Friday, August 17, 2018

Tree Talk: BioBased Economy by Robert Fogg

I recently attended a meeting, locally, where a group of people were advocating for more BioBased Manufacturing in Maine. I’ve been on this bandwagon for a while now, so anything I can do to help nudge the state in that direction, I am likely to do. It seems a shame to me that we have this incredible forest resource, but we have struggled to innovate our way to creating new uses for it. 

Take heat for example. Heat is a big deal in Maine for a good 6 months of the year. We have enough energy in our forests to heat every building in the state many times over, yet we are still dependent on fossil-based heating oil, much of which has been imported from halfway around the world. 

Wood can be harnessed for heat in multiple ways. It can be used in its raw form as firewood (and modern wood stoves are a far cry from their smoky and inefficient ancestors) or it can be converted to pellets or bricks, to be used in automated heating systems, or even liquid fuel that will burn in your existing boiler.

I, for one, would like to see us find a way to break the grip that “outside oil” has on us and turn it around so that we are the ones utilizing and exporting “Maine-Made BioHeat” and bringing that wealth into the state rather than it leaving.

There’s also transportation fuel. Wood can be converted into a number of different transportation fuels. Fuels that will burn in the cars and trucks we drive today. This will definitely happen eventually, once the price of fossil fuel goes through the roof, but why wait? Why not start down that road now, while we still have reserves of fossil fuel that can be saved for critical uses. 

And then there’s plastic. Yes, wood can be turned into a biodegradable replacement for plastic.  Is it ideal in every situation? Probably not. Can it be manufactured as cheaply as our current non-biodegradable plastics? No it can’t, but it could help save the environment. 

There are hundreds of other products that can be made from wood, and Maine is positioned to be a leader in the manufacture of these alternative products,  …if we can only figure out ways to make it happen.

The Author is General Manager of Naples-based Q-Team Tree Service and is a Licensed Arborist. You can contact him at 207-693-3831 or at

Using the Common Application to research colleges and apply for admission by Suzanne Hatfield

The 2018-2019 Common Application is now available to help you with every aspect of the college application process. Get started now by creating your Common App account. The personal profile information you will enter in your account includes your email address. It will become your user name and the Common App’s primary method of sending you updates and reminders so you don’t miss a college application deadline.

The Common App allows prospective college students to choose from over 800 colleges and universities in order to find institutions that meet their personal and academic needs based on type, location, size, programs of study, etc.

Click on the “College Search” tab to find colleges that are right for you. Just add to your “My College List” as you find each college of interest.

An important step in preparing to apply to colleges is to understand the application process for each school of interest. The 2018-2019 Requirement Grid of the Common App lists the college types, deadlines, fees and requirements for first-year college applicants. The Requirement Tracker Worksheet, which can be downloaded, helps you keep track of the various application requirements for each college to which you may apply. learn which institutions accept the Common Application for transfer students and what their specific Also, be advised that some institutions charge different fees for students from the U.S. and their international applicants. Consult the website for each college of interest for specific information and instructions.
requirements are, transfer students should go to

The general application information will remain constant for your list of schools using the Common App. This information, once entered, can be used to apply to multiple schools across the world. Start gathering and entering a copy of your high school transcript, a list of your extracurricular activities (both in school and outside of school), test scores and test dates from college entrance exams (ACTs, SATs, SAT Subject Tests), as well as parent/legal guardian information (educational background, occupational information, employer information, etc.). The Application Dictionary included in the Common App helps you understand the lingo used in the college application process.

Getting started in the college application process using the Common App isn’t difficult. The “Applications Solutions Center” and the “Virtual Counselor” features will answer any questions you may have. Staying organized is easy when you use the Common App’s new companion app for mobile devices, Common App onTrack, available for iOS and Android devices. The app lets the user view each college application deadline and submission status, add and invite recommenders for college admission, and create personal lists of tasks and reminders.

The Common Application’s “Applicant Support Portal” provides timely information on topics that vary from the 2018-2019 Common App’s essay prompts to information concerning the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You can learn more about the GDPR by visiting or

Suzanne Hatfield is a certified school counselor who worked in Maine high schools for twenty years before her retirement.

Bringing the outdoor garden inside for the fall and winter by Gayle Plummer

No one wants to use the word “winter” at this point in time. However, as this month will go screaming by us, we will soon find ourselves in the middle of September. Now is the best time to eyeball your garden plants to figure out which ones you may want to bring in. Bringing in a few helps to make the house cheery in fall/winter; not to mention boosting our spirits by having something blooming inside all winter.

