New England Bookshelves

No matter where you travel in New England, you will find books: at antique shops, rental homes, inns, bookstores and even some restaurants and coffee houses. In New England, we love to read. It’s been part of our culture since the region was settled in the 1600s. Reading and books define us. A friend once remarked, “I enjoy meeting people, but I particularly like visiting their homes for the first time and seeing their bookshelves. What they read tells me so much about who they are.”

Bookcase in Chatham
Bookcase in Chatham, MA

How those books got onto the shelves is also a story, one that’s really a narrative of life. When we first started dating in the 1980s, we often found ourselves in a bookstore after a nice dinner or an invigorating hike. (Things haven’t changed much for us since.) It didn’t matter whether the bookstore had new or used books, because what was on the pages of those books always left a lifelong impression. They became part of us. Perhaps the story we write now is an attempt to attach us to our books, inspiring a future reader long after we’re gone.

Today, when we pull a book off the shelf, it immediately evokes memories of the day we bought it and of that particular time in our lives. For instance, we fondly remember two cookbooks (one Greek, the other Eastern European) that we picked up in 1988 after a fall visit to Pack Monadnock in Peterborough, NH. Now, when either of those books is removed, we recall hiking the Wapack Trail that day, dining afterwards at Hiroshi Hayashi’s innovative Latacarta restaurant, discovering a great recipe for Shopska salad and listening to Pachelbel’s Canon later that evening. It’s fascinating how our brains retain information by association.

Other bookshelves tell stories too. Recently, we vacationed by the Oyster River in Chatham, MA on Cape Cod. Like many New England seasonal, coastal properties, our rental home had three elements familiar to many of us: beach paintings; musty smells; and bookcases of old, out-of-print books. Such bookshelves are a chronicle of decades of New England guests and snapshots of periods in American history. We were immediately drawn toward the hardcovers and paperbacks in our rental cottage.

One title in particular drew our attention: Massachusetts: A Guide to the Pilgrim State, edited by Ray Bearse. It was printed in 1971, the second edition of a book originally commissioned by the WPA in 1937. In the preface, the editor reflects on how much things changed in the time period between the first and second editions. Reading the latter edition forty years after its publication left us equally moved. It not only provided an interesting view of how much things had changed since 1971, but also affirmed how many of those things we hold so dear remain constant. But with the book in our hands we asked: Who put this on the bookshelf in Chatham? Why did they come to New England? What happened to the author? Why did he choose to write about Massachusetts? What other visitors over the years picked up the book? Did the book influence their visit?

Parnassus Book Service
Parnassus Book Service, Yarmouthport, MA

During that same trip, we went to some used bookstores on the Cape hoping to find another copy of the book. Even one of our favorite New England bookstores, Parnassus Book Service in Yarmouthport, MA didn’t have it. After several more attempts we realized our search might be futile, but we finally found the book online, and bought it. At the time of this writing it hadn’t yet arrived, but we know the book will end up on one of our bookshelves. From now on when we remove it from the shelf, we’ll recall our trip to Chatham, reflect on how much Massachusetts has changed, remember a wonderful vacation with family, and savor the smell of just-ground coffee and fresh-baked muffins from the Chatham Village Café where we wrote this story.

-The Two Palaverers

Photo credits: The Two Palaverers


Accidental Maple Syrup

There are many common signs of spring in places where changes of season are clearly evident: flowers pushing up through the last patches of snow to reach the increasing sunshine; birds returning to nest; and frogs serenading from their vernal pools. Here in New England, we have a few more signs of spring: towns repairing potholes; rural cars tackling mud; schoolboys stripping down to shorts and tee-shirts on the first day over fifty degrees; and crowds returning to Fenway Park for Red Sox baseball. We also have a brief, rite of spring that provides lasting and sweet pleasure for the remainder of the year: maple sugaring.

