Sep 282020
 

Webmaster’s Note: This was a comment submitted to a post made in 2014 celebrating 400 years of membership at Hollis. It’s such a wonderful Grange Story I thought it worth telling as a post.

Greetings to Verena Huff from Claire Thorne!?

I was the Hollis Grange Apple Blossom Princess in the summer of 1971!  Verena and I worked together at Grant’s Department Store on Congress Street in Portland.

I went apple-picking this afternoon with a friend and was fondly reminiscing about Verena and that summer, how Verena and I became friends at work, and how she asked if I would consider entering the competition for Apple Blossom Princess.

I remember a lovely luncheon before the contest and found a piano in our hostess’s parlor which I briefly played. No one was more surprised than me when I won the contest later that evening!?

Verena graciously put me and my girlfriend up for the night in her home so I would be able to attend the next day’s festivities at the Grange Fair. Oh… how I hardly slept a wink that night because my mom had fixed my hair with dozens of bobby pins, I had no toothbrush, no make up, and the only clothing I had was the blue prom dress I was wearing!!

The next day was a delight of sights, sounds, and tastes… the prize animals, the prize apple pies, and all the festivities of a country fair. I came home to my family later that afternoon exhausted, exhilarated and a stomach filled with all kinds of goodies made from apples! I was also given a huge bushel of apples, a gorgeous, sparkling tiara, and a most special gift I that still treasure to this day….a lovely red, glass brooch pin of an apple with two gold leaves that I have worn on every raincoat I’ve owned since 1971!!

I want to thank the Hollis Grange and Verena Huff for a most wonderful, memorable, and exciting experience that I treasure to this day. Verena’s hospitality and friendship always make me smile. My memories make me a soft cushion in my advancing age!?

I was absolutely delighted to find your website when I came home from my afternoon apple-picking excursion today, and even more delighted to see the wonderful picture honoring Verena and the other members for their years of service. Verena…you look absolutely lovely! And I remember to this day your big smile and hearty laughter that kept us entertained (and often in trouble) at work! It boggles my mind to think how fast the time has flown since that amazing summer of 1971!

I graduated from college in 1975 and became a music teacher. I am still teaching full time, 6th-grade band (virtually) in the town where I live in New Jersey even though, at age 67, I am well past retirement age because I love the students and love what I do. I married my high school sweetheart in 1976, raised a wonderful son who is an officer in the United States Navy, survived breast cancer in 2013, and just became a grandmother in April!

Please give my warmest best wishes to Verena, and thank you again Hollis Grange members for an experience I shall forever cherish!

May 262020
 

by Toby Martin

Food Historians Must Really Love Old Grange Cookbooks

The Maine State Grange website mentions Grange cookbooks, and you’ll find vintage copies in used and vintage bookstores, as well as more recent selections through the Maine Grange office on State Street in Augusta.

Local Granges are always cooking up fundraising schemes, and what better way than to create a committee, collect recipes, publish, and sell.

It’s no surprise that my friend, Sandy Oliver, the food historian, author of Maine Home Cooking, who has studied, given talks, and written about food history for decades, and writes a weekly column called ‘Taste Buds’ for the Bangor Daily News, has a couple of vintage Maine Grange cookbooks in her collection. I was able to borrow them and make some discoveries, like Grange humor.

The first one (c.1902) had a brittle and tattered cover with Penobscot View Grange Cook Book printed along the top edge. All the pages were brown and stained. Price? Twenty-Five Cents the Book. Penobscot View Grange, No. 388, Glen Cove, Maine.is printed at the bottom. No date. Inside, the Preface explains its purpose: “…to aid, financially, the erection of a Grange Hall…” 98 pages, with the left pages devoted to advertising, and the right pages to Receipts and Household Hints. Some receipts (recipes) are attributed, some not.

Penobscot View Grange in Rockport

The recipe for Dandelion Wine got my attention for its medicinal value: “This is excellent for the liver and good for the complexion.” But first you have to gather three quarts of dandelion blossoms. And under Household Hints you will find To Preserve a Husband, attributed to a Mrs. Libby, which begins with, “Be careful in your selection; do not choose one too young, and take only such varieties as have been raised in a good moral atmosphere.” Mrs. Libby ends with, “When thus prepared, they will keep for years.” Unfortunately, Mr. Libby never countered with To Preserve a Wife.

