Kiddie Pool 22/03/03

Family fun for the weekend

Aviation Thursday

• The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire (27 Navigator Road in Londonderry;, 669-4820) will open on Thursday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — a vacation week addition to the regular hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission costs $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and under.

Science Friday

• And if you want more fun with a side of learning, go to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (2 Washington St. in Dover;, 742-2002) on Friday, March 4, for their “Science Friday” programming, part of the regular admission to the museum, which is open Tuesdays through Sundays, with sessions from 9 a.m. to noon all six days as well as from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission costs $11 per person, $9 for 65+ (no charge for children under 1). Reserve admission online.

• The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive in Concord;, 271-7827) is open daily through Sunday, March 6, with sessions from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. There will be four planetarium shows daily, according to the website, which recommends purchasing timed tickets in advance. Admission costs $11.50 for adults, $10.50 for students and seniors and $8.50 for kids ages 3 to 12 (admission is free for children 2 and under; masks required for visitors over the age of 2). Planetarium show tickets cost $5 per person (free for children 2 and under); see the website for the schedule of planetarium shows. And after a day in person at the center, get an extra helping of science programming with this month’s Super Stellar Fridays online event, “The Dinosaurs and Geology of Thermopolis, Wyoming.” In this presentation, Discovery Center educator Brendan Clement will discuss his summer internship at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, according to the website. The event starts at 7 p.m. and is free but online registration is required.

Story Saturday

• The Bookery Manchester (844 Elm St. in downtown Manchester; will feature a St. Patrick’s themed story time on Saturday, March 5, at 11:30 a.m. with the books Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott and Three Ways to Trap a Leprechaun by Tara Lazar and illustrated by Vivienne To, according to the store’s website. After stories, attendees can make rainbows out of paper plates, the website said.

On stage

Disney’s The Aristocats Kids, featuring a cast of student actors in grades 2 through 12 from the Palace Youth Theatre’s vacation camp, will hit the stage at the Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) on Saturday, March 5, at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12.

• On Wednesday, March 9, head to the Music Hall (28 Chestnut St. in Portsmouth; 436-2400, to spend some time with Rosie Revere, engineer, and her buddies Iggy Peck, architect, and Ada Twist, scientist. The musical stage show Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Friendswill feature the characters from the popular books by Andrea Beaty and will be presented at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. The shows last about an hour and tickets cost $7, according to the website.

Save the date: for that first gig

• NH Music Collective and the Belknap Mill (25 Beacon St. in Laconia;, 524-8813) hold a Young Performers Open Mic at the Mill on the fourth Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. The open mic sessions will run for two hours and are open to all middle and high school students, according to a press release. The events will run through May 22 and are family friendly, according to the press release.

More summer camp

• The Children’s Theatre Project of the Community Players of Concord will hold a summer camp for young actors ages 8 to 14, Sunday, July 31, through Friday, Aug. 5. The kids will rehearse Peter Pan Jr. which will be presented on Friday evening, according to a press release. The camp begins with a meeting at The Players Studio (435 Josiah Bartlett Road in Concord) on July 31 from 1 to 3 p.m. and then runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, through Thursday, Aug. 5 p.m. On Friday, the camp moves to the Concord City Auditorium from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $225; see or email with questions, the release said.

Let’s get it started

Plant your seeds indoors

By now many gardeners are fed up with winter: icy sidewalks, misplaced mittens and dogs that need to go out at 5 below zero. But it will soon be time to start planting seeds indoors, so you might want to start getting ready now.

It’s true that greenhouses and garden centers do a nice job of starting plants if you are not interested in babying seedlings along for 8 to 12 weeks. I do let them start some for me but find that there are plenty of things I want to grow that are not available. So I do both. I start some now and buy others later.

In order to be successful with your seed-starting efforts, you will need supplemental lights. If you try to save money and just start a few seedlings on a sunny windowsill, you will most likely be disappointed. Even under the best conditions, direct sun only reaches your seedlings about six hours a day, much less than they need.

Fluorescent lights are the least expensive solution to the need for supplemental light. My fixtures are 4 feet long and use two T-8 tubes each. The fixtures are available at hardware and big box stores, and cost from $16 to $40 each, depending on where you buy them.

