Prescriptions from the past

When you spot the forsythia at Strawbery Banke, you know you don’t have to wait much longer to enjoy the gardens there. John Forti, curator of historic landscape, is working to get the gardens up and running (there’s a volunteer cleanup day on Apr. 21, if you’re interested) so they’ll be ready for the May 1 opening.

If you have an interest in herbs, Strawbery Banke’s herb garden is a great place to learn about them. It contains more than 100 different plants, ranging from angelica to yarrow, many of them medicinal herbs.

Forti says the herbs are the same as the ones that grew near early colonists’ homes in what were called kitchen or “physic” gardens. “They were called that,” he says, “because historically the cook was considered ‘half a physician.’ They understood that everything you ate contributed to wellness.”

If someone had an upset stomach, tea made from the garden’s peppermint or chamomile was administered. Comfrey, recognized today as generating cellular growth, was used for healing wounds. Yarrow, a blood stauncher, was used as a stypic. Sage, now a known antibacterial, was put in with the dressing in a bird.

How did the early colonists know how the herbs would work? Forti says they simply had good powers of observation. “When you grow and eat these things,” he says, “you come to know the different attributes.” They had some things wrong, though. They thought that, because tobacco was hot and dry, it would dry up phlegm.

To learn more about the herb garden, special events and volunteer cleanup, visit Forti is available to give talks on the subject and to lead tours.

Long-ago Lore

There are enough interesting aspects of the early use of herbs to fill a book (a good one is “American Household Botany” by Judith Sumner), but here are a few fun tidbits, courtesy of Strawbery Banke.

Angelica was used as a palliative during the plague of 1665 and was thought to fend off witches.

Costmary was used by colonists as bible markers and eaten during sermons to prevent boredom.

Johnny Jump Up (also called Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me) was once used in love potions.

It was thought that dew collected from the leaves of Lady’s Mantle had magical properties.

Parsley was brought to North America by John Mason, one of the original proprietors of New Hampshire.

The wood of Rosemary was used to make lutes and to ward off black magic.
Santolina (shown below) was used as an insect repellent, moth chaser and in herb wreaths.

Vervain, or “sacred herb,” was used as a purification herb for altars in homes and temples.

Snap Judgment

… on the legislation proposed by Gov. Lynch and a group of bipartisan legislators to increase the state’s compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18. The governor says it will send a message to young people that “we are not going to give up on them, or let them give up on themselves.” The implicit message sent by the current age of 16 is that it is acceptable to drop out; after all, the law says it’s OK. Young people respond well to boundaries and this is a boundary that should be set. At stake is their future and the state’s future — to grow and thrive, the state needs an educated workforce.

… on the declining readership of newspapers. According to one recent survey, the number of people who read a newspaper every day has dropped from nearly 70 percent in 1972 to a bit more than 30 percent in 2006. And you can see physical evidence of the decline in the thinner newspapers that are sitting on the doorstep in the morning. Newspaper owners have begun to put greater emphasis on their Internet sites because that’s where the action is moving; the NY Times’ publisher said recently he doesn’t know whether his paper would still be in print form in five years. Times change, but it’s sad to think of an empty doorstep and the end of the morning coffee-newspaper ritual.

The Snow Goddess in Spring

OK, it was a publicity stunt, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some mystical powers at work when she created snow. So what will the Snow Goddess do for spring?

You probably saw her picture in the papers this past winter — or maybe on CNN. There she was in North Conway, on skis in a bikini, appealing to the Nordic snow god Ullr to end the snow drought that was hurting area businesses.

Not only did Carlene Sullivan get publicity, she got snow. “That first week I did snow salutations,” she says “we actually got four inches here, then eight inches the next week. Then we got a blizzard.” Everyone started thanking her for the snow and calling her the “Snow Goddess.”

Sullivan says the whole thing is “very weird.” It’s not that she doesn’t think it’s possible to affect the universe; she’s a yoga teacher and believes in the metaphysical and a higher divinity. “I firmly believe that through faith, hope, belief, praise, movement, breath and salute, anything is possible.”

