Whoosh, splat, wow!

Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta returns

by Jill Lessard

Things are going to get creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky on the Piscataquog River at the 22nd annual Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta, an autumn event unlike any other, on Saturday, Oct. 14, and Sunday, Oct. 15, in downtown Goffstown.

“Addams Family – Every Night Is Halloween” is the theme for this year’s fall festival, hosted by the Goffstown Main Street Program (GMSP). An array of Gomezes, Morticias, Wednesdays, Uncle Festers, Cousin Its and other “Things” are guaranteed to be on hand (pun intended) to board the giant pumpkins-turned-boats, some of which may “Lurch” to and fro, and possibly sink into the old mill stream.

The weekend-long celebration of giant gourds will once again feature the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off on Saturday followed by the fun-filled Pumpkin Regatta and Pumpkin Drop on Sunday, which always makes a splash. A variety of contests, such as the crowd-favorite pie eating contest, the pet costume contest and a pumpkin cook-off, will be held. Other entertainment, including a coloring page and a talent show, as well as food, crafts and a hayride will also be included in the weekend of activities. Admission is free.

“A long-time volunteer thought turning our giant pumpkins into boats and racing them in the river would be an interesting touch,” said Tina Lawton, President of the GMSP Board of Directors. That volunteer was local visionary Jim Beauchemin, and the pumpkins competing in the weigh-off can tip the scales at one ton or more. “Little did he know at that time,” Lawton said, “it would become one of the most popular fall events in New Hampshire.”

No wonder the event has been covered national outlets like NBC News and the Washington Post. Atlas Obscura even sent a reporter to participate in the race, but her hopes for victory sank quickly along with her giant pumpkin boat. “I went down with my ship,” said Gastro Obscura foods editor Sam O’Brien.

“That’s valiant. That’s the best thing a captain can do. So I’m proud of myself. I did my best.”

How many adventurous Addams Family aficionados will participate in this year’s highly competitive contest? “That depends upon how many giant pumpkins we have,” Lawton said. “Some pumpkins split or fail before the big day. This year is especially challenging with all the wet weather. Many pumpkins have split in recent days. We are hoping for at least five.”

In addition to the gutted gargantuan gourd regatta, the fur may fly as area pets rival each other in the pet costume contest, hosted by and located at Glen Lake Animal Hospital (15 Elm St.) on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Other contests will include the mouth-watering pumpkin cook-off, featuring four categories (appetizers/bread, entree, desserts, and kids (under age 12)); the talent show, spotlighting three age groups (up to 9 years; 10 to 15, and 16+), and the pie-eating competition, with three groups of 10 hungry and brave individuals competing to be named No. 1 in their age bracket.

Visitors are encouraged to enter the scavenger hunt, a fun way to get to know the village better, and the coloring contest, to be decided on Sunday morning after the judges review every completed coloring sheet brought to the GMSP Booth.

Lawton has borne witness to some of the most memorable moments — and mishaps — in the history of the Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta. “It snowed one year, and boats have sunk in the river,” she recalled. “[But] we do things with giant pumpkins like no other event.”

All are invited to put a witch’s shawl on, grab a broomstick you can crawl on, and plan to pay a call on the 22nd Annual Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta this weekend. “Come see the fun!” Lawson said. “And fall in love with the village of Goffstown.”

Goffstown Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Regatta
When: Saturday, Oct. 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 15, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Where: 15 Main St., Goffstown, NH
Cost: Admission is free
Visit: www.goffstownmainstreet.org/pumpkin-regatta-2023
Municipal parking lots (with accessible spaces) and street parking are available.

Saturday, Oct. 14
9 a.m. – giant pumpkins begin to arrive at the Common
9 a.m. to noon – touch a truck (corner of Elm and Maple)
10 a.m. – giant pumpkin carving begins
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – art show off at the town hall (16 Main St.)
10:30 a.m. – pet costume contest at Glen Lake Animal Hospital (15 Elm St.)
11 a.m. – Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off at the Common
1 p.m. – pumpkin cook-off (location TBA)
2:30 p.m. – giant pumpkin boat building on Mill Street

Sunday, Oct. 15
10:30 a.m. – talent show on the Common
noon – Giant Pumpkin Drop (Depot Street, across from the post office)
1 p.m. – pie eating contest on Mill Street
2 p.m. – mini pumpkin race for 50/50 raffle on the river
3 p.m. – Giant Pumpkin Regatta at the river

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 23/10/05

Family fun for whenever

Family shows

  • Symphony NH hosts a Halloween Magic Family Concert on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., at the Keefe Center for the Arts (117 Elm St., Nashua). The program will feature Halloween tunes such as “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Danse Macabre and Night on Bald Mountain. Costumes are encouraged. Tickets cost $8 to $20. Visit symphonynh.org.
  • The Rock and Roll Playhouse will present the live concert “Music of the Beatles for Kids” at the Bank of NH Stage (16 S. Main St., Concord) on Sunday, Oct. 8, at noon, doors open at 11:30 a.m. Tickets cost $18.75 in advance, an extra $5 at the door. Find out more about Rock and Roll Playhouse at therockandrollplayhouse.com.

