Friday, October 28, 2022

Apple orchards look for rebound after subpar season

By Abby Wilson

The last of the apples have fallen from trees in Cumberland County and throughout the Lakes Region where the season was not very good due to summer droughts across the southern part of the state.

Varieties of apples are plentiful in Maine,
but this past season was tough for apple
growers such as Meadow Brook Farm in 
Raymond because of continuing drought 
We all noticed the lack of rain this summer, but how does a dry summer affect fruits and fall harvests? Apple trees flower in the spring and begin to produce fruitlets (clusters of young apples) shortly after. If these fruitlets do not get enough water, the tree will drop them, to conserve nutrients.

This affected both wild trees and orchards this season. Paired with the fact that many apple trees are biannual producers, the season was sub-par, growers say.

In fact, the entire Cumberland County area was hit hardest in the state with drought. Northern Maine sites like Aroostook County had a much better apple season, says Alexander M. Koch, a “fruit explorer” originally from Cumberland.

Koch travels throughout the state, and sometimes further, to talk with other apple lovers. He considers himself a “fruit explorer” and has an orchard of about a dozen fruit trees himself.

“My main interest is finding wild varieties with desired traits and spreading the word about them,” Koch said.

If you’ve ever set foot in an orchard, you know that apples come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But you probably didn’t know that apple growing season is much longer than the one month in the fall when harvesting is most popular.

Some varieties, like Black Oxford, a Maine heirloom apple, isn’t ready to pick until November. Some varieties are ready as early as July. However, the peak season for popular and delicious apples such as Cortland, Macintosh, and Honeycrisp, is September to mid-October.

Pick-your-own is very popular in the early fall because so many tasty varieties are ready to eat right off the branch, but the weather and foliage are also pleasant, which brings many people out to the orchards.

There are so many apples in Maine and the popular variety is constantly changing. You can actually date an old orchard based on the varieties that are present, says Koch.

If an older or younger variety is present, you’ll know so based on historical evidence. For example, if a Baldwin apple tree is present in the orchard, it’s probably a newer variety, because we know Baldwins were mostly wiped out by frost in the early 1900s.

Apples go through many phases of inspection before being packed to sell. If the operation is large enough, industrial machines will do the grading and sorting. Most farms have employees that look over each apple to determine quality. The best apples go to grocery stores. Others will be sold in the farm store, be pressed into cider, or go to the pig farmers/compost pile.

These graders are inspecting each individual apple for insect damage, deformities, or small holes from other apple stems. Produce markets expect apples to look a certain way and to be a certain size, even though size does not change the taste of the apple. Honeycrisps are expected to be bigger than liberty apples, otherwise people may not want them.

Pick-your-own is over, and the trees are bare, the ground is littered, and there’s about 30 apples with one bite out of them strewn across the parking lot. What happens now?

Once the season is now over and orchards give their “drops,” apples that have fallen naturally to the ground, to farmers which then feed livestock such as pigs or chickens. If spiked cider is being produced, many small orchard owners can use these drops because the cider will be fermented and therefore, a sterilizing process can naturally occur. Otherwise, these dropped apples become compost.

The most popular varieties today are apples such as Macintosh or Honeycrisp. If orchardists know people buy certain varieties, they tend to grow those varieties. But popularity is always changing, Koch says, and “Heirloom varieties are picking up momentum”. These are varieties that have been grown in Maine for hundreds of years and lately, interest in them is growing.

Black Oxford for example, is an heirloom apple variety that was historically grown in Maine due to its cold-hardiness and its ability to be stored for months through the winter.

Besides droughts, there are other threats to apples which include invasive insects, like the brown tail moth, fungus, and disease.

The new owners at Meadow Brook Farm in Raymond have spent their first-year learning all there is to know about growing apples in Maine.

“We experienced a very short season this year. Fingers crossed for a longer 2023 season as we have some fun and delicious things planned for next year,” Meadow Brook owner Shana Webb said. <

Friday, October 21, 2022

Author seeks public’s help in telling history of Maine Correctional Center in Windham

By Ed Pierce

A Falmouth author is seeking the public’s help in gathering information for a short story he is writing about the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Author Brad Fogg is seeking the public's
help in telling the story of the history of the
Maine Correctional Center from anyone
who used to work there or has old photos
from years ago from there. COURTESY PHOTO 
Brad Fogg worked at the Maine Correctional Center for many years and says that he is trying to locate individuals or families of people who worked there years ago. He is hoping to include interviews with them or photos they may have about the correctional center for a story about the history of the facility.

“I’m writing a history of the first 100 years of the Maine Correctional Center and would like to speak with anyone who may still be around that worked or lived there anytime up to 70 years ago,” Fogg said. “I’d like to know what they experienced there.”

