Meat or Heat Raffle Winners

With a resounding Grange thanks to our ticket sellers and buyers, we are pleased to announce this year’s winners!

First Place $100 meat or heat: Garwood Howell

Second Place $50 meat or heat: Lois Prescott

Third Place $25 meat or heat: Bruce Chamberland

Auction helper Hailee (sorry if that's not spelled correctly) enjoys her reward.

Auction helper Hailee (sorry if that’s not spelled correctly) enjoys her reward.

This year’s top ticket sellers included Roger and Judy Ricker, Janice Boomsma and Pat Engstrom, and Betty VanDyke and her granddaughter Roxanne. Thanks for your efforts!

Winners were drawn during intermission  and following our auction of “leftovers” from our Harvest Festival dinner. Auction helper Hailee still had energy left to draw the winning tickets. In appreciation for all her help, she was rewarded with a dictionary–made possible by your support of Valley Grange and our raffle. We caught her looking up words during the second half of the program!

And a special thanks to McKusick Petroleum and Will’s Shop and Save for prize contributions.

Valley Grange appreciates the support we receive from our communities… thanks for making programs like Words for Thirds and Bookworming possible. Collaborations like our recent Harvest Festival to help Piscataquis Santa… our annual Community Citizen Award presentation, Newspapers in Education, and GrowMe are all made possible thanks to you!

GrowME Next Week!

EggThis year our GrowME group will be visiting over 40 classrooms throughout the area and working with an estimated 700 kids in Guilford, Dover Foxcroft, Dexter, Milo, and Brownville. Activities include making animal graphs with kindergarteners, apple tasting and sorting with first graders, butter-making with second graders and a new activity with third graders: making “dirt babies.” Valley Grange volunteers are focusing on PCES as noted in the Bookworm schedule for the month. Additional information about the collaboration and activities can be found on the GrowME website.

The program wraps up with an Eggstravaganza hosted by Valley Grange on Friday, March 22. Volunteers, teachers, parents and kids are all invited to join a community potluck supper at 6 PM, followed by a short program at 7 PM. The program will offer some highlights of the week’s activities and the UMaine Extension’s virtual chicken who will show us how an egg forms inside a chicken! Folks are also invited to bring an unusual farm or kitchen implement for “show and share” to this celebration of agriculture from farm to fork.

Just Five Minutes…

Just Five Minutes is a PowerPoint presentation converted to video that was produced in conjunction with our 2012 Community Citizen Program to give folks a sense of what our Grange is all about and to present some thoughts about community service.

(Should you experience difficulty with buffering, you can watch the program on You Tube by clicking the You Tube logo on the bottom right.)

GrowME Blog Established

The GrowMe collaboration now has a blog! Visit for all sorts of resources and information… Volunteers will find activity and volunteer guidelines. It’s a work in progress, so check back regularly–you can click through from here or visit the site directly. GrowME week starts Monday with volunteers working in Guilford and Dover Foxcroft! Don’t forget that everyone is invited to the Eggstravaganza at Valley Grange on Friday, March 16th. We’ll have a community potluck supper at 6 PM and a fun program at 7 that includes a virtual chicken! This is a family friendly event to celebrate our accomplishments–we’ll have worked in 34 classrooms with approximately 500 kids. We’ll also be appreciating agriculture and it’s role in our lives and communities. All are welcomed!

March 2012 Bookworm Schedule

Reading is fun!

“Children start off reading in books about lions and giraffes and so on, but they also-if they’re lucky enough and have reasonable privileges of any human being-are able to go into a garden and turn over stone and see a worm and see a slug and see an ant.”

David Attenborough

March is a busy month with lots of opportunities for reading and fun!

Thursday, March 1 – Mr. Boomsma will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Monday, March 5 – Bookworms are invited to attend the “GrowME” meeting to help plan school activities by gardeners, farmers, and other volunteers. The meeting will be held at 9 AM at the PCSWCD office in Dover Foxcroft. Contact Mr. Boomsma for more information.

