Lunch with Swift

Roaming southern New Hampshire's Monadnock Region and beyond — visiting unique places and tasting the local flavor..


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Dry Green Money

I had a dream last night.

I was eating a sandwich at a little store sitting on a barrel.

The wax paper wrapping was pulled back.

There were old boxes of dusty cereal on shelves,

Darkening a crowded aisle.

And cans of soup with labels from the 1960s-

Added color to the dim light.

The floor was dirty.

The sandwich was multigrained bread,

And dry green paper money,

Denominations unknown.

They all tasted the same.


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A trip up Mount Skatutakee then over to the Harrisville Store

Today, was a powder skiing day. The morning started with a giant pinky moon setting over a pinky mountain.

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Monadnock and a setting moon

And a fuzzy frosty morning gave way to a crystal February day. We had fresh snow and it was calling.

Some people think that the east is famous for long lines and crowded ski areas but with a little imagination we can turn the hills into great runs. I looked at the topo map and aerial photo and considered a few places and settled on going over to the south side of Skatutakee. My companion was my ever ready son, Swift the third. I feel fortunate that I can sort of keep up with him in adventures, but he does push me. He was excited because he had just gotten some new skis that he was bursting out of his skin to try.

We got to the trail head and put on our skins. Those are furry imitation seals skins that you paste on the bottom of your skis to go up hill. They are a genius invention transforming the cross country skiing experience from an uncoordinated flail to a confident uphill trudge. We clipped on the skis and climbed about 700 vertical feet following the trail from the old Dublin Road to the top of the mountain. The only tracks in view were a ski track from a traveler who made a similar run yesterday. As we climbed, we noted a number of  great potential skiing lines through the trees. We saw the one our predecessor had taken.

Soon we were on top of the mountain. It took about45 minute of straight climbing. Not bad. We ripped off the skins and stowed them in our packs and prepared for the run down. The top of the mountain is all junipers, blueberry

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Bushwacking

bushes, scrubby pine, thick spruce and tortured hardwood trees. We started down and crunched through this crumbly forest ducking and bobbing until the woods opened up to maple and oak forest.

The snow was just right and our skis floated through it easily. The trees were tight but the snow was forgiving and maneuverable. A little way down from the top we skied through giant old maples from an old pasture sugarbush.

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Into the sugar bush

The deep unbroken snow lay before us in every direction. Swift, the nimble, bombed through them like they weren’t there and
I, the stiff and tentative, picked my path through careful not to commit too much speed to a collision. I might think too much about the way it could hurt.

At the bottom we had all our fingers and toes.

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Swift, the third  suggested that we climb up the mountain again. Hmm, I thought it might be a better idea to go to lunch.

The Harrisville Store is right down the road and up in a little village that is known as the most photographed and painted village in New Hampshire. It sits up at the top of a hill overlooking a brick village where water from the local hills is directed in a series of falls squeeze power out of the runoff.

The Harrisville Store has had a long history and it almost came to an end a few years ago.

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But the community got together in an act of vision and self awareness and decided it was really important Community center. The store was on its last legs when the community reached out found a guardian angel –Laura– who turned the place around.

http://historicharrisville.org/harrisville-general-store

If you travel in Northern Italy you can stop in any little town and get amazing colorful, local, tasty food. The Harrisville store is like that. It has a vibe that just makes you want to hang out on a Sunday afternoon.
So we skiers pulled in and ordered our stuff. I started with this coffeecake which they sell by the pound. I got 90 cents worth and it might be the best 90 cents I’ve spent on food in the past several years.

We sat down next to Blake from Peterborough. “Blake, What brings you up here?” “Oh I just like to come up on a nice Sunday to get out of town and hang out”. See?

Anyway, this little town there shouldn’t be enough people to justify a nice store like this. Amazingly, it is often really busy.

To find the Harrisville store, look at a map, find Harrisville. Go to the top of the hill look to your left (west.) There it is! But don’t turn into the parking area. Go up to the little yarn shop and make a u-ee and come back. It is safer and the only legal way to turn in there.

After lunch,   Swifty went back for a few more runs.    And I went home and took a nap with the sun streaming through my window and the pellet stove on full.


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Children in Harlow’s– it’s a snow day!

It is snow globe time in Peterborough. The big storm has wound down so there are big flakes doing lazy twirls on their way from the sky to the ground. Some people smoke a cigarette after making love. The last of this storm is kind of like that.

