Nelson In Common Update September 29, 2021

Nubanusit, as viewed from Blacktop (City Hill). Photo – Ethan McBrien

I recently started reading a book about time. Actually, that was literally the name of the book (About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks). One of the bits of wisdom presented in it was the idea that prior to the adoption of clocks in houses and, more significantly, on our wrists, the concept of wasting time wasn’t part of our awareness. Certainly obsessives like watch owner Benjamin Franklin became distraught over a misplaced minute. But possibly the idea has less to do with the ability to measure time, and more to do with actually having enough time to use some of it unproductively, or rather, in ways that weren’t essential for day-to-day survival. I thought about this while hiking recently on a perfect fall afternoon. First, this was going to be a couple of hours traipsing through the woods, when I probably should be home stacking firewood, or writing this weekly update. Then my hiking companions and I, responding to observations of rock walls and cellar holes that had been constructed likely in the late 1700s, began talking about how incredibly hard life must have been for those first settlers from Europe. No opportunity there for leisurely pastimes. We can speculate that the people indigenous to this area had long cultivated survival skills that allowed for a little more breathing room. And it’s not unreasonable to think they probably had a different sense about what time is.

The canopy over Blacktop (City Hill).  A good place to spend time. Photo – Ethan McBrien

I had ordered this book through the Nelson Library, in advance of its August 17 publication. It arrived on September 4, which I thought was pretty good for a small town library – just a couple of weeks off the press. I could have ordered it from Amazon and maybe had it a few days sooner, which would have saved me some time in getting started with it. But as it turned out, though there were some interesting tidbits, I really didn’t like the book – it felt too scattered and it was hard for me to know where (or when) I was in the storyline. Eventually I concluded that it was not worth my valuable time reading, so I returned it to the library. Just as well I hadn’t ordered it from Amazon. With the time I saved by not finishing it, I was able to allow myself that two-hour hike in the woods. It was a way of spending time, and in retrospect, I got a good return on the investment.

Now, there is such a thing as Nelson time. I’ve experienced it frequently over the years –often in the context of the contra dance starting about half an hour late. But other things as well. Maybe we move a little slower here, or are just less stressed about punctuality. In any case, Nelson time is not necessarily a bad thing. Our churches and civic buildings have plenty of architectural appeal already, and would not benefit from having a public clock to keep us all in order.

Nelson Congregational Church Invites Applications for Social Justice Grants

In 2019, the Nelson Congregational Church created the Garrett-Larsen Social Justice Fund, in honor of the 19-year ministry of Rev. Dawn Garrett-Larsen in the wider Nelson community. The fund will be given away in its entirety over the next four years. It will go to individuals or nonprofits in the Monadnock region that demonstrate a passion for social and environmental justice, a plan to advance that cause, and a need for funding.

In 2020, grants were awarded to Project Home, a Keene-based nonprofit that offers support and housing to families seeking asylum, and The Daily Good, which provides food and friendship to international students and immigrants in the Monadnock region.

Any individual or nonprofit group with a strong tie to the Monadnock region is invited to apply in writing. For 2021, one or more grant(s) totaling $1800 will be
awarded. Recipients will be notified within four weeks of the October 31 deadline.

To receive an application form and details on the process and criteria for applying, email, or call the church office, 603-847-3280. The guidelines and application are also available at

We have received the following letter:

Petunia – Bearded Dragon

I wish to take a moment and thank you, Editor of the Black Fly Express as well as the Nelson In Common Bulletin Board, for publishing my advertisement. My search for a new home is over. In less than a week after publication, a wonderful Nelson family invited me to come live with them, and I could not be happier! If not for the newsletter, I would still be searching for new ‘digs’.

Thank you from the bottom of my cold-blooded heart.

Petunia, the bearded dragon

Fall cleaning? The Nelson in Common Bulletin Board is there for you. Buy stuff, sell stuff, give stuff away, advertise your (Nelson based) services.

Visit the BB website

As many of you know, Nelson In Common publishes The Black Fly Quarterly, a print newsletter to complement this website. This is the successor to the Grapevine, which was published for several decades. Our first two issues were well received, and we are working on developing the November issue. We were fortunate that our June and September issues each had private sponsors which covered a significant portion of the printing and mailing costs. We are hoping to find sponsors for future issues. While our first two sponsors chose to remain anonymous, we are happy to provide public acknowledgement of any person or business sponsor who wishes to be recognized.