Fall fest

  • Charmingfare Farm (774 High St. in Candia; visitthefarm.com, 483-5623) wraps up its Pumpkin Festival Saturday, Oct. 7, through Monday, Oct. 9, with admission times starting at 10 a.m. each day. Admission costs $29 per person (23 months and younger get in free). Pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, take a tractor or horse-drawn wagon ride, enjoy live music and more.
  • Applecrest Farm Orchards (133 Exeter Road, Hampton Falls; applecrest. com) is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on weekends through the end of October the orchard holds harvest festivals, which run Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This weekend the focus is the Great Pumpkin Carve, with a master carver tackling an 800-pound pumpkin to create a giant jack-o’-lantern, according to the website, which says the carve is scheduled for Sunday. Look for live music throughout the weekend: The Green Heron Bluegrass band on Saturday, Unsung Heroes on Sunday and RockSpring on Monday.

Important for pollinators

Migrating monarchs need their carbs

Despite my best efforts to support monarch butterflies, this year was discouraging: I only saw two monarchs visit my gardens. I have a small bed just for milkweeds, both the common one and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). But no monarchs laid eggs there this summer, no larvae ate the leaves, and I saw no butterflies sampling the nectar.

I know the importance of food for migrating monarchs at this time of year. They need to fill up on carbohydrates, fats and protein before flying long distances. That holds true for birds, too. Right now I have plenty of flowers blooming for monarchs and other pollinators, and seed heads waiting for the birds. I’m a bit discouraged, too, by the lower numbers of birds I am seeing. Let’s take a look at some of my fall favorites that migrating creatures could be feasting on.

According to Dave Tallamy, the guru of native plants for pollinators, the No. 1 plant we should all have is goldenrod — and we probably all do. There are dozens of species of native goldenrod, all popular with bees, moths and butterflies. Many gardeners pull them out when they show up uninvited. A few species spread by root and can take over a flower bed — but others are clump-forming. Even if you don’t want them in your beds, think about leaving them at the edges of your fields or woods.

Of those species easily found for sale in garden centers, the best is Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks.’ This plant is 3 to 5 feet tall and stays in an ever-expanding clump in full sun or part shade, but does not take over. Its blossoms last a long time, the stems curving gently outward, like fireworks. And no, goldenrod does not cause hay fever — that is ragweed, which blooms at the same time.

Less common is blue-stemmed or wreath goldenrod (Solidago caesia). I bought a plant 20 years ago and it is blooming now in dry shade. It really has not expanded its reach very much. It grows just 1 to 3 feet tall but usually is about 18 inches for me. It has delicate flowers that help light up a dark spot.

New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a tall native plant in the aster family with purple blossoms. It is still blooming for me, a month after starting to bloom. It does this by producing lots of buds which open sequentially — so it is not always a dramatic flower in a vase. But the bees love it. It is happiest in full sun in moist soil, but there it got too big for me, so I moved mine to dry soil with only morning sun. Now it is more manageable, but still a big plant. I’ve read that if you cut it back to the ground when it is 2 feet tall, it will stay smaller — but I never remember to do so. Sigh.

Speaking of asters, there are many native species, all good for pollinators and loved especially by monarch butterflies. This year the woodland asters are quite dramatic. They are a pale lavender and grow in shady places. Elsewhere a taller wild cousin stands 4 to 6 feet tall with deep purple or pink flowers. These grow in full sun and are often seen by the roadside at this time of year. Asters of all sorts are readily available at garden centers. Ask for native ones, not fancy hybrids.

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpurea) is another tall plant in the aster family. It can get huge — over 6 feet tall if grown in rich, moist soil. A named cultivar called ‘Gateway’ has longer-lasting flowers and richer colors than the wild ones, though those are nice, too. Smaller varieties such as Little Joe, Baby Joe and Phantom are nice, and better suited for smaller gardens. I haven’t grown them but see they are sold as being 3 to 4 feet tall. Monarchs and other pollinators love them. All appreciate soil that does not dry out.