For any who truly love their gardens, you already know about the boost a blossoming plant can give when you have a few inside during the gray days of winter. Also, for those of us who enjoy the gardening process itself – this allows us to trim, feed and fuss over our plants over the long winter; no bugs, no heat, no sunburns.

So, now while you are deadheading and weeding for the last time you may want to pre-plan which plant(s) you’d like to have inside. Maybe you’ve completely enjoyed that coleus this summer. Trim/shape it back now to give it a nice size and let it adjust to the trimming before putting it into a pot to bring in.

Be sure to keep it watered well so it won’t be under any stress when you dig it up to re-pot it. Another word about trimming and shaping: Size. Since most houses can only tolerate small to medium size pots, you may want to trim your plant back quite a lot now. This will thicken it up and stop it from becoming too leggy and droopy looking. You can do this a time or two during the winter as well – to keep it looking smart and to stimulate more growth and blossoms.

Be sure to water it well and often once brought inside, as our heated houses tend to dry plants quickly. Also you’ll want to feed the plants at least two or three times during the fall/winter to get all the blooms you can. following is the method that has worked well for me when bringing plants inside: Be sure to transplant your choices into their pots in September and no later. Then leave them outside where you can see them and remember to water them often. By leaving them outside for a few weeks during fall there is little (if any) shock to the plant. I like to keep my new transplants quite moist while they adjust to being back in a pot. Bring them inside while the weather is still warm enough to have house windows open, as they are still getting the outside air. This also keeps them from suffering any shock from being brought in and it makes for a nice, easy transition from outside to inside for them.

I am listing a few here that have typically done very well for me when approaching the transplanting this way. I won’t say that I have 100 percent success 100 percent of the time.  However, about 90-95 percent of the time I get to enjoy my plants all winter and sometimes I have even re-planted a few back outside in the spring. 
My very favorite to bring in are snapdragons, I have a high success rate with them. Also, the coleus plants do well; they will need trimming in winter to keep a nice shape. Put the trimmings in water to root out for more! I have even done lavender plants (trim them back fairly hard now and they will do well in a sunny window all winter). Other good choices are the shorter zinnias, petunias (with the smaller sized blossoms), and most any of the herbs. And of course the geraniums do very well. I usually bring in all of the geraniums, put them in a nice sunny window and enjoy. Geraniums do like to have their yellow leaves snipped off and keep them deadheaded to get maximum flower blossoms. 

By February cut them back a bit, don’t feed them and let them rest until mid-March, then feed them and they’re ready to go again. 

Enjoy your indoor gardens.

Book Review of “All the Living” by C.E. Morgan. Review by Jennifer Dupree

C.E. Morgan’s debut novel is fiercely beautiful. The language is clear, precise and evocative of the landscape within the novel. The story itself is a love story, in a way. 

The novel opens when Aloma returns with Orren to his family’s farm after an accident kills his brother and mother. Orren needs to prove—to the town and to himself—that he can handle what he has never been taught to manage. Aloma, orphaned as a child, goes with Orren in order to begin anew.

Their love is not easy. She is a talented pianist, but he doesn’t understand her need for music. He struggles with the drought, but she doesn’t grasp his desperation. Neither Orren nor Aloma want people in town to know they aren’t married and when that fact is revealed, it brings with it a hefty shame.

As the novel unfolds, it seems as though these two might only have passion in common—and they have plenty of that. But, as their communication breaks down and as they grow more tired, confused and lonely, we wonder if their young love will survive.

This book is not in any way a typical romance novel (if there even is such a thing). Orren and Aloma are young and in love but their emotions are far from straight-forward. Their struggles feel authentically complicated, their lives richly textured. 

“All the Living” is sweet, honest, tender, and heartbreaking. It’s a rare gem of a book.

Be The Influence Theater Group provides peer-to-peer support and education by Matt Pascarella

Be The Influence Players, a new theater group composed of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from RSU14 presented a play at Windham High School on Friday, August 10. This play, which was composed of three acts about the importance of kindness, may become part of the Be the Influence’s mission to educate local students and reduce youth substance use.

