200 Summers of Roses

James Rundlet was a precise man, someone who carefully laid out the plans for his Portsmouth home and gardens using his considerable knowledge of geometry and trigonometry. Two hundred years later, the results are still pleasing.

He started life as a farmer’s son, but soon amassed a fortune as a merchant and investor. When Rundlet built his Federal-style house in 1807, he used his money to create, as one contemporary description put it, “one of the best and largest houses in the place, finely situated, imposing in appearance and an object of envy.”

Tongues wagged, according to the writer, that the house was built “too high” (it was atop a small hill) and many predicted “so much pride must have a fall.” It didn’t. Rundlet happily lived there, as did future generations of the Rundlet family.

You can celebrate the 200th anniversary of what’s now called the Rundlet-May House, a property owned by Historic New England, by taking a tour, starting June 1.

Historic New England also offers tours of its other N.H. properties: Jackson House and Governor John Langdon House, both in Portsmouth; Gilman Garrison House in Exeter; and the Barrett House in New Ipswich. For more information, visit www.historicnewengland.org.

Care & Feeding

Rose enthusiasts swear it’s easy to grow roses, as easy as it is to grow lilacs. As one writer put it, “After all, people have been growing roses even though they had no chemical fertilizers and sprays and were somewhat distracted by wars, inquisitions and the Black Death.” But if, despite all that, you still struggle to keep your floribundas alive, here are some tips from Tessie McKeown of the N.H. Rose
Society (www.nhrosesociety.org):

Buy good stock from a reputable nursery and pick out plants that have at least three healthy canes about
3/8-inch thick.

Locate the roses sensibly. Roses need six hours of full sun, preferably morning.

Educate yourself about how and when to plant.

Water, water, water. The soil should be damp (not swamp-soggy) all the time. Mulch will help.Feed established roses regularly — first when growth starts in the spring and then once a month until August. Half a cup of 10-10-10 per bush works well.

Stop insects and diseases from taking hold by spraying with fungicide or insecticide.

Prune and deadhead when needed.

In winter, protect sensitive varieties.

Find out more at the 2007 Rose Show June 23 at the Bedford Mall.

Hair Raising Experience

Think Marie Antoinette in her tallest tall-hair period and you start to get the picture. Then add wire, flowers, flashing lights and whatever else a creative hairstylist might come up with and you’ve got the Imperia Vodka Hair Competition. It’s coming up (and we do mean up) on June 2 at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. The competition is said to elevate the art of hairstyling to an architectural science.

Fifty hairstylists will compete for the most creative do — the more outrageous and gravity-defying the better. The competition is the brainchild of Martignetti Companies of NH, a wine and spirit distributor. It was conceived as a fundraiser and indeed it was. Last year, more than $70,000 was given away to charities. This year the proceeds will benefit the Elliot Breast Health Center.

Anne Dalton, Martignetti operations and marketing manager, says there’s nothing like the hair competition anywhere. It’s unique enough it’s gotten media attention around the world. “It is such fun,” she says. “ When you see these hairdos, you have a perpetual smile on your face. You just can’t believe your eyes.”

For the price of a ticket ($35) you can vote, along with several celebrity judges, on the best hairstyles and have a heck of a good time at this third annual competition. For more information and tickets, visit www.nhwines.com or www.verizonwirelessarena.com.

The Gentle Music

When De Luna reached her 40th birthday, a departing friend gave her a handmade harp. She would spend the next five years in the Virginia mountains playing it. “I couldn’t put it down,” she says. “It put me in a trance.”

De Luna (that’s her whole name) has been playing, performing and teaching harp ever since. Now a Hooksett resident, she has added Native American flutes, recorder, Tibetan singing bowl and bells to her voice and Celtic harp as her instruments, playing everything from early music to folk to pop. According to Celtic tradition, her harp has a stage name, Rrrrrosie.

“My music seems to carry the audience to a place of peace and tranquility,” she says. “It gives me the opportunity to help people remember parts of themselves they have forgotten.”

De Luna sells harps that make it easy and inexpensive to learn to play; they are called harpsicles (see above) and come in bright colors like bubble gum and grape. They only cost $295; her other harps go as high as $3,200. “Playing a harp has its challenges,” she says, “but if it’s in tune, it sounds nice no matter what you do.” For more information, visit www.delunaharps.com.

Who Knew?

There is an elite club based in New Hampshire called the Century Club. To join, you have to brave 100 mph winds on the rooftop viewing deck of the Mt. Washington Observatory. According to the Observatory Web site (www.mountwashington.org), you have to do it “without falling over or holding on to anything for support. On a calm day such a stroll takes merely a minute or two. In 100 mile per hour winds, the walk becomes a potentially dangerous adventure which can last up to 20 minutes before arriving back at the Observatory tower door. Add an icy deck into the equation, and completing this feat becomes quite an accomplishment. Membership in the Century Club is unofficial.”