So what will the Snow Goddess do for the spring weather? “There are sun salutations,” she says, “but April showers bring May flowers. We want the showers and we don’t want the rivers to run dry, so we won’t do the sun salutations.” Sullivan is finding that being a weather goddess can be a double-edged sword: “If it didn’t rain in April, I would feel it was my fault. I don’t want that.”

If you’d like to do some sun salutations with Sullivan in May or June, when it’s OK, she is offering Yoga Hikes in the Whites May 11-13 and June 8-10. The hikes take place in North Conway, where you will stay in a mountainside condominium, have a great breakfast and then take a guided hike through the Mt. Washington Valley forests to a mountain-top yoga class. Rates start at $325 pp/double occupancy.

She’ll no doubt try to enlist you for a National Salute to Global Warming, where many body energies will be connected to create one energy that could possibly halt or even reverse global warming. For more information, visit

Siren Songs

The mythological sirens sang enchanted songs that lured sailors to crash their ships on the rocks. Laurel Brauns writes and sings complex, strange and lovely tunes infused with a similar beguiling power. Fortunately, the lure of her voice should only attract people to the more hospitable granite rocks of New Hampshire.

Her latest CD, “Closed for the Season,” is likely to extend her siren call to a national audience with glowing reviews, like this one from Chris Dahlen of Paste Magazine:

“… casting her sterling voice into songs about wide skies and maze-like hearts. She brings to bear all of her Celtic and indie influences on her haunting new album where cellos and dark finger-picked acoustic guitar all but surround you with the ghosts of by-gone characters the songs speak of.”

Although Brauns tours widely and has two well-received previous albums, her heart is moored to the Granite State Seacoast, where she has promoted a weekly music series at the Red Door in Portsmouth. The popular sessions (quizzically titled “Hush Hush Sweet Harlot”) have showcased such national and independent artists as Greg Brown and Patty Larkin.

The latest CD is produced by local wunderkind Jon Nolan and is the kind of creative match that can really light up a local music scene. And anyone who has experienced the neo-folk nights and hybrid blues/jazz sessions of the New Hampshire Seacoast knows that the region is a creative tinderbox, just waiting for the right spark.

Ironically, a few local artists like Brauns with CDs like “Closed for the Season” may be what it takes to keep some Seacoast performance venues open and packed year-round.

Road Trip: Hampton to Dover, West of Great Bay

By Barbara Radcliffe Rogers

While I-95 and the Spaulding Turnpike connect Hampton with Dover quite efficiently, the meandering route on the other side of Great Bay is a more interesting way to get there.

Begin in Hampton, following Route 1A north along the shore to Little Boars Head, a once-fashionable promontory lined by shingle-style “cottages” of wealthy summer residents. The area’s 103 buildings, some dating from the early 1800s, now form a registered historic district.

Turn left onto Route 111, heading west and into Exeter on High Street, which changes to Water St. at the bridge in the center of town. Exeter’s Front Street Historic District includes Federal period and later buildings, one of which is the 1915 Mayer Building, containing the Ioka Theater, founded by the nephew of Louis B. Mayer, the production head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. In its Art Deco lobby is a concession stand with an original soda fountain, as well as a vintage jukebox (55 Water Street, In addition to a regular schedule of films, the Ioka has a nightclub, also in the Art Deco style, with frequent
live music.

A few doors away, The Chocolatier makes hand-dipped chocolates in small batches, with tantalizing centers of maple cream, nougat, marzipan, black cherry jelly and candied ginger, along with the more expected fillings (27 Water Street, The town’s Soldiers’ Memorial, at the corner of Front and Pine streets, was designed in 1922 by Exeter native Daniel Chester French, best known for his seated Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial and for the Minuteman statue in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Loaf and Ladle, overlooking the river at 9 Water Street, serves up cafeteria-style lunches of hearty soups, chili, whole grain sandwiches and daily specials (778-8955). If the weather is warm, you can enjoy these on the little deck above the river, or there are plenty of tables indoors.

Follow Route 85 north to Newfields. Piscassic Pond Winery in Newfields
(778-0108, produces mead, a wine made from local honey, which you can buy at the winery (by appointment) or at On the Vine Marketplace, at 75 Portsmouth Avenue in Exeter.