T-8 tubes use 32 watts of energy per hour, while older-model T-12 tubes use 40 watts. This year I bought some LED bulbs that fit my 4-foot fluorescent fixtures but use only half the electricity. I’m switching over to LED for the sake of the environment, but as the tubes cost about $8 each, I am spreading out my purchases over a few years. If you want to make the switch, make sure the package says they do not require any rewiring of the fixtures (older models did require that). One nice thing about the LED lights is that they don’t break if you bump them hard or drop them. Select lights that are 4000K or 5000K color spectrum, which are close to daylight color.

I use a biodynamic calendar called Stella Natura to help decide on planting dates. It uses the sun, moon and stars to determine the best time and day to plant four categories of plants: flowers, fruit, leaf and root. It also has “blackout” days when nothing should be done. I am not 100 percent convinced that this calendar really works, but have done some informal experiments planting seeds on their suggested days, and on blackout days, and it seemed to make a difference.

Read the seed packages carefully if you are new to starting indoors. Onion-family plants and peppers take a long time to develop, so most people start them in early March, though I started my onions and scallions on Feb. 20 this year. Tomatoes I start around April 10 — I don’t want them to get root-bound or too tall before I put them out on June 10. If you plant outside earlier, start seeds earlier.

Not everything needs to be started indoors. Most root crops are direct seeded in the garden, though you can start beets indoors. Some flowers hate to be transplanted — larkspur, for example, which also needs cold temperatures after planting. Lettuce can be planted indoors or out, or both. I like to get some started early indoors. All the cucumber family plants I start indoors four to five weeks before planting outside as this protects them from striped cucumber beetles when they first germinate.

An important key to success with your seedlings is to water properly. If seeds dry out before they germinate, or when they are tiny, they are likely to fail. On the other hand, keeping seeds soggy all the time can lead to root rot. Check them every day. If you see the planting mix turn a lighter color or if it feels dry to the touch, water. I water with a dilute solution of fish or seaweed fertilizer once a week.

To get seedlings to wake up and start to grow, I use heat mats sold for that purpose. They plug in and gently warm the seed flats. But I only use them until most seeds have germinated as too much heat for seedlings is bad. For one thing, the “soil” dries out fast with extra heat. I prevent that by using clear plastic covers sold to fit over the flats, creating mini-greenhouses that hold in the moisture.

I mostly use flats with 32 cells per trays that are roughly 9 by 18 inches, although others are sold with up to 108 cells per flat. I want plenty of room for roots to grow, so I buy cells that are as deep as I can find. I plant two or more seeds in each cell, just in case one seed does not germinate. For onions, I plant three or four seeds per cell, as they don’t mind a little crowding.

Most seeds germinate about 90 percent of the time. For tomatoes I sometimes snip off one plant when young, other times I let both grow, and separate them and replant both in bigger pots when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. For me, it’s hard to kill seedlings by snipping them off and I can always share seedlings with others.

Garden centers and catalogs sell a variety of stands with lights for growing seedlings. Most are quite expensive. You can also go to my website,, and search for “Building a Plant Stand.” That will give step-by-step directions for building an inexpensive A-frame plant stand that will hold six flats, and have room below it for four to six more flats on the floor.

Starting seedlings is not rocket science. It involves some investment, but the lights and plant stands last nearly forever. And, as the bumper sticker says, “Growing Tomatoes Is Cheaper than Therapy — and You Get Tomatoes!”

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Henry Homeyer.

A little dirt, a little risk

Learning and fun on Head’s Pond Trail in Hooksett

By Dan Szczesny

I can’t think of a better word than feral to describe my daughter’s love for the outdoors, so for now, I’m going with that.

We’ve raised Little Bean to be as unafraid of the traditional challenges of nature as possible. Mud. Wind. Snow. Dirt under the fingernails. All fair game.

The constraint of goal-setting when on the trail can often stifle exploration. The mountaintop will always be there, but hey, look at that cool rock! That sort of thing.

There’s a whole line of child psychology, in fact, that studies a developing field called Risky Play. Remember when you were a kid and you spent basically the whole day outside, unsupervised, doing things that adults today would be horrified to learn you were doing? Well, folks like Mariana Brussoni, a professor at the University of British Columbia, remembers. She says it was good for you, and a little of that today would also be good for kids.

The Head’s Pond Rail Trail runs along a 1.7-mile section of the famous Portsmouth and Concord Railroad line. Between 1847 and 1861 the line connected New Hampshire’s Seacoast to Concord. Photos by Dan Szczesny.