Briefly, Be The Influence Coalition (BTI) is a community collaboration program that provides support and resources in Windham and Raymond. Its goal is to communicate consistent drug-free messages to assure that local youth make positive choices and are aware that decisions matter. The organization works to reduce substance use in teens and pre-teens, providing this message since 2014.
Stuart Gabaree and Natalie Adams explain why kindness is significant 

The concept of BTI Players is modeled after a peer-to-peer program that originated in Missouri where it is presented to over 100 schools annually.

Having seen the success of peer to peer theatrical education in the Midwest, Laura Morris, Director of Be The Influence Coalition, used the concept to educate students in RSU14.

According to Morris, who orchestrates the theater group, studies show students learn better from older peers than adults. BTI’s peer to peer theater group is one way to communicate BTI’s message in a fun and approachable way.

The Be The Influence Coalition decided to offer a camp this summer through the Parks and Recreation program to introduce the theater concept to area students. Last Friday’s play proved to be a success.

The BTI Players will continue performances throughout the school year and will be using two scripts to present at Windham and Raymond Elementary schools this Fall. The lessons they are trying to convey with these performances are important ones. “Respect one another,” says actor William Yates and, “Don’t bully people,” stated actress Natalie Adams – both speaking about what they learned during their participation and the lessons the play portrayed.

“Through improvisational games, character development exercises and lots of practice, the campers will be producing a fairytale called ‘The Princess in Search of a Prince’ and ‘The Nancy Nice Show’”, explained Morris. “The production will be followed by a cheer on ‘Respect’. While they have worked with original scripts, they have added their own ideas and energy to each show.”
Each actor and actress added energy and pizzazz to the performance; through eye catching props, singing, dancing and audience participation.

Morris also stated, “The hope is this becomes a yearly group of sixth to eighth graders continuing to educate and present to kindergarten through fifth graders. The program is also something the students can take pride in.”

Student and actor, Stuart Gabaree, reiterates Morris’ statement, “I was really part of something.”

Friday, August 10, 2018

Taking the training wheels off at Gambo Dam: A cautionary tale by Briana Bizier

One of childhood’s rites of passage is learning how to pedal a bicycle without training wheels. As last weekend’s experiences proved to this writer, kids are the not the only ones who need to adjust to this new reality.

My seven-year-old assistant took her first short ride without the training wheels last month, in the parking lot of Raymond Elementary. Letting go of her bicycle seat as she pedaled across the pavement was one of the more poignant parenting moments I’ve experienced.

Not to be outdone, my four-year-old assistant also insisted he could pedal without training wheels. After another round of two-wheel practice, this time in the gravel parking lot of Raymond’s Mill Street Ball Field and Playground, my husband and I decided to take the kids for a bike ride and a swim at the Gambo Dam in Windham.

Theoretically, this is the perfect place for a first bike ride. The Gambo Dam area along the Presumpscot River overlaps with the Mountain Division Rail Trail, a beautiful, paved path running along old railroad lines, and Gorham’s Shaw Park. If you make a few left turns, you can easily combine these overlapping trails to create a short loop with Shaw Park in the middle.

Last summer, when our daughter was still using training wheels and our son was riding a toddler balance bike, my husband and I took the kids for a bike ride along this trail. Our children loved the gentle inclines and the smooth, paved path, which was perfect for a bike with training wheels and a bright pink “motorcycle.” My son’s pink balance bike, a hand-me-down from his big sister, didn’t have pedals. And, as he pointed out quite often, motorcycles also don’t have pedals; hence, he had a motorcycle.

Hoping to replicate our past success, we loaded the two training-wheel-free big kid bikes into our car last weekend and set out for the Presumpscot. Both children loved pedaling the initial section of the Mountain Division Rail Trail, which follows a set of old railroad ties in a wide, flat path. However, the first of two bridges posed a challenge.

Even though we walked our bikes over the first bridge, a high railroad trestle, the steep drop beside the subsequent stretch of the trail made one of our two new bikers balk. She decided to walk her bike - the entire way.

The Mountain Division Trail continues from the Presumpscot all the way to Sebago Lake, but we turned left after the railroad trestle and continued to Shaw Park. Attempts to convince my assistant that riding a bike is actually much easier, and more fun, than walking a bike were met with much resistance. Apparently, there’s a big difference between feeling comfortable riding a bike around a parking lot and feeling comfortable riding a bike along a windy, curving trail.

