Showing posts with label Maine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maine. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Preserving a Legacy: Protecting One Bat at a Time

Working in a in a public office building in Bangor, Maine, I hear a lot of things.  When I overheard a kind-hearted colleague worrying about what was going to happen to a bat that was clinging to a wall in the back stairwell, my ears perked up. She had called several agencies she thought would care, but they never returned her calls and nobody ever showed up to assist the bat. I knew immediately the bat was certainly in a place where the poor thing would either be trapped without adequate food or water once it came out of hibernation in the spring or would be exterminated by people who  misunderstood its critical role in our ecosystem that relies so heavily on the benefits bats provides.
The bat was trapped in a public building...what to do?

Legacy, Brown Bat ©Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2014 All Rights Reserved
The bat is rescued and ready
 for transport to Misfits Rebab in Auburn,

Anyone who really knows me, knows that since childhood I have involved myself with wildlife rescues. I am a tree-hugging advocate for organic crops and nature in its wild and natural state. I believe all things on earth are provided to support other things in a never-ending cycle of life that spins evenly in a perfect circle. I also believe when you remove anything from the natural order of things, things get out of balance and life on earth starts to warble out of balance.  History repeatedly  tells us about mistakes we, as humans, have made by not focusing on nature, yet somehow our culture has gotten in the way of actually noticing those facts for the most part. Much of the world’s population, is, as I am, busy with everything else going on in an environment where new funky shoes, a better smart phone, and a political scandal seem important. A little bat’s plight and the impact this one creature has on the environment can easily go unnoticed in our busy day-to-day lives. I had to care.
Legacy the Brown Bat ©Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2014 All Rights Reserved
Legacy the bat,  is in good hands for the
winter and will return to the great Maine
outdoors to carry on nature's legacy
in the spring.

I’d never rescued a bat before, how hard could it be? An Internet search led me to a wonderful site,, that told me just about everything I never knew about bats. It can actually put you in touch with the name and number for an expert on the subject anywhere in the world. I was impressed! I was also talking to my contact in Auburn, Maine within minutes learning how to go about a rescue and how to care for the bat until I could transport it to her about a hundred miles away.

With the assistance of three more co-workers, the rescue took place successfully and the bat was delivered in good health to Misfits Rehab in Auburn. It will spend the remainder of the winter with eleven other bats who have also ended up in the shelter for one reason or another this season and be cared for by a trained and licensed bat care expert.  We have named him Legacy.

Very special and interesting things I’ve learned from the little brown bat named Legacy:

·         First of all he is not a rodent and is not even related to rodents. He is scientifically classified as Chiroptera, a Greek word which means hand-wing.  Bats are grouped with primates and lemurs in a grand order called Archonta.

·         Legacy is a male large brown bat, the most common bat to this area. As small as Legacy is, he is the largest bat species in Maine. Maine also has a little brown bat and a rare long-haired bat.

·         Even though he is common, his species is threatened by a disease called White Nosed Syndrome (WNS) which is proving to be devastating to the bat populations in Maine and elsewhere. If you see a bat with white on its face of wingtips, please report it. There is no cure, yet, but it will help experts track and learn about the disease. Legacy does not suffer from WNS.

·         Legacy is an insect eater. Insect-eating bats are equipped with a unique built in sonar system, echolocation, that’s thousands of times more efficient than any sonar system built by humans. Bats use it for navigating at record speeds through total darkness.  If it seems a bat is swooping at your hair, it is really after a mosquito that is preparing to bite you.

·         Legacy will be inoculated while he is in rehab. Bats do not carry rabies, however, they are capable of catching the disease just like any mammal is.

·         This bat will most likely migrate back to Bangor when it released in the spring to do its part in catching about 1,200 mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects per hour when feeding at night around the Kenduskeag Stream, Penobscot River, and, if you are a lucky Bangor resident, in your back yard.

·         Bats are extremely clean creatures and devote a lot of time grooming their fur, very much like a cat does.

·         Half of the bats in the United States are listed as rare, threatened or endangered. It is usually illegal to exterminate a bat.

·         I never dreamed I could, but I fell in love with a bat. I’m so glad I could help him out.