The sponsorship price for a single issue of The Black Fly Quarterly is $350. Please contact Gordon Peery, president, Nelson In Common, if you would like to be a sponsor, or would like more information.

Visit the Home Page for more good stuff!

Other articles for this week

On The Side

Nelson’s Broadband Committee is requesting your participation in this survey to gather information in support of achieving town-wide access to high-speed internet. 

Click to take this short survey about internet usage

New at the Library


Current Events

The source of power and the delivery process are two different things, as is explained in this preview of what a Community Power program could mean for Nelson residents.

Meet the Committee and see what they’re up to so far in the early stages of this project .  .  . 

Wattle We Do Now?

Val Van Meier writes about the upcoming project of making a new wattle fence for the Colonial Garden (behind the Library). But there’s a side story involving rabbits, who are also coming to enjoy life in the Village. In fact, if this problem continues, we might need to change the name of our town to Haresville!

See what’s at stake .  .  .  

Easter Egg Hunt

Could this have anything to do with the aforementioned rabbit problem? We’ll leave that for you to ponder, but kids will be delighted to know that there will be an Easter Egg hunt sponsored by the Nelson Congregational Church, on the Church lawn starting at 10:45 on Easter Sunday. All kids are welcome! Please bring your own basket or bag to collect your eggs.

Old Home Day Update

Things are shaping up for Old Home Day, making a revitalized comeback after a two-year hiatus. More updates will be provided as we move closer to the event, but so far, folks can look forward to an amazing double-billed concert in the Town Hall on Friday night (Aug. 19), featuring Monadnock Music director Raphael Popper-Keizer on cello, followed by Paul Klemperer on saxophone. Both musicians have strong ties to Nelson, and the music promises to be innovative and entertaining. Read more about each of them. Read more about these musicians and the concert .  .  .  

ALERT – After this article was originally published we discovered a conflict that requires us to move the date of Old Home day to Saturday, August 6th. The concert on August 19 remains unchanged. More details in the next update. 

For Old Home Day: We’ll be seeing a lot of the usual activities, but some new ingredients as well, including music behind the Library / Town Hall in the proximity of the picnic tables, and, after the chicken barbecue and Nelson Town Band Concert, a sheep dog demonstration from Dave Kennard of  Wellscroft Farm.  More details about Old Home Day here . . . 

In the late 1980’s my daughter Susie got a horse named Whisper. Whisper was black, just tall
enough to be called a horse, and was safe and sound. He moved into our newly built, and Bud
French designed, barn in late spring. There was a comfy box stall, piped in water, about half an
acre of meagre grass and all the comforts of a horse home. What we did not have was hay, but
I’d ordered 250 bales of George Iselin’s first cutting. First cutting hay is usually available in late
June. In the meantime, I purchased hay at Agway, ferried it home in my car. I began to sneeze
and itch.

In early June I called George to get an update. He planned to cut in a few days, he said, and it
should be dry and bailed in a week. My nose had begun to run and no one wanted to ride in my
car. About the middle of the month, I called again. The hay had gotten wet and couldn’t be
bailed for at least a week. Not wanting to lower my priority in George’s busy schedule, I decided
try patience. My car and my nose got worse.

The Fourth of July was on a weekend that year. Our family went to the Tolmans’ parade and
watched the ancient cannon belch fire and smoke over the pond. The day was hot and sticky.
That night we had another light and sound show as a thunderstorm lashed the area. Sunday
dawned bright and dry – just the kind of day to make you happy to head out to the barn to do
the chores. On my way out to the barn, I decided it was time to call George again.

As I walked through the barn door something had changed. You know that feeling of sensing
something different, maybe even alarming, but not knowing just what’s wrong. The barn looked
the same, but it didn’t smell the same. Looking up to the usually empty second floor I saw 250
neatly piled hay bales. George and his sons had driven his lumbering, ancient stake bed truck,
found the lights in the barn and loaded all that hay just where I wanted it while we slept
peacefully unaware. What a way to start a day! It was almost as though angels had done it.
George arrived a few days later to trim Whisper’s hooves. He got a worshipful reception.

Tyler takes a moment of rest to pose in the new propagation house – work in progress.

A farmer’s work is never done, and sometimes involves more than getting one’s hands in the dirt. Tyler and Jenna Rich, owners of Partners’ Gardens, have been busy constructing a propagation house that will allow them to get an early start on the wide variety of crops they will plant in the spring. Getting the plants started inside gives them a significant advantage, as they can put out healthy, established seedlings.