Fogg says it is an important project that he felt compelled to undertake.

“They will be tearing down the old buildings and building some new ones and I feel it is important to have something written down about the history of the Maine Correctional Center from people in Windham and the surrounding area who worked there,” he said. “I didn’t want this opportunity to pass without future generations knowing more about the history of this facility.”

The Maine Correctional Center in Windham was originally created in 1919 as the Maine Reformatory for Men by an act of the Maine Legislature.

At some point, the facility was renamed as the Men's Correctional Center and housed men as well as women.

Originally called the Reformatory for Men, it was later named the “Men's” Correctional Center. In 1976, the Stevens School was closed and the women were moved to the renamed “Maine” Correctional Center.

Today, the MCC complex includes a medium-custody facility which currently houses about 650 incarcerated men and women, as well as a 96-bed Minimum and Community custody facility for women called the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center.

The Maine Correctional Center is the primary reception center for the Maine Department of Corrections’ adult population.

Fogg has given presentations about the history of the facility in recent years, but now would like to include stories from anyone who may have worked there from the 1950s on in a short story format.

“I just don’t want the history of the correctional center to be lost,” he said.

To reach Fogg to schedule an interview or to contribute a photo, call him at 207-405-4420 or send him at email at <

A matter of historical record: Local historian traces ancient shoreline of what was larger Little Sebago Lake

By Walter Lunt

Two massive floods, 50 years apart in the 1800s, drained Little Sebago Lake of one-third its water mass, irrevocably changing the geography along a flooded path between what is now Collins Pond and the Fosters Corner rotary. The events created fresh beaches, new islands and erased one small brook, replacing it with a larger free-flowing stream.

Gray area shows the present Little
Sebago Lake. Adjacent area, shown in
blue, indicates former size of the lake.
Note that Mill and Collins' Ponds were
once  part of the lake.
Little Sebago’s shores were sparsely settled in the mid-19th century. Over the next 150 years there was little regard given to the original size of the lake. Interest in the lake’s history surfaced only in recent memory, principally among the modern camp and homeowners on Little Sebago. “How much bigger was it?” was a common question. Before discussing the results of a local historian’s research into that question, let’s review the origin of Little Sebago’s contracted shoreline.

Ellery Sawyer, whose residence was situated near the present- day Mill Pond in North Windham, sat down to breakfast on the early morning of May 7, 1861. From a short distance away, a loud crack and roar would prevent him from finishing his eggs and coffee. A log and earthen dam, holding back a giant portion of Little Sebago Lake, had exploded following many days of winter run-off and heavy spring rains. And as one historian put it, “…great the fall thereof.” In the following hours, tiny, nondescript Smith Brook would not only be transformed into a raging torrent but erased from the local geography.

Sawyer had been monitoring the dam; his worst fears had now turned to reality. Leaving his morning meal uneaten, Sawyer mounted his steed and rode off to warn all who were downstream of the violent wall of water. In the preceding few weeks, the Pope brothers, who owned the dam, had been warned countless times of its vulnerable condition, having been built on top of pebbles and sand. Now, a furious surge of Little Sebago water was carving a new stream toward Pleasant River and ultimately the Pope Mills at Windham Center.

In less than three hours, residents, and onlookers at the small Pleasant River village of Popeville could hear the dull upstream roar of water converging on their mill site and bridge. Samuel T. Dole, historian and author of Windham in the Past (1914) was a young clerk working at the Popeville mills at the time and was an eyewitness to the destructive onslaught.

“…around a (an upstream) curve in the river came an immense wave bearing on its crest a large quantity of …stumps, the ruin of bridges, mill logs, cord wood and trees that had been torn up by the roots…borne along with irresistible force by the rushing waters.”

Most of the mill site, including machinery, materials, mill products, the basement of a nearby store and the Pope Road bridge was destroyed, all washed downstream.

The so-called great freshet (severe flood) of 1861 was not the first to wash away the region. Forty-seven years earlier, in 1814, a similar catastrophe occurred in the same place in much the same way.

Maj. Edward Anderson of Windham Hill owned a sawmill on Pleasant River that needed more waterpower. Seeking the chief source of his water, Anderson followed a tiny tributary, Smith Brook, to its origin near the base of Little Sebago Lake. Here he dug through an earthen berm, releasing lake water to his mill. The deed was successful and Anderson’s lumbering operation became quite prosperous, employing many men. However, on June 14, 1814 during a period of high water, the mill dam was undermined; its collapse unleashed a torrent of water out of Little Sebago that redirected Smith Brook (creating what is today Ditch Brook) and demolished all the mills and bridges on Pleasant River as far downstream as Gambo and Mallison Falls on the Presumpscot River.