Blae and I hope you have taken a little time out of your busy day to read this and learn a bit about bats and what they mean to our planet.  If you see a bat trapped in a building, or orphaned, you can find helpful information, just like I did, on

If you wish to read about Legacy's rescue, it is documented on

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2014 All Rights Reserved 

Monday, February 25, 2013

L & H Burgers: The Best Burgers in Rockland, Maine and Possibly the World

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2013 All Rights Reserved
Just around the corner from the Maine Lighthouse Museum
you'll find the best burgers you may ever eat anywhere at L & H Burgers

Knowing we were in for the third snowy Sunday in a row this February, my husband and I decided to catch a little break from our routines this past Saturday to take Blae out to nose around Maine.  This is the time of year us Mainers are starting to dream of spring, about a month away according to the calendar, but maybe longer according to our weather. It’s also the time of year we enjoy poking around our coastal communities, before the tourists arrive, to see what pleasures and treasures are in store for the coming Maine summer. Saturday, we hit the jackpot in Rockland.

© Copyright Daniel B. VanWart 2013 All Rights Reserved
L & H Burgers
We had meandered down coastal US Route 1 from Bangor and arrived in Rockland just in time to be hungry for lunch. Dan had heard of a really terrific new place to get a sandwich or burger on Main Street. So, we turned left at the light and headed for Main Street, and there it was. Just as if we were meant to be there, a parking spot availed itself on the heavily traveled street right in front of L & H Burgers’ doorway. 

Upon entering the charming little eatery we found it decorated simply with unframed art and a smattering of antiques.  We took the two last available seats, Blae had to wait this one out in the car.  Others were following us through the doors, so we had lucked out again. But I didn’t really realize how fortunate we were to be there until my order arrived and I took my first bite.

I had ordered the house made veggie burger served with Coleslaw, and everything about it was perfect. I have never had a veggie burger of such quality and taste. After eating it, I can probably never eat a veggie burger anywhere else again. Yes, it was that good. The slaw was the freshest I have ever been served in any restaurant as well, and I have dined throughout the entire United States, Canada, Aruba, Guam, and Lithuania.

© Copyright Daniel B. VanWart 2013 All Rights Reserved
Sister Restaurant on Main Street, Rockland
Rustica Cucina Italiana
As I was savoring every bite, I looked across the table at Dan who had ordered a regular, or classic, burger with Swiss cheese and onion served with hand cut fries. He announced, “This is the best burger I have eaten anywhere.” That was amazing coming from the pickiest eater I’ve ever met. He has been looking for a “great” burger for years, actually searching for one every time we travel or eat in a different town.

Yes, we had hit the jackpot at L & H Burgers, 313 Main Street in Rockland, Maine. You can bet we’ll eat there again and again.  Their menu is loaded with many interesting starters, burgers, Panini’s, salads, and desserts. They even offer gluten free buns. Another nice option, especially during the busy summer months, is a take out line, 207-593-7996.

L & H Burgers pleased us so much we now want to try their sister restaurant, Rustica, located right next door. It has carried the area's title of “The Best of the Best” for Italian cuisine since it opened in 2006. It is so highly recommended we're told you should make a reservation or be prepared to wait and hope you’ll eventually get in.

Did I mention we hit the jackpot for lunch? Well, we did, but poor Blae didn’t. We usually remember to save him a bite or two when we eat out during a nosing around outing.  This time our burgers were so fantastic we consumed them completely without saving him a blessed crumb. He, of course, made us feel guilty and we had to stop further down Route 1 in Thomaston to buy him a treat.

© Copyright Daniel B. VanWart 2013 All Rights Reserved
A menu feature at
L & H Burgers, Rockland, Maine
Most of all, I’m delighted to find in our fast food world, a place you can appreciate fresh wholesome ingredients and real food made from scratch.  L & H Burgers is a five star lunch in my book.  Next time I visit Rockland I’m going to try their Picasso and I’ll try to save a taste for Blae. No promises.

Check out their links:

© Copyright 2013 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo 

and Lincoln Counties

Look for contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail

Monday, February 18, 2013

In Bangor, Maine the Library is Much More than Books

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2013  All rights Reserved
Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow Street, Bangor, Maine 

Since the days of its humble beginnings in 1830 as the Bangor Mechanics Association, with a collection of just seven books stored in a footlocker, the Bangor Public Library has served its community as a place of learning and sharing, not only in the form of books, but also in the form of exhibits, lectures, workshops, and social gatherings.
Bangor Public Library, Bangor,  Maine
The Bangor Public Library
displays art and artifacts from both
the past and the present.