Maple sugar season typically begins in March and lasts until early April. It begins when warm days follow cold nights and trigger the sap to flow or “run.” During this brief season, New England becomes host to many sugar shacks, which are small cabins where collected sap is boiled into maple syrup. When buds appear on the maple trees, these shacks quickly disappear as the sap ceases to flow. This entire ritual takes place quietly, often going unnoticed by most people, unless one is in the maple sugaring business or doing it as a hobby. It’s interesting to consider that this all started with the Native Americans. Little did we know – or anticipate – we’d be joining the world of maple sugaring and syrup production. And it was all by mistake.

The most compelling reason why we bought our 105 year old fixer-upper several years back stood outside our front door: a huge, beautiful and majestic 100 year old street maple, that we named “Big Bertha.” Though we heard rumors that the previous homeowners had tapped Big Bertha for syrup, we had become so busy that we neglected to follow up on our plan to continue their tradition of making syrup. This year – by accident – we had no choice but to try our hand at maple sugaring.

Big Bertha gets injured in November 2010
Big Bertha gets injured in November 2010

Last November, Big Bertha was maimed during the installation of a new waterline to our home. She lost part of a major limb as a result of the backhoe placement. This incident came as quite a shock, especially since the branch was removed without our consent. Bertha sustained an unfortunate injury, but it was better to lose a limb than to lose an entire tree. According to the contractor, we had been just minutes from losing her if the water line hadn’t been able to be snaked under the tree. Big Bertha sat right on top of the 105-year-old water line.

Big Bertha spent much of the winter resting and recuperating, blanketed by mountains of snow. But a few weeks back, the warm days brought her to tears, literally. She began crying from her wound. The constant weeping, though rather upsetting to us, led to the realization that her sap was running. Maple sugar season arrived when we realized her limb became a huge tap.

Frozen sap
Frozen sap

With pan in hand, we rushed out to collect the sap. Using what we captured, we made wonderful syrup. That old saying came to us: “When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.” We modified it for our purposes: “When a contractor wounds your maple tree in the fall, you make maple syrup in the spring.” It’s just a bit of consolation for the loss of her beautiful limb, which we will miss dearly when the leaves arrive. Perhaps it was her way of sharing this part of her long life with her new guardians.

Collecting sap
Collecting sap
Boiling down the sap - first stage
Boiling down the sap - first stage
Boiling down the sap - second stage
Boiling down the sap - second stage
Boiling down the sap - end stage
Boiling down the sap - end stage

So what was the result? Bertha’s syrup was delicious, the best we’ve ever had! As the sap boiled down to syrup, the aroma permeated the house. We were left with a nectar rich in maple flavor with stunning amber color and clarity. Fortunately, her wound should heal by next year, so we’ve decided to buy some real taps for next season and continue this New England tradition. Maple sugaring was a great experience, and a sweet way to end a long, bitter winter!

Homemade New England Maple Syrup
Homemade New England Maple Syrup

The only things missing are the pancakes and the French toast…

-The Two Palaverers

Photo credits: The Two Palaverers




Route 1A

Because we travel all over New England, we’re often asked: “How do you know where to drive?” Though we don’t think about it much, we use a combination of process and intuition when we hit the roads of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. On the process side, we have a large number of maps, some quite new and many over 100 years old. We also have smart phones and global positioning system (GPS) devices. Additionally, we maintain several databases of information, much of which includes historical village records as well as primary and secondary research. On the intuition side of the equation, we determine our next turn by looking at architecture, stonewalls, and old roads that often include names of neighboring towns, points of interest, and historic families. Our intuition also guides us to the “A” roads, such as Route 1A.

Route 1A, Newbury, Massachusetts
Route 1A, Newbury, Massachusetts

What’s the significance of an “A” road? To us, it’s where you discover New England. Many “A” roads are original routes through the old towns, villages, and hamlets; it’s where you find classical architecture as well as centuries of history. They’re often the most scenic (and winding) roads as well. Many original New England roads began as old Indian trails or were created by settlers to support commerce and trade. Throughout New England roads such 1A in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, 12A in Vermont, and 4A in New Hampshire offer visitors a nice retrospective of America before the automobile. Note that the route number and less-frequent, accompanying letter designation did not show up until later.

