Gardening and Library and Dogs. Oh, My!

The patio is ready for Memorial Day. Now, if only those dratted black flies would go away.

The end of May is just around the corner, and what a busy time it is for the residents of the little house in the big woods. Gardening and planting have reached a fever pitch, and as I am someone who does not like to hurry, that along with writing and other household chores would be plenty to keep my days full.

However, next week our library will be having all sorts of events to celebrate the grand opening of the new addition—a speaker on Tuesday; on Wednesday a chainsaw carving of an owl for the children’s room; and on Friday a true open house where a “book” cake will be served.

To add to the jolly chaos, we will be babysitting our granddogs, Holly and Somara. I am praying for good weather so that the dogs can spend much of the day outside in the backyard.

In addition, we’re having friends over for a barbecue on Sunday, to celebrate Memorial Day. I’ll be making the first potato salad of the season, and we’ll be having the first grilled chicken, too. And grilled bread, of course.

Next week on the blog, I might focus more on images than words. Naturally, I’ll want to write a little something about the library’s grand opening. Just a little something.

And in honor of Memorial Day, as I work in the yard, I’ll remember family and friends who have passed. They are missed and are certainly not forgotten.


A New Podium for Charles M. Bailey Public Library

Mary Jane Auns, Trustee Chair, and Richard Fortin, Library Director, with the beautiful new podium made by Mario Meucci

As my grandmother might have put it, this morning I had to get up before breakfast to be at Winthrop High School by 8:30 a.m. I am a night owl, and while I’m usually up by 8:00 a.m., I’m not usually showered, dressed, and ready to go. However, it was well worth the hustle to be at the high school so early. Mario Meucci, a student in Todd MacArthur’s Furniture Construction Class, presented to the Bailey Library a podium that he built.

The podium was presented in a morning assembly in front of the students. Meucci spoke simply yet eloquently about how the podium was made of birch, just as there are birches at Norcross point, a town park by Maranacook Lake. Richard Fortin, the library’s director, thanked Meucci and noted how his gift would still be used in the library a hundred years from now.

How many students can say this about their work? This sense of doing something that will benefit the town well into the future is a subject I’ve discussed in previous posts about the library’s addition. As I’ve written before, most everyday people don’t have the opportunity to work on projects that will be around for over a hundred years. For me, as a volunteer, it has been very moving to be part of such a project, and it moves me even more to think of how this young man has made something that will ripple forward a hundred years. Speakers and authors not even born yet will be using that podium.

And what a beauty it is! Sleek, polished, and gleaming, it has the library’s logo on the front. It will go into the library’s new event room, which will be big enough to hold around 125 people. This birch podium will fit right in with all the wood furniture and shelves the trustees have purchased for the library.

Next week, there will be events and an open house to celebrate the new addition and the refurbishing of the original library.  (The library will be officially opening on June 1.) I’ve had ample opportunity to see the construction in progress and the finished results. Most patrons, however, have not had this chance, and next week will be the first time they will see the fruit of all the hard work—the constant fund raising, the planning, the revisions—that has  gone into this library project.

I hope they will be as thrilled as I am.

And thank you, thank you, Mario Meucci for the lovely new podium. It will be used for the first time on Tuesday, May 26 when Earle Shettleworth, the state historian, gives a talk.

Clif and I will be there.

Mario Meucci, the student who built the podium; Mary Jane Auns; Richard Fortin; and Keith Morin, high school principal



A Library Budget Cut?

Bailey Library, before the addition
Bailey Library, before the addition

Last night  in Winthrop, there was a town council meeting where our library’s budget was discussed. (Full disclosure: I am a trustee.) With the new addition, the library has nearly tripled in size, and we were asking for a $25,000 increase over last year’s library budget. This is right on par with what the architect suggested would be needed for the library after the addition was built, and the councilors knew this before they approved the project. (The library requested a total of two hundred eighty-three thousand dollars out of a seventeen million dollar town budget.)

First the bad news: The town council recommended a $10,000 increase rather than a $25,000 increase, which will make what is a tight library budget even tighter.  The trustees were taken to task for not wanting to use money from their endowment fund—there is about $100,000 in the account—to pad the budget. We were also chided for not doing enough to raise money for the library.

As I listened to various councilors scold us, I thought of the $900, 000 the trustees and the campaign team have raised for the addition and of the years of hard work that have gone into getting to this amount.  Like most projects, the expansion fund raising started with a bang, but it is inching ever so slowly to the end, and there is a lot more fund raising to go. I would encourage all those who think raising money is a snap to join the campaign team and help us reach our goal of a little over a million dollars.

Now the good news: Despite the tongue lashings, there was also a recommendation to forgive $100,000 of the $300,000 bond taken out by the town for the library expansion. The trustees are responsible for paying this bond, which is why we are so reluctant to dip into the endowment fund to operate the library. We are concerned, quite rightly, about paying this debt. If  $100, 000 of the bond were forgiven, then that would be a big help in our fund-raising efforts.

But best of all, the meeting room was packed with people who love the library. Around eighty people came to this meeting, and many of them spoke in defence of the library and the requested budget. It was heartening to see how many people in town love and use the library and how many think that it is important for the town to support the library. Unfortunately, despite the number of people, despite their eloquence, the councilors were not swayed to give the library the full $25,000 budget increase.

