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S o u t h e r n M a i n e ’s L e i s u r e L i f e s t y l e M a g a z i n e spring 2009 • vol. 12, no.1

Watts in the Wind

Residential Wind Generators PLUS:

gardening under cover sitting privy community gardens a green clean


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spring 2009 • vol. 12, no.1

editor’s note

It’s interesting how things come in and out of fashion. Sarah Jessica Parker sports a pair of ruby red sheepskin boots in an episode of Sex and the City and suddenly Ugg Boots are all the rage. That’s all it takes is one person to dare to do something different. Someone else sees it and imitates it and, before you know it, Ugg boots are flying off the shelves. It’s Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” at play in our culture. Some fads are better than others. I’m not unhappy that the fad of wearing one’s pants below the butt is going out of fashion, but that probably makes me an old fart. I am happy that “going green” is in fashion. Whatever our motivation for planting gardens, converting to clean energy to power our homes, and buying hybrid vehicles, the outcome benefits everyone. Alexander Duthie’s reason for installing two wind turbines on the family farm in Fryeburg, Maine, was two-fold. He wanted to do the right thing for the planet and he wanted to do the right thing for his family. His plan is to keep Springmont farm a working farm for Duthie generations to come, and converting to more sustainable energy sources makes sense for their future. He also admits that he likes the way the turbines look, so maybe Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t the only one setting trends. We hope this issue of Lake Living will inspire you to start something in your neighborhood.

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—Laurie LaMountain This issue of Lake Living is dedicated to my brother Tim. I will add it to the stack of back issues you kept in your home in New York City. Know that I keep you close within my being . . . forever a part of me . . . us.

Lake Living is published quarterly by Almanac Graphics, Inc., 625 Rocky Knoll Rd, Denmark, ME 04022 207-452-8005. lakeliving@fairpoint. net ©2009. 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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Watts in the Wind

14

Chives

Residential Wind Generators

by mariah kindellen

by laurie lamountain

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Gardening Under Cover

16

Community Gardens

by leigh macmillen hayes

Take Root

by leigh macmillen hayes

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Sitting Privy

18

A Green Clean

by laurie lamountain

Bridgton’s Close-loop Car Wash

by laurie lamountain

All Lines of Insurance Home • Auto • Boat • Recreation Vehicles cover photo : southwest windpower

Editor & Publisher Laurie LaMountain Contributing Writers Leigh Macmillen Hayes, Mariah Kindellen Contributing Photographers Heather Grass, Don Bradley, Tim Sawyer, Ken King, Brian Hendricks, Susan Sidwell Graphic Designer Dianne Lewis Proofreader/Copy Editor Leigh Macmillen Hayes

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residential wind generators

watts in

the wind The popularity of using the energy in the wind has always fluctuated with the price of fossil fuels. When fuel prices fell after World War II, interest in wind turbines waned. But when the price of oil skyrocketed in the 1970s, so did worldwide interest in wind turbine generators. —from the Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program of the U.S. Department of Energy

H istory has a way of repeating itself, although it will generally modify to meet current conditions. Even as recently as the ‘70s, there wasn’t the level of concern about global warming and pollution that there is today, so the current resurgence of wind energy popularity is powered by more than just our wallets. When the cost of home heating oil jumped to $4 a gallon last summer, Alexander Duthie began researching alternative means of heating the eleven-room farmhouse that he and his wife Beverly moved to in 1989, and he purposefully limited it to sources that would also benefit the environment. Solar and wind were his two considerations, and after rationalizing that winter was the determining season, and it didn’t usually include a lot of sun but often brought high winds to their hilltop location, he focused on wind energy. His research led him to a manufacturer in Arizona called Southwest Windpower that produces the Skystream 3.7, a compact wind turbine and wind energy system he felt would ideally suit the farm. Skystream 3.7 is an all-inclusive, residential wind generator with built-in controls and inverter and a rated capacity of 2.4 kW. It has a 12’ rotor diameter, is very quiet, and will start generating energy at wind speeds of around 8 mph and continue generating up to 55 mph. When he inquired about a local distributor and was told Green Alternative Energy, LLC, was located less than half an hour away in North Conway, New Hampshire, he made arrangements with them to conduct a site evaluation. If only fools rush in, Mr. Duthie is absolutely no fool. He saw the conversion of the farmhouse as a system. The farm had been in Beverly’s family for generations, and she had kept the dream of moving back to it throughout Alexander’s career as a professor of agriculture at the University of Vermont, and their raising of six children. Since their return twenty years ago, the Duthies have taken great pride and effort in maintaining Springmont Farm as a working farm that will remain in the family for generations to come. Initially, Mr. Duthie investigated whether there were any rebates or tax incentives for installing wind turbines and found that at that time there was no funding available from the state in Maine, but didn’t let that discourage him. The potential of spending roughly $9,000/year on heating oil for the farm’s forced hot water heating

