Connect with the natural world

Tanglewood Hollow offers classes, products and time with nature

Growing up, Allyson Speake developed a fascination with and appreciation for the natural world, something that she wanted to bring to others in the community. In March of last year Speake established Tanglewood Hollow, an educational supply store offering classes on a variety of nature-oriented topics for kids, toys and more on Storrs Street in Concord, to do just that.

“My grandfather was a naturalist and he grew wild cottage gardens for attracting wildlife and so I spent … many years alongside him as he taught me more about wonder and curiosity and seeing nature through that lens,” Speake said. “He just opened my eyes to what an amazing world we live in, and his home was called Tanglewood Hollow, so that’s … where the name came from.”

As a former teacher, Speake noticed that kids were struggling with what she called nature deficit disorder, and she wanted to find a way to foster natural curiosity and help them find connection to the natural world. Prior to opening Tanglewood Hollow, Speake would teach groups of homeschooled students from her home. She wanted to find a way to reach more of the community.

“I think it’s absolutely vital for us to build that relationship with nature,” she said. “If kids aren’t given that opportunity or are uncomfortable getting outside, how can we expect for them to really be the next stewards of our Earth and care for it and love it in that same way? Right now, it’s of utmost importance to care for our Earth and to do things to help it, so really I would say that’s probably the overall mission for us [is] helping to build the next stewards of our Earth.”

At Tanglewood Hollow, kids get hands-on experience during classes in the Nature Lab on topics like microscopes, dissecting owl pellets, raptors, making slime as well as nature crafts and activities. In one class, children were able to build a rotting log community where they could hold creatures like beetles, millipedes and pill bugs before adding them to the community to observe the breakdown. They will also have the opportunity to see the leopard gecko, Berry, and the jumping spider, as well as Clementine the corn snake, who sometimes comes out for interaction.

“I’m a big proponent of teaching kids to love the unloved things, and these creatures are things that are very often misunderstood, and people are scared and fearful of them,” Speake said.

“We try as often as we can to get [Clementine] out with the kids so they can have a good, positive experience.”

Many items are available in the shop, such as stuffed animals, life cycle kits, rocks, minerals, foraging tools, bug catching nets, butterfly kits, and curiosities, which are monthly mystery boxes that contain four different items from nature, previously including North American porcupine quills and fossils, that come with a newspaper written by Speake that gives information about the items.

“We would love to do some special things for the solar eclipse that’s happening in April, some star viewing at night … [and] more off-site classes for children and families,” Speake said. “We’ve got lots of plans for things. … You never know what you’re going to find here.”

Tanglewood Hollow
Where: 93 Storrs St., Concord
When: Open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 24/01/04

Family fun for whenever

STEM fun

• The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) will hold a “First Friday Play Late” on Friday, Jan. 5, from 4 to 7 p.m. Admission is the usual price — $12.50 for everybody over 12 months old, $10.50 for 65+ — and go online to reserve the spot. The Friday evening play period will run first Fridays through May 2024, the website said. The STEAM activities of Science Friday also continue into the new year, with scheduled activities at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., during the morning (9 a.m. to noon) and afternoon (1 to 4 p.m.) play sessions.

• The SEE Science Center’s (200 Bedford St. in Manchester; 669-0400, see-sciencecenter.org) Free Storytime Science programming has moved to the Manchester City Library (405 Pine St. in Manchester; manchester.lib.nh.us). Kids ages 2 to 6 can join librarian Ms. Yvonne and the Center’s Ms. Becky for a storytime with STEM/STEAM themes and hands-on activities, according to the Center’s website. The next theme is Owl Moon on Wednesday, Jan. 10, at 10 a.m. Register with the library.

Storytime

• Looking for an excuse to visit the bookstore with your kids? Barnes & Noble Manchester (1741 S. Willow St. in Manchester; 668-5557) holds its weekly storytimes Saturdays (including Saturday, Jan. 6) at 11 a.m. led by Ms. Elizabeth in the children’s department.

