Friday, April 12, 2024

It’s time to think spring with plants

By Kendra Raymond

With the possibility that spring has sprung, it is time to turn our focus outside and think about early season garden preparations, bedding plants, and what might be new for 2024 in the gardening world. Despite the recent late-season nor’easter, the flora and fauna know that April has arrived. That means the return of robins, spring peepers chirping, sprouting flower bulbs, and flowering trees.

A friendly garden gnome overlooks some
daffodils emerging through the snow at
a Raymond home.
I am reminded of Charles Dickens quote in “Great Expectations”: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Maine winters are long, but when spring arrives, it is well-worth the wait. We are usually eager to jump into spring feet first and enjoy the wonders of springtime in the northeast.

Early season garden preparation

The warmer temperatures and longer days entice us to get outside and perhaps get our hands dirty in the garden. There are some basic maintenance steps that should be addressed to ensure good garden health through the future growing season.

If temperatures are above 20 degrees, it is safe to remove dead plant material, unless you are interested in preserving a habitat for pollinators. In this case, it is a delicate balance. While some beneficial insects can live in the dead plant material, fungi and bacteria can also lurk there. Consider leaving a few hollow stems for insects and removing the remaining decomposing plant matter, just to be safe. Simply place it in a separate area of the yard and you will likely see a clientele of bird couples choosing nesting materials from your debris.

This is also a great time to prune fruit trees or shrubs. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension publishes the Maine Home Garden News, a monthly newsletter containing pertinent seasonal information written by educators, Extension specialists, and Master Gardeners.

The April 2024 Maine Home Garden news says that it is time to maintain tools, eradicate brown tail moths, and possibly transplant shrubs. Once perennials begin to emerge in early May, those too can be divided and transplanted.

Start seedlings indoors

For ambitious home gardeners, it can be rewarding to start seedlings indoors. The Extension bulletin, “Starting Seeds at Home #2751” suggests that peppers, eggplant, tomato, broccoli, cabbage, inpatiens, larkspur, and marigolds can be started at this time. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners also suggests starting beets, carrots, cilantro, dill, lettuce, peas, turnip, spinach, and onions indoors.

As a horticulturist, I would suggest a lot of planning and preparation before embarking on a seed starting project. This includes ample space, seed starting medium and containers, and growing lights. This hobby may not be economically feasible for everyone. However, for those interested in a rewarding challenge, indoor seed starting may be a great fit.

Early color can spruce things up

While we wait for the first bit of color in the garden, it can be exciting to incorporate some cold hardy pansies in the early spring garden. Pansies can be sown directly into the ground or placed in plant pots on a step or deck. The ideal temperature for pansies is roughly 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can survive in temps in the 20s and will live all summer.

Kale plants are also cold weather tolerant and can add some texture to the landscape.

2024 Gardening trends

Looking toward the summer growing season, it is interesting to recognize that just like fashion and food, there are trends in gardening. What’s all the rage this year? As always, container gardening is timeless. Containers are portable and work well for gardeners with limited space or seniors who find bending and digging difficult.

Gardening for wildlife is gaining popularity. Think of providing resources for butterflies, birds, bees, or small mammals. This can be a great learning experience for kids and requires little effort.

Here’s my favorite gardening trend for 2024: edimentals – ornamental plants that are edible. With the farm to table movement in full swing, why not join the craze and try it for yourself? This technique blurs the line between the flower garden and the vegetable garden, creating a pretty-yet-functional planting space.

Here is a link to the April 2024 Home Gardening News: <

Friday, March 29, 2024

Maine unveils new auto license plate

AUGUSTA – Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and Deputy Secretary of State for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Cathie Curtis have unveiled the design of the new Pine Tree Plate.

Maine has unveiled the design of its new Pine
Tree automobile license plates to replace the
Chickadee license plates which have been in
use for the past 25 years. COURTESY PHOTO 
“The new Pine Tree Plate is a fresh approach to a classic design rooted in Maine history, but the ultimate purpose of license plates is for vehicle identification to ensure public safety on our roads and highways,” Bellows said. “Damaged or worn-out plates on our roadways increase risks to the general public, and worn-out plates reduce law enforcement’s ability to be effective when handling crimes that could be prevented or solved through the identification of license plates.”

The current standard-issue plate, the Chickadee Plate, has been in circulation for almost 25 years.

