Feb 272019
Short but important items posted for your information and use.

By Walter Boomsma, MSG Communications Director

Book Added…

With thanks to Douglas Hodkin, we’ve added another reference book to the list! Historic Lewiston: The Grange at Crowley’s Junction is a thorough 62-page case study of the history of Lewiston Grange #2 right here in Maine. Visit the Grange Related Books Page.

Star-shaped Harrow Mystery…

Thanks to Peter Nelson of Halcyon Grange for arousing our curiosity… why is the harrow in the implement case star-shaped? We’re investigating and researching… so far it looks like it might be more about farming than Grange symbolism. Expect a full report soon!

Submitting Events…

Hopefully, you’ve heard that the MSG Website Calendar is working again! As a reminder, please send a typed synopsis of your event either as an email  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)   or by using the Submitting Tab.

If you have a flyer or maintain a Facebook Page, you should also consider sharing your event with the Facebook Group Grange Happenings Around the Nation. (If this link doesn’t work, search for the Group.)

February Patrons Chain Available…

Well, sorta… those who received an email link had access to it but the link on the National Grange Website isn’t working… I reported it last weekend but it’s still not working this morning. You can access it using this link from the original email.

Where’s the Grange?

The February Communications Column reminded you that it’s important to determine the 911 address for your Grange Hall. In addition to being necessary for emergencies, it makes it easy for folks to find you using their GPS or an online mapping program.

Grange Month Countdown…

If you are planning to celebrate Grange Month in April, you have about thirty days to get ready! Resources are available on the National Grange Website. Don’t forget to send your Grange Month event information for posting to the MSG website calendar and to the Grange Happenings Facebook Page.

Feb 252019

by Glenys Ryder, Community Service Committee Chair, Danville Junction Grange

Danville Junction Grange #65 distributed over 200 dictionaries to third graders in two different schools this year. We visited Burchard A. Dunn School in New Gloucester and Fairview School in Auburn. They were delivered by Roberta Meserve, Norma Meserve and Glenys Ryder. Each year we look forward to being greeted by third graders with excited faces, eager to receive their dictionaries! We are never disappointed!
Feb 242019

Meandering Around the Grange Way of Life with Walter Boomsma

A recent review of the book, “Exploring Tradition — Celebrating the Grange Way of Life!” in the National Grange e-newsletter obviously caught my eye. The reviewer was complimentary and I particularly enjoyed her observation that it “answered questions I didn’t know I had.”

In what might be a strange coincidence, a member posed an interesting question to me the same day. He noticed that the harrow in the implement case is shaped like a star. Since harrows are usually rectangular he wonders what the significance of the star shape.

Given the use of symbols in our order, it’s probably a safe assumption this was not an accident. We do know the symbolic meaning of the harrow from the Master’s explanation during the First Degree.

The Harrow is used to pulverize the soil as well as to cover the seed. Let this be emblematic of that course of study and observation necessary to enable you fully to understand your business.

But why is it shaped like a star? I’m intrigued! (Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.) Who has a theory or some additional information to share? You may comment on this post (click the “responses” link in the top right corner of the post) or send an email  (webmasteratinfodotcom)  .

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)  .

Feb 232019

By Walter Boomsma, Communications Director

Sometimes I scare myself… even to my own surprise I was able to get the Maine State Grange Website Calendar working again! We do owe a debt of gratitude to a couple of tech support people at the web hosting company I use… a few hours research and help from some knowledgeable people has us back in business!

Let’s review a few basic things regarding submitting events.

  • Include ALL the information. In time, I may create a form to help ensure this but until then remember to include every detail, especially the location of your Grange. Ideally, every event should also include someone or someplace where folks can find more information.
  • “Copy and paste” is the fastest way for me to maintain the calendar and post events. Use the Submit Information Tab or simply send an email. Currently, there is no easy way for me to deal with flyers or pictures of flyers. The same is true of Facebook Events. There is no easy way for me to post Facebook Events directly to the MSG Website Calendar.
  • For those who are “Facebook Friendly” I would strongly suggest you send or share your events to the “Grange Happenings Across the Nation” Facebook Page. Again, remember to include ALL the details including Grange address. This page gets your event national exposure so include “Maine” in your address!
  • Remember that on the MSG Website Calendar we do not post “regular” meetings… we simply do not have enough resources to handle everything, so let’s focus on featuring events designed for the public.
  • And don’t forget–photos and stories of events that have taken place are more than welcome! These stories let others know how exciting and relevant your Grange is to your community. Keep those cards and letters coming in!