The second cookbook, The Bingham Grange Cook Book, Bingham, Maine, Grange No. 237, dated 1922, 48 pages, shows the Grange Hall on the title page. When you turn a few pages, you’ll find ‘Tragedy Recipe,’ attributed to “Bob Smith,” which says,” Take one reckless, natural-born fool; two or three drinks of bad liquor; place in the car and let him go; after due time, remove the wreckage, place in black satin-lined box and garnish with flowers.” It’s quite clear that the Mrs. Libby in our first cookbook would never have selected the reckless sort featured in the second. Just not the right ingredients. Later on you’ll see recipes for Shrimp Wiggle and Blushing Bunny.

Early Grange cookbooks never lacked colorful recipe titles, and apparently a sense of humor was expected. If we followed the directions in the two cookbooks we’ve seen, especially in late May when the dandelions are blooming bright yellow color in profusion, we could make some dandelion wine, and then, in late summer, when garden tomatoes for the Blushing Bunny are red and ripe, we could relax on the porch with a cold glass of dandelion wine and a hot bowl of Blushing Bunny, knowing we were experiencing what Grangers did a hundred years ago. Bon appetit!


A member of Valley Grange in Guilford, Toby Martin works with nonprofit organizations whose missions inspire community involvement in Maine and New England.  He lives in Islesboro, where he represents groups involved in energy, the environment, the library, arts and culture. He is a published poet, playwright, and essayist, the editor of two mainland publications, and contributes regularly to online and print media. 

May 122020
 

by Toby Martin

Supporting? and Fostering Maine Grange Farming

Recently, I read an article online that got me thinking about Maine farms and what is possible for our Maine State Grange, and how we ahould all be supporting small, independent, local farmers. 

The article told of a young couple in Colorado who had bought SkyPilot Farm, a 100-year-old spread in Colorado, stocked it with chickens, pigs and sheep, and built a business selling organic meat and eggs directly to consumers,.which confirms the idea of local, sustainable agriculture.  And when we see what is happening with health and safety meatpacking industry employees, the message of local, trusted farmers takes on a new meaning.

When Bob Dylan wrote, performed and recorded “The Times They Are A-Changin'” in the early 1960s, it became a symbol for ideas that are still relevant today. Dylan didn’t live in the post Civil War era that motivated Oliver Kelley and the Grange’s founders to create a national orgainzation that still exists and maintains its focus on farmers and agriculture.  But, though they lived a century apart. they both recognized the need to recognize and act on change.  So should we.

Both Bob Dylan the songwriter and Oliver Kelley the homesteader took action in response to their visions of civic responsibility.  And both of them were acting because the times they experienced were changing. That’s an important message.

The pandemic crisis that faces all of us today has forced us as Mainers to rethink and reshape our lives in ways that we would never have chosen with the old normal.   But now, with the new normal, to protect ourselves and others, we have had to adapt and reframe things out of necessity.  Change.

Maybe it’s time to reframe our thoughts and actions by being more supportive of our local farming economy, local farms, faremers’ markets, CSAs, even plant our own gardens, support neighbors and our community, people we know, get back to canning home-grown produce, as the Grange Way of Life implies, instead of supporting food that comes from the Salinas Valley, Mexico, Central and South America, that is contributing so much to global wrming because it has to be transported so far.

I know of a few Maine Granges whose members own farms and are important contributors to their local communities and local economy, and I hope to learn about more.  And I just read  that  five graduating high school seniors around Maine received the Grange’s spring Agricultural Scholarhips for their future education. 

The foundation of Grange-supported agriculture has great potential in Maine.  We can all contribute to ensuring it.


A member of Valley Grange in Guilford, Toby Martin works with nonprofit organizations whose missions inspire community involvement in Maine and New England.  He lives in Islesboro, where he represents groups involved in energy, the environment, the library, arts and culture. He is a published poet, playwright, and essayist, the editor of two mainland publications, and contributes regularly to online and print media. 