Go left onto Route 108 into Newmarket, whose classic downtown brick storefronts and mills along the river have also been declared a historic district. Make another left onto Route 152, heading west to 155, where a short sidetrack south brings you to Flag Hill Winery and Distillery (, whose award-winning wines are available for sale and tasting. After the success of their wines, they became New Hampshire’s first distillery, producing General John Stark Vodka in 2004. Flag Hill tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., year round.

Head right from the winery, following Route 155 north through Lee. In the cemetery there, look for a large boulder near the center, with plaque marking it as the grave of Sherwood (Woody) Sherburn. He was so incensed at vandals knocking over cemetery stones that he vowed he’d find one they couldn’t topple. So far, no one has.

Continue on Route 155 through the village of Madbury and into Dover, where it becomes Silver Street. At end of Silver is Tuttle Square, and just to the right, at 182 Central Avenue, is the Woodman Institute, three buildings of museum that includes an original garrison house that survived the Dover Massacre of 1689. Elsewhere in the collections are fine antique furniture, natural history exhibits, an outstanding collection of rocks and minerals and Abraham Lincoln’s saddle. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 pm (742-1038).

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers is co-author of the guidebook, “New Hampshire Off the Beaten Path” (Globe Pequot Press).

Gaining Light

Spring inspires the poet in us all, but it’s much more edifying to see the season through a true poet’s eyes. Meet the state’s poet laureate.

It’s said of Patricia Fargnoli that she looks life square in the eye, using her poetry to fearlessly and aggressively explore the painful parts.

Ask her if that’s true and she says, ‘Yes, in my poems I do that. On my own, I gripe a lot.” Such comments reveal the authenticity that informs her work.

She says writing poetry doesn’t come easy for her: “My muse rarely shows up, but when she does something moves me and I rush to the computer.”

Her topics are often what’s going on outside her window — “quotidian, daily,” she says. But other times, the muse takes her aloft. “I’ve been working on seeing spaces between things — the space left when a bird flies out of your vision, the noise on the rails after a train has passed.”

So she doesn’t have to deal with the constraints of formal verse, Fargnoli writes in free verse. Her goal: “To connect with the core of people’s spirit, to move them.”

On Apr. 14, she will be working to inspire children by visiting some of the 39 state libraries taking part in a Children’s Poetry in the Libraries Day, set up to mark National Poetry Month.

You can find her hard-won wisdom in the latest collection of poems, “Duties of the Spirit” [Tupelo Press, $16.95]. It’s the winner of the prestigious 2005 Jane Kenyon Poetry Book Award for Outstanding Poetry. For more information, visit

Snow in April

We were ready for Spring:
tulips an inch above the earth,
the light bright   
more accurate, 
huge blocks of ice
hurling themselves
on the banks of the brooks
the water charging
over boulders, beaver dams   
everything released
and pouring.
Is this a joke then,
this late storm
the work of a trickster?
Look, how the direction
of falling depends
on your eye, 
the angle of looking: 
now it slants to the right    
now left,
now a swirling sky-full,
finding and holding     
all the spaces of the air   
a constant moving through
that stretches from here —    
this horizon
to wherever Spring finally   
and too late   

Unpublished poem by New Hampshire Poet Laureate Patricia Fargnoli

Street Smarts [ A quickie guide to Portsmouth’s waterfront ]

In Portsmouth, treat yourself to a few luxuries at the water’s edge.

Ceres St. Wine Merchants was a 2006 “Best of N.H.” Editor’s Pick. Owner David Campbell’s motto is, “I don’t sell it unless I taste it.” Campbell has handpicked 1,000 wines that he finds special and can tell you about all of them. Whether you’re looking to branch out and try new things or need that perfect wine for your next dinner party, Campbell will work with you to select just what you never knew you wanted. You can find his self-described “cave” at 65 Ceres St.

Carrie and Nick Saunders have a huge array of handbags to choose from, but if there aren’t any styles to your liking you can also design your own. Anna Street Studios at 113 Market St. is a bright, colorful store filled with enough purses to keep you shopping for hours. If you’re in the mood for a get together, they also offer purse parties where groups of friends can have fun creating their own bags.

Kim Ferreira is fittingly celebrating the three-year anniversary of her 105 Market St. art gallery Three Graces. The featured work is currently abstract painter Shiao-Ping Wang, though the artwork styles vary in this small, cozy space and are not limited to paintings. Ferreira, an artist herself and graduate of UNH, opened the gallery at age 25 and says, “It feels like it was just meant to be.”

