Rican, spent several years in Mexico researching her novel about a Mexican mother and son illegally immigrating to the U.S. A huge bidding war between major publishers to print this book resulted in a seven figure advance. Glowing reviews, however, quickly turned to scathing rebukes and protests over the book’s portrayal of Mexican migrants by a non-native, so much so that Cummins received death threats and a book tour had to be cancelled. Because this is a work of fiction, I had a problem with some of the objections, and wonder where the line should be drawn. Regardless, this is a great read and an intense, page-turner that I hope will influence the way some people feel about the “Immigration Question.” On the crime/mystery beat, A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson was a clever, Swedish courtroom mystery. Stella, a teenage girl who has always had anger issues, is on trial for murder. Divided into three parts, it is first narrated by her father, a pastor in the church, then by Stella, and finally by her mother. With each subsequent telling, the tale zigzags to a dramatic conclusion. Long Bright River by Liz Moore is more of a police procedural drama, with Mickey, a female street cop, raising a seven-year-old son in Philadelphia. Women who work the street are being killed, and Mickey’s sister, who unfortunately has gone down the path of addiction and sex work, has gone missing.

Snap, The Booker Prize Finalist by Belinda Bauer, is a little unorthodox and slightly implausible, but well worth the read. Fourteen-year-old Jack burgles homes to provide for himself and his sisters after their mother was murdered a few years earlier. The three children live on their own in the family home, managing to fly under the radar of child services until DCI John Marvel is assigned to the rash of burglaries in the area. You’ve got to read it to find out what transpires. Finally, during these times of turmoil, I have had lots of requests for “feel good” books that aren’t too heavy. In The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley, an eccentric artist poses the idea that everyone lies about who they are in some way. Julian decides to bare his innermost secrets in a notebook that he intentionally leaves in Monica’s cafe, daring others to follow his lead and add to the story. When Monica discovers it, she too has confessions to share, and the chain begins to run its course, picking up colorful characters who end up helping each other and making this a funny, heartfelt novel that is not as predictable as you would think.


I, too, had many hours available this spring so decided it was a great time to pick up a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. I’d read her biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi, which I absolutely loved, and once again I was not disappointed. Wild Swans is an amazing biography/ autobiography and well-researched historical account of 20th-century China. While telling the story of her early life during the Cultural Revolution and of her mother as a Communist elite, and grandmother as a concubine, Chung describes the struggles of the Chinese people through the time of Chaing Kai-shek and the Chinese Nationalists, and then during the years of Communisim under the leadership of Mao Zedong. I have to say that The Library Book by Susan Orleans intrigued me because I was wondering how a writer could tell a captivating story about a library. Orleans describes the devastating fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, pursuit of the suspected arsonist and significant impact to the LA community, but she also provides an interesting history of libraries and their dedicated employees. A great read for book lovers.

If you’re looking for a charming, humorous story set in a small, coastal Maine town, pick up a copy of Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. Just as Evvie is about to quietly leave her husband, he dies in a car accident. As family, friends and townspeople try to help her through what they believe is grief, she further isolates herself in her rambling home. Then her life is disrupted when she reluctantly takes in a tenant with his own emotional baggage.


Maybe the truth is somewhere between all that I’m told and memory. — brown girl dreaming Discovering “new” authors is always exciting. I don’t know how I overlooked Jacqueline Woodson for so long, but after I saw her interviewed on The Tonight Show—she was very funny and engaging—I bought and read her latest book, the eloquent family saga Red at the Bone, which blew me away. Though known primarily as a young adult author, such labels are irrelevant—good writing is good writing. I recommend her work to everyone, especially her National Book Award winning memoir in verse, brown girl dreaming. From her birth into middle class suburban Ohio, then living with her beloved grandparents in rural South Carolina, and finally arriving in Brooklyn to begin school and embrace what New York City has to offer, this unique tale of one writer’s beginnings is a joy to read and particularly pertinent in our troubled times. Paul Yoon is my other recent discovery. I was hooked by his most recent novel, Run Me to Earth, set in the Plain of Jars in Laos, and then I read his short stories in The Mountain as well as his other novel Snow Hunters, about a Korean war refugee in Brazil. The elegant, otherworldly quality of his prose is rather like reading an Edward Hopper painting. The characters seem a bit mystified and isolated within their stories but there is beauty and revelation, too. Yoon’s work instills a lingering calmness and leaves the reader with something to contemplate. Karen Thompson Walker’s second novel, The Dreamers, tells of a sleeping sickness epidemic that first spreads among college students and then to the wider community. It is disturbingly relevant today. While I was reading it, radio and television news paralleled the story as the coronavirus pandemic