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southwest windpower

by laurie lamountain


system was incentive enough. When he contacted the town office to find out if there were any zoning restrictions, he found there was nothing on the books specifically related to wind towers, but Fryeburg does have a limit of 50’ on structure height and 62’ for road setback. Tower height is dependent on site; the turbine needs to be unobstructed to the winds. By locating the tower on the northwest corner of the farm where the barn and the house wouldn’t be obstructions, two 34’ systems would suffice. Not only did it comply with code, but it suited Mr. Duthie’s preference to keep the towers in proportion to the farm (towers from 34’ to 60’ are available for the Skystream 3.7). The Duthies would also need to sign an interconnection agreement with Central Maine Power Company (CMP), who would install a second meter to measure the energy the Duthies were generating at no additional charge to them. Beyond their household use, any excess energy the Duthies produce goes back into the grid and they are credited for it by CMP. Further investigation led Mr. Duthie to a portable electric heater that supplies a steady, safe and efficient heat source. It makes no noise and is designed to discreetly blend with the furniture. The Duthies bought ten of them for use throughout the house to further supplement the FHW heating system. In addition, heat managers were added to their two boilers to keep them running as efficiently as possible. So how is all of it working? “Maybe in a year’s time I’ll have the numbers and can say more about it, but it’s too early to say now. We’re pleased with the windmills and very pleased to work with Green Alternative Energy. And I like how the windmills fit in with the farm,” says Mr. Duthie. The fact that the neighbors approve and there have been no problems with birds is also a plus. Not everyone would be willing or able to invest so much into an alternative energy system, but that’s part of what makes Mr. Duthie an ideal candidate for wind power in particular and his hybrid system as a whole. He has the means and doesn’t have unrealistic expectations attached to the process. According to Chris Franchi, a renewable energy consultant representing Green Alternative

Energy, the biggest question people have is, “will it work for me?” “The answer is different for everyone because everyone has different goals. Some are very interested in reducing their carbon footprint or dependence on foreign oil. Others want energy independence or a hedge against out-of-control future energy costs. Some will tell you that they are only motivated by economics and do not care about the environment. Most people will tell you that they are motivated by a combination of all of these things,” states Chris. There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation surrounding wind power that can sometimes lead to unrealistic goals. If you want to use four times as much energy as your neighbor, expect a system with four times the capacity as his, and a price to match. The first thing to look at is energy use, specifically kWh/year. Other factors may include utility rate, budget, site requirements and of course wind speeds. One 2.4 kW turbine produces about 400 kWh per month at 12 mph wind speeds. I was surprised when I checked my previous electric bills to find that our average household usage was just under 500 kWh per month, which at first glance makes the Skystream 3.7 seem an attractive alternative, but then there’s the issue of site orientation. The fact that our house is nestled in a grove of 60’ white pine doesn’t mean wind energy is out of the question for us, but it does mean that either trees would need to be cleared or the tower would have to be very tall in relation to the size of the system. Both would entail more expense, the tower especially because it is much more costly, would require a larger footprint, and heavy equipment to install. Furthermore, both might impact neighbors negatively. It doesn’t make sense to do the right thing for the environment and do wrong by your neighbor. According to Chris, the typical homeowner pays back the investment in a wind turbine in 8 to 12 years, but it can be much quicker than that. If their state offers rebates or tax incentives, as does New Hampshire, it could be significantly less. The new federal stimulus package includes additional incentives that can reduce costs even further. Another incentive that is less easily factored in is the expected

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southwest windpower

energy inflation rate. Even though the cost of home heating oil has come down in recent months, it will almost certainly climb back up as supplies become limited. Anyone who locked into a seasonal contract at $4 per gallon knows how volatile the market is and how “unexpected” the expected energy inflation rate can be. Because it harnesses the energy of the wind, the biggest determining factor in a site evaluation is the on-site wind speed. Southwestern Maine doesn’t get such high marks for wind speed on Skystream’s Web site wind map, but the Duthies have the advantage of being located high on a hill where they are exposed to wind from Mt. Washington. The coast of Maine actually gets outstanding classification, and those who own a turbine on the coast may frequently experience the satisfaction of watching their electric meter run backwards. Yet, Mr. Duthie offers this bit of cautionary advice, “You need to examine initially what your motivation is. I never expected CMP would be buying electricity back from me. You’re always going to use more than you’re going to make.” Though they have cut their oil consumption by half, the Duthies are actually using more electricity than they did before they had the turbines installed. The portable electric heaters account for part of it, but they also recently began raising chickens and pigs, and have installed heat lamps and heaters in the barn. The average homeowner, who isn’t inventing zoned irrigation systems for the garden like Mr. Duthie, might easily accrue credit

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through net metering. The turbines have a programmable unit that can communicate to the homeowner’s computer to tell them wind speed and the amount (kWh) of electricity they are producing. “Net metering works like this,” explains Chris Franchi, “wind is a variable. When wind is really blowing, you’re making lots of energy. Any excess goes into the grid and you build up credits. When the wind slows and you use more than you are making, you apply the credit you have accumulated before you begin spending money. It’s like using CMP as free, 100% efficient battery backup. The drawback is that when the power is out, it’s not a back-up system. You cannot feed power back into the grid if the power is out. In fact, utility companies require that failsafe technology be built in to the system to prevent backfeed into the grid during an outage. And they’ll [CMP] never send you a check, but you can accrue credit.” The cost of installing a Skystream wind turbine ranges from $16,000 to $18,000 or more, although keep in mind that incentives can decrease cost significantly. Like all pioneers, Alexander Duthie is a great example of someone who is excited by trying something new and seeing where it will take him. “It’s more of a home appliance, really. It’s been a lot of fun. I have the satisfaction of looking out there and seeing those windmills working. CMP has been good too,” says Mr. Duthie. He pauses to ponder. “Down the road what I’d like to do is put some solar panels on the roof that would feed batteries for back-up electricity, in place of a generator.” Why not? Green Alternative Energy LLC, also distributes and installs ReDriven wind turbines ranging from 2 kW to 50 kW. ReDriven is based in Ontario, Canada. For more information on Skystream and ReDriven wind turbines, visit www.greenenergynh.com or call 603-356-4444.


