Why an Academic Summer Program Just for Girls?

IMG_3339When I bought the Anchorage and Cabin in the summer of 2015, I had no idea what I planned to do with it. I fell in love with property, pure and simple. I even vicariously fell in love with the family that had owned and maintained the place for 90 years before I came along. The house retained the fond memories of their summer visits the way a stone retains the sun’s heat, casting a spell of radiant warmth throughout the grounds and houses.

But at the same time, this life-altering purchase awakened something in me that had been beaten down by an abusive marriage — namely, the desire to do something meaningful with my life. I thought of using the property to host retreats for women struggling to get back on their feet after divorce or for people seeking a natural means of combatting their anxiety and depression. I struggled to find a purpose that both resonated with my values and made the best use of my skills.

i0044dcnd then the Kavanaugh nomination happened, Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her story of sexual assault, and the president of the United States mocked her testimony during one of his political rallies.

It has never been my intent to get political on this site — I save that for my private Facebook page — but recent events force me to realize that not standing up to misogyny is akin to contributing to it. I am a lifelong feminist, but I have largely kept my views out of the public space because, for the last 20 years or so, feminism was viewed as an unfashionable tropology by some and an ongoing threat to others. I maintained an uneasy silence when younger women assured me that things were different and went about my business.

The events of the last two years, beginning with the misogyny leveled at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign and culminating with these attacks on Dr. Blasey, have made me aware of two things.

First, patriarchy, that institutional system whereby men hold the reigns of power at the exclusion of women, has been fundamentally unaltered despite women’s successful entry into the professional sphere over the last 40 years. The real proof of that lies in how women are treated in the workplace. We do not have equal pay for equal work, and generally speaking, the workplace has not changed to meet the additional demands placed on us by childbearing. Instead, professional women are expected to ignore the fact that they are mothers when they come to work or risk career advancement. At the same time, they are expected to approve male bonding rituals — golf, anyone — that drain workplace productivity because male relaxation and pleasure have been deemed essential to the smooth functioning of the corporate world.

One could argue, in fact, that moving women into the professional sphere has been little more than a cost-effective boon to patriarchy. We work for less. We work harder than men in order to show that we can be competitive. When we complain about workplace harassment or injustice, it hurts our reputation, so toxic masculinity continues to shape many workplaces without much pushback. The “post-feminist” era has led to economic enfranchisement — there is no question that women represent more power than they did back in the 1970s — but in some real sense we are not wielding that power. We are holding it for men, who are free to come back at any time and reclaim it.

My second realization is that, rather than become a legitimate social issue that all Americans accept has value, women’s rights have been almost comically politicized, with one party hostile to the very concept of equality and eager to control our bodies and our agency itself, as though they can somehow push back time and erase our memories. The polarization of human rights is one of the most bizarre, distressing, and ultimately predictable results of globalization, but white women have been lulled into a sense of false complacency by the accommodations of the corporate world. We now must face what most women of color have known all along: We are not considered equal.

i0039dc e owe girls who are coming of age in this era of diminishing resources, climate change, and economic insecurity discrete spaces where they can learn to value themselves as women and develop the critical thinking skills necessary to understand, for themselves, what their place in the world is and what it can be.

I’ve been teaching composition and American literature for over 20 years now, and I don’t believe in bringing politics into the classroom. It stifles discourse and breeds resentment. My idea is not to run a “liberal” or “progressive” series of academic summer programs. Instead, I want to foster achievement and critical thinking and let girls reach their own conclusions by examining how the past shapes the world we live in today.

I am really excited at the prospect of getting this project off the ground. Please stay tuned for more developments.

Building an Intentional Community

anchorage early-edited
The Anchorage at the turn of the last century, when it was a working farm.

Months ago I promised you, my few remaining readers, a reboot to the site and further discussion of changes in store for the property itself.

I spent a whole summer up at the Cabin, suspended in the hammock, thinking about it.

Then, a couple weeks into my return to Austin, something happened to distill and clarify my thinking, and now I am ready to put those thoughts in writing.

I’m going to run a girls’ school. The school will offer college counseling to high school sophomores and juniors and, if I can find a vendor to partner with, a transition-to-college program for first-generation students. It will be a summer program only, with learning space and accommodation for visiting teachers in the Anchorage and dormitory space elsewhere on the property. I plan to work with locals to provide extracurriculars, like music, art, and sport intensives, but I will hire experts in college guidance and placement to run the counseling program.

In addition to the school, I want to open the property to a farmer/maker who would share the property with me year-round. I would provide that individual with housing and a place to raise crops or have livestock. The objective is to provide a family with the means to develop organic, sustaining farming skills on a small scale without having to hold outside jobs.

I can think of several ways to tie the school together with the farm, including an internship program, but the idea of having a school in a real farm setting alone has a lot of appeal to me, and I think it will be appealing to the students as well.

Long-term, I would like to see the place become an integral part of the village of Sargentville, making contributions to its preservation and sustenance.

So that’s the plan. This year I will explore finding the right business structure and discussing the feasible implementation of my plans with town officials. If you are reading this and have any questions or comments, please reach out to me either on this blog post or my Facebook page.

