Rumors by Neil Simon now playing at Lamoine Grange

Our resident playwright and theatrical director Carol Korty is now putting the finishing touches on our  talented acting company, Lamoine Community Arts (LCA) and their production of Neil Simon’s  farce Rumors.  Carol has graced us with her talent for many seasons and we marvel at how we became the chosen spot on the map for her “retirement”.

Rumors is a very funny play about what happens when upper class New York suburbanites attend an anniversary party in which nothing seems right and everything goes wrong. Mystery gunshots, missing persons, crashed BMWs,  and domestic squabbles give rise to a full spectrum of rumors and lies, all designed to protect and prop up an over-privileged and under-worked  group of “friends”. Watching their attempt to evolve false explanations and how they crumble is the fun of it all, and the ending is the twist which gives an added zing. So impressive was this ending that, I completely missed my cue to dim the lights in rehearsal. I hope to do better on Friday, October 29, when the first performance happens at 7 PM. Three other performances are scheduled for 7 PM on Saturday, October 30 and Saturday, November 6 with a final Matinee on Sunday, November 7th at 3 PM.Here in rural coastal Maine it is sometimes difficult to find cultural activities we may have had access to in large cities, especially in the cooler months. The solution for most of us is to create our own. In Lamoine we all try to help when people care enough to put a production together; by volunteering for food, set construction, advertising and of course, showing up to see the play. So get on over to Lamoine Corner (where Rt 184 makes a sharp turn east) and get ready for some laughs. The play is free but donations are accepted. 

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Coastal House Problems In Lamoine

This dormer had to have all the trim and siding removed and ice and water shield installed. Rain blew in and dripped from the first floor ceiling.

This post is for anyone considering building or buying a house on the shore along the Maine coast. It may well apply to any windy, water exposed location. I work on mistakes made by builders and homeowners. First, save your heating/cooling money for heating only; or rather for heating and more insulation. Air conditioning really isn’t necessary unless climate change drops on us like a bag of rocks. Look at the historical weather data here and compare it to where you live. The few uncomfortable summer days (2 days over 90°F in 2010) can be dealt with by closing up the house or at most, a single window unit. Heating systems are marketed to be elaborate and expensive, but the more you insulate, the smaller and less complex your heating system needs to be.

Next, I suggest covering the whole ocean side with ice and water shield, not just Typar or Tyvek. Especially important is to use it where a second floor is recessed from the first floor roof like on a dormer. Imagine standing with a power washer and spraying your ocean side, that’s what a November or December storm is like. Horizontal rain.  This happened to me while I was building my house, I was lucky to see the effects before any damage resulted. The water shot right through my Typar housewrap.

I have not had a problem with ice dams on the roof, but I have seen quite a few on other houses. A friend had to install ice melting cables on a brand new addition because the builder didn’t use ice and water shield all the way up to the skylights. Again, I would use as much of the stuff as I could afford, especially on the ocean side and especially around any heat-leaking penetrations, right down to the eves. Don’t forget the valleys.

Windows: Don’t skimp. Andersen 200 series isn’t meant for shore exposure, 400 series is. I heard this from an Andersen representative. Friends with 200 series have leaks.  Also, look for a window company which warrants it’s windows against seal failure for as long as possible. This is the seal between the two panes of glass, and is especially important for skylights.

Siding: I loathe vinyl, but I can’t claim it underperforms if ice and water shield is used underneath on the ocean side. We have red cedar bevel siding and keep it up with Cabot solid color stain. The stain was applied before installation so the back side is protected. One coat lasts 5 years, 2 coats last 15. My next paint job is scheduled for 2024, I painted last year. I expect the south side will last maybe 11 years while the north side will go for 18. If you are considering cedar shingles, make sure you like the look of curly, discolored shingles. It may not be for you. Finally, avoid like the plague finger-jointed primed pine trim. The lumber yards still sell it, but it is a disaster waiting to happen. It will begin to rot out in 4-5 years. Builders still use it.

Architects love to get creative on the ocean side. They like huge windows and lots of dormers and intersecting rooflines. I like to tell people to imagine an overturned bowl and to try to build a house as close to it as possible. Think of the surface to volume ratio. Think of a big roof area toward the south for collectors or photovoltaics, with an ideal slope. Minimize windows on the north side. Build double walls to get in more insulation. I did double 2X4’s and filled the space with 8 inches of fiberglass. Put your garage on the north side. Consider three season rooms and porches that can be closed off in the heating season.