Tuesday,  March 6 – Mr. Boomsma will be at the school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Thursday,  March 8 – Mrs. Leeman will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Monday, March 12th – Mrs. Marsh, Mrs. Bosworth and Mr. Boomsma will be at the school for GrowME activities with kindergarten and first graders! 

Tuesday, March 13th – Mr. Boomsma will be at the school for GrowME–making butter with second graders! Mrs. Erwin will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Wednesday, March 15th – Mrs. Boomsma will be at the school for GrowME–planting seeds with third graders!

 Thursday,  March 16th – Mrs. Leeman will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Friday, March 17th – An Eggstravaganza at Valley Grange to celebrate agriculture and the GrowME Program. Come learn how eggs are developed inside a chicken… and how GrowME hatched! We’ll have a community potluck supper (bring a dish to share–how about an egg dish?) at 6 PM and a program at 7 PM… everybody is invited! Bring the whole family! Download your own Eggstravaganza Poster and make some copies!

Tuesday, March 20th – Mrs. Erwin will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Thursday, March 22nd – Mr. Boomsma will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Friday, March 23rd – Newspapers in Education Awards Assembly at 9:45 AM in the PCES Cafeteria to announce the winning ads!

Tuesday, March 27th – Mrs. Leeman will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

Wednesday, March 28th – Don’t forget to check out the winning Valley Grange ads in today’s edition of The Piscataquis Observer!

Thursday, March 29th – Mrs. Marsh will be at school at 9 AM to bookworm.

March Eggstravaganza!

Friday, March 16th Valley Grange will host an “Eggstravaganza” to celebrate completion of the GrowME activities completed throughout the week—and the hatching of a local program that’s sure to grow every year. Everyone involved in the project – volunteers, teachers, students, parents—is invited! Donna Coffin of Piscataquis County Extension will introduce her “virtual chicken” so we can all learn how eggs are formed and we’ll have highlights of the program’s results. Bring your favorite egg-based dish to share at a community potluck supper at 6 PM. For additional information contact Walter Boomsma at 343-1842 or email. Grange Hall is located at the corner of Guilford Center Road and Butter Street.

GrowME Update

During their recent meeting, the GrowME Team decided to adopt some structure based on the enthusiastic response they’ve had to their offer to provide agricultural activities to local classrooms. Walter Boomsma of Valley Grange will be serving as coordinator for S.A.D. 4 and School Union 60. Shelia Richards of PCSWCD will focus on S.A.D. 68 while Felicia Dumont of UMaine Piscataquis County Extension will work with S.A.D. 41.

The collaboration was loosely formed earlier this year to “build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the objective of creating agricultural literacy and making it fun.” For their first year, the group decided to focus on Kindergarten through first grade and offer short “hands-on” activities in March when “Ag Day” is traditionally celebrated.

“We were optimistic, but not really prepared,” said Walter Boomsma of Valley Grange. “Within a very short period of time we had classrooms from nearly every school in the county signed up.” Boomsma estimates that the collaboration will end up working with over 30 classrooms and nearly 500 students.

The GrowME team also set a deadline of March 2nd for classes to sign up, but Shelia Richards admits it might not be strictly enforced. “We want to be organized and make sure provide a quality experience,” she said. “But it would be hard to say ‘no’ to a teacher or class who wanted us, even at the last minute.”

The group hopes to have their volunteer roster complete by March 9th. Volunteers will have some options in terms of activities, but there will be some guidelines to insure activities are appropriate. Project Team member Lynn Lubas is working on a catalog of activities. “We are creating some structure based on our belief this will be an ongoing program. We don’t want students to repeat an activity as they progress to a new grade, so our options will be determined by grade level.” Lubas also noted that volunteers do not have to be in charge of an activity. Helpers are also needed.

Boomsma is handling publicity for the group and he finds it amusing that interest outside the area is already growing even though the program hasn’t happened yet. “We were recently mentioned in New England City and Town News Notes where a synopsis of our program is listed as an ‘Education Idea Starter.’ I think the appeal of what we’re doing is about simplicity and collaboration. We don’t have or need a budget. We have people with passion, energy, and most importantly—a shared goal.”