Thanks,

Valerie Fulton

The Death of an Old Growth Pine

IMG_3823.jpg

Late last winter and into the spring, coastal Maine was rocked by one heavy snow storm after another. Unfortunately, a casualty of that weather was one of the three old growth white pines on my property.

Because they are in the forest, and you can’t step back far enough to get a good image, it’s hard to get a picture of these old trees that does them justice. I took the photo above last summer of one of the two old growth white pines further up the property. You can see this tree from Deer Isle Bridge if you know where to look. It sticks up above the other treetops on the ridge and is probably about 150 feet tall.

The tree in question is lower down, in a boggy part of the property. Rot in the heart of the tree is what caused a third of it to come down. The trunk that came down is huge! Check it out, with apologies to the lackluster video skills.

the Anchorage Newsletter, 2018

IMG_2653

 

Hi, folks!

The season is getting underway, so I thought I would write you all to spell out some details about the house.

The Anchorage was built in 1812 by Samuel Billings, the son of a major land grant settler to the peninsula — Billings Cove, which you can see from the front porch, was named after him.

A local family purchased the Anchorage and its land from Billings in 1826 and farmed the property year-round until the 1880s, when a Pennsylvania judge bought it and turned the place into a summer house. He held on to the place until the 1924, then sold it to one of his law firm colleagues. This second family owned the place until I bought it from them in the summer of 2015.

It is an old house, a big house, and it has been added on to several times, finally resulting in the upstairs dormers and three wings sprawling out from the original square configuration of the house. You can tell that the original influences on the house were European, and Gothic, but later on they added whatever suited either their needs or fancy. I particularly love the sweet little mural of birds painted on the mantel of the small downstairs bedroom.

 

Arrival

When you arrive, the kitchen door will be open, and there will be keys on the table. Only the kitchen door locks from the outside. I’ll leave some lights on if it’s dark when you come. Walk up to the cabin behind the house if you want a tour of the property or any time you have questions. You can call or text me at (512) 590-5207.

Parking

You can park near the kitchen door if you need to. I would love it if you used the parking spots near the barn; it helps with erosion. Please do not park on the main drive or the drive up to the Cabin since you might block me or my guests in.

The Water

There is arsenic in the well water, a pretty typical thing up here because of all the granite ledges underground. It is safe to bathe and shower and brush your teeth in this water — skin contact isn’t dangerous — but you shouldn’t drink it.

There is filtered water at the kitchen tap that is safe to drink. This option leaves something to be desired — it fills slowly, and there is a loud trickling while the purified tank refills. I put a bowl over the drain, which really cuts down the sound of the water refilling.

The flasks on the counter are already filled and ready for use.

The Septic System

I put in a brand new septic system last year, which is why the lawn is looking pretty sad. Please only use the toilet paper I provide (single ply), and do not flush anything else, including feminine products. Also be careful about what you put in the sinks. No grease and as few food scraps as possible.

Trash Removal

In the pantry off the kitchen, there are two large metal trash cans for trash and recycling. At the end of your stay, I will bring the trash and recycling to the town dump.

If you have tons of trash, you can take it yourself at any point; the Blue Hill Transfer Station is on the way to Ellsworth (and Acadia National Park).

Blue Hill Municipal does not recycle many things that I am used to recycling where I live in the winter. They are also constantly revising what they will and will not recycle based on their cost. The tag near the microwave is reasonably accurate, though.

Do not leave any trash outside, not even in cans. (See wildlife, below, to read more about the bears.)

Please show consideration for me by leaving the trash as tidy as possible.

Fire

Not a single one of my fireplaces (including the Franklin stove) is safe to use. A chimney professional sternly warned me that any one of them could cause a house fire, and fires here invariably lead to the loss of the house, as the fire department has no hydrants to tap into.

If you are cold in the morning, there is a space heater mounted to the wall in the kitchen and a couple of spare heaters in the laundry room. There are also working electric heaters in the two downstairs baths and the back bedroom. Please remember to turn these off when you’re not using them.

Linens

I provide all bed linens. There are towels in the linen closet of the east wing bathroom.

Internet

The user name and password are located on the back of the modem/router in the room with the television. The service is pathetic; we’re still on DSL.

However, it is fine for watching movies on Netflix or checking your email. The Blue Hill Library has fast service for downloading things to watch later.

Wildlife

Don’t be surprised if you see a bear. We have a mother with three half-grown cubs in Sargentville this summer. You might also see a bald eagle. I’ve seen them at Billings Cove.

There is a walking trail that starts by the barn and goes up to the blueberry field at the top of my property. Feel free to pick whatever you find. The berries ripen in mid-July and are available until August 15.

FAQ

Where’s the closest grocery store?

Blue Hill has a regular grocery store, Tradewinds. I love that they have a local section from which you can get a number of fresh meat and dairy products, as well as artisan products. There is also the Blue Hill Coop for people who like to eat organic and local produce

The Blue Hill Farmer’s Market is on Saturday mornings, at the fairgrounds (top of the hill on your way out of town and headed for Ellsworth. Brooksville also has a farmer’s market on Tuesday morning, held in back of the Buck’s Harbor General Store, which is (by the way) a great place for coffee and muffins.