Road Trip
Lancaster to Franconia
A scenic ride along the upper Connecticut River ends with fields of blooming lupines and White Mountain views.
By Barbara Radcliffe Rogers

Leave Lancaster on Route 135 south, which turns sharply just before the Mt. Orne Covered Bridge across the Connecticut River. The double-span truss bridge was built in 1911 to replace another that was destroyed in a logjam in 1908. This section of the river was filled with logs every spring, carrying them from the northern forests to lumber mills and shipping centers on the spring melt-off.

Route 135 follows the river closely, past farms that take advantage of the rich soil deposited by floodwaters. At Dalton, a long iron rail bridge crosses the river and, almost under it, is a put-in popular with canoe and kayak paddlers. This is in the middle of a 125-mile stretch of flat water, one of the longest and most scenic stretches of easy river paddling in New England.

Below the village center of Dalton the road climbs to the side of the steep valley wall, still following the river, but from a considerable height. About 7 miles south of Dalton village a lane to the right, signposted for a boat launch, leads down to the river, where alongside a scenic put-in are riverside picnic tables.

On entering the outskirts of Littleton, go straight ahead onto Route 18, past The Dells, a well-maintained day-use park and picnic area. Along with offering nature trails, the park’s pond is a favorite birding site.

Route 18 becomes Littleton’s Main Street, lined with historic buildings and the statue of Pollyanna, the children’s fictional character created by local author Eleanor Hodgman Porter.

Go straight when the main road curves left at the town hall, remaining on Route 18, which is now Cottage Street, past Bishops Ice Cream (444-6039). It’s worth a stop for their super sundae — a Bishop’s Bash. At the hospital, where Route 18 veers left, go straight ahead again on Gilmanton Hill Road. You’ll understand why the sign proclaims this a “Designated Scenic Road” as you climb the hill to drive through groves of hardwoods between a series of perfect stone walls.

Turn right to rejoin Route 18 (about 3 miles) and follow the Gale River into Franconia, where you will see the Franconia Iron Furnace across the river just after the right turn for Route 117 (about 2 miles). Signboards explain the operation of the stone furnace, where iron ore mined in Sugar Hill was smelted. Return to Route 117.

Turn left across the river and climb into Sugar Hill. To the left are views of the White Mountains and on the right is Polly’s Pancake Parlor (www.pollyspancakeparlor.com), about halfway up the long hill.

Turn left at the top (about 2 miles) onto Sunset Hill Road, for one of the finest views of the White Mountains over a foreground of blue lupines. Park along the road to wander in the meadow among them. The lupines are celebrated from June 8-24 at the 14th Annual Lupine Festival (www.franconianotch.org).

Return to Route 117 and turn left to continue into the pretty village of Sugar Hill. On the right, The Hilltop Inn (www.hilltop inn.com) is a charming B&B with genial hosts and magnificent breakfasts, a good overnight stopping point. (I-93 Exit 38 in Franconia is 4 miles from Sugar Hill.)

Length of trip: 37 miles

Plan Ahead

Green Means Go

If you’re a NASCAR fan — and even if you’re not — you’ve probably wondered what it’s like to drive a stock car around a track at 130 mph. Wonder no longer. Now you, for $399 and up, can don a real race suit, get in a real race car and speed around a real race track — thanks to Richard Petty Driving Experience. It’s a national program that comes to the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon three times a summer.

“Richard had a vision,” says Chris McKee, the company’s director of promotions.

“He wanted race fans to have the experience of being on real race tracks.” You can drive yourself or ride along with an experienced driver, and do it at three different levels: Rookie Experience, $399; Kings Experience, $799, or Experience of a Lifetime, $1,249.

If you’re riding along, just sit back and relax as best you can. If you’re driving, you have an hour orientation and a drive around the track in a van to determine your “drive line.” McKee says driving yourself is demanding, both physically and mentally. “You’re up on the wheel, tense, straining and probably white-knuckled,” he says.

Is it safe? McKee says in the company’s 15 years of experience at more than 20 tracks around the country, there’s never been a wreck. “Safety is number one for us; after 15 years, we have our hands around it.”

The takers for the experience are mostly men, about 90 percent, but McKee says recently two 88-year-old women took a spin. You do have to be able to get into and out of the car through a 15’ x 30’ window to do it.

Good Folk
Bill Morrissey, that icon of the folk music world, is back with a new CD.

He’s been on stages around the world, garnering critical acclaim and two Grammy nominations along the way. His 10 albums rendered in his distinctive voice (“flashes of gargled baritone,” as one writer put it) have made the 55-year-old Tamworth resident a celebrated folk music artist.

