April 5, 2019
by Bonnie Keast
February weather has been freezing with snow one day, high 40’s the next day, and back again to freezing with snow; that’s the February weather report. And this pattern has made for some lovely frost designs in the river as well as interesting walking.
I moved to New Hampshire in late fall of 2015, ready to vote in the primaries of 2016, but not realizing all of the lead-up hoopla. Now, as a New Hampshirite, I have an opportunity to have a say about who you will vote for in 2020. The early primaries greatly influence who will go on the ballot. Looking at demographics, it doesn’t seem fair. Iowa (90% Caucasian and largely rural), New Hampshire (94% Caucasian and heavily rural), and Nevada (70+ Caucasian with only Las Vegas over half a million in population) don’t seem to be representative of large sections of our country’s population and their concerns. Yet, because these are the first presidential primaries along with South Carolina, we help decide who will run for president. That means that both potential and declared candidates cycle through here and we have an opportunity to ask questions which can steer the conversations. To quote one of the organizers of some of these events, “we have a unique opportunity to set the national narrative on what issues candidates for president talk about and how they talk about them.” And New Hampshire citizens take this opportunity VERY seriously!
As a member the Exeter Historical Society, I attended Trivia Night at a local restaurant this month. I figured I could get some tidbits for NH Notes. The Quizmaster was curator Barbara Rimkunas, a delightful woman with a passion for the city’s history. Although I contributed little to our team’s efforts (we didn’t come in last or even next to last!), I did learn some interesting factoids. For instance, authors John Irving (The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, and others) and Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code among others) both have been long-time residents of Exeter. I also learned that the Purple Dinosaur Park known by every parent of small children is really the Winter Street Cemetery. Here in New Hampshire, cemeteries are just part of a town’s landscape and the town decided at some point in the past to build a playground on part of the cemetery land. Finally, along with most of the folks at Trivia Night, I could not identify this artifact. Can you? Hint: it attaches to an 18 foot pole when in use.
April 5, 2019
by Bonnie Keast
It’s been a strange January, weather-wise. There was one snowy day earlier this month (the accumulation disappeared a day later in 50 degree weather), then another snowfall today. Many folks depend on snowplowing to supplement their incomes so this week’s snow was welcomed by them and they’ve been busy making the streets safer. Can you guess what the shoveled path was used for?
In spite of our lack of snow, we’ve had freezing temperatures most nights and many days. I captured this frost painting on a window one morning and it’s been cold enough for our Squamscott River to freeze. The frozen river encouraged several men to put upice fishing shacks and sit in them, waiting for a fish nibble on their lines (BRRRRR). I’m told the river is very shallow so when the ice thaws, the shacks can still be hauled to shore.
As you know, there’s no sales tax in New Hampshire. This fact accounts for the presence of large shopping areas hugging the border of Massachusetts, a state nicknamed taxachusetts (though I don’t think it holds a candle, taxwise, to California). One of the large supermarkets along the border is Market Basket. It’s a family owned chain. Begun by Greek immigrants in 1917, it has grown to 79 stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Employees have health care, paid sick leave, and are entitled to share the company profits if they clock 1,000 hours in a year. There are no self-checkout lines. The current president, Arthur T. Demoulas, feels that “a human being waiting on a human being” is most important. Hurray!
December 4, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
The beautiful leaves of October blew away quickly with a few windy days in early November. Trees now wear their winter bareness. One light snowfall midmonth let New Englanders know that winter is indeed near. Gray days, freezing temperatures, and no overnight parking on city streets is our new reality…for a few months, anyway.
Earlier this fall I became acquainted with a practice from Japan known as “Shinrin-yoku” which means forest bathing. After two guided forest bathing walks, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of this practice. The walks go at a slow pace while the guide urges participants to consciously use their senses to connect with the natural world. As an example of this connection, our guide asked us to stand with eyes closed and gradually turn around while stopping frequently to notice the smells in different directions. One of my walks took place near a lovely horticultural center in Massachusetts on a sunny day. The other was on a cloudy day in Maine beside a beautiful river that ran through the forest. Both walks gave great pleasure. I discovered that scientists have measured many positive benefits of forest bathing. Trees give off certain compounds that support our immune system in fighting cancer cells and walking slowly enables our body to absorb these compounds. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol decrease after a 2-3 hour slow forest bathing walk. Lowered blood pressure and heart rates have also been noted. I wanted to share this information with you because I’ve also learned that the average American spends about 93% of their time indoors. Yuk!
