With its friendly neighbors, uncrowded roads, low crime rate, and respected medical facilities, Maine is quietly becoming the Northeast's premier retirement destination. Victoria Doudera's best-selling book, Moving to Maine: The Essential Guide to Get You There and What You Need to Know to Stay , answers retirees' questions about what it's really like to live in Maine. The following excerpt is from the chapter, "Joining the Community":
How can you nourish your soul in Maine? Besides spending time enjoying nature, new residents find there are all kinds of community organizations that need and welcome participation. "There's plenty of opportunity for `volunteer' employment," says Allie Lou Richardson of Islesboro. "I had worried that I was leaving all my friends, my church, and my community activities behind, but there's plenty to do, and welcoming, friendly people to do it with."
Many new residents find they enjoy giving back to their adopted communities through donating their time at service organizations, churches, and nonprofit groups. Still others train to become volunteer firefighters, docents at local museums, or directors on the board of the community YMCA. There are opportunities to mentor youth, maintain hiking trails, and care for wildlife. Once you've settled in a bit, town committees are another option for interested residents who want to see the inner workings of town politics.
Perhaps you enjoy ornamental or vegetable gardening. Each year, it seems, more and more Mainers spend their spare time enriching the soil and cultivating beautiful blooms. "I was told people don't garden much in Maine," says Jan Njaa of Belfast. "But now that I live here, I see that's clearly not the case." In spite of (or perhaps because of) a short growing season, Mainers love their gardens and enjoy ready access to a variety of services that support green thumbs. In addition, an ever-increasing number of farmers' markets have sprouted in all corners of the state, providing high-quality, delicious produce as well as inspiration…
[Following are some suggestions from the book about "putting down roots" in the community.]
Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
The RSVP program matches volunteers aged sixty and older with community service jobs such as delivering meals, providing companionship to homebound individuals, and teaching in literacy programs. RSVP volunteers also serve at the Maine State Museum, in local schools, libraries, nursing homes, and hospitals. For more information contact:
P.O. Box 1288
Presque Isle, ME 04769
8 Highwood Street
Waterville, ME 04901
207-873-1127 or 207-626-3430
P.O. Box 808 (43 Park Street)
Rockland, ME 04841
207-596-0361Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)
This organization of volunteers, which is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), recruits retired executives who are interested in utilizing their past experience to counsel people who are starting up small businesses. Volunteers receive travel expenses…Maine Senior Games
Held in Portland and Bangor, the Maine Senior Games are the state's largest organized competitive event for the fifty-plus members of the population. For information about how you can have fun (and stay fit) by competing in the games, call the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-427-7411.Gardening
Nourishing the soil is another way to nourish one's soul. "If you can garden in Maine, you can garden anywhere," was the old slogan of People, Places and Plants,
a gardening magazine established in 1996 in Gray that now covers all of New England and New York. Maine's four growing zones, a frost-free season of — in some years — only one hundred days, and its notoriously rocky soil, might lead people from outside the state to doubt that anything can grow here. What's going to bloom in a place with chilly springs and short — albeit glorious — summers?
"The reality is that Maine has, per capita, the most dynamic horticultural scene in New England," says Paul Tukey, editor and publisher of People, Places, and Plants
. "Ornamentally, there's extraordinary first-rate gardening going on here, and organic vegetable production is exploding."
The secret to gardening successfully, say veterans, is picking the right plants. "There are so many incredible varieties that are hardy in Maine," says Paul Tukey. "And we have the University of Maine's Horticultural Department, which is possibly the best in New England, plus Johnny's Selected Seeds, in Albion, with the most extensive trial gardens anywhere. Those two institutions take great pains to identify through extensive testing and research what plants will work well here."
Other resources available to gardeners include the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, part of an amazing federal network that exists to impart free or low-cost agricultural information to the public (call 207-581-3188 or 1-800-287-0274 to find the office nearest you). And then there are your neighbors, who invariably seem to know the answers to gardening questions.
The length of the growing season depends on several factors. Location is one determinant. Depending on where in the state you garden, you may have a slightly longer growing season and warmer temperatures. Luck is another factor. Killing frosts don't always arrive when the calendar says autumn. "Some years, we've had gardens blooming from May 1 until mid-October without a frost," says Paul Tukey. "In my book, that's really not a short growing season."
Gardening in Maine has its distinct advantages. For one thing, blooms are more brilliant, due to the cooler temperatures and intensity of the growing period. Another bonus is that many pests that plague gardeners in warmer climes can't survive the chilly winters. The cool summer nights are a boon to many plant varieties, and pleasant daytime temperatures and usually reliable rains mean spare time isn't spent watering. Probably the biggest advantage to gardening here, though, is the anticipation of and excitement during the growing season.
"Perhaps because the time is short, Mainers throw themselves into gardening," says Paul Tukey. "I am continually amazed at the quality, quantity, and sheer beauty of Maine's gardens and the incredible talent and dedication of Maine's many gardeners."…
For more information or to purchase Moving to Maine: The Essential Guide to Get You There and What You Need to Know to Stay, click here.