Some day you might do this

Not heating in the winter may be thought of as an option for vacation home owners. Realize, there will be consequences if you turn off the heat for the winter. The dew point will move inward, meaning that moisture will condense on interior walls, on clothing in closets and other confined spots like on the backs of couches. You will arrive in the spring to a strong mildew odor. Vinyl flooring will shrink and pull away from the walls in low temperatures. Plastic tubs will do strange things too. A little forethought would remedy this. Avoid plastic. Open closets and pull stuff away from walls. Keep a dehumidifier set to keep the air dry. Tell the plumber to slope pipes for easy drainage.

Finally, plan on a variety of energy options. If the price of heating oil becomes outrageous that pellet stove in the parlor will be welcomed. Will your heating system work if the power goes out for three days? It happens. Consider a standby generator. It needn’t be the automatic variety, just enough to run the fridge, the water pump, heating system and a few lights. I have a battery power back up for my computer that will last for two days. Our heating options include oil, solar, propane, wood and electricity.

I don’t mean to make it sound like living on the Maine shore is a struggle for survival, but there’s a certain satisfaction to having prepared for the worst, especially when the November gale is howling outside and you are warm and cozy on the inside.

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Getting my Lobster License

The State of Maine offers its residents a recreational lobster license; we can have up to 5 traps. The number one rule is that the lobsters can’t be sold; they have to be for the resident license holder’s use only. You have to establish residency by 1) living in Maine for at least 6 months, 2) voting in Maine and 3) paying income taxes in Maine. The process also involves an open book test with a one time fee of $15, a license fee of $65 and fifteen cents per trap for identifying tags. So far we’re up to $80.75, the equivalent of maybe ten lobsters.

I have always been hesitant to get into this for two reasons. First, I thought I might make local lobstermen/women mad at me for muscling in on their territory, even though it’s in front of my house. These folks work hard and they are not known for their gentle ways, at least that’s the stereotype. A local Lamoine recreational lobsterman dispelled this notion and offered to “straighten them out” if I had any trouble. He claimed that the locals are doing fine and would not begrudge a few additional traps. This made a big change in my attitude.

from State of Maine lobsterguide09.pdf

The second reason is that I don’t have the right boat. I only own kayaks, a canoe, a dingy and a small sail boat. I suppose I could rope them all together to haul traps, but the license application requires naming a specific boat with a registration number, so I have to get a boat. I don’t know what this will cost, but I know what I want to do: build a boat and have it powered by electricity. No diesel-belcher for me!

I’m really trying to fit in, right?

The Redwing 18 from Chesapeake Marine Design

I’ve been interested in electric boats for years. To me they are a perfect application of electric propulsion. Unlike cars, weight is not an issue. A ballast of lead acid batteries would make any boat more stable (or sink). A short lesson about boat design: boats can be designed to either be “planing” or “displacement”. A planing hull requires a big motor to rise out of the water, a displacement hull has a maximum theoretical speed through the water related to its waterline length, usually around six knots (6.9 miles per hour)  for a 20 foot craft. It does not lift out of the water, it just makes a wave. A well designed displacement hull can move very efficiently at displacement speed, so an electric motor capable of moving a boat at displacement speed can do so for many hours with a bank of six batteries. The batteries can be recharged for much less than an equivalent amount of gas or diesel fuel, especially if done with photovoltaics. Imagine gliding through the water with no smoke or vibration, just a slight hum….

I hope to make this project into a blog series as I go through the process of building a boat and getting my license. Stay tuned.

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“Cully’s Gold” by Lamoine Playwrights Carol Korty..

…and Susa Wuorinen is a play inspired by Carol’s grandmother who lived in Lamoine during the late 1800s. It is a play rich with local charm, language and custom, and geared towards audiences of all ages.

14 year old Lamoine schoolgirl Sadie Coggins looks forward to widening her horizons by attending the Belfast Academy for high school. Her parents have railroad stock they hope to use to pay the tuition. But hard economic times have rendered the investment worthless and Sadie is urged by her parents to apply for a teaching position in the same school she just graduated from. This sounds horrible to her, since one of her students would be the local bully who she was hoping to get far away from. A scheme hatches in her mind where she trades some worthless fool’s gold for some silver bars owned by a local simpleton (Cully), allowing her to pay for tuition. But things get complicated when Cully’s house burns down and her trade takes on urgent moral consequences. Will she go through with her plan or let the community use the silver to build Cully a new house? Through this moral struggle, she learns the importance of acknowledging the consequences of one’s actions and of making amends when needed.

