Friday, December 22, 2023

Holiday banners enliven driving in Raymond this year

By Kendra Raymond

If you’ve traveled through Raymond via Route 302 recently, you may have noticed the cheerful holiday banners adorning some of the light posts along the way. The flags remind us to “dine, explore, and shop Raymond.”

Some of the new holiday banners on light posts around
Raymond on Route 302 are shown. The banners replaced
traditional Christmas wreaths hung along Route 302
which were costly to obtain and required many volunteers
to remove them at the end of the Christmas season 
This visually appealing display reminds us that our community provides an abundance of resources right at our fingertips. From great eating spots to quiet hikes, Raymond has it all.

Raymond Beautification Committee President Sharon Dodson said that the Raymond Public Works Department is responsible for placing the banners this year.

“We used to put up wreaths on all those poles,” she said. “We had to raise money for them. The school had bought the banners and hardware for each graduate during COVID and so we already had the most expensive part of the banner there.”

Don McClellan of Raymond Public Works is the go-to person for information about most of the decorations that appear along Route 302 in town. He said that he agrees that the banners came about because of COVID and the school graduate pictures. The hardware and brackets for the banners can be recycled, and the banners can be switched out as needed.

McClellan pointed out that the banners are much less “Christmas-y” than hanging wreaths. The colors selected are neutral and this allows the banners to be left up much longer than a traditional Christmas wreath.

He said that it was a massive effort each year involved with acquiring the wreaths and decorating each one.

“Our volunteers are slowing down,” McClellan said, “So it makes sense to shift to a lower-maintenance solution.”

Placing wreaths posed several problems including cost and disposal, but these banners are a more long-lasting solution.

“Banners could be used for several years before needing replacement, and much cheaper than wreaths which need to be purchased every year,” Dodson said.

Besides, the message conveyed lasts far beyond the holiday season.

McClellan calls it “long-term signage” which could ultimately evolve into banners being placed throughout the four seasons in town.

This opens the door for a lot of opportunities which could get the community involved, perhaps through its own committee or a push toward involving the younger generation of Raymond residents.

Many people may remember the American flags displayed in Raymond around Independence Day. This display is also thanks to the combined efforts of local veteran’s groups, Raymond Public Works, and the Raymond Lions Club over the years.

The Raymond Beautification Committee has always been involved with Route 302 decorating in some capacity, according to McClellan.

But unfortunately, membership is down and many of the committee members are less able to contribute this year than in the past, so these banners are a perfect solution in the short term.

McClellan said that the Raymond Beautification Committee remains a work in progress and continues to move forward.

He said that a revisioning for the committee is in the works, and Raymond residents will be kept informed as developments arise. <

Friday, December 15, 2023

Holiday plants: the gift that keeps giving

By Kendra Raymond

We’ve all received them; those gift plants often bestowed upon unwitting hosts and hostesses at holiday gatherings. It is always lovely to receive a small token of appreciation to brighten up the festivities. However, as the holiday season concludes, many of us are left looking at the once merry flora and wondering what we should do next.

Poinsettia come in a variety of colors during
the holiday season but are the least practical
choice for continued growth throughout
The good news is many gifted plants can have a productive life after their intended use. Sadly, most of them are tossed out with holiday refuse.

Dwayne Harris, owner of Blossoms of Windham says that he is all sold out of flowering bulbs. It is hard to compete with the big box stores that often sell them at a much lower price. At present, decorated boxwood trees are available in his shop and are a great lasting choice. They can be planted outdoors in spring.

Harris says that business is starting to pick up as Christmas draws closer. Many people order floral centerpieces and other arrangements as gifts. He said, “It is busier than in past years. We are noticing a bit of foot traffic, which is nice to see.”

Courtney King owns Studio Flora in Windham. The shop has recently relocated, and King says business is good. She says decorated boxwood trees are a popular choice this season. People are buying less poinsettias due to concerns about toxicity with pets. She says that Christmas cactus are a good seller and a great practical choice.


Plants forced from bulbs are very common during the holiday season. Amaryllis is a tropical plant that grows from an enormous fast-growing bulb. The reward is a showy flower in a red or pink variation. The larger the bulb, the more flowers it will produce.

After the flowers fade, the plant can be kept actively growing. Simply cut the flowers off and leave the tall stem until it turns yellow. Next, place the Amaryllis in a very sunny window and continue to water and fertilize regularly. Green leaves will emerge as the plant continues to photosynthesize.

