Monday, December 31, 2007

Never Give Up--Happy New Year!

This is a wonderful story from kind friend Dale Lincoln:

To all readers of this article:

I hope that you remember year 2007 as a “Good Year.” If for some reason, Year 2007 isn’t remembered that way, please try to hang in there, “Hunker down ‘til the storm passes by!” Do your best, Try to smile through your tears, and try to find a way to get through the hard times. Unexpected help may be near, and your future may be much brighter.

The following article tells of people that found a way to survive very bad situations. Their futures became brighter..

Dale C. Lincoln
9 Thompson Store Road
Perry, Maine
At Zephyrhills, Fl
Dec. 30, 2007


(A) People are amused with the cartoon: A frog is in the mouth of a long-necked bird while the legs of the frog are choking the bird! “NEVER GIVE UP!” are the words under the picture.
Do you remember a time when you were like the frog,---in a hopeless situation but you held on with a grip that was slipping? Many people have survived traumatic events. When they tell their stories they often mention that it was only God’s help that allowed them to have a future. You may be familiar with some of their stories.

(B) For several years Donn Fendler’s picture is on the front page of a Maine newspaper as he makes a summer visit to Maine. He finds people of all ages that enjoy listening to his story. Thousands of people have read the book: LOST ON A MOUNTAIN IN MAINE and have learned that Donn Fendler kept going when he felt all hope was gone. In year 2004, Sixty five years after his ordeal near Mt. Kathadin, Donn appeared to be healthy and happy.

© A TV documentary a few years ago describes a 26-mile marathon. Near the end of the race the person running in second place loses sight of the runner ahead of him. Although he feels disappointed and discouraged he keeps running. A few minutes later he is the winner of the race. Runner #1 had fallen down and couldn’t get up only a few inches from the finish line.

(D) In December, 1862, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, with the 20th. Maine Regiment, was at the lower parts of Marye’s Heights at Fredricksburg, VA. During one long cold night he watched the northern lights flicker and used dead bodies for protection from the enemy. At that time it may have been difficult for him to imagine his future. However, he was still healthy the next day when he left Fredricksburg with the survivors of his regiment. Six months later he led his troops at the Battle of Gettysburg and won The Congressional Medal Of Honor. During the siege of Petersburg he was severely wounded. Joshua Chamberlain appeared to be on his death bed when he was promoted to the rank of General. He made a remarkable recovery and returned to active duty. The day the American Civil War ended he was at Appomattox, VA, and gave his famous salute to the defeated Confederate troops. In future years he became Governor of the State of Maine and President of Bowdoin College.

(D) Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery found himself with many British and French troops facing annilation by the German Army at Dunkirk in May 1941. A decision by Hitler delayed the advances of the German Armies. Heroic efforts by the British Navy and civilian boatmen from Great Britian rescued “Monte” and most of the troops from the beach and transported them across the English Channel. They lived to fight another day. Five years later Field Marshal Montgomery received the surrender of several German Armies as World War II was ending in Europe. (May 6, 1945.)

(E) People who become famous receive a lot of recognition, however, the heroic efforts of many veterans go unnoticed. Only because he is “family” I heard stories from Glenn Becum of Zephyrhills, Fl. As a young man, Glenn, who had known only warm weather, joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Shortly thereafter, the Korean War began. In November / December1950, Glenn’s Division was surrounded by enemy troops near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Glenn survived the enemy bullets plus the cold weather. At the present time, as a member of the group known as The Chosin Few he tells these stories: “As my unit was trying to escape the enemy, fellow Marines stopped for rest. They sat down, went to sleep, and froze to death in the snow.”--- Speaking of the luxuries of coffee, when available: “The first sip burned my lips, the second sip was good, and I would have to gulp the rest of the liquid before it turned to ice.” Glenn ends his stories with the words: “God allowed me to survive that ordeal.”
In the future all of us may encounter a situation that appears to be hopeless. Never give up! Try to hang in there for: another minute; another day; another year. Conditions may get better. Remember during those times and at all times; “God Loves You.”

.Wishing you a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas '44

A Very Memorable Christmas During “The Storm.”

Before I was conceived people in Europe and Asia saw the storm clouds gathering. It was less than twenty years after the War To End All Wars. The leaders of Japan; Germany; and Italy were restless and brutal. The atrocities they inflicted on people are unimaginable. Then on September 1, 1939, “The Storm” began and people in almost all parts of the world were affected by it. He Storm” lasted for more than six years.

My earliest memories are hearing about the war, without knowing what a war was all about. However at that time I knew that it made people hurt and they died. My parents wouldn’t let me forget that as a little boy, whenever I heard that a person my family knew was going in the service (“off to war”) I would go under the table, be quiet and cry.
Besides Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, during my first three years of school The most talked about item was World War II. Before school and after lunch hour we sang Patriotic songs and war songs: Do you remember them?

There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere
Praise the Lord and Pass the ammunition
Coming in on a wing and a prayer.
Battle Hymn of The Republic
God Bless America

The most memorable Christmas of my life was in 1944; during “The Storm:” That was the year at age seven, when I took the axe and went alone into the woods behind my home and cut the Christmas tree. The one I cut matched the size of the tree that three of my classmates and I mentioned when we told our anticipations. We were all going to have a very large tree at our homes. After dragging it to the house I discovered it was too large to get into the little house where we lived. The day before Christmas my mother cut more than six feet off the bottom of the tree and put the tree top on the table by the window. The tree was decorated with small shiny balls of red, green, blue, and gold. Some strings of white popcorn made during a Christmas season of another year were a continuous chain from branch to branch. With the popcorn in place many strips of tinsel were placed on the tree. The tinsel shivered and danced every time someone moved in the house.

Christmas morning I found my stocking with my name on it filled with an orange, apple, a package of dates, A little bag of Christmas candy, and some peanuts in the shell. I also received an envelope with $2.00 in it from my Grandmother. I was happy when I opened the envelope because I knew I would have enough money to buy War Bond Stamps and fill the stamp book. For two years I had been trying to fill that book knowing that in ten years I would be able to cash the war bond and receive $25.00. NOTES: (Ten years later, at college, how I needed that $25.00! (2) An ad I saw in a newspaper that year I have remembered all of my life; There was a picture displaying a Christmas scene. Under the picture were the words: “So there will always be a Christmas; BUY WAR BONDS.

The ad may have been affective selling War Bonds but I learned from the Bible (Matthew Chapter 2) that it takes more than leaders of a country and a World War to eliminate Christ and Christmas. Ever since the three Wise men were sent on their mission to find the Christ child so King Herod could kill him, until the present day, people from all countries have been unsuccessful in destroying Christ and keeping Christ out of Christmas.

Christmas Day 1944 passed all too quickly. My family was happy. Some relatives and friends dropped by our home and my family enjoyed a big Christmas dinner. Some time after 9 o’clock in the evening I found myself alone as much as a person could be under our families living conditions. I was sitting in the rocking chair beside the wood stove. The only light in the house was a flickering kerosene lamp on the shelf beside the stove, but all of the little reflections of the light were dancing in the Christmas tree decorations. I was softly crying,---not because I was disappointed with that wonderful Christmas Day, but because I knew it would be a year before I would again experience such happiness.

Before the next Christmas, World War II had ended,. Several years later I heard the band Leader; Guy Lombardo, being interviewed. He was asked if there was one special New Year’s Eve he remembered. Without any hesitation he said: “New Year’s Eve 1945.” That evening where his band was playing there was nothing like the overwhelming happiness that he witnessed..

After every big storm there is destruction caused from the storm that is very evident. Sixty years after World War II scars from that war are still very evident. Most of us know or have known World War II veterans that displayed those scars. Two memorable veterans I must mention:

Soon after moving from our little house in 1948, I met Chester “Bruce” Quinn for the first time. Almost every day he was a customer in my parent’s store. Bruce moved very slowly, would say the grocery item he needed, then lean on the candy counter with a far away look in his eye. One day I heard him say “shrapnel,” point to his head and indicate that he had a silver plate in that area. I became good friends with Bruce and his family and watched Bruce as he slowly improved from his injuries. It was wonderful to see the grandson of Bruce: John Francis, Jr., with a smile on his face, talking a lot and being the spark plug on a very good high school basketball team. More than fifty years after the war Bruce and I were digging clams each day near the same area of East Bay, Perry, Maine. Recently Bruce Quinn had a write up in the local newspapers when he received a medal from the Government of France for helping to liberate France during World War II.

In Portland, Maine during the late 1960’s ,while doing training runs for the Boston Marathon and other races, I met Richard Goodie. We talked as we jogged. I listened intently to many of his stories.
“Dick” being more than ten years older than myself, has never forgotten Christmas 1944. That Christmas was much different for him than it was for me. Dick was with the 3rd Armored Division, about 40 kilometers from Bastonge during the Battle of The Bulge. For more than 30 nights his bed was in a bedroll, in the snow. Conditions were not good. Dick has written books and several stories about World War II, and running. Also about members of his World War II unit returning to cities in France 50 years after liberating those towns and cities. A few years ago Richard Goodie was inducted into the Maine Running Hall of Fame.