Risky Play done in the context of a relatively safe space is “really a fundamental way for them to figure out the world — how the world works, how their body works,” she says.

This was on my mind recently during a hike with Little Bean along the Head’s Pond Trail in Hooksett. This amazing little jewel of a rail trail sits right off Route 3 and is built along a 1.7-mile section of the old Portsmouth and Concord Railroad line, which dates back to 1847. Back then, it connected the coast to the capital and ran right through Hooksett. Today, it’s a super fun family hike during any season. Flat. Wooded. Water and rocks all over.

We love this trail, in part because it’s the home of Sheep Rock, a huge glacier erratic that looks like a sheep head, and a rock that we included in our Field Guide NH Rocks That Rock. On this trip, we were thrilled to have a crew from New Hampshire Public Radio accompany us to the rock.

All that was great. Except for the ice. And except for the fact that my daughter wanted badly to engage in Risky Play, the one thing we taught her to do and the one thing I wished, just this once, she wouldn’t!

How would this group of professionals with microphones and an itinerary react to my daughter taking great running head starts and sliding on the ice on her knees, screaming at the top of her lungs? How would they react to her being distracted by a cool branch or an icicle in the middle of asking her a question about rocks?

Well, pretty well, it turns out.

To their credit, the crew took their cues from Little Bean, letting her lead in her own way, letting her be a little crazy because sometimes crazy just means joyful and joyful is OK.

Push too hard and you’ll lose them. Keep them boxed up and they won’t come back. Let them be in a little bit of controlled danger to find their own footing.

There’s a more universal lesson here as well about the power of creating your own story, of building memory and self-worth. There’s lots of places to do this, but hiking with kids, I’ve found, lends itself best to forging bonds, building a history and boosting confidence.

But you need to be patient. And you need to exist in the same space as your kid, not the other way around.

We reached our destination that day, and by the time Little Bean sat atop that rock shaped like a sheep, her knees were filthy, her hair was a tangled web and she had bruises on both elbows. In other words, it was a good hike, and more importantly, it was her hike.

Featured photo: The author’s daughter sits atop Sheep Rock, just off the Head’s Pond Rail Trail in Hooksett. Sheep Rock is listed in the NH Rocks That Rock 25 field guide, a collection of the state’s most famous and historic rocks and boulders. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 22/02/24

Family fun for the weekend

High-flying show

• The Grand Shanghai Circus will show off their acrobatic feats in shows at the Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) this Saturday, Feb. 26, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $24.50 to $54.50. Search “Grand Shanghai Circus” to see clips of their shows featuring aerial acrobatics, juggling and more.

Fun with pool noodles

• The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (2 Washington St. in Dover;, 742-2002) is open Tuesdays through Sundays, with sessions from 9 a.m. to noon all six days as well as from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission costs $11 per person, $9 for 65+ (no charge for children under 1). On Thursday, Feb. 24, catch the second day of the Pool Noodle Workshop with Homeslice Puppetry. At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the museum will host a virtual class by Eric from Homeslice and provide materials so kids can make a puppet to take home, according to the website, which says the workshop is included in admission to a Thursday session. The website describes the project as being good for ages 3 and up with a grownup to help. Or head to the museum on Friday — both Feb. 25 and March 4 have “Science Friday” programming on the schedule. Reserve admission for the museum online.

Science outing

• The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive in Concord;, 271-7827) is open daily through Sunday, March 6, with sessions from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. There will be four planetarium shows daily, according to the website, which recommends purchasing timed tickets in advance. Admission costs $11.50 for adults, $10.50 for students and seniors and $8.50 for kids ages 3 to 12 (admission is free for children 2 and under; masks required for visitors over the age of 2). Planetarium show tickets cost $5 per person (free for children 2 and under); see the website for the schedule of planetarium shows.

• Though normally closed on Mondays, the SEE Science Center (200 Bedford St. in Manchester;, 669-0400) will be open Monday, Feb. 28, as well as Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Purchase reservations in advance via the website (masks are required for all visitors age 2 and up); admission costs $10 per person ages 3 and up.

Winter fun

McIntyre Ski Area (50 Chalet Court in Manchester; 622-6159, has holiday hours: The lift is slated to operate daily through Saturday, March 5, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sunday, March 6, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The snowtubing Bonneville Thrill Hill hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 to 3 p.m., 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., 6 to 8 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. daily through Saturday, March 5. See the website for daily updates on weather and ski conditions.