When spring arrives, the plant can be moved outdoors. Start with indirect sun, then transition to a sunny location on a deck or step. Bring the Amaryllis indoors when temperatures drop, and frost is suspected.


Paperwhites are a popular choice during the holidays. They are easy to grow in pebbles, soil, or water. The blooms last for several weeks and are fragrant.

Once the flowers have passed, remove them, and allow the foliage to grow until it yellows. Cut off the leaves and store the bulbs in a cool dark place. In the fall, the bulbs can be forced again, planted outdoors.

Christmas Cactus

Despite the name, the Christmas cactus is not the typical desert cactus that comes to mind. Native to tropical rainforests, these plants require diffuse sunlight and evenly moist soil.

They especially enjoy high humidity and temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Fertilize during the summer to encourage blooms in early winter. Choose a fertilizer with lower nitrogen such as Miracle Gro Bloom Booster. Shorter days, cool temperatures, and low water all force the dormant stage which supports holiday blooming.

These are hearty plants that can live and bloom for many years.


The poinsettia is the most recognizable plant of the holiday season. The colorful petals are leaves while the smaller center cluster is the actual flower. They thrive in bright sun and warm house temperatures.

Following the holidays, fertilize and prune any leggy branches. The poinsettia can be moved outside during the summer. Sadly, reproducing colored blooms is quite challenging.

Of course, the cut flower centerpiece is a timeless (and disposable) classic and King said that a lot of times people order small floral arrangements close to Christmas as hostess gifts. She also sells a selection of gifts and plants.

Harris agrees.

“It’s a whole new world,” Harris said. “Things are different than the past few years. You don’t know which direction it will go, and you have to be able to shift.”

The University of Minnesota Extension offers a great fact sheet on amaryllis:

Penn State Extension provides tips on paperwhites:

Christmas cactus information: <

Friday, December 8, 2023

Holiday baking with kids worth the hassle

By Kendra Raymond

Who can let the holiday season go by without incorporating some kind of special cooking into the festivities? The aroma of sweets in the oven, music and sparkly lights conjures pleasurable visions in our minds. Some people find kitchen time relaxing, while for others it can be more stressful. Enter - kids and you have added yet another challenging facet to the experience, and presumably a lot of mess!

A photo from previous years shows how much
fun parents can have baking with their children
over the holiday season.
I remember receiving hand-written notes from my daughter which exclaimed, “Mommy, I want to cook with you so bad!” At the time, I had several of her siblings also under my care, so sadly our cooking moments were not as plentiful as I wished.

No kid-filled baking experience will ever go as planned in a spotless kitchen. If you decide to delve into this proverbial rabbit hole, just come armed with the proper attitude and ammunition, and everything will work out just fine.

Youth of any age will benefit from cooking with a responsible adult. Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, Extension Professor with University of Maine Cooperative Extension said, “It’s never too early to start. Kids can learn to meet their own food needs through cooking.”

Savioe stresses the importance of choosing age-appropriate tasks to set the little ones up for success. She says that time spent in the kitchen learning from an adult can instill confidence. The new skills learned can be empowering.

“I certainly believe that cooking with kids is an important activity to start,” Savoie said. “It helps instill lifelong curiosity about cooking.”

With so many benefits for kids, cooking is a worthwhile time investment for parents. Savoie outlined the most noteworthy.

Youngsters can hone fine motor skills while cooking. Stirring, supervised slicing and measuring are all tasks that keep little hands busy.

Kids can practice reading by following a recipe. They can exercise math skills with measuring tools. More advanced cooks can learn about multiplying a recipe if additional guests plan to attend.

Savoie reminds us that cooking is science. It is a great opportunity to see the changes that happen to the ingredients that are combined and baked or chilled.

Many cultures and families value the dining process with great momentousness. Sharing family recipes with children can strengthen the bond between generations. These dishes can become revered and passed from generation to generation.


According to Maine Snap-Ed, kids are more likely to eat food that they choose and prepare. Steer the little ones toward kid-friendly and healthy recipes. Discuss quantities and supplies you will need. Allow them to help make a shopping list and visit the supermarket with you.


Take the time to discuss costs and considerations as you move through the aisles. It might be helpful to add the prices as you go along. Have the child read the list to you and let them fill the cart.

Math and Reading

Following a recipe is a great opportunity to practice math and reading. Explain how the various measuring tools work, and the importance of accuracy. The kids will have fun reading the recipe steps aloud.


