Sep 042010

From the Swan Island web page:

“It’s is not for those who depend on a high level of outside entertainment, for we have no theatre, no boutiques, no country club; in fact alcoholic beverages cannot be purchased on the Island

It is not for those who want instant, inexpensive travel facilities, for although we have reliable State Ferry Service, it takes some advance planning to be sure of being on it

It is not for those with a low threshold of frustration for the inevitable delays and inconveniences that go with Island living

SWAN’S is the place for a very special kind of individual…

It is ideal for those who are skilled at entertaining themselves in fog or sunshine and who prefer an hour beach combing to an hour bowling, and a good book to a movie

It is a joy to those who delight in spectacular scenery and appreciate the simple rhythm of days which are determined by the comings and goings of tide and ferry

It is the place for those who are content with low-keyed social life, where an evening invitation usually calls only for a clean sweatshirt and dry sneakers.”

“Swan’s Island is located off the coast of Maine near Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. It is a remote island, with ferry service originating in Bass Harbor. The six mile crossing from Bass Harbor takes about 40 minutes. The ferry, “Captain Henry Lee”, holds 17 automobiles as well as walk-on passengers. The island has almost none of the mainland amenities. There are no liquor sales, and no amusements, except those that people create for themselves. The year-round population is about 350 people, with over 1000 people in the summertime.

 Swan’s, a large island of some 7,000 acres (ten square miles), has a highly irregular shoreline that provides secure and interesting anchorages for visiting boaters. It is hilly, but not particularly high. There is a quarry for swimming as well as places to visit on foot or bicycle. The island has three little villages, Atlantic in Mackerel Cove on the north coast, Swan’s Island, on the shores of Burnt Coat Harbor in the south and Minturn.

Lobstering is the main occupation on Swan’s Island. The economy of the island is mostly dependent on the income derived from lobstering. Swan’s Island has about 40 full-time lobstermen and women, and many part-timers, including school children who fish from small skiffs in the summer.

Income is from property tax and various excise taxes and fees.

The island’s grammar school serves children from kindergarten through eighth grade, and a separate pre-school serves younger children.  Some Island students are home-schooled.”

Swan’s Island residents are pleased to have a new store that offers a healthy selection of staples during regular weekly hours, with sandwiches on Fridays only.

“SWAN’S ISLAND’S PRELIMINARY WIND POWER STUDY RESULTS A preliminary analysis of the wind resource study has proven that Swan’s Island’s wind resource is strong…and  is more than adequate to produce most of the Island’s power needs during the windier months of the year. Using the wind data collected for the 12 calendar months of 2008 , Swan’s Island’s wind velocity averages nearly 13 miles per hour…   If the Board of Trustees of the Swan’s Island Electric Cooperative believe that the report is supportive of moving forward with permitting and financing a Wind Power Project, then it will move to hold a vote of the Cooperative membership to see whether there is strong community support for a project among year-round and summer residents who are members of the Electric Cooperative. A strong majority vote of the membership would authorize the Board to begin the application for permits and to begin arranging the financing for the project to move forward.
Phase II, which includes the Permitting Process, as well as the financial and legal arrangements, could consume much of 2011, and actual construction and commissioning of a wind turbine (Phase III) could easily stretch into the summer and fall of 2012.”

This blogger took a bike trip to Swan’s Island.

Sep 032010

“The Island has one main store (Doughty’s Island Market) that also serves coffee and sandwiches.  There is also a gift shop that runs seasonally and a boatyard that  sells gasoline.  The library, health clinic, and community hall share one building, and the town office, fire department, and rescue services all share the public-safety building.  The island post office, now in a trailer, will soon be moving from a trailer to a permanent building.

The island has a recreation center with an outdoor swimming pool, exercise equipment and a gym (shared with the school).  Additionally, the recreation center runs activities such as a teen-center, exercise classes, and Sanford’s skating pond.. The island  has a small farm, Secondwind Farm.  There is an assisted-living center, the Island Commons, that helps Chebeaguers stay on the island as long as possible. One outdoor restaurant, Calder’s clam shack, opens from spring to fall as long as the weather permits. In the past there has been a hotel as well as various B&Bs…

Two ferry lines serve Chebeague Island, but no car ferry.  Chebeague Transportation Company runs 9-10 boats per day on a 15 minute trip between the east end of Chebeague and Cousin’s island, which is part of the town of Yarmouth and bridged to the mainland.  Casco Bay Lines runs 4-5 trips a day from the west end of the island into Portland, which takes over an hour.  A privately owned barge company is available to move cars on and off the island. Many people on Chebeague work in lobstering or other marine industries, and many people commute off the island; dozens of others work in the building trades as well as in a myriad other jobs that make the island tick.  Chebeague also has a large population of retirees. To get to the ferry one has to park in a fairly expensive parking lot and take a shuttle to the ferry dock.

