"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Friday, July 19, 2013

Agri-Bliss in the Berkshires

So here we are in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts, house sitting for our friends Wendy and Steve, in temperatures hitting the humid mid nineties with no AC! Holy Cow. In the past two years we haven't had to deal with heat like this, and the few days we did, we had air conditioning to get us through the night. So now, after rain for three weeks in NH, we are having a heat wave, which does happen now and again in New England. The good news is, our friends have a lovely screen porch with a bed on it, so we can sleep virtually outside in the cooler night air. Boy are we spoiled. 

The RV has been parked in the yard here for over three weeks. Seems to be happy just sitting there, and not bothered by the heat.


I'm having a great time garden sitting as well. I'm assigned to pick whatever is ready while we're here, plus I'm on Japanese beetle patrol. Every morning and evening I capture the rascals and send them on to bug heaven. They seem to like the raspberry bushes the best, then the willow bushes. Our friend Wendy is a basket weaver and she grows her own varieties of willow for the baskets. 

Here's what the willow looks like after its harvested and bundled.

The J beetles really go for one particular kind of willow, but I'm going my level best to keep them off. They're persistent little "bug"gers, and in just 12 hours from morning to evening, there's another batch after those tender willow leaves. It's a humbling enterprise.

Despite the hard work ; ) we are also managing to get out and do a few things for fun. We hit the Berkshire Botanical Gardens in Stockbridge one day. They have a lovely children's garden and a farm camp! Boy I would have loved to go to a farm camp when I was a kid. (Wait a minute, I am at a farm camp!)

Although this is an incredibly busy picture, perhaps you can make out the beautiful raised beds with specimen veggie plants in them. Everything looked lushly vibrant.

There were sculptures placed around the gardens, but I wasn't crazy about them in general. They do provide nice focal points for some pictures though.

And here's one of nature's own little focal points on a black-eyed susan.

There is also a collection of structures that all seem to be variations on the garden shed theme. Martha Stewart sponsored one, and it looks perfectly simple, just like you'd imagine. This one looks like it belongs in Cades Cove, TN.

Another morning I set out early to take some pictures and ended up at Gould Farm, where the gardens are tended by some very vigilant gardeners. 

I see them out there every time we pass by!  : )

Meanwhile, back at the house, I've taken some photos of the tools of the trade wielded on a daily basis by Wendy and Steve. Here are some intimate shots of those to finish up this post. 

Perhaps you have some of these in your home too?

When next I write, it will probably be from Brattleboro, VT. We'll see you there.
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

New England Contra Dance: Peterborough, NH

OK, here it is: a piece of real New England. The contra dance. Readers may recall that Rick and I try to find contra dances wherever we go, but contra dance originated in New England, and the tradition remains the strongest here. One of the most beautiful dance halls in the country is in the Town House of Peterborough, NH.  Town meeting houses are another NE tradition - a multi purpose building in the center of town, used mostly as church and meeting house. In some towns contra dances are held there as well.

The musicians for the evening were Jeremiah McLane and Ethan Hazzard-Watkins. We were familiar with Jeremiah MaClane from one of his earlier albums that we listen to a lot: Smile When You're Ready. One of the things that makes contra dancing so wonderful is the traditional live music, that often builds to a driving beat that keeps the dancing strong and exciting.

Even though there were only two of them, they created a hall full of good music and happy dancers. 

Peterborough has this great balcony at one end of the hall; a nice place to take a break, although it gets pretty hot in the summer.

The floor is particularly smooth and the dancers are particularly good. Many, like us, have been dancing for decades. The bouncy and bold youngsters (of which there were a few) may find us kind of a drag, but experienced and calm dancers create a cohesive flow to the dance that we have missed as we travel and visit other dances.   

Ahhh, it felt good to be back.

The biggest excitement of the evening though was a close encounter with a HUGE bull moose on the road back to The Greenfield Inn Bed and Breakfast, in Greenfield, NH.  He was just mozying along in the dark, crossing the road,  heedless of us. We missed his nose by just a few feet as he eased toward the center line and we swerved by him on the right. Lucky for all of us. 

Greenfield is a very small and quaint town, with quite a few stone walls and classic old NE homes, both large...

and small. Typically the houses are clapboard and painted white, and many have L's that house the kitchens, and barns nearby. Many older ones are cape style (below), some are saltboxes, and I don't know the architectural style of the others, like the one above.

In the center of town is a cemetery...

and a town meeting house, like in Peterborough, only not as grand. This one is the oldest original and continuously used town house in New Hampshire, built in 1795. This one is actually much more typical, as there are many very small towns with small churches/town meeting houses like this one. Peterborough's is unusually grand.

Well, I think this about does it for New Hampshire. In a couple of days we'll be heading back to Vermont to pick up sweet Kona, and to Massachusetts to pick up our home. Although it has been really nice to have a vacation (the overnight at the Greenfield Inn) from our vacation (three weeks at the Nordic Inn in Lincoln) from our vacation (RV full timing), we are looking forward to being "home"  again. Home, by the way, will be in our RV in Brattleboro, Vermont for the next month. See you there.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day Trip with Friends to Littleton, NH

When Laura's husband Ian arrived last weekend, we wasted no time before we were out on another exploration of the area. This was his vacation week after all, and he wanted to see New Hampshire as much as any of us. So on Sunday we headed north on I-93 through the Pemigewasset Valley, zooming past the Cannon Cliffs...

and on to Littleton and the farmers' market. Littleton has a newly constructed but traditionally designed covered bridge that passes over the Ammonoosuc River, right behind Main St.