The “Storms” pass by, leaving memories that last a long time.

Note: Check out: War Stories By Dick Goodie on the Internet.

By: Dale C. Lincoln
Perry, Maine
Zephyrhills, Florida
Dec. 21, 2007.

ERROR CORRECTED: The first draft of this story, found on Skillin’s Garden Log, I made an error stating that Richard Goodie, was with the group “The Battered Bastards of Bastonge (101 Airborne Division) during the Battle of the Bulge. At that time Richard Goodie was about 40 kilometers away from Bastonge with the 3rd Armored Division.
Must say: “I’m sorry to the readers of Skillin’s Garden Log and especially to my friend, Richard Goodie, for that error.
Dale C. Lincoln

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Most Asked Holiday Questions!

Each year Terry Skillin prepares a list of questions and facts for the Skillin's staff to know during the Christmas Holiday season. We thought we would pass these questions and answers onto you as they are quite informative and hopefully will be helpful to you.

Let us know if YOU have any questions!

1) How long can a live tree remain in the house?
ANSWER Because the tree is in a dormant stage it can remain indoors 3 to 5 days

2) What options are there for a living Christmas Tree?
ANSWER The most traditional are Balsam Fir, Dwf. Alberia Spruce, Green & Blue Spruce, and for a year round tree Norfolk Island Pine.

3) Which cut tree last the longest?
ANSWER They will all last through the season providing you give them a fresh cut before placing them into their stand and are never allowed to run out of water.

4) How should a cut tree be prepared?
ANSWER When the tree arrives home and is ready to be put up, cut 2” from the bottom of the trunk. Then place the tree straight into the stand and fill with water. Add a tree preservative into the water and every time you need to add water to the stand. Check the water level twice a day and always maintain the highest possible level.

5) How many lights are needed to light a tree?
ANSWER Mini lights require 50 lights per foot of tree height, and the larger lights require 15 lights per foot of tree.
5a) What are my options if my set of lights go out?
ANSWER First check that all bulbs are secure. Use a bulb tester (sold here at Skillin’s) to pin point which bulb has blown. Also check fuses that are located in the wall plug end.
5b)LED lights are the newest and most energy efficient Christmas lights available.

6) How do you care for a Poinsettia?
ANSWER Place Poinsettia in bright light, keep from draft, water when
soil is dry but not to a wilt. Do not allow Poinsettias to sit in water,
decorative foil on the container may hold water so remember to check
this and remove any excess water. Poinsettias are NOT poisonous!

7) How many pounds of fir does it take to make a 18” wreath (12” ring)?
ANSWER 10 to 15 pounds. For window boxes it takes approximately 2 pound for every foot of window box length.

8) How many feet of garland does it take to wrap a 6’ pole?
ANSWER 10 feet

9) Which garland lasts the longest indoors?
ANSWER Laurel is the longest lasting fresh garland. Silk or artificial
garland should be used in areas that need a traditional look and can not
easily be replace as needed during the holiday season

10) How do you keep holly and mistletoe?
ANSWER Keep holly cool and misted, replace as needed. Do not use
fresh holly outdoors it will freeze. Mistletoe will remain fresh if kept
cool, it will also dry nicely holding it’s leaves and berries. All PARTS

11) How much Boxwood is needed to create a fresh 12” Boxwood tree?
ANSWER 3 pounds. If the boxwood tree is kept watered in can look great through ValentinesDay.

12) Is Skillins Greenhouses having an after Christmas Sale?

13) Does Skillins Greenhouses mail order wreaths?
ANSWER Yes, we have a State of Maine Wreath decorated for $34.99
shipped anywhere in the continental United States. Check out our web
site at for this and other choices of wreath and great gift

14) Does Skillins Greenhouses deliver Christmas trees?
ANSWER Yes for a 8’ tree and under local delivery charges apply.
Trees 9’ and over $30.00. We will also set up your tree into your stand in
the house for $30.00 for trees up to 9’. Larger trees $30.00 per hour, per
person plus materials. Skillin’s will also pick up your tree after Christmas
local delivery charges apply. Skillin’s will recycle your tree for free.

15) Does Skillins Greenhouses Fire Proof trees and holiday greens?
ANSWER Yes $7.50 per foot for trees and Holidays greens purchased
Fresh from Skillin’s.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Garden Thoughts

Hello again,

Here are some tree-mendous Christmas tree tips from the folks at

*The key is making sure your tree stays watered. So, before you set up your Christmas tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk (about a quarter inch up from the original cut) and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water. A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, plus one or more quarts during the first week.

*Be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water. A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree and will prevent the tree from absorbing water. If a seal forms, make another fresh cut to the base of the trees stump.

*For safety, the best way to keep a tree fresh and fire resistant is to keep it supplied with water at all times. As long as the tree takes up water, it will be relatively fire resistant.

*Do not decorate the tree with cotton, paper or any other materials that are flammable. Wax candles and other types of open flame should be avoided.

*Keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like fireplaces, radiators, heating vents, televisions and stereos.

*Lights and wiring should be checked for worn spots and cracks before hanging them on the tree. Never overload your electrical outlets. Use only UL-approved Christmas lights and nonflammable decorations. Be sure to always unplug the Christmas lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
Here at Skillin's we are offering for sale many varieties of the economically friendly LED Christmas lights. LED (light emitting diode) lights cost a little more BUT they use only about 10 to 20% of the electricity of regular Christmas lights (sock that carbon footprint!) and also have a considerably longer life expectancy.

We sell fresh Maine grown trees right here at Skillin's. We grow quite a few of our own and the rest are grown by some long-time Maine growers who we have come to know and trust over the years.

You may ask is buying a cut Christmas tree a "good thing" for the environment. Check out our Maine Christmas Tree posting of November 12 to see why we believe buying a locally cut Christmas tree is in fact good for our environment.

Another "tip" I just thought of. Prepare for your tree's removal by buying a Tree Removal Bag here at Skillin's. Put it down on the floor under the tree just before you set your tree stand and tree up. Later, when it is time to remove the tree simply pull the big bag up over the tree and haul the tree package out the door. Very few needles will escape!

If your town does not have a tree pickup, bring the tree back to Skillin's and we will compost the tree for you. Your tree will become part of a compost heap that will be new precious soil in just a short amount of time! How environmentally cool is that? For a minimal charge we will also pick your tree up for you if you need!

The folks at also remind us that now winter is a fine time to try some indoor gardening:

Just because it's winter doesn't mean you stop planting. Gardeners can keep plenty busy by nurturing plants on window sills inside the house. But, for best results you need to match each plant with the right conditions:

North-facing windows favor low-light plants like philodendron, fig and the wandering Jew.

South-facing windows, which get the most sun, suit plants such as cacti, trailing begonias, geraniums and ivy.

East and west windows get a moderate amount of light and are ideal for plants like cyclamen, cute bulb plants like hyacinth and daffodils and African violets.

Finally, remember to clean the old wet food out of your bird feeders and replace that food with some nice dry fresh food for our feathered friends. Birds hate wet seed and wet seed can harbor salmonella and other diseases that are not good for the birds!

The Storms Pass By

Our good friend Dale Lincoln has checked in with another great tale; Dale is a native of Down East Maine and is a special friend to the many folks who have come to know him. He is currently making the winter days pass by quickly for the residents of Zephyrhills, Florida with his wife Elsie and looks forward to the Spring when he and Elsie plan to return to Perry, Maine for the summer.

Dale spent two years with us at Skillin's and we will always be thankful for that time.

He has also posted a tale of Two Thanksgivings which can also be found here at the Skillin's Garden Log. Thank you Dale for your contributions!