Nature

• Beaver Brook Association (117 Ridge Road in Hollis; beaverbrook.org) has nature programs starting this week. “Natural Wonders Friday,” which will feature six classes 10 to 11 a.m. on Fridays, Jan. 5 through Feb. 9, is geared toward kids ages 1½ to 5 years old and their adults. The cost is $72 for a kid-adult pair (additional kids can be registered for 25 percent discount). Classes for homeschoolers will also start later in the month: A class for 1st through 6th graders will run for seven sessions Tuesdays, Jan. 23 through March 12, from 9 a.m. to noon, and a class for 7th through 9th graders will run for seven sessions Wednesdays, Jan. 24 through March 13, from 9 a.m. to noon. The classes cost $210 for the series.

Kiddie Pool 23/12/28

Family fun for whenever

Everybody entertainment

• Catch the family-friendly magician Ben Pratt, whose show is described as “high energy and super fun,” at Chunky’s Cinema Pub in Pelham (150 Bridge St.; chunkys.com) on Thursday, Dec. 28, at 6:15 p.m.; at Chunky’s in Nashua (151 Coliseum Ave; chunkys.com) on Friday, Dec. 29, at 6:15 p.m. and at Chunky’s in Manchester (707 Huse Road; chunkys.com) on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 6:15 p.m. Admission costs $15.

• The Harlem Globetrotters 2024 will come to the SNHU Arena (555 Elm St., Manchester, 644-5000, snhuarena.com) with shows Thursday, Dec. 28, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets cost $44 through $134, with pre-game VIP options.

• The Swiftie Party at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Nashua; palacetheatre.org) is billed as an all-ages dance party event with space still available for the party at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 30. Admission costs $25 for adults and $20 for 12 and under.

More museums

Here are some museums with special offerings and hours through the holiday week.

• At the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road in Londonderry; nhahs.org, 669-4820) see the exhibit “Flying Home for the Holidays,” on display through Jan. 14. The museum is open daily through Saturday, Dec. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as Sunday, Dec. 31, from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission costs $10 for ages 13 and above, $5 for 65+, veterans/military and kids ages 6 to 12, and is free for ages 5 and under.

• The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) has play sessions from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. daily through Saturday, Dec. 30. On Sunday, Dec. 31, a Family New Year’s Eve celebration takes place at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and will feature a “countdown to midnight” along with other activities. Buy admissions for a time slot online in advance; admission costs $12.50 for adults and children over 12 months, $10.50 for 65+.

• The Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester; currier.org, 669-6144) will have December Days Thursday, Dec. 28, through Saturday, Dec. 30, with a lineup of family-friendly activities daily including a magic show on Friday, Dec. 29, at 2 p.m. (tickets cost $10 to $30, depending on age, and are available online); the museum will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and until 8 p.m. on Dec. 28) during those days. The museum will also be open Sunday, Dec. 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission costs $20 for adults, $15 for ages 65+, $15 for students and $5 for ages 13 to 17 (children under 13 get in for free).

Kiddie Pool 23/12/21

Family fun for whenever

Visit the museum

Entertain restless kids and visiting relatives at area museums.

• The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road in Londonderry; nhahs.org, 669-4820) is currently featuring the exhibit “Flying Home for the Holidays,” which will be on display through Jan. 14. The museum’s is open Friday, Dec. 22, and Saturday, Dec. 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be closed Sunday, Dec. 24, but open Wednesday, Dec. 27, through Saturday, Dec. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as Sunday, Dec. 31, from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission costs $10 for ages 13 and above, $5 for 65+, veterans/military and kids ages 6 to 12, and is free for ages 5 and under.

• The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) has play sessions from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 23, and then, after Christmas, Tuesday, Dec. 26, through Saturday, Dec. 30. On Sunday, Dec. 31, a Family New Year’s Eve celebration takes place at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and will feature a “countdown to midnight” along with other activities. Buy admissions for a time slot online in advance; admission costs $12.50 for adults and children over 12 months, $10.50 for 65+.

The Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester; currier.org, 669-6144) will be open Thursday, Dec. 21, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Art After Work (featuring free admission and live music from Green Heron) from 5 to 8 p.m. The museum will also be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 22, and Saturday, Dec. 23, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 24. From Thursday, Dec. 28, through Saturday, Dec. 30, the museum will feature a schedule of family-friendly activities as part of December Days, including a magic show on Friday, Dec. 29, at 2 p.m. (tickets cost $10 to $30, depending on age, and are available online); the museum will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and until 8 p.m. on Dec. 28) during those days. The museum will also be open Sunday, Dec. 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission costs $20 for adults, $15 for ages 65+, $15 for students and $5 for ages 13 to 17 (children under 13 get in for free).

