Articles by Kathryn Olmstead


Towns that lose newspapers lose a gift of democracy

By Kathryn Olmstead on April 12, 2012, at 12:04 p.m.
The Houlton Pioneer Times calls itself “the only newspaper in the world interested in Houlton, Maine.” That’s no exaggeration. The claim can be made by any small-town newspaper, and its significance takes on new meaning as towns such as Belfast and Bar Harbor lose weekly newspapers. As staffs and resources …
On March 20 rapidly flowing water was carving a dark channel through the ice on the Aroostook River in front of my house.

Record-breaking temperatures cause unprecedented early ice-outs in Aroostook

By Kathryn Olmstead on March 29, 2012, at 3:50 p.m.
I couldn’t believe it. I returned from a late afternoon walk March 20 and rapidly flowing water was carving a dark channel through the ice on the Aroostook River in front of my house. Could it be? I can’t remember an ice-out before April since I moved here in 1992. …
Creative Aroostook County residents have found various ways to protect their mail boxes from the snow plow or other potential threats. Among the inventive ideas that can be seen just off various roads in The County is this levered mail box with a weight on one end that keeps the box high in the air until the user pulls on the rope to lower and fill or empty it.

Inventive Aroostook County residents find creative ways to protect mailboxes

By Kathryn Olmstead on March 15, 2012, at 6:45 p.m.
Anyone who travels the roads of Aroostook County has to appreciate the lengths to which people go to protect their mailboxes from the snowplow and other threats. I have not had a mailbox for years. Between Halloween pranksters and winter snowplows, I just can’t keep one standing. So I have …

Maine gardeners, growers asked to help feed the hungry

By Kathryn Olmstead on March 01, 2012, at 5:19 p.m.
Maine is the most food-insecure state in New England — ninth in the nation. That means one in five children under the age of 16 in this state lives in a household uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough nutritious food for all its members. This information, based on …

Aroostook ties run deep, pay big dividends

By Kathryn Olmstead on Feb. 16, 2012, at 10:28 p.m.
Generosity is not a trait typically associated with the nation’s wealthy in this age of anger among the “99 percent.” Yet recent and past gifts to Aroostook County provide a counterpoint to popular stereotypes of the affluent. I remember back in the 1980s when townspeople in Easton were surprised by …
Maliseet Chief Brenda Commander (left) of the Houlton Band presents native baskets made by tribe member Bill Tomah to officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in gratitude for their participation in the opening of a new multifamily housing facility on tribal land Feb. 9. Under secretary Dallas Tonsager (right) came from Washington, D.C., for the ceremony and State Director Virginia Manuel came from Bangor.

Maliseets bless new six-unit housing complex in Houlton

By Kathryn Olmstead, Special to the BDN on Feb. 10, 2012, at 1:52 p.m.
HOULTON, Maine — Families in the Houlton Band of Maliseets have begun to move into new homes in a six-unit apartment complex on Clover Circle in Houlton that was opened officially in a ceremony Feb. 9. Tribal Chief Brenda Commander cut the ribbon held by Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager of U.S. …
Kathryn Olmstead

Global warming forum moves some participants to action

By Kathryn Olmstead on Feb. 02, 2012, at 2:51 p.m.
An OpEd by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben in the Jan. 23 Bangor Daily News probably attracted more readers than it would have had it not appeared on the heels of a Jan. 20 statewide forum sponsored by the University of New England Center for Global Humanities and the Maine …
Passamaquoddy basket maker Jeremy Frey of Indian Township (far right) addresses an audience at the University of Maine at Presque Isle during a presentation on the "Evolution of Basket Making: From Function to Art." Other panelists (from left) are Maliseets Fred Tomah of Houlton and Victor Bear of Tobique First Nation, N.B., Micmac Roldena Sanipass of Presque Isle and Penobscot Jennifer Neptune of Indian Island.

The dying art of making ash wood baskets

By Kathryn Olmstead on Jan. 19, 2012, at 12:36 p.m.
When Roldena Sanipass was a girl she watched her mother weave strips of brown ash into traditional Micmac baskets. She could be seen in the background, pounding ash or cleaning splints while her mother, well-known basket maker Mary Sanipass, demonstrated her craft, but she didn’t have the confidence to weave …
A painting that John Baker of Fort Kent gave to Philomena Baker to help her envision the beauty of Maine hangs on the wall as her mother, Philomene Keller, helps her prepare for her wedding on Aug. 12, 1959, in Amberg, Germany.

‘Naturally, beautifully friendly’ residents of Fort Kent made German bride feel at home

By Kathryn Olmstead on Jan. 05, 2012, at 2:01 p.m.
Just a year ago, the Bangor Daily News was advertising a forum at the Bangor Public Library for readers to talk with Philomena Baker, the subject of a seven-part series of articles titled Flight to Freedom that appeared in the paper between Dec. 25, 2010, and Jan. 1, 2011. People …
Humvees, tanks, trucks, communications equipment, mobile kitchen units and even field laundries have been transported to the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone for repair by local mechanics and auto body experts at the Maine Military Authority, which employs between 150 and 200 people.