Heavy clouds were overhead, a mist was in the air, and a warm breeze was blowing from the South as I walked the peninsula behind my home. It was Monday morning, September 23. Summer 2002 had officially ended a few hours earlier. Even though summer was over, friends “from away” would be visiting my home in a few days. My goal for the morning was to dig clams for the planned lobster / clam dinner on Thursday evening. While hiking to the seashore my footsteps were lively. The accumulated aches in my body from the recent blueberry harvest season had vanished a few days earlier. In warm weather a clam digging adventure is often accompanied with a feeling of freedom and happiness.
Upon my arrival at the seashore two black ducks that were feeding at the edge of the incoming tide saw me. They gave their familiar “quack” as they started their flight to another feeding area. At that same moment I was maneuvering my feet, which were encased in hip boots, around the remnants of a large poplar tree. The tree had crashed to the ground during the severe thunder and lightening storm on the morning of July 2, 2002. If people near the area of Sipps Bay have forgotten that little storm, my friends in Somerville, NJ still remember it. Ralph and Hilda (Richard) Caruso, MMA’57E with their camper trailer, had arrived at Knowlton’s Seashore Campground the previous afternoon. The four-hour electrical storm started welcoming them to Perry about 3:00 AM. At our home that same morning, less than one mile away from Knowlton’s campground, Elsie and I noticed the worst thunder and lightening storm we had witnessed during the thirty-one years of living in our house. We knew that the heavenly fireworks and heavy rain was being noticed by Hilda, Ralph, and the other campers. (NOTE: Ralph Caruso from Millinocket, Maine, and I were classmates in college. The previous week we had attended our 45th year class reunion at the Maine Maritime Academy. His wife Hilda (Richard) Caruso also enjoys returning to Downeast Maine. Her family once lived in Calais and she attended school in Calais during the 1950’s. Her Dad, Rev. Clayton E. Richard, was Pastor of the Calais Congregational Church. Hilda tells the story that her father “never” went to the movies, but one evening at Calais in 1957 he saw the top-rated movie of the year: “The Ten Commandments.” By coincidence, the same night that Rev. Richard saw the movie, was the same night that the Calais Theatre burned to the ground!)
It must be mentioned that before leaving home I checked the TV weather map which showed the location of hurricane ISIDORE in the Gulf of Mexico. The Meteorologists were not sure of the direction that ISIDORE would travel but the storm was beginning to churn the water in the Gulf of Mexico. “Heavy seas were beginning to reach Galveston, Texas.”
It is common for people to have “representatives” in countries, states, cities, and towns, around the world. They are simply our family members and other friends. Whenever the TV weather (or news ) centers upon a certain area, our first thoughts and prayers are for the safety and well being of our representatives.” For the past decade the representative in Galveston, Texas for my family and friends is Marine (Ship’s) Pilot, Ms. Wendy L. Morrison (formerly of Perry.) MMA “85 D.
After walking across the soft mud of the clam flats and starting to dig clams I began thinking about Wendy Morrison and her career. She was not the first woman to be employed aboard U.S. Merchant Ships but she is certainly one of the pioneers. Wendy found the courage and went through the obstacles associated with women not being welcome to work aboard ships. During my days as an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine I met elderly captains and other shipmates that “knew for sure” that it would bring bad luck if a woman came aboard their ship! With that knowledge I often imagine the hidden emotions between some old Captain and a ship’s pilot in this situation:
“About 2:00 am in the stormy waters near Galveston, Texas, a very small boat arrives beside a very large vessel. A petit young lady stands on the deck of the small vessel, grabs a rope (Jacobs) ladder, times her jump with the waves, leaves the little boat, and climbs the straight side of the large vessel. After arriving on the main deck ,Wendy walks to the bridge and meets the Captain. The Captain then gives her control of guiding “his” 800 ft. ship through the channel and directing the operation of securing it to the pier.”
While continuing to dig clams I started thinking about storms and hurricanes. Hurricanes have caused destruction to many communities plus death and injuries to many people. Through the years unexpected wind storms have caused many problems in Downeast Maine, However, the tropical hurricanes that have traveled up the coast have been relatively kind to us and few in number. There are people reading this article that will remember the Great New England Hurricane of September 21,1938. I was too young to remember that storm. My most remembered hurricanes: CAROL and EDNA were only ten days apart. They caused severe damage in Connecticut and Rhode Island. People along the Maine Coast felt the effect of the high winds, waves, and heavy rain. The year they arrived was 1954. I was a Freshman at college and prior to the storms I was of the work details that tried to secure the equipment in the dock area at Castine, Maine. Because my feet remained on dry ground and the area where I was located received very little damage, CAROL and EDNA did not create any bad memories for me. However, two of my Perry friends remember Hurricane CAROL in a different way. H.Richard (Dick) Adams and Maynard Morrison were both new in the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed at Southwest Harbor. I knew that heavy seas associated with CAROL had received their attention.
Very soon after returning from clamming I made phone calls to Dick and Maynard. They easily recalled their duty assignment which involved rescue missions during Hurricane CAROL. “Dick” Adams was an Engineman aboard a 64 ft. Tug boat. Maynard Morrison was a deck hand on a 36- foot, twin engine, rescue boat. Both vessels encountered heavy weather. To summarize one event: The Coast Guard station at Southwest Harbor received a call to assist “The SUNBEAM,” a boat owned by the Seacoast Mission at Seal Harbor,. The SUNBEAM, which provided transportation and enabled church services to be held on some of the islands, was adrift in the heavy seas. When the Coast Guard vessels were near The SUNBEAM, the small rescue vessel that had better maneuverability, went close to the drifting boat and attached a tow line. Immediately after the line was attached one of the engine coverings on the rescue boat became loose. That engine died when it received a slug of green water! Maynard and the rest of the crew experienced some frightening moments. Fortunately, all ended well because the tug was able to assist both vessels. Hurricane CAROL created memories which have lasted almost 50 years.
Before ending the phone conversation with Maynard Morrison I asked him if he thought that his daughter, Wendy, was noticing the movement of Hurricane ISIDORE in the Gulf of Mexico. He said that he had talked with her only a few hours earlier. She said that the seas around Galveston were getting rough and her work schedule placed her as a Pilot on duty at Galveston, Texas, for the next two weeks! (“We wish you smooth sailing, Wendy.”)
Through our path of life we encounter a variety of “storms.” Some storms are so small that only one person may notice it. Other storms are so large and reach so many people that they are given a permanent name. Some survivors of many storms have prayed to God before and during the storm. They can easily relate to the words of the Hymn: ‘Til The Storm Passes By: Written by Mosie Lister: (1958)

In the dark of the midnight
have I of’t hid my face,
While the storm howls above me,
and there’s no hiding place,
Mid the crash of the thunder,
precious Lord hear my cry,
Keep me safe
‘til the storm passes by.
(Chorus) ‘Til the storm passes over,
‘Til the thunder sounds no more,
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe ‘til the storm passes by.
After surviving the storm we should all thank the Lord, tell the memories, and …Share The Snickers!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bird Thoughts

Hello again,

Good birding friend Liz Cardinale checks in with some timely reminders:

*If you can, please provide a water source for your feathered friends. Freezing temperatures cause many wild water sources to be frozen over and unavailable. Bird bath deicers are simple and easy to use and also are not a serious electical drain. You merely plug them into an outside electric source and "plop" them into your bird bath. A bird bath deicer runs just enough to keep the water fluid and fluid water is invaluable to the birds right now.

Also, if you can change your water out daily. The water beneficial as it is, can hold disease on occasion (birds tend to use the bird baths as a lavatory) but merely changing the water as often as you can should take care of any problems.

*Now is an awesome time to be feeding your birds suet. Birds need to "lard up" a little for the cold winter ahead and suet is perfect for the job.

*It is very important to keep the bird seed in your feeders dry. Mondays storm could bring quite a bit of snow; get that snow off your feeders and the wet food out as quickly as you can so the bird food does not get moldy. Birds hate wet food and moldy food is not good for anyone!

Thanks Liz; great to hear from you!

Mike Skillin

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Great Green News!

Skillin's is excited to be partnering with Ecosource Home and Garden( an exciting company that is focused on sustainable and renewable green goods for the home and garden. And you know what? That is our goal as well and we feel our customers like you share the same goal. So, we have a match.

Please come and check out the exciting Enviro collection of bamboo pots by Ecosource. Bright colors, great sizes and shapes! And you would not believe how affordable the Enviro pots are--many great sizes for under $10.

The Enviro pots are made from bamboo--a renewable plant by product. The pots will last for 2 to 3 years at which point they are totally "compostable". Your typical plastic pot manufactured with petroleum products will languish in the earth for about 400 years long after they crack and fade in your home and garden.

Check out and the Enviro pot collection and come see for yourself at Skillin's how products like this help us all Plant for the Planet!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Two Thanksgiving Days


To begin my Thanksgiving Day stories I must mention that at home, in school, and
several other places, the nicest thing I learned in my lifetime, was that God loves me. I wish that everyone on Earth knew that God loves them.

The year was 1947. Some people in Maine remember it as the year Maine burned. Forest fires raged throughout the State during the month of October. I was ten years old, my brother, David, was sixteen and my sister, Ruth, was eight years old. Our parents were about age 45. Dad had been too young to serve in World War I and too old to be drafted in World War II. Both of them were still trying to recover from the storms of life. Probably the greatest one was the hardships of the Great Depression that had enveloped them with their son David in the early 1930’s at Philadelphia, PA. They returned to the area where they had grown up and started living at my Grandparents store. Until she died in1973 my mother never fully recovered from that setback. She did not love living with her in-laws. In 1938, after a family feud, my parents moved from the store and rented a large house about one mile (West) down the road. In September, 1941 they bought a very small place a half-mile East of the store. After moving from the store, my mother and her in-laws had very few if any direct communications.

Our home was a very small building, near a swamp, but less than fifty feet from U.S. Highway #1 in Perry, Maine. In 1943, due to the war, My Grandparents Model A Ford, that my Dad often borrowed, stopped being available. For the next five years my
Mother stayed very near the house or in the house. Her long distance adventures were walking to the blueberry ground in September and picking blueberries after the fields had been harvested.

Our home had few luxuries. The nearest telephone was a half- mile away at my grand-parent’s store. Water was carried in a buckets from a well located about one hundred feet from Route One, on the other side of the road. Inside the house were two kerosene lamps, a cook stove; kitchen table-- plus two heaped-up storage tables, five small chairs, a desk made from two orange crates and a wide board; and a rocking chair by the stove. There was a large galvanized tub for baths, and a wash board that teamed up with the same tub for scrubbing clothes. Two pieces of 4’ X 8’ wallboard were stacked on their side and separated the kitchen from the bed room that contained our parents bed, and three beds for the kids. My spot was a large crib in the corner that I was rapidly outgrowing.. On the back side of the house was a wood shed that was nearly as large as the house. Attached to the back of the shed was the aromatic outhouse.

To me the little house was home. I was protected from the outside world, found lots of love there, and my heart has never really left that place.

In August 1947 the well went dry. Water was carried in gallon size, heavy glass, vinegar bottles from a spring a half mile from home. ( Light plastic Jugs were unavailable.) In early October billows of black smoke rolled on the horizon toward the South and West. At school my schoolmates noticed that the smog from the fires caused the sun to look like the moon. Grey cinders fell upon us as we played in the school yard. It was frightening time for many Maine residents.

Large amounts of rain arrived near the first of November and the forest fires went out. For my family, life seemed to return to the way it had been at that house for the past six years.

For me to compare two Thanksgiving Days that happened ten years apart it is also important to mention that neither of our parents were high school graduates. In 1947 my brother, an honor student in the Senior Class at Eastport, Maine realized in those days there was nothing like Financial Aid, that is well known today, for him to attend college---but David had dreams.

At that time I had no special occasion clothes. My everyday clothes went to school with me, then returning home, after putting on boots if necessary, they went with me to the swamp, trails, and woodlots, behind my home. The greatest distance I had traveled in my lifetime happened on a day when I was so young I couldn’t remember it. A 80-mile round trip was made to visit relatives in St. George, New Brunswick, Canada. A classic story from my mother resulted from that trip: Her sister, My Aunt Gertie, (Gertrude Spinney Hicks) made the trip with us. I had a prolonged crying spell that frustrated everyone in the automobile. Aunt Gertie made a statement using a word that was very common in the Spinney lingo: “There is nothing wrong with the little bastard. He’s just ugly!”

November 1947 found me in grade 6. I wasn’t good at catching a baseball even if I had a baseball glove, I couldn’t hit a ball if I had a bat, but I knew I loved the game. I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle but desperately wanted one. In geography class at school I heard about interesting places so far away that I would never get there. Someday my Dad would take me hunting. I had dreams.

Less than 20 years earlier, before she married, my mother was the live in maid for a rich family in Concord, Massachusetts. She had worked with luxuries like modern electric appliances, central heating, running water, a flush and bathtub, and an ice box. She cooked banquets for the members of the Country Club that often visited the home. Each day of her life she wanted the best for her kids, wishing they would be smarter and better mannered than the rich people’s kids in the city. She had dreams.

My father was employed as the shipping room foreman at a Sardine Factory at Eastport. The work was seasonal. During the winter months he tried to keep the family going by cutting pulp wood in four foot lengths using a buck saw and axe, then stacking it. His jobs had not been to his liking since becoming unemployed from The National Biscuit Company in Philadelphia in the early 1930’s. He loved to go hunting,---and he had dreams.
Many things that were unimaginable to my family that Thanksgiving Day morning in 1947 would start happening in the near future, but God knew, and led us along.

Mom and Dad were up early on Thanksgiving Day morning and were surprised to find that a light snow had fallen during the night. My earliest memories from around age three were being out of bed and eating rolled oats, Ralston, Cream of Wheat, or corn meal mush, with mom and Dad before Dad went to work. It is no surprise that I ate breakfast with them before daylight that morning. Soon after that Roland Ward, a neighbor, arrived at our home with his car. Dad and Roland went off deer hunting to their favorite spot about fifteen miles away.

Mother started cooking the holiday meal. She prepared two large chickens, made dressing and stuffed them. The menu would also include: potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, rutabaga turnips, canned peas, Apple pie, and squash pie.
My sister and I have never forgotten the lime jell-o. We watched our mother mix it up and poured it in the most fancy crystal bowls we had ever seen, then paced it to cool on a shelf in the woodshed. She said they were as fancy as the desserts she made when she was living and working with the Foote’s in Concord, MA.

The chickens cooking in the oven gave our home a wonderful aroma. My sister and I played in the yard that day and made several trips in and out of the house.

Dinner was ready by 11:30. There was no way to dress up for this special meal. We all just washed our hands in the little basin and sat down at our places at the table. We missed Dad being there and hoped he would come home with a deer. There was an abundance of food. After dinner Ruth and I continued playing. Our brother David left home for our Grandparents store where he had a daily job of helping them with the chores. I started counting the hours and minutes until Dad would return home. We were used to him returning from hunting within a half hour after sunset.

In late November darkness comes early in the most eastern part of Maine. The kerosene lamps were burning brightly when Mom, Ruth and I had supper. Of course we had leftovers and there was plenty left for Daddy. Mom said he was traveling quite a ways but he would be home soon.

After supper I sat by the window and watched lights of the autos on the highway traveling from West to East. They all passed our home. The evening was very cold with a moon in the sky that was close to being full.

By 8 o’clock I was worried and crying. “Something awful must have happened to Dad!” I went to bed and continued crying and praying that Dad would come home. There have been few times in my lifetime when I have been more upset than I was that evening.

For his usual non-school day routine, David listened to the world news on the radio at our Grandparents store, then started walking home. He arrived home about 9:30 pm and gave the news that Dad had called the store. Dad had shot a deer deep in the woods and it would take him and Roland a long time to drag it to the highway.

It was after 11:30 pm when Dad and Roland returned home with a deer tied to the fender of the automobile. The bright moon was shining as the deer was moved from the automobile and hung in the woodshed. Deer steak and deer meat stew would soon be on the menu. I loved it.

Mom warmed up Dad’s Thanksgiving Day dinner. I sat next to Dad at the table, had a lunch with him and listened to his exciting hunting adventure. Then went to bed and thanked God that Daddy was home.



At Christmas that same year, The management at the factory where my father worked (The Riviera Packing Co., Eastport, Maine) realized they had a very successful year and gave all of the employees a bonus. Because of that, a luxury, in the form of a battery powered radio, arrived at our home. World news and music entered our home. Mom loved it.

After the new year my Dad’s mother and step father invited our family to live with them , keep the store going, and take care of them until the “end of their road of life”. My parents agreed , the property ownership was transferred to them, and my family moved to “The Store” in April 1948. My mother told me a few years later that she really didn’t want to move but thought it would be good for us kids. (“Thank you Mom. You were right!” Elsie and I now live at that place April through October and our grand-daughter Alyssa has celebrated four birthdays there.)

Before summer arrived in 1948 I used my life’s savings and bought a new bicycle. Through the years it was shared with my brother, sister, and several kids in the neighborhood. I also owned a baseball bat, ball, glove and found neighbor kids that liked to play baseball. That fall my Dad took me hunting for the first time. We went hunting together many times after that.

Of great importance was that during the summer of 1948 a Professor, (Kimbal Flaccus) from a college in Pennsylvania was camping on the seashore a short distance from the store. As a customer in the store he became friends with my family. My brother expressed to him his dream of going to college and not having any funds. Mr. Flaccus explained to him the correct procedure for applying to the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.
My brother followed his instructions, and became a first alternate candidate from his Maine District for the class that would enter the Naval Academy in 1949. The main candidate met all of the qualifications. Although a bit disappointed for not being accepted, my brother’s efforts enabled him to discover the Maine Maritime Academy at Castine, Maine. The school was tuition free. He applied and became a member of the entering class in August 1950. He was successful there and graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy, with a Merchant Marine Engineer’s license plus an Officer’s commission in the United States Naval Reserve in 1953.

The College did not remain tuition free. My brother, with a good job on the merchant ships helped finance my way to attend the Maine Maritime Academy and graduate from that school in 1957.----Then, with both of her brothers with good jobs, and encouraging her, the family was confident that enough funds could be procured for Ruth to attend College. She Graduated from Washington State Teachers College, Machias, Maine (Now The University of Maine at Machias) in 1962. Brother David had dreams when we all lived in that little house..


Ten years later on Thanksgiving Day 1957 found me as a College graduate on active duty with he U.S. Navy. I was the Engineering Officer aboard The USS Illusive; MSO 448. By that time I had played baseball in several Maine cities and several cities in the Caribbean. My senior year I was co-captain of the college baseball team. I also had traveled. For three winters my training ship had taken me around the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. I had crossed the United States by train, and sailed across the Pacific Ocean. My ship was at the Pier in Yokosuka, Japan. We were docked behind the aircraft carrier USS Bonne Homme Richard. I was the ship’s duty officer. By 11:30 am that day I was starving but dinner would not be served until 2:00pm and there was bad news. There would be no evening meal!

Two o’clock arrived. The three other officers and I changed from our work uniforms to our dress blue uniforms for the holiday meal. It was after 2:00pm when the Captain, dressed in his work clothes, entered the wardroom. He saw our appearance, said: “I’m embarrassed,” then headed for his cabin to change to his dress blue uniform. I knew I was going to starve to death for sure!

The Officer’s Messman, a young Sailor from the Philippine Islands
brought our meals from the ship’s galley. We found them delicious. I knew I wanted to ask for seconds but in our wardroom I never knew anyone to ask for seconds on any meal. Officers were charged for all of their meals.
Needless to say, nearly eight hours later while making an inspection of the ship before going to bed I thought I was going to starve to death. It was my first Thanksgiving Day away from home. (We were on Far East Time.) I knew that half a world away people in Maine would soon be enjoying their Thanksgiving Day feast. Also Deer hunting season would be ending soon and sometimes during the Month of November Dad would think of me and be waiting for the day we could once again go hunting together. He would have to wait three years for that to happen. In bed I thanked The Lord for many things. It was unforgettable day.

Through the years I have remembered other Thanksgiving days that are filled with special memories. On Thanksgiving Day 1957 and every Thanksgiving Day since 1947
I remembered to thank God for all of his love and care. Six decades have passed but somehow the clock seems to always turn back to that hour near midnight on Thanksgiving Day 1947. I’m sitting beside my Dad at the table in the little house. nibbling on a chicken bone, as Dad ate his warmed up Thanksgiving Day dinner. He told about shooting the deer in the wilderness and the hard time he had getting it back to the highway. I knew I was the happiest kid on Earth. Daddy was safely home, our family was together, and at that time and on every day of my life I have known that God loves me.

By: Dale C. Lincoln
Zephyrhills, Florida
November 14, 2007

Windowsill Gardening

In my previous post "Garden Thoughts and Garden Talks" gardening celebrity P. Allen Smith shared some ideas about protecting evergreens. Well, the irrespresible Mr. Smith is back a fantastic gardening idea for the upcoming winter season: Windowsill Gardening!

Because lettuce and other salad greens germinate so quickly, it’s easy to grow a salad garden inside on a sunny windowsill. What I like to do is grow a mix of “baby greens,” which means I harvest the leaves before the plant matures. I mix these baby greens in with store bought lettuce for a flavorful salad or snip off a few leaves to top off sandwiches.

Good Choices for Baby Greens: Lettuce, arugula, basil, spinach, chard, red mustard
Good Choices for Micro Greens: Radish, broccoli, lettuce, mustard greens, peas, sunflowers.

To learn more about these seed varieties visit We feature Botanical Interest seeds right here at Skillin's.

Micro greens are another way to enjoy fresh lettuce during the winter months. Micro greens are harvested when they have about 4 leaves. They may be small, but they are very flavorful.

Growing baby salad greens and micro greens couldn’t be easier. Simply sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover them with a dusting of soil and keep the seeds moist by lightly misting them with water daily. Keep the pots in a warm location until they begin to sprout and then move them to a sunny window. If the plants look spindly or anemic, they need more light. The baby salad greens may require as much as 12 hours of light for healthy growth. A grow light is an easy remedy for this problem. Hang the lights about 6 to 12 inches above the plants.

Micro greens are ready to harvest in about 14 days. Clip the seedlings off close to the soil. Baby salad greens will be ready in about 3 to 4 weeks. Trim them off at the base, starting with the outside leaves first.

Product Guide:Jiffy Windowsill GreenhouseIndividual peat pots and a clear, plastic lid make starting seeds a snap. It’s a great system for growing baby and micro greens.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Garden Thoughts and Garden Talks

Hello again,

We at Skillin's sure hope you have had a Happy Thanksgiving!

This post contains a few gardening tidbits that have built up over the last few days.

Garden Thoughts

One of my cherished Thanksgiving traditions is to spend a few quiet hours in the yard prior to the big meal. I am not much of a Thanksgiving cook; we usually visit others for Thanksgiving so we get to bring a few goodies as our part.

Since I don't have a big meal to worry about and since I am always behind in my gardening; Thanksgiving morning in my yard is one of my most cherished times of the year. This year worked out great. I was able to trim back quite a few perennials and clean out a couple of perennial beds. The clean out involved raking out wet soggy leaves and then pulling some weeds (easy to pull right now) from the late summer. This left some nice clean beds and I was able to cover the beds with some nice natural Pro Gro by North Country Organics. The Pro Gro will settle into the existing soil and bring always appreciated organic matter and nutrients to the soil. My plants will really benefit next year!

There is still some time for you busy gardeners to do the same thing in your perennial beds if you have not been able to yet.

We are going to be running into some cold nights and when that ground is good and crunchy from a few cold days and nights, then it will be the perfect time to get some mulch over and around your perennials, roses and other tender plants. The object is to keep the ground cold and frozen so the root systems of these plants do not get heaved around by Mr. Winter's roller coaster temperatures. Compost, bark mulch, straw, pine needles and fir boughs are all materials that make good mulches!

Gardening celebrity P. Allen Smith reminds us that we live in a cold climate that is sure to get bitter winter storms, don't wait until one is predicted to protect your evergreens. Take the time to complete this task now. Your trees may need to be shielded from more than just wind and snow: Use burlap to cover evergreens located near a road that will get salt sprayed. Burlap is a time tested material that is very insulative of evergreens that are exposed to high winds and/or road salt.

We at Skillin's recommend using Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop for broad leafed evergreens such as rhododendrons, azaleas and hollies to protect from wind damage. Burlap can be used for the broad leafed evergreens as well as the evergreens with narrow needles like junipers.

I have been filling my bird bath every day now to keep the water fresh for our feathered friends. Remember that winter is a time when available water is very valuable to the birds; so much water gets frozen that birds can get thirsty. I keep an available fresh supply for them and I have noticed some good traffic at the bird bath. I keep the water from freezing by maintaining a bird bath deicer in the bird bath. Bird bath deicers are available right here at Skillin's and they work very well. Merely plug them into an electric source and drop the coil portion into your bird bath water. Because they only operate to keep the water temperature above freezing, they do not use much electricity at all.

Looking for a wonderful gift idea OR an excellent bird feeder to add to your collection? We highly recommend either the Squirrel Buster Classic feeder or Squirrel Buster Plus feeder that we sell here at Skillin's. Check out for some great pictures and descriptions of the product. We sell the Classic feeder for $39.99 and the Plus feeder for $79.99 and either is a great deal. I have used the Classic feeder for almost two years in my yard; the birds love it and the squirrels can NOT get into it. Dozens of happy customers agree with me about both feeders; they are top notch and simply the best feeders we have seen in years. The Classic feeder will not attract cardinals but the Squirrel Buster Plus will. I need to add a Plus to my collection at home--Christmas is coming; maybe if I am good will receive one!

Tom Atwell of the Maine Sunday Telegram recently wrote in his gardening blog called The Constant Gardener that he advocated raking the lawn with a 24" rake instead of a 30" rake. I kind of scoffed at that as I have always wielded the bigger 30" variety thinking I could cover more ground with that. But during a recent early morning raking as the sun rose before it was time to go to work, I grabbed an old 24" bamboo rake and I will say the samaller rake provided a more deft and probably a more efficient experience. I was much better able to move in between shrubs and also dropped less leafs back to the ground as I emptied my rake into the waiting leaf bags. Thanks Tom for the recommendation; I think I will keep using the 24" variety. Bigger is not always better!

Garden Talks

Now onto some recent email gardening questions. Feel free to email us your gardening questions at We love to answer your questions and we may well post them in the Gardening Log for fellow gardeners to see! We always keep your name confidential so ask away!

Question: Does allowing my rosemary to flower, alter the taste at all. It looks so pretty flowering on my kitchen counter. I've always heard not to let chives flower if you plan to use them in dishes but don't know if the same hold true for other herbs,

Answer: I have inquired of a few folks and done some checking around and I cannot find any thought anywhere that allowing rosemary to flower will alter the taste.

I think this is probably so because rosemary is usually used in a dried form anyway so it would be a little older than a chive plant which might be more mature and therefore “tougher” as a plant that gets to a flowering stage.

Question: This past spring, I purchased 2 Oak Hill Reblooming Hydrangea plants from Skillins.
Could you please give me some advice on how to care for the plants over the winter months?
Should I fertilize at this time? Prune? How should I protect them over the winter months?

Answer: Once the ground freezes up I would mulch around the base of your hydrangeas to keep the ground frozen and prevent the heaving that may occur to your still young hydrangea plants.

I would clean any dead leaves from around the base of the plant (not only hydrangea leaves but oak and maple leaves) and I would trim back any growth that is dead or dying. Once the ground is nice and clean I would sprinkle some natural fertilizer like Holly Tone around the base of the plant if you have not done so in the last few months. The active ingredients from the Holly Tone will not be used by the plant now that it is dormant BUT the Holly Tone will be nice and available in early Spring when your plants will need a boost!

Water your plants well if you have not done so lately, they can use the moisture before the ground freezes.

Mark Your Calendar

Every Tuesday is Mature Gardeners Day at Skillin’s! Those customers who qualify will receive 10% off all regularly priced items. (Sale items and volume restrictions do not usually apply and some other restrictions may apply).

Every Friday brings Flower Power Happy Hour where we offer fresh cut flower stems and bunches at 30% off their regular prices. The Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM until we close at 7 PM!! Every Friday!

Thanks for reading the Skillin's Garden Log; email us any comments @ or feel free to join in on the garden conversation by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post,

Mike Skillin

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wilt Pruf Alert!

Hello again!

Today and tomorrow represent great opportunities to get that Wilt Pruf onto your broad leafed evergreens. Temps will be in the high 40's to 50 degrees and the long range forecast is not for warm temperatures over the next 10 days or so!

We do recommend Wilt Pruf as a spray for broad leafed evergreens such as rhododendrons and azaleas to help prevent leaf wilting and curling in the winter and early Spring. Wilt Pruf is an all natural product that is perfectly safe to use. Wilt Pruf is best applied in November on a nice warm day. Wilt Pruf essentially clogs the open pores of a plant’s leaves and this reduces transpiration or moisture loss through the plant’s leaves. This coating also helps protect the cells of the leaf against burning wind (much like lip balm protects us).
Let us know if you have any questions!
Mike Skillin

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Skillin's Christmas Tree Story

Think Green! Help Us to Plant for the Planet!

If you are thinking about a fresh Balsam Fir Christmas Tree, roping and wreaths Skillin’s Greenhouses in Brunswick, Cumberland and Falmouth has the aesthetic Maine Holiday tradition for you. Our Skillin’s and Maine grown Christmas Greens will make your decorating even more merry because they are more than decorations. Our Holiday Greens help sustain Maine agriculture, a tradition here at Skillin’s since 1885.

Buying local grown products also help in reducing the use of fuel. Because these products are grown closer to you they have less distance to travel to get to you. Supporting locally grown products reduces our carbon footprint, creates local agricultural jobs, sustains local farms; so with your support you are helping to preserve open space and wildlife habitats. Maine grown products are also “fresher” and will create lasting family memories with your children.

Before setting your Christmas Tree up always make a fresh 1” or more cut on the butt end of the tree. This will enable your tree to pick up water from the tree stand during its stay indoors. Always routinely check your tree at least once a day and in warm homes more often is recommended. Add water as needed and never allow your tree to dry out. Once a tree dries out it may not be able to pick up water again without another fresh cut. Keep your tree away from any heat source and never forget the cookies for Santa.

Remember to recycle your trees after the Holidays because they have stored valuable nutrients in their foliage and wood. You can always bring your tree back to us at Skillin’s or call us to arrange for a pickup and we will recycle the tree for you at our Mt. View Tree Farm so your tree will help to create the life of a new tree!

For more information on the proper care of a Fresh Skillin’s Christmas Tree please pick up a tree care sheet here at Skillin’s.


Terry Skillin

Amending that Clay!

Gardening friend Nancy checks in with her experiences on amending heavy clay soils:

"I wanted to pass my tip along for clay soil. I made a raspberry bed and one end turned out to be just clay. I added few inches of peat moss, lots of chopped leaves, and several inches of old horse manure (endless supply of that!). After hand flipping it over several times, voila, good looking soil. This is the time of year to find leaves. They are a wonderful soil amendment."

I agree with Nancy that chopped leaves make a wonderful organic soil amendment.

If you don't have an endless supply of horse manure feel free to use any aged manure you can get your hands on or any good quality compost--we sell some great composts right here at Skillin's that would easily fit the bill.

Now Nancy, I bet you didn't know that raspberries are about my favorite fruit (along with blueberries), so next year if you would like to drop a sample of your raspberries by I would be glad to evaluate your raspberry production!

Thanks Nancy for your contribution. We love recommendations from gardeners. Feel free to reply to us by clicking on "comments" just below or by sending us a note at!

Mike Skillin

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts

Hello again,

Welcome to another posting of Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts at the Skillin's Garden Log.

Garden Talks

Let's dive right in with some great questions this past week from some of our gardening friends like you. Email us your gardening questions at!

Question: I have several plantings of Purple Dome Asters. Almost before they bloom, the lower leaves turn brown and become unsightly. Do bunches of these flowers have a tendency to get moldy because they are too close? The flowers are not bothered by the ugly stems, just me. Should I thin each bunch down to one or two stems? I tried thinning them this spring, but maybe I didn't divide away enough material. What should I do either now or next year?

Answer: I checked with Jeff Skillin to verify the answer to this and he indicated that the Purple Dome Aster has a high tendency for the lower leaves to turn brown.
If the plants do have some space in between for light and air circulation you will see less browning and consequently less molding but you will probably at least still see some browning.
I would wait until early next Spring to space your plants.

Question: Can you tell me if Hydrangeas should be cut back in the fall and mulched after adding the Holly Tone? What about the butterfly bush? We have four and one of the four did not do well at all this year. I have the Holly Tone which we bought at Skillins and I think we were told to put that on in November. Am I remembering that right?

Should all perennials be cut back? And as a general rule of thumb, do you recommend pulling all annuals up? I've had snapdragons come back when I didn't pull them up but I don't think any of the others have come back except the darling little pansies, which I now consider a perennial.

Answer: A light pruning on the hydrangea and butterfly bush is fine at this time, but I usually wait until spring to do any heavy cutting on those plants.
Usually by mid May it is clear where the new growth is and I prune out dead wood to that point. You are right about the HollyTone, so go ahead and give the plants a light feeding.

It is usually a good idea to clean up the majority of dead perennial foliage in the fall, as it helps to keep the garden free from diseases. The exceptions that I follow are: when the foliage or dried flower heads might offer some winter interest when covered with frost, ice or snow, and when the dead foliage might provide some extra winter protection for marginally hardy perennials.

I usually pull up annuals to make room for spring bulbs, but sometimes leave the pansies and snapdragons.

If you need a few bulbs to add a dash of spring color, we still have a nice selection!

(Above answer courtesy of Tim Bate of Skillin's Falmouth)

Question: I was just wondering if I can trim some bushes around the house. Lilacs, holly and some others?

Answer: This is a fine time to trim holly, but if you trim lilacs too much at this time, you risk cutting away next years flower buds. A rule of thumb that generally works for most shrubs is:

If it flowers before the 4th of July, prune it immediately after flowering
If it flowers after the 4th of July, prune in spring or fall.

(This answer too, courtesy of Tim Bate of Skillin's Falmouth!)

Question: Is mulch just laid on the ground around the plants or over the entire garden where my new plants are.

Answer: When mulching for winter cover, the "mulch" should be placed over the area where the stem meets the roots and then the mulch should be matted about 6 to 12" around the stem of the plant to about a 4" thickness. Generally speaking, this isdone in late November or so when that ground gets good and crunchy. The aim is to keep the ground frozen and to keep the ground from freezing and thawing. I would concentrate on mulching your specific plants rather than the garden as a whole.

Garden Thoughts

I checked in with good gardening friend Barbara Gardener and she is waging a fierce battle with some hard clay in her yard and garden. Hard clay is a tough foe for any gardener--it seems as if the inpenetrable clay that gets so wet in the Spring and so darned armor like in the summer and fall just keeps pushing its way to the top of the soil level.

Peat moss and sand are two old recommended soil amendments to battle against clay but I tend to favor better organic matter like a good rich compost to encourage a better natural fight by microorganisms. Aeration is key and we sell a product here called Soil Perfecter by the Espoma Company ( that consists of kiln dried minerals. These hardened minerals stay in the clay and form air pockets that let the oxygen in--again good for the microorganisms and bad for the clay.

It is a battle but I am going to sell Barbara Gardener a bag of that Soil Perfecter and she will defeat that clay. Clay is tough but I would never bet against Barbara Gardener!

We have had some very rainy weather lately. Now that we have some dry weather back, do not forget to check those bird feeders and clean out any wet seed. Wind driven rain can really dampen that seed and our feathered friends usually do not like wet bird seed.

Our good birding friend Liz Cardinale also would like to give us birding fans another reminder: the cold temperatures of winter often make it difficult for birds to find fresh water. We sell bird bath deicers here at Skillin’s that can easily keep that valuable water available for the birds! Just place the deicer into your bird bath and plug it in! We also sell heated birdbaths that will keep that water available for the birds. When sitting water starts to freeze it makes it really tough for our feathered friends to get the water they need. So don't forget them this winter!