Carol Korty with actors

Cully’s Gold is published by Dramatic Publishing and can be ordered here. The play was performed in 2008 and again in August of 2010 by our local theater group,  Lamoine Community Arts (LCA),  which usually performs in our local Grange Hall. This fall LCA presents Rumors, a play by Neil Simon, on two weekends: Oct 29-30 and Nov 6 and 7. The Lamoine Grange will once again provide the stage.

The cooler weather does not mean an end to life on the Maine coast. Our rich veins of semi-retired Eastern academics continue to fertilize our cultural atmosphere.  Carol Korty and Susa Wourinen are two of many examples. Come in late October for a culture tour. On October 23 attend A Victorian Evening; enjoy ‘High Tea’ served by volunteers dressed in period attire at the Seal Cove Auto Museum. And on October 28 (7 PM-9 PM) drop by Bar Harbor’s Jesup Memorial Library for a reading by Down East Magazine editor Paul Doiron of his new novel The Poacher’s Son. “Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive—his own father.” It has already been named one of the best crime novels of 2010, and is the first in a projected series.

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Maine Garden Results 2010

This year has been a banner year for gardeners on the Acadia coast. Once in a decade. Maybe once in two. Let’s hope it happens next year. I’ve seen years when it takes four plantings of beans before success, sometimes as late as July. This year they were doing well in early June. The first tomatoes were red before August. Plenty of sunshine, adequate rainfall and temperatures in the 80’s during the days, 60’s at night. Wow!

My folly of the spring, to plant a Maine Coast vineyard has convinced some to consider me sane. It has thrived!  I pruned off all the grape clusters to allow the plants to put their energies into foliage. This is supposed to allow for faster wood growth above and below ground. I don’t expect a problem with winter damage here; the low winter temperatures are not that extreme unless the saltwater freezes hard–not that common. My next decision is whether to allow any fruits next year. It will be hard to not let a few go…. I was delighted that the grape seedlings I planted in spring grew all the way to the top wire, about five feet off the ground. This means that the horizontal branch on the top wire will become a permanent part of the plant. Everything else except the trunks will be pruned off in March. Every grape variety has an optimum number of buds allowed to produce in the spring depending on climate, soil, spacing, and who knows what else. Leave too many and you get overcropping, resulting in small, low quality fruit. Too few and you’re wasting space. Somehow, grapes need to be stressed into producing a good crop by being brutally pruned. I have a lot to learn.

Now, my bhut jolokia peppers have done fine in the greenhouse. These are the hottest peppers in the world; so hot that the Indian Army is weaponizing them into pepper grenades. They are from the Assam state of India and are translated as “ghost pepper”. You will not find seed for these babies at your local garden center. I got them from New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, and they weren’t cheap. I grow them mainly so I can get good seeds for next year. The jolokias rate over a million Scoville units, twice as hot as its nearest competitor. The peppers make nice novelty gifts.

The greenhouse is devoted to peppers, mostly of the edible type. I find bells to be difficult to grow into the colorful version, they take forever and are not very productive. No wonder they cost so much! Sweet banana are my stars. They produce like crazy from June to November and have a sharp pepper flavor without heat. I also like Jalapeño. A little hot and if you let it go red it gets sweet too. One or two more experimental varieties and I’m a happy pepper guy!

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Lamoine Maine Wild Turkeys.

Driving towards Acadia National Park in the mornings around SeaCat’s Rest, you are very likely to find a flock of turkeys in the road.   This is a new trend here in the Northeast.    This group of birds has been surviving and growing into a real spectacle around here.   We want these birds around for three reasons.

First, they are entertaining and eat things we don’t want around.   Funny birds making funny noises in the woods.   They wander around the neighborhood.   As they go they consume mass quantities of small insects, including the deer tick.   The deer tick is famous for spreading lime disease here in Maine, and anything that reduces it’s population should be encouraged.    Turkeys have keen eyesight and can find the small ticks in the fields and woods.

Second they are a source of wild food for people.   Yes, you can hunt turkeys and eat them.   Maine has two turkey hunts each year, spring and fall.

Third they support other wildlife as food.   For the small mammal predators, turkeys are an excellent source of food in the winter when it can be tough to find enough food to survive.    The turkey is a native bird that was hunted out of the area by people.   This left the many small  mammals without the safety net of a this prey species in the environment.   That in turn led to more predation on our domestic animals like chickens and other birds raised for meat and eggs by our local folks.   When I raised guinea fowl the predators were incredible and included owls, red hawks, foxes, and raccoons.   I’m sure the bobcats and fishers were around too, although I didn’t actually see them.    Guinea hens fill a similar niche in the environment as turkeys do.  I had many fewer ticks to pull off my cats in those years.