May 032020
 

By Walter Boomsma
Communications Director

A digital visit to the “Stories of Maine: An Incomplete History” Exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art is now possible. It’s admittedly only a “partial view” of the complete gallery you can visit in person when the museum reopens.

As Communications Director, it was my honor to be invited to participate in the development of this gallery. If you scroll down to “Select Community Voices” and click on my photo, some of the Grange Hall photos that will hang in the gallery will be available for viewing. If you’d prefer, this link will take you straight to that page.

Let’s not focus on the limitations and restrictions we currently face. We can cultivate connections in many different ways and with many various organizations. How long has it been since someone in your Grange has contacted the local library, historical society, school, other civic organizations… and asked this question:

How can our Grange support and help you and our community?

Apr 292020
 

by Toby Martin

Maine Grangers Provide Community Support

When difficult times face people who live nearby, local Granges across Maine step up generously to meet the needs of their communities. In March and April,when the Covid-19 pandemic reached Maine and shut down people’s lives, Granger people power went into action.

State-mandated social distancing didn’t faze these Grangers. They went right to work, and the reports of their efforts around the state began trickling in and were posted on the Maine State Grange webpage (www.123myhub.com). They included East Sangerville Grange In Sangerville, Victor Grange in Fairfield, Fairview Grange in Smithfield, and Winthrop Grange in Winthrop.

East Sangerville Grange
WABI-TV news reported East Sangerville Grange’s drive-by birthday celebration for a local boy. According to their broadcast, “Coronavirus couldn’t crush a three-year-old’s birthday party.” The East Sangerville Grange “…saved the day for three-year-old Owen Cookson’s birthday by giving him a ‘birthday parade’ when his party was canceled due to the need for social distancing. (He) “…was looking forward to his celebration for months. But understandably, parents of all of the invited kids canceled amid concerns about the virus.” WABI’s report added, “The smile on Owen’s face says it all. Owen’s dad believes it’s the best present his son could have received and a true testament to how caring our community is in times of crisis.” Owen’s dad, Benjamin Cookson, caught the mobile party parade on Facebook, and he added, “Maybe we should all join birthday parades and remember that we are all a community and even with social distancing, we can support each other.”

Fairview Grange
Rick Watson of Fairview Grange reported on its new community bookshelf program created for local residents in response to COVID-19’s needs. “We are placing a metal cabinet on the covered kitchen steps outside our Grange Hall, (with) directions on the door to reinforce hand sanitizer, which we will leave inside, and everything will be based on the honor system. We will promote it from our roadside changeable letter sign, email, and Facebook. Hopefully, it becomes something people are interested in using.” His pictures of the bookcase and roadside sign were proudly posted on the Maine Grange website.

Victor Grange
Barbara Bailey reported that Fairfield’s Victor Grange has project work in common with Fairview and Winthrop Granges: medical supplies and books. “We have had a medical equipment closet for years, and (items are) given out as needed.” She adds, “We found…that some of our seniors, (who come to our meal every month) …missed the socializing of the monthly meal, but also they wanted some different puzzles because they had made all of theirs and couldn’t find a way to get more. So we set up our front porch with shelves and put out puzzles and books.”

Sadly, their monthly seniors’ meal gatherings at the Grange Hall had to be discontinued because of Maine’s distancing guidelines, but the Grange’s strong community spirit inspired quick support from two Fairfield business owners, Caroline Too-Lawrence of Caring Hands Home Care and Shelley Rudnicki of Shelley’s Used Cars. They stepped in and joined forces. Bailey says. They “got the list of the seniors who usually came to our monthly senior meal and decided that every Friday they would make a meal and deliver them puzzles, masks, books of crosswords, search-and-find, and TP if needed.”

Winthrop Grange
Like Victor Grange, Winthrop Grange offers a variety of clean, gently used medical supplies, available for pickup through their call-in line (Dorothy St. Hilaire at 207-242-7251). Items include an electric hospital bed and mattress, an electric wheelchair (needs batteries), a portable aluminum ramp, wheeled seated walkers, toilet booster seats, commodes, shower seats, and crutches. Once again, a community response from a local Grange meets a local community’s need.