• NH Audubon is holding a “Winter Woodland Wander” on Tuesday, March 1, at the Massabesic Center (26 Audubon Way in Auburn;, 668-2045). A $15 ticket covers a family of four. During the hour-long program, attendees will hit the trails in search of tracks and other signs of wildlife, according to the website, where tickets can be purchased.

• Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (18 Highlawn Road in Warner;, 456-2600) is holding a Snow Snake Winter Celebration on Saturday, Feb. 26, and Sunday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Learn to play the Abenaki outdoor game Snow Snake, featuring a wooden snake. The outdoor event, which is free and open to the public, will also feature a used book sale. Admission to the museum itself costs $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $7 for children 6 to 12 and $26 for a family of two adults and children under 18.

Seed shopping

A few ideas to get you started

When I was a young man my mailbox was often blessed with seed catalogs at this time of year. Now? Not so much. Back then I pored over them. I drooled over the listings. I wrote checks for small amounts and mailed them off to the companies offering the best-sounding varieties.

Now? Most seeds are sold online. Yes, my favorite feed-and-grain store, some hardware stores and the local food coop still sell seeds over the counter. And I do get a few catalogs in the mail. But seeds are largely sold through the internet.

One company that still sends me a catalog in the mail is called “Seeds from Italy” (also at I’ve been following this company, which is based in Lawrence, Kansas, since a friend of mine bought it in 2011. His son, Will Nagengast, just took over and I called him to chat a bit after I got his catalog.

According to Will, the American palate is just discovering bitter vegetables. Italians, however, have been eating and enjoying those distinct flavors for a long time. So they feature many vegetables that are not commonly sold by other seed companies; they market seeds from Italy.

One I have tried is Cima di Rapa or broccoli raab, which I often see in cooking magazines, but not at the grocery store. It is unpleasant unless cooked, but cooked it is much like broccoli. It does not form a big head like broccoli, however — it’s all side shoots.

Do you like arugula? They sell five kinds, including a wild arugula (which can seed in if you let it). Then there are a dozen kinds of radicchio, including a pink-leafed one (Radicchio del Veneto) that Will says is very popular. Never grown radicchio? It can be eaten raw in a salad, or fried with bacon and shrimp, or put in a stir-fry or soup. Grilling or cooking it makes the flavor sweeter. Most varieties are red-leafed and round, but some are elongated like romaine lettuce.

I’m ordering seeds for a winter squash Will recommended: Butternut Rugosa. He says it is much larger than the Waltham butternut I normally grow: up to 30 or 40 pounds! He said it keeps for up to four months in a cool, dry place. He oven-roasts them and then freezes most of these big squash. Will uses the sweet, creamy meat for making homemade ravioli.

Fruition Seeds in the Finger Lake Region of New York State was started in 2012 by Petra Page-Mann and Michael Goldfarb. They are fully organic farmers, and most of what they grow are heirloom seeds, but they have developed a few varieties themselves through their breeding program. They encourage their customers to save seeds and use their own. I called Petra recently to see what they have added to their seed line.

August Ambrosia is a short-season watermelon that Fruition developed over a six-year period in collaboration with Cornell University. They tested it each year with visitors to the farm to get just what people wanted: sweet, juicy melons that, even if planted in June, will produce ripe melons in August. The rinds are thin and the seeds are small. Petra told me on the phone that you can eat the seeds — or have fun spitting them!

“Food is so social. Growing and sharing food is how we remember to be human,” Petra told me. So she welcomes visitors to the farm, and shares her food — and her fantastic enthusiasm — with her visitors. And she learns what appeals to her customers, which is good business.

Fruition sells seed for two interesting cabbages: Kalibos is a deep purple cabbage, cone shaped, with big hips. According to the website, it is best as a fall cabbage; sow in early or mid-July for best results. You can seed them in six-packs in early July and transplant them into the garden in early August at two-foot spacing. Harvest them in October and November to get heads of optimal size and sweetness.

Mermaid’s Tale is a cross between Kalibos and early green cone-headed cabbage. Each one is unique in color, shape and flavor: lime green to emerald with lavender to burgundy veining. Sharp or subtle flavor.