None of these decisions are final until the June meeting, where the budget is presented to the town, but it is my guess that the councilors will stick to the $15,000 cut and the $100,000 forgiveness of the loan.

One thing has become very clear to me. In times of budget shortfalls—brought in part by our governor’s decisions—the library is going to be a tempting target.

And we must never, never forget this.



The Town Library Changed My Life: A Guest Post by Randy Randall

In previous posts I’ve written about how libraries are priceless and give so much to their communities. My friend Randy Randall, a writer, feels the same way, and he loves libraries as much as I do. He wrote the following post about the Old Orchard Beach Public Library, the library he went to as a child.

Old Orchard Beach Public Library

Your note about celebrating the value of the library… [b]rought back some great memories. I think I told you how when we lived on the farm, my mother ordered a ‘summer bookshelf’ from the Maine
State Library. The books arrived in a wooden box like rifles would be shipped in. Come to think of it, those books by the world’s great authors were more powerful and dangerous then firearms.

But I digress…what I was really  thinking about was the Old Orchard Beach Library. A typical small town library, but for me it was Google,
Wikipedia and Youtube all wrapped up in one place. I practically lived there. I took out so many books and was such a frequent patron the librarian knew my card number by heart!  So I guess I owe my love of reading to my mother but I think there was some natural curiosity there as well. It keeps me going to this day.

I love learning stuff. For no other reason then just being
aware and intrigued by how the world works…. I remember the card catalogue and how the long  narrow drawers with the index cards slid open. I loved to roam the aisles fingering the spines of the books and bending my head sideways so I could read the titles. And when I
found one book I enjoyed I knew there were others of the same type all grouped together there on the shelf.

It was like hitting a rich vein in a gold mine! It also helped that the
the elderly librarian was a nice person. She was friendly and caring and took the trouble to know me personally. Not that that was all that difficult to do in a small Maine town. Still she looked out for me and set books aside she knew I’d enjoy.

“One of my favorite places to read was up in a tree. We had huge pasture pines with mighty limbs that were like arms and a small boy could easily straddle the limb or lean comfortably back against the trunk while he read Treasure Island. Oh don’t get me started. The town library changed my life. I’ll never forget it.

That Exuberant Burst of Green

Despite the scourge of blackflies, this is the time of year when I can hardly stand to stay inside to do household chores. I want to be outside, where even hanging the laundry is a pleasure. I force myself to dust, vacuum, and clean the bathrooms, all the while looking outside at the deep blue sky and the tender yet exuberant  burst of green that surrounds the little house in the big woods.

My gardens come into their own in June and July, and right now there is not much in bloom. But never mind! There’s more than enough going on with the trees and the yard to keep this amateur photographer happy.



And because we live on the edge of the big woods, there are spring wild flowers to admire.


Even the dandelions.  I like their sunny heads, and when it comes to the lawn,  my philosophy is that if it’s green, then it’s good. No herbicides allowed in our yard! However, should dandelions stray into the flower beds, I must admit that I dig them out.


Then there are the ferns. I admire their green grace, and I have encouraged them to take root all around our house. Ferns do well in deep shade, which this yard has in abundance.


With so much time spent outside, taking pictures and working in the yard. there hasn’t been much time for cooking, and our meals have been very, very simple—baked, breaded chicken, wraps, scrambled eggs and toast. Last night I soaked some black beans, and I cooked them this morning. Tonight we’ll have black bean burgers—from a Mark Bittman recipe—with oven fries.

I’ll make the burgers this afternoon and put them in the refrigerator to chill. Then, after a satisfying day of taking pictures and yard work and household chores, I’ll have those burgers ready to pan fry.

Ah, spring.

Jack is Back

Every spring for the past few years, Jack has come for a visit. He stays quite a while—into early summer—but he is such a thoughtful guest that he never wears out his welcome. Conscientious about how much space he takes up, Jack neither intrudes nor dominates. Flashier friends might attract more attention, but Jack’s modest qualities make him especially dear to me, and I always wish he would stay longer than he does.

This year, I was afraid Jack was not going to come back for his annual visit. I looked and waited, but no Jack. My heart felt a little heavy. Spring just wouldn’t be the same without Jack. It had been such a hard winter. Was this the reason for Jack’s absence?

But then, a couple of days ago, he arrived, and I was so happy to see him. Jack was a little late, but then so is everything else this spring after the long, cold winter.


I am also happy to report that Jack’s offspring have come with him, and when they emerge, I will be sure to post pictures of them.

Jack and his kin have settled on the edge of our yard, which is lined with trees and dips into the forest. I feel very fortunate to have a patch of Jack-in-the-pulpets in my own backyard. I love the little pulpit flower, and when the flower passes, as all flowers do, its bright red fruit is interesting, too.

In a couple of weeks, we will be babysitting the granddogs for quite a few days. Jack and his brethren are in the large fenced-in area in the backyard where the dogs can safely roam. I think I will put a little barricade around Jack and his family so that he is not accidentally trampled by enthusiastic dogs.

After all, I want to be sure that Jack comes back not only next year but for many more years as well.


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