One tall annual that monarchs love is Brazilian verbena (Verbena bonariensis). It grows tall stalks that are remarkably tough — they grow 4 or 5 feet tall but rarely need staking. Its flowers are in small clusters. It often drops seeds which send up new plants the following year.

Lastly for pollinators, I have to recommend fall crocus, which is not a crocus at all but a Colchicum. This is a bulb plant that flowers on a 6-inch stem (actually the throat of the blossom) in pink, white or lavender. It sends up foliage in the spring that dies back, then each bulb sends up a cluster of blossoms in September or even earlier. They do best in full sun and rich soil, but do fine with some shade. They like to be fertilized each year. I often see small bees and wasps buzzing around in the blossoms.

I know that many gardeners are already cutting back their flowers in preparation for winter. But hold on! Flowers with lots of seeds can be left as winter snacks for our feathered friends. Among the best are black-eyed susans, purple coneflower, sunflowers, zinnias, Joe Pye weed, coreopsis, sedums and ornamental grasses. Wait until spring to cut those back so that finches, chickadees, cardinals and other seed-eaters can enjoy them, especially on those cold, snowy mornings when you don’t want to go fill up your feeder.

And of course, leaving some work for spring means less work now! So leave some seeds for the birds, and enjoy watching them in the winter.

Henry is the author of four gardening books. His website is www.Gardening-Guy.com. Reach him at henry.homeyer@comcast.net.

Featured photo by Henry Homeyer.

Leafy fun

Warner Fall Foliage Festival celebrates community

The Warner Fall Foliage Festival returns Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8, after a two-year hiatus, welcoming attendees to celebrate community and culture in its 76th year.

Originating in 1947, the festival started as a community fundraising event.

“It has since evolved to feature amusement rides, craftspeople, music and food,” organizer Ray Martin said.

The theme for this year’s grand parade is “Favorite Songs, Past and Present,” with festivities including the 5K road race on Saturday, Kids’ Fun Run on Sunday morning and an ice cream eating contest at the Velvet Moose on Sunday afternoon. Live performances are schedule from various artists such as New Nile Orchestra, The DoBros and East Bay Jazz Ensemble.

Another highlight, Martin said, is the extensive array of crafts, with more than 90 crafters showcasing their wares. “The quality of the vendors is one of the biggest reasons people come each year,” he said.

Discover wooden home decor, pen and ink creations, artisan jewelry, landscape art, wildlife photography, pottery and more by local and regional crafters. There will also be homemade and homegrown goods, including fudge, organic vegetables and dried flowers.

The festival also hosts other events including an all-you-can-ride midway, the oxen and woodmen’s competitions, the library book and bake sale and a lobster dinner and chicken barbecue.

It wouldn’t be the Foliage Festival without the foliage, and Martin said the signs are promising for an abundant display that weekend. “There’s some good foliage starting to come in, so we are optimistic,” he said. The foliage “complements the festival and gives people more to experience at the event,” Martin said, but isn’t “the main draw.” Rather, the festival’s focus is community engagement and supporting local organizations and initiatives.

“All funds collected during the festival go directly into the community,” Martin said, supporting entities such as Mainstreet Stage, Pillsbury Free Library and Riverside Park; community enhancements and the procurement of new school equipment; and local culture, music, art, sports, town and school projects.

Warner Fall Foliage Festival
: Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8
Where: Warner, on Main Street and various locations throughout town
Cost: Free admission
More info: Visit wfff.org.


Friday, Oct. 6
6 to 9 p.m. – Midway rides (all-you-can ride bracelet is $20)

Saturday, Oct. 7
9:30 a.m. – 5K road race (registration starts at 8 p.m. at Legion Hall)
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Crafts and farmers market in town center
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Library book and bake sale at Pillsbury Library
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. – Oxen competition at upper school parking lot
10 a.m. – Midway and rides open
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – The MainStreet Warner Lodge, just behind the town monument, will be open to the public. See the inside as restoration begins, and learn about the plans for this future community space and performance hall.
11:45 a.m. – Lobster dinner and chicken barbecue opens at school playground
1 p.m. – Children’s parade (assemble at post office at 12:45 p.m.)
2 to 3 p.m. – KCPA, Kearsarge Mountain Road Intersection
4 to 8 p.m. – Midway rides (all-you-can-ride bracelets are $25)