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Gardening Under Cover By Leigh Macmillen Hayes

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ust imagine a warm sunny spot to garden in the middle of winter . . . in Maine. As we consider locally grown products, the controlled environment of a greenhouse adds an indoor dimension to gardening. Gardening under cover extends the growing season from early spring to late fall or even year round. If you plan to build your own greenhouse there is much to consider including the style, hoop, shed, pit, lean-to or portable; glazing materials: glass or plastics; ventilation: roof ridge, sidewall vents or windows; size; heat: electric, gas, propane or solar; framing: aluminum, galvanized steel, PVC or wood; foundation; flooring; orientation: east-west or north-south; watering system; air circulation; storage; pest control; and the essentials, i.e. benches, tables, places to hang plants, a place to propagate plants, etc. Your goal should be to create an environment appropriate for the types of plants you want to grow. Open from the beginning of May until shortly after the Fourth of July, the greenhouses at Treehouse Farm in Sweden, owned by Don and Linda Bradley, are filled with colorful annuals, sturdy perennials and healthy vegetables. Linda recently retired from teaching to become Don’s full-time right-hand woman. With her help, they are able to do more of their own seeding, which begins in their basement

Treehouse Farm in Sweden, owned by Don and Linda Bradley, are filled with colorful annuals, sturdy perennials and healthy vegetables. 10 lake living

workshop during the winter months. Seedlings are transferred to the greenhouses in early March, when there’s still snow on the ground. And always on hand to assist with chores and welcome visitors are Abigail, their border collie and Max, part border collie/part beagle. Four of their five greenhouses are hoop style, built from kits they’ve purchased from Ed Pearson at Ledgewood Farm in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. “What I like about Ed is he’ll make it to your own specs and deliver the pieces,” says Don. Heavy gauge galvanized steel, which is low maintenance, forms the whale-bone frame that they’ve covered with polyethylene plastic. Poly lasts anywhere from 1-5 years; over time the light transmission diminishes. A second inside layer of infrared poly acts as an insulator. A small fan, or inflation blower, is installed between layers and stays on year round to keep the houses inflated. The layers help extend the growing season by several months. Front and back walls of the greenhouses are made of corrugated thermopane. Each greenhouse has its own furnace, but Don notes that people shouldn’t worry about heating as much as how to cool the greenhouse. One method is a vented ridge that opens at the peak of a house releasing heat and allowing air to flow; the Bradleys installed one in the last greenhouse they built. Don lined every foot and the perimeter of the greenhouses with a sheet of inexpensive landscaping fabric. Crushed rock on top allows for drainage and air movement, but not sunlight. “It keeps you from wallowing in mud,” says Linda. In a dry area, crushed rock wouldn’t be necessary, but landscaping fabric is always recommended. This also prohibits the growth of weeds, which attract insects. Electricity flows to a pole by their first greenhouse and then underground to the others. Don explains that electricity wouldn’t be necessary for a little greenhouse built without ventilating fans. A decent extension cord could bring electricity from your home to operate the inflation blower. And you could supply water via a hose. Controlling moisture is another important aspect to consider if you build your own. The Bradleys have installed a sub-irrigation system from their well. An automatic drip system waters and fertilizes the plants. “We’re always trying to upgrade our current structures,” says Don.


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t DeerWood Farm and Gardens in North Waterford, Beverly and Brian Hendricks have built two hoop greenhouses since they bought their old farmhouse in 2001. The first was 17’ x 100’, which they purchased used and had to dismantle to relocate. In traditional barn-raising style, family and friends helped construct the greenhouse around an already growing garden. After a couple of years, Bev felt overwhelmed when she confronted 100 feet of weeding. Plus, with the narrow width, it was difficult to move about. So . . . they sold that and purchased another used greenhouse. The second was 28’ x 40’, much more manageable. They erected it themselves and did their best to keep up with the heavy snowfall of 2008, but it eventually got the best of them. The greenhouse collapsed. All was not lost, however, since they’d already built a shed style greenhouse attached to their home. “I couldn’t garden without a greenhouse,” says Bev. “We’re going skiing today, but I also get to play in the dirt.” Their harvest season extends from March through Christmas. By February, however, seedlings and some perennials are growing. The south facing greenhouse is built mostly from recycled materials. Brian framed windows salvaged from several other places; these form the three outer walls. Two rows of cement blocks serve as the foundation. Bev suggests that if you choose to build your own, you might need to pour a cement foundation instead, but their soil is sandy, and movement is not an issue. Being attached to the farmhouse, they were concerned about lead in the soil. Testing indicated a minimal amount, so they decided to excavate and replace it with dirt from a hillside on their property.

dirt inside the cold frames may freeze an inch or so, but no deeper. Between the cold frames, the dirt floor is covered with sawdust. To water the gardens, Brian says, “We use the water system from the house. The grapes get rainwater as it seeps through the south end. And water flows in when we drain the wood-fired hot tub.” In the near future, they will add strapping to make the roof sturdier, since snow from the house slides onto it. They may also add slate to the pathways and the back wall, providing a heat bank. And they plan to extend the greenhouse by another twelve feet, creating room for two more cold frames. A brick patio area at the back is home to a potting table and supplies. Here they also have beach chairs and a table, providing the perfect spot for lunch on a cold winter day. This simple shed structure with lots of windows exemplifies the Hendrickses’ minimalist nature. “It always amazes me how something so simple, in the grand scheme of things, can help you eat fresh food all year round,” says Bev.

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njoying the opportunity to grow plants and vegetables throughout the year is Susan Sidwell of Old Stage Farm in Lovell. Susan’s pit greenhouse is built into the ground, taking advantage of the insulating earth that surrounds the full cement foundation. The A-frame design was gleaned from Anna Eddy’s attached pit greenhouse on Martha’s Vineyard. “We looked at hers and other pit greenhouse designs and took what would work best,” says Susan. The greenhouse is 60’ x 15’ and faces directly south, the same orientation as the settlers who built her

“We’re going skiing today, but I also get to play in the dirt.”