Now is the time to wrap your young trees near their base to protect them for the winter from sun scald. Terry Skillin also recommends placing some rat bait in a coffee can and leaving that near the base of young trees. Mice love to burrow under snow cover and use young trees as their food source.
We do recommend Wilt Pruf as a spray for broad leafed evergreens such as rhododendrons and azaleas to help prevent leaf wilting and curling in the winter and early Spring. Wilt Pruf is an all natural product that is perfectly safe to use. Wilt Pruf is best applied in November on a nice warm day. Wilt Pruf essentially clogs the open pores of a plant’s leaves and this reduces transpiration or moisture loss through the plant’s leaves. This coating also helps protect the cells of the leaf against burning wind (much like lip balm protects us). If we get a particularly warm day or two in late February or early March it may be smart to reapply Wilt Pruf then. It also often helps to wrap your tender plants such as hollies, roses as well as evergreens in high wind locations. We do sell burlap for this purpose.
The folks at People, Places and Plants magazine (produced right here in Maine) check in this issue with some great gardening tips that deserve special mention. Their web site can be found at
Begin cooling bulbs for forcing indoor flowering. Start paper white narcissus for holiday blooming.” Check out the Skillin's Garden Log entry for October 31 for some great tips on forcing bulbs. Paper white narcissus and their less fragrant cousins Soleil D’Or (all yellow) and Chinese Sacred Lilies (mix of white and yellow) do not need to be cooled for indoor forcing. Literally just place them in water and watch them grow!
Mulch perennials with straw. Avoid leaves as mulch; they mat down when wet and cut off oxygen to plants. Mulch after the ground begins to freeze.” Mulching after the ground BEGINS to freeze is very important. Every season is different for the timing of the ground freezing but keep a careful eye and let us know if you have any questions!
Mark Your Calendar
Every Tuesday is Mature Gardeners Day at Skillin’s! Those customers who qualify will receive 10% off all regularly priced items. (Sale items and volume restrictions do not usually apply and some other restrictions may apply).
Every Friday brings Flower Power Happy Hour where we offer fresh cut flower stems and bunches at 30% off their regular prices. The Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM until we close at 7 PM!! Every Friday!
Thanks for reading the Skillin's Garden Blog; email us any comments @ or feel free to join in on the garden conversation by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post,
Mike Skillin

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts

Hello again,

We have reached the end of October but you will see below that we have many garden topics to discuss. Email us any comments @ OR feel free to join in on the gardening conversation by clicking on "comments"at the end of this post.

The leaves are really starting to fall now! Once your leaves have been raked (and it will still be more than a few days before they are all down!), consider mowing your lawn nice and short for the last time. A nice short lawn not only looks good but it will result in much less matted grass in the late winter and early Spring. Matted grass is hard to mow and serves as a good harbor for snow mold—a disease that can kill parts of your lawn in the early Spring!

As you drive around in November, quite often you will see some beautiful red berries growing in clusters in relatively open areas. We also sell these berries in bunches known as “Winter Berry” bunches. Well, these bushes are easy to grow and we have them here at Skillin’s! The botanical name is Ilex verticillata and the shrubs are easy to grow here in Maine. The typical height is 6 to 10 feet although it will take a few years to reach that height.
I just checked with our good gardening friend Barbara Gardener to see what she has been up to the last several days and here is part of our email conversation:
Barbara: I dug up all of the grape hyacinths yesterday and have been replanting them today. Wow! First time I have bothered. Does it do any good to plant any of the tiny, (very tiny) bulbs that have developed. If so, how many years does it take for them to develop enough to bloom. If I have to separate them every year I guess I'd rather "buy them at Skillins". I'm not sure who might not make it. Those tiny bulbs or this old lady!

Mike: Barbara, I believe the young grape hyacinths would bloom a year from this spring (that would be 2009) for the most part. But it would do well to replant them as they are pretty hardy and should reproduce for you over time. Grape hyacinth can be such a wonderful plant. There is a house on Middle Road in Falmouth where they have a bed of them on the side of the house and for a good ten days to two weeks in the spring, it is worth driving by the house just to see the magnificent blue bed of grape hyacinths.

That being said, I have a bed right in front of my house that has grape hyacinth in it. Poor placement if you ask me. The grape hyacinth are pretty while they flower but their foliage to me is not attractive and it seems to take forever for the foliage to die back. I replant the bed with annuals and I do have some cone flower and other perennials that flower later in the season BUT those darned spiky grape hyacinth leaves just linger and linger. Makes kind of a mess as summer progresses.

SO, my next goal late this fall is to dig out all the grape hyacinth bulbs I can find and toss them into a wild grassy area I have just a little way from my house. Where I toss them is where I plant them. This “tossing and planting” is called “naturalizing” as the bulbs will grow in the early Spring in this haphazard “natural” pattern that my tossing created. They will grow in this area that is sunny BEFORE the leaves from overhanging trees above and the wild grass below pop out in the Spring.

“Naturalizing” is a great technique for many types of bulbs: daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and grape hyacinth just to name a few!

Barbara: Very few spots in any of my gardens that have good, if any, drainage. I love iris but more of them rot than bloom. Do you think it would do any good to add a little sand to the soil where I am placing the rhizome? Naturally, I read that on the internet.

Mike: Barbara, I think that sand will help for a short time but sand will get leached out of wet areas to the extent that water might drain during heavy periods of precipitation. You may want to get your excavator out and dig some drainage swales! I might recommend Siberian iris for that spot; Siberians can take some wet.
I would try some sand but also mix that sand with a good light compost like Quoddy Blend by Coast of Maine to make the soil a little better draining.
Actually, as I think more about the wet area you mention I would check out a great product called Soil Perfector by Espoma ( that we sell here at Skillin's. Soil Perfector is made from a naturally derived, ceramic mineral that is kiln-fired at temperatures in excess of 2000ยบ F. This process creates a durable, lightweight granule containing thousands of tiny storage spaces that hold the perfect balance of water, air and nutrients for an improved soil structure. Soil Perfector helps your soil get structure in the "middle"; it provides aeration to heavy, wet soils and it also helps hold soil together in lighter soils. Check out Soil Perfector on your next visit to Skillin's.
If anyone of our readers (that means YOU!) would like to give any input on the gardening conversation between Barbara Gardener and myself just join in by clicking on Comment at the end of this posting; this gives all of our readers a chance to comment on gardening issues or you can email me at!

Forcing bulbs: There is no quicker way to bring spring indoors during the winter than with a pot of bulbs. Many different bulbs can be forced, including tulips, hardy narcissus, hyacinths, squill, and crocuses. These are all hardy bulbs that need a 15-week prerooting period before they can be brought into active growth. That period of enforced cold convinces them that winter is at hand; when they’re brought to a warm spot, they assume that spring has arrived and they bloom.

To begin the process usually several bulbs are potted together in a 6-inch bulb pan. Hyacinths, which are large-flowered, look handsome planted as singles in regular 4-inch flowerpots. Add a dusting of garden fertilizer to the soil so the bulbs will have additional nutrients. When they’re planted in the pots, the tips of the bulbs should peek just above the soil line, which should itself be about ½ inch below the rim of the pot. Then moisten the soil and the bulbs are ready for winter.

There are several different ways to store winter bulbs; the purpose is simply to keep the bulbs at 40 degrees or so. Also they can’t be allowed to dry out or freeze. A bulkhead, cool cellar, or refrigerator is fine. Also a cold frame or a bulb trench dug outdoors can be used. This period of cold should last for about 8 weeks (this is the time that you are approximating early winter!).

The bulbs then can be brought into a cool, dark location for about 6 weeks or so. This is the time you are approximating the conditions of late winter or early Spring.

After that, plan on bringing in just a pot or two at a time to give you a sequence of flowering plants through most of the actual late winter and early spring.

Put the pots on a bright but cool windowsill until the shoots are about 4” tall. Then move them into bright sunlight until the flower buds start to show color, at which point move them back into bright indirect light. While bulb plants are growing and in flower, they do best with night temperatures in the low 40s at night and the 60s in the day. Keep the soil moist but don’t feed them. Then enjoy an early taste of spring.

When the bulb plant’s leaves begin to turn yellow, reduce the amount of water and give them only enough to keep the leaves from wilting. By the time the leaves have withered entirely, the soil should be dry. The bulbs can be stored in their pots until the fall, or they can be taken from their pots and stored in a cool dry place. Most bulb plants can’t be forced a second time. But if you have an outdoor garden, you can save the bulbs and plant them outside in the fall. They may not blossom extensively the next spring, but they will regain their strength and eventually produce fine outdoor spring flowers.

The folks at People, Places and Plants magazine (produced right here in Maine) check in this issue with some great gardening tips that deserve special mention. Their web site can be found at

Begin cooling bulbs for forcing indoor flowering. Start paper white narcissus for holiday blooming.” Just talked about this one! And I am often asked, when should I start my paperwhite narcissus for Christmas blooming. The answer is NOW.