It’s no secret, though, that Morrissey spent some time in rehab this past year, confronting a demon that’s long plagued him. Lyrics from one of his songs on “Come Running,” his first album in several years, sum up where he was:

Thirty years going down by degrees
Thirty years of thank you and please
Till all you get is the smokers’ cough
and that alcohol disease
Little children, sing this song

Count on the fact that his recent experiences will be woven into his future songwriting and be written in his same acerbic, forceful way. Will his music mood be different without alcohol? Stay tuned.

Our Fine Furried Friends

Audubon birds — everybody knows about them. Audubon quadrupeds — not so much. Rebecca Ronstadt and the N.H. Audubon Society hope to change that.

After his work on “The Birds of America,” J.J. Audubon and his sons started a project that no one else had attempted: to document and depict all of the mammals of North America. The result was what is considered to be the most important natural history art of the 19th century, a book of hand-watercolored lithographs called, “The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America,” known by insiders as “The Quads.”

“The Birds” has been reproduced many times; not so “The Quads.” Until now, says Rebecca Ronstadt, a Gilmanton artist who is painstakingly re-creating all 150 images in the quads collection. “When I saw Audubon’s original lithographs for the first time, I was completely awestruck by their beauty,” she says. “It was then I realized there had to be a new edition of these beautiful works of art and I realized that I was uniquely qualified to do it.” She would combine her love of art with her love of nature.

Ronstadt is using the same lithography and hand-watercoloring processes used by Audubon himself. She estimates it’ll take four years to complete the project.

The majority of the plates she’ll be working from are owned by the N.H. Audubon Society. In exchange for their use, the organization will receive royalties from the sales of her reproductions. The subscription price for the complete set is $165,000; individual 22″ x 30″ lithographs — so far, the Canada lynx, musk ox, gray fox, black bear, fisher and California marmot squirrel are available — range from $750 to $3,900.

Both Ronstadt and the Society hope the works will inspire others to appreciate the beauty of the world around them and to help protect N.H.’s natural environment for wildlife and people. For more information, visit www.rebeccaronstadt.com or www.nhaudubon.org.

Street Smarts [A quickie guide to Main Street, Meredith]
Parallel to Route 25 in Meredith is the often-overlooked real Main Street of the town.

Chi-lin Asian Arts and Antiquities, 17 Lake St.

Owner Suzanne Lee has created a special shop that champions the Asian aesthetic. Lee features the paintings, prints and pottery ($125 to $2,000) of local artists, periodically hosting special exhibits. From her travels in Japan, she has gathered a collection of Asian antiques not originally built for export. For a special treat in the afternoon, be sure to visit Lee’s tea garden, set on an upper deck, and wander her Japanese garden. (www.chi-linasianarts.com)

Abondante Baking Company, 30 Main St.

Satisfy your cupcake yearnings with the company’s double-chocolate variety with a chocolate cheesecake center. This European-style bakery is tucked in the “Grotto” underneath Abondante, a Tuscan trattoria. The bakery features a variety of sweet treats and artisanal breads and also serves soups and sandwiches at lunchtime. Attached inside is the Grotto Wine Shop that offers an interesting collection of wines. (www.abondantenh.com/grotto.htm)

So Little Thyme, 30 Main St.

A little gourmet supply shop is also tucked under Abondante in the Grotto. Owner of So Little Thyme, Barbara Rosenblatt, has assembled a collection of interesting gadgets for the busy cook. Need a fancy dish towel or tiny tart pan? Looking for just the right pan for that dessert recipe? Stoneware bowls or pitchers in designer glazes from Bennington Pottery are tucked in along with cookbooks and the latest tools that make quick work of a soufflé.

Bella’ Beads, 38 Main St.

Back and to the right of Abondante is Bella’ Beads, filled with crystal beads, seed beads, lamp-worked beads and more. Owner Sue Vachon creates seed bead necklaces ($80) in monotones and studs them with tiny Swarovski crystals. The piece shown here ($300) features Murano ceramic beads imported from Italy. New items are the handmade bead bags to organize your beads and tools, handy for beading on the go. Vachon offers a variety of classes. (www.bellabeadsnh.com)

Once New Vintage Wares, 38 Main St.

Are your period-looking doors needing authentic door knobs? Once New Vintage Wares specializes in vintage hardware and has a fine collection of brass ($50 to $145), rosettes, glass and ceramic knobs. For the cook, there is a wall of cast-iron pans already seasoned and ready to sear. Remember the milkman? Relive the home delivery days with glass milk bottles, perfect for a casual spray of garden flowers. Owner Cheryl Hook may have one from your town. (603) 279-5151)

The Village Perk, 48 Main St.