Gardens, Grounds, and Children Exhibit by Debbie Story Alexander
Gardens, Grounds, and Children
Exhibit by Debbie Story Alexander
February 2013  at
the Bangor Public Library
I have known this library since I was a child, but even to this day I feel small climbing its massive stone steps and entering through its immense oak doorway that leads the way to a wealth of knowledge—vast knowledge I can merely sample portions of over my entire lifetime. I love this place!
I love the Bangor Public Library even more when its exhibits, lectures, book signings, and other events pay tribute to people I know in the area. With that being said, I’d like to introduce you to Debbie Story Alexander. Over the years we have been both colleagues at EMHS and friends, so I am delighted the Bangor Public Library recognizes her talent as an artist. Her acrylic paintings are presently part of the library’s many exhibits. You’ll find her work on display in the Stairwell Gallery. Other local Maine artists with works on display are Peg Hanson in the Stairwell Gallery Display Case and members of the Bangor Art Society in the Lecture Hall.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I’ll scatter some images of Debbie’s paintings throughout the rest of this blog, which will focus on the rekindled passion Debbie has for creating them. Her own words and works of art tell her story best.
Maine Artist
Debbie Story Alexander, Artist
I am not sure if I have always had the good fortune to be surrounded by very talented people or if I just recognize that all people have talent, they just don't always know it or show it.

A family friend used to have me scribble on a piece of paper and he would add some scribbles of his own and turn my little scribble into a cartoon character or scene. Each little scribble can be the start of an amazing painting and each person scribbling has the potential to be an artist.
Painting by Debbie Story Alexander, Maine Artist 
I did some drawing in high school art classes under Christopher Pike. After high school I didn't draw very much. I had three children and worked full time so there was no time left for drawing or painting.”

After Debbie’s marriage of twenty-seven years unfortunately ended in divorce in 2007, and with her children grown, she found she had time on her hands and needed something to do. Watching her sister, Linda Story Kam, paint made her realize it was something she missed. With the encouragement of her best friend (and current husband) she purchased supplies and took some art classes offered through Bangor and Hampden Adult Education programs.

Painting by Debbie Story Alexander, Maine ArtistShe also credits her husband, Joe, for lending a critical eye and advice, as well as his moral support. “If I’m in the middle of a painting and can’t get the color just right, I get input from Joe. He is very good with color. I have tried to encourage him to paint, as well, but have not succeeded, yet. We do watch Bob Ross painting shows together.”

Painting by Debbie Story Alexander, Maine ArtistNow that she’s back into the swing of it, she is dedicated to her art. Debbie says, “I paint almost every day. I am inspired by my grandchildren, gardens, nature, and architecture.” You can clearly see that in her work.

If you are in or near Bangor, Maine, it’s worth a trip to Harlow Street to check out what is happening at the Bangor Public Library. You are sure to run into much more than a collection of books. Debbie Story Alexander’s exhibit, Gardens, Grounds, and Children, will be displayed at the library through the end of February. Her work is also currently on display in the cafeteria at Eastern Maine Medical Center on State Street, also in Bangor.

Gardens, Grounds, and Children Exhibit at Bangor Public Library, Maine
Paintings by Debbie Story Alexander, Maine Artist
Stairwell Gallery Lobby, Bangor Public Library
145 Harlow Street, Bangor, Maine 

Note:  A Commemorative History of the Bangor Public Library
Seven Books in a Footlocker, is offered for sale at the library’s circulation desk.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2013  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last Night! New Year's Eve in Blue Hill, Maine

Photo by Tom Leigh Courtesy of the Last Night Committee

Toss out the old year! Ring in the New Year in Blue Hill! 

It's both admission free and chem-free. That's right; free entertainment, food, and fun for the entire family.

Maine is renowned for its unique line-up of homegrown events that bring communities together to foster traditions that are often lost in the glitter of blinding bright lights in our fast-paced, modern culture. A prime example is an event that started in 2003 with a steel band performance by Flash! In the Pan on New Year’s Eve at the Blue Hill Town Hall. Their performance that particular “last night” sparked inspiration that’s since evolved into an annual fun-for-the-entire-family event that attracts visitors from miles around. One has to personally experience a New Year’s Eve in Blue Hill to honestly feel its significance. Having done so, myself, I can attest that the entertainers, businesses, and volunteers turn the entire town, from end to end, into an unforgettable celebration. Plus, everything offered at the festivities is donated, from its food and drink at the firehouse right down to its performances by musical entertainers, poets, storytellers, actors, puppeteers, etc. hosted around town.

