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Succulents, hitch-hiking and making connections
PARIS – Mark Brandhorst grew up in Massachusetts but settled in Maine. He's now starting his own plant nursery on his property.
He recently took time to tell us about his life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born October 24th, 1957. I grew up in Carlisle Massachusetts.
Q: Did you have any siblings?
A: I have two sisters and a brother, all younger.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My mom stayed at home. My dad worked for a cotton broker. They bought cotton from a grower and sold it to the textile mills.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: We played a lot. It was good growing up. There's a bunch of us in the neighborhood and we all got together and would dig holes in the sand pit and make forts. Lots of sledding in the winter.
We lived in an old house, 1900-1910, maybe. It was rural, but there were enough kids around.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to the Carlisle Public School and then Concord Carlisle High School. I didn't go to college, I went to a trade school in Boston. It was a carpentry school called the North Bennet Street Industrial School.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I've built a lot of houses and I've also worked with plants a lot in nurseries. I have a small plant nursery now. I sell hardy succulents. They like to grow on and around rocks. Of the hens and chicks, there are 3,000 different named kinds.
Different sizes and colors. They cross really easily. Rocks and plants are my favorite things. That's my art, working with plants and rocks. People can come buy plants and see our gardens.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I play music, the banjo and a few other instruments. I do a lot of hiking and gardening. I'm a plant geek. I grow mostly perennials. I have a small vegetable garden but I have hundreds of different kinds of plants.
Hens and chicks and sedums, I have lots and lots of those. Photography is another hobby. I do nature photography mostly. Ice skating. I love to ice skate, that's my favorite winter sport.
I have these Nordic skates that are long and they attach onto cross-country boots. They're made for going long distance. My wife, Sarah Shepley, and I skated ten miles a couple years ago on Kezar Lake, one way and back.
I like to build with stone – creating landscapes, making gardens and creating a space.
Q: Have you done much traveling?
A: Yeah. Not tons, but I've been to Europe a few times, to Canada and across the country a few times.
I hitch-hiked in 1978 to Oregon. It was great. It was rides in the back of pickup trucks and sleeping on the side of the road. I met people and stayed with them.
I went to a big gathering in Oregon called the Rainbow Gathering. It was a big hippie gathering where people get together and create a community for a couple weeks.
Q: Which place was your favorite?
A: Grand Manan and either the Maritimes in Canada or Ireland. I hitch-hiked around Ireland in 1982. I was there for two months. I like that it was open and green and lots of stone wall and rocks.
My favorite place around here? Probably Sunday River, the river. That's where I first came to, when I came up from Massachusetts, a place called Ketchum, above Sunday River. The river there is beautiful.
There's an old farmhouse up there that good friends of mine owned and I fell in love with it up there. I used to go up in the 70s and then I gravitated to this community. I like the land up there but I like this community.
Q: What kind of books do you read?
A: I read non-fiction and some fiction. I read a lot of books on plants, this time of year. There's an author named Bernd Heinrich, he writes about the natural world. It's really interesting.
He wrote a book on ravens called The Mind of the Raven. It was very interesting. They are smart birds. He wrote another book called Winter World about how animals survive winter.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: That community and being connected to people is the most important thing. I like to connect with people and I can't because I can't drive, so I have to get people to come here. I take people on hikes all the time.
I think the most important things is to stay connected to people and show people things. A guy the other day stopped to see a hawk in a tree and I showed him where the nest was. That's really important to me. Making a human connection.