Another specialty of Fruition Seeds is their “Hope is a Verb” dahlia. Each seed is unique and each flower is different, made from innumerable crosses of dwarf and semi-dwarf collarette-style dahlias. Petra explained to me that dahlias have eight sets of chromosomes, and consequently have many ways of expressing their genes. The plants are 2 feet tall or less, with blooms 1 to 3 inches across. She said they are fabulous for short seasons and lower light conditions. I shall start some.

Lastly I shall order Spotlight Snow Peas from Fruition Seeds. Some will be green, some purple, some mixed colors. They are very early (or late if planted in early August for a fall crop), very sweet, and 3 feet tall or less. Petra says they taste great and only take 52 days to harvest!

Every company has something unique and wonderful. Buy your seeds now, as some seed companies will sell out before summer. And if you haven’t tried starting seeds indoors, I’ll tell you about that next week.

Featured photo: Hope is a Verb dahlia. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 22/02/17

Family fun for the weekend

Lunch with the gnomes

Take the “little” in your life to the “Little Lunch Date” at Chunky’s Cinema Pubs (707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham, on Friday, Feb. 18, at 11:30 a.m. featuring the 2011 movie Gnomeo & Juliet (G). The movie features the voices of Emily Blunt and James McAvoy as star-crossed lovers from the red- and blue-hat having gnome societies, respectively. Admission is free but you can secure a seat in advance by purchasing $5 food vouchers.

Theater with the Marches

Get the antics of Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth in Little Women, the Broadway musical as performed by the Palace Youth Theatre, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, and Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for kids ages 6 to 12.

Winterfest with the neighbors

If you are looking for some fun and an excuse for a drive, Lowell is holding its Winterfest during the evening on Friday, Feb. 18, and on Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium (50 E. Merrimack St. in Lowell, Mass.). The event runs from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, according to the event’s Facebook page, which lists plans as including entertainment, food trucks, a soup competition, an arts market, a youth mural competition, ice skating and family activities. See

Basketball with the Wildcats

Catch the women’s UNH basketball team on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 1 p.m. when they play University at Albany at Lundholm Gymnasium at UNH in Durham. On Wednesday, Feb. 23, the women’s Wildcats team will play New Jersey Institute of Technology at 6 p.m. Tickets to individual games cost $10, $8 for seniors and 12 and under. See for details.

Storytime with a snail

The Bookery Manchester (844 Elm St. in downtown Manchester; will feature Dashka Slater’s books Escargot and A Book for Escargot, both illustrated by Sydney Hanson, at its weekly storytime and craft on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 11:30 a.m. After the books, kids can make a paper salad. Register for the event online.

Winter musings

Thoughts on having a great garden

This is a good time for all of us to stop and reflect on how we garden. Are we creating lovely-looking spaces but failing to support pollinators, birds and wildlife? What about the environment? Can we do more? If so, how can we improve? Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, I would recommend that native plants dominate our gardens. I’d say 80 percent of our plants (or more) should be native, especially trees. Why? Because they do the best, by far, at supporting wildlife — feeding birds and providing food and shelter for animals. Oaks, the best tree of all for wildlife, support nearly 1,000 species of butterflies and moths. But many species of landscape trees and shrubs are from China or Japan, and many only support a handful of species. All plants are not created equal.

Caterpillars of moths and butterflies feed on the leaves of our native trees and shrubs and are what are fed to baby birds. That’s right, even seed-eaters feed caterpillars to their young because they are full of protein and fat that baby birds need to thrive.

I think we all should avoid chemicals in the garden — and not just the vegetable garden. Rachel Carson taught the world that DDT, a powerful insecticide widely used in the 1950s, was killing off our eagles. But all chemicals used in the garden disrupt natural growth processes — and can adversely affect us, too. Even something as seemingly bland as 10-10-10 fertilizer is only 30 percent fertilizer — the makeup of the rest is deemed “proprietary information.” So we don’t know what chemicals are used in it. And the salts in fertilizer are lethal to many microorganisms.

Even pesticides that are derived from plants would be banned, if I ran the world. Yes, they are listed for use by organic growers, but many of them are non-specific killers. Both rotenone and pyrethrins are “organic” but very toxic to bees, others to fish and toads. I guess I would make you pass a test about the pros and cons of any pesticide before you could buy it! Go to for a nice online evaluation of organic pesticides.