“The Chickadee Plate will see over 900,000 replacements between May of 2025, and May 2026, a huge logistical undertaking coordinated by BMV staff, our municipal partners, and Waldale Manufacturing,” Curtis said. “Mainers who want to reserve their current plate numbers, including vanity plates and low-digit plates, should know that right now, they don’t need to act – but we’ll be starting a reservation process later this spring.”

In accordance with LD 1965, “An Act to Authorize the Secretary of State to Provide a New General Issue of License Plates,” which became law last year, there are two new plate designs: One with the Pine Tree and North Star and one plain plate with blue identification number and letter combinations.

Mary Catus, an employee in the Department of the Secretary of State, donated the design of the Pine Tree Plate to the State of Maine for use on the plate.

Waldale Manufacturing, a Nova Scotia company, has been contracted to manufacture the Pine Tree License Plates during this new general plate issuance.

Mainers who wish to replace peeling or otherwise deteriorating plates can, and should, do so, but too often scofflaws find that they can avoid doing so – and avoid paying registration fees or tolls.

The state BMV’s current registrations tracking system doesn’t have a mechanism to see how long a registration plate has been in use. Issuing a new design ensures fairness to law-abiding Maine drivers.

Mainers who have a specialty plate will not be impacted by the change to the Pine Tree Plate. Specialty plates include the Agriculture and Conservation plates, among others.

Chickadee Plates returned to municipal offices and BMV branch offices will be retrieved by BMV staff and recycled. <

Friday, March 22, 2024

Habitat for Humanity looking for applicants in need of homes

By Masha Yurkevich

It takes a lot to keep a roof over your head. For those who need a helping hand, Habitat for Humanity may be able to help.

Volunteers work on a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland
home under construction in Cumberland County last summer.
The deadline to apply for new builds in the Standish area
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland was founded in 1985 as an affiliate and is committed to building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. In three decades, they have built 83 homes in Cumberland County, provided nearly 100 low-cost critical home repairs, engaged hundreds of business and civic partners, and enlisted the support of thousands of volunteers. Their ReStore provides new and gently used furniture, appliances, and building materials to the public at 50 to 90 percent off retail.

Tara Hill, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, is responsible overall for the organization, managing the teams that construct Habitat homes, provide repairs for low-income homeowners, choose and support the families, operate the ReStore, and raise the funds to support their mission.

“The profits support our programs, and the bonus is that nearly 12 million tons of material has been kept out of the landfill,” says Hill. “We are currently building eight homes in South Portland and 12 homes in Standish, all of which will be completed by mid-2026.”

Recently, Habitat for Humanity purchased 12 lots in an existing subdivision off Nature’s Way in Steep Falls, Standish.

“We are building with modular construction which speeds up the process by having 70 percent of the construction done off-site, but still leaves finished work to be done by our future homeowners and volunteers.”

These homes will have two or three bedrooms, one bathroom and an open-plan kitchen and living room. They will have a full basement and lots of land around them.

“We are currently building in South Portland and Standish and will be for the next 2-plus years,” Hill said. “For the Standish project, we are partnering with folks who earn less than 65 percent of the area median income. This varies depending on household size, but as an example, a family of four can earn up to $77,675. They need to have a credit score of 640 or more, no excessive debt, and be able to make monthly payments on an affordable mortgage that would be capped at 30 percent of their monthly income.”

They also need to be willing to do 275 hours of ‘sweat equity’ building their or their neighbor’s home, working in our ReStore, attending financial education classes or doing community work in the town where they will live.

Finding land is always a challenge, especially in Cumberland County.

“Generally, we like to find a piece of property that will allow us to build at least five homes,” Hill says. “Ideally, the roads and infrastructure systems would be in place since those are very expensive. We also want to build in areas that provide our homeowners access to jobs, schools, and stores. Of course, this is the land that other developers are looking for, and it can be a challenge to compete with their ability to pay more. For this reason, we look for land well in advance of when we want to build. We are currently searching for our next project where we would start construction once Standish and South Portland are completed in mid-2026.”

Habitat for Humanity accepts applications for homeownership when they are three to four months out from starting construction. Interested people submit basic information about their household and income. This information is then forwarded to a partner financial institution who does an in-depth financial review to ensure that they can make an affordable mortgage payment.

Members of the Habitat Volunteer Family Selection Committee then meet the qualified applicants in person to talk about the unique requirements of our program and to gain a better understanding of both their need and their readiness for homeownership. The final family is based upon the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Directors.

