Monthly Archives: June 2012

Gardening on Westport Island: An Interspecies Game

Score: Wildlife 10, This Human 0

Last night, I suffered the latest in a spate of critter attacks on my gardens. Yet another plant has been removed from my list of “surefire” deer-resistant plants: coral bells. “Nevermore” plants for my garden include: hostas, tulips, day lilies, phlox, sweet williams (dianthus), asiatic lilies, coreopsis, winterberry, mountain laurel, holly, ivy, coral bells…and hydrangeas.

I tell Justin Reynolds, Horticulturist, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens: My yard is like a scene from Dr. Dolittle. Chipmunks munching on bulb plants; turkeys on whatever; and deer on pretty much everything.

The only plants that Island animals don’t seem to eat are: catmint, lavendar, peonies, daffodils, heather, moonbeam coreopsis, bearberry, and iris. Do you have other suggestions for plants that deer will pass by — or suggestions for detering bulb-munching chipmunks?

Justin’s advice: To deter chipmunks: plant daffodils, scilla, and crocus tomasianus. Take a look at lists online for both chipmunk and deer resistant plants, starting with: Dave’s Garden. If you want to plant bulbs that are appealing to animals, consider planting a large area and covering it with chicken wire.

Hmmm… In a last ditch effort to save what’s left of this year’s hydrangea blossoms, I’m turning to:

Amanda’s Mom’s Deer-Be-Gone Spray

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T Tabasco
  • 2 T VERY HOT ground pepper
  • Put all in blender and puree. Decant into bottles or jars. Let sit for 2 days. Pour, sprinkle or spray on and around anything you don’t want the deer to eat.

We’ll see…

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Sea Pottery: McCarty Cove “Treasure”

Island “treasures”

While walking the tidal flats of McCarty Cove this past winter with trusty beagle Chloe,I landed on “unburied treasure”. On several occasions, I found old pottery shards alongside low-tide stones and shells. A mystery from the past — could they have come from the nearby ship’s chandlery; better yet, might the shards have come from a shipwreck?…or might the terracotta pieces be remnants from Wiscasset Brick and Pottery, which operated on Birch Point Road in the 1800’s?

Stymied in my own research, I contacted Laurie LaBar, Chief Curator, History and Decorative Arts, Maine State Museum; and this is what she said:

What a fun collection of ‘sea pottery’ you have found. There’s quite a variety of pieces. Because the whole coastal plain has nice deep pockets of iron-rich clay, there were redware makers in pretty much every other town, starting in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know whether Wiscasset Brick and Pottery made the terra cotta pieces, unless one had a few intact specimens for comparison, but that’s a strong possibility!

The (redware) industry had pretty well died out (in the late 1800’s ) in favor of more durable stoneware (your 2-gal crock); and later in the century, ironstone (your white shard). If I just had the terra cotta, I’d suggest a mid-1800s date. However, the transfer-printed pieces, together with the stoneware and ironstone, suggest a late-1800s date. Add in that there was a local redware manufactory nearby at that time, and that’s probably your time period.

England produced millions of tons of transfer-printed ceramics for local use and for export. Stoke-on-Trent in North Staffordshire was the center of this industry, as it was until the mid 1900s. The pieces you found suggest to me a typical middle-class household of the area, engaging in what in my archaeology days we called “casual Euro-American dumping practices.” Should you excavate the family privy you might find more pieces of the same pots, or at least of the same services.

That said, the pieces may not be related at all if you found them scattered in disparate places. Of course, they’d still speak to the sort of community one found along the water at the turn of the 20th century, even if they came from several families. If the pieces were found within a 15-20 yard area as you suggest, the pieces are probably all from one family. The shards represent the range of everyday ceramics one family might have.

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RSU-12: Stay the Course or Withdraw?

Which road will the yellow school bus travel?

On June 12, Westport Islanders will vote on whether Westport Island should begin the process to withdraw from RSU-12 (Regional Supervisory Union 12). The ballot question is:

Do you favor filing a petition for withdrawal with the Board of Directors of the Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit No. 12 and with the Commissioner of Education, authorizing the withdrawal committee to expend $10,000, and authorizing the Selectmen of Westport Island to issue notes in the name of the Town of Westport Island or otherwise pledge the credit of the Town of Westport Island in an amount not to exceed $20,000 for this purpose?

Proponents of withdrawal argue membership in RSU-12 has been more costly than anticipated. Westport Islanders are paying significantly more than other jurisdictions: partly because of higher property valuations on the Island than in other RSU-12 towns, and partly because the cost-sharing formula does not account for declining Westport enrollment. Given that Westport students have “school choice,” Island students can go where they wish; and there are other options for supervisory administration that make more sense from a cost/benefit analysis. They believe one of these other options may save voters up to 20% on their property taxes. Westport Island Cost Assessment

Those arguing against withdrawal ask voters to give the evolution of RSU-12 a chance: a withdrawal petition now is premature. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and cost figures and formula recalculations are in the process of shaking down to account for student count and cost per student which could result in the same outcome as a time- and money-intensive study process. There are now programs available in Wiscasset schools that had been cut prior to supervisory union streamlining, and the school’s scores on standardized achievement tests are improving – an indication that our students’ education is improving. Additionally, Wiscasset is also voting the withdrawal question on the 12th; and the outcome of that vote will have implications for Westport’s costs. Westport can vote on a withdrawal petition at a future date if anticipated cost-sharing recalculations do not improve Westport’s cost burden. Westport Island and RSU-12

Parents have expressed concerns about any risk that children would have to change current schools where they are adjusted — and about transportation. As one parent said, “school choice for working parents without the money or flexibility to arrange private transportation means: where the school bus goes, is where the student goes.” Now, most students go to Wiscasset. Families polled by an ad hoc research committee would like to keep their children in Wiscasset — but they are not insensitive to cost issues. Ad Hoc School Research Committee

Island voters benefited from a May 31 town forum featuring a debate of pros and cons. Dennis Dunbar, Westport Island Budget Committee, presented the case for withdrawal; and Richard DeVries, Westport Island RSU-12 School Board Member, presented the case against withdrawal. Both seem to agree that Westport Island’s cost burden is excessive. The basic question seems to be: Do we scrap the current structure in favor of another to grapple with and contain costs? or, Do we stay the course and fight for an equitable cost formula within the RSU-12 structure that we have participated in shaping?

Tomorrow, June 12, is voting day: help the Island make a decision that represents you. The polls will be open at the Old Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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After the Rain: An Update

East Shore Road is now passable and has been reopened. Sortwell and Junction Roads have been repaired. MDOT responded to view the beaver encampment on the Main Road; they cleared the culvert debris. The waters have receded, and with the exception of gutter erosion on West Shore Road, Baker Road, and some other gravel roadways, life is back to normal.

Some finish work on the roads — culverts, grading, and paving await (budgetary discussion)…

A representative from the state emergency management office will be viewing the damaged areas with town officials later this month.

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It’s a Rainy Day in the Neighborhood

Westport Volunteer Fire Fighters, Road Commissioner Garry Cromwell and crew, Selectmen, and emergency management officers have been out and about today marking, monitoring, and documenting water damage to the roads. East Shore Road has sustained the worst damage.

Following are the areas where caution and good sense are needed:

East Shore Road, which is closed between Gary Webber’s Hill and Log Cabin Road;
Willis Point Road;
Junction Road;
Doggett Road;
Main Road by the beaver encampment adjacent to Oak Run Road;
Baker Road; and
Sortwell Road

If you have additional road or storm damage to report, call 911 — or if you have damage to document, email:

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