Finally, as with over 113 million people (49.3% of registered voters), I voted in the midterm elections. There is one polling place in Exeter. Going into the school auditorium, voters passed through a gallery of posters and people touting the various candidates. Beyond the entry doors, no signs are permitted but the local garden club had a bake sale and the aromas of various confections were enticing. I almost resisted…
Now, wishing you all a restful and renewing holiday season. I’ll be back in January with more New Hampshire Notes.
November 5, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
The air is crisply cool and New Englanders are putting up storm windows and airing out winter clothes. Touristy places like lobster shacks, ice cream stands, and little souvenir shops are closing. Meanwhile, the trees are shedding their leafy coverings to conserve energy for the long winter ahead.
Each fall I am in awe of the tree beauty here in New England. While the transformation begins in September, it reaches peak here in October. Having forgotten my high school biology, I began to get curious about why and how the leaves changed from their summer green to shades of yellow, gold, red, purple, and magenta.
Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the fall and regrow them in the spring) begin to get the message that winter is coming because hours of daylight become shorter and the temperatures drop. All during the springand early fall, the trees have been busy making chlorophyll for their food. As nights get cooler, they stop making it in preparation for winter. Once a leaf no longer has the green of chlorophyll, the oranges, reds, and yellows in their chemical composition shine through. Then it’s only a matter of time before those lovely leaves become brittle and fall to the ground. The sound of crunching leaves as one walks is one more sign that winter is coming. Each tree has a different timeline, depending on type of tree and soil composition, as well as available water and daily sunlight.
I took pictures of two tree scenes near my home at the beginning of October and then again on Halloween. The changing was a slow, lovely process to watch.
September 29, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
Happy fall, y’all. The leaves have begun turning (seems earlier than previous years) and the squirrels have been busily storing their winter food. I wonder if these are signs that it may be a more severe winter than the previous two.
However, in addition to the beginning of fall, September is primary voting month here in New Hampshire. As an undeclared voter, I could choose which ballot I wanted to vote on, then switch back to undeclared as I left the voting room. As “undeclared” I’m in good company as the majority of New Hampshire voters register “undeclared”, which I’m sure makes the predicting the outcome of the Presidential primary here a challenge.
Also interesting was the passageway into the voting area – it was filled with people and signs supporting various candidates. Although the supporters of a candidate couldn’t initiate a conversation with voters, any voter could request information and begin a dialogue. However, once in the building, no campaigning was allowed. New Hampshire has the 4th highest percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot, but as a nation our 65% doesn’t look nearly as good as Australia (98%), Germany (91%) or Canada (93%). Hopefully voters here will turn out in greater numbers in November, there’s a lot at stake.
I continue exploring my new state. One recent trip took me to New Boston, a rural community of over 5,000 residents. It has a history as a mill town and their town website warns visitors to travel carefully during mud season (spring to the rest of us) because ½ of their 100 miles of road are dirt. New Boston was an Air Force Station during WWII and used as a practice area for bombers. Now it is a satellite tracking station.
After the war, Roger Babson (a financial analyst and forecaster who established Babson College) created the Gravity Research Foundation which operated during the late 1940’s through the ‘60’s to research ways to control gravity. New Boston is also home of the Molly Cannon. That cannon participated in 3 of our country’s early wars (French and Indian, Revolutionary, and War of 1812). General Stark of Revolutionary War fame, gave the cannon to the New Hampshire Militia who named it after Stark’s wife, Molly. The cannon ended up in New Boston where it is proudly fired at least 3 times a year on the 4th of July.
September 4, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
Almost half of the state’s population live in rural areas and this month I explored of a few of the farms in the area. There are over 4,300 farms in the state and the majority are family owned and operated, with many in the same family for generations. The average size is 108 acres and female farmers account for more than half of the registered farmers. Yea!