Este aeterna. Let it be forever. For Maine Grangers, the message applies every day, by making connections happen through service to others.


A member of Valley Grange in Guilford, Toby Martin works with nonprofit organizations whose missions inspire community involvement in Maine and New England.  He lives in Islesboro, where he represents groups involved in energy, the environment, the library, arts and culture. He is a published poet, playwright, and essayist, the editor of two mainland publications, and contributes regularly to online and print media. 

Apr 242020
 

by Toby Martin

Yesterday afternoon I phoned Walter Boomsma, the Maine State Grange’s Communications Director and webmaster of the MSG website.

“Congratulations,” I said. “You’re famous!”

To me, he was, because he had taken his commitment to Grange values national, something that had been developing ever since he became a member of Maine’s Valley Grange in Guilford in 2003, and even more after he became Maine State Communications Director in 2014.

The afternoon before I called Walter, I had tuned in to view the national Facebook broadcast of the conversation he had with Amanda Brozana Rios, the National Grange’s Communications Director. It was the first in a series of Grange broadcasts designed to bring Grangers together in response to the national separation caused by what Americans were all facing, the overwhelming pandemic power of COVID-19.  Social distancing controlled everyone’s lives, and the need to connect, once arbitrary, had become critically important.  What had been abnormal became the new normal, and nobody wanted it. Times Square was empty.

So, seeking connection, I turned to Facebook, Walter, and Amanda as an observer and silent fan.  I had already read Walter’s book and knew him and Amanda, and several of Maine’s Granges, through my volunteer work and growing appreciation for Grange values and community service, as editor of the quarterly WindowDressers Newsletter.   Nonprofit colleagues.

From my virtual vantage, socially distanced between points connecting me here on Islesboro, Maine, the midcoast island where I live, with Amanda in the Washington, D.C. area, and with Abbot Village, Maine, where Walter lives, I cheered them on, every word, connecting what I had experienced through our common experiences, interactions, and understanding. 

Their conversation focused on the messages in Walter’s book, Exploring Traditions – The Grange Way of Life (Abbot Village Press, 2018), a collection of essays that, as National Master (President) Betsy Huber states in the book’s preface, “…unpack the teachings of the Grange and relate them to today’s world and our everyday lives.”  The book collects three years of monthly columns Walter wrote and contributed to the MSG website.

The Grange began with the concepts that originated with its seminal founder, Oliver Hudson Kelley, in the mid-1800s, just after the end of the Civil War.  Kelley was a Minnesota farmer who had homesteaded there on the bank of the Mississippi River, and the farm he established is still there, protected, restored, and preserved as living history by the Friends of the Kelley Farm.

So, here’s the point. For me, having an open mind and welcoming others into our lives is immeasurably enriching.  Learning about the Grange, and seeing how it has affected so many people ever since Oliver Hudson Kelley began making his belief and passion for an organization happen, one that has lasted so long and been so important to thousands of Americans is no small thing. 

And right now, when we need it as much as we do, to connect from such distances, it has become virtually essential. 


A member of Valley Grange in Guilford, Toby Martin works with nonprofit organizations whose missions inspire community involvement in Maine and New England.  He lives in Islesboro, where he represents groups involved in energy, the environment, the library, arts and culture. He is a published poet, playwright, and essayist, the editor of two mainland publications, and contributes regularly to online and print media. 

Apr 162020
 

Meandering Around the Grange Way of Life with Walter Boomsma  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  

Perhaps you’ve heard that I’m scheduled to appear soon on a National Grange Livestreamed Program entitled “Exploring Connections.” Based partly on my book, a goal of the program is to explore ways Granges might make connections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement of the program includes my observation, “One of my goals in writing the book was to get people thinking about how the Grange–its rituals and traditions–connect to the world today. Too often we get stuck in a backward and inward perspective. We may need to turn our welcome mat around. Instead of thinking ‘Welcome to the Grange,’ we may need to focus on getting out into the world. The Grange way of life works best when we’re in the world, not when we’re in a Grange Hall. That’s as true today as it was 150 years ago.”