Sunday, Oct. 8
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Crafts and farmers market at town center
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Library book and bake sale at Pillsbury Library
9 a.m. – Kids’ 1-mile fun run (register online)
10 a.m. – Midway and rides open
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – The MainStreet Warner Lodge will be open to the public
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Woodmen’s competition at upper school parking lot
11:45 a.m. – Lobster dinner and chicken barbecue opens at school playground
Noon – Ice cream eating contest at The Velvet Moose
1 p.m. – Grand parade on Main Street
2 to 6 p.m. – Midway rides (all-you-can ride bracelet is $25)
4 p.m. – Raffle drawing at information booth

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

Pumpkin season

34th annual Milford pumpkin festival

For more than three decades the Milford Pumpkin Festival has brought residents of Milford and surrounding towns, as well as our Massachusetts neighbors, together for three days of fall fun with food, music and, of course, pumpkins. This year’s festival is from Friday, Oct. 6, to Sunday, Oct. 8.

“It has been a staple in Milford for … many years,” said Wade Campbell, president of the Granite Town Festivities Committee, which has hosted the festival since 2018.

The event originally started on The Oval as a way to raise funds for Town Hall renovations. Now, the money goes to fund the following year’s festival as well as to sponsor local leagues, art students and other scholastic areas.

“We take that money and try to donate it back into the community,” Campbell said.

The festival has expanded to the downtown area with many businesses and restaurants becoming involved over the years.

“A lot of them participate by selling their wares out front, or they put on their own events, which is kind of cool because they’ll have special musicians or comedians come into their venues, so everybody gets a little bit of action so to speak,” Campbell said. “They also sponsor … the window painting around The Oval [by] having a pizza party after they’re done decorating.”

Dozens of vendors will be present, including nonprofits supporting local schools, and craft vendors selling handmade products like jewelry and knitted items. Food and drink vendors at the tasting tent include LaBelle Winery, Pasta Loft Restaurant and Spyglass Brewing; there will be a wide range of food like Thai, American, fried dough and fair food. There will also be a beer, wine and spirits tent on the community house lawn Friday and Saturday night, and kid-friendly activities during the day like pumpkin painting, face painting and scarecrow making on Saturday and Sunday.

Other happenings include a pumpkin carving and lighting display, bounce houses and games and pumpkin catapulting.

Throughout the three days there will be live music on the Oval Stage and Community House lawn stage by performers such as Fox & The Flamingos, The Slakas and The New Englanders.

Visitors can watch Eric Escobar create a pumpkin festival mural over the course of the festival, and, weather permitting, do some stargazing with amateur astronomers who will have telescopes set up at Keyes Memorial Park on Friday and Saturday evening.

One of the biggest draws, according to Campbell, is the haunted trail on Friday and Saturday night.

“There’s a little bit of something for everybody,” Campbell said. “I hope that everybody has a great time … [and] for the festival to continue to grow for many years to come. … We try to put a smile on everybody’s face.”

34th annual Milford Pumpkin Festival
When: Friday, Oct. 6, 5 to 9 p.m. (opening ceremony at 6 p.m. on the Oval stage); Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Downtown Milford

Haunted trail
: Friday, Oct. 6, 6 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 7, 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Where: Emerson Park, 6 Mont Vernon St.
Cost: $5 for adults, $1 for kids 10 and under (children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult)

Beer, wine and spirits tasting
: Friday, Oct. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 7, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Community House Lawn
Cost: $20 per person for 10 tasting tickets

Milford historical walking tour
: Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8, 8 to 9:30 a.m.
Where: Begins at the Carey House, 6 Union St.

Pumpkin painting, scarecrow making and face painting
: Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Community House Lawn
Cost: $15 per pumpkin; $15 per scarecrow; face painting is $1 for one cheek and $5 for full face.

Pumpkin carving and lighting display
: Saturday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Bring carved pumpkins to Band Stand by 6 p.m. You can also bring your own from home.)
Where: On The Oval
Cost: $12 a pumpkin

Pumpkin catapult
: Saturday, Oct. 7, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 8, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Where: TD Bank lower lot
Cost: One pumpkin is $3, two pumpkins is $5

Featured image: Milford Pumpkin Festival. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 23/09/28

Family fun for the whenever

Farm fun

  • The Joppa Hill Educational Farm (174 Joppa Hill Road in Bedford; theeducationalfarm.org, 472-4724) will hold a Fall Fair on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $30 for a family admission. The day will feature artisan booths, food trucks, vendors, tractor rides, apples, pumpkin decorating, live music, kids’ activities, farm fun and more, according to the website.
  • Charmingfare Farm (774 High St. in Candia; visitthefarm.com, 483-5623) holds its Pumpkin Festival Saturday, Sept. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 1, as well as Saturday, Oct. 7, through Monday, Oct. 9. Admission costs $29 per person (23 months and younger get in free). Pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, take a tractor or horse-drawn wagon ride, enjoy live music and more. The festival also features a cow milking contest (not involving a real cow), pumpkin art, costumed characters and a visit with the farm’s animals.


