Tag Archives: localism

Six Years and Slowing

On the "skiddah"

On the “skiddah”

It is March once again, and the anniversary month of this blog which started out as Outside the Box and is now Localista.

I don’t look too fashionable there on the skidder, but let me tell you, I was THRILLED to have a chance to get into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition key, and roll slowly backward, oops! I was maybe in the thing for a minute and a half before I stalled it. Heavy equipment operator is not going to be my next career.

What I did learn from this experience was 1)guys who work in the woods are great storytellers and hard workers and all-around great people and 2)enough about operating a skidder to finish a writing project.

Harvesting in the Maine woods has long been an economic driver for our state, providing jobs and a marketable resource. It is a local sort of job, and even with improvements in equipment, still requires a human brain. Unlike other jobs which are being outsourced to…robots. Check out this article, “Your Job May Soon Be Obsolete Thanks To Robots,”  on AGBeat from the American Genius Network.

Yes, computers are now writing news articles. Egads! Soon they will be writing books, I suppose, cranking them out from synopses and outlines, or maybe just picking and choosing from scenarios, character lists, and possible turning points from specialized plot and narrative computer programs. I’m typing this and thinking, “It’s probably already been done, but I don’t want to go look. I’m scairt!”

So, I’m still doing the localism thing as much as possible, have incorporated it into my life with room left for improvement, as always. Those hiking boots in the photo up there? Got ’em at Reny’s, one of Maine’s independent stores. It was the only size of its kind on the shelves, the only pair of boots in my size, and they fit perfectly. In fact, they were so comfortable with a pair of wool hiking socks I also picked up, I didn’t unlace them all day. The support felt fantastic!

Today I’m wearing a combination outfit–a sweater from Goodwill, a scarf that was a gift, and a pair of pants I bought full-price at Chico’s at the mall. I ate breakfast at a local restaurant, but then I got a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s not about perfection. It’s about awareness and small changes and doing the best you can.

Six years later, I’m slowing down but trudging along, one step at a time.

Holiday Concert in a Small Town in Maine

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Left to right: Tom Osborne, Kyle Osborn, Michael Saulnier, Brian Saulnier

A Christmas tea featuring live musical performances by a talented pair of brothers was held at the Jeremiah Mason House Bed & Breakfast in Limerick on Saturday, Dec. 13. Hosts of the tea and concert were Tom and Kyle Osborne who have owned and run the bed & breakfast establishment for the past 14 years. For the fourth year in a row, they invited brothers Michael and Brian Saulnier to perform on guitar and piano, a tradition that hosts, guests, and the musicians look forward to as each Christmas season rolls around.

This year, the Osbornes also invited members of the Limerick Historical Society to attend the concert. “We used to hold it during the Limerick Village Christmas,” Kyle said following the hour-long concert. “But that was just too much so we decided to do it this way.”

The music room, adjoining dining room, and the hallway were filled to standing-room only for the afternoon event. Tom welcomed the guests to the historic home and introduced Brian Saulnier as the opening performer. Brian read a brief but touching essay on life in a small town at Christmas and then sang a set of Christmas songs, accompanying himself on his bright blue acoustic guitar.

Brian then introduced his brother, Michael, who had driven up to town from Massachusetts. “My brother Mike is here to play the piano, and I could listen to him all day long,” Brian said.

Michael, who has been seriously studying piano for six years, treated everyone to a variety of folk piano and jazz arrangements by such luminaries as George Winston  and Vince Guaraldi. Two songs, however, were composed by Michael himself. One, entitled “Lavender Falls” and the other a variation on the theme called, “Epicycles” were very much in the George Winston style with a lovely interplay of both right-hand and left-hand notes.

Following the concert, Tom thanked both musicians for sharing their gift. “Music has big healing power,” he said. “I want to thank Brian for sharing his voice and for introducing me to his brother, Mike.” Michael’s recorded cd was offered for sale, the proceeds of which were to go to the York County Shelter. Tom then invited the guests to partake of a variety of cookies and sweets baked on  and tea sandwiches which were provided by the Clipper Merchant Tea House.

When asked about his performance schedule, Mike said that he plays mostly for personal enjoyment and occasionally for the public when asked. Brian has also been busy this year, billing himself as The Musical Medic and playing at Maine Medical Center, nursing homes, and community events like the Research Club’s cookies and hot cocoa gathering following the tree lighting at the town’s A Village Christmas Festival. “There are infinite choices about what to do with limited time,” Brian said. “This is what I chose to do with mine.”

Percolating As An Artist

Local artist, Sandra Waugh, with the book cover she designed for author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and Hay House Publishing.

Local artist, Sandra Waugh, with the book cover she designed for author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and Hay House Publishing.

As part of my job as a contributing writer for my local newspaper, I have the great fun of interviewing many talented, local people and highlighting their work. One of these people is artist Sandra Waugh of Limerick, Maine.

Like writers, artists often struggle to find paying gigs (hence the terms starving artist/starving writer) and usually supplement the creative work with more prosaic jobs like retail, dish-washing, and serving food in restaurants. Nothing wrong with it. It’s a noble tradition of sacrifice for the sake of art. In addition to the supplemental jobs, artists and writers often do well to find niche markets for their work, freelance jobs that bring in a little extra cash–and cachet!

A self-taught artist, Sandra has been perfecting her watercolor art over the years in many niche markets. For example, Waugh recently designed and illustrated the cover of a new self-help book put out by traditional publishing house, Hay House Publishing.

The book, PERCOLATE, was written by Maine author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino, founder and CEO of the Best Ever You Network which includes workshops, a magazine, a radio program, and other networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, authors, and everyday people in all walks of life. PERCOLATE has a tag line of “Let Your Best Self Filter Through” and is a guide for creating positive change in a person’s life.

Waugh worked with Hamilton-Guarino previously on a children’s picture book that was self-published. When PERCOLATE was being written, Elizabeth asked Sandra if she’d be interested in creating artwork for and designing the cover of her new book. “She was very specific about what she wanted,” Waugh said. “She made many changes, and we kept fine-tuning the design until we got what she wanted.” The cover’s painting of a white coffee cup with colorful words steaming out of it over a brown background was done in watercolor paint. Inside the book, sketches of coffee cups and three little creatures–an aardvark, a platypus, and an armadillo–were done in graphite. Waugh also designed the layout for the book cover.

“I used to be a graphic designer and worked in pre-press work for ten years, so designing the cover was going back to my graphic arts roots,” said Waugh.

Not sure if Hay House would chose to use the design or would go in-house, Waugh was excited when the publishing company decided to pick up the cover and use her artwork. Hay House is a traditional publishing company, not a self-publishing enterprise, though it has a self-publishing line called Balboa Press. Hay House offers books on the subjects of self-help, inspirational, and “transformational books and products,” according to the company website. It publishes work by such well-known authors as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Christiane Northrup, and Jerry Hicks.

PERCOLATE is available in local bookstores and online.

Now that the PERCOLATE cover project is finished, Waugh says she is working on a new book illustration project for a children’s book by another local author.

Waugh also recently opened her own store on Etsy.com where she sells her fine art. “Etsy is an online artisan community where artists sell their products, everything from knitting to jewelry to pottery to fine art. The list goes on and on,” Waugh said. Her original watercolor paintings can be viewed on the site at www.etsy.com/shop/waughtercolors. She also paints people and pet portraits on commission. Her website is found at www.waughtercolors.com.

As always, I encourage you, my dear readers, to look around in your own towns and cities to find local artists, writers, and creators of all sorts of wild and wonderful things and support them with your good wishes and your dollars. Keep the cash circulating locally, build good-will connections within your community or neighborhood, and enjoy a Localista lifestyle that is anything but bland. Create an environment that is unique rather than cookie-cutter!

And thank you once again, dear readers, for stopping in to Localista.

(This post was published in another form in The Reporter newspaper. Support your local newspapers, too, with your advertising. Advertising pays for the articles you enjoy reading!)

Localista Healthcare vs. Government Healthcare

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Echinacea or Cone Flower has been used as an herbal remedy for hundreds of years. Learn more at our local herbalist Greenwood Herbals at http://www.greenwoodherbals.com/newsletters/2009/Jan09Newsletter.pdf.

 

I have a vision for an ideal society. We all do, right? And I bet your vision and my vision are remarkably similar. We’d like to see everyone employed in the work he/she finds most rewarding, an educated population, healthcare available for everyone, every citizen fed and clothed and housed. We probably wouldn’t demand complete equality of lifestyles; however, we’d like to see less disparity in lifestyles. We both long to see a productive, happy, empowered population of citizens.

Since we share a vision, why is is so darn difficult to agree on a solution? As rational human beings, shouldn’t we be able to look at facts and see what works? 

Ideally, yes, we should. Realistically, social issues are complicated. 

Which brings me to the healthcare question. Healthcare in the United States is screwed up. We all know this. We know it shouldn’t cost so much for insurance. We know doctors and hospitals and drug companies are charging too much to the insurance companies. We know some people chose not to purchase insurance or can’t afford to purchase insurance, and we know they get healthcare anyway. And we know those costs get passed on to those of us who have insurance or to our employers who then find other ways to save money–like laying off workers or paying less wages. We know doctors and hospitals charge so much because they have to cover the cost of the freebies and the paperwork and the malpractice insurance. We know the drug companies charge so much because research and development is extremely expensive and a gamble. When something does work, it has to compensate for all the experiments that didn’t work.