Loring structure’s refusal to collapse is symbolic of Aroostook County resilience

By Kathryn Olmstead on Dec. 22, 2011, at 1:01 p.m.
It was to be the largest implosion in the state of Maine. The building that had served as the heating plant for Loring Air Force Base from 1953 until the base closed in 1994 was expected to collapse in on itself in six seconds. Demolition crews had spent weeks removing …
Jim Gerritsen of Bridgewater made his first trip to New York City to address the Dec. 4 “Farmers’ March” to Zuccotti Park organized by the Food Justice Committee of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Aroostook farmer the face of organic growers’ fight against Monsanto

By Kathryn Olmstead on Dec. 08, 2011, at 1:05 p.m.
I have wanted to catch up with Bridgewater organic farmer Jim Gerritsen ever since he was named in October to the 2011 list of 25 visionaries who are changing the world by the national magazine Utne Reader. When I finally succeeded last weekend, he was on his way to New …

Only travel medicine clinic north of Bangor saves Central American trip

By Kathryn Olmstead on Nov. 24, 2011, at 9:25 p.m.
It was not until the week before my departure for a trip to Central America that I read the details about immunization. I had focused on the sentence: “No immunizations are currently required for visiting Belize,” in the materials we received weeks ahead of the journey. When I read on, …
Kathryn Olmstead

Home birth was first in Grand Isle in 40 years

By Kathryn Olmstead on Nov. 10, 2011, at 5:08 p.m.
The Grand Isle town clerk was a little nervous when Marada Cook and Ryan Redmond brought their infant to the town office to be registered July 23, 2007. “Seems we were all three a little nervous,” Clerk Marie Sirois recalled recently. “It was a first-time experience for me.” In her …
A moose seems drawn back to the apple trees, even in the eye of a camera lens.

Moose welcome to visit anytime

By Kathryn Olmstead on Oct. 27, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.
Wouldn’t you know. A moose walks into my front yard and I can’t find my camera. The little case is empty. Where did I put it? I gaze at the huge animal munching on the leaves of the apple trees outside my kitchen window. I guess I will just have …
Kathryn Olmstead

Blowout highlights kindness of residents in Aroostook

By Kathryn Olmstead on Oct. 13, 2011, at 8:40 p.m.
It wasn’t a big hole, but it was deep, very round and too close to avoid after I saw it — a black space in the white line beside the road. My front right tire took the hole squarely with a thud and the warning light on the dash glowed …
During the Festival des Deux Rives, in 1989, members of local service clubs and community organizations in Van Buren (foreground) competed in tugs-of-war against their counterparts across the St. John River in St. Leonard, New Brunswick. Judges in a canoe in the middle of the river declared the winners by raising the appropriate national flag after each victory. The losers got wet.

Boundaries mean something different to residents of borderlands

By Kathryn Olmstead on Sept. 29, 2011, at 7:01 p.m.
What do borders mean? It’s an intriguing question that drew residents of both Maine and Canada to a pair of discussions in Houlton and Frenchville on Sept. 16 and 17. Sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council, the programs asked participants to explore and expand their views of the border as …
Kathryn Olmstead

Defending Aroostook in midst of New York Times article

By Kathryn Olmstead on Sept. 15, 2011, at 12:09 p.m.
A first visit to Aroostook County can be a myth-defying experience. Aroostook myths germinate in a segment of the population prone to the comment: “I’ve lived in Maine all my life (or for X number of years) but have never been to Aroostook County,” spoken with a hint of pride. …
Bill Sheehan (second from right) focuses his scope on a yellowlegs shorebird on the opposite side of Lake Josephine in Easton while members of the Aroostook Birders find the bird with their binoculars.

Aroostook Birders find silver lining in polluted water

By Kathryn Olmstead on Sept. 01, 2011, at 5:17 p.m.
I never thought I would see any benefits in water pollution, but a recent excursion with the Aroostook Birders taught me there is a silver lining to our polluting past. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Aroostook County farmers were temporarily sold on the idea of growing sugar beets as …
Kathryn Olmstead masquerading as a Swede during the 1998 Midsommar festival in New Sweden.

Transplant envious of Aroostook Swedes’ cultural awareness

By Kathryn Olmstead on Aug. 18, 2011, at 12:47 p.m.
Living in Aroostook County has given me a kind of heritage envy. I am sure my ancestors had compelling narratives of the hardships they endured in coming to a strange land, but they arrived so long ago their stories have been lost. Descendants of immigrants to northern Maine and adjacent …
Jessica Blackstone demonstrates how Lil' Farmers at The Fair will deliver their produce to the Farmers Market.

Lil’ Farmers exhibit lets children see, feel where food, clothes come from

By Kathryn Olmstead on Aug. 04, 2011, at 4:36 p.m.
Aroostook County is a great place to turn a good idea into reality, especially if it involves children and agriculture. When cash is scant, energetic promotion of a vision can attract volunteers and donations to create something new. That’s what happened when Kevin McCartney, president of the Northern Maine Fair …
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