Made possible by a grant from the Monadnock Food Co-op Farm Fund (a collaboration between the Cheshire County Conservation District and the Monadnock Food Co-op), the propagation house is substantially more sophisticated than a typical greenhouse. Upon completion it will involve two heat sinks (55-gallon drums of water, in addition to a concrete floor), and insulation to hold in that heat. The translucent panels (twin-wall polycarbonate) are south facing, but at a steep (about 51°) angle designed to maximize exposure to the late winter sun when it is low in the sky.

As you can see here, there is still plenty of work to do, but with persistence (and help from friends and family), Tyler and Jenna will be sowing seeds before they know it!

Gardeners have long been inspired by white flowers and gardens. Sissinghurst in England (which I have visited) and the moonlit pleasure garden of the Taj Mahal are two very famous white gardens. The latter garden was completed in 1652 in honor of Muntaz Mahal, who died in childbirth, by her husband. The garden is located on the opposite side of the Yamuna River so that the moonlit Taj is reflected in its garden pools. Vita Sackville-West, a gardener, garden writer, and poet wrote about the joy and inspiration of her white garden (completed 1949-1950) at Sissinghurst as an opportunity to explore the non-colored aspects of garden design…such as form, texture, and the shape of plants. In addition to white/pale flowers, she utilized many shades of silver foliaged plants.

White Annual Poppy ( hope it self-seeds!)

Does the universal appeal of white gardens reflect (no pun intended) on our cultural connections to that color? The color white is used in different cultures to symbolize peace, purity, mourning. Colors create moods, and white, with these meaningful associations, is particularly impactful.

Normally I reject rules about what should or should not be included in a garden, preferring spaces that have a natural and unforced quality. That said, the few white gardens I have visited have brought me joy, and I am without doubt smitten by the white flowers in my own garden. For these reasons, I have considered creating a white garden space of my own.

I wish I were more knowledgeable in the science of color. How would that understanding influence the delight I experience when viewing a garden? Would I see and utilize colors differently? The color wheel, beautiful as it is, has always felt overwhelming. Reading about color theory in Wikipedia, even though poorly comprehended on my part, has served to confirm the miraculous world we live in, and the centuries-old interest in how we see our world.

I value the importance of “color” (the ability to play a note with varying quality of sound) in music. It has taken many years of my own piano study and attending live musical performances to more fully understand what artists do to create color in sound. For me, this added knowledge has led to greater pleasure when listening to music. I deeply respect this gift that musicians share with us, recognizing the effort and skill required in creating their unique sound palette. I am fascinated that the use of color in the arts has principles in the mathematical/scientific world, yet is simultaneously experienced on such a primal emotional level.

I do not recall giving much attention to color in my early gardening life. Flowers bloom for such a short time in a plant’s life, and I often selected plants for their leaf color, shape, texture and perhaps fragrance! Shortly after our move to Nelson, Greg’s mother (a graphic artist) was visiting. Looking out at my garden, her poignant comment, “You have no white,” has long reverberated in my ears and influenced my eyes in a meaningful way. Even earlier in my garden experience, a former patient/gardener/nursery owner in Chatham, NY encouraged me to acquire a creamy white daylily. He said it would help bridge colors that might not otherwise “work” together. As I write this, that unnamed “off white” daylily is doing just that.

I have enjoyed acquiring white flowers and discovering their impact in my garden. White reflects all the colors of the rainbow, and as a consequence adds brightness. Our eyes automatically follow to these areas. White color and light effectively guide our eyes through the visual space. In my large, and often cacophonous garden, I am counting on the color white to make my garden experience feel a little more “orchestrated.” Perhaps there is even a conductor: me!

Equally appealing, the reflective quality of white makes magic in the darkness of night. Moonlight creates a mystical feeling as the white flowers glow. I peer out my windows in the evening and night hours to savor the serene mood. White flowers are often fragrant. This year, I planted nicotiana alata near my outdoor sitting /eating area in order to experience their intoxicating fragrance for those moments of utmost relaxation after a day’s work in the garden. What if white flowers could also keep those biting insects away?

I hope my enthusiasm for white colored flowers is contagious and that you experience gardens a little differently.
The included photos represent some of my favorites.

White daisies, a gift from Julie Pakradooni. Perfection in bloom

White Perennial Oriental Poppy with Rick Church’s (probably) honeybee.

White clematis….a variety blooming on new growth, dies to the ground in winter. No special pruning required.