Review safety in the kitchen with your little bakers. Everyone should wash their hands first. All surfaces should be clear and sanitary. A review of stove and oven safety is a great reminder each time you cook with kids.

Savoie emphasizes food safety steps to take. No one should consume raw dough, flour, eggs, or meat.

Final steps

Washing the dishes and countertops is part of the cooking process. Kids will enjoy playing with the dish bubbles, and you will welcome the “help”. Don’t forget gratitude; take a minute to thank your helpers and recognize how lucky you are to share these moments together.

My daughter is now 22 and is an accomplished culinarian. I can’t remember the last time she asked to cook with me. If I could turn back the clock, I would find the time to cook with that little girl every day. 

Here are some helpful links to get started:

Cooking with Children by the University of Illinois Extension:

Maine Snap-Ed offers some great advice here:

The Maine Secretary of State Kids’ page provides recipes for children using Maine ingredients: <

Friday, December 1, 2023

Choosing a perfect Christmas tree not always easy

By Kendra Raymond

If your holiday celebrations include a Christmas tree, keep in mind that not all trees are created equal. A pretty tree at a roadside lot may be convenient but can cost more and may not be freshly cut.

A family brings home the perfect Christmas
tree during a recent outing in Raymond.
There are several options to obtain a fresh tree right here in Raymond.

Tree farm owner Bob Payne of Raymond Hill Christmas Tree Farm specializes in choose-and-cut trees. He maintains his inventory through a growing program with a seasonal quota. Once he reaches the limit, he is “sold out for the season.”

Visiting a tree farm supports local business, and customers can benefit from the expertise and knowledge of those who have cultivated the trees all year long.

“Business is very good. People are getting out much earlier in search of their perfect Christmas tree,” said Sharon Lloy of Balsam Ridge in Raymond.

She was happy to see an older 15-footer adopted recently by a family with a cathedral ceiling in their home.

If harvesting a tree is not your forte, most farms offer trees they have recently cut which they can wrap and load for you. These trees are often the crème of the crop.

Why purchase a freshly cut tree?

Believe it or not, a fresh-cut tree is better for the environment than an artificial tree. An acre of trees produces enough daily oxygen for 18 people, and they also attract wildlife.

Trees at farms have been planted for the purpose of harvesting. They can be recycled and chipped, providing mulch or animal bedding.

Artificial trees are not bio-degradable and use many resources during production that are not friendly to the environment.

Which type of tree?

A Maine Forest Service publication entitled “Identifying Maine Trees” says over 90 percent of Christmas trees grown in Maine are balsam fir, which is the most fragrant. Fraser fir can hang onto needles longer, but with less aroma. Lloy suggested a newer balsam-Fraser hybrid which combines features of both species.

How do I care for it?

The tree should be placed in the stand or a bucket of water immediately after arriving at home.

Place your tree in a stand filled with water. The trunk should be freshly cut straight across at least one-half inch thick.

Fill the reservoir daily and do not allow the tree to become dry. Always inspect lights for safety and turn them off when leaving or going out.

A live tree?

The concept of a living tree is gaining popularity among holiday merrymakers. This avenue can have great benefits, but keep in mind that there are also downsides. A living tree is potted in soil and will be much more fragrant in your home. It can be planted outdoors once the ground is thawed or in a pre-dug hole and non-frozen soil.

A live tree will cost much more than a cut tree and will not be happy in the warmth indoors for more than a week. They can also be heavy and cumbersome in the house.

Let’s recycle!

Once the holiday festivities are wrapped up, it is time to plan for recycling your tree. Some families like to relocate the tree outdoors and decorate it with orange slices, suet, peanut butter, or bird seed. Wild animals will enjoy the tree until it can be recycled in spring.

Payne recommends taking your tree to local businesses that produce mulch. He says he is often solicited for contributions of branches, trees, and stumps.

Donating trees to goat farms for food is gaining in popularity. It is important to remove all decorations and tinsel before sharing with the goats. Lloy says trees are a wonderful renewable resource and there are many recycling options.

Raymond Public Works director Nathan White says that the Town of Raymond doesn’t have a tree recycling program yet but it’s a great goal for the future. He says the chipped trees could potentially be made into erosion control mulch for residents.

If a Christmas tree is in your future, consider a choose and cut tree. Lloy says, “it’s a step back in time” and an enjoyable moment with family.

Learn more about Christmas trees in Maine from MCTA on their website: <