The Eggemoggin Reach Country Store prides themselves on carrying everything you need, and mostly they deliver. This old-fashioned general store is one half a mile up the road from the house.

Where can I get live lobster?

The Fish Net restaurant in Blue Hill is the easiest and most reliable option — unless you are in Stonington. Stonington pulls in more lobster than any other port in Maine, making it the lobster capital of the world, and live ones can be found at several venues there, including the Lobster Coop. There are also any number of casual spots where you can get it in season. If you see a sign, stop and get some.

Where can I get a family dinner that tastes good and is no fuss?

The Mariner’s Pub has surprisingly good food — considering that they intended to build a place for locals to gather, play cribbage, and drink — and it is reasonably priced.

L.L. Frijoles is also decent. It’s not really Mexican food, but close enough! Bonus: swing sets for the kids while you wait for the order to be ready.

In Blue Hill, Marlintinis, opposite Viking Lumber on the outskirts of town, is another reliable no fuss option. Standard pub and seafood fare, giant portions.

Please note that many restaurants are closed on either Sunday or Monday nights.

Tuesday night, you can drive to Tinder Hearth in Brooksville and dine al fresco on their homemade pizza, a very popular destination for summer people. You must call ahead to reserve a spot and make your pizza selection, and in August, that generally means calling a few days ahead.

Where can I get a fancy dinner?

Portland’s premiere food magazine voted Arborvine, in Blue Hill, one of its two area picks for best restaurant. The other is Aragosta in Stonington.

What’s with the window screens?

The house uses an old-fashioned wooden screens that adjust to fit exactly into the lower part of the window; you have to insert them manually. If you line them up correctly, these peculiar screens are a very effective barrier against mosquitos. If mosquitos are getting into your room at night, it is probably because they came in during the day and are attracted to your light. Making sure all the outside doors and screen doors are closed before it gets dark helps to keep them at bay.

Speaking of screens, there are fans in many of the bedroom closets. It can get hot in the upstairs bedrooms, but an hour of running a fan will cool things off. In three summers now, I have never known it to stay warm once the sun goes down.

Is there beach access?

Billings Cove and a nice gravelly beach are at the end of the Shore Road (about two-tenths of a mile down Reach Road if you head left at the end of the driveway). The beach is ostensibly private, but the owners do allow foot traffic.

If you don’t want to walk all the way, you can park along the Shore Road and continue down by foot, or you can drive down and drop people off. Billings Cove, on the right as you walk down, has warmer water for wading, and the Reach waters are warmer than the Atlantic Ocean. There are spectacular views of the Deer Isle Bridge.

For swimming, nearby Walker’s Pond also has a public beach. There is a nice shallow spot for young children and a section with deeper water for more experienced swimmers. The beach is located on a dirt road just before you reach the Caterpillar Hill overlook, on the left side of Route 15. It’s about two miles from the house.

For a real beach experience, head to Stonington and Sand Beach. You drive out of Stonington on Sand Beach Road and look for the parking area on the left about two miles out of town. This beach is amazing for this part of Maine. Real sand, beautiful views.

What else is there to do?

Blue Hill is a good place to get information if you want to know about music festivals, theatre performances, the location of artist studios, and (yes, even) wineries. Stop off at the Blue Hill Library and ask at the front desk. You can also contact Kneisel Hall for information about their 2018 Chamber Music Season.

Every summer on Deer Isle, the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, hosts programs in the blacksmithing, clay, glass, and other fine crafts. Artisans share their inspiration via evening sessions throughout the 2018 season.

One trip that is partcularly fun for kids is Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies, on Deer Island. “Nellie’s” partner, Peter Beerits, has transformed several acres of woods and a “town” out of found objects, including real buildings hauled to the store site. You can wander through it all and maybe even say hello to the sculptor.

My contractor, Henry Borntraeger, has a licensed lobster boat and can take you out. I don’t know what he charges. He says if you will help pull lobster pots, you can have free lobsters for dinner, though. Contact him at 207.348.6652.

For desperate times, there is a water slide/ and a mini golf place on the road to Bar Harbor. Neither are amazing, but your kids will like them. Tasha’s, opposite the Mariner’s Pub, has a driving range and modest minigolf course.

Castine is a beautiful town with a lot of history — it was occupied by the British during the War of 1812 — about one hour on the back roads. The drive alone is fun, with great views of the Bagaduce River.

For antique combing, I recommend heading off the peninsula and driving another 15 miles or so to Searsport, which once was a wealthy merchant’s town. Now it is a row of stately homes with breathtaking views of Penobscot Bay, surrounded by antique malls and flea markets. There are tons to choose from.

 

Changes Are Coming

IMG_3573I’ll be making some changes to this website in the coming weeks. It has lacked a focus because I was unsure what direction I wanted to take with the property. So I stopped updating the blog and working on other parts of the site.

This year has brought me some clarity. I can hardly wait to share more details with you. First, though, I’m going to work a bit on the site design.