As the popularity of the automobile in New England increased, cities and towns not only improved old, existing roads, but made new throughways as well. In 1911, the Quebec-Miami International Highway was created as the major north-south travel passage combining old and new roads. It was renamed The Atlantic Highway in New England in 1915. By 1922, improvements and new sections were added and it was renamed Route 1 in New England; the entire route to Florida was called Route 1 by 1926. Route 1 became the commerce route for many New England towns, driving a shift from many of the older routes that would subsequently be renamed “1A.” Though research is limited on the letter designation, one may speculate there were economic motivations for bringing travelers back to the old parts of town. Decades later, the Interstate system in New England was started in the 1950s, with Interstate 95 becoming the bypass (in most parts) to Routes 1 and 1A. Interstate 95 from New England to Florida was completed in 1970.

In this region it’s not unusual to find Route 1A, Route 1, and Interstate 95 in close proximity to one another. Though each of these roads represents different times in New England history, the richest and most interesting is 1A. One of our favorite Route 1A drives is from Salem, MA to York, ME, with short stops in many coastal towns such as Newburyport, MA, and Portsmouth, NH. Be sure not to miss smaller towns along the way, as all have a great deal of history, charm, and things to see. Route 1A is also a cornucopia of site markers, small signs that evoke another era. Recently we stopped at one identifying the “Minister’s Woodlot” from 1660 in Rowley, MA.

Old Barn, Route 1A, Newbury, Massachusetts
Old Barn, Route 1A, Newbury, Massachusetts

Enjoy Route 1A in New England. Catch a flea market. Visit a museum. Nosh on some fried clams. It’s worth the diversion from Route 1 and Interstate 95. Please note that many sections of Route 1A are not contiguous and frequently branch off and back onto Route 1.

-The Two Palaverers

Photo credits: The Two Palaverers




Snow. Snow. Snow. There’s always a frenzy when a good ‘ole nor’easter works its way toward New England in the winter time. The store shelves are cleared of bread, water, and milk. The firewood is piled high. Many are glued to their televisions, changing stations from one meteorologist to the next looking for any extremes in the forecast. Have we not seen this before? This is New England and it snows here in the winter. Last year we commented on the non-stop snow. This year, we’re turning to Whittier for some rationale reflection.

Whittier Homestead in Winter
Whittier Homestead in Winter

For those of you not familiar with John Greenleaf Whittier, he was a famed 19th century American poet born in 1807 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Today, he is not well known, perhaps his works eroded by the tides of time or eclipsed by the moon of Robert Frost. In Essex County in Massachusetts, you’ll find his name attached to the occasional street or school, likely found in a Victorian-era neighborhood. His homestead is remarkably preserved, though like many great buildings in the region, only open seasonally. Nonetheless, we thought it fitting to summon Whittier on this cold, windy, and snowy New England evening. We’ve included an excerpt below, but the complete poem can be found here. In the meantime, we’ll go sit by the fire, admire the Christmas tree, and listen to the snow brush up against the window panes.

-The Two Palaverers

Credits: Mural from the Whittier Home, Amesbury, MA. Painter, Jon Moores, photo by Pam Fenner.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Snowbound: A Winter Idyl

To the Memory of the Household It Describes, This Poem is Dedicated by the Author

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, —
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingàd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines Of Nature’s geometric signs,
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below, —
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa’s leaning miracle.


The Senses of Fall in New England

Old Barn in Fall, New England
Old Barn in Fall, New England

It’s October in New England, which means we’re getting treated to our annual parade of colors from the trees to the pumpkins to the mums. Though we’re not a big region of the country, we do have enough climate diversity that we can enjoy the show for about a month.  Missed it in Vermont and New Hampshire? No problem.  Catch it in on Nantucket or in Connecticut.

