Earlier this week, I was heading down to the Beach to do the early morning cleaning with my wife — this is somewhat of legacy job at this point — a town contract originally granted my younger brother 30-plus years ago, taken over by my parents, and now, at least partially, passed on to my wife, and sometimes me, as well. I asked my wife, Tracee, while emptying the trash cans and picking up cigarette butts, if she had any ideas for the article this week.
“What about ‘putting things by?’” she suggested. “You know, getting ready for winter?”
Putting things by. Preparing for the long winter to come. For our ancestors, winter wasn’t looking forward to snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing. It was a time of hardship, which needed to be faced with planning.
I reached out to some Lincolnvillians to get thoughts about this time of year.
Nancy Heald, née Miller, wrote me about her girlhood on the family farm overlooking Pitcher Pond:
“In my childhood Labor Day weekend was devoted to much of the fall change-over. We put away the summer outdoor furniture and games — folding chairs, a couple of Adirondack Chairs, croquet set, Badminton net, horseshoes. Whatever tree had fallen or been removed that could be made into lumber had been taken to the mill and would be back sometime in September. We helped stack the boards to dry near the woodworking shop. Potatoes had to be dug and picked up into burlap grain bags and taken down cellar and transferred to barrels.
“Cutting up the firewood in the area behind the shed of grandparents’ house. There was a big pile of hardwood trees. The men folk, plus my other grandfathers’ hired man, would use the saw rig that attached to the Farmall tractor a d would cut up the wood and toss it in a pile, or into the woodshed’s open door.
“They did not stack their wood as the room was deep and large. Some would be loaded onto the jitterbugs trailer by the women mostly and hauled up the hill to our free-standing woodshed, which was small by comparison and mother, Patty and I would stack it tightly. It held a little more than a winter's heating wood for our small house. Dad carried trees to the saw, Grampa ran the saw and the hired man took away.
“By October the houses had to be banked with tarred paper [later plastics] and pine boughs. Outhouses had to banked, as well, until we got indoor plumbing about 1950.”
I also spoke with local historian Rosey Gerry, who grew up on Greenacre Road, in challenging circumstances.
“I never remember a single stick of green wood,” he told me, as his parents burnt whatever they could get in their single cookstove, cutting more wood through the winter. Rosey talked about prepping for winter by heading down to the sawmill to collect bags of sawdust to bank the house.
Rosey’s father worked at the Seabright Mill in Camden. His winter commute sounded intense.
Rosey told me that his father would take coals from the stove to warm his vehicle’s engine block, and pour hot water into the radiator because he couldn’t afford antifreeze.
Facing Turnpike Hill along the Megunticook, his father would pull over, put chains on the tires, make his way over the hill, and then remove the chains so as not to wear them out.
His father’s job afforded the family access to the wooden boxes used to hold the wool, which he would bring home to add some semblance of insulation to the walls of the family’s home.
I grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s. My parents were part of a new wave of rural Mainers, quickly adapting to managing a ramshackle old farmhouse in the winter. Wood was delivered in eight-foot lengths, to be chainsawed to stove length and hand chopped by my father, who always seemed to relish the physical labor as a juxtaposition from his day job as a teaching principal.
The garden did, and continues to, provide food for canning and freezing. I will always remember jars and jars of canned peaches, preserved from the crate my aunt Edwina would bring up from New Jersey every summer. Jams and jellies, opened up on a winter morning to spread on hot popovers, reminding me of the hot August afternoon on Cameron Mountain, when my father picked those berries while I ate my fill.
Dry beans, essential for your Saturday pot of baked beans, would be shelled by my dad at the barn door. Ma told me recently that his record was 25 pounds of shelled dry beans one summer. Man, I hated baked beans as a kid.
I also reached out to Jeff Goddard, a relatively recent transplant, who told me about his family’s adaption to Maine winters — making sure that the oil tank is full and wood supply is plentiful. He also mentioned cleaning all the windows to ensure that looking out on cold, dreary winter days is more cheerful! I think we all appreciate modern double-paned windows.