Relax a bit on cozy couches at the Village Perk with a cup of Java Tree coffee. This coffee house and deli outsmarts the likes of Starbucks with its locally roasted beans and fresh-made pastries by Donna Love’s Love Bites. This peanut butter and chocolate pie is smooth and sublime without being too sweet. Donna does chocolate right and it is a treat to find her desserts anywhere. (www.thevillageperk.com)

Book Shelf

Quiet Catalyst

A century ago, composer Edward MacDowell and his wife Marian built a cabin in the woods on their extensive Peterborough property so Edward could spend quiet time with his muse. It no doubt helped make him the success he was.

The couple thought other creative people should have the same opportunity, and so they built more cabins, creating the now internationally renowned MacDowell Colony.

James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Willa Cather, Aaron Copland, Alice Walker, Thornton Wilder — just a few of people who have spent time there. Most were not well known when they came. Many went on to become some of the nation’s most influential talents; 65 have won Pulitzer Prizes.

To mark the colony’s centennial, “A Place for the Arts” was published [University Press of New England, $39.95]. It celebrates the MacDowell legacy with personal perspectives on the colony experience written by MacDowell fellows, beautiful photographs and much more.

Magic Maker

Walk into Tom Dabrowski’s home in suburban Manchester and it feels a little Alice-in-Wonderland-ish. In the room as you enter is an accordion that plays by itself, a brightly painted ironing board and three carousel horses — all created by Dabrowski. Then there’s his over-sized garage where you find a player piano he altered to power 12 instruments — from violin to snare drum — and a miniature merry-go-round with horses he made from a cutting board
(“I hand-sewed the canopy, too”). Add to the mix an old calliope, popcorn machine, antique cars and a bunch of music boxes, and you’ve obviously got a man of many interests.

Is there anything you can’t fix or make?

I wouldn’t want to work on a rocket ship. The people wouldn’t come back. But if it’s mechanical, I guess I can figure it out.

How did all this get started?

I was a chiropractor before I retired and had a patient who wanted to give me a music box because she felt I had saved her life. It wasn’t working and I got it working. That was the beginning of it.

Do you think everyone should have a couple of carousel horses in their living room?

I’ve always thought so. It’s a form of art, like having a Rembrandt on your wall. If you have a Loof, Denzel or PTC, these were the best carvers of their day.

You made these horses, though. How did you do that?

I know what I want them to look like, and to use that old phrase, I take everything off that doesn’t look like a horse. I did whittle a lot as a kid and took woodworking shop in junior high.

Do you ride carousels?

At every park I’ve ever been to that had them — probably 100.

How many hours do you spend working on all this stuff?

Morning to night.

What’s next?

Now that my wife is retired, we want to travel and I’ll sell off the collection. It wouldn’t bother me. You’re almost like a caretaker; the stuff always needs attention. It’s time for someone else to take care of it.

New Hampshire Stuff
Who’s Hot? Our staff tasted 5 N.H.-made salsas. Here’s what they thought.

Mitchell’s Fresh Salsa — Mild
All in all, this salsa won over the most staff members, one calling it “fresh and flavorful” and another describing it as “fresh with a cilantro flavor and just enough heat.” If you’re a fresh-chopped-veggie-style of salsa lover, then this one is for you. We also sampled and enjoyed the hot version of this salsa, though there are other flavors to choose from.
(603) 731-0593

Crooked Birch Kitchen — Three Pepper and Black Olive
This is not your traditional salsa, as the jar describes it as not only a salsa but a bruschetta and tapenade as well. This is definitely for the vegetable lovers out there as opposed to those who like the heat. The other Crooked Birch Kitchen salsa we tried and liked was the Tomato and Jalapeno version, which is advertised again as doubling for a bruschetta topping. One staff member called it “complex with a variety of flavors.” Another enjoyed the fresh tomato taste and “medium bite.”

Zeb’s General Store —Hot Garlic Salsa
Moving away from the salsas heavy on the vegetables, Zeb’s of North Conway is more in line with traditional thinner salsas with larger chunks of tomatoes. Every staff member agreed that it was hot — as promised. Most described it as either “smoky” or as having a “woody” flavor. This is only one of several flavors sold at Zeb’s General Store.
(800) 676-9294

Better Than Fred’s — Medium
If you’re looking for the classic salsa, this is it. Though we stuck to the medium version, Better Than Fred’s has many more varieties that range from mild to hot to peach and Caribbean-style. We also used their white corn tortilla chips in the shape of moose antlers for our salsa taste test.
(603) 965-0069

Mischievous Moose
Truly your homemade salsa that arrives in a very unassuming package. Overall, the very fresh tomato flavor struck staff members. The Mischievous Moose salsa is a traditional salsa with a medium bite and a good combination of spice and tomato.

You can find them at Campton Corners on Route 49 in Campton.