But there’s so much more to fall in New England; the other senses won’t be denied. Many of us know when the season arrives not just the the sight of leaf changes, but by the smell of the season.  Fall has a different aroma and we – either consciously or subconsciously – seek it out. Our palettes won’t be denied either because the last of the harvest brings its own special seasonal offerings.  Recently at a harvest festival  in Rockport, MA we had our first mulled cider of the season made from local Cape Ann apples. It certainly took the edge off the remains of an Atlantic storm that was kind enough to provide some very stiff winds on a brisk day. We’d be remiss if we were to forget the sense of sound.  Though the equinox begins to usher in a quieter time, it also gives us the rustle of newly-fallen leaves, closing music for a beautiful season. And finally, fall affects the sense of touch, which could be the brush with an early snow flurry or the feel of a just-picked apple.

Farm Stand, Boxford, MA
Farm Stand, Boxford, MA

Seasons are a gift of place and New England is one of the most generous in the country. Your senses will be grateful.

-The Two Palaverers

Photos credit: WW Owens, The Two Palaverers


New England Farm to Fork

On a recent, beautiful, summer evening, approximately seventy-five lucky individuals converged on Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA at closing time. Gathering among rows of tomato plants and other ripening farm vegetables, the crowd slowly filled the chairs that flanked three long tables draped with white tablecloth and adorned with beautiful fresh cut flowers. Many in attendance had never met before, but would share a common bond tonight: a culinary experience with fresh food from New England.
Chef Todd Heberlein, Wilson Farm, Lexington, MA
Chef Todd Heberlein, Wilson Farm, Lexington, MA

Dining in a location where one typically doesn’t sit down to eat (like in a field, a dock or a barn) is a novelty, and only added to the anticipation of knowing that much of our dinner had been picked hours earlier from the very field where we now sat. For us, it was reminiscent of the feeling we would get while picnicking with our young sons on a rainy day in our living room: out of the ordinary yet quite special.

Through the din of conversation, our servers (folks who worked at the farm stand and recently trained for the evening) began serving up course after course upon the table, some plated individually, and others offered family-style. With each course, Wilson Farm Chef Todd Heberlein would proudly and passionately explain each dish’s contents, philosophy, and thoughtful preparation. The colors, aromas, and flavors were an amplification of their freshness and a testament to Chef Heberlein’s artistry.

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho Salad, Wilson Farm
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho Salad, Wilson Farm

Some of our friends and fellow bloggers- A Boston Food Diary, Cave Cibum, & Doves and Figs– produced some excellent write-ups and pictures of the event.  Please do check their wonderful perspectives.

As the courses passed, the sun was replaced by candlelight, adding another welcome dimension to the evening. Ultimately, seventy-five content, satiated people left Wilson Farm as friends – not just with one another, but also with a passionate local chef and with a farm that very much embraces its New England heritage.

There is no better way to celebrate the harvest than to dine on food, simply and lovingly prepared where it was grown, shared at a community table among people who appreciate it and enjoyed in the fresh air beneath the open sky.

As we’ve said many times before: New England is as much about the people as it is about the history, culture, food and the landscape. We saw this here as well. Jim Wilson, one of the owners of Wilson Farm, was present  the entire evening, sharing his big smile and ensuring that we were enjoying ourselves. Chef Heberlein didn’t hide either, making the rounds and checking to make sure we were smiling. Great New Englanders. Great farm. Great evening.

-The Two Palaverers

Photos credit: The Two Palaverers


More Snow in the Forecast

One night last week at about 10:00 p.m., we put on our boots, picked up our shovels and cleared 8 inches of wet, February snow. It was quiet and peaceful, the solitude occasionally interrupted by the random snow plow. We were in the “snow zone,” our shoveling motions synchronized and unconsciously coordinated. It was a great opportunity to talk about our day and contemplate the upcoming Red Sox season. A snowy evening is very soothing.

