May 302020

The National Grange Executive Committee is very sorry to announce that the 2020 National Grange Convention will have many changes because of the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore will be open for National delegates and officers only. No visitors or Grangers will be invited to attend in person this year.

The convention will be cut to two days and the only business will be voting on resolutions and electing two executive committee officers. Extra activities, such as the Evening of Excellence, Youth and Junior Public Speaking and Sign a Song, will take place virtually. The Seventh Degree will not be exemplified this year.

Other recognitions such as Community Service awards, Distinguished Grange, Grange Legacy Family, and the Quilt Block Contest, will be held and awards given, but there will be no ceremony. National Grange Department Directors will be sending out information regarding their programs and how they will be handled this year, so stay tuned!

The Valley Forge Casino Resort, site of the convention, has been closed since March 14 to this date (June 6). We don’t know when it will be permitted to open, because the counties around Philadelphia are a hot spot for the virus. The hotel is willing to allow us to downsize our convention to two days, 80 people, hopefully without penalty, so we are exercising that option at this time.

Also we do not want to endanger any of our members by asking them to travel and to spend days in a large crowd. The health and safety of our Grange family comes first. We feel it may not be safe to gather, even by November. Many of your State Sessions will see major changes this year also. We hope you will understand this decision, and keep on working at the local level as much as you can to help your communities.

May 272020

Guilford—Valley Grange of Guilford is sponsoring a Parade of Pirates to celebrate the final day of school for SAD 4 and “acknowledge our community treasures—schools, teachers, parents, kids—everyone who helps make this a great place to live and learn,” according to Walter Boomsma, Program Director of the Guilford-based Grange. Using the school mascot as a theme seemed appropriate, according to Boomsma. “While we might not approve of everything pirates did, the fact is they led exciting lives and in many cases built up huge treasures. That certainly describes life in our schools and communities.”

Scheduled for the final day of school, June 10, 2020, and starting at 1:00 pm, the parade of vehicles will travel through the MSAD 4 Campus with appropriate waving, balloons, decorated vehicles, horn-blowing, and yelling. Teachers and staff will line the edges of the driveway in what Boomsma hopes becomes a “huge event” that marks the official end of the school year and the start of summer. Noting that many events are being canceled this year, he said, “We know we can do this safely. Drivers and passengers are instructed to remain in their vehicles while driving slowly and safely through the campus. Valley Grange members and volunteers will assist with directing traffic and maintaining social distancing.”

Noting that the event is not just for parents and kids, Boomsma said that community organizations, businesses—anyone who wants to celebrate our community treasures and accomplishments is invited to follow the parade through the campus.

Valley Grange Community Service Chair Mary Annis says she’s excited, “We have a great relationship with the school and kids thanks to programs like our Dictionary Day and Bookworming… We have been missing the kids and those activities we normally do. This seems like a great opportunity to take the focus off what we have missed this year and put it on what we have.”

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, 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 252020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all regional conferences have been canceled for the health and safety of our members.

National Grange Youth and Junior Grange Directors have established a contingency plan for members to still be able to participate in regional public speaking and Sign-a-Song contests which are required in order to take part in the national competitions. Contestants must sign up by June 15, 2020 in order to participate in the July contests. Contests will be held via Zoom on July 18-19. All Grangers of any age are welcome to participate. Only Junior and Youth/Young Adult participants will qualify for Best of Show.

Sign up to take part in public speaking and sign-a-song competitions in place of regional conference in-person competitions.

Read the contingency plans for these conferences

May 212020

By Walter Boomsma  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  ,
MSG Communications Director
207 343-1842

Communication Shorts are brief (short) but important items posted for your information and use, including Degree Days and Officer Installations.

Facemasks for Farms

Free cloth face masks available to farms, made available by the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) in partnership with the Maine Dept. of Corrections. If your farm needs reusable cloth face masks, submit a request; they are currently working on distribution logistics but have several thousand made and more being made. Limit two per person.

May Bulletin Available

The May Bulletin is complete and available for download from the Program Books and Information Page. You can usually count on the current month’s Bulletin being available on the website by 17th of the month.