Sure, the Japanese beetles can be pesky. But do you really want your kids and dogs playing on a lawn with pesticide residue on it? I don’t. Plants do fine with organic techniques. Pick off those dang beetles and drown them in soapy water.

Want to make your gardening easier? Don’t let your weeds make seeds. Seeds can last years, waiting patiently for you to decide to go to the beach for a week in August. Then they will germinate and grow like crazy, making you go crazy when you come back and see the gardens full of weeds.

The real solution is to learn to weed properly, have a tool that works well for you, and spend time doing it every day from April to October. We brush our hair and teeth every day, so why can’t we do a little weeding every day? Even 20 minutes six days a week will make a huge difference. The CobraHead weeder is the best tool I know for getting roots out and removing weeds.

This is the time to create some winter whimsy in the garden. Courtesy photo.

What else? Know your own capacity. Don’t have the local farmer plow up your entire back lawn to make your first vegetable garden. Start small, enjoy what you have, don’t work until your back hurts and your hands have blisters. If possible, garden with a loved one or friend. For me, gardening with another is always enjoyable.

And then this: Create biodiversity in the landscape. Put some flowers in with your veggies and veggies in with the flowers. Artichokes or purple kale will look great in your flower bed. Marigolds in the vegetable garden are thought by some to repel certain pests. An acre of cabbage will attract loopers that might not find one or two plants. A biodiverse garden supports more creatures of all sorts, including beneficials.

Build a compost pile. You don’t have to obsess about the carbon/nitrogen ratio or take its temperature weekly with a long compost thermometer the way some gardeners do. Just add green and brown materials to it in layers. Add some grass clippings to get it heating up and breaking down leaves and dead weeds.

Never add invasive weeds to your compost pile. Things like goutweed or Japanese knotweed, or anything with seeds. Turning a compost pile does add oxygen, which will help the breakdown of materials, but I rarely have time to do so. Don’t be afraid to buy good compost if you don’t have enough.

Think about the size of your lawn. Does it need to be so big? Could you plant some native trees or shrubs? Once established, trees are very little work. They provide shade and cool the air in summer, and fix carbon in the soil — carbon that otherwise would be contributing to global warming.

Add some hardscape to your property: stone walls, a bird bath, some sculpture or a few places to sit and relax. Things that can stay out all winter and look good against the snow are nice — after all, winter is long here in New England.

Grow enough food that you can share some. Go meet your new neighbors across the street or the elderly widow who no longer grows veggies. But don’t just give away zucchini. Grow enough tomatoes, potatoes and garlic to share with others.

Lastly, take a few moments every day to walk through the garden, pausing to look at the beauty, not just the weeds. Find time to sit and reflect on how lucky you are to have a nice garden.

Featured photo: Oaks are pretty for us and food for caterpillars and wildlife. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 22/02/10

Family fun for the weekend

One bird, two bird

• This Saturday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 13, is the Backyard Winter Bird Survey — an excuse to do a little winter bird watching and enjoy both birds and math out in the wilds of your own backyard. Go to the New Hampshire Audubon’s to download the forms and read the rules for counting birds, which can be done for as long or short a time as you and your fellow bird watchers would like. Along with more than two dozen bird species, the form also asks for the number of red and gray squirrels spotted.

Wildcats basketball

• For those looking for some in-person college basketball, the University of New Hampshire is allowing masked spectators to Wildcats games this season, according to This Saturday, Feb. 12, at noon you can catch the women’s team play the Binghamton University Bearcats at noon at Lundholm Gymnasium at UNH in Durham. On Monday, Feb. 14, catch the men’s team in their game against UMBC at 4 p.m. (the game is a reschedule of the Jan. 2 game and tickets to that game will be honored). Tickets cost $10, $8 for seniors and 12 and under.

Free day

• As with every second Saturday, New Hampshire residents who go to the Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester;, 669-6144) on Saturday, Feb. 12, will get in for free. See the website for the museum’s Covid policies. The museum is open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Current exhibits include “As Precious As Gold: Carpets from the Islamic World,” “WPA in NH: Philip Guston and Musa McKim” and “Tomie DePaola at the Currier.”