NJM Gallery — For 14 years gallery owners Lee and Lois Kupersmith have displayed and sold beautiful and vibrant glass artwork. “You come in to have a look and you fall in love with it,” says Lee Kupersmith. They’ve narrowed down 3,000 artists from all over the nation to the 120 they feature at the 8 Bow St. gallery. An art form once popular in the 1800s, says Kupersmith, it was revived again in the 1970s and really took off in the last 25 years.

If you’re looking for original art to spruce up your home, Tulips offers a wide variety of handmade work from many local artists. From decorative mirrors to pottery and painted kitchen floor mats, the store at 57 Bow St. has just about everything. If it’s you that needs decorating, Tulips also sells a variety of jewelry. Owned by the mother-daughter team of Dolores and Heather Lintz, the store, open since 1981, recently moved to Bow St. from Market St.

Walk into Making Faces at 65 Bow St. and you’ll have a hard time coming out empty handed. Owner Annie Loomis features more than 20 national lines of makeup, body care products, bubble bath and more that are found in stores such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdales. Making Faces, says Loomis, really “speaks to the whole family” with products for men, babies and even pregnant women.

Treasure Hunt

Curious about an antique in your attic? Wonder what the porcelain you inherited from Grandma is worth? Send in a photo and we’ll have expert Jason Hackler tell you what it is and appraise it.

Native American artifacts continue to rise in their collectible popularity. It is not uncommon these days to hear about a particular basket or pot bringing well into the six figures.Your canoe and moccasins are nice examples of Native American craft. I
enjoyed reading your story and provenance about the items, and how you were given these in thanks for a kind gesture. Your story enables us to accurately date and pinpoint who made them. As told, we know the items were made by the Micmacs of the Algonquin Tribe and were given to you in the 1940s in Northern Quebec in exchange for giving Malik (a Micmac guide) a pair of fur-lined gloves to protect his frostbitten hands.

The birch bark canoe and snowshoes are accurate scaled models and would have been used as toys for children or sold at trading posts. The moccasins have a puckered toe which is typical for slippers made in colder climates. They lack any bead work, but appear to be in an excellent state of preservation. Without knowing the story, I would have dated the items 20 to 30 years earlier; however, your history tells us they were made in the 1940s.

I would value the canoe and snowshoes at $600 and the moccasins at $125. The detailed story that the grandfather provided contributed greatly to the value.

—Jason Hackler, manager/owner of New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford ( and partner of Jason Samuel Antiques, is a past officer of the Granite State Antique and Appraisers Association, a principal of the Active Appraisal Group, a member of the N.H. Antique Dealers Association and a licensed auctioneer.

If you have an antique you would like Jason to appraise for Treasure Hunt, please send a hi-res photo to If there are markings, please take a clear photo of them as well. Only one item a month can be featured.

Wallace Nutting’s World

In the public mind, Wallace Nutting is pretty one-dimensional. But this preacher-turned-photographer-turned-entrepreneur is hardly that, as you’ll find with the Pontine Theatre’s imaginative look at the man.

You’ve no doubt seen at least one of Wallace Nutting’s hand-tinted photographs — it’s said that he sold 10 million of them. His subject matter, inevitably homespun and nostalgic, was chosen because he wanted to capture “that old life in America, which is rapidly disappearing.”

That old life, for Nutting, was the Colonial era. Reacting to increasing urbanization and the excesses of the Victorian age in which he lived, he saw Colonial architecture and its artifacts as symbols of American virtue and strength. So influential was he, his work helped spark the Colonial Revival Movement in the early 20th century. One effect of that movement was the many house museums in Portsmouth.

But that wasn’t all Nutting did — he was also an author, lecturer, antiquarian, furniture maker, one-time preacher and entrepreneur. He sold his photographs along with reproduction furniture, iron wear, textiles, hooked rugs, catalogs and books. A pioneer in cross-product marketing and an expert at self-promotion, he has been called the Martha Stewart of his day.