  • It’s the final “Movies in the Park” for the season at Wasserman Park (116 Naticook Road in Merrimack) this Saturday, Sept. 30. At 6:30 p.m., catch 2022’s Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (PG), the third movie in the animated series (a spin-off of the Shrek movies) that always knew how to make excellent use of the vocal talents of Antonio Banderas. See merrimackparksandrec.org.
  • If you’ve got a kid of the right age (roughly pre-preschool through early elementary) you’ve probably been counting down the days to the Sept. 29 release of Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie (PG), the second big-screen outing of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series. Tickets for the movie are already on sale at some area theaters — O’neil Cinemas at Brickyard Square (24 Calef Hwy., Epping, 679-3529, oneilcinemas.com), Regal Concord (282 Loudon Road, Concord, regmovies.com) and area Chunky’s (707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham, chunkys.com). If your younger movie-goers prefer a sensory-friendly screening (when house lights aren’t turned completely off and the sound is turned down), there are a few on the horizon: Saturday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m. at the O’neil in Epping and Friday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m. at the three area Chunky’s.

On stage

  • American Girl Live stops at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St., Concord) on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. The show brings American Girl characters from various decades to life with music and dance, emphasizing friendship and empowerment, according to the website. Tickets range from $43.75 to $75.75. Visit ccanh.com.
  • The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra’s “Family Matinees” Chamber series returns Saturday, Sept. 30, at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Episocopal Church (101 Chapel St. in Portsmouth) with the orchestra’s principal winds performing “Carnival of the Animals.” Admission is a suggested $15 per family donation at the door. See portsmouthsymphony.org.
  • Catch a mid-week show with the Palace Theatre’s (80 Hanover St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org, 668-5588) youth company presentation of Big Bad on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. Actors from grades 2 through 12 will present the story of the Big Bad Wolf as he is taken to court by the fairy tale characters he has wronged, according to the company’s Facebook post. Tickets cost $12 to $15.
  • Music, science and general fun will come together for “Mr. C: World of Motion,” part of the Education Series, at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St., Concord on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m Tickets cost $8. Visit ccanh.com.

Sharpening pruners

With a little practice you’ll get it right

Fall is a good time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Once the leaves have dropped you can see the form — and the clutter — and decide what to take out. But before you begin, think about sharpening up your pruning tools, replacing blades, or buying new ones. Dull pruning tools are like dull kitchen knives: They’ll do the job, but not very well.

How tough is it to sharpen your own pruners? It’s really not that difficult. The biggest problem people have is overcoming their initial fear of ruining their tool by doing it wrong. You need to learn the proper angle, have the proper sharpening tool and have the patience to do it right. Experience will tell you if you have done well, and you won’t ruin those Felcos (the most common brand of bypass pruners out there) even if you don’t get it quite right the first time. It’s fun, once you get the hang of it.

What do you need for sharpening tools? The best sharpeners for hardened steel tools are made using synthetic monocrystalline diamonds embedded in nickel. I like the diamond sharpeners because they are very efficient. As a rule, five to 10 minutes on a conventional oilstone is equal to about a minute with a diamond sharpener. Coarse files are fine for most pruners, while fine files are better for scissors and knives that are kept very sharp.

What’s the first thing you need to do when starting off? I clean the pruners, which usually are covered with dried sap and dirt and sometimes rust. You can use soap and water, but I prefer a product called Sap-X. I let it work for 30 seconds and then scrub the blades, first with coarse steel wool and then, after reapplying the solvent, with a green scrubbie or fine steel wool to get the rust. If you don’t clean your pruners prior to sharpening, all of that debris will end up clogging your sharpener.

Then what? Grasp the pruner in your left hand (if you are right-handed), holding on to the handle that extends to the cutting blade. The cutting blade is the one that moves when you open and shut the pruners and is the only one that you need to sharpen. Steady it by placing the pruner on the edge of a table. Working under a bright light helps, because it will help you to see the shiny edge that develops as you sharpen.