And all that is gross oversimplification.

Yes, I want everyone to have access to healthcare. What I’m no longer sure about is whether or not a taxpayer-sponsored healthcare plan in a heavily-flawed, crony capitalist political/economic system will actually do it.

So, for the sake of argument, here is a blog post outlining why some people think that government healthcare is a bad idea. http://objectivismforintellectuals.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/why-healthcare-in-the-us-is-so-expensive-and-what-can-be-done-about-it/

To provide counterpoint to that article, here is one that outlines pretty honestly, I think, as an advocate, what the Affordable Health Care Act will look like in upcoming months. http://mykeystrokes.com/2013/09/21/the-obamacare-is-falling-the-obamacare-is-falling-here-are-the-reasons-you-shouldnt-believe-any-of-it/

Even proponents admit they don’t really know what is going to happen; at least they are trying something. Libertarians want to try something just as bold, but they probably won’t get that same chance. We are looking at either “more of the same” or “something different but who knows if it will be better or worse.” 

Yeah, what a choice. I’m so wicked excited. Not.

What I wonder is if we’d be better off doing things to old-fashioned way. Localista Healthcare. You have local doctors in the community. You may even have a local, privately-owned hospital. You get sick, you go to the doctor, she gives you a bill, you pay it. No insurance paperwork. If you don’t have all the money, your doctor works out a payment plan with you. If you are poor, maybe the doctor gives you free care. The hospital does the same. Local community members support the hospital and create charitable foundations for caring for the less able. If you want to go to an herbalist, that’s your call. If you want to try acupuncture instead of antibiotics, it’s your dollar. 

I’m wondering if this would allow for more competition, more reasonable pricing, and yes—more affordable healthcare for all. Of course, when we look at history–back to the good ol’ days of less government, do we see less income disparity? Do we see affordable healthcare for all? No. What we see are poor people dying like flies and rich people getting the best care possible. Why? I’d love some Libertarian to explain to me why, if free market capitalism works so well, why we had that situation. And then I’d like some Progressive to explain to me why the Soviet Union healthcare system wasn’t the absolute best in the world if socialized medicine is so great. 

Thanks for getting back to me and clearing it all up;)

Darn Good Yarn: A Growing Micro-Business

Dear Reader:

In discussing things like individual freedom and sustainability, sometimes there seems to be a disconnect in people’s minds, as if using the word “sustainable” is a sort of code word for “socialism.” Frankly, that confuses me.

Handmade socks

Handmade socks

In fact, why can’t a business be both sustainable–eco-friendly even–and still be a capitalist enterprise? Is Individualist Sustainability Entrepreneur necessarily an oxymoron?

Because this has been at the forefront of my mind, I was thrilled to come across an article about a Maine company called Darn Good Yarn. The owner, Nicole Snowe, had an idea to create a micro-business out of her home, a company that uses recycled waste silk from India and Nepal to create one-of-a-kind yarns. Darn Good Yarn was born. And it is thriving.

According to the company website, the workers Darn Good Yarn employs receive a wage that “not only allows them to survive, but to thrive.” At the same time, the company is growing. This is not a charitable enterprise but a micro-business with a profit-earning motive. I say BRAVO!

Ms. Snowe exemplifies for me that ideal Individualist Sustainability Entrepreneur I imagined–someone with ethical business practices, entrepreneurial spirit and drive for success, and awareness of sustainability issues I believe will weigh more and more heavily in our hearts and in our marketplace. Darn Good Yarn is a darn good example of how things can be done.

Read the Bangor Daily News Disruptive Growth Blog article “Through the Eyes of the Entrepreneur: Nicole Snowe, CEO of Darn Good Yarn” here. http://disruptivegrowth.bangordailynews.com/2013/09/08/through-the-eyes-of-the-entrepreneur-nicole-snow-ceo-of-darn-good-yarn/

A Time for New Beginnings

new beginnings

New Beginnings Resale Shop

In a time when many people are facing economic uncertainty and others are becoming more concerned about our impact on the environment, community-minded entrepreneurs are looking for ways to make a living and make a difference. For Janice Bergeron, owner of New Beginnings Resale Boutique in Limington, starting her own business also became a time of incredible personal growth.

Bergeron opened the shop in the Limington Meadows building on Route 25 in October of 2011 following a painful divorce. “The locals call the building the chicken barn,” she said, opening the door to the space where neat rows of clothing hang in well-organized sections. “People come in and say they are surprised at how clean it is. Local people say they depend on New Beginnings, that they buy all their clothes here.”