Plants with silver-colored leaves are often utilized in “white” gardens. This is Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss), which I saw on a recent garden nursery visit.
It is now on my wish list. In spring, it has pretty blue Forget-Me-Not-like flowers.

The  garden cacophony…… I cannot imagine gardening without the color white.

Capturing the Wild Wee Beasties

By Val Van Meier

New starter immediately after it’s first feeding

The “wee beasties” are multiplying, they are taking over, trapped gases from their growth causing the flour mixture to expand. Yeast, invisible to the naked eye, is a fun science experiment.

Several years ago I read a blog post by P.J. Hamel, who writes for King Arthur Baking Company. She explained how to capture wild yeast, grow it, and bake with it. I tried her method to capture yeast from apples, wild cherry, and wild grapes. The contents of each jar smelled like the fruit the yeast was harvested from. Though delicious, the sourdough breads I made didn’t taste or smell like the fruit the yeast came from.

Last week I decided to try capturing wee beasties from a highbush cranberry and some lovely fall raspberries. I picked a handful of fruit and put each fruit (separately) into a jar with ¼ cup of flour. I sealed each jar with a lid, shook it, and let the jar sit overnight. I actually shook the jars several more times through the evening.

In the morning I removed the fruit. For the jar with the cranberries, I combined equal parts inoculated flour and water (¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water) in a mason jar and stirred. I then put an elastic on the outside of the jar, marking the level of the sourdough starter. The raspberries were a little more complicated – they had softened and been partly absorbed by the flour. I separated the inoculated flour from the raspberries and placed this flour in a mason jar. I placed the mushy floured raspberries in the water I was going to add to my raspberry “captured” yeasty flour, stirred to remove as much of the flour as I could, then removed the wet raspberry pulp and added the pink water to the inoculated flour in the jar.

Sourdough bread just starting it’s rise over the wood stove

I have read that you should feed your beasties twice daily, but I’ve found they will put up with a once daily feeding. This morning I fed my beasties 3 tablespoons flour and water, just under the recommended ¼ cup feeding. After feeding, I adjust the rubber band at the new level. This lets me see how high they rise. Slowing their growth can be done through reducing the feed or placing them in the refrigerator. And, of course, baking with them is a good way to use up excess starter.

Last year our granddaughter created a starter from our raspberries. At the end of their visit her mother packaged a portion of the starter for their trip home. Wanting to make sure our granddaughter had a successful experience, I looked into preserving the remaining starter. All I had to do was dehydrate it! Since then, I have shared this dehydrated starter with a friend and he successfully revived it.

I have a starter from cherries that has been going for more than two years now. I truly don’t need three sourdough starters. The whole reason to start the highbush cranberry and raspberry starters was to share with the Nelson community.

To get a Nelson “grown” sourdough starter, contact me, to arrange a pick up date, bring a jar and you’ll leave with your own “wee beasties”!

The rise after the first feeding

The rise 24 hours after the first feeding. Note the size of the spaces from the active yeast.

New loaves of sourdough bread

Delicious sourdough bread

The Apple Hill String Quartet: Elise Kuder, violin; Rupert Thompson, cello; Jesse MacDonald, violin; Mike Kelley, viola.

Live music is back at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. The concerts will feature the Apple Hill String Quartet, called “dashing and extraordinary” by The Strad magazine, along with guest artists. Apple Hill, winner of the 2015 Ewing Arts Award for Excellence in the Monadnock Region, will also be hosting the Summer Chamber Music Workshop, welcoming local, national, and international students of all ages. Central to the unique mission of Apple Hill, the Playing for Peace program uses music as a means to bridge cultural, religious, economic, and political divides.

There is much to celebrate at Apple Hill this summer. As it enters its 51st year, Apple Hill will be led by newly appointed Executive Director Javier Caballero, who started there 23 years ago as a cello student. He succeeds Lenny Matczynski, who guided Apple Hill’s development for 14 years.

The sell-out Tuesday Night Summer Concert Series offers seven live public performances in the Concert Barn. These world-class concerts, featuring the Apple Hill String Quartet, summer faculty, alumni, and guest artists, have become a summer staple of the Monadnock region. Each program reflects the diversity of Apple Hill: pieces amplifying new voices, views, and backgrounds in classical music; compositions drawn from the Quartet’s global travels and the summer workshop community; new commissions, especially from renowned alumni, along with the historic canon. The concerts will be preceded by buffet suppers on the lawn.

Concerts take place at Apple Hill’s Louise Shonk Kelly Concert Barn at 410 Apple Hill Road, in Nelson, New Hampshire. Reservations are required for the buffet supper, which costs $20.