If you have any questions or concerns… let me know! I’m currently a little behind posting events, but should be caught up soon!

Send an?email to the Maine State Grange Webmaster  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  
Feb 222019

By Barbara Anderson
Window Dressers Volunteer

It may seem that the St George Grange and Window Dressers Organization have little in common, but it’s food for thought! Founded in 1867, the National Grange began as a fraternal organization for farm communities.  Founded about 2010, Window Dressers began as a way for people in Maine to help each other insulate their homes. People helping each other is the key concept for both groups.  For the second year the St George Grange again opened its doors (November 2018) to support Window Dressers’ efforts in the community to provide indoor window inserts that conserve energy, cutting drafts and keeping heat from escaping through glass windows. 

Grange members and previous Window Dressers customers started measuring windows at homes on the peninsula last spring, and completed their final measuring for the season last week. In September, the workshops at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland geared up to begin cutting the wood and producing the frames for over 33 communities all over the state.  The Maine state Grange still operates in over 150 communities. Branches focus on different community activities year round, including farming, crafts, fairs, dinners, lectures, exercise, internet support, and regular meetings with at least seven members at each. We are not sure if there are still “barn raisings”.

In September, 2018 Window Dressers community workshops geared up at a few granges and a variety of other community buildings provided by churches and other groups partnering to support the efforts of Window Dressers.  The 2018 workshop at the St George Grange lasted for about ten days between Halloween and Thanksgiving. All work is provided by volunteers, many of whom are current or past customers of Window Dressers, or grange members.  In St George, we had the help of 5-10 volunteers every day for those ten days   Some came more than once. Some helped bring materials to the grange from the shop in Rockland. Some brought food  to provide lunch and snacks for the hands-on insert finishers who came in 3 three-hour shifts each day   It was a lot of work, but fun. People connected with old and new friends. In all, we finished about 175 window inserts for about 22 households in and around St George. Of these, about 9 were given the option of making a voluntary donation for their materials rather than paying for the actual cost of materials. (In general, Window Dressers is able to provide about 20 percent of its customers statewide this insulating program at a rate that is virtually no challenge to needy households.) We expect to be able to increase the number of “low-income” orders in 2019, thanks to a private donation.

The St George Grange followed this practical program with its annual Holiday Crafts fair and dinner the first Saturday of December. It was very well attended and helped raise money to cover the cost of grange building expenses, fuel and National Grange fees. It also provides seasonal income for those craftsmen who participate in grange fairs.

Window Dressers continues to operate in Lincoln Street Center into February, finishing frame assembly and wood orders for the statewide builds, as well as for other Knox county residents. Finishing the orders depends greatly on the volunteer help provided, whether at community workshops such as the St George Grange, or at the Window Dressers space on the ground floor at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.  Helping hands will be needed again soon when we start taking orders and setting up appointments to measure windows for the 2019 season.  Please call 596-3073 or 691-4692 for more information, or go to windowdressers.org

Feb 192019
Are dictionaries better than valentine’s?

On Valentine’s Day, Farmington Grange #12 traveled to the Cascade Brook School in Farmington for their annual presentation of free dictionaries to the over ninety third graders at the school. Through the national organization “The Dictionary Project” the Grange is able to purchase “Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary” for a reduced price. The Dictionary Project’s goal is to make sure that every third grader in the country has their own personal book. The Farmington group has been participating in the project for many years, donating over a thousand books.

After a short introduction and a few words about the history and mission of the Grange organization, Marion and Stephen Scharoun, ?Jo Josephson and Teresa Forster passed out the books and engaged the students in a short activity. The students were asked how a dictionary is useful for reading and writing and were shown the other features of this particular book including maps and historical dates and facts. The students then looked up and read out the definitions of the words“courage” and “courtesy.”?

