Tag Archives: Maine

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.

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!)

My Evil Pellet Stove

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Dear Reader:

I live in Maine, and in Maine the winters are cold. Correction, the late autumns, winters, and the biggest part of springs are cold. In order to survive, humans who live in Maine need a source of warmth in order to thrive. So it has been, I believe, ever since the first people took up residence in our fair state.

Over the past five years, I have explored various issues pertaining to sustainability, localism, and culture. I was inspired, first of all, by the notion of “Peak Oil” which is really “Peak Energy” or–to be more colloquial–“When the Juice Runs Out.” I read about the End of Suburbia and the Geography of Nowhere and about how we need to Powerdown.

Throughout the book reading and eco-film watching, I heard much about weaning off oil and using, instead, renewable energy. Things like wood, geothermal, and solar were touted as better options. I was cool with that.

I grew up with a wood stove. I am fond of that dry, heatier-somehow kind of warmth that is thrown out by a wood stove compared to a forced hot-air furnace. Plus, you know, it is traditional, and I like traditional.

It took a few years to make the switch, but eventually hubby and I decided on a pellet stove. We bought one last fall, used it all winter, and were pleased. We rarely filled the oil tank (for the hot water heater; replacing that is a future consideration), and I was warmer than I’d been in many years since I had taken to reducing the thermostat down to 60 degrees–way too cold for me to be comfortable, even with a sweater and knit hat. I was thrilled that the pellets were made out of a local resource–wood from Maine or neighboring Canada–and would burn more efficiently and cleanly than a traditional wood stove. Yay! We were doing our part for the environment!

Or so I thought.

Today I learned of an article expressing shock and dismay that some major corporations are–gasp!–producing pellets, shipping them overseas, and making a profit! I went in search of the article and think this might be it. OUTRAGEOUS: U.S. Forests Logged, Pelletized, Shipped Overseas in the Name of Renewable Energy. (from EcoWatch.com)

It does seem rather appalling.

Sigh.

I get it. Trees are beautiful. They are a wonderful resource, and we should manage them with care. Burning them throws carbon into the air. But wasn’t the whole idea of switching to “renewables” dependent on, um, actually USING the renewables? And what other choices do we have? Solar? What about those solar panels? What are they made of? What kind of energy is used to manufacture and transport them? What about batteries and storage of energy for when you need it? And if we all switch, will we then be told by the likes of EcoWatch that we are evil for supporting a corporation that is profiting from the production and sale of the technology?

I’m not saying “going solar” is wrong or in any way a poor choice. I would love, love, love to see our communities transition to using solar, but please don’t act as if 1)sustainability advocates are blameless in this burgeoning market for wood pellets and 2)there is no environmental cost to ramping up solar energy solutions.

Human beings use resources and make an impact on the environment. Period. Perhaps the only way we can TRULY reduce our impact is to stop making more humans to warm, feed, clothe, inoculate, and hydrate.

In other words, don’t throw out your pellet stoves. Instead, buy some birth control. Or just say NO to sex. (WARNING: CRUDENESS ALERT! 31 Ways to Say No To Sex)

Whatever works best for you.

ps: Just watching the national news and learned that China is lifting their “one child only” rule. And so it goes and goes and goes…

Bean on the 4th of July

Bean Pot

Dear Reader:

What could be more Maine than a pot of baked beans on the 4th of July?

The tradition of slow-cooking beans with molasses, salt pork, and salt goes way back to Puritan New England when the church-people were not allowed to cook on Sundays. Using the Yankee ingenuity we still celebrate today, those good church-going Protestants figured out that if they put beans into a hole lined with hot coals on Saturday, they would have a steaming, wholesome meal to eat on Sunday–without lifting a banned wooden spoon! The Puritans came from a part of England where foods were baked into stews and pies rather than frying, so it was natural for them to incorporate traditional cooking methods when they transplanted themselves here to the New World (see Wikipedia article for some dubiously-fact-checked reference material for these statements.)

While Massachusetts is known as the official “Baked Bean State,” we Mainers can also claim this savory dish for ourselves. After all, Maine was once part of Massachusetts, and like it or not, we do share some cultural quirks with our counterparts just south of us on I-95. Maine baked beans are a Saturday-night supper staple. You will also find a pot or two served at just about any public supper, family reunion, or informal celebratory event…like the 4th of July.

Canoe on the Saco River

In honor of my traditional Maine roots, I put a pot of beans into the oven on Independence Day and left them there to simmer and bubble for six hours. Later, following a leisurely afternoon kayaking with friends down a sleepy stream, we all tucked into the beans served with potato salad, coleslaw, pickles hamburgers, and radishes from the garden–a feast in honor of great American cuisine on America’s Independence Day.

Hope you all had a Happy 4th of July. Here is a family recipe for Maine Baked Beans. Enjoy!

Maine Baked Beans

2 pounds beans (we like yellow-eye; Maine-grown if you can find them)
1/2 pound salt pork (or 1/8 lb butter or even olive oil if you are vegetarian)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 1/2 Tbs. salt
1 medium onion

Rinse beans and soak overnight in water. In morning, parboil beans until skins crack when you lift them out and blow on them (use a wooden spoon to lift a few out). Cut up the onion into fourths and put in bottom of your bean pot. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid in a bowl. Put beans into bean pot. Put pork on top of beans. Mix brown sugar, molasses, mustard, pepper and salt with one pint of the bean liquor. Pour this mixture over the beans. Bake at 300 degrees for 6 hours or more, adding more boiling water if the beans begin to dry out on top. Serve with slaw or potato salad, brown bread or biscuits (really good to eat biscuits with butter and molasses…yummy!)