Start sharpening as near to the throat of the pruners as you can (where the two handles join). Place the narrow tip of the tapered file at the throat, and push the file away from you, sliding it down the length of the beveled edge. With practice you will be able to use the full length of the file as you run it down the blade.

How will you know if you are sharpening at the correct angle? What you’re trying to do is restore the edge of your pruners to the original angle set when it was manufactured. Before you start take a marker and “color” the steel on the beveled edge of the moveable blade. This will help you to see what you’re doing — you want to remove the marks evenly across the beveled edge with your sharpener. If only a small portion of the blade turns shiny, you need to change the angle of your file slightly.

How much pressure should you apply on your sharpening tool? Not much — let the diamonds do the work. Sharpening will feel awkward at first, but gets easier as you do it. Use nice slow even strokes.

If you don’t have pruners, buy the best ones you can afford. If you take care of them, they will outlast you. Yes, you can buy some that look good for $10, but the quality of the steel will not be the same as buying good ones. Plan on spending $50 or more. If you can try them out before buying some — or use a friend’s pruners — that would help you make a good choice. They all come in various hand sizes, and some are right- or left-handed.

I have tried many kinds of pruners, but my favorites are made by Bahco, a French company. I’ve had some for 20 years that have a good ergonomic design and will cut branches up to 1.25 inches in diameter. I got mine from a company in Massachusetts, OESCO (1-800-634-5557 or www.OESCOinc.com).

And what if you can’t seem to get sharpening right, then what? I’m sure with a little practice you’ll get it right! But good pruners have replaceable blades, so if you’ve been cutting steel fencing with your pruners and ruined them, you can buy a new blade.

A replacement blade for a pair of Felco pruners (which cost $60 or more new) only costs about $20. Changing a blade requires a few basic tools, some common sense, and less than 5 minutes of work. And you need to look carefully at your pruners to see which model you have. Felcos have a number on the stationary blade, depending on the model you have, anywhere from 2 to 12.

As a last resort, look in the Yellow Pages under “Sharpening Services” and you should be able to find someone to do it for you — and maybe even show you how to do it yourself next time.

Henry lives in Cornish, N.H. You can reach him at henry.homeyer@comcast.net. He is the author of four gardening books and offers PowerPoint presentations to gardening clubs and libraries.

Featured photo by Henry Homeyer.

Kiddie Pool 23/09/21

Family fun for whenever

Celebrating schools

Celebrate Manchester School District schools at CelebratED, a production of the district and Manchester Proud, on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in Manchester. The festival will feature food, entertainment and activities, according to a press release. Free transportation to and from the park will be available by the Manchester Transit Authority, the release said.

Fall fun

The Presentation of Mary Academy (182 Lowell Road in Hudson) will hold its Fall Fun Fest on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This fundraiser will feature inflatables, face painting, pumpkin painting, ax throwing, food trucks, a petting zoo, touch a truck, a bake sale, vendors and more. Find them on Facebook.

Exploring outdoors

Portsmouth Fairy House Tours take place Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Portsmouth at the Strawbery Banke Museum, John Langdon House and Prescott Park. See more than 250 fairy houses and enjoy storytelling, face painting, crafts and games — wearing wings is encouraged, according to strawberybanke.org, where you can purchase tickets: $12 in advance for adults ($15 at the door); $8 in advance for seniors ($10 at the door); $5 in advance for ages 3 to 12 ($7 at the door) and a family pack admission for four of $30 in advance ($25 at the door).

Cars & trucks

See airplanes, fire trucks, helicopters, police vehicles and electric vehicles close up at Wings and Wheels on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nashua Airport (93 Perimeter Road in Nashua; nashuaairport.com). The event is free.

This weekend in Toddlerfest

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) continues its Toddlerfest this weekend with events including a Frozen dance party with Musical Arts of Dover (11 a.m.) and Science Friday: Color Mixing (2:30 p.m.) on Friday, Sept. 22; a bubble show (10 a.m.) and a celebration of the museum’s 40th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 23, and a mini yoga class (10 a.m.) on Sunday, Sept. 24. Next week’s offerings include Wacky Art Wednesday (2:30 p.m.) with a dinosaur theme and a Books Alive! Program with A Very Hungry Caterpillar on Friday, Sept. 29. The museum is open Sunday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. Reserve an admission slot online; admission costs $12.50 for everyone over 12 months ($10.50 for 65+).

A show for the ages

American Girl Live stops at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St., Concord) on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. The show brings American Girl characters from various decades to life with music and dance, emphasizing friendship and empowerment. Tickets range from $43.75 to $75.75. Visit ccanh.com.