Fortunately, by this point our family was almost to Shaw Park. It was a warm, muggy day, so the entire family left the bikes by the swings and went for a quick dip (Dad had graciously volunteered to carry towels and swim suits). Swimming in the Presumpscot improved everyone’s morale, and we were able to watch adventurous canoeists climb to the top of the railroad trestle bridge and jump into the water below.

Can I do that, Mom?” my four-year-old assistant asked.

Sure thing, honey,” I said. “When you’re thirty-five.”

After our swim at Shaw Park, the family resumed our bike ride/push. The trail loops gently through the woods past Shaw Park and circles around what looks like an old gravel pit. The path here is broad and flat, and it was finally gentle enough for our seven-year-old to decide she was willing to give two-wheeled bike riding another try. For just a few moments, our children zoomed ahead of us on their bikes, and the hike was exactly what I’d expected.

This loop trail ends at Gambo Dam, where there is a lovely pedestrian bridge across the Presumpscot. Below the dam, you can find a fascinating interpretive trail along the historic site of Maine’s Oriental Powder Mill, which made gunpowder used in the Civil War. You can also explore the ruins of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal if you’re looking for another fun, short hike with (or without) children.

If you’d like to explore the Gambo Dam area yourself, with or without bikes and children, you can find the parking area by turning onto Newhall Road from Route 202. Newhall Road becomes Gambo Road, and it ends at the Gambo Dam. To follow our loop, park just before the dam in the Mountain Division Trail parking lot.

Fixing Maine’s broken child protection system – I need your help by Senator Bill Diamond

There’s no question about it - Maine’s child protection system is badly broken but instead of placing blame, we must focus on fixing it immediately. The health, well-being and lives of Maine children are at stake.

Since the news first broke about the tragic deaths of Kendall Chick and Marissa Kennedy, the Legislature’s independent watchdog agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and Maine's Child Death & Serious Injury Review Panel have launched investigations into what happened and what we can do to make sure it never happens again. While I cannot speak for the other two investigations, what we found in the Legislature’s investigation is deeply concerning.

According to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, Maine’s child protection system failed on several occasions and suffers from inadequate staffing, a flawed intake system and multiple opportunities for cases to fall through the cracks. This is unacceptable. I worry that we will learn of more cases that have fallen through the cracks and be too late to remove a child from a dangerous situation.

Last month, DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton appeared before the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, (known as the government Watch Dog committee) of which I serve, to provide information and answer our questions. I am encouraged that he has committed to adding 75 intake workers and am interested in additional proposals from the Department and the governor to repair the system. 

However, since Commissioner Hamilton made this commitment to add more caseworkers, the governor is now saying that he won’t include adding these badly needed workers in his emergency bill in the next few weeks. He wants to wait and let the next governor deal with that issue.  Hopefully we reach a compromise and provide some help now …before it’s too late.

I also worry about the lack of transparency and information coming from the Department. The reality is, if we are going to make the necessary changes to the system charged with keeping our kids safe, lawmakers need to make sure we have all the facts.

A report from the Portland Press Herald revealed that there has been a 31 percent increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the past eight years, with more than 1,000 cases handled by the Department in 2016. Even more concerning, the number of physical abuse cases doubled over that same time. What these numbers show is that the proposed staffing increases to the Department are long overdue. They also reveal that the state needs to do more to invest in child abuse prevention programs that have a proven track record of success.

It has also been very helpful and enlightening to hear from many of you, right here in our district, about your experiences with the Department and recommendations on what we must do to transform the system so it works effectively to protect Maine kids. A huge concern of mine has stemmed from what I have heard about the mandated reporting system. I worry that those trying to do what’s best for Maine kids and report a worrisome situation are not getting the proper confirmation that their report has been received.

It’s very clear that we have a problem in this state that is only getting worse. We need a child welfare system that is going to rise to the increased challenges and best meet the needs of our kids.
I also want to be confident that we are exploring every possible option to keep Maine kids safe so they can grow up to become healthy, productive adults.

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee is expected to meet this week to get an update into the investigation. I am also hopeful that we will get a proposal from the governor to strengthen the child welfare system. Republican, Democrat or Independent - we must all work together for the good of Maine children.

Again, I’m asking for your help in sharing any information you may have that could be helpful to me as we seek the truth and solutions.  I urge anyone with information related to Maine’s child protective system to contact me at or (207) 287-1515. Feel free to remain anonymous if you prefer. If we are going to keep our kids safe, it’s going to take all of us working together to share information and to build a stronger, more effective child protection system.