Dam! It’s gone!

The Exeter photograph in the header at the top of this blog shows water flowing on both sides of the small Kimball Island linked to the mainland on each side by the String Bridge. The rocky river beds form the Great Falls where the freshwater Exeter River meets the tidal saltwater Squamscott. Beyond that we have the Great Dam. Not Great in a Niagara Falls sense but Great for early citizens who saw the potential for industry using the water power. There were once paper mills, powder mills, fulling mill (cloth), oil mills, a sawmill, a grist mill, a starch mill (from potatoes), pottery works, sailcloth factory, tanneries, a saddlery works, hat factory, a woolen mill and more that depended on the power of water.

dam

This section of map by Phineas Merrill (below) in 1802 shows some mills. It also shows the Great Dam (Mill Dam), believed to be built in the first half of the 1600s. On the map are dams on either side of Kimball Island as well that were removed in the early part of the 20th century.

map exeterThe Exeter Manufacturing Company (textile manufacturer) eventually bought out the mills in the early 1800’s, gained water rights, maintaining and eventually replacing the wooden dam with concrete in 1914. Water was fed through a penstock that snaked underground to the company for supplemental power production until the company was sold in the 1960s to the Miliken Manufacturing Company (synthetics for automobiles), who in turn sold the factory to no other than Nike for their first U.S. plant. Now those buildings are handsome brick condominiums.

With the stability of the dam in question and serving no purpose except as a reminder of the industrial history of the city, the townspeople voted in 2014, after a decade of planning and work, to remove the landmark dam. This will restore the Exeter River to its natural state, thus protecting the town from future flooding. The fish ladder installed in the 1950s was no longer needed as the free-flowing river will facilitate normal fish migration to their upstream habitat during spawning.

And so the earthmovers, excavators, surveyors, engineers, and a multitude of workers arrived this summer.

Great Dam RemovalThe dam is gone. The fish ladder is gone. The penstock (pictured unsealed in first photo) has been sealed but remain as a reminder of Exeter’s history. A temporary cofferdam allowed the water to flow on one side while rock clusters and boulders were strategically installed on the dry side.

Click on photo to enlarge…

That work finished, the riverbed side was reversed last week. Water is being lowered on the left, the cofferdam moved, and the river diverted to the right. Large rocks and boulders are delivered daily and precisely placed by excavator. The sealed penstock can be seen in the 3rd photo.

Finished with the the closest river bed, they’re continuing the work downstream. They will begin to stregthen the existing foundations and add riprap as was done upstream. Our extreme drought has slowed water flow to a mere trickle which makes work easier on this project but tragic for the whole seacoast area.

The removal and work below the Great Bridge on the dam and river has been one of Exeter’s well-attended spectator events. Along with other residents, we are among the regulars watching the action. Click photos:

Some struggle to watch and others never see a thing! But they still come…

In addition, the String Bridge is being repaired. There’s always a lot to bring folks downtown these days. Whether shopping, dining, running errands, many pause to see what’s going on around the Great Dam project. It’s a popular pastime in Exeter and will continue to be until mid-October.

String Bridge

The New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services printed on their website that there are more than 4,800 active and inactive dams in the state. Many were built in the 19th and 20th century for industry. To view a list of dams that have been removed and those that are planned, click HERE. I’m very happy that we’ll make the “Completed” list soon.

There’s no R in August…

… but we ate them anyway.

oystersThere was a time when oysters were eaten only in the 8 months that contained an R in the name. May, June, July, and August were times we did not consume them in Virginia. Oyster Farming has changed all that in most places, and there’s another fact to consider. New England oysters are grown in colder waters, therefore safer to eat year-round, especially when harvested by reputable sources.

So we found ourselves back at Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique for a community invited spectacular wine and seafood fest. Food was provided by The White Apron and Stonewall Kitchen, all compliments of Garnet Hill.

IMG_5342Lots of nibbles and drinks….

And lots of nice folks…

Today is Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique’s last day. They pack up and head out to the South Street Seaport in New York City for their next event. It’s been fun having them here for upscale retail therapy, art by local artist Jay Schadler, gorgeous florals, yoga, bocce ball, parties, refreshments, kids’ crafts, live music, live radio, and good fun. Thank you Garnet Hill.

I don’t feed the birds anymore…

…with seeds in the summer, that is. What I mean is I don’t invest in expensive sunflower seeds all summer as I’ve done for 100 years. But I do provide food. It’s more natural food in the garden. We don’t have the variety of birds that we had keeping suet and seeds year round but we are royally entertained by those that frequent the landscape for berries, caterpillars and other insects, seeds on sunflowers, and we are generous with water. In an extreme drought like we are experiencing, all the neighborhood birds frequent the birdbath. Some simply sit and soak.

goldfinch on sunflower

Alas, I haven’t gone cold turkey with birdfood though. Maybe someday but for now  we are supplying mealworms to keep bluebirds (and us) happy. They are waiting when I take the feeder outside in the morning to have my coffee. And they are waiting when we supply mealworms at the dinner hour. We dine on the deck every evening and share space with 5 or 6 bluebirds of different ages…. parents and this year’s offspring.

Shortly after moving here, mister gardener made a bluebird box. It was doubtful we’d attract the birds in our small yard.  But, yes, if you build it, they will come. Last year was the first year. The couple had one nesting and now they have just completed their third nesting. That’s it for this year.

bluebird

This morning I sipped my coffee and watched as the last youngster looked eager to take flight. I waited with a second cup of coffee.  And then it did…. with the parents there to protect and guide it to the big viburnum where the other fledglings waited. The parents and older siblings slowly urged the newest fledglings to the old oak tree at edge of the forest as they always do. We can hear lots of excited calls welcoming the youngest to the family. There they keep them safe, feed them from a variety of sources, and when they are older, we’ll see them coming for mealworms twice a day with the others.

August 22 - Last Bluebird Fledgling

 

 

 

 

The Oliver Hazard Perry

Like so many others last weekend, we decided to check out the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island docked at the Fish Pier on Pierce Island in Portsmouth. It is the first full-rigged ocean ready ship built in America in over 110 years. Measuring 207 feet, it’s a three-masted square-rigged vessel and the largest privately owned tall ship sailing school and an official Good Will Ambassador for the state of Rhode Island.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry young navigator

The ratlines or footings that make a ladder take the crew aloft to stow the sail. Not for the faint-hearted. The tallest part of the rig reaches more than 13 stories. There are 14,000 square feet of sails and 7 miles of rigging.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

 

I learned from young trainees onboard there’s a name for every sail and every rope. Makes sense. Even though this is their first voyage, I touched a random rope and the young man told me the name and its purpose. Impressive!

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

Below deck, we found climate controlled modern accommodations for 49 people, everything immaculate and tidy, the galley and dining hall, a meeting room, a science lab, and much electronic equipment. Sleeping quarters or staterooms were not on tour but we got a full description from a young trainee.

Oliver Hazard Perry below deck

Oliver Hazard Perry Log Book

Oliver Hazard Perry sailing student

Oliver Hazard Perry Galley

Oliver Hazard Perry dining hall

Oliver Hazard Perry charts

Oliver Hazard Perry below deck view

Back above deck we completed the tour and left enlightened and much better educated about tall ships in general and the Oliver Hazard Perry in particular.

Oliver Hazard Perry

To view a video of the Parade of Sail 2016 welcoming the Oliver Hazard Perry and the light-hulled tall ship, the Harvey Gamage, to Portsmouth, click HERE.

Proceeds from Sail Portsmouth tour will go toward Portsmouth Maritime Commission’s partnership with Seacoast Youth Services and the Sea Challenge. Later this summer, the Sea Challenge will sponsor at-risk youth and take them out for a week at sea. To learn more about the organization, click HERE.

 

 

Freezing Basil and Dill

I freeze my favorite herbs in batches all summer and at season’s end, I have enough to last the entire winter. Two of my favorite herbs are basil and dill. Yesterday was Freeze a Batch day for these herbs. There are a slew of methods out there for preserving herbs… air drying, oven drying, blanching, freezing in oil or water, freezing whole, but I simply do it my way, always the same way. I find that herbs done this way stay flavorful and tasty until I can harvest from the garden next year.

Basil:

Basil

I pinch down my basil plants before they can form blooms and that makes them nice and bushy for a while. When we have more basil that we can use, I take a few stems early in the day and remove the leaves. I rinse them, drain, then rough chop in a food processor.

basil/food processsor

Into a zip lock freezer bag they go with a bit of water. I spread the basil thin and squeeze out as much air possible and zip it shut. Freeze. To use, just squeeze out and break off as much as you need. That’s all, folks!

Dill:

Some can’t tolerate the pungent taste of dill but it’s one of my favorite herbs. I love dill dip, dill with salmon, dill and cucumber salad and more. mister gardener has a hundred ways to use this herb in recipes.

Harvest early in the day, picking leaves from stems. Rinse, drain, and place between paper towels for about a half hour until completely dry.

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Mince the dry dill and drop it into a zip lock bag and freeze.

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When a recipe calls for dill, just sprinkle out the amount of frozen dill needed.

dill

Easy peasy, yes?  Now we have chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage to freeze..

It’s a POP-UP!

Or can we call it a tiny home? Take your pick. All I know is I’d like to move in today.  Garnet Hill’s Mobile Boutique, created from a converted shipping container, has arrived in Exeter to offer customers the opportunity to experience and/or purchase their products. Garnet Hill is celebrating its 40th year in New Hampshire.  Exeter was chosen for Stop #1. Stop #2 is NYC.

I poked in today for a closer view.  This 880 sq.ft. tiny home has a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom with closet, a deck outside and another on the roof, and it’s completely furnished with delicious clothes (my size) and decor (my tastes). I’ve always loved the natural fibers the company uses, have purchased blankets and kids’ apparel but to see, touch, and feel all products and those clothes (in my closet) were amazing. Cashmere sweaters…. sigh.

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique

 

Erin of Garnet Hill

Erin, manager of the mobile boutique, greeted me and explained the story behind the event and the idea of showing people what Garnet Hill is all about during this celebratory 40th year of business.

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique - Murphy Bed

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique

Garnet Hill blankets

Last night the local community was invited to a Garnet Hill free cocktail party at The Gourmet Lounge. Matt Louis of Moxy restaurant (our fav restaurant!) of Portsmouth NH, served oysters on the half shell with music, beer, wine, on-air radio, crafts and ice cream for the kiddos…. a grand opening extravaganza!

As I was leaving today, chefs were setting up for another event under the tents. Boxes were arriving, flowers placed on tables, and, oh what fun… extracurricular activities must include bocce ball.

Bocce Ball

Game Time!

If you have a chance, stop by the boutique in Exeter. It is located at 1 Franklin Street, next to the restaurant Blue Moon Evolution, until August 24, 2016.

 

Taking Chances in the Garden

When I first started gardening, I bought any and all perennials that looked pretty at the nursery and plopped them in my new gardens. I learned the hard way about the pitfalls and shortcomings of different plants and I’ve grown pretty choosy through the years. Perennials that reseed like crazy, are prone to mildew, grow leggy, or otherwise need need constant care generally don’t make the cut. Experience with some naughty perennials while gardening in Zone 7b cause them to be forever banned from my gardens:  ajuga (just try to contain it!), creeping jenny (lives anywhere… even in water!), deadnettle (think kudzu!), phlox (think mildew!), and several more.

However, negative thoughts about some undesirable plants, perennials and annuals, were softened after caring for them at Rolling Green Nursery for two summers. And working there made me reach out and take a chance with some of those banned ones and a few others:

Here are a few plants I took a chance on:

Brass Buttons (Leptinella) A mat-like ground cover that grows about 2 inches high. It has a reputation of being a thug in the garden but that hasn’t happened to me….yet… but I don’t think I’d mind if it did step out-of-bounds. It could make a great grass substitute. Its fern-like foliage is so unusual and attractive that I fell in love with this tough little plant. I’m always questioned about this unique perennial that grows in a spot where grass struggles to grow. Thumbs up!

Brass Buttons

Calamint (Calamintha nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’): Never in a million years would I have wanted a mint in my garden until I cared for this one at the nursery. It forms plumes of miniature, tubular blue flowers on spikes. A pollinator magnet, it blooms continuously from June till frost. I see no signs of wilting or disease during our severe drought this summer. If blooms flag, it benefits from a good trim and will reward with a second flush of flowers. I would not call it invasive. Thumbs up!
Calamintha
Calimint
Red-veined Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus): Also called bloody dock, this European native can grow in the herb or vegetable garden, around the pond, or as an ornamental garden accent. I fell in love with the prominent red veins on the lance shaped leaves. Edible for some folks, but grown here as decorative accents. No flowers have emerged as of mid-August but they’ll be nipped as soon as they appear to prevent self-seeding. Thumbs up!
Red-veined Sorrel

Campanula carpatica ‘White Clips’: I cared for this little perennial for almost two summers at the nursery until I weakened and purchased a few. The showy bell-shaped white blooms face upward covering small compact clumps of foliage about 8 -10 inches high. I have it at the edge of a border in moist soil. We will cut it back hard very soon and will be rewarded with a flush of new growth and blooms.  Thumbs up!

campanula

Defiant Hybrid Tomato: I took a chance on this tomato plant that boasted blight resistance. It’s a determinate bush tomato plant that produces medium-size tomatoes. Jungseed.com writes, “This is the first tomato to crack the genetic code for late blight resistance. It has high resistance to late blight, intermediate resistance to early blight and great flavor, all in one.” Knock on wood that I don’t jinx it but it’s been almost PERFECT. The grandchildren picked two lovely tomatoes on their lunch visit to Nana’s yesterday… and there are 15 – 20 more ripening on the plant. Thumbs up!

Tomato 'Defiant'

 

 

Reunion 2016

What’s round on the ends and HI in the middle?

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The great state of O-HI-O!

Ohio is where my 4 children and 7 of my 8 (soon to be 9) grandchildren from 3 states gathered for our annual hiking vacation. With a son living in the east-central part of the state, 14 of us converged there to laugh and tell stories, plan outings, to cook, eat and sleep in a rural setting surrounded by woods and farmland where wheat and corn dominated every horizon.

 

corn

We accomplished our annual hike perfectly while keeping up with a son’s rigorous itinerary. We visited the stables where his daughters’ ponies were put through their paces for us, met the barn cats, and shared in pony grooming complete with treats.

Click on photos to enlarge

We shopped the vibrant and beautiful Wooster, Ohio.

Wooster

Meals were simple and delicious. We ate well.

Deserts were simple, too. Either s’mores over a fire pit or our annual blackberry dessert with hard sauce or Kentucky Derby Pie. Local blackberries weren’t available but black raspberries were sold from an Amish neighbor’s garden. This area is home to the world’s largest Amish community. Great neighbors!

Our hike took place at Wooster Memorial Park, also called Spangler Park, owned by the city of Wooster. Over  320 acres and 7 miles of foot trails up and down steep ravines, through lush woodland, scenic overlooks, and far stretching farm fields loaded with wildflowers.

Days slipped by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and return home… but not before one last celebration: a monumental firework display to celebrate our happy family gathering.

 

Here today, Gone by Noon: Mushrooms

Storms, flooding, heat waves, droughts are capturing headlines lately.  Where I live, the Seacoast of New Hampshire, we are surviving the ‘Drought of 2016’. Not good. Wells are running dry; there are water restrictions and serious monetary fines for non-compliance in communities. Storm clouds and rain seem to go north or they go south of us and out to sea.  But last week we experienced some pop-up showers/storms and higher humidity. For a few days afterwards, these tiny mushrooms appeared here and there in the wee hours of the morning. They were sparse but they dotted only my lawn and no other yard that I could see.

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lawn

They are so fragile a mushroom that by noon, they had spread their spores and disappeared. Each morning the cycle repeated with a few tiny mushrooms appearing in the morning dew.

They are a fungus with living parts a foot or more under the soil. It’s not a bad thing and can actually be good for the lawn. They feed on decaying matter and release nutrients into the soil. In my case, the decaying matter is probably grass clippings. Although we live in a complex that provides a mowing service, I prefer to do my own. The mowing service roars through our complex in the hottest part of the day on fairway-type tractors spewing clippings into borders and scalping grass to 1″ in height. They weed & feed twice a summer and routinely spray pesticides.

I couldn’t accept any of that so here was my simple solution: No fertilizer, No weed killer, and No pesticides in my tiny stretch of lawn. After a soil sample by University of New Hampshire told me I need no more nitrogen and no more phosphorus, only potassium, I added just that.  In my small yard, I pull weeds by hand and I cut my own grass with the mower below.

🌿

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I mow late in the day and I mow our grass  3″ high. The grass clippings stay on the lawn, and, yes, it does seem to be healthier.  Plus a bonus: I had these cute little mushrooms greeting me at dawn for a short time. It’s a very good thing….

Breaking Silence

Yes, it’s been a year away from this site. Not really a vacation though. One of my three sisters and BFF is no longer. Losing her, settling her affairs, and accepting the void has been a year’s adjustment. Garrison Keillor said it best when he expressed his loss of a sibling: “When your brother dies, your childhood fades, there being one less person to remember it with, and you are left disinherited, unarmed, semiliterate, an exile.”  Life goes on for the siblings left behind. Six of us now. All adjusting. Accepting. Closing ranks. Closer than ever. Carpe diem.

Life in our small landscape (following condominium removal of beautiful white pines, large lilacs and the recent severe pruning of odd-shaped rhododendrons) is in constant motion. Dig, dig, dig, plant, weed, mulch, pass-along, transplant, and repeat. We’ve gained a little more property with tree removal (good) and now have 100% sun (bad). We’ve awakened the inner-gardener in residents (good) and we wave to each other as we toil in the soil and perhaps share a glass of wine at day’s end (good).

In down time, we hover beneath an umbrella from the sun on our deck and move our chairs with the shade. We’ve planted three understory-sized trees… 2 Amelanchier trees and 1 Styrax japonicus.  Benefiting from their shade is not in our near future. However, they look fabulous in the barren ‘living wall’ of this condominium complex.

In a short time we went from a small shady landscape with no arranged borders….

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… to a bit larger, all sun landscape where I developed more formal gardens:

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Flowering shrubs have always tugged at my heartstrings with blooms for the bees and fall berries for the birds. In the curved borders above went Little Lime hydrangeas in the foreground with viburnum varieties, highbush blueberry, a variety of hollies, enkianthus, a couple of pearl bushes, a juniper, and three mid-size trees along the beds. Liriope, calamint ‘Blue Cloud’, and lavender fill in along the edged borders. How blue! How bees! How birds!

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Three different climbing clementis plants now fill this metal trellis will color against a bare wall of the home. The birdbath has been replaced by an urn.

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In another area, we nursed a tiny potager garden with herbs, lettuce and other edibles. A small boxwood garden was added this spring with a bubbling fountain. Condo life is a ‘mother may I?’ existence, so with fingers crossed we hope to be granted permission soon to remove our aged deck and replace it with a smart terrace protected from the sun by a pergola. Fabulous. Just have to convince the powers that be.