Cover crops on the inside of cold frames with salt hay or leaves. Bank the outside of the cold frame with bales of hay. Be certain to ventilate on bright, sunny days.” Cold frames can be a great place to store a variety of crops that you would like to winter over but cold frames can heat up quickly. Use straw or our Mainely Mulch product instead of salt hay for an excellent mulch.

Mark Your Calendar

Every Tuesday is Mature Gardeners Day at Skillin’s! Those customers who qualify will receive 10% off all regularly priced items. (Sale items and volume restrictions do not usually apply and some other restrictions may apply).

Every Friday brings Flower Power Happy Hour where we offer fresh cut flower stems and bunches at 30% off their regular prices. The Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM until we close at 7 PM!! Every Friday!

Thanks for reading the Skillin's Garden Blog; email us any comments @ or feel free to join in on the garden conversation by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post,

Mike Skillin

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts (update)

Hello again,

After much thought our good bird feeding friend Liz Cardinale is more convinced that the birds plaguing my bird feeder are migrating grackles who should be cleared out in a few days. According to Liz, starlings are still in feeding on insects and have not yet had to "stoop" to feeding from our bird feeders.

I do think that Liz is right about the birds being grackles. I did put some safflower in some of my feeders this morning but while Liz is certain the grackles will not like the safflower, she is not certain that any other birds will like the safflower as well. I have definitely heard mixed reports about whether or not birds like safflower.

Check out for more information about grackles, starlings and other birds!

I do not mind feeding the grackles, it is just that they stay for hours it seems and they consume huge amounts of food. While doing this, they absolutely keep all the other birds away! But as Liz points out, they are probably eating so much because they are trying to store up nutrients for their long trip south.

To the grackles, I say "Bon Voyage".

Good gardening friend Barbara Gardener tells me that she has been working on "one cleanup project after another" in her expansive gardens.

She also passed on a great tip about planting daffodils. Last year, she planted about 150 daffodils under the cover of some perennial ground covers and it worked out quite well. The daffodils came up through and bloomed before the ground covers came up strong. Then once the ground covers came up thriving, the ground covers covered the declining daffodil leaves and saved Barbara the time and hassle of having to braid the daffodil leaves as they turned from green to brown. Remember, in the Spring you don't want to trim the daffodil leaves too soon as there is much nutrient flow from the daffodil leaves down into the bulb. It is late Spring that the daffodil bulbs themselves put on much growth.

Barbara has been around the "gardening block" once or twice and her experienced advice is always appreciated at the Skillin's Garden Log.

Let us know at what projects you have been working on in your garden that might be beneficial to your fellow gardeners. Or leave a comment by clicking on the icon just below this Garden Log post!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts

Hello again,

Welcome to another posting of Garden Talks and Garden Thoughts at the Skillin's Garden Log.

Garden Talks
Let's dive right in with some great questions this past week from some of our gardening friends like you. Email us your gardening questions at!
Question: When do I cut back my roses for the winter and how do I cover them?

Answer: We have found that pruning hybrid tea and similar roses in spring works best in Maine. That way the canes are not opened up to damaging winter cold and wind injury.

Protect them for the winter by mulching 1 ft deep with bark mulch, soil or composted cow manure in late November. After Christmas, place evergreen branches over the mulch mounds to keep them from thawing and re-freezing throughout the winter. Uncover and prune in April.

If you have winter hardy shrub roses that do not need all that special attention, mulching is probably not necessary, and the pruning can be done this fall or next spring.

(Thanks to Tim Bate for the above answer!)

Question: I was wondering why it is good to apply Plant Tone or ProStart to plants that are starting their dormant period. Won't that kick in and cause some growth during a "warm" spell?

Answer: I do think that twice yearly feedings of these natural fertilizers really help most soils. And that is what we are trying to do when we feed naturally; we are treating the soil by providing more organic matter for beneficial fungi and bacteria to use to thrive. Then this fungi and bacteria get used by the microorganisms in the soil and also beneficial creatures like earthworms so that they can live in and benefit the soil. In other words, by feeding naturally on a consistent basis we are trying to encourage consistent biological activity in the soil. That is why I think at least twice yearly feedings of good natural foods gets us to that goal.

Gardening in Maine is rugged and our soils can be a challenge. I and many other gardeners live over a big sheet of granite that creates really shallow situations for my lawn and garden soil. This soil gets baked in our hot dry summers and then constantly frozen and thawed in our roller coaster winters. Other soils have much clay and this makes for similar challenges that make it tough for plants roots to thrive. So again providing consistent supplies of organic matter can be very helpful; perhaps even essential for long-term successful gardening.

To more directly answer your question, the nutrient flow from these natural fertilizers all come from natural slow yielding sources. The nutrients from natural fertilizers put down now are much available in a few months time then now. Applying chemical fertilizers to plants starting their dormant period would result in a much more immediate rush of nutrients and could very likely cause growth during a “warm” spell.

Chemical fertilizers cause fairly immediate chemical activity. Natural fertilizers help to cause more long-term biological activity that the environment can use to help our plants grow well.

Question: My rosemary plants never winter over. So I thought I was being smart by digging mine up, putting it in a pot and bringing it inside. All was well for while, but now the plant is turning brown. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to revive it?

Answer: Rosemary plants do not winter over outside so you are being smart by digging yours up and bringing it inside.

Here is proper indoor rosemary care per Mary of Skillin’s Falmouth:

She stresses that rosemary can survive indoors but getting them to thrive can be a challenge.
Rosemary needs as much sun as you can give it indoors.
They need warm days and cool nights. And no drafts.

Let them go very dry to the touch between waterings. When you do water them, really soak them—probably in your kitchen sink so the water can run slowly through the soil for a few minutes. Let the excess water drain off. Then let them go quite dry again; certainly when in doubt do no water. Again run the water slowly so it does not splash on the leaves.

Rosemary are very prone to powdery mildew but that can easily be treated by garden sulfur an all natural fungicide spray that we sell right here at Skillin’s!

Do not fertilize over the winter; I would say start to give it some fertilizer in April; a few weeks before it goes back outside.

Question: Do you recommend the Garden Primer as the best overall book for someone who is looking for basic tips about many aspects of gardening. For example,when to plant bulbs to how to best plant prennials. With illustrations and easy to follow steps and information.

Answer: I definitely recommend the Garden Primer as a great overall book for someone looking for basic tips.
We sell the Garden Primer here at Skillin's and at!

Back when I was first starting out, the late Jim Crockett--the original host of the Victory Garden Series--published two books that were a huge help to me, Crockett's Victory Garden which dealt with many facets of outdoor gardening, particularly vegetable gardening and Crockett's Indoor Gardening which dealt with both houseplants and flowering plants. You could probably still obtain those books through your favorite bookstore.

Garden Thoughts
The leaves are just tumbling out of the maple trees around the area. Much of my lawn awaits me in a couple of days for some vigorous raking. I will probably bag most of the initial leaves that I rake but as the leaves get a little crispier closer to the end of the fall I will pile some of these leaves as a combination mulch/compost around my evergreen shrubs (yews/rhodys/azaleas).
Prior to this piling of leaves, I will have put some Holly Tone natural fertilizer around the base of each of these plants. We have had some good rain so the Holly Tone has broken down quite a bit and is starting to be incorporated into the soil. Then it will be time to pile a couple of inches of leaves around each plant. These leaves help keep weeds down during the growing season and also as time goes along, the leaves break down and do a nice job of becoming helpful organic matter in the soil.
If I am really on my game, I will get the lawn mower out and chop up some leaves and then pile these chopped leaves around my evergreens, again this makes for faster breakdown of the leaves next season.
In the last few days, I have been getting hordes of shiny black starlings (might be grackles) around some of my bird feeders. I don't mind feeding the creatures but they have been voracious. They will consume a suet cake in a day. I do have a large platform feeder and an old suet cage that I have not used for awhile. This morning I bungied the suet feeder to the bottom of my platform feeder because my good bird feeding friend Liz Cardinale reminded me that woodpeckers have no problem eating suet upside down BUT birds like starlings and grackles do not like to eat upside down.
Liz Cardinale also recommended that I substitute safflower for sunflower for a few days. Safflower is a wonderful food for birds--it is full of nutrients but starlings and grackles do not like it. Liz feels that the starlings will get miffed that there is no more suet or sunflower and go on their merry way and then I can resume my sunflower feeding. I will keep you all posted but does anyone else have any suggestions for those starlings?
Mark Your Calendar
Every Tuesday is Mature Gardeners Day at Skillin’s! Those customers who qualify will receive 10% off all regularly priced items. (Sale items and volume restrictions do not usually apply and some other restrictions may apply).
Every Friday brings Flower Power Happy Hour where we offer fresh cut flower stems and bunches at 30% off their regular prices. The Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM until we close at 7 PM!! Every Friday!
Mike Skillin