But the most meaningful image of prepping for winter came from Tracee, the wife. She told me about one of the first times coming to this old house, an August 21 years ago. She told me about walking into the sweltering kitchen, which was packed with women, laughing and gossiping and cannning. Putting food by for the winter, while strengthening bonds and community.
Looking back to our ancestors, winter was the dying time, the time of scarcity, and we only made it through by working together.
It is easy to forget that many in our community are still in need, lacking stable housing, heating, and food insecurity. The Waldo County Woodshed waldocountywoodshed.org, Waldo County Community Action waldocap.org, and the Knox County Homeless Coalition, homehelphope.org, come to mind as a few of several organizations to support if you want to help your neighbors prepare for the winter.
Fridays at the Museum
The aforementioned Rosey Gerry and my Ma, Diane O’Brien, are starting a monthly evening program at the LIA Building/Schoolhouse Museum, including history, music, and cookies. For Lincolnville old timers, newcomers, and those in between. The inaugural program will be this Friday, October 27, 7 p.m. at the Beach Schoolhouse, 33 Beach Road, with the ever-fascinating Corelyn Senn and featuring the expressive and moving music of Will Brown. Admission is by donation.
To the loved ones of Lincolnville resident Margaret “Maggie” Laughlin.
So the Lincolnville Cross-Country and Soccer teams wrapped up their seasons this week. LCS soccer defeated Camden on Monday, but lost to Appleton on Wednesday to come in second in their division.
The cross country team had their final meet at Great Salt Bay’s course in Damariscotta in Tuesday. Though both the boys and girls teams came in second after Camden, I feel special mention needs to be made of eighth grader Cole Grant, who won every race this season by a comfortable distance. The nice thing about losing to Camden is knowing that once they reach high school they will be on the same team. Witnessing the performances of the cross country teams, and what I have heard about the soccer teams of the five towns, I expect some powerful performances from Camden Hills Regional High School athletics over the next few years.
Mattress Fundraiser at CHRHS
On Sunday, October 29, from 10-4 at Camden Hills Regional High School, there were be a fundraising sale of mattresses to benefit the high school music programs. This spring the band and choruses will be going to New York City where they will perform at St. Patrick’s Cathedral among other things. So if it’s time to replace that old mattress, head on over to the high school this Sunday! And you can even mention a particular Lincolnville musician in your life to give them “credit” for the sale! Come support our talented young performers.
Spooky Time is Upon Us:
I am still looking for local ghost stories and photos from Halloween’s past. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the local Facebook groups. I would love to have a gallery of Lincolnvillians in their Halloween finest for next week’s column.
And there is still space in the LCS parking lot if you want to participate in Trunk or Treat at the LCS parking lot on October 31. From 4-6 p.m. the LCS eighth grade will be hosting a fundraiser for their class trip, with baked goods, warm drinks, and activities.
I have been putting the final touches on my costume. I never get candy anymore, sadly, except what I swipe from my children….
So good luck with your winter prep. As always be good and do good, and if you get the opportunity, offer a hand to your neighbor.
Monday, October 23
Select Board, 5 p.m., Town Office
Tuesday, October 24
Library open 3-6 p.m. 208 Main Street
AA Meeting 12 p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
Athletic Infrastructure Committee, 5 p.m., Town Office
Lakes and Ponds Committee, 7 p.m., Town Office
Wednesday, October 25
Library open 2-5 p.m.
Planning Board, 7 p.m., Town Office
Thursday, October 26
Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, 6:30 p.m., Town Office
EMS Performance Committee, 6 p.m., Town Office
Friday, October 27
AA Meeting 12 p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
Library open 9-12, 208 Main Street
Saturday, October 28
Library open 9-12, 208 Main Street
Sunday, October 29
United Christian Church, 9:30 a.m. Worship, 18 Searsmont Road
Bayshore Baptist Church, 9:30 a.m. Sunday School, 11:00 worship, 2648 Atlantic Highway