You can also put this all into a crock-pot and cook on low for ten to twelve hours. The beans get better as leftovers, too, soaking up more and more flavor from the molasses and spices. You can also freeze leftovers to warm up later for quick meals.

Well, the buzzer on the stove just went off, telling me that the strawberry-rhubarb pie I stuck in there forty-five minutes ago is done. More on that next time…Outside the Box.

Day 60 and Beyond: Life After D.C.

or Welcome Home to Maine

From the U.S. Botanical Garden

Dear Reader:

I’m sure you’ve figured out that this isn’t REALLY day sixty. I’m definitely into the “beyond” portion of the title, typing from my own cozy office with a window looking out over the encroaching wild blackberry brambles, the downed pine trees rotting on the forest floor, and the still-green leaves of immature maples and oaks struggling to grow beneath the evergreen giants. No more view of the blue roof of the Nordstrom’s across the street at the Pentagon City Mall or the gothic spires of the National Cathedral poking up from the far-distant D.C. skyline or the planes circling around toward Reagan National one after the other after the other as the day closes and the sky turns first pink and then dark and the lights begin to glow in all the windows of the high-rise jungle around me.

Flower Tower

The Teen and I spent our last day in the city in a whirlwind tour of the United States Botanic Garden, a must-see for any of you who may visit the capital city in the future. The day was hot, but dry and sunny, and the plantings absolutely amazed this neophyte gardener. I loved the outdoor gardens, especially the giant wooden towers planted with different types of heat-loving plants and flowers.

Orchids

Inside were tropical plants, a children’s garden,endangered plants, and an area dedicated to “useful” plants either for food or medicine. We spent a few hours browsing around in the cool, moist environment before heading over to the Museum of the American Indian to finally catch lunch at the cafe, something I didn’t want to miss on this trip.

Southwest Native Foods

The cafeteria is set up to offer foods from all the different American areas. I was tempted by the northeast section with its roast turkey and cranberry preserves, but I figured there would be time for that around Thanksgiving. Instead I went with southwestern spicy rice, an enchilada of sorts filled with roasted or sauteed squashes and onion topped with a tomato paste and cheese, and the most delicious sauteed red cabbage. I ate the entire plate, and the light vegetarian fare left enough room for a dessert of bread pudding studded with raisins.

The Teen had chicken fingers and fries.

Revived, we hiked up the hill so the Teen could visit the Library of Congress. After oggling the beautiful space for an hour or so, we strolled next door to the Supreme Court where two demonstrators stood mute with duct tape over their mouths. I’m still not sure how they expected to get their message across as they carried no signs, but it was probably something to do with freedom of speech.

(Here’s an idea: if you want to protest something, communicate somehow!)

Tired and hot,(did I mention D.C. afternoons are scorchers?)we sat beneath a shady tree in front of the Capitol Building for a few minutes, listening to a couple of security police chatting with each other, and then we chugged on down to 7th Street for a cup of iced coffee at the corner Starbucks one last time.

Moongate Garden at Sackler Gallery

We fueled up on caffein and sugar–enough mojo for a quick swing through the Castle for souvenir shopping, the Museum of African Art, and finally a super-quick breeze through the Sackler & Freer Gallery of Asian Art.

Sunset at Gravelly Point

Our last evening in D.C. we ate a picnic supper at Gravelly Point while watching the planes take off right over our heads, knowing that in less than 24 hours we’d be on one of those aircraft.

The next day and at the airport waiting for our flight, we felt the building shudder, stop for a minute or two, and then begin to shake and shiver in earnest. The television monitors were already tuned to CNN, and we soon learned about the fairly major earthquake rolling beneath Virginia, D.C., and outward. I said, “I guess D.C. is just so sad to see us leave.”

We were on the plane only an hour behind schedule.

Before sunset, we looked down on the dark green of Maine’s coastline and spotted a large crescent of pale beach and a light-green swath behind it. “I think that’s Old Orchard and Pine Point . . . and the marsh!” I said. Soon we could see Portland, South Portland, and the airstrip–an hour and a half and a world away from metropolitan Washington D.C.

Welcome home to Maine!

Pine Point

The following days found us hanging out at our usual spot on the beach at Pine Point, school shopping, and acclimating ourselves to life in the slow lane again. A day went by with a grand total of TWO cars passing my house. The skies clouded over. My allergies and asthma returned with a vengeance. Hurricane Irene hit on Sunday and knocked out our power for four days.

Welcome home to Maine.

I don’t mean to sound as bitter as a garden cucumber grown over a dry summer. I’m feeling less claustrophobic every day. I have my kitchen back. I’ve been to Marden’s and Goodwill and the Limerick Supermarket and Hannaford’s and the wonderful farm-stand near the Waterboro Public Library. I’ve checked out a couple of books. I’ve been to the yarn shop and the tea house with my friend, Sandra. On another afternoon between appointments in Biddeford, friend Donna served me a wonderful green salad with slices of roast beef and crumbled feta and dressed with olive oil and balsamic viniagrette. Heavenly!

I have bought yarn for a hat and a bag, have lugged home pickling salt and spices to try my hand at pickles with the cukes my parents gave me from their garden (not bitter), and while up visiting parents and collecting my much-missed pooch, Delilah, my dad bought me a lobster roll and my mom baked me a blueberry pie.

Welcome home to Maine. For real.