It is a pedestrian only bridge.

On the other side is the small farmers market...

...where we found fresh local produce, locally raised and spun wools, maple products and some reportedly delicious basil flavored goat cheese.

Oh, and bicycle-ground coffee. That's a first. : )

Here's a view of the backside of Littleton, and the old mill.

Littleton is a lovely little New England town that seems to be doing OK on Main St.

You know how some towns have fundraisers where statues of locally popular animals or other things are painted by artists and then auctioned off? Well Littleton painted pianos. That's another first. Here's one that seemed to be in perfect working order. The theme of the event was "Make Music. Be Glad." It was painted above the keyboard of this piano.

There were other colorful touches as well. One of the pedestrian alleys was decorated with these umbrellas suspended overhead.

Then we found the biggest, most comprehensive and amazingly organized candy store ever: Chutters.  They had everything from gum balls, to Jelly Bellies, to fudge. Ian got caught with his hand in the licorice jar.

After lunch at Miller's Cafe and Bakery (winner of the 50 Best Sandwiches in the World Award, from the Food Network) we left Littleton and traveled back south down I-93 to Franconia Notch State Park's Flume Gorge. Rick and I had visited earlier, but Laura and Ian needed to see it too. We took the walking loop up to the Flume, over to Liberty Gorge, The Pool, and back to the parking lot. There was yet another covered bridge, this time over the Pemigewasset River.

I can't believe it, but our time here in Lincoln, NH is almost over. Laura and Ian have left, and I have only two more days of teaching left. We've taken lots of great hikes, some very long (for us), and some very vertical (for us).  We're in great shape now.  Bring on Mt Washington!!  : )  I hope we can at least see Mt. Washington before we leave. It's been raining, raining, raining, almost every day. More than when we were in Oregon and Washington. 

I'm going to try to squeeze one more post in before we leave NH. Stay tuned for a slice of real traditional New England life...


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In and Around Lincoln NH

One of the first things my friend Laura and I did here was go moose hunting. There is a Moose Tour in town, that supposedly sees moose every night, but we thought we could do it on our own. We really wanted to bag one for Laura's life list and of course we are only shooting pictures. So we headed off in Laura's rental car, up Rt. 3 and then a little way northeast on Daniel Webster Highway, driving slowly and peering into the woods. To be honest, we didn't find the moose; someone had already spotted one and had stopped along the road. 

He really wanted to cross the road, and walked back and forth looking longingly at the other side, but was understandably bothered by the traffic. So he stood there, ankle deep in water, munching on plants, dribbling water from his mouth - just like you imagine moose doing.  When most of the cars left he crossed the road to show us just how amazingly long his legs were.  So, success in our hunt the very first time out!

Laura and I teach all morning during the week, and we try to find a good hike to take every afternoon. One of the first days we took a six mile hike in the Linwood State Scenic Area up to Franconia Falls, and that was a great one. (No camera with me that day though.)  The trail was mostly flat all the way and ended at a large cascading, rolling, sliding rocky falls area (much like The Basin, but much larger - see below) where a whole passel of seminary boys on a field trip were romping in the water.  Great fun and loads of testosterone. We soaked our feet and watched, then headed back.  

The next day we went to the area around The Basin, which is large sink hole near the confluence of the Cascade Brook and the Pemigewasset River, just off Rt.3/93. Here's a picture of The Basin.

And here's another nearby section of the Pemigewasset River.

Along the "Pemi" River there is one place that widens to a sandy bottomed pool that looks like it would be awesome for swimming. I think the water is probably still too cold for this family that looked like they might have been thinking about it.

We thought we'd like to take the Basin-Cascade Trail, along Cascade Brook, but because there has been so much rain, every day since we arrived, the path was very muddy. It looked like a beautiful trail,  so we may try to hike it again if the rain lets up. (No sign of that happening in the near future though.)

Spotted these tiny fungi on a tree before we headed back to do the Pemi Trail instead.

The Pemi Trail (not the parallel paved multi-use Recreational Trail) took us along the Pemigewasset River for a long way, until we thought we needed to get across and head back south to the parking lot. We didn't know if there was a bridge so we decided to cross the river on foot. I stepped right in with my shoes, and Laura went bare foot. The water wasn't deep at all, and felt great on our tired feet.

On Saturday Laura went to the Manchester airport to pick up her husband Ian. While they were gone it rained some more, but during a clear moment I explored across the street, looking for the local swimming hole.  I think this river is called the Hancock Branch, and it may be part of the Pemigewasset, but I'm not sure about that. In any case, it's much larger than the one that the Pemi Trail follows. You can see the Loon Mountain Resort ski trails on the hill beyond the river below.

There's a swimming hole on this river, called the Old Lady's Bathtub, where locals go swimming. Someone painted this little cartoon above the pool, on one of the granite blocks that line the river here. It looks like there have been efforts over the years to channel and contain the river here so that it doesn't flood the town.

The water is pretty high right now, due to all the rain, but nowhere near as high as it has been recently, as evidenced by the state of its banks. But there is enough rain to hide where the Old Lady's Bath might be under all the rushing water. There's no way this old lady is getting into that water right now.

This river generates a lot of mist (cold water/warm air phenomenon I guess), that sometimes passes through the valley like low clouds that we can see from our condo porch. The day I visited it was still hovering close to the water.

After Laura and Ian returned we took a little sightseeing drive.
We didn't spot any moose, but we did catch a bit of the sunset over the mountains.

Next post I'll show you some more beautiful hikes we're taking in the area, and a trip to Littleton, NH.
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