• The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Dr. in Concord; starhop.com, 271-7827) is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 23, and then closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The museum will be open daily from Tuesday, Dec. 26, through Sunday, Dec. 31, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs $12 for adults, $9 for ages 3 to 12, $11 for 65+ and free for ages 2 and under, with planetarium shows an additional $6 per person ages 3 and up.

SEE Science Center (200 Bedford St. in Manchester; see-sciencecenter.org, 669-0400) is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Sunday, Dec. 24). Tickets cost $12 for ages 3 and up.

Kiddie Pool 23/12/14

Family fun for whenever

It’s a party!

• Catch Mr. Aaron Holiday Party on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 11 a.m. at the Bank of NH Stage (16 S. Main St. in Concord; ccanh.com). Tickets cost $13.75. Mr. Aaron (mraaronmusic.com) is described as “a multi-instrumentalist performer and composer making music and videos for kids and their grownups,” according to the venue’s website.

• The cast of the Palace Theatre’s A Christmas Carol will attend the storytime at Bookery Manchester (844 Elm St. in Manchester; bookerymht.com) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Go online to reserve a spot for this free event.

Enjoy a Grinch-centric storytime at Balin Books (375 Amherst St. in Nashua; balinbooks.com) on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. Both the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the new sequel How the Grinch Lost Christmas will be read and the event will feature hot cocoa, cookie decorating and crafts, according to the website.

Still a lot of Nutcracker

• Ballet Misha presents The Nutcrackeron Saturday, Dec. 16, at 1 and 6 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Dana Center (Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester). Tickets cost $35 for adults and $30 for children under 18. Visit tickets.anselm.edu to purchase tickets online.

• Safe Haven Ballet performs The Nutcracker at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St., Concord) on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $45 for adults and $40 for students and seniors. Visit safehavenballet.org/events for more info.

• New England School of Dance presents The Nutcracker on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. at the Stockbridge Theater at Pinkerton Academy (5 Pinkerton St., Derry). Tickets cost $32.50. Visit facebook.com/newenglandschoolofdance.

• The New Hampshire School of Ballet presents The Nutcracker on Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. at the Concord City Auditorium (14 Canterbury Road, Concord). Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at the studio (183 Londonderry Turnpike). There will be an additional performance on Sunday, Dec. 27, at 6 p.m. at the Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St., Manchester). Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at the box office or online at palacetheatre.org.

Holiday on screen

Elf (PG, 2003) will screen on Friday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at Flying Monkey in Plymouth (39 Main St., Plymouth, 536-2551, flyingmonkeynh.com).

The Polar Express (G, 2004) will screen Saturday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m. at Red River Theatres (11 S. Main St., Concord, 224-4600, redrivertheatres.org)

Kiddie Pool 23/12/07

Family fun for whenever

Mr. Claus travels in style

Santa Claus will helicopter in and touch down at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road in Londonderry) on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 11 a.m. and hang out until 1 p.m., when he will depart on an airport fire truck, according to a press release. Families are recommended to be at the museum by 10:45 a.m. to park and watch Santa’s helicopter arrive, the release said. Santa will visit with kids inside the museum and kids who talk to Santa will get goodie bags, the release said. The event will also include free coffee and hot chocolate from Common Man Roadside, the release said. The museum will be open free of charge to visitors from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then charge regular admission from 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday is also the opening day for the museum’s exhibit “Home of the Holidays” featuring vintage World War II uniforms and posters on loan from the Wright Museum of World War II, the release said. The exhibit will run through Sunday, Jan. 14, and also includes trees decorated with aviation-related toys. The museum is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Regular admission costs $10 for ages 13 and up, $5 for ages 6 to 12 and 65+ and veterans/active military; kids ages 5 and under get in free.

Find more holiday family fun in the Nov. 23 issue of the Hippo, our annual Holiday Guide; see hippopress.com for the e-edition.

Big screen Christmas

• Chunky’s Cinema Pub (707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham, chunkys.com) will begin a week of screenings of The Polar Express (G, 2004), which you can catch at all three area Chunky’s Friday, Dec. 8, through Thursday, Dec. 14, with at least one screening daily and three on Saturday, Dec. 9, and Sunday, Dec. 10. Buy a “Milk & Cookies Movie Ticket” to get a box with milk, cookies and a bell during the movies. “Dinner with Santa,” where guests will be greeted by Santa before and after the show, with opportunities to take photos with him, will take place at some screenings Dec. 13, Dec. 14, and Dec. 21.

A Christmas Story(PG, 1983) will screen on Sunday, Dec. 10, at AMC Londonderry (4 p.m.), Cinemark in Salem (4 p.m.), O’neil Cinemas in Epping (4 and 7 p.m.) and Regal Fox Run in Newington (4 and 7 p.m.), and on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at all four of those locations at 7 p.m. See fathomevents.com.

Expo is now Very Merry

Holiday gift festival features New England-made items

On Saturday, Dec. 9, and Sunday, Dec. 10, the group that brings us the Made in New Hampshire Expo debuts the Very Merry Holiday Gift Festival at the DoubleTree by Hilton, a rebranding of The Made in New England Expo. As before, the event will feature nearly 100 vendors from around New England showcasing and selling local and handmade products such as jewelry, dog treats, candles and cookies, this time with a festive flair.

“We wanted to bring in a bit more of the holiday element [and] have more interactive things going on in addition to our vendors,” said Christine Carignan, one of the owners of Granite Media Group, which puts on the event. “We’ve done a big rebrand with it, hoping that will get people in the holiday spirit and get them coming to the show.”

Christmas additions include visits from Santa from 1 to 3 p.m. and holiday crafts all weekend with Mrs. Claus as a visitor from 1 to 3 p.m. Gingerbread Amy will be giving gingerbread house demonstrations, and there will be a caricature artist each day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., live performances by The Funky Divas of Gospel and Northern Voices A Capella, and puppies from Live and Let Live Farm.

“We have a special kids-only shopping area and we’re calling it Candy Cane Corner,” Carignan said. “We have small [$2] items just for kids to go shopping for things for mom and dad or friends or their siblings, and our plan is to donate the proceeds to a local children’s charity from that shopping area.”

Vendors will be juried under stricter criteria this year to ensure the products and vendors align with the purpose of the event, as they will be for the Made in New Hampshire expo in the spring.

“It’s somewhat similar to what we’ve done in the past but we’ve gotten a bit more strict about it,” Carignan said. “We really wanted to curate a show where it’s really handmade or locally made products … [and] we really wanted to make the focus of this about the gifts and about locally made items that people can come and buy for everybody on their holiday list. We’ve really focused [in on] that. … We try to keep an eye on the different categories of vendors [so] that we never have too many of one particular kind … that way there’s a big variety available.”

Vendors include Lindsey Bangs of I Whisked it — who will bring sweet treats like homemade marshmallows, hot chocolate bombs, chocolate-covered pretzels, oreos and German stollen and will be offering cake preorders — Stark Brewing Co., Barkin’ Biscuit from Bedford with handmade dog treats made with human grade ingredients as well as organic fruits and vegetables, FireFlight Photo with high end nature and wildlife photography and so much more.

“The goal of our festival is aligned with the mission of our company, which is always to celebrate and elevate businesses,” Carignan said. “We want to be able to highlight the unique items that are available in our little corner of the country. … We want people to have fun and find unique gifts for everyone that [they] need to shop for and for themselves too.”

Very Merry Holiday Gift Festival
When: Saturday, Dec. 9, and Sunday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, 700 Elm St., Manchester
Cost: Tickets are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors age 65+ and free for children under 14. Purchase online or at the door.
Visit: verymerryfestival.com

Featured image: Previous Made in New England Expo. Courtesy photo.

Holiday gifts for the gardener 2023

Give the kids a wheelbarrow and a shovel

Once again it is time to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Gardeners are easy to shop for because there are so many good things to shop for, and they will probably be pleased with whatever you choose. As a shopper I always try to support local, family owned businesses — they support our community and I want to support them when possible. Let’s take a look at some ideas.

Think about buying tickets for you and your gardening friend to a special garden or perhaps one of the spring flower shows. This will allow the two of you to have some time together and to get some ideas about what you both can do in your gardens. One of my favorite gardens is Bedrock Garden in Lee, New Hampshire. This garden was developed by plant guru Jill Nooney and her husband, Bob Munger, over a 25-year period and recently achieved 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit. Not only does it have a fabulous collection of plants; Jill is a sculptor and welder who has created art that is displayed in the gardens. This is truly a gem of a place and worthy of visits. Suggested donation of $15. See their website for schedules.

Another garden I love is Saint Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. Augustus Saint Gaudens was a world-known sculptor who lived and worked there in the early 20th century. The well-maintained formal gardens and grounds are enhanced by his fabulous life-size (or larger) bronze sculptures. The grounds are open year-round and the galleries are open from Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 31. Admission is $10 and is valid for seven days.

Of the spring flower shows, the Connecticut show in Hartford is probably the biggest in New England, and well worth a visit. It will be Feb. 22 to Feb. 25 in 2024 and although tickets are not yet on sale you can make up a nice card inviting your gardening buddy to go with you.

Garden tools are generally a hit. On my second birthday I was given a child-sized wheelbarrow, a watering can and a shovel, all of which helped form me as a life-time gardener. Most garden centers sell good-quality tools for kids made of metal, not plastic. See what you can find for a small person in your life.

Adults like tools, too. For 20 years now I’ve had a Smart Cart, a well-balanced two-wheel cart. The frame is made of airplane-grade tubular aluminum and the 7-cubic-foot body of heavy-duty plastic. It comes either with bike-type wheels or smaller, fatter wheels capable of traversing wet areas more easily and carrying heavier loads. I chose the wide wheels, which make the cart rated for 600 pounds. The narrower wheels are rated for 400 pounds. I’ve never had a flat tire and the cart has served me well. The bin pops out if you want to wash a dog in it or carry home manure in your Subaru. It is not inexpensive but worth the investment.

My favorite weeder is the CobraHead weeder, a single-tine, curved hook that teases out roots with ease and precision. It has become an extension of my body — I use it for planting, weeding and more. About $29 and available not only online but also from good garden centers and seed companies everywhere.

Although there may be no better mousetrap to invent, amazingly there is a new design to the shovel, one called the Root Slayer. It is all one piece of steel; it has a straight leading edge that comes sharp and stays sharp. The edges are serrated and able to slice through roots like a hot knife through butter. Great for planting in the woods or near trees. I still use my regular shovel or spade for digging in my garden or filling a wheelbarrow with compost. But if I want to plant a tree in a field, it is great for slicing through sod. I use it for dividing big clumps of daylilies and other tough perennials. It’s available at good garden centers.

I know most of you probably keep track of garden events on your phone — things like when you planted lettuce seeds or when your delphinium bloom. I don’t. I like an old-fashioned journal I can write in with a pen. Blank books are readily available, and some companies even sell special garden journals. Gardening is a slow and thoughtful pastime and lends itself to the handwritten word.

If you know that your gift recipient starts seeds in the spring, or plans to, you might consider getting an electric heat mat as a gift. They considerably speed up the time needed for germination of weeds in the spring, So, for example, corn seeds can take two or three weeks to germinate in cold, wet soil but will pop up in three to five days when on a heat mat. Of course you then have to transplant the seedlings, but that is not bad for a small patch. I generally use a planting flat with 98 cells for corn and transplant them when they have leaves 2 inches tall.

If deer are a problem, some garlic-oil clips will add some protection in winter for your tasty trees and shrubs. I’ve had excellent luck with them, specifically with a brand called “Plant Pro-Tec Deer and Rabbit Repellent.” They come in a package of 25 for about a dollar each and seem to last all winter. They are advertised as working for six to eight months. Of course, depending on how hungry the deer are, they may not be 100 percent effective.

Seeds are great gifts and serve well as stocking stuffers. If you save heirloom tomato or flower seeds, you can package up some of your favorites for a friend, along with a good description. And you can give a nice houseplant, particularly one in bloom. But most of us already have all the houseplants we need.

Lastly, books are great gifts for gardeners, especially now, in winter, when we have time on our hands. If I could select just one book, I’d pickEssential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United Statesby Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge (2018, Imagine, Bunker Hill Studio Books, $35 hardback). I’m totally behind the movement to plant native plants to support our birds, pollinators and wildlife and this book will answer all your questions — which plants are attractive to deer, salt-tolerant, good for poor soils and much more. It has excellent photos.

Enjoy picking good gardening gifts as you play Santa this year. Your loved ones will love you even more.

Henry is writing just one gardening article per month this winter. You may reach him at PO Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746 or by email at henry.homeyer@comcast.net.

Featured photo: I’ve had this Smart Cart for 20 years. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

Kiddie Pool 23/11/30

Family fun for whenever

Holiday happenings

  • Merrimack’s holiday parade and tree lighting will take place on Sunday, Dec. 3, with the theme “Rock & Roll Holiday Thru Time.” The parade begins at 3 p.m. at the Commons Shopping Plaza (515 Daniel Webster Hwy.) and will end in the Town Hall parking lot (6 Baboosic Lake Road), where the tree lighting will take place. Visit merrimackparksandrec.org.
  • Looking for more holiday excitement, including details on Manchester’s Holiday Parade on Saturday, Dec. 2, and Concord’s Midnight Merriment on Friday, Dec. 1? Check out the Nov. 23 issue of the Hippo, our supersized Holiday Guide. Find the e-edition at hippopress.com.

Meet the big guy

  • As part of Midnight Merriment, Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St. in Concord; 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) will hold a Santa Storytime on Friday, Dec. 1, from 4:15 to 5 p.m. Catch new stories every 15 minutes, according to the website.
  • Charmingfare Farm (774 High St. in Candia; visitthefarm.com) kicks off Santa’s Christmas Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3 (the event runs Friday, Dec. 8, through Sunday, Dec. 10; Friday, Dec. 15, through Sunday, Dec. 17; Wednesday, Dec. 20, through Saturday, Dec. 23). Pick a time when you buy tickets for either a four-person or a 10-person sleigh ride. The event also includes a stop at the North Pole, Mrs. Claus’ Bakery, a visit to the barnyard, an opportunity to shop for Christmas trees, a campfire, a special mailbox for letters to Santa and the big man himself.
  • Londonderry Access Center TV (281 Mammoth Road) will host Santa Live 2023 on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be present in the studio for children to visit and will be broadcast live on television. The event is free of charge and does not require Facebook access for attendance. It operates on a first come, first served basis. Refreshments and coloring activities are provided for children while they wait. Each child will receive a gift and a candy cane. Parents are allowed to take pictures during the visit. Visit facebook.com/LondonderryAccessTV.
  • S’mores with Santa is returning to New Boston on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 4 to 6 p.m. Attendees can enjoy meeting Santa, making s’mores and sipping hot chocolate or cider while mingling with friends and neighbors. The gathering will include singing Christmas carols and the official lighting of the Christmas tree. Santa will be present in the gazebo for the tree lighting at 4 p.m., and children are invited to visit with Santa afterward and bring an ornament from home to place on the town tree. Toasty fire pits for roasting marshmallows will be available, with all the fixings for s’mores, hot chocolate and cider provided by the Recreation Department. In case of inclement weather, the backup date is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 3. Visit newbostonnh.gov.

At the Millyard Museum

  • The Millyard Museum’s (200 Bedford St., Manchester) holiday open house is on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include children’s holiday crafts, cookies and cider, old-fashioned board games, and a special visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free. Visit manchesterhistoric.org.
  • Millyard Museum (200 Bedford St., Manchester) is hosting an American Girl Doll Christmas Tea Party on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants are invited to bring their dolls and join a tea party that includes refreshments and crafts, featuring portrayals of Manchester’s notable women from history as depicted by American Girl dolls. Santa Claus will be visiting. Tickets are $20 per person. Visit manchesterhistoric.org.

Holiday performance

  • Bedford Youth Performing Company presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Derryfield School Theatre (2108 River Road, Manchester) with performances on Friday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 2, at 1 p.m. The play is an adaptation of Barbara Robinson’s holiday classic that tells the story of the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world, who take over the annual Christmas pageant. Ticket prices are $17.50 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Call 472-3894 or visit bypc.org.

Reflections on 25 years of writing a gardening column

Take time to sit and enjoy your garden

On Nov. 8, 1998, my first gardening column appeared in my hometown paper, The Valley News of West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Since then I have written more than 1,200 weekly columns and answered countless questions from readers. I am 77 years old and plan to slow down a bit — I’ll be writing just one column per month this winter, and perhaps two a month after that. We’ll see.

I’ve learned a lot during that time, interviewed plenty of interesting gardeners, and visited (and written about) great gardens in New England and further afield. Thank you, dear readers, for sending me suggestions, asking questions and generally keeping me on my toes. Early on I wrote about digging in the dirt and got an irate email from a reader: “It’s not dirt,” she wrote. “It’s soil. It’s what makes a garden work well. Dirt is what you sweep up.” Later, during an election campaign, another reader told me to shut up about politics and write about what I know, gardening. As I said, you have kept me in line all these years.

My favorite interview was with Ray Magliozzi of public radio’s Car Talk. He lives in a suburb of Boston and has a simple but elegant garden of rhododendrons, roses, dahlias and a tropical called Datura or Angel’s Trumpet. He has the same quirky sense of humor and boisterous laugh in the garden that he has on the radio. I asked him if there was a common thread between gardening and working on cars. Quickly he answered with a full belly laugh: “Dirt. But garden dirt washes off more easily. The reason I love gardening is that I love getting my hands dirty. When we fix cars, it’s not all science. There’s an art to it, too.”

Who else? The White House Gardener, Dale Haney. Tasha Tudor, the reclusive artist and gardener living in southern Vermont. Jean and Weston Cate, octogenarians who introduced me to the Seed Savers Exchange and the Boston Marrow Squash, a winter squash that they told me was the most popular squash grown in America in the 1850s — and still grown by them. And I interviewed and became friends with Sydney Eddison, a fabulous garden writer who when I called her recently had just come in from re-building a stone wall, even though she is now in her 90s. Gardeners do seem to last a long time.

I love the letters and emails of you readers and wish I had saved them all. Here’s part of one that I got recently that might interest you: What to do about the dreaded Asian jumping worm? “I sprinkled the tea seed meal (using my hand fertilizer spreader) and within a week (after a light rainfall which surely helped the process) the worms came to the surface (ick) and died. It would be lovely if they just stayed in the ground, but it was also gratifying to see that the tea seed meal actually worked! I have been told that they lay eggs this time of year so I will begin the process anew next spring.” This reader told me that she bought it at her local feed-and-grain store. She used 50 pounds for her lawn and gardens — about half an acre. The worms die in winter and hatch in early summer, so I may try it as soon as I see them next summer. That said, I must warn you that even though this is a natural, organic product, it can have negative effects on fish and amphibians. Do your research, and I will, too. To be continued.

What else have I learned as part of my experience writing a column? Although I had been a gardener since I was a toddler and learned how to grow veggies and flowers from my Grampy, I took classes to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. I went to Vermont Technical College in Randolph, Vermont, and took classes, including a great one about all the trees and shrubs that do well in our climatic zone. I already knew all the native trees that grow in Connecticut (where I grew up), but few shrubs and virtually no unusual decorative trees.

I took the Master Gardener course in New Hampshire, and that taught me lots of technical details about things like lawn care, insects and diseases, and lots more that I had never focused on. I drove 60 miles each way for 10 weeks to Concord, New Hampshire, where I spent half a day taking classes. And I committed to helping teach others in my community, which I have been doing ever since. And it helped expand my knowledge for the column. I continue to take seminars given by experts whenever I can.

Writing a column also gave me a great excuse to buy plants. I needed to know, for example, if Toadlily or Himalayan blue poppy would do well here, and what they needed to succeed. I learned to buy perennials in groups of three or five — to make a bold statement, or to try in various locations.

I needed to learn how to design a beautiful landscape with flowers, trees and shrubs. All that was part of my education. I now grow about 200 kinds of flowers and nearly 100 kinds of trees and shrubs. I’ve written about the ones that thrived — and the ones I’ve killed.

Eventually I learned not to buy plants unless I already have a place in mind where I might plant them. OK, I fib a little there. I am a sucker for beautiful flowers in bloom, and will buy them — and make a place for them somewhere!

What is my advice to you after all these years? Never get discouraged or give up. But also don’t bite off too much work. Start small and increase your gardens, one bed at a time. Stay true to using organic practices: Chemicals disrupt the natural balance of nature. Make a long-term plan for your garden if you can. Establish sight lines and pathways, and create small “rooms” in the garden. Plant trees early on — they take the longest to reach maturity. And when you reach my age, those trees can be magnificent. I planted several in 1972 that please me every time I think about them. Lastly, take time to sit down and enjoy your garden. You deserve to do so every day of the year.

I’d love to hear from you, dear reader. Is there an article that you remember best, or one you clipped and still refer to? I’m at henry.homeyer@comcast.net or PO Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746. Thanks!

Featured photo: Branch collar to left of line drawn shows where to prune a branch. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

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