Polygal, a corrugated glazing material made for greenhouses, covers the top. Venting and air circulation are not an issue because the windows can be opened. They have discovered that it’s best to open the unscreened windows from the top, rather than bottom, thus keeping their cat and other critters at bay. They used to use shade cloth in the summer, but now grow grapes, which provide natural shade as well as another edible delight. Rather than electric or gas heat, the sun works its magic during the winter. And the heat flows into their home as well. Four large cold frames built out of the polygal are home to seedlings and perennials. These are covered with another piece of poly. They triple insulate at night with Remay cloth, a frost and insect protector, but only when necessary. On the coldest of mornings, the

1810 farmhouse chose, taking advantage of the sun rather than the view of the mountains. The foundation is higher on the north side, while the front comes to ground level. Built in the early 90s, the polycarbonate plastic on the roof is beginning to get brittle and cloudy, but still allows enough UVs. The north wall is triple insulated. Automatic venting runs on a compressor. Even when the outside temperature is -15° to -20°, the peak vents open. “It’s really amazing how in Maine winters I can come out at -20° and I’m venting. People think it’s too cold when it goes to 38° to 42° at night in the greenhouse and it isn’t,” says Susan. A ceramic gas heater resurrected from Westways Lodge keeps the back room at 39° and the front room at 50° during the winter months. Most plants survive. Buried conduits bring water, gas and electricity to the greenhouse. lake living

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The greenhouse is 60’ x 15’ and faces directly south, the same orientation as the settlers who built her 1810 farmhouse chose, taking advantage of the sun rather than the view of the mountains. Upon entering, one poses on a small wooden landing. A stairway leads to a catwalk in the center of the second floor. Bench mesh extends from the catwalk toward each outside wall. This is where Susan places seedlings she’s started under lamps; they do their best when they are moved closer to the poly. Fans operate constantly to keep even air movement for better ventilation and optimum plant health. From the landing a second set of wooden steps leads to the ground level. Here one finds work tables, tools of the trade and chairs for entertaining, reading and relaxing. It’s the perfect tropical winter getaway. She even dries her clothes in the greenhouse. Further down, many growing tables are supported by cinderblocks. Among other things, Susan has been growing lettuce and other greens all winter in deep raised beds built from wood hewn off the property, which she sells at Morning Dew Natural Foods.

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Water resistant white cedar was chosen for the structural framework. Crushed rock and landscape cloth provide ground drainage. Though this family-built greenhouse was an experienced builder’s project, it could be replicated on a smaller scale. If she were to do it again, Susan notes that she would install some sort of simple lift to rotate plants from level to level. “If I had a dime for every time I moved plants, I’d have a lot of money,” says Susan. Greenhouses provide a jump start on spring planting, extend the season for harvesting fresh produce and are pleasant places to pass time. If you choose to build your own, do look before you leap. Visit greenhouses, talk to owners and consider the cost. The level of commitment a greenhouse requires is up to you. Think small and remember . . . gardening under cover is an addictive hobby.


Sitting Privy

by Laurie LaMountain

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hen I told Ken King of Meadow Mountain Recreational Structures I’d like to write an article about the outhouse he was building for a client in Brownfield, he invited me to visit his shop to see the “privy” before he disassembled it for transport to the site. A second reference to the “privy” during our conversation got me thinking about the difference in terminology. I was familiar with Ken’s work from a previous Lake Living article about his Adirondackstyle shelters, so I knew the outhouse he was now constructing would not be just any outhouse. Was that what elevated it to the more prestigious status of privy? Unsure what, if any, difference there was between the two words, I consulted my Webster’s New World Dictionary. The definition for outhouse was a good deal more descriptive with regard to function, while the definition for privy made no indelicate reference to bodily functions and merely declared itself an outhouse. Now I was curious. Ken has been building outdoor structures for as long as he can remember. During a visit to Meadow Mountain last fall he demonstrated how he can peel a log in two minutes. He talked about the satisfaction he derives from this type of building, which usually takes him to remote locations where he is able to “step out of the mode” of daily

distractions that keep most us from living presently. The Phoenix Shelter on Trout Pond, twenty miles east of Greenville, is his latest and largest-to-date shelter. It is part of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Woods Initiative that links a series of backwoods camps, some of which have been there for more than a hundred years, in the 100-Mile Wilderness region. Thanks to major funding from the Worcester Chapter of the AMC, Ken was commissioned to build the log shelter. Because he’s pretty particular and because he has found that clients often aren’t, Ken prefers to do all of the installs for his essentially pre-fabbed shelters himself. The Trout Pond location certainly fit the bill for being remote. Over the course of four months and several trips north to install the shelter, Ken would stock up with a week’s worth of groceries on his way in and head out only when they ran low. Though discreetly hidden among the trees, the privy’s location isn’t nearly as remote. It sits above a stretch of the Shepherd River in Brownfield, roughly 50’ from another of Ken’s shelters, on high land unscathed by the fire of 1947. Like the shelter, the privy is constructed of northern white cedar logs that are laterally scribe-fitted in the Scandinavian tradition of log building. Northern white cedar is lighter than pine, hemlock or spruce, and is naturally decay

resistant. The logs Ken buys from the Adirondack Mountain Region have been drying for five years. The design and details of the privy have changed slightly from Ken’s original design. Vertical cedar slabs face the gable front of the structure—there is no visible bracing. The rear is saddle-notched, while the front is spline-joined. This is a private privy, a one-holer, as the old-timers say. It sits over a five-foot hole, well beyond the required 100’ from any water. Maine is one of the few states left to allow privies on private land. Though the privy is built as a unit that can be drawn like a sled, Ken disassembled it for transport and reassembled it on-site. Anodized metal roofing, chosen for its durability, has been applied over a layer of ice and water shield. The roof is purposefully designed with deep overhangs to protect the walls below from the New England elements. The foundation is faced with field stones that Ken collected over time on his walks into and out of the site. The stones connect the privy to the land around it in an elemental way and add an effect that is more aesthetic than structural since the privy is intentionally built bottom-heavy. Aesthetic is important to Ken. A painter before he was a vocational builder, he is constantly looking for different ways to see things. All the privy lacks now is a bit of trim and a door, and Ken is tossing around design ideas for a door that will both afford privacy and a view to the river and forest below. It’s true this is not your average outhouse. It will be standing long after we are gone, so Ken wants it to be a kind of shrine to the aesthetic. “The privy part is almost incidental to the rest of it,” says Ken. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” View more of Ken King’s work by visiting www.meadowmountain.com or reach him by email at ken@meadowmountain.com lake living