As Nigel Chase expresses, “It is such an amazing sight to see so many people walking the streets in the bitter cold…” as they migrate from venue to venue throughout the night. Nigel is a member of the Last Night Committee, which is a subcommittee of Peninsula Pan, Inc, the official organizer for the event and a non-profit organization supporting steel drum music and education in Down East Maine. He’s pleased with how Last Night! has evolved and very proud of the many personalities and performers who step up and share their talent for free—on an evening which they would be paid for elsewhere. Over the years, even Noel Paul Stookey, the Blue Hill resident, so well known as the singer and songwriter who’s the “Paul” in the legendary folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, has stepped up to volunteer his time and talent.

Its venue may change from year to year but Last Night! Is becoming a solid New Year’s Eve tradition in the Blue Hill community. This year’s Last Night! program is set to begin at 5:45pm on December 31 at the Congregational Church of Blue Hill with a performance by Wade Dow and his band, a local favorite for country music. From 7-10 pm multiple venues will host music, dance, poetry, fortune tellers and more.  Then from 10pm-midnight the Blue Hill Town Hall will be open for late night revelries with live music and dancing.

Here are some of the many acts lined up for 2012's Last Night! celebration:

· Planet Pan, Steel Drum Music

· Wade Dow, Country Music

· Clarion Steel, Steel Drum Music

· Quit Bixby, Tarot Card Reader

· Brooklin Band, Traditional Town Band playing holiday music and marches

· New Trad Trio, Jazz

· Leslie Good, Tarot Card Reader

· Barbara JOY Hare

· Arnold Greenberg, Poetry

· Timbered Lake, Folk

· OC and Sarah, Folk

· Rhythm Rockets, Steel Drum Music

· New Surry Theater, Radio Drama

· Archipelago, Folk

· Isle of Jazz

· VITA, Singer Songwriter

· X-Presso Jazz

· Greek Dancing with Eleni Koenka

· Salsa Dancing with David Koenka

· Joel McGraw

· Jay and Bjorn Peterson, Western Swing

· Bluegene, Folk

· Loose Cannon Jug Band

· Four Cryin, Out Loud 

If you’re looking to ring in 2013 in a way that’s somewhat reminiscent of days gone by while, at the same time, filling your heart with hopes and dreams for a better future; plan to attend Last Night! on December 31, this year. You’ll find a warm glow of community spirit alive and well even on a cold winter’s night in the small coastal town of Blue Hill, Maine. For complete information and schedule, as the date draws closer, please visit

Photo by Tom Leigh Courtesy of the Last Night Committee
During the winter months and after the summer tourists have departed,
Blue Hill, Maine is a sleepy little coastal town. except on Last Night!
Each December 31st the town is wide awake with the sounds of a community
singing and dancing as they welcome in a brand new year.

Photos by Tom Leigh. Courtesy of the Last Night Committee.


© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie!

Yes Indeed, Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie! 

Since Maine and Thanksgiving are both rich with tradition, this blog will be nosing around my kitchen and an old tradition of making a pie from scratch. My friend Natalie Bolton in Colorado, of Wise Penny Marketing & Design LLC, is the author of the pie crust recipe. The pumpkin pie recipe that follows it is directly from the pages of an 1890 cookbook my grandmother once used here on the farm. Pairing the pumpkin pie filling from scratch with Natalie’s homemade pie crust, just might make your Thanksgiving dessert extra special. It can also be a way to use up some leftover Halloween pumpkins instead of just tossing them away as waste. 

Make Your Own Pie Dough in 15 Minutes or Less

Before you run off to the store to purchase a packaged pie crust, wait! You can make a low-cost, delicious and beautiful pie dough yourself in about 15 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll need to make a single 9” pie shell:

1 c. all-purpose flour
¼ - ½ t. salt (adjust according to your preference)
1/3 c. vegetable shortening (I like using the sticks as they're easy to measure)
3 T. ice water

I've found that one of the keys to making a great crust is to start with cold ingredients. So, at least an hour before you begin, put your shortening and flour in the fridge.

Now, once you're ready to start, gather your ingredients and mix your flour and salt thoroughly in a mixing bowl with a fork:

Next, add your cold shortening to the flour mixture . . .

and mix in with quick strokes using your fork or a pastry blender. DO NOT OVERMIX – it should not be smooth. You want to end up with bits of shortening still in the mix.

Next, add about 2 T. of ice water and start to work it in:

As the mixture comes together, set aside your fork and start shaping the mix into a ball gently with your hands. Add water by small amounts, up to another 1 T. water, until you are able to incorporate all the flour into the ball. If you add too much water and it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Ta-da! Your dough is complete! If you have time, wrap the dough in plastic and set in the fridge for half an hour or so before preparing to roll it out. (You can leave it in the fridge overnight if you want, but I find that leaving it longer than that makes it rather crumbly and more difficult to roll out.)

