The Wood Prairie Seed Piece
             Organic News and Commentary
                   Friday, August 18th 2017
                     Volume 25 Issue 12


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

     Maine Tales.                          Cosmic Events.                              Limestone, Maine                           Circa 1997.

       With all the recent media attention concerning historic meteor showers and the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse, we got to thinking about other landmark cosmic events to impact Maine.  About that eclipse: some clever engineering students down there at the University of Maine came up with
the bright idea of letting go of a helium-filled balloon after hooking up a video camera which they expect will transmit eclipse images from 110,000 feet above Earth back to computer central where the world can watch the Eclipse show on the internet.

       Northern Maine’s perhaps most memorable cosmic event of the past quarter century was held exactly twenty-years ago this week.  That was when the legendary Vermont rock group, Phish, decided they wanted to hold a concert in the town of Limestone at the site of the former Loring Air Force Base.

       Construction of Loring AFB began at the close of World War II, when America’s newest looming threat became the Soviet Union.  Geographically speaking, Aroostook County is the American soil located the least distance from Europe.  So in the post-war years, establishing a major Strategic Air Command (SAC) base in the farming town of Limestone, Maine, became an irresistible idea for our military planners.

       In building a base there was plenty to do in clearing the woods and leveling the fields.  What once had been 75 family farms up through the 1940s were, with considerable effort,
converted into the most modern base the Air Force had ever dreamed up.  Hard-working Mainers from as far away as our little town of Bridgewater traveled to jobs up to Limestone for the multi-year jobs bonanza. 

       The scale of the Loring project – essentially to build an entire city within a huge air base - was massive and unprecented.  Runways, hangers, housing, commissaries, administrative offices, Post Office, fire department, school, credit union, church, a 100-bed hospital - and more - required rapid construction in a short period of time.  There were jobs aplenty and many, many tens of thousands of yards of concrete made locally and poured for the Loring AFB project.

         Coincidentally, with the development of Loring Air Force, Limestone’s population soon swelled from 2500 citizens to over 9000.  Security on the fence-enclosed base was tight.  In certain areas which held especially high military importance, it was rumored there were standing orders were to shoot-on-sight any unauthorized person found wandering around.  Though never confirmed by base authorities, it was universally believed that Loring’s 42nd Bomber Wing’s big B-52 bombers were outfitted with nuclear warheads.  What else might deter the Soviets?

       The base hummed, the decades passed, but after forty years of operation Loring AFB’s mission of Soviet deterrence was deemed to have ended.  Loring AFB was closed in 1994.  The economic shock of the base closure, was severe to our local economy.  While centered in Limestone the bust-generating-closure was felt County-wide.  In short order, eight-thousand residents departed Limestone wreaking havoc among local businesses.  Four local car dealerships closed within one month of the announcement of the base closure.

       The Loring Re-Development Authority was invented to create the re-purposed economic revitalization of Loring AFB.  The processing of defense department payments and the rebuilding of military HumVees are two businesses which panned out. Many other proposed uses were entertained.  That first jaw-dropping Phish rock concert was allowed, others followed.

       Phish’s primeval ‘The New Went’ Aroostook concert was held at Loring in August 1997.  This prime time two-day musical event brought 60,000 enthusiastic and virtually all well-behaved young
people to Limestone.   Aroostook County, with the oldest median age in the State of Maine – and Maine, the state with the oldest population in these United States – got as close as we ever would get to Woodstock.

        Most memorable for those of us who did not attend the concert were the epic traffic jams which created gridlock and hopelessly clogged Aroostook’s few highways.  Just as Aroostook County’s population was beginning to nearly double for the weekend event, we contrarily were headed south for an overnight family reunion at Aunt Margaret’s camp on Hancock Pond in the western Maine town of North New Portland.

        Driving three-and-a-half miles from our Bridgewater farm we came to the stop sign where Bootfoot Road meets U.S. Highway One.  We were headed south.  Every other vehicle in sight was pointed north, trying to get to Limestone, 40 miles away.  Only we were moving but they weren’t.  As we drove south and watched the nonmoving de-automobiled happy and carefree Phish fans we admired their carefreeness and complete lack of angst.  Five miles west of Houlton, twenty five miles from that Bootfoot stop sign, we whizzed by driving south.  We saw what turned out to be the beginning of Maine’s largest traffic jam ever, 65 miles from their Phish-fan destination, potato town Limestone, Maine. 

 Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 Bridgewater, Maine
Click here for the Wood Prairie Family Farm Home Page.
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Summer Photos From Wood Prairie Family Farm.

     More Wood Prairie photos taken by Caleb's sister Sarah Gerritsen.

Stormy Clouds. 
Our Summer has been filled with serial thunderstorms.

Elsie the Cow.  Ten-year-old milking matriarch of our small herd of heritage breed Irish Dexter cattle

Organic Potatoes in Bloom.  Looking southeastward across our blossoming potatoes.

Notable Quotes: Martin Luther King Jr. on Silence.

Recipe: New Potatoes with Mint.

2 pounds small new potatoes, fresh out of the ground
Wash and put in a medium saucepan with lid
Cover with water, add a tsp sea salt and boil until tender (about 20 minutes).

Drain off the boiling water and toss the potatoes with plenty of butter, salt to taste and plenty of fresh black pepper. One friend adds chopped mint: "my British husband's favorite herb for boiled new potatoes...gorgeous! Yum!"

Do try this recipe!


Fresh New Potatoes with Mint.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

 Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox