Lunch with Swift

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

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Cherrys, Plums, and Apples

Got 25 cents, put it in the slot, pull the crank, watch the wheels spin Cherrys, Plums, and Apples.

Except we are not in Las Vegas. Today, we are at Tenny Farms on Route 202 just south of Antrim, NH and it is the middle of July. Many go here for Icecream. When I realized I was getting husky a while back, I decided to go off the stuff. But, my weakness is fruit, especially plums.

Tenny farms seems to have the best fruit around.

You carefully select the plums you want, pay, walk out of the nicely appointed countrified store, get in your car and head south.

Let me describe a perfect Tenny Farm plum. It is deep purple, room temperature, it skin is smooth and gives in with a light push but pushes back with no indentation. It has almost imperceptible small white spots as if someone had poked it everso lightly with toothpicks.

It sits in the hand happily occupying the whole palm. I

f it is going to be a good one, you may think that one is not enough.

You bring it to your lips and teeth and bear down. What gave under light finger touch, breaks under tooth. Instantly, a sweet, tart, fresh taste is released. What lies beneath the skin is not mushy nor firm. It is supple and packed with flavor. Sometimes it is deep purple, other times it is tan. I prefer purple. The second, third or fourth bite reveals a pit. The pit is easily removed by a tooth pinch. In the mouth, it glides around like a lozenge. But soon it looses its flavor. You roll down the car window, wait for no car to be passing, and smartly spit the pit into the next lane. In the rearview mirror you see it bounce once, twice and roll.

Half the plum is left. Then none.

But you know there are more in the bag. And when they are gone, you can go back to Tenny Farms.


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A little fuel

Last Wednesday the phone rang. It was the Recreation Director from the Town of Peterborough asking me if I could use 29 voulunteers from the Windsor Mountain Camp between 16 and 20. Whoa, pause, deep breath.

Yes, of course!

About 10 years ago, I had a hand in building the Cranberry Meadow Trail which goes from the center of town which goes up to the top of a local mountain called South Pack. It has turned out to be well loved but also a lingering responsibility which I feel attached to.

A month ago, my counterpart from the Monadnock Conservancy, an organization that looks after the trail with me took a walk to inventory the bridges to figure out what was needed.

I had a bit of dred to learn that 9 bridges needed work and a few were really rotten. It takes a lot to move heavy logs without equipment. Come alongs can work. But you have to think like an Egyptian to really do it right.

So out of the blue, here was an opportunity. When you have a lot of volunteers who are eager, you want to make sure their time is meaningful.

Rick and I talked about how to get ready for them. I bought some wood from a lumber mill and cut it to the right lengths. And Rick set to getting some big trees on the ground.

Before the kids arrived I needed to do one more thing. Get lunch! I thought I needed a good one because this was going to be hard. It occured to me to go to Panchos. Its a new place in town which has picked up where some other pizza places left off. Word hasnt gotten out about this place but it should. It is maybe a bit confusing. Pancho’s Pizza? The guy is from Puerto Rico and ge came to Peterboro by way of NYC where he learned his craft. He makes excellent pizza with perfect crusts. So I thought I would try the sandwiches. It didnt dissapoint. The person that made it, whipped it together in no time. It had delicious marinated roast beef, fresh bread, and vegetables. She presented it to me in tightly wrapped butcher paper. I had just enough time to savor it before the kids arrived.

When they did, I was stoked for the effort. They were too. In 10 minutes they moved 50 pieces of wood from my truck to a neatly stacked pile of lumber. This alone would have taken 2 of us 2 or 3 hours.

Then they set to moving 400 lbs logs. To do it, I paired them up with webbed slings two to a sling. On three they lifted this heavy log and it floated into place. With two logs we had our stringers. This theme kept up for three hours. Impossibly heavy stuff just got put into place like magic.

I just have to say thank you to Windsor Mountain Camp for a team who could think like Ancient Egyptians and Pancho for his awesome sandwich to fuel me up for the afternoon.

We built 3 bridges. We have six to go. Are a couple of more miracles too much to ask? Probably, but I know where to get another great sandwich.


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Dublin General and a Colonoscopy

So it should be that a Colonoscopy should bring me round back to my blog. Hello everyone, I have missed you.

Before I get too far, it wasn’t my colonoscopy. It was a friend’s. And I agreed to take him to the hospital. When you are the designated driver you get about 3 hours before you have to go back for the pickup.

It was just enough time to squeeze a couple of little jobs in the heat of the day. A trip to the bank here, flagging a property line there, and then back to the hosibobo (as I used to call it.)

Before returning, there was one last stop, the Dublin General Store. Unbeliviebly, I have never done a LWS on the DGS. That is as overdue as this blog entry.

The DGS is simply one of the best stores around. It is located on 101 in a place that is pretty easy to duck off the road. I don’t know how many cars go by a day, but it is alot. Many businesses along the highway have a hard time enticing drop in customers, but the DGS is designed to accommodate people with poor impulse control. Candy bars, they have it, and potato chips, coffee, scones, great big sandwiches made to order, ice tea, and beer.

Everything is nicely presented, the store is clean and crispy. The folks that work there couldn’t be nicer. There are sunny eating areas inside and out. It is a goto after climbing Mount Monadnock, swimming in Dublin Lake or just a pop in on a jaunt from here to there.

Back to my friend and his colonoscopy. I was headed back to pick him up. I had just had one myself. That fast is kind of a bear. I remember what it was like coming to. I could have chewed off my right arm. Anyway, at the DGS right by the cash register, there is a plexiglass dome filled to the brim with incredible chocolate chip cookies, 1 dolla. They are the diameter of hockey pucks, half as thick, chocolatey, chewey, and about the best afternoon treat you could ask for. Did I say 4 quarters?

I bought one for my friend and guarded it from the dogs who are always traveling with me. When I picked him up, he was starved.

It put some color back in his face.

See you soon.

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The Last Lunch at the Moon Dog Cafe. CHESTER, Vt.

We were on our 12th long run at Okemo in Ludlow, Vt.

The conditions were perfect for mid March. The snow was chalky. Every edge set bit into the snow so our skis were like rails. There was a promise of more snow but in our time there, it was just overcast sky. The temp was in the mid 20s and the winds were light. A perfect day for some hard charging cruising. And that was the way we skied.

About one p.m. our legs were screaming and someone mentioned lunch. The words barely wafted into the mountaintop air when David said “the Moon Dog Cafe!” He, being a knowledgeable patron, knew to call two days in advance and plead to the wonderful proprietress to make her legendary chicken pot pie.

It was a Pavlovian response when the lunch suggestion echoed out. Immediately, we raced down Chief, the best run at Okemo on the best snow of the winter to find the best pot pie in Vermont.

We stopped at the bottom by the lodge, lingered a minute to off (s.i.c.) our boots and extra coats and mittens, and loaded up the cars for a quick drive to the MDC.

The Moon Dog is one of those places that you wish was right around the corner. It has a great selection of sandwiches like a roast beef, apple and boursin sandwich on home made hearty bread, lightly toasted with a side of grilled sweet potato and some wild rice. That is one small example. What we were after was the secret special: Pot pie.

We walked up to the counter and didn’t see any mention of it on the menu board. David stepped forward. “Do you have any chicken pot pie?”

The chef said ” as a matter of fact, you called didn’t You? …Yes, I made some this morning … It was selling fast so I saved 4 pieces for you.”

We sighed, and ordered. Then we took our places in a table by a huge glass storefront facing the quaint village of Chester. As we waited, our legs still were burning from the skiing. We looked around to the eclectic arrangements of canned tomatoes, bananas, honey, and knitting. We chatted. And at one point Michael recited as poem he loved about “the work.” We shook our heas and wondered when he would have time to memorize that. But it was naturally appropriate to the moment.

It was not long before the good waitress brought out our plates

They were beautiful pot pies spilling out chicken and peas, caressed by a flakey butter crust. On the side was cranberry sauce baby lettuce and sweet potatoes.

We took a deep breath. We paused. We went silent. We slowly savored every forkfull.

Lisa had a rhubarb soda. We thought about beboparebop rhubarb pie. And wondered how Garrison Kiellor could have gone so astray. Who cares? The sun was pouring into the windows. We were feasting on these incredible pot pies

… And then we got the news.

The Moon Dog is closing here and moving to Bellows Falls. There are a few good things in this. It will soon be reopening with the same crew. And it will be a bit closer.

But, this was our last lunch at the Moon Dog in Chester with burning legs and the promise of more snow coming.


Millen Pond to Sand Pond with several losses along the way… and a fake song.

My friend John B over in Washington is all about the Washington side of the world and my friends in Lempster — Sue L and Jim B  are likewise so to the Asheulot River where the Town line meets Washington.

Hey, wouldn’t it be great to go from Millen Pond in Washington to Silver Mountain in Lempster across the Ashuelot River and then up by Sand Pond?  This little idea is how an epic day starts.  Maybe there is lunch or maybe not.

I have gotten roped into the notion because I am a sucker for enthusiastic people.  So we decided to walk what could one day be a great trail through the deepest part of the woods in what is mostly protected land.  The hike day was planned for an earlier date in the summer.   In this unusually dry year, we woke up that morning to thundershowers and strong winds.  I put out for a later date in September.

Here it is, the later date.  The crew has burgeoned from a few or several to more than a handful.  I think there are eight of us.    We meet at the top of Farnsworth Hill.  John B has delivered us to the starting point with a shiny new four-wheel drive, four seat, electric dump body Gator – a true country Cadillac.   On the way over he has been telling us about those damn kids with their four-wheelers.  I say, “yep. un-huh.”  We arrive in that four wheeler and  others are waiting. We waste no time.  John B wistfully fills us in on the deep and arcane history of Farnsworth Hill.   He knows history of the Millen Family, the Farnsworths, the McNeils and a bunch of other people who lived up in this hill over 70 years ago.  We stand learning of the history.  Then he says, “follow Swift.”  I say,  “I want to warn you,  I figured this path out on the map. and laid it down on the GPS. I haven’t walked it all per se.  I think it might be crunchy.”    Even I don’t know quite what that means, but it sound like a good truth.

Soon we are a group of 8 doing just that, crunching through raspberries and balsam fir headed in the general direction of Sand Pond.    We are walking through a featureless sea of brand new forest.  One of our hikers pipes in.  “A good trail should go by some features.”  I remind him to wait a couple of years and this will emerge from stage of being hopeless brush to being  a nice young forest.  And wait twenty and it will be a real sapling and pole forest.  Forty years  and it will be bigger trees towering overhead.   He will see features soon enough, elsewhere, today.

We proceed down the hill, our eight person mule team, with two dogs, too.  By the way, they are now over their first fight.  One has a bloody face.  I hope that is from a sharp stick and not a switch tooth.  We only stop for a minute dealing with their quarrel,  all of a sudden what surrounds us is not a hopeless brush sea, but a nice open forest with big mossy rocks.  We are nearing the Asheulot River to narrow place I have charted. We can cross, here.   On the way, I pipe up how awesome it is for groups in two separate towns to understand this new connection. Furthermore,  how if it is designed as a walking trail,  walkers will walk on it probably for years to come.  Peter understands this because he is a lead worker on the Monadnock-Sunnapee Greenway.  A connection there, too??  You bet.

Now, we are paused at the crossing of the Asheulot River.   It is a step over because it is dry.  We ponder a burma bridge, a tight wire, stepping stones or a raft bridge.  None are too much to imagine and only a minor detail to make a reality.  What the collective mind believes is easy to achieve.

We cross on rocks and march on. We are hot now. We are entering Lempster.  I sing the imaginary Lempster song and have the Lempsterites wondering how they missed the fact that their town had an ancient community appreciation song.

To the music of “If You Want To Be A Badger” — I sing to everyone as we enter Lempster–

If you want to come to Lempster,

Just come along with me,

By the Light,

By the Light

Of the Bright Shining Moon…


They  wonder aloud, “How did we miss that?”   They didn’t. I made it up.  ‘Cuz I’m a Badger.

We head through the thickest fir East of Brattleboro, West of Newmarket.  There are an easy 30,000 stems per acre.  I am convinced it is absolutely necessary to walk right through the heart of this thicket.   At some point, I realize it is a bit easier to crawl.

When we stand on a sunny rock on the other side of the thicket,  I tell everyone that there is really no Lempster Song.  I just made it up.  Everyone sighs.  Jim sighs, too.  He has lost his pack with his water in it.  Fortunately, I have recorded our path.   I say “lets go swim back through the Balsam and find it.”  He thinks it got ripped off his back.  We re-trace and don’t find it.  But the rest of us are well rested on the sunny rock. Jim and I are dripping from our three passes through the balsam thicket.

We are half way there.  I say that we have done the easy part of the hike.  We are down one pack, a lunch, and a water.  We are now headed up out of the Ashuelot Headwaters Valley on the Lempster side to the mysterious and marvelous Isthmus between the crystal clear Long Pond and Sand Pond.  Somehow, when these two lakes got put here by the hand of the great Whoever,  he/she plunked rocks down in a fabulous way by fore finger and thumb. We are headed for them.

A hiking trail should have good features…  And up we walk the hill.  Now, we are on a ledge “hog back.”   Now, we realize the hogback ends. We peel around to the left of it and all of a sudden, we are walking at the base of an incredible mossy cliff with ferns cascading.  There is that kind of grey leathery lichen with a soot colored backing,  that if you are starving, you can eat. But no one does.

The ledge is like the Vietnam memorial but in the wildest, wild and it diminishes into the hill as we climb.    Further on up, we encounter more giant rock ledges.  I take note of one where the top of a  yellow birch 24 inches at the base and 100 feet tall  is brushing the top of its neighboring cliff.  It, too, shaggy with fern at its lip.

The excitement is starting to give way to exhaustion.  And thirst.   Our fellow hikers are generous with water, but we are down and it is dry.    I do not fear this.  Soon we are on the shores of Sand Pond with little to go.   The clear water is lapping calmly on the shore while a gaggle of surface-running-spinner beetles disturb a meat-platter size area near our feet.  Someone puts their hand down near them and they disperse like black-bean-dervishes intent on being ecstatic. They leave a pimple-ripple wake where they go.

We are ecstatic, too!  Its pushing three in the afternoon and we are almost done with this hike.  I know there are many miles to go before I sleep, sorry Mr. Frost.   Everyone is ready to have some water and lunch.

The next chapter could get interesting.     We can now all imagine this becoming a path.   If it is,  it will still be a challenge even with a cut trail.    And there will be many more stories, like this.     And they may also be crunchy!

But we are not quite done yet,   I look down at the GPS to guide us back. everything is blurry. I touch the glass in my glasses.  It is not there.  Drat, another pair of glasses which are a casualty I can chalk up to an offering to the great Whoever.  I close one eye to look with with the other through the one good lens.  Easypeasy.

We get up to the cars and finish our shuttling back to the point of beginning.

I am too pressed for time to stop anywhere for a good  lunch so its the home refrigerator for a cold pizza and some water a shortstop on the way to the seacoast.

Wait, what… the Seacoast?  That story will have to wait for another time.










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Lunch with Coyotes

It’s not our  lunchtime.  It’s not at a convenience store.  It’s not even with me.  But it’s lunch – a night time lunch.

Last night the Coyotes sang like I have never heard them before.  There were so many voices. And there was such immediacy. That you couldn’t miss that something big was going on in the woods.

Whenever I hear animals out back, all I can think of is the cat getting eaten.

But, here is what may have been happening instead.  Imagine if the cat has got an ongoing  thing  with the Coyotes.   Maybe he is an honorary member of the pack?

About 9 O’clock as we were settling in to juggling on America’s Got Talent,  we let him out and he was making his way to the wild wood to meet up with his friends.   
All of that noise?  The Coyotes  were just especially glad to see him.   He was joining the hunting party and the Coyotes on this side of the valley were letting the guys on the other side that game was on with Mr Cat.   Together, they would find lunch tonight!

That is what I would like to think.

As morning came today, Mr.Cat was eager to come in and say hello to us.   He made it through another night.   It just makes me think if he isn’t getting beaten (eaten,) he must be joining ’em in their night lunching.

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New Mr. Mikes 03458

Sometimes the anticipation is great and sometimes you realize it just needs to be moderated. Such is with the new gas station they have built in Peterborough.   I know I will be a frequent customer.  But I have to wait.  The shelves are stocked with slim Jim’s and Pringle’s  chips.  There is coke and beer in the fridge and the compressors are running.  But there are barricades in front of the driveway.   There is no business.  Birds are nesting under the new gas pump canopy.  The pumps are glowing red.  The new landscaping is looking like it needs tending but it is getting none.

So I wait and hope.  The potato chips will have to hang on the rack until the convenience store folks work out their traffic calming issues with the State of NH.  

But you can bet there will be no decline in their quality by the time the doors swing open.  Be that in a week or several months.   Chips and gas just keep like that- even while business people claw and grovel.  It is a great exercise in delayed gratification all.