Despite the availability of computers, The Dictionary Project and the non-profits that participate, including Farmington Grange, feel that each student should own their own book which they can use at school or at home and share with their family. ?The students were told that their education is important not just to them and their teachers but to others in the community, like the Grange.

Feb 192019

By Walter Boomsma, MSG Communications Director

Without getting all technical and geeky on you, the software plugin we’ve been using for the MSG Events Calendar is no longer working through no fault of mine or the site. A short explanation is that the technical requirements for it to work changed. This was not a total surprise so I’ve been considering options. It’s also the reason we have a “Conferences and Dates” page that lists dates for regional and state-wide events.

One reality is that it was the least among the least used features on our website. In any given month, rarely were there more than 5-6 events submitted for any given month. Simply stated, relatively few Granges were using it. It was also a relatively high maintenance feature in terms of the time required to maintain it. We just weren’t getting much “bang for the buck.”

Ironically, we’ve recently been offered the opportunity to post events to a Facebook Group with national exposure. The group is called “Grange Happenings Around the Nation” and it is administered by Ellen McManus who lives right here in Maine and is an e-member of the Grange. Unfortunately, due to some recent changes in Facebook Policy, a direct link to it may not always work. However, Facebook users should readily find it by entering the name of the group in the search box at the top of your timeline.

Find the group this way. Then join and follow it. Since it is a moderated group, there may be a slight delay while your membership is approved.

For those Granges who maintain a Facebook Page or group, you can simply post your event to that page, then share it with the Grange Happenings group.

Obviously, we want our events to be publicized to folks who may not use social media. However, maintaining an events calendar on this site has not been particularly effective, so at least for the time being, this seems to be a good alternative. There will be more to come on this topic!

Feb 172019
Short but important items posted for your information and use.

by Walter Boomsma, Communications Director

February Bulletin Posted

The February Bulletin is now complete and available on the Program Books and Information Page. By the way, I am considering a policy change that would only keep the last six month’s Bulletins available on the site… if you have any thoughts about this change, please let me know  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  ! Thtanks!

The Facebook Mystery…

Remains a mystery–links to certain groups and pages simply do not work. I’ve thoroughly searched Facebook’s “Help” system and the Facebook Community where there are lots of people asking the same question. I’ve found no truly definitive answers coming forth. It appears the problem MIGHT be attributable to the way the Page or Group is set up. If that’s true, there’s nothing I can do to fix it and no way to provide a working link to that page or group. This makes some sense to me because links to some groups and pages work. Perhaps a major user of Facebook can figure this out… I’ll keep poking at it but I’m not optimistic I’ll find an answer. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Grange Month Material

How are your plans coming? Remember, support material is available from the National Grange Website. 

Website Performance

Over 12,000 people visited the Maine State Grange Website last year! One of the more common reasons is to find information about specific Granges–including hall rental availability. I can also watch how visits increase based on the amount of information being posted. That’s where you come in! Send news about your Grange… you don’t have to write a 500-word essay… a short paragraph about what you did and how much fun you had is sufficient.

Submitting Photos

Please be reminded that any photos you submit which include children (under 18) means we must have permission from a parent or guardian authorizing use and publication. I am not being mean here, it’s a serious matter and carries significant liability. So far I’ve not required copies of written permission slips but it could come to that. Rules such as this and the policy requiring background checks exist for a reason and we are not exempt from those rules. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  .

Subscribe to Maine State Grange Website!
Feb 172019

By Glenys Ryder, Community Service Director, Danville Junction Grange

Each year, Danville Junction Grange sends Valentines to veterans. ?This year, both of our meetings in January were canceled and our first meeting in February was on Valentine’s Day, so we had to improvise! Steven Haycock, who works at General Dollar, donated dozens of valentines, which we took to our public supper on February 2, 2019. ?We gave them out to our supper guests to sign, thanking veterans for their service to our country. ?Brother Maynard Chapman delivered them to Veteran Jerry DeWhitt, who will distribute them to veterans at Togus and nursing homes in the area. Project completed!