It’s a no school day today. The streets are empty. Chris and I have met Tim for lunch at Harlow’s. The place feels totally different than usual. There are some suit and tie guys sitting here that look like they want to move here because of this joint. If you are familiar with the place, you know Harlow’s is a cool little pub in downtown Peterborough. It used to be a cheese shop in a little street level store. It had lots of character and Harlow Richardson was happy to regale customers with stories about ocean adventures. He sailed almost every weekend over in the gulf of Maine. Beth and I got to go out with him once. I remember a broken shroud, difficulties catching hold of a mooring, a touch of seasickness and gin and tonics.

Dave Sz. bought the shop from Harlow about 10 years ago and started selling good beer. He plastered the walls with all sorts of old nick nacks. And he bought a bigger shop above the original store. There is a stage for bands to come and play. And there have been some legendary dances.

It is a great place and has almost singlehandedly given Peterborough a cool cachet. Almost any night there is a wide cross section of people from this town and beyond.

Today it is filled with kids and their mothers who have walked down to get out of their houses. Jen, Amy, and Rachel are all down here with their broods. Caitlin has showed up too Lucy and Owen. The kids were all laughing and carrying on. They have grilled cheeses, soups and hot cocoa’s arrayed in front of them.

The place feels a bit like a snow day club house. I don’t think these kids will ever forget getting to go to Harlow’s for lunch today.


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Frozen Springfield, Vt. Log jams Tacos and Goats

Yesterday, I had this feeling like a log jam had broken. The metaphors is cheap and easy because I had overcome some obstacles about some work that was due over on a little town near the Connecticut River. Frankly, having this thing out there for a while, had been gnawing at my mojo.

I don’t think I need to go to deeply into the concept of mojo or why, but let’s review the scene.

I was in Springfield, Vermont. It was 10 below zero. The sun was brilliant. There was an impending snowstorm. The atmospheric pressure was high. This always has an effect on my state of mind.

Springfield is this mid-sized Vermont town that has the usual brick factories, and churches with white steeples hugging a river. You can only see the river when you are on a bridge looking off of it and a few peek-a-boos between buildings. The old industrial geniuses knew how to block the decent views so they could capture all the power the river could muster.

I did find a tiny view. At ten below the river had stopped in its tracks. Columns and curtains of ice had locked the river down at the falls.
And the town, on its banks, breathed and steamed its way through the bitter cold alongside it. Most villagers probably never notice what that river is doing.

And like that, after this quick and judgmental observation, I was done with Vermont.

It was time to head to the goat farm where an other project was steaming along (or getting chewed up.)

Between Springfield and Marlborough, NH there are so many tempting places to stop for lunch. There is Burdicks in Walpole. Someday, I will have to write about the best spinach and cheese croissants you can buy. There is Allen brothers at exit 5 on 91. It is always a stop on the way to and from skiing adventures above the Walpole parallel.

Each place I passed registered blips like a Geiger Counter. First, faint, then insistent and then faint again.

By the time I rounded the horn at Brattleboro heading for Keene, I was pretty proud that I had missed all of these wonderful stops and had the will power to press on.

Then the blips started again. There was 5 Guys, Wendy’s, numerous awesome coffee shops in Keene. I knew I needed a short stop at Staples. The Geiger counter would be deafening.

Sure enough, when I came out KFC and Taco Bell were right across the street. Sorry, no review of a taco is needed.

But a taco is what I got. When I arrived at the Gap Mountain Goat Farm, I swept off of my pants. There was lettuce, tomato, cheese and beef which would be hoovered up by curious, always hungry goats. The beasts might even have a tiny connection with the journey I was on. Maybe, they will even sense the relief of a broken log jam.


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Brookside Convenience Store, Wilton, Nh

Fritos flavor twists and Nantucket Nectar

I was a little to busy for real lunch today, and I knew I was expecting a good dinner at Ivy’s though. She is preparing to send her son Charlie down the aisle with Sarah this weekend. So there is a celebration tonight.
Anyway I needed a little something tide me over at 3. I had been up the hill near the Heald Tract in Wilton looking at what could be done to a woods around an antique cape that had been recently redone. The owner John and I had an nice time on the hillside in the snow looking at some mixed hardwood forest. We found some big chestnut, butternut, basswood, black cherry and some of the other usual suspects. — red oak and white pine. During our time together, we turned over a lot of rocks. Now, it was time for Fritos flavor twists and Nantucket Nectar and to head back home.

The Brookside was just down the road. The fallback perfect snack for such occasions is the combination of Fritos flavor twists and Nantucket Nectar. I find it to be just the right combination of salty and sweet. Somehow the Nantucket nectar has gotten the formula of the mango orange drink down to be a possible addiction risk.

I went around the corner where the refrigeration whirred and found just what I was looking for – NNOM. I bet you can figure out that abbreviation, dear readers. Refer to the previous paragraph.

