Alec Beaudin, center, his mother, Darcie, right, and Nick Homan work Sunday on the St. Francis Garden at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn.

Social distance was measured in fruit rather than feet Sunday at Saint Dominic Academy.

“Keep one giant pumpkin apart,” the Rev. Seamus Griesbach told the dozen students, parents and teachers helping build a community garden on the Auburn campus.

The governor and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention would approve because, as Griesbach describes it, the pumpkin that is going to grow at the St. Francis Garden is going to be big.

“I want it big enough to paddle down the Androscoggin River,” Griesbach said.

Atlantic Giant pumpkins commonly grow large enough to be carved out and used as floating vessels that are paddled in pumpkin regattas.

Following Sunday’s parking lot mass at St. Dom’s, Griesbach traded his white collar for a pair of work gloves and continued his work of helping build a Saint Dominic community — through building a garden.

Saint Dominic Academy junior Lucy Frenette uses a level Sunday to place a timber while helping build a raised bed inside the St. Francis Garden at St. Dom’s in Auburn.

Like most schools across Maine, St. Dom’s is closed for the remainder of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and teachers work together through online learning, but the lack of face to face connection can be challenging, according to Griesbach.

“Some days we struggle to find ways to connect with students and teachers,” he said. “Working on the garden seems like a safe way to do that.”

“It’s hard not seeing my friends,” junior Lucy Frenette said while building a raised bed out of lumber. “But the opportunities that I do have to see them mean that much more.”

Frenette’s mother, LuAnn, said her three children would typically be busy playing softball and baseball this time of year, so game and event cancellations have led to other opportunities.

“We definitely have found the time to come and help with projects like this,” said Frenette, who had the job of hauling wheelbarrows full of loam and compost to each raised-bed garden.

“Who needs a gym!” Griesbach hollered as Frenette lifted load after heavy load of dirt. “We are not going to the gym, so we might as well turn over some sod.”

Gyms and fitness centers in Maine are closed because of the pandemic.

Alec Beaudin worked in the garden with his parents Scott and Darcie. Alec Beaudin is a St. Dom’s  junior and a member of the school’s robotics and tennis teams.

Darcie Beaudin said the COVID-19 pandemic has created more family time since tennis matches and robotic competitions have been canceled.

“We have had a lot of time to play board and outside games,” Beaudin said. “A lot of stuff that we typically are not able to do and now we are here to help with a community garden. It’s nice to spend time together before the craziness of Alec’s senior year.”

“The idea is to teach kids how to use a shovel and to offer the fulfillment of putting seeds in ground and watch them grow,” Griesbach said.

Griesbach said the vegetables from the garden could be used at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center or for farm-to-table meals served outside the high school.

When finished, the St. Francis Garden will have four raised beds and rows of vegetable seeds. Holes for the fence posts have been dug by hand.

“The students are amazed at how much time it takes to get the land ready,” Griesbach said.

Freshman Hauk Tallman and junior Nick Homan were given the job of digging deep holes for Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds.

Griesbach said the holes needed be deep enough for plenty of compost.

“That pumpkin needs all the help that it can get — keep digging,” Griesbach said. “Not all the way to China, but close.”

The Rev. Seamus Griesbach, left, and Isabelle Frenette of Lewiston maneuver a timber into place Sunday for a raised bed inside the St. Francis Garden at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn. “Who needs a gym when you can do this for an hour?” Griesbach said.

LuAnn Frenette, right, of Lewiston and her daughters Lucy, left, and Isabelle unload loam into a raised bed garden Sunday while helping build the St. Francis Garden at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn.

Still in the clothes that he wore for Sunday morning Mass in the school parking lot, the Rev. Seamus Griesbach cuts timbers while helping build the St. Francis Garden at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn.














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