All concerts are free and open to the public. To reserve a seat, the suggested donation is $30.

Booking in advance is recommended.

Tickets and more info.

or call 603-847-3371.

Val Van Meier writes a monthly column for the Nelson Agricultural Commission.

Chipmunks are scurrying around the rock walls, crying an alert sound anytime we walk nearby. Tonight an adult woodchuck scampered away as I stepped out the door. The robins nest had three hatchlings and last year’s invasion of eastern cottontail rabbits has, well, you guessed it….multiplied. The other evening my husband told me to slowly approach a window and watch six small rabbits and their Mom enjoy scurrying through my garden. This has me fearful for the tender seedlings I was hoping (pun intended) to plant out in the flower garden.

We prefer to live on land in Nelson without fences; rock walls determine the boundary of our land. My electric garden fence borders my vegetable garden and might spare those rabbits a nasty surprise. In this case, fences do make good neighbors. A barn cat to help with voles, chipmunks & RABBITS is appealing. Our tasty garden greens we would prefer to eat and not feed to critters.

Weed Tea

Those nutrient rich greens are nourished with my new favorite amendment, weed tea. You ask what is weed tea? Last year I started with a five gallon bucket added macerated leaves and roots of weeds, added water and let the warm days start decomposition. When the contents started smelling, somewhat like manure, I watered my plants. I typically dip a one-gallon pitcher into the “brew” and don’t worry if a few decomposed leaves flow in with the water. That’s just more nutrients to add to the soil. Never one to do something small, this year we have a 50-gallon rain barrel for weed tea. Comfrey is a good addition, especially before it flowers. The idea is that any long rooted plant draws nutrients from deep in the ground and those nutrients are then used in the green growth. The prolific plant, ground ivy, otherwise known as creeping charlie, a plant I’m sure you love to pull out, has flowers that feed many pollinators. After it is done flowering, put it to good use, use that green growth to feed your tomatoes and cucumbers. If you are worried about raising a scourge (the collective noun I found online) of mosquitoes in the barrel, place a mosquito dunk in the water. A mosquito dunk is about the size of those small packaged powder sugar donuts, it contains a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis serotype israelensis or bti for short that the mosquito larvae feed on and then die. It’s ingenious and easy to use, just drop the dunk in the water and replace in 30 days.

Looking at the weeds in my garden in a different light, no not the light of dawn, my eyes are hopefully closed then. What use are weeds besides for weed tea? Many weeds, like lambs quarters, sorrel, purslane and ground ivy, are edible and quite tasty! Use them in your kitchen. By identifying your weeds, you can learn about your soil. There are resources that can tell you what weeds prefer what soil types. Some plants prefer rich soil, others poor and compacted. Ground ivy is an equal opportunity plant, though I find it most prolific growing in loose garden soil. It is a pioneering plant, spreading, setting roots and stabilizing soil, protecting it from erosion. It also seems to grow near clover; naturally, it must be using the nitrogen that the clover fixes in the soil. Ground ivy arrived in New England with the colonists. It was used in beer making when hops wasn’t available; it was also used in herbal remedies and as a substitute for rennet in cheese making. I make my own feta cheese and want to research this further. A bitters made with ground ivy, bee balm, mint, etc. is maturing in our pantry as I write this column.

Those weeds underfoot can feed not only our plants, ourselves and of course the growing population of rabbits.


Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie detail

Overview of veggie garden and weed tea barrel

Weed Tea

Mother and Child

Fields of Nelson

Trees … maple, pine, ash, oak, and more cover Nelson’s hills, valleys, and most of New Hampshire. After exploring (some call this bushwhacking) the woods through a blanket of green or gray-brown, depending on season, I’ll often come out onto a road, homestead, or fields. This time of year, when I come out to a field, I like to stop, breath in the scent, enjoy the sunshine, flowering grasses, the beauty of the clearing, and hopefully a view.

May 9, 2022|

September 27, 2021|

Murdough Hill Meander Trail

The Murdough Hill Meander Trail is an easy to moderate, 1.5 mile loop that treats the hiker to an early 19th century mill site, a wetland bordering Otter Brook with several species of river mammals, numerous water birds and quite a variety of wild flowers.  Hikers get a glimpse of the Nelson School and the Munsonville Cemetery across the brook.

April 1, 2021|
By |2021-09-29T06:06:15-04:00September 27, 2021|Nelson in Common, Weekly Update|0 Comments

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