I couldn’t find any of the flavor crisps?? The lady behind the counter, sorry I didn’t get her name tag said ” hon, can I help you with something”. “Yes! I would really like some flavor twists.” She came around and we found the last bag hiding behind some Funyuns. “On thanks!”

Then she offered that her favorites were the humpy dumpty barbecue chips from Canada.

“That will be $2.90”

“Have a good day, hon. ”

“Bye Bye”

And I walked back to my truck to head west and fortify.

P.S.
OK, that was a bit trite, but I really want to wish Scott and Peggy McGovern and Beth Ann Corwin a great ski as they are up in Canada this weekend doing the 100 mile Canadian Ski Marathon. We think there will be great packed powder and it might get up to 5 degrees during the day. Wish them well.

I am staying home to play with Grace and go to a wedding. And I will have lunch somewhere, too.


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Plowshare Farm Greenfield, NH

He said, “I’m not gonna lie to you, I hate working with foresters.” We were sitting at the Plowshare Farm in Greenfield, NH. His deep wrinkles and super long sandy grey beard might have looked good in a sepia photograph that could have been taken 120 years ago. But, it wouldn’t have done justice to his piercing sapphire blue eyes. Louis is a horse logger and he has been working at plowshare for a long time.

We had just finished singing the lunchtime grace which I admit I do not know the words to. I need to get a cheat sheet to at least. Just prior to it we had been talking about the way to think about the 100 acres of woods around the farm. And John Goodhue had come up and greeted me with his grandson William and, and .. It was a lot to take in.

The Plowshare farm is a community of people with special needs. Everyone gets a job to do to help out the farm as they are able. I have had lunch twice with them recently. I believe that every meal they have is a celebration. The food is all from the farm and wonderful.

I sat with directors Kimberly and Donat. They have made the place with a shared vision.

On the table there was fois gras and heavy German bread, A beautiful salad, thick yogurt and cheese dressing, and a sausage soup served in a deep tureen. The sun poured in to the dining room and the people in there looked happy to be where they were. They were all totally present.

After a while, talking to Louis we were seeing more eye to eye. And decided we would go for a big walk out in the woods. He said his horses were taking a break right now because both of his mares had just foaled. So we will have some time to think and walk.

After lunch, there was a community blessing, too.


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Aesops Tables, Peterborough, NH

It used to be when it snowed: It snowed. Big deal, in the winter: it snows.

Now the weather channel names the storms. This one today was called Mika. Apparently, news 9 thought enough of the storm to position a satellite truck with a reporter, a ski parka ,a microphone, a cameraman, and lights. Every time I went by the center of town they were there. There was hardly any traffic or activity. I can’t imagine what he could have been talking about. This storm was not that big a deal. Chris and I made a few stops with the snowblower. I can tell you there just wasn’t that much to the snow. It was about ten inches of medium bodied powder. There was a little substance to it. It moved nicely and when pushed, it left the pavement dry.

When Chris and I passed by the lonely onsite news man, I asked him what’s for lunch? Chris said “not pizza!” There are 7 places to get pizza in pizzaborough. Good thing, I had been thinking about Bob McQuillan who died yesterday, so I decided we needed to go to Aesops Tables –definitely not a pizza place.

Allison Fredericks runs this cool little coffeeshop in the Toadstool Bookstore. If the toadstool is the oyster, Aesops is it’s pearl. Chris and I went on in. The bookstore and the restaurant were humming even when everything else in town was subdued by the snow.

And yes, the place reminded me of Bob McQuillan. This guy was a true village elder and an inspiration. He was a guy you could always find in this place getting coffee and chatting it up in the morning with the young folks like my son who frequent the place regularly. He was also famous on the contra dance circuit as a caller and a musician. The guy seemed to walk with air under the soles of his shoes. He was our bojangles. Anyway the last time I saw him was here at Aesops. My son said he went to visit him with his buddy Russell at the hospital in Concord after Bob had had his stroke this weekend. They sat with him at the hospital and Russell and some other musicians played him fiddle music. For a guy like this to be as full of life up until last week, laughing and carrying on with the youngsters, and then to be serenaded into the next big dance by the young folks who loved him, that is something that is nearly a fairy tale ending.

Aesops reminded me of him and I wanted that feeling I got from his presence at lunch. The artichoke bisque was a healthy comforting cup of warm smoothness. That was a great accompaniment to the nostalgic feelings I was having. If this is what makes for a haunting, I am all for the ghosts. By the way, I bet Bob would have thought naming snow storms to be a ridiculous thing, too. He would have laughed loudly at that nonsense.