These two major floods, taken together, drained as much as one-third of the water area of Little Sebago Lake.

Around 2010, Raymond Philpot, a life- long resident of North Windham, set out to learn just how expansive the earlier lake was, and more specifically, how much higher.

Much of Philpot’s childhood days were spent on the lake. He was familiar with the lake’s landforms, terrain, and ridges, but paid little attention to them.

He began with the written history (Dole and others) and with stories passed down from long before his time. One piece of information proved to be the essential starting point: elevation above sea level. The lake’s current elevation is measured at approximately 286 feet. Before 1814, it was nearly 300 feet.

Using a modern topographical map, Philpot used a blue marker to trace the 300-foot line around Little Sebago. The result showed a considerable expansion of the shoreline, enough to reveal that most, if not all, of the current camps and homes would be inundated with water, if not underwater. Collins Pond, which was part of Little Sebago pre-1814, would be about 40 feet higher. Both Collins and Mill Ponds did not exist as separate water bodies before the two floods but were part of Little Sebago Lake. Consider too, many of the lake’s islands did not exist. Horse Island did but added more acreage after the flooding.

Particularly noteworthy, says Philpot, is that the lake extended all the way to current-day route 302. Early travelers would pause to water horse and oxen teams at a point near the Pope Road/302 intersection – specifically, behind where Cumberland Title at 585 Roosevelt Trail is today; here, the drop-off near the building is where the lake’s edge lapped the shoreline.

Graphic evidence of the lake’s former elevation is clearly seen on a huge boulder that rises in the upper lake. In the photo shown here, a few feet below the swimmer, there is a pronounced indentation formed by many years of erosive splashing motion from the surface water. This is likely the original water level of Little Sebago Lake, pre-1814. Philpot says there no hint of an indentation at the current water level, which has been hugging the rock for over 200 years. He says the only remaining question is, “…how many thousands of years did it take to create the higher indentation?” <

Friday, October 7, 2022

Be The Influence greets new project coordinator

By Masha Yurkevich

Teenage years are not easy. Young adults want to fit in, grow up, try new things and be cool in ways that they think are cool. They are like a sponge, soaking up whatever they see and hear. Unfortunately, many of these young minds cannot yet decipher the difference between what is good what is bad, leading to many poor choices. While these poor choices can be from society, family or friends, Be The Influence (BTI) is there to be a friend, an example, and a trusted adult, and now has a new coordinator.

Be The Influence's new project coordinator
Crystal Aldrich, left, is shown with BTI
Director Laura Morris. Aldrich says that she's
excited about creating a strong community
that listens to everyone and provides an'
educational foundation for its youth to grow
BTI started as a small group in March 2014 as the result of some Windham and Raymond community members who joined forces to raise awareness about substance abuse and to address their concerns about it. With the help of Drug-Free Community Federal Funding, BTI was officially formed and began to focus its attention on the youth within the community.

But this is no easy job. It requires a lot of organization and preparation. But new BTI project coordinator Crystal Aldrich has all of these skills, and more.

Aldrich moved to Windham a year ago from Sioux Falls, South Dakota with her husband and their three sons. She has graduated from Chadron State College and has lived in seven different states. She enjoys hiking, yoga, reading and traveling.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comprehensive Theatre, Aldrich is using the skills she developed working with young children in daycare and elementary schools.

She said she also loves making a difference and being involved in the community, making her all the better of a fit for BTI project coordinator.

Aldrich officially became a BTI staff member Sept. 6. As a BTI coordinator, she will assist the director with all the various activities that BTI provides to the community and youth.

“The Be The Influence vision is to provide support and resources to students as well as communicate a consistent drug - free message, assuring students that they live in a community that cares about them,” says Aldrich. “It is comprised of various members of the community who want to make a difference and influence youth in positive ways.”

To Aldrich, this is important because community and youth are so integral to a great city or town. Having resources available and people who listen really makes a difference in how people treat each

other. Since moving to Maine, Aldrich and her family have been welcomed and feel very at home, and she really feels like programs such as BTI are why.

Aldrich said that she is excited about this position because she cares about creating a very strong community that listens to everyone and provides an educational foundation for youth to grow and lead.

According to Aldrich, as today’s children are the future of tomorrow, it is important to set them up and help them to be the best that they can be so that they can make the future bright, successful and positive.

BTI has been helping children with this for the past eight years, being that trusted, caring adult, that positive role model, that shoulder to lean on, that listening ear, and it’s hoped that with Aldrich, it will only continue to reach greater heights by raising awareness and addressing substance use and abuse in the community. <