Bergeron, who grew up in Whitman, Massachusetts and moved to Maine a year after her marriage, was an at-home mom of seven for 27 years. Over the years, she often lamented the bags of clothing she discarded as the kids outgrew items, thinking how she would love to open a shop. After her divorce, she needed income to support herself, and the old dream of a consignment store became a reality.

“With the divorce, I was shaken. I didn’t have any skills. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive.” At the time, Janice’s sister, Kathy Bergeron, was managing the Limington Meadows building–a space belonging to the late Charles and Cynthia Libby who were well-known antique dealers before their passing in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Kathy asked Janice, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” When Janice said she always wanted to run a consignment shop, Kathy suggested she take her tax return that year and open up the store. That was the beginning of New Beginnings, and the beginning of a new life for Janice.

“It’s given me confidence. It’s given my daughter confidence,” she said.

Janice stocked the shop from various sources. “A consignment shop went out of business, so I bought racks and inventory. I’d go yard-saling. I got two car-loads from a person who was simply looking to get rid of a bunch of clothes.”

As fate would have it, space at Limington Meadows became available at just the right time. “It was a huge leap of faith,” Janice said, and having sister Kathy next door has been helpful. “She’s been the key in teaching me the ropes.” The Limington Meadows shops include antiques, a bakery, a housewares shop, and a jewelry business as well as the consignment shop.

The biggest surprise for Janice has been the response of her customers. “I’ve been in consignment shops before and it’s not personal, like they expect people to just come and go.” But at New Beginnings, customers come in regularly, and there is a connection Janice didn’t expect. “I wasn’t expecting the positive reception from the local people. People are very excited by the option here.”

The boutique stocks children’s and women’s clothing, accessories, wedding and formal gowns, plus sizes, shoes, and jewelry. Janice’s daughter, Shania, works in the shop, as well. “She recently sold her first wedding gown,” Bergeron said proudly, acknowledging that the venture has given her teen confidence, too.

New Beginnings Resale Boutique is open Friday and Saturday from 9-4 and Sundays 1-4.

May Flowers & Other Nice Things Around the Yard

Red Hawthorn --Crateagus iracunda

Red Hawthorn –Crateagus iracunda

So I’ve become interested in learning the names of plants growing wild around me. I “blame” (in the best, most thankful way) this on a local herbalist/organic farmer, Cynthia, at Piper’s Knoll Farm just over the town line in neighboring Newfield, Maine. Cynthia has begun offering monthly foraging and identification walks, and after participating in the first one a week ago, I’ve been compulsively LOOKING.

A simple walk up the road now becomes a wild-things expedition. This week I was drawn to the white flowers on this shrub, and, looking more closely, I was captivated by the dark pink anthers clustered in five pairs of stamen on this red hawthorn. NOT that I knew it was a red hawthorn. I had to go home and look it up. Which is fabulous fun, kinda like a treasure hunt, so thank you, Cynthia!

I don’t even have to walk up the road to explore the wild things and not so wild things around me. So what else is growing around my yard right now?

Two days from Memorial Day, the garden boxes begged me to plant something even though it is risky here in Maine to jump the gun. At the Newfield Farmer’s Market this morning, I couldn’t resist purchasing the first few plants–a lavender perennial to go next to the French tarragon, three varieties of tomatoes (going into the box over the septic tank in hopes the heat will appeal to them), a green bell pepper, and a sage. Except for the lavender, they all went into that same box so I could cover them with a sheet last night. I may be impatient, but I’m not completely out of my mind.

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Neighbor Debbie was kind enough to give me a lemon balm from her garden, so I stuck that in the garden box as well, right next to the chocolate mint. That mint will be watched, of course, as we all know how they like to spread and spread.

Now for Mother Nature’s garden beds. These plants live near or beneath the beech trees in front of my house. It’s a forest in miniature!

Wild Strawberries, Fragaria virginiana

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Partridge Berry (Squaw Vine) Mitchella repens

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Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium acaule

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Fringed Polygala, Polygala paucifolia

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Starflower, Trientalis borealis

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Canada Mayflower,Maianthemum canadense

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False Solomon’s Seal, Maianthemum racemosum

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It is so much fun to walk around the property now. I am determined to get myself a plant identification guidebook, though the internet is a great resource, as is Neighbor Debbie who has documented many of the native plants species over the past couple of years.

What do you have growing wild in your yard? When you find a minute to take off the gardening gloves and set down your trowel, drop me a line. Remember, it doesn’t get more local than your own back yard.