Invasives: What are they? What can you do about them?

See a culprit, dig it out

I’m lucky. Unlike many houses built in the 1800s or early 1900s, mine had no invasive plants when I bought it in 1970, probably because it was built as a creamery, or butter factory. Decorative plants were not needed. Most older houses are plagued with plants brought from Asia or Europe by well-meaning people who did not know that, once imported, those handsome plants might not have any predators that could keep them under control. Most of our native insects will not eat foreign plants.

Plants including Japanese knotweed, Asian bittersweet, goutweed, purple loosestrife, yellow pond iris and multiflora roses have thrived in New England, and all are nearly impossible to get rid of, once established. Unfortunately, I now have four of the six mentioned above. But no Japanese knotweed or bittersweet, thankfully (they are two of the worst).

Plants including Japanese knotweed, Asian bittersweet, goutweed, purple loosestrife, yellow pond iris and multiflora roses have thrived in New England, and all are nearly impossible to get rid of, once established. Unfortunately, I now have four of the six mentioned above. But no Japanese knotweed or bittersweet, thankfully (they are two of the worst).

Multiflora rose hips are eaten by birds, but the plants are invasive and should be removed. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

The multiflora rose was introduced from Asia in the 1860s as a vigorous ornamental rose and as a source of rootstock for grafted roses. In the 1930s it was widely introduced as erosion control and alongside highways — a mature planting is so dense it can prevent cars from going over median strips. But the birds liked the rose hips — the seed pods — and it escaped cultivation.

So what am I doing to eliminate it on my property? I am digging it out. Most effective for one- or two-year-old plants, I am using a curved, single-tine hand tool called the CobraHead (www.cobrahead.com) to carefully excavate the roots until I can lift the plant out.

First, I dress appropriately: jeans, long-sleeved shirt, a hat with a brim, and heavy winter leather work gloves. This culprit wants to hurt anyone trying to uproot it. I cut off the branches, just leaving a foot or so to grab onto when pulling it out. Then I loosen the soil and pull weeds around it. The roots radiate outward from the stem like spokes on a bike. I loosen each root and tug gently when they are small enough to remove.

First, I dress appropriately: jeans, long-sleeved shirt, a hat with a brim, and heavy winter leather work gloves. This culprit wants to hurt anyone trying to uproot it. I cut off the branches, just leaving a foot or so to grab onto when pulling it out. Then I loosen the soil and pull weeds around it. The roots radiate outward from the stem like spokes on a bike. I loosen each root and tug gently when they are small enough to remove.

I’ve read that just cutting back the stems to ground level will stimulate the roots to send up new shoots everywhere, causing a bigger problem. There is no easy answer. Invasive plants are always difficult to remove — usually a scrap of root can generate a new plant or several.

Buckthorn is another invasive that is common along streams and at the edges of fields. As with multiflora rose, cutting it down stimulates the roots to send up new shoots. The best way to eliminate it is to starve the roots: Take a pruning saw and cut through the bark and the green layer of cambium beneath that. Go all the way around the trunk, then repeat 6 inches above the first cut, and repeat. This will not kill the tree until the third year, but this slow death will not stimulate the roots to grow. Best done in winter or fall after leaf drop.

Since buckthorn is often multi-stemmed, it can be difficult to use that method. Do it up high enough that you can get your saw in between the stems. But I’ve done it, and it works.

Purple loosestrife is blooming now in swamps and wet places — it is gorgeous but outcompetes many of our native wetland plants that feed pollinators and other animals. Like many invasives, it produces huge numbers of seeds and these seeds don’t all germinate the next spring — many stay dormant for years. I’ve read that multiflora rose seeds can stay viable up to 20 years — a good reason to clear plants out when young.

My approach to purple loosestrife is to dig out new, young plants. I recognize them by their square stem, the leaf shape and the color of the stem, which is often reddish. But for big established plants I just use a curved harvest knife to slice off the foliage once or more than once each summer. This prevents seed production and reduces plant energy.

As regular readers of this column know, I only use organic techniques in the garden. This means no chemicals including herbicides. From what I have read, most herbicides will not kill the invasives mentioned in this article. They will set them back considerably, depending on the age of the plant and the dose of the chemical. But learning to recognize all the invasives is best. And if one appears on your landscape, get rid of it immediately! And remember, persistence is important.

Henry is a lifetime organic gardener living in Cornish, N.H. He presents at garden clubs and libraries around the region, and is the author of four gardening books. Reach him at henry.homeyer@comcast.net.