Email Safety Reminder

The media is reminding us that many scams are happening… I’ve had one report of an email problem–email that arrives appearing to be from someone but it’s not actually from that person. If you receive an email that seems a bit “out of character” for the sender, beware! Look closely at the actual email address of the sender and verify the identity. Unfortunately, these times require that we all be a little suspicious.

Have You Got Style?

A “sound bite” is literally a snippet of sound of someone talking. The key feature of a sound bite is its brevity. During live reporting or television interviews, it’s important to be concise. With the average story running 3-5 minutes, it’s important to make your point or answer the question concisely.

Website News

Don’t forget to look at the bottom of every post to find some icons that will make it easy for you to share that post. You can, for example, click the Facebook Logo/Icon to place the post on your Facebook Timeline. Or click the envelope icon to mail a link to the post to someone who might be interested.

Online Directories Available 24-7

Remember, we have two directories that are interactive–meaning you can sort and search! The first is the ODD Directory, which features all state officers, directors, and deputies with contact information. The second is the Directory of Granges, which features all Granges in the state. Both are getting used! Make sure your Grange listing is correct!

Bulletin Reminder

As a reminder, columns and news items for the monthly printed Bulletin are due by the fifteenth of the month. Columns and news items for the website can be submitted at any time.

Note that when you subscribe to the Maine State Grange Website we do not share your email address with others and only use it to send you–at the most–one email per day when new information is posted.

May 202020
Mill Stream Grange members met with Gordon Webber on May 19 to help place flags on veteran’s graves at the Franklin Cemetery in Vienna. Grangers (l-r) Jill Sampson, Paul Lavender, Maggie Chadwick, Pat Onion, and Lisa Goucher helped with this effort to honor United States veterans.
May 162020

By Gerald Libby, President
Educational Aid & Howes Nurses’ Scholarship Fund

207 634-4453

Students today need all the help they can get.  Won’t you help them?

We, the Trustees of the Educational Aid & Howes Nurses’ Scholarship Funds, ask for your support as we continue our annual appeal for help!

In this day we are all well aware of the importance of post-secondary education if we are to be successful in our chosen field.

We come to you again for help, as we have done for many years, to obtain the funds needed for our scholarship programs.  The Trustees of the scholarship funds have developed criteria for assistance in helping to decide who should receive scholarships.  A copy of the criteria is on the reverse side of this letter.

A scholarship application is enclosed* in the event that you have an eligible applicant in your Grange.  Please return the completed application to the above address on or before September 15th.  Please destroy application forms which do not have the revision date of 5/19.  Please remember that the Master or Secretary of the Grange must confirm eligibility requirements and sign the completed application.

Please send the form at the bottom of the page* with your donations to J. Patrick Elwell at the above address with a check made payable to:  Educational Aid and Howes Nurses’ Scholarship Funds.

* Both of these items can be found on the Program Books and Information Page in the “Educational Aid” Section.

May 162020

By Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)  , Quills End Farm

Oh, yes, it is time for egg puns and eggstraordinary recipes. Despite the chilly chill of these greening days, despite the lurking contagion and all its consequent mayhem, it is still and ever the time of fertility, of birth, of life returning, and what better symbol, what better food of the season, what better banner of all things spring and delicious than…the eggsalted egg?!

In the era of Covid-19, it is yet our family’s birthday season, in which we all celebrate birthdays in the short span of 6 spring weeks from March til May. We start in mud and sometimes snow, and, by the time we celebrate Ben (18 this year!) are, almost always, enjoying dandelions and the beginning of forsythia in bloom. There is cake: cheesecake, chocolate cake, sometimes ice cream cake, chocolate chip cookie cake, and mocha toffee pie-cake.
On May Day we celebrated Phil and pulled out his favorite recipe invented by our good friend, WendiLou, when we gave her Quill’s End ingredi-ents for her own birthday cheesecake one year. It’s called Best Birthday Cheesecake and is truly, ahem, eggceptional, eggsquisite, eggstra special springtime celebrating good!

While it is certainly a strange time to celebrate and definitely in muted tones, we pause and observe our special ones especially tenderly amidst the muchness this particular year. The gifts of this year are a gaze held longer that catches the eye, a little smile–care-worn, but lit all the same, a joke brought out to make us laugh, and good food prepared with love and cheer despite the weight of the time and the work of the day.