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Chives By Mariah Kindellen

hives are the only trustworthy sign of true spring in my garden. They peek warily from the destruction of winter like impossible survivors of war emerging from a bomb shelter. Having quietly pushed through the debris of autumn’s rotted splendor and the shocking chill of lingering snow patches, chives declare with just their bright green tips that winter is over. Earlier showy blooms—snowdrops, crocuses, and such—can be shameless flirts. You think they mean business, but then another storm blows in and the earth is covered in snow again. Because chives offer food before flowers, they can be relied on for their promise. So when chives finally show themselves, it is absolutely spring with no turning back. And we certainly deserve spring, here in the wilds of western Maine. inch of their couple of acres that was not Chives are the first taste of life’s annual, trampled by baseball games and a pony, miraculous ability to renew itself. How can or scratched to dust by chickens. Mr. and something so clean and sprightly resurrect Mrs. Mason were large and jolly. When he from garden rot? When I spy a ragged was home, he gave us rides on the tractor. patch—appearing suddenly like a small She was usually outdoors in her vegetable green porcupine at rest—I pinch off a tiny gardens, and seemed happily nonchalant blade, press it between my teeth, and wait about her six children, who roamed the for its fresh, pungent bite to declare that the woods even more freely than my five sibwait for warmth and verdure is over. lings and I. But a single shoot never grandstands. There seemed to be a Mason child for Unlike its self-absorbed cousin the onion, every one of us, matched in age and interchive is a companionable bulb, growing in ests. Peggy, a year older than I, was crazy thick clumps. One shoot multiplies so fast for horses, and on rainy days we played into a mat that we rarely mention or chop with plastic versions in her bedroom for as it in the singular, but move directly to the long as I could bear it, because the truth is plural: chives. In early spring, these shaggy that I did not enjoy being inside the Mason mounds give shape and hope to my garden, house. It smelled of steam and cats and the agreeably shivering in the breeze while I mustiness of children who rarely bathed. clear away mulch and windfall from deeper It was my first exposure to rural poverty, sleepers that need more sun and fresh air to but I simply thought that the Masons were awaken them. So, alone in my garden with carefree. They were great—except for the chives, my fellow early risers, and much smell, which bothered me more as we grew work to be done, I munch. into adolescence and, eventually, apart. I have Kathy Mason to thank for my first One spring, Peggy’s younger sister Kathy taste of chives. The Masons lived down the bent down into the weeds that choked her road from us when we were children. It was mother’s garden and brought up a single, a dirt road then, with old horse farms on elegant chive. She stuck it in my mouth. either end and a few modest houses were “Not grass!” I shrieked, and spit it out. strung loosely in between. These were sepa“This isn’t grass, it’s chives. You can eat it,” rated by enough wild acreage scored with said Kathy, bending down and snapping off deer and horse trails to give the impression another blade. I was hooked. But her power of civilization gently tip-toeing up to a of discernment impressed me even more dense forest. It was a heavenly place to be than the startling taste: from a clump of a young girl in the late 1950s who enjoyed grass she could identify the delicate, round reading under trees—a place of few inhabitleaf of something nourishing and delicious. ants and unlimited natural space. Under her patient tutelage, I began to noThe Masons lived in one of the older tice more of them, and more. Eventually I houses; we knew this because the paint could see that the garden was rampant with was always peeling. It was not a farm, just chives, and we gathered handfuls to eat as a country house, but they farmed every

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we walked. It was wonderful, this first food I had ever harvested, right from the ground into my mouth. I must have been nine or ten and I still remember the taste, the happiness. It was to become a skill I took with me everywhere, foraging for spring chives in France, Switzerland, and back to the United States. On a trip to Virginia I found a clump in the grass of a historical site, indicating that long ago a woman had gardened in that very spot, something even the guide did not know. Shortly after my first taste of chives, Kathy Mason was diagnosed with diabetes. It was shockingly exotic to us children. Right before our very eyes, one of us slowly went blind. We watched with horror as her face seemed to close and light faded from her eyes. No one talked about it. That was the way it was then. Soon Kathy had a cane, and a seeing-eye dog. She grew chubby, where before she had been as skinny as the rest of us. We heard later of appendages being removed, perhaps a toe or two. But by then I was safe, far away in college. I saw Kathy many years later at my father’s funeral, a German shepherd standing tight by her side in a harness. By then I had had my own experience with premature illness, if there is such a thing, and seeing Kathy all grown up I marveled again at her courage. She looked just the same, perhaps because she had already aged when she was so young. She had a strong build and was warm, just like her mother. I was deeply touched that she was at Dad’s wake and frustrated that the reception line moved her along. When I looked for her afterwards, she was gone. To be honest, though, I do not know what I would have said. Life has a way of moving us along like a reception line, and some friendships remain part of another time. But I cannot eat spring chives without thinking about Kathy Mason, the girl who taught me discernment before she lost the gift of sight. She opened my senses, showing me how to pay attention to where I am, to notice what is underfoot and perhaps to eat well as a result. But on a deeper level, my parents had already begun the lesson of discernment by including the Masons in our circle of friends. Playing with them, we would later be able to discern true poverty—poverty of the spirit—from a skipped bath or two. Though the Masons clearly struggled financially, they were not poor because there was love in that household. Far from