gathered strength and our own world began to change. The author explores people’s reactions to and actions during an epidemic as well as the ensuing consequences, however, the real point of the book involves dreams and the nature of reality. As Walker puts it, “I’m perpetually fascinated, and terrified, by the way the fragility of our experience of the world, and by the way the ordinary can be upended.” Her previous novel, The Age of Miracles, presented an inescapable alternative reality, while The Dreamers questions what we perceive as reality itself. An intriguing read in these crazy times, and it just might explain my current problems with the space-time continuum. Not many parents would put their child through a social experiment but Lenora Chu did just that when she enrolled her threeyear-old son in a state-run public school in Shanghai while she and her husband were working in China. Chu was impressed by Chinese academic achievement, especially in math and science, and she wondered about the differences between the American and Chinese education systems. She details her and her son’s experiences with Chinese schools in Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve. Fascinating, insightful, revealing, and often hilarious, this is a must read for anyone interested in education and life in modern day China. And the reason the Chinese do so well in math may surprise you… What happens when appliances will only cook “authorized” food? When superheroes cannot fight a corrupt system? When insurance companies tell patients to just go away and die? Or when the best laid plans of survivalists suddenly go awry? Cory Doctorow offers his perspectives in the four futuristic novellas that comprise Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment. These en-

tertaining riffs on contemporary economic, technological, and cultural themes are an unsettling look at how our future might evolve if things continue to go on as they are with no one being held accountable. Read them at your own risk. I think Lois Lowry has outdone herself with On the Horizon, a study of memory, connection, and coincidence that spans decades and continents. Inspired by an image of her as a child on a Hawaiian beach with her grandmother and a ship on the far horizon, Lowry reveals a personal story that links her with greater historical events. A ship at sea, a green bicycle, mushroom clouds, monuments, and a meeting later in life are described in concise, elegant poems accompanied by Kenard Pak’s delicate drawings and gathered beautifully into this exquisite volume. If none of the above strikes your fancy, perhaps following Janina, the curmudgeonly aging astrologist at the heart of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, as she tries to discover the cause of an increasing number of deaths in her small Polish village will amuse you for a little while.

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PAM’S PICKS FOR KIDS & YOUNG ADULTS See, Touch, Feel: A First Sensory Book By Roger Priddy Ages Birth+ Babies and toddlers will love feeling their way through this brightly colored, visual/sensory book as they explore the fuzzy, lumpy, rough and smooth textures throughout its pages. The Seed of Compassion By His Holiness the Dalai Lama Ages 2+ When the 14th Dalai Lama was discovered at the young age of two as the successor to the 13th, his mother planted a tree and taught him about compassion and caring for others. At four he traveled to Lhasa where he grew up and studied as a Buddhist monk. Traveling the world, he passed on his mother’s message of compassion which stemmed from the seed they planted. The Dalai Lama hopes this book will reach all children so they too will learn the importance of kindness, compassion and respect for our fragile planet. I’m Sticking With You By Smriti Prasadam-Halls Ages 1+ Bear and Squirrel are best friends. They stick together like chocolate and marshmallow squished between graham crackers. One