Ariens SnowblowerFor the first time in our New England lives, we don’t have a snowblower. Before we moved out of the region for several years, we had a big, orange, dual-stage Ariens machine. It would displace the mightiest of snowbanks in about five minutes. There was no need for it when we moved Atlanta, so we sold it for a song. Knowing we would eventually return, we should have put it in storage up here.  After returning to New England, we contemplated another Ariens, but we bought a house without a garage in an old neighborhood. Apparently the handy New England barn built with the house over one-hundred years ago was removed several owners back, so we’d have no place to store the snowblower anyways. As for the concept of having a barn, we’ll just need to keep those aspirations for our very own New Yankee Workshop on hold, at least for a while. And we’ll keep shoveling in the meantime.

Alas, here we are again with more snow in the forecast, but things seem different now: New England has become Atlanta.  At the first flurry, people clear out the grocery stores, towns cancel school, and everyone goes into a panic. What’s happened to us? We used to look forward to snow. We used to embrace it. What’s happened to us? A recent editorial in the the Andover Townsman (MA) articulated it best:

Andover Townsman

Snow in New England? Chill out

You probably heard a lot less hype about the storm that delivered 8 inches of snow Tuesday than you did about the big nothing of a storm that breezed though last Wednesday. But let’s give the weather people a break. You can’t blame them for focusing on the first storm – they know what sells.

There was a time not terribly long ago when New Englanders and Andoverites were viewed as hearty people who could take a mid-range snowstorm in stride. But, more and more, at the first sign of flakes we seem to be flooding the highway to drive home, or running to Market Basket and filling shopping carts with canned goods. Many of us act as if we might be stranded for weeks without chicken noodle soup, when, in truth, there are ever-ready plows clearing the roads.

As with many other things, Americans do tend to get hysterical about the weather these days. Of course, severe weather can be life-threatening, but few storms fall into this category.  It’s time for us all to relax a bit when a snowstorm is forecast. Next storm, how about we wait for the roads to clear, light a fire when we get home if we can, and enjoy the scenery. Chances are, for most of us, there will be a can of soup in the cupboard should we get hungry. – February 18, 2010

Be a rugged New Englander again. Go enjoy the snow – even if you don’t have a big snowblower to move it around.

-The Two Palaverers


A Winter Walk in the New England Woods

Harold Parker State Forest MA
Harold Parker State Forest MA

We hear many people lament about the long winter season here in New England. Candidly, none of us really pays attention to it until after the holidays, which effectively gives us about three months of winter until that first -yet fleeting – warm day in late March. By February, though, regional mood patterns are far from a crescendo. For whatever reason, the colder temperatures force an implicit, involuntary incarceration. Liberation, fortunately, is found often in the form of thermals and a good wool hat. That’s been our modus operandi for years and it makes the winter months seem less isolating.

Interestingly, we’ve come across two books that have been pulling us outdoors and into the woods: Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England by Tom Wessels with etchings by Brian D. Cohen and Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls by Robert M. Thorson. What these authors reveal is that many forests in New England present not just natural beauty, but also a historical narrative on the development of the region. Every winter hike we take, aside from the physical benefits, is a stimulating story of hardscrabble farming, complex property grants and ongoing efforts at land conservation.

We believe it was Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic who once wrote:

It’s amazing how two people standing side-by-side in a foreign land can see two entirely different things.

A little education is like turning on a light in a dark room. For us, we applaud both authors for illuminating the interesting natural and regional history and allowing us to see entirely different things. The New England woods in winter, with their canopies removed, share so much more and reveal impressive contours, hidden brooks, and other elements of the natural landscape.

For many of us here in New England, this experience starts not too far from our own back doors. Begin your journey with a hike through some nearby conservation land or at a local Audubon sanctuary. Just remember to dress warm and realize you won’t have to wait until spring for emancipation. And one more thing: many of the people we see while hiking in winter often have smiles on their faces. So much for the seasonal doldrums.