Also scheduled for the Currier on Saturday: The state’s mobile vaccination van will be on site from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Register to get a shot at

Science Friday

• Little scientists can head to Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St., Dover; 742-2002, on Friday, Feb. 11, for another installment of Science Friday. The Friday sessions (which run through the end of April) feature “messy experiments and activities that focus on sensory fun,” according to the website. The events take place at 10 a.m. during the morning session (which runs from 9 a.m. to noon) or at 2 p.m. during the afternoon (from 1 to 4 p.m.). The activities are geared to ages 3 and up with the help of a grownup. To visit the museum, pay for admission ($11 for everyone over 1 year old, $9 for 65+) and reserve a time slot in advance.

Save the date: for JoJo Siwa

The JoJo Siwa D.R.E.A.M. The Tour will come to the SNHU Arena (555 Elm St. in Manchester; on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. The tour is rescheduled from May 2020 (tickets for that show are valid here) but new tickets are available.

Show time (kind of)

Some flower shows will go on

Usually at this time of year I am planning my travel to the various flower shows around New England: Boston, Connecticut or Vermont. Perhaps Maine. Not this year. Most of the shows have been put off due to Covid, including the Boston Show, which was canceled recently.

The Connecticut Flower Show website says it will be the only major flower show in New England, and it will take place Feb. 24 to Feb. 27 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Tickets cost $20 for adults on the day of the event, or $16 if purchased in advance (which will avoid the wait in line). Children ages 5 to 12 are $5, and children under 5 are free. The Convention Center has been upgraded to minimize risk of Covid transmission and state and local regulations will be followed.

The show is always known for having lots of educational workshops. This year is no exception: There are some 80 presentations, including organic lawn care, container gardening, floral arranging and pollinator gardens, among others.

One talk that caught my eye is by a friend of mine, Len Giddix: “It’s Rain Gutter Gardening: Sprouts, Herbs and Greens without Draining Your Wallet.” I called Len, who explained that he uses 4-inch pots in a 10-foot section of gutter partially filled with potting mix. It’s tidy and can produce a lot of greens. And no, the gutter is not up high; it’s along the edge of a walkway. Sounds slick! He’ll repeat his demo every day.

The show will have all the usual vendors selling seeds, plants, cut flowers, air plants, tick protection products, beekeeping supplies, garden tools and more. Organizations like the Rose Society will be there, and other nonprofits.

Next there is the Chelsea Flower Show in London from May 24 to May 28. This show has always been held outdoors and is known for the lavish gardens built by world-famous designers, often using mature trees and shrubs. There are, of course, tents, one of which would easily accommodate Barnum and Bailey at its heyday. My wife and I attended in 2017.

The magnificence of the show is startling: hundreds of fresh blossoms in perfect form in many of the booths. New introductions of named varieties are on display. Actress Judi Dench got a lovely apricot-colored rose named after her by David Austin the year I attended, and as press, I got to see her accept the honor. The chief executive of Burpee Seeds, George Ball, was in the Burpee booth, greeting us and answering questions. There was even a cute little robot cutting the lawn in one booth. The show covers many acres.

If you decide to go, I recommend joining the Royal Horticultural Society for 50 pounds ($67.50 at current exchange rate). The membership gets you admission to the show for two days before it opens to all, a 10-percent discount on all tickets, and other benefits including their quarterly magazine. I went on the first membership day and it was quite crowded, so I can’t imagine what it is like when the show is open to the public. I recommend attending at least two days to see it all, which is what we did.

Daily tickets for adults cost about $55, with Saturday at about $116. But if you can afford it, go! It’s a once in a lifetime experience. And women: Bring your most colorful garden hat and a flowered dress as the British women love to dress up for the show — and you don’t want to appear like the poor “country cousin.”

Then there is the Philadelphia Flower Show, which will be held outdoors from June 11 to June 19 at South Philadelphia’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. The show, which was first organized by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in 1829, will include 15 acres of this large park with majestic trees and views of the waterfront. By holding the show outdoors in early summer, exhibitors will be able to include larger landscape material than an indoor event, much as the Chelsea Flower Show does.

I have attended the Philly show in the past, and always was thoroughly “wowed.” One aspect of the show that I love is the competitions that allow ordinary gardeners to strut their stuff, competing for ribbons for best house plants, flower arrangements, specialty plants and more. Then of course there are the displays made by professional landscapers, stone workers and designers. And more garden geegaws than you can imagine are for sale.

Bring an umbrella or raincoat, just in case of a shower. There are tents, but much is outdoors. The large outdoor venue should keep attendees well socially distanced.