without the other wouldn’t feel right. Until one day Squirrel starts feeling claustrophobic and decides he wants alone time. Find out the fate of their friendship and the power of love. The Maine Birthday Book By Tonya Shevenell Ages 3+ Happy 200th Birthday Maine! Dirigo, a black-capped chickadee, wonders how to celebrate his birthday. What better way than to ask his animal friends from various counties throughout the state of Maine? Kids will follow Dirigo’s wildlife friends as each demonstrates their favorite activity and birthday tradition. Maine geography and wildlife education made fun will have you planning your next birthday celebration. The Very Very Far North By Dan Bar-El Ages 8+ Point your compass north and travel to the top of the world. That is where you will find Duane, a lovable polar bear from the North Pole. Duane’s kindness is contagious and he loves meeting new friends. Follow Duane and friends on an arctic adventure with action, mishaps and tasty icicle treats. Reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh with its lovable, humorous characters. The Eagle Huntress By Aisholpan Nurgaiv with Liz Welch Non-fiction, Ages 10+ Eagle hunting is in Aisholpan’s blood. Growing up in a nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia,

Aisholpan has a natural gift for handling her father and brother’s eagle. Girls have their role in the community which does not include eagle hunting, but Aisholpan has her own plans. Read this true story to find out if she is able to reach her goal. 24 Hours in Nowhere By Dusti Bowling Ages 12+ Life is brutal in Nowhere, Arizona. Going “nowhere” pretty much describes the fate of its residents. Gus has bigger ambitions, and dreams of a future far away from this dump in the middle of the desert, but Bo, the town bully, has other plans for Gus. Fans of Holes, by Louis Sachar, will devour this middle school read. Free Lunch By Rex Ogle Ages 13+ Rex is excited to start sixth grade. School is an escape from his reality of living in poverty in a trailer park with an abusive mother and her boyfriend. But his world comes crashing down when he’s told he will be on the free lunch program. That is just the start, as life at home deteriorates for Rex and his younger brother, Ford. At times the abuse in this autobiography becomes difficult to read, but this true story will resonate with others in similar situations and show them the importance of staying positive and hopeful. The Loop By Ben Oliver Ages 14+ The screen snaps on and Happy, the electronic voice says, “Welcome inmate # 9-70-981,” and gives the daily broadcast and number of days Luka Kane has been wrongfully imprisoned. Day 736 to be exact. Luka prepares for another day of isolation, exercise and torture. The futurist prison is run by computers, chip implants and surveillance cameras. The only contact with humans is a visit from Wren, the friendly young warden with a nice smile. Wren tells Luka he needs to escape, but how? Three Things I Know are True By Betty Culley Ages 15+ A single gunshot resonates through the neighborhood. Minutes later panic sets in as Liv and her mother see Liv’s brother Jonah being carried out of the house across the street and into an ambulance. Written in free verse style, follow two families’ journeys dealing with the catastrophic consequences of gun neglect or carelessness. R

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A little over two years ago, an agent for Fox Chapel Publishing contacted Great Northern Docks in Naples, Maine, about writing a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) book on dock building. The last comprehensive book on the subject, The Dock Manual by Max Burns, was published more than twenty years ago and, although most of the information was still relevant, had never been updated to include advances in technology and materials. The illustrations consisted mainly of dated line art. Sam Merriam, principal of Great Northern Docks, wasn’t crazy about the idea at first because of the time commitment involved, but after the company saw new growth in online orders of DIY dock parts nationally, he began to see the book as an opportunity to boost sales further. The publishing agent, who was impressed with an online presentation that included a portfolio of parts with helpful descriptions, professional photography and illustrations, further convinced Sam that they were the company to make this book happen. Written by Sam and illustrated by his brother, Seth Merriam, Build Your Own Dock is for anyone thinking of a dock project, whether starting from the beginning or rehabilitating an existing one. The inclusion of many tips for dock-users makes this book relevant—not just for those who want to build or repair—but for anyone who owns a dock. Dedicated to Fremont and Norma Merriam, parents and founders of Great Northern Docks, Build Your Own Dock has 256 pages of helpful text, photographs and illustrations. Find it locally at Bridgton Books or online at Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.

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