The state is #1 in the nation having direct sales as a percentage of their total sales receipts. What that means is that a lot of consumers buy directly from the farmers – no middle people. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a big reason for this high percentage of direct sales. Members buy shares of the farm’s harvest and receive regular allotments of food throughout the growing season. The money paid at the beginning of the season provides farmers a much needed cash flow and a ready market and community of supporters. Every farm is different. Some have totes or boxes ready at a set time for member pick up, others allow shareholders to select their weekly produce from the harvest, while some invite shareholders to pick their own produce. There are also seafood, meat, egg, flower, and dairy farm CSA specialties. Many farm stands operate on the honor system.
What struck me as I visited is how individual each farm is. Some have petting zoos, others have classes especially geared to children, many offer hayrides and food or on-site craft fairs. Each in their own way honor farmers and the importance of “buying local”.
One website pointed out:
• 65 cents of each dollar spent at grocery stores pays for packaging, delivery, and marketing to deliver food to the consumer
• 30 cents pays for the chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically altered organisms) to grow the food
• 5 cents goes to the farmer who plants, tends, and harvests the food
Several state publications highlight the farm activities and special events available throughout the growing season. The state even has a Farm Museum in Milton where you can view farm life through the centuries and children can meet farm animals up close and personal. On the lawn area were craft stalls on the day I visited. It was there I met a woman who collects the big bags of bird seed and dog food and sews new handles on them. She then sells the bags for $5.00 and uses the money to buy supplies (toilet paper, cans of food, personal grooming items, etc.) which she distributes to the homeless. She could tell me approximately how many homeless people are in the surrounding towns. She was woman on a mission to care for those whom society easily forgets.
During the Farm Museum Tour I learned the derivation of the word “spinster”. Most early New Hampshire farms raised sheep for wool and flax for linen. Often one of the daughters who was particularly talented spinning the wool or flax into yarn or thread was discouraged from marrying so her talents in clothmaking could benefit her family. Thus – spinster!
More information on NH farms can be found at https://www.visitnh.gov/agriculture/farm-to-fork/csa
On my travels here and there I noticed a branch of yellow leaves or the top of a tree turning orange or red. The signs of autumn are becoming more evident…
August 13, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
I’ve become quite fascinated with watching the cloud formations moving through the sky here in New Hampshire. California certainly had its cloud-filled skies, but for some reason the New England skies are more dramatic and varied. Perhaps being near the Atlantic Ocean has something to do with it. July weather, always a topic of conversation, was mostly hot and muggy with occasional thundershowers. For New England, it was a bit warmer than usual and the clouds, as always, beautiful.
But, whatever the weather, New Hampshire remains an interesting place to explore.Most people have heard of Salem, Massachusetts, and the witchcraft trials of the late 1600’s. New Hampshire also has a Salem, famous for a very different reason. Outside the city proper, there is a forested area once known as “Mystery Hill” and now renamed “America’s Stonehenge” because of its maze of man-made chambers and walls over 4,000 years old. No one has yet figured out who actually erected the walls and chambers, but the builders were obviously well versed in both astronomy and stone construction. The site is an accurate astronomical calendar with large standing stones marking the summer and winter solstices as well as the fall and spring equinoxes. Some of the stones in the various structures weigh over four tons and are groove-scored so they fit together and drain effectively. Another fact adding to the mystery is that a straight line extended eastward from the summer solstice stone in Salem, America, would pass exactly through one of the trilithons at Stonehenge, England.
On a lighter side, the alpaca habitat at the end of the Stonehenge trail tour provides a laugh or two with these friendly animals eager to meet, greet, and munch leaf offerings.
June 30, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
|Summer is finally here and we’ve had sunny days with lovely clouds drifting across the sky as well as rainy times with puddles. Rain or shine, I greatly enjoy walks along the Squamscott River which runs behind the Mill. The Squamscott is a 6 mile long tidal river eventually connected to the Atlantic Ocean. Across the river from the Mill is Swasey Parkway, another pleasant walk along the river. That expanse was a thriving shipyard in Revolutionary times and later an active seaport. However, by the early 1900’s it had become the town dump complete with rats and the river itself was filthy with sewage and factory waste.
Young Exeter boys in the early years of the of the 20th century usually owned a .22-caliber rifle and used it to go rat hunting at night for sport. Some boys even took their girlfriends along for the thrill of the hunt. All I can say to that is “Ugggg”. Boys also swam in the river in the preferred swimming attire of nothing at all. One reported that he would sometimes bob to the surface with only toilet paper sticking to his head. Ewwwww!
Now Swasey Parkway is a lovely
green stretch of parkland lined with trees and benches. The Parkway is used for Farmers’ Markets, town fairs, and other events.
There’s even a bandstand for summer concerts. Although dogs are not welcome, it’s a enjoyable place for a stroll or a quiet sit.
The Parkway was a gift from Ambrose Swasey. An engineer and inventor, he made a fortune inventing various precision machine tools at his headquarters in Cleveland but frequently returned to his boyhood home in Exeter. Widowed and with no children to support, he “adopted” the town and donated money for various causes. One of his biggest irritations when visiting Exeter was having to pass the stinky town dump on his way to and from the town center. So he donated all the money needed to clean up both the dump and the river and create a parkway. He also endowed the park to provide its upkeep. All the town needed to do was move the dump site. What a deal!!!!
May 11, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
FINALLY, signs that Mother Nature knows it is indeed spring. April showers have lived up to their reputation, even bringing bits of snowy rain earlier in the month. However, at last it’s warming and early bloomers are poking through the ground and trees are beginning to unfold their leaves and flowers.
Living in a converted mill has its charms and drawbacks. A recent drawback became evident when maintenance tried to start up Marley. Marley is the affectionate name given to the big, silvery, square, metal hulk that sits behind the mill and delivers air conditioning to residents. With the frost reaching deep into the ground this winter, pipes burst and need to be replaced. As you might guess this takes time…and more time…and yet more time. Therefore, I’m fervently hoping that the warm weather holds off until Marley is up and running once again.
On another front, AARP conducted a survey and reported that 51.3% of New Hampshire adults over 65 say that their health is very good or excellent. Among the states, that percent is exceeded only by Colorado.
I wonder if the fact that New England has a vibrant small farm culture helps account for these positive reports. Farm stands abound, usually open from May through October, and many farms throughout the state have special events to attract visitors. For instance, there’s a Veggie Hunt during which children can learn about specific vegetables and take home what they find, a Dandelion Festival that includes tasting, and a Fairy Gnome Discovery Walk with close to 200 little homes to spot on a wooded trail. New England has a Small Farm Institute which publishes on-line information about tools and classes, mentor opportunities for new farmers, and connects potential farmers with available acreage.
Many farms specialize and their produce and products are sold in regular supermarkets. I was amused to find a little flyer in my carton of eggs this month. It was a letter from “Esther Bonnie”, the spokes-hen for flockmates at her farm. She was commenting on the human habit of coloring and hiding eggs at Easter. Esther Bonnie reminded readers that her ancestor hens would hide their eggs to keep predators from stealing them. And, she stated that her flock retained the skills to occasionally play this hiding game on their farmer friends just to show who really is the boss on the farm.
April 16, 2018
by Bonnie Keast
I thought some of you might be interested in locating a source of “good” news, as opposed to much of what greets us in morning newspapers, supermarket check stand displays, evening newscasts, and radio. I only became aware of this magazine/emailed articles recently. In addition to providing background and factual data on many of the issues facing our nation and world, articles also provide information on grassroots solutions.
Living a long, healthy, and productive life is an interest of mine. A recent article highlighted 5 places in the world where people do live longer and happier lives than most of us and called attention to what they were doing that contributed to longevity. AND, the article referenced places in the United States using that knowledge to structure the way they do things. For instance, eating a mostly plant-based diet is one key to longevity. Seattle has a Beacon Food Forest with over 3 acres of permaculture plant food farming where volunteers manage the enterprise. There’s even a mushroom hut and nut grove. Anyone can come in for food there; it’s free.
As another example, I hadn’t really considered that many of our cultural problems stem from a history of colonialism and the attitudes that engenders. An article by Mark Tahant opened my eyes. Other articles showcased movements leading away from racial superiority, exploitation, and oppression toward a better future for all. An article unpacking the term “rape culture” appears beside an article about Catholic nuns who are empowering women around the world to achieve gender equality.
You can easily sign up for a weekly “best of YES!” at yesmagazine.org