Did you know that turkeys roost in trees at night?   Except for when the female turkeys are sitting on their nests, you can find them perched high up in trees.    They will often fly into the trees for safety in the daytime when they feel threatened.

Giving Thanks for Wild Turkeys
Feathered dinosaurs of the American woods

By Robert Winkler
About the Author

While most Americans in late November think about eating turkey, I think about seeing one—not the overweight, pale, domesticated bird that ends up on the Thanksgiving table, but rather its streamlined, bronzy ancestor: the wild turkey.

This ground-dwelling native of North American forests is fairly common now, but only 30 years ago it was nonexistent across much of its historic range, a casualty of overhunting and deforestation.

English naturalist John Josselyn was one of the first to note the turkey’s decline. In 1672, after an extended visit to Maine, he wrote: “The English and the Indians having now destroyed the breed, so that ’tis very rare to meet with a wild Turkie in the woods.”

The estimated 10 million turkeys that roamed North America before European settlement dwindled to a fragmented population of 30,000 by the early 1900s. They had been extirpated from 18 of 39 states they originally inhabited.

I glimpsed my first wild turkeys in the late 1970s at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, but it took another decade for me to find them in my home woods.   By then, reintroduction programs in New England and elsewhere were proving successful.

Members of remnant populations had been captured in rocket-propelled nets and moved to forested regions where no wild turkeys had been seen for a century or more. Sustained by good habitat—extensive, open woods with waterways and adjacent fields—and protected by hunting suspensions, many of the relocated birds thrived.

Wild turkeys now occur in all of the lower 48 states, and their number has risen to more than 5.5 million.

One of the advantages of staying here in Lamoine, and not in an urban area on your vacation is the chance to see wildlife that we cherish around here.    We do have many  predators include great horned owls, bobcats, and foxes, so wariness is in their blood. Unleashed dogs take a heavy toll, and their return has put their worst enemy—human hunters—back on their trail.

So, slow down and let the turkeys wander as they search out their breakfast food.   You’ll be richer three ways.

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Acadia Eagles

photographed in our spruce tree, Aug, 2010

Bald eagles, America’s national bird,  have been nesting here around Acadia National Park for a very long time. This bird is an inspiration to see flying overhead.     Here at SeaCat’s Rest we  have our resident pair of eagles which swoop over our house.  Their nest is on the Twinnies–little islands just off the Bridge to Mount Desert Island (see the “A” below).

It’s a perfect place to nest, isolated from people, but close to a rich place for food for the birds.   Just what do eagles eat?   Here along the coast, it’s a combination of fish/seafood, and some small land mammals.    The eagles have a routine flight circuit around the bay.    Usually they hang out around our place in the middle afternoon.   Yesterday it was between 3:30 and 5:00 P.M.    We have a tall spruce tree where they routinely stop at.

The eagles are easy to intercept if you spend a day here.   First you will hear the flock of crows or sea gulls announce the eagles’ arrival.   They fly around and around the eagle, trying to chase it further down the coast.   The eagles respond with a loud call like a squeeky wheel. When I think about it the eagle competes with the crows for carrion or dead fish and animals.   It’s no wonder they try and get the eagles to leave the area.   In the mornings you can often see the big birds hanging around our neighbor’s freshwater pond.    We used to assume they were there for a drink of fresh water, but then we heard about how our neighbor leaves out food for the birds.   

We have the eagles around here most of the year, but each year they go off on vacation when the weather turns really cold and their access to fresh water freezes up.   In the months of January and February, the eagles fly south.   They end up around western New York or the hills of Pennsylvania.  I suppose you could call them snow birds like we call our elderly white haired neighbors that also seek warmer climates when it gets a bit cold downeast.

Benjamin Franklin didn’t want the eagle to be chosen as the national bird.   His nomination was the turkey

Not all people wanted the bald eagle to be chosen as the national bird.  Some felt it was a bad choice.  Benjamin Franklin wrote:

I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him… Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district.  He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest…of America…. For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America…
a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.

1967: Bald eagles south of the 40th parallel were listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the 1966 statute that preceded today’s U.S. Endangered Species Act. A comparative study of eagle nesting during the 1960s in Alaska, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin revealed relatively low numbers and chronically poor reproduction, especially in Maine’s remnant population and the subpopulation along the immediate Great Lakes shorelines.

1967 Eagle nest distribution map

In 1962, Charlie Brookfield and Frank Ligas (biologists with the National Audubon Society) began annual monitoring of bald eagles in Maine. Early efforts were limited, but their counts could only document 21-33 pairs of nesting eagles and only 4-15 eaglets fledged each year between 1962 and 1970. Average productivity among Maine eagles during the 1960s was only 0.34 eaglets per nesting pair: at least 60% lower than rates considered normal.

If you look carefully, you can spot the Twinnies eagle nest on this 1967 map….so “our” nest has been around for quite a long time.

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Lamoine and the Santo Domingo Connection

Sometimes a gravestone inscription creates connections to far away places. What would two young Lamoine men be doing on a Caribbean island in 1866 and how did they die?

The island of Hispanola felt the first footsteps of Columbus on the New World. Here he founded Santo Domingo City, and Spain went about its usual process of plunder and pillage. In 1697 Spain signed over the western half of the island, now called Santo Domingo, to France, perceiving it to be of little value. Therefore, the division of the island between a Spanish speaking side (Dominican Republic) and a French speaking side (Haiti) had its origins in the 17th century.
In these early days trade was strictly controlled by European powers over their colonies and commerce between islands of the Caribbean and the colonies of mainland America were either at the whim of those powers or done illegally. Sugar, molasses, rum and slaves were the island products while the mainland supplied salted meat and fish, whale oil, livestock and iron goods. France disliked the trade with British North America but needed the food to feed plantation slaves and feared importation of rum into France where it would displace wine demand. Similarly, the British preferred its colonies trade only with British islands and passed the Molasses Act to control trade with the islands. The effect of this restricted trade translated later into a United States desire to preserve our hemisphere for our own trading interests. In the short term it was yet another reason for our founding fathers to throw off the yoke of British domination and taxation.

Our post-revolution relations with France were sunny. France however was still bowing to the demands of its merchants at home who wished to protect their exclusive trade with the French islands. The newly independent Americans were demanding freer trade. A French minister to the U.S. reported,

To hear them, one would believe at times that all they have obtained was due them and that every refusal to grant further concessions is an injustice.

During the French Revolution Haiti, called French Santo Domingo at the time, used the distant struggle for liberty to begin its own struggle. By 1793 slaves were liberated and in ownership of their third of the island. Concurrently, political turmoil and bad crops in France made importation of American goods to the island a necessity.  It was this trade more than the liberation of slaves which mattered most to our country.  Since France was at war with England and America was recently, it was a concern that a liberated Santo Domingo would drift under English domination as it seemed obvious, given the racism of the times, that freed slaves were incapable of self government. A close alliance with England meant a loss of trade for America.  America also had a huge debt owed to France for its help in the American Revolution. An infusion of arms and foodstuffs from America to colonial France during this period not only helped reduce this debt but also set the stage for our legacy of meddling in the affairs of the island, usually on the side of colonialism, trade interests and the prevention of mass immigration. A veneer of racism weighed heavily on our Haiti relations, especially prior to the end of the Civil War:

[Laws forbidding recognition]…will not permit the fruits of a successful negro insurrection to be exhibited among them. It will not permit black consuls and ambassadors…to parade through our country, and give their fellow blacks in the Untied States, proof in hand of the honors which await them…for the murder of their masters and mistresses…

Senator Benton of Missouri, 1825

In 1795  France seized the eastern 2/3s of the island, then a Spanish colony, and were eventually driven out by the English in 1814. The independent Dominican Republic was declared in 1821, but Haitian leader Jean Pierre Boyer quickly demanded union of the entire island under the Haitian flag. The coup was bloodless. By 1843 Dominican leaders in the eastern portion appealed to colonial powers to establish a protectorate, safe from volatile Haiti. This request bore little fruit until 1851, in the Tripartite Intervention, which began mediation between Haiti and France, Great Britain and the United States. To the three nations demands Haiti responded with a promise to abstain from hostilities for the time being, far short of their demands. The three nation’s cooperation fell apart and later attempts to peacefully annex the Dominican Republic to the United States failed. In 1862 the United States finally recognized the Haiti Republic.

The scheme to annex the Dominican Republic was hatched by Southern politicians who saw the end of slavery approaching. They longed for a Caribbean slaveocracy where they could return to the good old days of plantation life.  Dominican statehood fulfilled this fantasy.  The idea was not popular in the North. Therefore the Civil War pitted Haitian recognition (the North) against Dominican statehood (the South).  France, Spain and Britain were dead set against annexation and stepped up their diplomatic and military efforts in the area. Spain won the contest in 1861, motivated by fears of an American invasion of Cuba. The Dominican Republic remained a Spanish protectorate until 1865.