The best online source of information on Chebeague is, which has links to every organization’s website, island news, and many pictures, found both on the photos link, and by scrolling back through the news updates on the main page.

After seceding from the town of Cumberland, Chebeague Island became Maine’s newest independent town on July 1, 2007.  The reason for the secession was to protect the future of its island elementary school, without which it would be extremely difficult to sustain a year-round population.

Historically, Chebeague was a famous shipbuilding center; its “stone sloops” transported granite up and down the coast.  Chebeague’s year-round population is approximately 360 people, with a summer population of approximately 1,600. Chebeague’s island school has three classes from Pre-K to fifth grade pre-k, k-2 and 3-5), after which students commute to the mainland.  Currently there are 22 students in the school, and 27 attending middle and high school off-island.”

Continue reading »

Sep 012010

It all starts with food. A backyard garden can supply a good percentage of a family’s food but not even close to 100%.  We need to feed each other;  share our excess.

Our corporately furnished food supply is based on fertilization derived from natural gas. Were it not for petroleum based fertilizers our food supply would be limited by the amount of nitrogen we could create naturally through use of animal wastes and growing legumes. Artificial fertilizers allow us to support a huge world population. Seven billion people wouldn’t be possible if we were forced, due to shortages, to grow food naturally. In addition, 90% of our food comes from out of town, even out of country, and is delivered by trucks fueled by petroleum.

Food is another bubble created by large corporate farming combines and with “peak nitrogen” that bubble could burst. Our current population level is unsustainable. Thus, we have a predicament for which there is no solution. We can ultimately only support a population that can be fed from the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that we can produce naturally. It is exactly the same as our Peak Oil predicament. We won’t be able to drive hundreds of millions of cars and trucks around forever. We will have to make choices about how to use the petroleum that remains and prioritize between transportation, fertilizer, etc.

On Lummi Island, it’s doubtful that we can create enough backyard gardens and chicken coops to feed even our small population. It would make sense to encourage young, entrepreneurial growers to come here and farm. We would need to find them land to use and subsidize them to make it possible for them to make a living while growing food to sell on the island. This plan could operate like a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on a larger scale.

The Greenhorns is a group dedicated to bringing young people into farming. Their guidebook which can be downloaded through the link on this page is a good, short read. Of particular interest is their list of ways to obtain land on p.24. (See below). Encouraging some new farming operations on the island would be an excellent way to Protect The Lummi Island Community.

Ways to Obtain Land (from the Greenhorns guidebook).
1. Working for a non-profit organization as farm manager/educational coordinator.
2. Renting/leasing land from a land trust.
3. Renting/leasing land from wealthy (or not so wealthy) non- farming landowners who get an “agricultural tax assessment.” Check with the extension service in your state to learn about agricultural taxes. Also check with the assessor in your town to learn what the ‘real value’ of that tax deduction is for your landlord so that you can adequately understand their financial incentive to work with you. In some places farmers are actually paid to hay the land for the tax break.
4. Renting a part of a working farm, sharing equipment.
5. Farming land owned by a school, restaurant, retreat center, artist-in-residency program or other institution.
6. Collaborative land purchase (siblings, friends, associations).
7. Farming for a private developer in a “planned development” (this is big in the South).
8. Starting with a small homestead in a rural town while earning money for eventual farm purchase in outskirts.
9. Lottery/inheritance from your family.
10. Cannabis cultivation on rented/squatted land to finance own parcel (NOT recommended).
11. Slowly taking over a farm operation from a retiring farmer.
12. Borrowing under utilized private land with a handshake.
13. Rooftop farming with corporate partners.
14. Renting urban land from the city (this is big in Missouri).
15. Farming on the site of an old bedding
plant nursery/other compatible space.