More information is available from any one of the coordinators: Boomsma at 343-1842, Richards at 564-2321 and Dumont at 564-3301. The next GrowME team meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 5th at 9 AM at the PCSWCD office. All are welcome!

VG Featured in Dictionary Project Newsletter

One of the strengths of Valley Grange’s Dictionary Project is our determination to respect and involve all the parties by working with them. We appreciate the strong school support and enjoy how “dictionary day” has become something of a “rite of passage” in our schools.

The folks at The Dictionary Project recently invited me to share some thoughts about what makes a good program great. The result is an article entitled, “When I Was Their Age…” in the current issue of their newsletter.

Valley Grange has proudly gained a bit of a reputation for our work with the schools and kids beyond “Words for Thirds.”  While the article  focuses on dictionary presentations, it also reflects the balance we constantly strive to achieve in all our work. We appreciate the fact that our communities, teachers, administrators, parents, and the kids themselves help us.

Click to read the article…

GrowME Sprouts and Spurts

While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. The result is a GrowME program being offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County. The program is the result of collaboration between Valley Grange, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 12-16). Shelia Richards, Executive Director of PCSWCD is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. For the past few years he’s visited second graders at PCES to make butter. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Grange members have also done seed planting activities and created animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.” Richards has also seen positive impact of these hands on experiences—she’s visited a local preschool with a kid – the goat kind – for several years. After last year’s activities, she and Boomsma agreed to explore working together to expand and formalize the program.

Boomsma notes that within a few days of announcing the program they had 27 classes signed up, but there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

This year, the group is planning to focus on kindergarten through third grade but is hoping to make this an annual program and expand into additional grades.

This year’s offer is for a GrowME volunteer to visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email or call Shelia at PCSWCD, 564-2321.

January Activities Abound!

No More Naked Sheep!

We’ve got a great meeting planned for this month… and an important one to boot! Expect a great potluck supper… and we’re inviting our knitters to come and pick up yarn. We now have three collection points, including Piscataquis Community Elementary School—their box was half full last time I checked, Penquis, and the County Extension Office in Dover. Janice and I spent several evenings de-tangling and making yarn balls… we have another box ready to go! If you’ve got some extra yarn hanging around, bring it to the meeting! We’ve also had a request for afghan patterns that you might no longer need. If you have a large quantity of this stuff, I might even arrange for it to be picked up!

Domestics, you have a call…!

At least one other grange and several other organizations around the state have joined our efforts to supply linens to our last troops to leave Iran, soon returning to Manneheim Germany. We’re looking for single bed sheets and pillow cases, towels and wash clothes. Contact Mary Annis (564-0820) for more information or bring them to the meeting.

Fast Facts regarding this month’s meeting…

The date is January 20th. We start with potluck supper at 6 PM… and good grange food on a cold winter’s night is just the right thing! You can check out the recently assembled book of thank you notes for dictionaries, too. We’ll have it toasty warm… and our meeting will begin at 7 PM. The “lecturer’s program” this month features Denise Trafton from Journey House. You are definitely going to want to hear about this—it’s a program that works!  

GrowME is growing!

We now have 27 classes signed up in Greenville, Guilford, and Dover Foxcroft! Bookworms and Valley Grangers are going to want to “reserve” their spot early! The classroom activities will all need to be scheduled during Agriculture Week (March 12-16).

Newspapers in Education

Believe it or not, Newspapers in Education starts again soon Ads must be completed and turned in by March 5th, so we’re already putting together the plan…  This is huge fun and a great opportunity to teach third and fourth graders what the grange is about.

 You Can!

FYI… there are some great “traditional skills” courses coming up starting early in February with “Slice it, Salt it, Stomp it!—how to preserve your garden crop without canning or freezing. There are other courses ranging from backyard maple syrup to starting plants to backyard poultry. Check ‘em out online at! They’re all about independence and self-sufficiency during these tough economic times—and the most expensive class is $15—most are only $5-$10! (You Can is a collaboration between UMaine Piscataquis County Extension and Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative.)