“We have professional staff who lead the projects, but we often have local businesses who join us for a day of team building as well as volunteers who come out every week and others who come out occasionally,” says Hill. “We do hire subcontractors for certain tasks such as excavation, foundation, electrical, heat and plumbing.”

Applications for the next two homes in Standish open on March 11.

“Interested folks can download an application from our website, pick one up at our office or ReStore at 659 Warren Ave, Portland or call the office to request that one be mailed,” says Hill.” The application and the applicant’s most recent paystubs are due by 5 p.m. on April 4.”

The new partner families will be chosen by early June and the houses will be built off site this summer with finishing taking place on site in the fall.

“At this point, we anticipate that the families would move in during December or January,” says Hill. “Habitat homes are an amazing opportunity for families who thought they couldn’t afford a home. The application process is easy, and we are happy to answer any questions or assist folks who want to become homeowners.” <

Friday, March 15, 2024

WHS student council accepting donations for prom attire

By Lorraine Glowczak

The excitement and anticipation of prom is sweeping through the halls of Windham High School. At the heart of this enthusiasm is the annual Prom Attire Drive created by the WHS Student Council.

The WHS Student Council is conducting its third annual Prom
Attire Drive and asking the community for help. Donations
needed include dresses, suits, dress shirts, ties, dress shoes,
and jewelry. From left are student council members Finn
GaNung, Sawyer Grendell, Kate Lopes, Molly Plati, Riley
Yates, and Kirsten Mains. SUBMITTED PHOTO  
Set to coincide with the upcoming prom night on May 4, this project aims to offer a variety of dresses, suits, dress shirts, ties, dress shoes, and jewelry, for students free of charge, turning the dreams of an evening filled with glamour and glitter for every student into reality.

The success of this initiative hinges on the generosity of the Raymond and Windham communities, who, through their support and donations, make a significant impact in creating lasting memories for the students. Community members can bring donations to the WHS main office at 406 Gray Road in Windham, during school hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This annual donation event began in 2021 as an effort to return to normal high school activities after the pandemic.

“We wanted to find a way to bring the student body together, returning to some sense of normality,” said Molly Plati, a WHS junior and a Student Council representative who helped to start the initiative when she was a freshman. “However, we quickly realized that purchasing prom attire, such as dresses or suits, can be expensive and stressful for some people. Our goal as a student body was to make this process a fun and inviting experience for all. Our goal was to make every student feel that they could attend their Junior or Senior prom feeling confident and excited.”

Vanessa Michaud, WHS Assistant Principal and Student Council Co-Advisor, said that prom clothing, shoes, and accessories have increased in cost over the years and the donations from the community will help to eliminate possible barriers to student participation.

“The donated prom dresses and suits will provide all students at WHS an equitable opportunity to attend the prom,” she said.

Plati agrees with Michaud, saying that the most essential part of the prom drive is that it allows every student to feel included.

“It eliminates the stress of finding an outfit and makes prom a positive experience,” she said. “We want to enable every student to feel like a superstar on prom night.”

Many students in the past have benefited from the prom drive initiative. While it is true that financial obstacles pose challenges for some students, it's essential to recognize that this isn't always the case and Plati shared one story as an example.

“One of my friends ordered a prom dress, and it came in about two weeks before prom,” Plati said. “She quickly figured out it didn't fit and hated how it looked. She was devastated. She went to about every store in southern Maine and could not find a dress that suited her. She looked to the WHS prom drive and found her perfect dress in a matter of 20 minutes.”

Michaud said students have recognized that this initiative bolsters community spirit and provides a sense of unity among the student population.

“This prom drive culminates into an evening that transcends individual experiences,” Michaud said. “It becomes a collective gathering, where every student can come together, celebrate a fun high school experience, and revel in a special night of dancing and laughter that unites them.”

Plati said the WHS Student Council appreciates any support from the community and hopes to continue this fun tradition of glamour, creating a night of magic accessible for all students in the years to come.

Clean, gently used, or new prom dresses or suits in all sizes are all acceptable donations. Michaud said that all donated items will be checked by the Student Council students to ensure that they meet the quality and style standards determined by the council.

