Social Capital – the business model

I was down in the village last Saturday, doing errands and enjoying the relative peace and quiet now that most of the folks from away are well, away. It occurred to me that two of my favorite businesses in town are right next to each other, on a cul-de-sac off Cottage Street.

Cadillac Avenue is a short, narrow, heavily rutted dead end that opens up into a dirt lot facing the backs of other buildings on three sides.  Not a promising piece of real estate, but very expensive nonetheless, just by being located in down town Bar Harbor. To one side of the dirt lot sits The Bagel Factory, where Agnes S. makes bagels. Agnes makes the best bagels in the world, but she does not tolerate stupidity, arrogance, sloth or bad manners. You may be able to get a bagel – or a salmon and mozzarella pizza, or a tempeh and goat cheese sandwich with ripe pears – or you may get kicked to the curb. Agnes is one of the finest human beings you will ever have a chance to meet – don’t screw up.

bagel factory

Just to the left of The Bagel Factory is Ahlblad’s Picture Framing or, as the sign says, “hlblad’s”. Nobody cares about the sign. All of Raymond Strout’s customers find their way by word of mouth and are willing to wait unspecified amounts of time for a frame and treatment of Raymond’s choosing. Martha Stewart deals with Raymond when she’s in town and so do countless collectors of old maps, antique prints and fragile photographs. His skill with molding is matched by his taste, and his memory for every piece of visual art and every customer that has ever passed through his door is perfect – an infinitely accommodating human database of art. Which must help him find what he needs amid the epic clutter of his shop.


But no one finds Raymond or Agnes through their web presence – they don’t have any. These stores barely have phone numbers, only appear on Google maps if you already know how to spell “(A)hlblad”, and are only open on the kind of schedule that needs to be memorized after long familiarity. You have to know someone who knows someone – someone on a budget who used to live in Paris and has a thing for reading Antonin Artaud over a bagel and a cup of hot cider, and therefore knows Agnes. Even then, you might arrive and find that the bagels are sold out and Raymond isn’t answering the bell. If you know a place like this, you’ll just shake your head and vow to come earlier next time.

Garden swamp

The neighbors, who are plant people extraordinare, gifted me with Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’ the other day.

fothergilla-blue-shadowTHE GREEN MAN blog says: Of all its favorable attributes, the striking blue hue is what really sets this Fothergilla

Gary Handy, owner of Handy Nursery in Boring, Oregon, discovered ‘Blue Shadow’ as a sport of Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy.’ It features the same vigorous growth rate. ‘Blue Shadow’ forms a dense network of angular stems. It’s an upright grower that broadens with age, eventually becoming 5′-6′ high and wide. ‘Blue Shadow’ tolerates of both full sun and partial shade. A semi-shade location results in the shrub’s taking on a more open habit.
Like other Fothergilla, ‘Blue Shadow’ is native to the South, but it adapts well throughout most of the United States, thriving in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8. It has no known disease or insect susceptibilities and prefers somewhat acidic soil that has good moisture-retention and adequate drainage.
In April to early May, ‘Blue Shadow’ dazzles the viewer with honey-scented bottlebrush flowers. Outstandingly-handsome scalloped blue leaves soon follow. In mid-October to late November, autumn colors Rich reds accompanied by shades of orange and dark yellow.
cultivar apart. It’s a winner that provides keen color contrast to companion plants, particularly those with golden foliage.

Fortunately, I have acres of swamp adjacent to the garden and a lovely moist acidic spot for this plant next to the button bush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. Another plant that enjoys wet, but draining soil is the dwarf astilbe. Plant some swamp today!


Commencement Owl

owl-001Three years ago I cleared out a lot of scrub that had grown up between the bottom of the garden and our gravel road. I left a young spruce trunk about 5′ high with the thought that eventually I’d put a bird house there or something. A few days later someone left this owl and since then neighbors and mysterious strangers have dressed it up in any way you can imagine. The owl has had ski goggles and a hat/scarf combo, Halloween costumes, yellow silk bunny ears, flag bunting and flower garlands. Last Christmas someone put a beautiful wreath around its neck, decorated with scallop shells. Tomorrow afternoon the Boy graduates from high school and someone has commemorated the occasion with an owl-scaled mortar board. This is a cool neighborhood.

Ode To Rose

Rose's back yard

I met Rose one day as she was hauling a piece of downed tree out of her driveway. An old woman, with a sweater on over her housecoat, and I stopped to help. She lived on the highway just down from my road and I drove past her house every day on my way to the high school, or the store, and wondered who lived there. She wasn’t particularly talkative, or overly grateful for the help, so I didn’t stop by often. Once to buy a wreath at Christmas from the rack out by the road, once just because she was out in the yard and I wanted a photo, for a painting, of the outbuilding up the hill.

Rose's house, morning light, from the highway

Rose's house, morning light, from the highway

Sunday I stopped by because there were tables in the front yard loaded up with dust collectors and glassware, and piles of old lady sweaters and housecoats. I thought I’d seen an obituary with a familiar name and sure enough, Genevieve, her grandson’s partner, informed me kindly that “Rose is gone, you know”. They are still leaving a bowl of cat food for the fox on the back porch and Genevieve was amused that I knew about that. They thought she had a cat.

Rose's plate

Rose's plate

I bought four flower plates, a tan lustre-ware vase with a yellow bird and cherry blossoms and a short pickling crock with an ancient, heavy lid for $4.00 total.  Good bye Rose, that’s all I know.