So what was it in November of  1866 which killed two young men from Lamoine? I can’t answer that. There are many sailors and captains in the East Lamoine Cemetery and dieing at sea is not unusual. Both stones mention Santo Domingo but there was no hurricane or military action that I can find. So for 21 year old Captain Thomas King and 16 year old Orren A. Hodgkins we will have to assume a drowning, illness, bar brawl or other calamity befell them.

Sources used: The Journal of Race Development; July 1916, The United States and Santo Domingo by Mary Treudley, PhD.

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Another Cemetery On Line–Lamoine

Orren A. Hodgkins, Died Nov. 9, 1866, AE. 16yrs 11mos.

One of the best tools for genealogical research is finding the grave markers of your ancestors on the internet. A headstone will often have information other sources don’t: “wife of”, “lost at sea”, even “US Army, WWII” may tell you things you didn’t know. Family groupings in the same cemetery can answer questions too.  There are several sites which have these records along with pictures of markers. The main one is Others include,, and There are more which require a fee, but I find findagrave to be the biggest and best of the free sites. You have to put up with a few banner ads but no pop-ups or other annoyances. Besides the ad revenue, findagrave makes money by inducing people to pay to have the ads removed from their loved one’s “memorials” which it calls the web page upon which the grave details and biographical information are placed. Some may find this distasteful, but hosting huge sites costs money and having a staff which can respond to requests and errors is also not cheap.

I have been a findagrave volunteer for a few months. When someone far away needs a picture of their ancestor’s stone locally I will go take a picture and set up a memorial page or add a photo to an existing page. I have also been the recipient of this generosity when I received a photo of great grandparents Catherine Brooks and Civil War soldier James Kinsley’s stone from northwestern Ohio:

I find this work to be oddly satisfying. I am not overly morbid or maudlin, I just think the internet is a better place to store important genealogy records than carved into marble or stuffed into a filing cabinet somewhere.

My latest project is more ambitious; to put the entire East Lamoine Cemetery on line. So far I’ve collected and put on line 290 graves which can be seen here.  I’m hoping someone somewhere will type in the name of a great grandfather and my picture of his grave will pop up.

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A Lamoine Vineyard

People say I’m nuts. Growing grapes in our windswept, foggy, short growing season is folly. Stick with raspberries and blueberries. Maybe they’re right. I’ve written in the past about the sad attempts of local wineries to produce a local product from grapes. The best wines are produced from the traditional European varieties of the vinifera species. Often growing these grapes at the cold edge of their range produces wine with exceptional flavor. But that assumes the grapes will grow in the first place. Our problem here is not so much winter kill; our temperatures are well above the twenty below many varieties can withstand. Our problem is too much rain and lack of sunshine and warmth in the summer. Grapes are notorious for having fungal problems. They like things dry; their roots go deep.

There are options. Vinifera grapes–the familiar Pinots, Chardonnay, Shiraz, etc would be very high maintenance. They would have to be buried in the winter, sprayed often and they may not ripen before frost. Fortunately, we have the native grapes like Concord and Niagara, members of the  labrusca species. These make lackluster wine but are table favorites. I know these grapes will do well here; neighbors grow them. There’s even a wild giant grape vine up the road from here which is threatening to take down a maple tree. It is probably a member of the riparia species, the riverbank grape. The riparia and labrusca species are the two American grapes most often used when breeding with vinifera for our climate.

A complicated history of grafting and crossbreeding has produced many varieties which are both cold and humidity tolerant and which also produce acceptable wine. I found two of these varieties at Surry Gardens (Surry, Maine), Frontenac Gris and Kay Gray. The two epicenters of hybrid grape research in North America are New York State Experiment Station at Geneva, New York and the University of Minnesota and can be credited for these new options. I would have liked one of the new Marquette vines, but they’re hard to come by.

Niagara, my earliest leafer

My vineyard consists of two Reliance vines (a pink table grape), two Frontenac Gris, two Niagara, two Kay Gray and one Concord. I know I planted them too close but I wanted to make sure I would have survivors if some died (they’re now 3-4 feet apart). They are now leafing out and I must admit, I’m excited. The goal of this first year is to develop the root system by allowing as much leaf growth as possible. Fruit clusters will be pared down to a minimum and training to the trellis will be a priority.  If you know how to grow grapes, please get in touch. I’m just about clueless!

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