Donations will be accepted through May 3. <

Season nearing for Windham’s Community Garden

By Kaysa Jalbert

Looking to plant vegetables, herbs, or flowers this spring but don’t have the yard space for it? Starting May 1, or as soon as spring decides to arrive, the Windham Community Garden will open for residents to plant what they please and enjoy the peace that accompanies gardening.

Growing spaces at the Windham Community Garden on
Gray Road in Windham will be available for $35 for the 
2024 season. Gardeners from Windham and nearby
communities are welcome to use the spaces tp grow
vegetables and flowers with access to water available.
The Windham Community Garden is located on Route 202, just down from the Public Safety building and next to the skate park. The garden occupies approximately 1 acre of land loaned by the town and three quarters of that land is usable for gardening.

“People come to garden for the tranquility of it,” says Marge Govoni, Co-Chair of the Windham Community Garden. “Now, that sounds kind of silly because we are on right on 202 and it does have some traffic, but I can tell you when you're in there and you're gardening you are alone. We have a lot of people who grow stuff there and they share stuff with their neighbors. Getting your hands on the dirt, growing your own food, and then consuming it is a really great feeling.”

Garden beds are on a first-come first-serve basis to any Windham or neighboring community member. They are 10 feet by 20 feet plots and cost $35. The Community Garden supplies gardeners with all of the necessary tools such as wheelbarrows, rakes, and some pesticides with water spigots located around the garden for use.

They also supply organic compost that comes from Benson’s Farm in Gorham and uses lobster shells in its blend. Members of the garden are typically Windham locals or people from neighboring towns who don’t have access to a yard or gardening area.

“It's a lot of times folks who you probably would see visiting a farmers’ market because they prefer to know where their food came from, also it's fresher if you grow it, you know exactly what you put into it so you don't have to worry about pesticides or the process it went through and it's good,” Govoni said. “Oh my gosh, it tastes so good.”

There is one thing that the Windham Community Garden Committee asks members not to plant and that’s potatoes. Govoni said that potatoes bring potato bugs that will eat everything and anything, causing problems for one’s own garden and others.

Nature itself is unpredictable and can raise some challenges for the garden as roaming animals such as deer and groundhogs search for food. To counter these challenges, the garden committee has set up a fence, placed various humane traps and arranged netting around the sheds where groundhogs tend to settle under.

Voles, however, can be a big problem for gardeners. Voles are small, hard-to-catch rodents related to hamsters and can produce up to 50 babies per season.

Govoni says to combat this issue the garden committee uses surround, a very thin covering like a cloth that lets in rain and sunlight. There is a minimal fee for the surround, and it comes in a large roll from which a community gardener can take as much as they need.

“I planted radishes and beets one time,” said Govoni. “And I only planted them once because I discovered that when the voles come along, I wouldn’t care if they ate it all, but they would just take a bite out of everything.”

The Community Garden was created in 2010 by a core group of individuals who thought a community garden was needed and would be well received and it was. The idea grew and in the first official growing season of 2011 they had 39 gardeners sign up and 37 completed the full season.

Originally the garden was on a smaller piece of property, but committee members went to the town before they decided to put a community park in and asked for it to be expanded. Now with more room to grow, they average between 80 to 90 beds with remaining space to add more if necessary.

The Windham Community Garden is always looking for new members who have a passion for gardening to join their committee and help upkeep the garden. Everyone is welcome but Govoni voiced interest in gaining younger members to help take on roles for some years to come.

If you show interest in joining the committee you can visit the contact page on the Windham Community Garden Website at<

Friday, March 1, 2024

WHS students spread happiness through flowers and decorations

By Jolene Bailey

Some students at Windham High School believe that acts of kindness result in happiness and have been expressing their care about others in many colorful ways during this school year.

Windham High School French Club members 
sells roses at the school on Valentine's Day.
From left are Sasha Funk (senior), Madison
Boyton (senior), Sam Kerr (senior), Lauren
Neal (sophomore), and Izabel Butler
(sophomore). SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Since school started last fall, WHS students have decorated so many classroom doors to celebrate the different seasons and holidays and students have decorated each classroom door in their advisory as a fun activity to start off their school day.

During the holiday season in December, when walking down the school’s hallways you could find paper cut out snowflakes hung on doors, doors that were wallpapered, and some with favorite characters dressed for the Christmas season.

This was a way to show positive messages, some students and teachers said. To celebrate Valentines Day, a walk around the school revealed WHS classroom doors adorned in different colors such as red and pink hearts with student names or motivating messages.