Now, in order to roll out your dough and get it into the pie plate as easily as possible, you need to be able to transfer it smoothly. I find the best way to do this is to roll it out on a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper.

To do this, take a square of plastic wrap, smooth it carefully and tape each corner onto your clean countertop:

Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the surface, place your dough in the middle, and begin to roll out. Smooth the edges as you go to keep the circle as round as possible:

When your crust gets near the edge of the plastic wrap, place your pie plate carefully on top to make sure you have enough crust to go past the edges of the dish:

Next, remove the corners of tape from the countertop and slide your hand carefully beneath the plastic:

Place your other hand on top of the dish and flip it over. Remove the plastic wrap carefully and gently press the crust into the edges evenly. Now you can use your thumb and forefinger to make pretty fluted edges like this:

At this point, if your recipe calls for a baked crust, preheat your oven to 400ยบ and use a fork to prick all around the bottom and sides of the crust . This helps keep the crust from puffing up during baking. (You can also use pie weights or pour beans on the bottom, but I find removing them can a bit of a challenge.)

Place your crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Depending on the heat of your oven, you may need to bake for up to 20 minutes to get the desired browning – my oven tends to be hot and I don't like it too browned, so I usually only need about another 2-5 minutes of baking:

Now you have a lovely 9” baked pie shell

Pie crust recipe, instructions, and photography by Natalie Bolton

Next up: Pumpkin pie!


Cut a firm fresh pumpkin into long strips, remove the soft pulp and seed, pare the strips and cut them into small pieces. Place the pumpkin in a kettle with very little water, cover the kettle tightly, and stew slowly, stirring frequently and adding water if necessary if pumpkin is in danger of becoming too thick, but always remember the less water you need to use makes for a better pie. When the pumpkin is soft, drain in a colander and mash (these days we can toss it into a blender). After it is pureed, it is ready to use to make pies, cakes, breads, pudding, or just plain mashed pumpkin garnished with brown sugar and spices.

The old cookbook says,  “The quantities given below will make three good, deep pies.”


One quart of stewed pumpkin
Three pints of milk
Six eggs
One tablespoonful of salt
One and a half tablespoonful of ginger
One teaspoonful of cinnamon
One cupful of sugar

Beat the eggs very light, add them to the pumpkin, and stir until mixture is creamy; then add the salt, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir thoroughly, and when the mass is well mixed add the milk, a little at a time. Taste the mixture and add additional sugar and spice if needed. Line three pie-tins, divide the filling among them, stirring it all the time it is being poured into the plates; and bake half an hour in a quick oven. Do not be afraid to use the quantity of ginger given, for much of its strength is evaporated in the baking. This is a most reliable recipe and will produce most delicious pies.

Note: A quick oven these days is about 425°F.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For even more traditional Thanksgiving recipes and fun, check our the The Yankee Chef™

Coming Up...
My next blog posts will  feature Wreaths Across America, a touching tradition of remembrance which began in Harrington, Maine and 
"Last Night!" a unique New Year's Eve tradition in Blue Hill, Maine.
Stay tuned!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Look for upcoming contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We're Golden in Maine!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
They say some of the best things in life right under our noses can, at times, go unnoticed. It is often more tempting to jump into a car and take off on a trip in our fast paced world than it is to slow down a few minutes to appreciate what is right in front of us in our own backyards.

Blae, my faithful Border Collie, pointed that fact out to me and my husband as we walked the farm this past week while developing our pollinator plan for the future. Since pictures are worth a thousand words—and words often can't express nature's beauty accurately—Blae and I thought we'd let the photos we took on our farm this past week speak for themselves in this blog post. We hope you enjoy them.

What's in your backyard?

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Blae, with his "Dad"
 Enjoying the Shades of Autumn on Peaked Mountain Farm

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Kiwi Leaves Decorate our Woodshed.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Hues of Gold Enhance the View of Lucerne Inn
from Peaked Mountain Farm.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Painted Leaves Surround our Fields

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Peaked Mountain is Framed in Gold

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Autumn's Golden Backdrop on Peaked Mountain Farm

To learn more about Peaked Mountain Farm and the Lucerne Inn:
(You'll see be looking back at Peaked Mountain from the Lucerne Inn sight.)

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Look for upcoming contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail