The Homemakers Extension Group

I belong to a group called the Homemakers Extension.  This group is affiliated with the Cooperative Extension at the University of Maine.  Throughout Maine there are several Extension groups.  Every few towns support one.  I don’t know if other states have Extension, but I would imagine they do. 

Extension is an old group, started at least 60 years ago, if not longer.  This is group is called the “Homemakers Extension”, because this was the original intent of the group.  Teaching women how to be homemakers.  It started as the counterpart to the men’s Extension group.  The men were learning different farming methods and practices, while the women were learning about things like preserving food, sewing, home care, etc. 

I would like to spend some time talking with some of the long time members to find out how Extension has changed over the years, and to get some history of the group itself, as well as our own group.

Our group meets the third Thursday of every month, with some exceptions for holidays.  Each month we have a different topic for the group activity.  At the September meeting every year we decide the agenda for the year’s meetings.  Each meeting is different.  Sometimes we are doing something for the community, sometimes we are learning something from one of the members of the group.  So far this year we made Easter cards for veterans, we learned about container gardening, and I gave a demonstration about spinning yarn.  We made small pillows for cancer patients which were donated to the Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington.  Last month we made decorations for a Christmas tree that is raffled off as a fund-raiser by the Rotary Group in Farmington.  Each month a different member is responsible for organizing the activity. 

This month’s meeting was to be about nature crafts.  I was “volunteered” to organize this one.  The options for gathering materials to make nature crafts start to dwindle here in Maine in November.  With the holidays coming, I thought something of a table centerpiece or arrangement could easily be done with boughs and berries.  Throughout the summer I have been collecting Christmas mugs.  These are easily found at the thrift store in the summer and fall–often for free.  No one wants them then!  They have to give them away to get rid of them when it’s not December.  So I had several of these to use up.  Last Sunday we went “tipping”, which means cutting tips off evergreen trees.  You only take a few from each tree, so the tree is not harmed.  We have several varieties of fir trees here–balsam, cedar, spruce.  We also have lots of red berries that grow alongside the road in the wet boggy ditches.  All of the necessary items were found on just one stretch of road.

Boughs and berries


Mugs with floral foam cut to sizeFinished arrangements

 This was a fun project to do.  It was fairly easy to assemble, and each person got to bring something home.  The entire project cost $8 for 8 people.  The mugs were free, the candles were 50 cents each and the floral foam was $2 per block.  We only used about 1 1/4 block for 8 mugs.  The boughs were fun to collect too.  As long as the water is checked periodically, these arrangements should last until Christmas.  Given the low cost, these would make great gifts for friends and neighbors around the holidays.  The floral foam is most easily found at a florist.  Sounds obvious, but since we don’t have big box craft stores up here in the sticks, a florist is the way to go. 

I have really enjoyed the time I spend at Extension.  I am by far the youngest person in the group.  All of the other ladies are at least over 60.  This long history of Extension may not last for many more years though.  At the county meeting in May, I noticed that of about 100 or more women who attended, including myself  there were not more than 5 of them who were under 60.  If we do not find more young people to join and carry on this tradition of meeting, learning and sharing of information and skills, the Extension may just fade away.  It would be a shame to let this happen.  Some of these women have been a part of an Extension group since they were young wives.  They have learned and shared skills that have made their families lives easier and they have made friends that they have had for decades.  In these tough economic times, I would think we would want a surge in membership in the Extension groups, not a decline.  I sure do have fun when I go.