“There’s been a resurgence of interest in Nutting,” says Margueritte Mathews, co-artistic director for Pontine Theatre in Portsmouth ( “He had been thought of as quite a shyster among the restoration crowd, but revisionist thinking says he wasn’t such a bad guy.”

Known for its innovative and highly polished performances, Pontine will explore Nutting’s life in a new production, “Wallace Nutting’s Old America,” from Apr. 27-May 13.

To further celebrate the Colonial Revival Movement, there will be a number of events right through September. Many of them will take place at the Wentworth-Gardner House in Portsmouth (, which is restoring a Nutting-era mural.


There are a lot of things that Fred Kretchman loves — orchids (he grows them) and Dutch rabbits (he has two) — but most of all he loves flyfishing. Come April, the Milford man says he’s “chomping at the bit” to put on his waders and step into his favorite streams. When he does, he’ll be using one of the bamboo rods he has carefully handcrafted. So well done are his rods that he sells them through his Kretchman Rod Company ( — for up to $1,900.

Where do you go on the first day of the season?

Merrymeeting River in Alton Bay, because it occasionally has rainbow trout. They grow large in the lake — sometimes you can hook onto one that is three, four, five pounds.

What’s your approach to flyfishing?

To be successful, you have to think like the fish — think about what’s happening on the river. Are insects hatching or are they still in the early stages under water? You need to tie precise flies that imitate the insect they’re feeding on, especially if you’re going for trout. They won’t grab any fly that comes along; they’re much more sophisticated than other fish.


Yes, trout and salmon are much smarter than bass and bluegills. Even within the trout family, brown trout are the hardest to catch.

Do you eat them?

I used to, but now I catch and release — and release it gently so it can be caught another time.

Is it true you can drown if you get water in your waders?

Very easily. If you fall and your waders fill up with cold water, hypothermia can set in fast. The water also acts like an anchor; you have to get out of them really fast.

Why did you decide to make your own rods?

When I realized that, to buy good quality bamboo rods it could cost thousands of dollars, I went to the Nashua Library and got a book on building them. I was experimenting and building prototypes that friends started buying. It spread by word of mouth that I was building a good fly rod and gradually I built the business.

What makes them so special — worth $1,900?

Every one is custom made start to finish from the same piece of bamboo, made with the needs of that customer in mind. The quality of the material I use is as high as any in the world. As to the cost, it takes 45 to 50 hours of labor; the cost per hour is less than that of a car mechanic. I must be doing something right because I’ve had a backlog of orders since the mid-’90s. I think another reason is people appreciate that their rods are made by a solitary craftsman, carrying on the tradition of the old-time masters who refused to mass produce.

Mountain Mystery

It’s becoming New Hampshire’s “Bigfoot” story — an elusive creature that people swear they’ve seen, but there’s no hard evidence to back up their claims.

For us it’s not Sasquatch, it’s the cougar — also known as the mountain lion, puma, catamount and panther. Whatever you call it, it was thought to have completely disappeared from the state in the late 1800s. Early settlers hunted the big cats aggressively to keep their livestock — and themselves — safe. Land clearing also contributed to their demise by reducing their habitat.

But now there is a growing number of people sighting the big cat. John Harrigan, a well-known Colebrook writer and farmer, has heard the stories and he’s certain the cats are here — not a lot of them, but some. He says, “I’ve heard too many good reports from qualified, well-informed people to have any doubt.”

Take the three men, one a selectman, who were haying in late July some years ago. He says they watched a cougar lope across the field, apparently in pursuit of the moles and mice stirred up by the haying. “The clincher is the tail they described,” he says. “There’s nothing else out there that has a tail a third the length of its body.”

Harrigan says he asks people who report seeing a cougar a series of questions — how close they were, what time of day it was, the most distinguishing character (it should be the tail) and so on — until he’s satisfied they saw what they said they saw.
Skeptics say no evidence of cougars has been found — no tracks, no scat and no dead deer, their favorite prey. Harrigan sniffs at that. Tracks, scat and deer kill all disappear quickly in the wild, he says. To those who use the fact that no cougar has been hit by a car as proof, he says the cats are too wary and too quick for that to happen.

Whether the cougar has reclaimed its ancestral haunts will no doubt continue to be debated, with advocates and skeptics alike looking for clues.

Sherlock, where are you when we need you?