-The Two Palaverers


New England Artisan & Farmstead Cheese Makers are Crafting Up Some Classics

In the early 1980’s, a wave of small independent cheese shops sprung up in the suburbs around New York City. It worked out well for those of us not in the city because traveling into Manhattan was often challenging and – as it is today – very time-consuming. Until then, we were limited to the choices at our local grocery stores, which consisted mostly of the processed, pre-packaged or generic uninspired varieties.

Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge MA
Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge MA

I had the privilege of working at The Better Cheddar Cheese Shop, one of those new, avant-garde purveyors in northern New Jersey. Located at the historic Tice Farm in Woodcliff Lake, the small shop carried cheeses that were exotic and sophisticated to our unseasoned and unrefined palates of the time.

Over time, we became rather busy and our clientele grew. We had both regular local customers as well as those from the city who were escaping for a day in the “country.” (It always seemed more like suburbia and less like “country” to me.) Richard Nixon was a frequent visitor to the farm, having settled in the area after leaving Washington, D.C.

With great enthusiasm, I learned all that I could about cheese, albeit the hard way – by tasting and talking with wholesalers. We didn’t have the books, training or internet so prevalent today. We were excited by our “large” number of imported cheeses, now paltry compared with contemporary cheese counters. On the domestic side, I remember cheddars (Wisconsin, New York and Vermont), some fresh mozzarella, feta, and assorted spreads with cheddar and cream cheese bases.

Sadly, the farm and many like it were replaced by large corporate buildings and homogeneous mini malls. Though I saw many of the small local cheese shops quietly close their doors, I never lost interest in cheese.  It is always a thrilling sight and a culinary pleasure for me, whether home or abroad, to walk in to a well-stocked, knowledgeable and friendly cheese shop. It feels like home to me. When I moved to New England decades ago, I was immediately impressed by the regional, budding cheese culture. Surprisingly, it dates back to the English and Dutch settling of North America.

Today, I am especially pleased to see so many more New England cheese artisans practicing this wonderful art, which is a true labor of love. Increasing numbers of these cheese makers travel the globe learning from world renowned cheese masters and incorporating classic styles while leveraging their own unique terroir and indigenous fare. Many are winning national awards. Comparing this growing specialty cheese industry to the evolution of the US wine industry, I think we have much to look forward to as these artisans develop and refine their craft.

Hannahbells Cheese
Hannahbells Cheeses, Shy Brothers Farm, Westport MA

New England artisan and farmstead cheeses come from all six states; some producers have been doing this for years, while many are new. I applaud their efforts. Though I haven’t yet tried all the New England cheeses, I am determined to do so. Perhaps it is the locavore in me, but I feel a strong connection, an inherent sense of pride and a good deal pleasure from enjoying cheese produced in my own region of the world.

I encourage cheese lovers to sample and enjoy these creations from New England. Serve them along side your old standbys and international favorites. Ask your cheesemonger to point you toward the local and regional varieties. The more we seek out New England cheeses, the more readily available they will be.

Be sure to take advantage of local cheese offerings when you see them on restaurant menus. Remember that many of the farmstead cheeses are produced from the farm’s own herd and yields are justifiably low. Some are sold exclusively to local restaurants, but many are available retail to the general public.

Though my cheese shop in New Jersey is a fond memory, I am fortunate to benefit from the cheese purveyors and cheese artisans of New England.