Shown in the photo signing Valentines, are MSG Chief Deputy Maynard Chapman, MSG Assistant Steward Rick Grotton, and MSG Treasurer Vicki Huff

Feb 172019

Meandering Around the Grange Way of Life with Walter Boomsma

As a teacher who must administer tests I’m keenly aware of the impact stress and anxiety have. Adults and kids who are well-prepared can sometimes become the victims of their own anxiety and suddenly find it difficult to think straight because they become focused on the stress instead of the test. It’s easy to feel out of control. There are some interesting mental processes at work but I think most folks can identify with “test anxiety.”

A somewhat parallel situation can develop whenever we are thrown into an unfamiliar situation where there is some expectation we need to perform or act properly. For new members, this might include “degree anxiety.”

I well remember our introduction to the Grange. Things happened rather quickly and we actually ended up celebrating the four degrees before we understood very much about the Grange and the Ritual. We still joke about the fact that we were sent to the wrong Grange so when we arrived for this incredibly important event the doors were locked and there was no one there. “Wow!” we thought. “This really is a secret organization!” Since there are some folks around who remember the faux pas, we occasionally laugh about it but I remember wondering if we had somehow made a mistake, done something wrong, or failed a membership test.

When we finally did get to a “degree day” at the correct location I well remember having no clue what was actually going to happen. I didn’t feel very calm and comfortable when I was blindfolded. But I also well remember one kindly old gentleman who led us around the hall and through the process. He truly tried to make us feel comfortable before we started. And since I was immediately behind him I appreciated that he whispered insights and the occasional wisecrack. Some of the questions we were asked were frightening but he seemed to intercede before we had to answer. He was my partner for the “Grange Handshake” and I well remember him whispering, “This will probably be the only time you ever do this.”

At that point, I was so overwhelmed it was a huge relief to hear that I didn’t have to worry. I will freely confess that I didn’t remember much else from the degree work in spite of the assistant steward’s efforts. Fortunately, at the time we joined, degree days were not uncommon and I had the opportunity to witness and then participate often. Since the mystery and anxiety were all but gone, I also was able to focus on the lessons of the degrees.  In time, I came to a deeper, fuller understanding of those lessons. But I’ve also concluded that there is much more to learn from the Degree Work.

I tell the story in the hopes that patrons might be reminded of their earliest experiences both fondly and empathetically. And, as we do, let’s understand that human nature hasn’t changed much. Prospective and new members can easily be “overwhelmed” by the amount of information that seems to be required by our Ritual and traditions. And, as if that is not enough, as the Master says at the beginning of the degree work, “There is far more to the Grange than Ritualism. The underlying philosophy of the Grange is portrayed by the oldest and most successful method of communication known to man—the use of symbols.”

Perhaps, if we are to truly preserve and practice the Grange Way of Life, there are a least a couple of things we might consider. First, in the interest of helping new members benefit from the Degree Work Experience, we might consider some preparation. This could range from a brief conversation or “class” for new members that provides an overview of the process and lessons along with some practical advice. Another consideration might include some printed material—a flyer or short booklet that incorporates some explanation of the symbolism and “what to expect.” (Some of this might be gleaned from the 2013 Grange Manual in the “Detailed Instructions on Degree Work” beginning on page 87.) The charge given by the Master also helps with this. “The staves carried by the Steward, the Assistant Stewards and the Gatekeeper, the working tools of the Order and the capes and blindfolds to be worn by the marching candidates at the beginning of the First Degree, are all part of that symbolism…”

Secondly, we might explore ways to visit the Degree Lessons more frequently than the occasional “Degree Day. This might somewhat naturally fall to the Lecturer who could develop a brief program on some of the lessons. It could be as simple as selecting a paragraph or two to read and discuss.

Third, I’ve been happy to hear that some Granges are looking at different approaches to “doing” the Degrees. Several have mentioned that rather than doing a lengthy degree day, they are conducting each degree separately, over a period of time. They do this in order to incorporate some “fellowship time” after the Degree with discussion and celebration of the teachings just finished.

After all, the Master’s charge also clearly and succinctly states, “The chief objective of the Grange is to build a better and higher manhood and womanhood, and to develop a mutual respect and concern through Brotherhood.”

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)  .