Another way to spread positivity and happiness took place in February when members of the WHS French Honors Society began selling roses. This has been a tradition for French students at WHS for more than five years.

“It’s a great fundraiser to spread love and brighten up the day. It's another wonderful way to make connections with classmates and teachers around the school,” said WHS French teacher Katy Dresnok.

She said that selling roses relate to a French class as both are symbolic. Dresnok said roses are the flowers of love and French is a romantic language.

“This has been very successful. It gives the kids in the French Honor Society a way to reach out to all the homeroom classes in the morning and see other students all while raising money for the program,” she said. “Handing out flowers, makes us feel good to see people surprised and feel loved.”

On Valentine's Day, WHS French students volunteered to hand out flowers to students and staff. The roses were priced at $3 each and students were able to send roses to others with a note or with a name attached or anonymously.

“When it's anonymous, the surprise builds suspense and curiosity,” Dresnok said. “When it comes from a friend, it brings joy and appreciation which is contagious.”

Receiving flowers and seeing positive messages all over your daily surroundings can make one feel good about themselves or help others with a rough day, leading to lifting spirits on the WHS campus, she said. <

Friday, February 23, 2024

Annexation of ‘gores’ part of Raymond history

By Ernest H. Knight

When a grant of land was made to the Beverly, Massachusetts Proprietors in 1765 by the Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was stated that this grant was to be in the unappropriated lands of the colony adjacent to a settled town. They were called gores and were thereafter known as unclaimed pieces of land lying between two adjacent townships in Maine.

At its inception, the Town of Raymond had five
of what is known as 'gores,' or unclaimed
pieces of land lying between adjacent townships
as shown on this 1839 map. These areas were
eventually annexed by the town or nearby
communities. COURTESY PHOTO
The proprietors, after advice and assistance by a Captain Skillin and viewing at least one other site settled up the Royal River from North Yarmouth, settled on what became known as Raymondtown adjacent for a short distance to New Marblehead, soon to change its name to Windham.

Raymondtown, as originally requested by the proprietors and granted by Massachusetts, was to run from the northerly corner of Windham (by Lakin Brook on Route 302 today) on a northeast course 7 1/2 miles, then 7 1/2 miles northwest over Tenney Hill, also 7 ½ miles northwest from the starting corner of Windham on the general course of Sebago Lake. As there was little to go by except the starting point, the lines did not necessarily have much relationship to the lines of the other towns then laid out or soon to be, which resulted in many errors.

As land was settled and the town lines developed, there were many homesteads and farmlands ending up in these gores, which meant that the heads of families could not vote in the affairs of the town, children could not attend schools and there were no taxes paid.

The gores on Raymondtown’s borders included:

** The Gray Gore, settled by families named Mussey, Hayden, and Plummer and this area was not annexed by the town of Raymond until 1859,

** The Poland Gore, settled in the 1830s by Henry Tenney, who appealed to the Maine Legislature to be taken into Raymond so his children could go to the Mountain Schoolhouse and so he could attend town meetings in Raymond instead of in the Town of Poland. This was done and the Tenneys became residents of Raymond.

** The Standish Gore on Raymond Cape was left when the Standish line crossed Sebago Lake from the tip of Standish Neck near White’s Bridge. This gore was settled by families named Mains, Meserve, Hasty, and Shaw. It was annexed by Raymond in 1859 while Standish Cape became part of Raymond in 1869.

** The Songo Gore, which was also known as the “Thousand Acre Parcel,” between the original northwest Raymondtown line and the shores of Sebago Lake and Songo River was taken into the town of Casco at some time after the separation of Casco from Raymond in 1841.

** The Hubbard Gore was a piece of land similar to the Songo Gore but on the opposite side of the Songo River from the Songo Gore. It is now part of Naples and was formed in 1829 from parts of Raymond, Sebago, Bridgton, Harrison and Otisfield.

The term “gore” is currently in general use only in Gore Road in Raymond, which is one of the roads from Route 85 to the Gray town line, through what was once part of the Gray Gore, and on to Little Sebago Lake as Aquilla Road.

A Raymond real estate agent once told a story that a woman contemplating the purchase of a home on that road was somewhat distressed at the thought of that being her address, imagining that some gory Indian massacre had taken place there. After learning the true origin of the name, she was much relieved and no longer kept it on her list of pros and cons about the purchase. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-310-0340.