neglected, the Mason kids were encouraged in their studies and went to college, just like we did. And eventually I figured out that Mrs. Mason was outdoors all the time not because she was carefree, but because she was working hard to nourish her brood with produce from her own land. The steam that pervaded the house was from canning berries, cabbage, apple sauce, spinach, peas. Onions, potatoes and apples were kept in the basement, which smelled of sweetness and earth. My father made sure that handy Mr. Mason never lacked for work, and when tragedy hit our house, the Masons reciprocated by taking in my youngest sister while the rest of us were at school so Dad could earn a living. After work that winter, Dad would walk up the road to the Mason’s, dragging an empty Magic Flyer sled with red runners. He would run all the way home, the sled weighted with my four-year-old sister, bundled and giggling happily, oblivious to the weight her reindeer carried in his heart. All this comes flooding back as I search for chives in my spring garden, in life itself. The Masons, you see, were chives in the grass.

This is the simple meal I make every year to celebrate the first harvest of spring chives: chicken in cream and chives. It was prepared for me after I collected chives for the cook from her tidy garden in France. She prepared it with nonchalance. This attitude works well in Maine, too. You will need for 4 people: 4 skinless chicken breasts, with or without the bone. Legs and thighs are good, too. (The French would keep the skin on, because they don’t get fat.) Salt & pepper to taste 1 – 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter or olive oil a handful of freshly picked, washed & patted-dry chives from your garden 1/2 cup of dry white wine or chicken stock or a combination 1/2 cup of heavy cream or half & half 1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste on both sides. 2. Turn a burner on to medium heat and bring up to temperature. 3. While it heats, using a very sharp knife, chop the chives finely and set aside.

4. Melt the butter/oil in the heated pan and when barely sizzling add the chicken. 5.

Let the chicken brown on one side, then flip to the other, about 8 minutes total. Take the chicken out of the pan to rest on a plate.

6. Pour the wine/stock into the pan and scrape up any chicken bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. 7. Turn the heat down to low and let the juices reduce by 1/3. 8. Now slowly pour in the cream while stirring, being careful not to curdle. 9.

Return the chicken to the pan and cook until done, turning it to coat in the sauce. The chicken will release some more juices, which need to be stirred in and the sauce reduced slightly.

10. Sprinkle in chives at the last. Just heat them to release their delicate flavor into the sauce and serve. Lovely with small boiled new potatoes, followed by a salad.

Photo: Kristin Lindberg

The

Rufus Porter Museum 67 North High Street Bridgton, Maine 207-647-2828

Open June 19, 20, 26, 27 July & August, Wed - Sat Sep - Oct 10, Fridays & Saturdays Hours: 12 noon - 4pm

July 7-11: Cultural Heritage Series See website for list of classes and workshops July 12: Historic Home & Garden Tour 2009: Tasha Tudor Memorial Exhibit

www.rufusportermuseum.org lake living

15


Community Gardens Take Root

I

By Leigh Macmillen Hayes

n rural southwestern Maine, not everyone has the opportunity to plant a garden where he or she resides. We do have grassroots initiatives, however, which give these folks an opportunity to create their own gardens. Community gardens are collaborative projects created by residents who share in both the maintenance and rewards of the garden. They are appealing in an age when we are so far removed from the food we eat, suffer from an obesity epidemic caused in part by poor nutrition, raise children with “nature deficiency disorder,” and watch food prices skyrocket. Participants enjoy camaraderie as they connect with neighbors, reduce their dependence on fossil-fuels and industrial farms, supplement senior lunches, stock local food pantries and feed their own families. They share gardening advice, seeds and supplies. And they get dirt under their fingernails. A community garden experience enhances the quality of life for both the people involved and the community as a whole. Gardening on community land has been made available in Bridgton under the auspices of the Bridgton Community Center (BCC). The BCC offers a good example of how various groups and neighbors from Landmark Human Resources and The Gathering Place to apartment dwellers and single parents can work the soil to grow their own food. The gardens provide social, emotional and therapeutic opportunities while increasing knowledge about the food we eat, the nutritional value of vegetables and herbs and the fundamentals of organic gardening practices. Begun as a youth project with monies from Healthy Maine Partnership and OneME grants in 2005, there are sixteen garden plots along the level and sunny western side of the BCC property. A group of volunteers constructed the 4’ by 10’

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raised plots with purchased and donated materials. Today, it’s more than just a youth project. Participants meet a couple of times a year and hold a luncheon to get to know each other. The Cooperative Extension offers several seminars about gardening techniques and nutrition. Flowers, vegetables and herbs are grown in the gardens. Seeds are donated by a local business and some plants come from individual donors. Participants also supply their own. The garden shed, donated by Landmark Human Resources, houses garden tools available for use. The plots are assigned to any interested Bridgton resident. “People can come at their convenience and bring their kids, playpens, dogs . . . enjoy a couple of hours doing gardening in a pleasant place,” says Carmen Lone, Executive Director of BCC. A shade tree and a couple of picnic tables are situated nearby. Two years ago Ruth Barone and her husband moved to Bridgton from the Boston area. Though raised in the Kentucky hills where people grew and shot everything they ate, Ms. Barone hadn’t gardened in a long time. Since she is both visually and physically handicapped, the community garden gave her an incentive to get out and do something. “It was a wonderful experience,” says Ms. Barone. “It was as informative as it was enjoyable. Carmen went out of her way to get plants so we weren’t just starting with seeds. On really hot days Carmen and Lorraine watered the gardens for us. There wasn’t anything we needed that wasn’t there.” Mr. Barone