Here it is then, for your own observations of spring springing, the annual sharing of the best birthday cheesecake. It is a worthy endeavor.

Best Birthday Cheesecake
Graham crust:
1 pkg. graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter

1 pound Farmstead Cheese
1 1/3 c. Greek Yogurt
1 c. sugar
5 eggs

Whisk in mixer until satiny smooth. Bake 1+ hour, not too hot, 325 degrees.

When cool, put the remaining Greek yogurt on top mixed with 1 t. vanilla and 1/4 c. sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

One more eggstravagance? Top with fresh raspberries and lemon curd. Mmmmmm.

Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying club of farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers. Visit the Quill’s End Farm Facebook Page for more information.

May 162020

By Walter Boomsma

Due to workload and scheduling challenges, this month’s column is reprinted from my book Exploring Traditions. It seemed especially important as spring approaches and we start seeing butterflies.

“…The springing seed teaches us to increase in goodness, and the growing trees to aspire after higher and broader knowledge.” These are words spoken by the Chaplain during the celebration and instruction of the Second Degree.

Later in the degree, the master explains, “There is no object in which, to appearance, life and death border so closely together as in the grains of seed buried in the earth; but when life seems extinct a fuller and richer existence begins anew.” Near the close of this degree, the master reminds us that “The salutation of this degree ‘places faith in God and nurtures Hope.’”

Grange ritual and teachings take great advantage of the lessons of nature and those lessons are many. “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 new facts as they appear, thus promoting the growth of knowledge and wisdom.”

“The pruning knife, used to remove useless and injurious growths from our trees, plants and vines, should remind you to prune idle thoughts and sinful suggestions… Bear in mind that moral and metal worth rank before worldly wealth or honors…”

I wish I could remember where I recently read the observation that “in order to become a butterfly, you have to be willing to give up being a caterpillar.” The words are not exactly Grange teaching, but the thought surely is. “When life seems extinct a fuller and richer existence begins anew.”

If you have some remaining seeds from planting your garden (the second degree uses corn) I’d encourage you to find one and hold it in your palm and hear the master’s words, “Behold these inanimate kernels of corn! But the germ has life—the future plant is there…” In a workshop I’ve presented, I point out that all of the life potential and a complete set of instructions to create it are within that small seed. That’s H-O-P-E and a powerful lesson nature teaches.

The lesson is certainly about individual potential, but I think it can apply to our Granges which, after all, are a collection of individuals. If each of us has that much promise and potential, does not our Grange? When we consider our heritage, our principles, and our teachings… do we not have within us the potential for a “fuller and richer existence…” are not all the instructions there that will allow us to grow into something wonderful? Is our order placing faith in God and nurturing hope? Are we collectively increasing in goodness and aspiring after higher and broader knowledge?

I wonder what a caterpillar thinks—or for that matter, if it does. Does it know what its future is going to be? Nature clearly has programmed it to wrap itself up in a mummy-like state without questioning whether or not it’s a good idea. The caterpillar doesn’t have to decide to give up its existence and become a butterfly. That’s a grand plan because if caterpillars were like people, the situation would be a lot different. Many caterpillars would be quite content to remain caterpillars. Some would fear becoming a butterfly and needing to fly. They would be quite content to crawl about munching leaves. But some would look forward to the adventure and the freedom that comes with flying. They would be willing to go through the metamorphosis required. Those who remain caterpillars would cling to their existence and perhaps even complain that there aren’t enough caterpillars left because everyone is too busy being a butterfly.

The Grange way of life, like nature, is meant to be filled with hope, promise, and potential. We just have to decide to give up being caterpillars and commit to becoming a butterfly—to becoming something that is different and beautiful. The challenge we face is accepting that who and what we are may not be who and what we become. But let us let nature remind us that while the butterfly is found in the caterpillar, it is equally true that the caterpillar is found in the butterfly. Nature does not resist change, it depends on it, understanding that a seed is not meant to stay a seed and a caterpillar is not meant to remain a caterpillar. Life is about becoming and when we think things are dying what is really  happening is. “a fuller and richer existence begins anew.”

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, on Amazon, or by contacting the author.