Featured photo by Henry Homeyer.

Gardening better as we age

Make room for raised beds and homemade cookies

As a Certified Senior Citizen I sometimes wonder if I am too ambitious in my garden. I have about an acre of gardens with 200 or more kinds of flowers and a good-size vegetable garden. These gardens please me greatly, and I visit them daily all year, even in winter. In gardening season I spend considerable time weeding, pruning, mulching and admiring our gardens. I am blessed with a wife who loves to garden and even loves weeding and edging!

Still, I know that my body will not always be able to work as hard as I ask it to now. So what can we do as we get older to make our work easier? First, we can stop buying new plants and creating new garden beds when our current beds are full. That is a hard choice to make, but I do my best to follow that rule.
We can also diminish the size of our gardens. For years I have grown 35 to 50 tomato plants each year. But I will try to drop down to 25 next year, and fewer each year after that. I do love the tomatoes and freeze and dehydrate many each summer for year-round use. But we do have plenty of farm stands growing great veggies, and I could use them more.

Raised beds make gardening easier on us, too. I have one nice deep cedar gardening “trug” that is 6 feet by 2 1/2 feet in size and stands 30 inches tall. I got it from Gardener’s Supply several years ago and it has held up well. I grow mostly kitchen herbs in it, along with a little lettuce and a few hot peppers. It is just steps from the house, while the vegetable garden is downhill and a few hundred steps away. I might get another, or build one.

I recently visited my friend Fred Sullivan, a retired dairy farmer, who lives nearby. His wife of many decades, Shirley, passed away last year; she did most of the vegetable gardening but Fred has taken it on. Some years ago he made Shirley four nice raised beds using landscape timbers. Each is 4 feet by 8 feet and about 20 inches tall. He grows tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash and some Swiss chard.

I asked Fred about his gardening efforts. He told me that the doctor said he needed to stay active if he wanted to stay healthy. Gardening is a good form of gentle exercise for someone in their 80s, and you get “free” food, too! His best advice: “Be good to your soil, and it will be good to you.”

The raised beds make it easier to work. If you want raised beds, many companies are producing easy-to-assemble beds that are reasonably priced. Although most require quite a bit of soil mix, you can reuse the soil from year to year. I add fresh compost and some slow-release fertilizer each spring to my raised beds.

I recently called my friend Sydney Eddison at her home in Connecticut to talk about gardening as we get older. She is the author of many gardening books and a few nice small books of poetry in recent years. Her book Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older (Timber Press, 2010) is full of good ideas.

Sydney told me, “Cultivate imperfection.” She said that as we get older we have to accept that our gardens can never be perfect. But she emphasized choosing plants that are reliable under any conditions, and that are low-maintenance plants. I agree.

Daylilies  are easy to grow and require little work. Photo by Henry Homeyer.
Daylilies are easy to grow and require little work. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

Delphinium and peonies, for example, are wonderful plants but most need to be staked and looked after to keep them from flopping or breaking in a heavy rain. I can’t imagine ever getting rid of my peonies, but maybe I don’t need quite so many — I could share a few with younger friends.

A plant that Sydney loves is a sedum called Autumn Joy. She has a dozen or so mature plants, each clump 30 inches wide, and they look good even in winter wearing what she calls “snowy hats.” Daylilies are also wonderful — and a mainstay in her garden. She pointed out that they can bloom for nearly two months if you pick early, mid-season and late-season varieties.

Shrubs are less work to maintain than perennials or annual flowers. Plant them, or have someone plant them, and they will require little — so long as they are not varieties that grow inordinately fast. There are plenty that can go several years without pruning.

One of my favorites is called fothergilla (Fothergilla major). It has nice white bottle-brush blossoms in May and spectacular fall foliage. Mine, after 20 years and very little pruning, is only 5 or 6 feet tall and wide. It’s hardy to Zone 4.
And of course, the easiest plant to grow is lawn grass. Once established it really only requires a weekly mowing. There are plenty of people who are willing to do the mowing for a reasonable fee — and there is little they can do to damage it.
Sydney Eddison gave me good advice: If someone offers to help in the garden, accept! And if no one does offer, try to hire a younger person to help. Offer to teach them about gardening. At the end of the day sit in the garden and drink tea and eat homemade cookies. Both of you will be happy.

Henry is a lifetime organic gardener living in Cornish, N.H. He presents at garden clubs and libraries around the region, and is the author of four gardening books. Reach him at henry.homeyer@comcast.net.

Featured photo by Henry Homeyer.

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