-Laura Ciampa, Palaverer Too

Some favorites thus far:

Alys’s EclipseCarlisle Farmstead Cheese– Carlisle, MA
Ascutney MountainCobb Hill Cheese– Hartland, VT
Bridgid’s Abbey, Bloomsday & Drunken Hooligan- Cato Corner Farm– Colchester, CT
Burrata with Roasted Garlic and Onion – Fiore di Nonno– Somerville, MA
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – Cabot Creamery & Jasper Hill Farms– Greensboro, VT
ChevreThe Farmstead At Mine Brook– Charlemont, MA
ChevreHillman Farm– Colrain, MA
Chevre Roulé with Nutmeg & Green PeppercornsYork Hill Farm– New Sharon, ME
Classic Chevre- Seal Cove Farm– LaMoine, ME
Cremont- Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery– Websterville, VT
Crottina- Blue Ledge Farm– Salisbury, VT
Divine Providence and Atwells GoldNarragansett Creamery, RI
Downeast Derby- State of Maine Cheese Company– Rockport, ME
Fiddlehead Tomme & Baby SwissBoggy Meadow Farm– Walpole, NH
Full Circle Goat TommeWest River Creamery– Londonderry, VT
Fuzzy WheelTwig Farm– West Cornwall, VT
Great Hill BlueGreat Hill Dairy– Marion, MA
Green Mountain Gruyere- Blythedale Farm– Corinth, VT
HannahbellsShy Brothers Farm– Westport, MA
Landaff Cheese- Landaff Creamery– Landaff, NH
Maggie’s Round- Cricket Creek Farm– Williamstown, MA
MozzarellaMozzarella House– Everett, MA
Oma- von Trapp Farmstead– Waitsfield, VT
Organic Champlain TripleChamplain Valley Creamery– Vergennes, VT
Salsa JackPineland Farms– New Gloucester, ME
TarentaiseThistle Hill Farm– North Pomfret, VT
TAVA Chevre with Chive & GarlicSangha Farm– Ashfield, MA
Topnotch TommeMt. Mansfield Creamery– Morrisville, VT


Museums, Museums Everywhere

History is representational, while time is abstract; both of these artifices may be found in museums, where they span everybody’s own vacancy.

Robert Smithson

I am sure they were always there right under my nose, all those museums – big and small – that dot the regional landscape. I just didn’t notice until I returned to New England from living in an area with fewer museums. Many of us are familiar with the larger, local, nationally-recognized institutions such as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Manchester’s Currier Museum of Art, MASS MoCA, Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke, Peabody Essex Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, Plimoth Plantation, Portland Museum of Art, Vermont’s Shelburne Museum, and Newport’s The Breakers. These are all great destinations worthy of a lifetime of visits.

John Greenleaf Whittier House, Amesbury, MA
John Greenleaf Whittier House, Amesbury, MA

But what about those smaller places that aren’t quite so famous? I am referring to the many historical societies, college art galleries, thematic places, historic structures, conservation land, and other areas that are easy to miss and often difficult to find unless one stumbles upon them by accident or hears about them through a child’s class trip or from attending a friend’s wedding.

These are usually more intimate places, many of which are free and open to the public, operated by dedicated curators, staff and volunteers, and often constrained by limited funds and smaller scale exhibits. Charged with the monumental task of preserving our rich New England heritage, these innumerable jewels are rich in depth, not breadth, but their numbers compensate for the latter.

Are there really that many? Recently, a friend of ours from Massachusetts told us of a group of ladies from her church who visit a local museum every Wednesday. They’ve been doing this for five years and have never been to the same one twice! Wow. That not only says something about the group’s dedication and research, but about where we live.

John Greenleaf Whittier House Sign
John Greenleaf Whittier House Sign

The next time you’re passing through a city or town, take notice of that building with the “open” sign or the green space with the weathered plaque. Check it out because something interesting awaits you. It doesn’t need to be a long, planned process or a daylong adventure, rather a quick visit on the way to getting a coffee may suffice. Perhaps it’s even a respite from rush hour traffic, a visit with a friend before meeting for lunch, or a welcome lunchtime diversion from work stress. You may find yourself wishing for a longer visit.

So as you drive through New England, take notice of those signs by the road and get off at that next exit to visit these little treasures. You’ll find there’s a good deal more behind the sign. Please let us know what you find next time you pull over and explore a small, New England museum.

-Laura Ciampa, Palaverer Too