Saturday, November 28, 2015

Business spotlight - Merry Christmas Trees

The typical Christmas tradition of searching for and finding a family Christmas tree, cutting it down and bring it home to decorate is alive and well on River Road in Windham. The pungent tang of the trimmed trees hangs in the crisp air at Merry Christmas Trees farm, while families search for the perfect tree, bow saw in hand.
This family business has been planting and cutting trees at 105 River Road since 1989. Now under the ownership of Doug Fortier, whose full time job is as the director of public works in Windham, the trees are trimmed and ready to become a part of a special holiday celebration. 

“I have farming in my blood,” said Fortier, who is a fifth generation farmer, though it hasn’t always been trees his family has farmed. When he works the farm it’s different from his day job. “I can do my own thing,” he said. “I can disappear into my head.” The quiet in the field is only disturbed by a chirping bird.
Merry Christmas Trees only sells balsam fir trees, which are the traditional Christmas trees. He works them year round to make sure they are the fullest and best trees around. 

The cutting will begin the day after Thanksgiving. Cutting the trees is easy. The employees, usually Fortier or his brother-in-law or sister tell you in which field the trees are being cut, they give the person or family a bow saw and some bailing twine to wrap up the tree for transportation. The tree is paid for and off it goes. 

When a fresh tree is cut put it in a bucket of water because it will drink a quart of water each day. At the beginning trees might need to be watered two or three times a day, Fortier said.  

The trees are $45 no matter the size and won’t drop needles like trees that have been cut for a long time.
One of the misconceptions about real trees is that they will dry out quickly and can cause a fire, but Fortier said that was not the case with a fresh cut tree. As long as they are watered consistently, they will not drop many needles and the fire risk is very low, especially with today’s LED lights. Some places that sell trees have them shipped in, which means that they have been sitting out of water for sometimes a month or more. If that is the case, then trim a quarter-of-an-inch from the bottom and water it, but watch it closely. 
“You get what you pay for,” he said. The trees being cut this year at Merry Christmas Trees are near the back of the property and are seven to eight years old. 

“In tree farming, patience is a virtue,” Fortier said. 

Some of the best memories Fortier has are of families who return from the field with their tree and tell him how beautiful it is or how they had such a great time. Or he can hear the kids in the fields laughing and having fun. 

“That is a reward that most farmers don’t get. I grow trees, I don’t grow food,” Fortier said. He doesn’t get the comments about how delicious the fresh produce was, he looks for the smiles on people’s faces.
Christmas trees need care year round. Fortier and his friend Tony Beaulieu, an engineer from Lewiston, have been working together for 13 years. “There’s been quite a progression with the trees,” said Fortier.
“It’s cool coming year to year and seeing the changes. The trees are well maintained and very clean,” Beaulieu added. 

In the spring Fortier brings in a crew of family and friends to plant seedlings. This year it was 1,700 planted in under three hours. 

“There is a lot of work, seven to eight years to have a tree,” said Fortier. Two feet trees are hand snipped and each year something is done to each tree. “That’s how you get those trees,” he said. Each tree is trimmed the way it makes the most sense. Some trees are skinny and tall, and some trees are fat and short. “Trees are like people, some grow quick and some grow slow,” he added. 

The farm is open from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, unless they run out of allotted trees for the year. 

For those thinking of getting into tree farming, some advice form Fortier. “If they are willing to work hard, not have a lot of free time and a willing to wait seven or eight years for a return, tree farming could be for them,” he said with a smile.

Merry Christmas Trees is part of the Maine Christmas Tree Association. 

For more or to see pictures of happy customers, visit Merry Christmas Trees on Facebook or call them at 318-2012.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sweet Georgie Ann's Books and What Not - By Michelle Libby

Books by Barbie DelCamp

A new children’s book from Barbie DelCamp “The Gambo Way” chronicles the life of a family of geese near Gambo Falls Dam in Windham. She spent thousands of hours taking pictures and waiting, even getting Lyme Disease while watching the geese. 

“I write non-fiction. I would like children to be excited about what’s going on in nature,” DelCamp said. DelCamp is her own publisher. “I do all the work.” She uses Lightening Source for her paperback and hardcover copies.  

When DelCamp lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, after caring for her for three years, she decided to write a book about her life with her mother and the disease. The book for adults is called “When It’s All Said and Done”. 

“I had read books, but none of them were my book, my story,” DelCamp said. 

She realized that she wanted and needed a hobby after that. Someone told her about seeing eagles down near Gambo Falls Dam, so she went looking for them. She never found the eagles, but she did find the geese. 

She began taking photos of them with a small camera as a distraction. She created videos and got better. Three times she upgraded her camera and she found she loved being in nature. DelCamp’s mother, Georgie Ann Forney, was a kindergarten teacher in Bridgton and “she adored books.” She encouraged DelCamp to write. 

“I fell in love with photography,” she said. “If I could draw, I’d have been an illustrator.” Her first children’s book was “Four Parkway” about Osprey. 

Her latest book, “The Gambo Way”, is about geese that came to Gambo Dam to spend the summer and have babies. The graphics in the book are actual photos DelCamp took during the thousands of hours she spent geese watching and chasing. She used a photo enhancing program to make the pictures look like watercolors. She spent her time 75 feet away from their nest with a 500 mm lens, and was there for all of the milestones. 

“It was pouring rain when the eggs hatched,” she said. “I was so invested in the essence, in the people and the wildlife.” After the goslings were born the mother and father brought them over to where DelCamp was sitting to show them off. She had become part of their world. 

People walking their dogs also became part of DelCamp’s world, often stopping to mention something exciting they had seen, or the kids would collect frogs for her to photograph. 

“I really did a lot of hiding. People would find me and laugh,” she said. She saw numerous species of wildlife including a fisher cat that chased her. She remembers screaming hoping to scare it off. “I was petrified,” she said. 

After the geese left the nest, she followed them to a field in Gray to watch the migration. “I fell in love with them,” she said. 

The lead geese in the book are Izzy and Lucy, who were named by other people, she said. The last time she saw Izzy and Lucy were mid-October. 

“The best part was taking my adult experiences and bring it down to a 4- or 5-year-old level and reliving my experiences,” she said. At the end of each book there is a “Did you know?” section with extra information for the kids and adults reading the book.  

Her new projects include a children’s book about the geese at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, which was exciting because she was able to be much closer to the geese. 

“I wanted to do something special because I think Evergreen Cemetery is a special place,” she said. The book is scheduled to be released the week of Thanksgiving. 

She is also working on a book call “The Teeny Tiny Beach Birds” about piping plovers at Ferry Beach. The release date for this book will be December 11. 

“I’d like to know more [about the geese]. I understand a lot about geese, more than most people. They’re romantic, monogamous and love family and being together,” DelCamp said.  

With every book she releases, she’s excited. “Every time it’s like the first one,” she said. DelCamp lives in Portland with her husband David. 

DelCamp’s books come in hardcover and paperback and can be purchased on her website,, on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Business spotlight - Windham Flower Shop - By Michelle Libby

Award winning, master floral designer Rhonda Davis has opened Windham Flower Shop at 299 Roosevelt Trail and is gearing up for the holiday season. 
“I’m making 50 bows a day,” said Davis, formally of Eight Corners Farm. The new location on Route 302 is larger and gives her more room and visibility to do year round floral design. 

Windham Flower Shop is stocking trees, swags, garland and wreaths for this season. However, at the heart of the business is Davis and her full service floral arrangements and her custom Christmas wreaths and decorations. Like pine cones? Or a special ribbon? How about glittery ornaments? Davis can incorporate a customer’s tastes into any creation. 

“I do what I love. I’ve done flowers for 30 years,” she said. Davis is on the board of directors for the Maine State Florists and Growers Association and has been the chairperson for the Fryeburg Fair Flower Show for the past three years. She has also been named as the Maine State Designer of the Year and is a certified bridal consultant. 

“Weddings and special events are my specialty,” said Davis. She loves to see an event through from the ceremony to the reception. She calls it a full circle event. “I always gain a lifelong customer. I have a connection with the flowers.” She loves being involved with the wedding party, creating looks from magazines and more recently from Pinterest. The wedding flower trend for 2015 has been gerbera daisies in a rainbow of colors. Hydrangeas have also been popular.  