helped other men rebuild some of the raised beds. “Like the name suggests, it was quite a community effort,” says Ms. Barone. In their plot, they planted tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, peppers and spinach. Unfortunately, the spinach was a flop. That didn’t discourage them. The Barones donated some of their extra produce to the Remnants Ministry run by Grace Christian Church on Pinhook Road in Bridgton. Others donated to the Plant-a-Row for the Hungry project or left vegetables in baskets for senior lunch participants to enjoy. As for 2009, “I can hardly wait till spring,” says Ms. Barone. A different type of grassroots effort takes place at Sebago Elementary School, which created a unique and joyful garden environment to inspire, empower and connect children with the importance of plants and the natural world. Several years ago kids, parents, teachers and other community volunteers came together to start the Sebago Kids Growing Gardens project. They began with twelve plots, but now have sixteen. The garden provides a welcome break from the classroom regimen, an engaging outlet for unruly students and a bridge to involvement with volunteers from the community. In an educational realm where standards reign supreme, the benefits of gardening aren’t tough to quantify– Maine science, math, technology and social studies learning results are met. And the gardens promote healthy living. Vanessa Wallace, master gardener and one of many parent volunteers, points out


that there is a job for everyone. “Those who don’t want to do it–we can usually find some aspect of it that they do want to work on. Artwork, posters, research.” When two truckloads of manure were delivered one year, “kids volunteered, begged to help move it by hand after school in the rain,” Ms. Wallace says. “They were filthy and stinky afterwards.” And happy. In the past, the students have sold bulbs and plants to raise money for the gardens. Each spring they sell daffodils. Over the years they’ve also sold crafts, jewelry and seeds. The seeds turned into a great entrepreneurial business experience for the kids as they learned about such things as different kinds of vegetables, marketing skills, finance and profit analysis. Visit the school in the fall and you’ll likely see the benefits of these gardens as scarecrows, fresh produce and pumpkins are on display inside and out. Not only do the kids take some produce home, but it is also donated to the local food pantry, Plant-a-Row for the Hungry and Mealson-Wheels. Ms. Wallace says, “It’s magical. Anyone who can do it in their school will

realize it’s a wonderful thing. Kids appreciate frogs and worms if they know it will help their garden.” In the garden, magic can happen and it doesn’t cost much. The Cumberland and Oxford County Cooperative Extensions are happy to provide information on gardening including garden planning, variety selection, density of planting, pest management, soil preparation and testing, fertilizer selection, weed control methods, proper harvesting and more. According to Amy Witt, Horticulturist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, they encourage groups to “confirm interest, form an advisory committee to develop a plan, and then propose the idea to the town. When the town has given its approval, identify your resources; solicit funding, donations and gardeners. In many instances it takes the sponsorship from one organization or local nursery/garden center to validate the garden and generate support and commitment from other local organizations/ businesses and the residents.” Ms. Witt suggests the following resources to help launch a community garden project: the

American Community Gardening Association www.communitygarden.org/; the Urban Community Garden www.mindspring.com/~communitygardens/; and The University of Maine Cooperative Extension publication #4300 Organizing Your Community Garden www.umext.maine.edu. This latter is found by typing the number of the publication into the search tab on the home page. Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, also suggests the monthly newsletter available to gardeners entitled Maine Home Garden News. This will be free in the electronic form available at the Extension’s Web site or you may pay an annual $10.00 subscription for a hard copy. Community gardens are local “nurseries” of growing education, where people can learn to get dirt under their fingernails and love it, to nurture a seed into a tomato plant and to garden and harvest the summer’s bounty. They give people direct control of the quality and diversity of the produce they consume and promote a nutritious diet. And they offer a place for people to gather. Community gardens = community building. Together, they grow.

additional community gardens in southern maine: Waterford Congregational Church, Plummer Hill Road, Waterford Village (contact Meg Wheeler) Herb and Shade Gardens. People are encouraged to enjoy the herb garden while helping themselves to some herbs. The shade garden provides a peaceful and quiet place to sit and contemplate. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Bridgton (contact Janet Jones at stpetersbridgton@aol.com) Garden of Loving & Giving. St. Peter’s Youth planted a garden of vegetables and herbs. These will be harvested and used in meals prepared by St.Peter’s Café, which provides a free lunch on the third Tuesday of each month

to those in need. Extra produce will be donated to the Bridgton Food Pantry. Rippling Waters Organic Farm, 55 River Road, Steep Falls (contact Phil Jellen at 207.642.5161) Sponsors the following programs: Steep Falls Elementary School Garden and George E. Jack Elementary School Garden, Standish. Students and teachers participate in lessons related to gardening. Produce is used in the lunch program and donated to local food banks. Stonecrest Senior Garden, Standish and Elwell Farms Senior Garden, Buxton. Residents and community members tend to these gardens.

Any produce not used by the senior housing residents is donated to local food banks. Bonny Eagle Middle School Greenhouse A-frame 48’ x 30’ solar greenhouse, with raised beds provide easy access for students of all abilities. Community Volunteers are always needed for all of these projects, especially during the summer months. Hollis Community Garden, Plains Road, Hollis (contact Rick Alderette at alderette@sacoriver.net). Located on three acres of town-owned land that was a former potato field, 15’ x 20’ plots of land are available for local residents.