One of the questions I plan to raise is how much different the current needs for connection are now versus any other time in our history. We may need a little creativity given the limitations of social distancing and quarantines, but human nature and society have not changed much. The needs may not have changed, but the opportunity has increased exponentially.

Let’s start by recognizing we may be talking about two different types of connections. The first is an internal connection—the links within the Grange. Here we might be referring to the relationship between members of a Grange, between Granges in an area, and between the various levels of the Grange (Pomona, State, National). The second is an external connection—the connections individual members and Granges have with other individuals and organizations. The program will be exploring opportunities for external links.

In the book, one chapter describes an experience with the media that caught me a bit off guard. During a television interview, the reporter asked, “What is your hope for the Grange in the future?” As I recall, I fumbled an answer that included “that it continues to be a vibrant and energetic organization that contributes to our communities.” Not a bad response, but as a communications professional, I knew there was a better one.

While giving it some thought, I found another interesting question. “How long will the Grange live?” That question was posed to National Grange Master Albert S. Gross in the 1940s. “I believe it will live as long as it continues to serve the welfare of agriculture and the nation. Whenever it becomes ingrown and selfish, and the members look on it only as a means of bringing them pleasure, entertainment, or profit, it will fade away.” Several things ought to strike us about his answer.

The first is he didn’t say, “I hope…” he said, “I believe.” That’s a critical distinction. If we understand the Grange Way of Life, belief replaces hope. Grange teachings are timeless. Grange principles apply just as much today as they did 150 years ago. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t mentally run through a list of hopes. I don’t think, “I hope the world keeps revolving today.” I believe that it will. I don’t hope there will be enough oxygen in the atmosphere. I believe that it will. We count on fundamentals. The Grange way of life ought to be fundamental and foremost in our minds as we start the day.

We are reminded of this at the beginning of every installation of officers. “The order of the Patrons of Husbandry is the only association whose teachings accompany its members in their daily pursuits. They form part of the farmer’s life. They do not call him from his work…” When we talk about exploring connections, let’s not forget how connected we are to nature. We may not all be farmers, but we are connected to the soil, to the earth, to nature. When people suggest we are no longer a farmer’s organization, we ought to remember that. We need to stop thinking the Grange is a place we go to for meetings.

In stating his belief, Master Goss continued, “…it will still be the motivating center from which unlimited community welfare enterprises originate…” Admittedly it would be large, but wouldn’t it be nice to see that sign above the entrance to every Grange Hall? It sure would be better than “Closed for the winter.”

Besides, if we understand what the Grange is and what it stands for, it never closes. It should live in the hearts and minds of every member. “A patron places faith in God, nurtures hope, dispenses charity, and is noted for fidelity. Maybe we need to start our day reciting that—there’s no reason to reserve it for a meeting. It’s a teaching that accompanies us in our daily pursuits. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start finding individuals and organizations that share our beliefs and principles.


Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual or the most recent edition of the Pomona Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange. Information about the book “Exploring Traditions—Celebrating the Grange Way of Life” can be found at Abbot Village Press, on Amazon, or by contacting the author  (walteratboomsmaonlinedotcom)  .

Apr 142020
 

Due to complications created by the recent storm in Maine, “Exploring Connections” has been rescheduled.


National Grange has started a series of Facebook Live Broadcasts during Grange Month to “cultivate connections in the time of COVID.” The daily broadcasts feature guests and a wide range of topics such as making balloon animals to exploring the future of the Grange as an organization.

On Friday, April 17, 2020, at 4:00 pm, Walter Boomsma, author, and Maine State Grange Communications Director, has been invited to appear and discuss “exploring connections,” based partly on his book,?Exploring Traditions–Celebrating the Grange Way of Life.

Boomsma says he’s often a self-appointed cage rattler. “One of my goals in writing the book was to get people thinking about how the Grange–its rituals and traditions–connect to the world today. Too often we get stuck in a backward and inward perspective. We may need to turn our welcome mat around. Instead of thinking ‘Welcome to the Grange,’ we may need to focus on getting out into the world. The Grange way of life works best when we’re in the world, not when we’re in a Grange Hall. That’s as true today as it was 150 years ago.”

Apr 092020
 

National Grange has started a series of Facebook Live Broadcasts during Grange Month to “cultivate connections in the time of COVID.” The daily broadcasts feature guests and a wide range of topics such as making balloon animals to exploring the future of the Grange as an organization.

On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, at 6:00 pm, Walter Boomsma, author, and Maine State Grange Communications Director, has been invited to appear and discuss “exploring connections,” based partly on his book, Exploring Traditions–Celebrating the Grange Way of Life.

Boomsma says he’s often a self-appointed cage rattler. “One of my goals in writing the book was to get people thinking about how the Grange–its rituals and traditions–connect to the world today. Too often we get stuck in a backward and inward perspective. We may need to turn our welcome mat around. Instead of thinking ‘Welcome to the Grange,’ we may need to focus on getting out into the world. The Grange way of life works best when we’re in the world, not when we’re in a Grange Hall. That’s as true today as it was 150 years ago.”

Tune in to this Facebook event to get your cage rattled and your mind engaged. If you’re not on Facebook, no problem! The broadcast will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube. We’ll share the link here after the broadcast.

Mar 162020
 

Meandering Around the Grange Way of Life with Walter Boomsma  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  

“The tools used by us in this degree are the hoe and the pruning knife. The hoe, with which we cut up weeds and stir the soil, is emblematic of that cultivation of the mind which destroys error and keeps our thoughts quickened and ready to receive and apply new facts as they appear, thus promoting the growth of knowledge and wisdom.” These are among the words spoken by the master to the candidates during the second degree.

We tend to think of a hoe as a tool used for eradicating weeds. That’s certainly accurate but the master’s explanation offers an added dimension by noting that the act of hoeing is actually the act of cultivation. Cultivation “quickens” our thoughts and prepares us for new thoughts, thus creating an opportunity for growth and wisdom.

“The pruning knife is used to remove useless and injurious growths from our trees, plants, and vines, should remind you to prune idle thoughts and sinful suggestions, and thus keep your passions within due bounds and prevent your fancy from leading you astray after the vanities and vices of the world. Bear in mind that moral and mental worth rank before worldly wealth or honors, and that, as a worthy cultivator or shepherdess in our glorious fraternity, you can justly claim to belong to the true nobility of the land.”

How ironic is it that, in an organization steeped in tradition and ritual, part of that ritual encourages us to do some hoeing and pruning? A garden left untended certainly will not reflect the “true nobility of the land!” It may be unfortunate that the candidates aren’t given much time to consider the master’s words. But one of the joys of the ritual is that we can always revisit it.

This lesson refers primarily to the individual. A primary purpose of Grange membership is the growth of knowledge and wisdom. (This might be a good time to read the Declaration of  Purposes—a document that is given to candidates at the conclusion of the Second Degree..)

Let us not forget that the hoe and pruning hook also can and should be applied to our organization. It would naturally follow that as members grow in knowledge and wisdom, so does the Grange. We need to “stir the soil” of our Grange and perhaps apply the pruning knife to “useless and injurious growths” that have developed in our Grange.

Sometimes those “injurious and useless growths” can be hard to see. When pruning a tree, one must view it from many different angles. When looking at our Granges, we must view it from many different perspectives. Both literally and figuratively.

An exercise I used to do with groups works if you are still wearing a watch. Without looking, cover the face with your hand and attempt to accurately describe it in detail. (Another version involves taking it off and handing it to a partner who will verify the accuracy of your description and ask leading questions.) Many people find this difficult even though they’ve looked at that watch probably hundreds of times every day since they’ve owned it. The lesson is, in part, there’s a difference between looking and seeing.

Spring is a time of renewal. We will soon be sharpening our hoes and pruning knives and heading to our gardens and orchards. Perhaps we should also be reminded it’s a good time for some renewing of ourselves and our Granges. Let’s stir the soil, cut away the useless and injurious growths and grow ourselves and our Granges


Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual or the most recent edition of the Pomona Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange. Information about the book “Exploring Traditions—Celebrating the Grange Way of Life” can be found at Abbot Village Press, on Amazon, or by contacting the author  (walteratboomsmaonlinedotcom)  .

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