“I’d rather have a glue gun in my hand than a computer,” she said. She has a strong support system that helps when needed, including her three children and her four grandchildren. 
Windham Flower Shop opened on May 1st and Davis said that most of her previous customers have found her at the new location only a few tenths of a mile down the road. 

This holiday season, Windham Flower Shop is creating holiday centerpieces, boxwood trees, kissing balls, roping, wreaths, swags and all out of Maine Balsam products. She always has wreaths prepared, but will take special orders. 

“Here you know where your greens and trees come from,” Davis said. The shop also carries small gifts, plants and permanent botanicals. 

Customer service and unique custom orders are what Davis prides herself on. She wants to make the perfect arrangement for each person, even if that is a recreation of something seen online or on television.  
“I’m not an FTD shop,” she added. “I don’t have a cooler full of generic arrangements. I build to the customer’s need. Flowers are personal.” Davis buys fresh flowers daily from local distributors. With one day notice, she can create anything with any flower a person wants. 
She also decorates and does plantings for commercial properties around the lakes area. 

Teachers who show their school IDs receive 10 percent off every day as a thank you for their hard work. “It’s my way of giving back. They work their tails off,” she said. 
Windham Flower Shop is on Facebook. The shop hours change throughout the year. During this season Davis is in the shop seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and most Friday and Saturday nights she’s there until 6 p.m. She also delivers. Wreaths will be available after November 17. For more or questions, call 892-5459 or email

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Business spotlight - Architect David Douglass

Licensed architect Dave Douglass AIA wants to help people sail through the permitting process when building a new construction or adding on to an existing building. He can help design and gain approval for a plan that will work for the location and meet all of the town ordinances. 
“I knew I was going to be an architect before I was 19 years old,” said Douglass. He attended Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and is now licensed in Maine and New Hampshire. He is also certified nationally by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and a member of the American Institute of Architects.  He is also the chairman of the Windham Planning Board. 

“I have been doing architecture since I was out of school in 1999, designing commercial properties, residential housing, real estate developments and car dealerships. I’m never going to do anything else. I love technical things.” 

His full-time job is as a building envelope consultant for a local firm. However, he is taking on clients to help them design everything from a single family home to a multi-million dollar estate on the lake. He works closely with town code enforcement officers to help with permitting for people’s projects and providing them with stamped drawings they need to meet ordinace. 

“As a licensed professional I can take a few hours of my time and make a client’s life much easier,” he said. “The (building) code is getting stricter and changes all the time. The old fashioned way of doing things isn’t working anymore.”

Douglass has been involved with a Windham program call “Bridge the Gap” which strives to help people go from plans to permit with as little problems as possible. Working with the code enforcement officers, he is able to put together what they are looking for in plans and create a marriage between what the client wants and what the code enforcement officer says the project requires . 

Douglass describes his job as fun. “I like designing for people. I’m extremely good at problem solving. I have the patience to work through an issue and come up with the right solution,” he added. 

The difference between a drafter and an architect is that plans created by a drafter then have to be approved by an architect. With Douglass the process is streamlined. 

“I want to offer my professional services to the local community because there’s generally a need for it,” Douglass said. 

Designing additions is not his only talent. Douglass has a knack for fixing and building cars, creating furniture, painting with watercolors and welding, to name a few. With his experiences he is able to explain to builders how things can be done to meet the codes and make sense in the real world. 

“I just enjoy the design, meeting people and helping others,” he said. Typically when someone needs design work they have an idea, they’ve bought the land, have saved items to Pinterest or have ripped pictures out of a magazine, then they call Douglass for his help. He will go to the client’s home where he can get to know them, what they are looking for and to see the site in the case of an addition. “I’ll go wherever they want,” he said. 

“Architecture should be very personal. Good design doesn’t have to be expensive,” he added. Prices range depending on the size of the job and the amount of time put into it. It can run from $500 for something small to $25,000 or more for an expensive custom home. 

“I’m a really simple guy. I have a good eye for detail and I see the big picture. I’m really good at finding the right solution,” Douglass said. 

His dream job would be to create a monument or a world class museum, which is typical of all architects, he said. In reality, he would like to create a monumental estate on the lake with a contemporary flair, something he hasn’t had the opportunity to do yet. 

For more information or to get in touch with Douglass call at 207-807-6661 or email