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A Green Clean Bridgton’s Close-loop Car Wash By Laurie LaMountain

“You know, I never won first prize in a school science contest when I was a kid. I think I’ve won it now.” —Todd Sawyer referring to the biological water reclaim system at his car wash

W

hen Todd Sawyer and his father, Tim, applied for a permit last year to build a new car wash in Bridgton, Maine, they were told the Maine Department of Environmental Protection had placed a moratorium on commercial car washes that could not discharge their wastewater into a municipal wastewater treatment facility. Like many rural towns, Bridgton has only leach fields. Another option the DEP gave car wash operators was to haul their wastewater to a municipality that could process it, which would be cost prohibitive due to the volume of water involved. Todd and Tim then inquired with the DEP about a 100% recyclable, or “close-loop,” facility. They were told no one in Maine had ever done it. Todd has a degree in Bio-Resource Engineering Technology from the University of Maine at Orono, which he says is basically an agricultural engineering degree. Part of the curriculum for his degree were classes in wastewater treatment, fluid power and hydraulics, and electrical wiring, all of which gave him a foundation for understanding and being able to comprehend a complicated close-loop system. He and his father also co-own TRS Timber Maintenance, Inc., a company that specializes in responsible and conscientious land maintenance. These days, they conduct vegetation control over miles of pipeline in northern New England, but last winter TRS Timber Maintenance acted as general contractor for the construction of Water Works Car Wash, and was thereby able to keep employees and equipment busy during a non-peak period of the year. Reclamation car washes, as they are known, are not common in the U.S. For one thing, a reclaim system costs considerably more to install than a traditional car wash. Secondly, Todd points out that until bio-tech engineering made its mark on the car and truck wash

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industry, reclaim had a negative stigma attached to it. Older reclaim technology used oxygen and ozone injection for filtration and odor control, with a reclaim rate of only 70-80% and a persistent problem with odor. The Bionic reclaim system the Sawyers chose for Water Works Car Wash is manufactured by Rowafil in The Netherlands, where they are extremely conscious of water conservation. Rowafil has been the leading manufacturer of biological water reclaim systems for the car and truck wash industry for 20 years. The Rowafil Bionic is a three-stage system that treats 100% of the wastewater recovered for re-use on a continuous basis and is unique in that it uses microorganisms to clean the wastewater. There is no chemical dosing and no ozone introduction. The system essentially works on the same bio-engineering principles as the City of Boston’s wastewater treatment facility. The Bionic is an expensive system to purchase and install, but Todd points out that it’s reliable and virtually maintenance free. “This system is unique in that it allows nature to do the work,” explains Todd. “Microorganisms thrive on petroleum (hydrocarbons) and detergents.” Without getting overly technical, here’s how it works. Each wash bay (4 self-serve and 1 automatic) has a pit underneath to collect raw wastewater. Intake holes filter out gravel and larger debris on their way into the pit. Water from these pits is then channeled to a 3,000-gallon, partitioned, underground tank. From there the water flows in a continuous loop through three smaller underground tanks that are staggered in height to allow gravitational feedback of any excess. The intermediate tank


contains a pump and aerator to promote aerobic growth. The tanks will actually get “gassy.” At the second stage the water is pumped inside and filtered through a series of hydro-cyclones that remove all suspended particles above 5 micrometers (one thousandth of a millimeter). For the third stage, the water enters a series of stainless steel upright tanks, each containing about 300 pounds of “biocarriers” that attract food for the microorganisms. The water in the tanks is aerated and a nutrient is added to increase metabolism and promote growth. The total storage capacity of the tanks is 12,000 gallons. There is no sewage system to contend with and no leach field to potentially fail. Although installing the Bionic system added significantly to their start up costs, Todd rationalizes that water supply and sewage costs are bound to increase down the road, so reclamation facilities will make more financial sense in the long term. Then there’s the satisfaction of knowing they’re doing right by the environment by using less water and not releasing pollutants into the ecosystem. At first, Todd was hesitant to tell customers that they were a 100% reclamation facility because he wasn’t sure how clean the reclaimed water would get the vehicles. Now that he’s reassured it does a great job, he’s telling more people and is impressed by how many of them want to use it just because it’s a reclamation car wash. The detergents at Water Works are made by Blendco and are reclaim-friendly. In fact, Blendco developed a program for car wash operators who use their product to become green certified, to which Todd is applying. Rhino Wax used in the finishing rinse is also reclaim-friendly. Water Works also treats the runoff from its impervious area, its parking lot and roof, for phosphorus. Designed into the landscaping of the facility, two “water gardens” treat the water leaving the prop-

erty. The “water gardens” employ layers of stone, stump grindings, perforated PVC pipe, geo-textile fabric and a grass covering to accomplish this task. All of the concrete pads at Water Works have radiant heat to eliminate icing. A multi-zoned, propane-fired system insures efficient operation of the radiant heating, but ultimately Todd would like to install solar panels on the roof to assist with providing the hot water for the system. It’s been just over a year since Water Works opened, and Todd admits he hasn’t done an exact analysis of what their average quarterly water consumption has been or how much water they are saving compared to a traditional car wash. The self-serve bays use fresh water to wash and rinse, and the touch-free automatic uses fresh water for the final rinse, but all of that water is then reclaimed. The closest car wash to make that same claim is located in Pennsylvania. It’s clear from his enthusiasm about their 100% reclaim accomplishment that Todd’s investment in Water Works goes beyond financial. He and his father have provided their customers an environmentally-friendly, safe, 24 hour/day facility in a convenient location on Route 302. He views his business as an investment in the community, to the extent that he engaged local contractors for all of the site work. C.F. Barker, Jr. Excavation, C.A.F Builders, and J. Jones Construction, all from Stoneham, did the excavation, concrete, and building construction. Hancock Lumber, R. Rolfe Corporation, and Frank Snow, all of Bridgton, provided various materials. A+ Plumbing & Heating and McIver Electric, both based in Bridgton, handled plumbing and electrical work respectively. “We plan to be here a long time and want to establish relationships,” says Todd. “It’s funny how when you invest in a community financially, you feel much more invested personally.”

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Lake Living volume 12, no. 1  

Spring issue of southern Maine's leisure lifestyle magazine.

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