Admission is $45 for adults, $30 for young adults (18 to 29), and $20 for kids 5 to 17. Go to the website to read more about gala events and early morning tours:

Covid has limited what we can do and see, but there are still a few places to go if you hanker for a good garden show. And maybe next year they will all be back to normal.

Featured photo: Calla lillies at the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo courtesy of Henry Homeyer.

Winter in Wilton

New festival features art, snow elves, s’mores and more

The just-created Wilton Arts Market will make its debut at the first-ever Wilton Winter Festival, a community collaboration that will offer a day of arts, crafts for kids, fire pits and s’mores, ice sculpting demonstrations, a teddy bear clinic, a potluck dinner and live music from folk singer Paul Driscoll.

“We could all use some feel-good moments right now,” said Kate Schimke, a Wilton Main Street volunteer and founder of the Wilton Arts Market. “I want people to come and shake off the winter blues.”

Ceramic jewelry. Courtesy photo.

Schimke is planning to hold monthly arts markets after its debut at the festival, in the hopes of drawing attention to the town’s three-floor art mill right by the Souhegan River, home to many artistic minds.

“Wilton’s really got a lot of cool artisans in town,” Schimke said. “There are so many talented local crafters.”

Her own studio is there too; she and her husband create artisan jewelry and decor under the name Prayers of Nature. She said she’s earned her stripes when it comes to vending her art.

“I was sick of packing up my art and [doing other shows],” she said. “I thought, why don’t I do this outside my art studio in Wilton?”

Once she decided to start an arts market in town, she talked to Wilton Main Street about collaborating with other town organizations to make the first one part of a community-wide event — and thus, the Wilton Winter Festival was born.

It’s not a brand new idea for Wilton; in fact, the Heritage Commission will have on display artifacts from old Wilton Winter Carnivals.

“[They] used to draw four trains a day from Boston and beyond to come to Wilton,” said Sandy Lafleur, a board member for the Wilton Community Center. “There were all kinds of winter activities, including a toboggan run that went through three towns: Wilton, Lyndeborough and Milford!”

There won’t be a toboggan run at this festival, but there will be outdoor activities like ice sculpting demonstrations, songs and s’mores around a campfire, and snow elf making. The Wilton Public Library is heading up the latter two events.

Pat Fickett at the Wilton Public Library said youth librarian “Ms. Boo” will have several activities for kids throughout the day, starting with Valentine making at the library from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. It’s a drop-in event with craft supplies available and is geared toward families and teens, she said.

Handmade pet toys. Courtesy photo.

At noon, Ms. Boo will head to the campfire at Main Street Park, where she’ll sing and play guitar.

“Songs will be familiar to most for singing along,” Fickett said. “There may be a winter story as well.”

And from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Ms. Boo will lead Snow Elf Making on the library lawn, providing everything that’s needed to create “some adorable elf creations,” Fickett said.

Saint Joe’s Mobile Clinic will be set up at the end of Main Street for heart health screenings, as well as games and teddy bear clinics, so kids are encouraged to bring their favorite stuffed animal to the event.

Local folk singer-songwriter Paul Driscoll will be playing live during the arts market, which is being held in the Congregational Church due to lack of space in the arts mill (it will be held outside the mill building once the weather warms up, Schimke said.

There are eight artisans signed up for this first market, including a macrame artist, a jeweler who works with clays and pottery, an artisan who makes pet gifts, a jeweler who works with bead embroidery and Schimke and her husband with selection from their Prayers of Nature boutique.

Wrap up the day by bringing a dish to the potluck dinner, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., with drinks, bread and desserts provided.

“I just want people to come out and have fun,” Schimke said. “It’s all about supporting the community.”

Wilton Winter Festival
This free event will be held Saturday, Feb. 12, at various locations in Wilton. Email and find the event on Facebook.

Congregational church
Inside, masks required
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Arts market, live music, drinks and refreshments, and a Heritage Commission pictorial display of past winter carnivals in Wilton.
5 to 7 p.m.: Potluck dinner
Inside, masks required
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Valentine crafts
1:30 to 2:30 p.m.: Snow elf building
Main Street Park
Noon to 1 p.m.: Stories and songs at the fire pit, s’mores and marshmallows
1 to 4 p.m.: Ice carving demonstrations

Featured photo: Valentine gnomes. Courtesy photo.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!