Folk Music Heaven – that about sums up most of August. In between, let’s sprinkle in some trains, saw blades, sewing machines and trees – read on to see what in the world we did during the month that includes all those things!
Those of you that have been following us over the years know that we are learning how to play mountain dulcimers, taking in the occasional dulcimer workshop when one has been nearby. Friends we met at the recent dulcimer festival in Winston-Salem recommended August Dulcimer Daze in West Dover, Vermont, put on by George Haggerty, musician and dulcimer-builder. We opted to stay at the Mountaineer Inn where the festival was being held, signing up for their meal package. How cool – we didn’t have to leave the Inn for any of our meals, very convenient with all the classes and mini-concerts happening over the weekend.
The Inn itself was pretty neat and rustic – no phones or TVs in any of the rooms, no air conditioning but none needed at that time. They are across the street from several ski runs – this place stays busy year-round.
The workshop was well-organized, although the greater turnout in attendees provided challenges in seating in the various ‘classrooms’. We had classes with Rob Brereton, Norm Williams, Bonnie Leigh, Nina Zanetti and Beth Lassi. Open mike Friday evening was a mix of dulcimer music, story-telling, and flute playing – no matter your level of playing – all were made welcome.
It was a treat to finally meet Nina and Beth as we’ve played their songs written as duets for the past several years. Bonnie is a certified music practitioner, playing soothing music for the actively dying in hospice situations. She played during one of our sessions, asking us all to close our eyes and relax while she walked around the room playing her small lap harp – we were all so relaxed at the end of her performance we were like limp noodles – awesome.
Thomasina Levy (whom we’d first meet in Winston-Salem) performed at the Saturday evening concert with Rob – it was a joy to see them interact together. The MacArthur Family performed the second half – very energetic and talented.
On our way home, we detoured to stop at The Vermont Country Store – wow! So much to see (and buy) in their store. Somehow we managed to go through without spending any money.
Our next musical event was attending the Woods Tea Company concert in Brookfield, Connecticut. Brian and Bonnie had never heard WTC perform so we made plans to meet down there. The trio was great, as always, but the evening was ruined because there was no crowd control. Apparently, a children’s movie was scheduled to be shown after the concert so the grounds at the town’s band shell were filled with families and young children – which is great to see them out. What wasn’t great was that several parents allowed their children free run over the grounds, including in and around WTC’s expensive sound system. Howard asked the parents in the audience three times, including interrupting one of their songs, to keep the kids away from their equipment, not so much because of the cost but the danger of hurting someone if any of the equipment was to tip over. His requests, then pleas, fell on deaf ears. To make matters worse, the sponsors gave away t-shirts during intermission, using a slingshot to fling them into the audience, with some shirts flying over the equipment. Those of us in the front rows were in danger of being trampled by small feet more intent on trying to catch a t-shirt than watching where they were going. It’s not often we’re anxious for a good concert to end, as I’m sure Woods Tea Company was also.
On the flip side, we attended another concert at Stanley Park in Westfield, Massachusetts two nights later, this time featuring Aubrey Atwater and husband Elwood Donnelly. Friends Louie and Anne joined us - we first enjoyed a picnic supper in the pavilion. What a fabulous performance they put on, as always. Their two hour performance went by way too quickly.
Visits with friends and family abounded during the month. We arranged leasing a nearby site for Brian and Bonnie to stay for a month. They spent their vacation here, as well as the weekends. Bruce (another brother) and wife Dani came up for a cookout one afternoon; David (the youngest brother) and his family also joined us for another cookout – we had a ‘sausage/wurst’ menu – some wonderful locally-made kielbasa, brats and cheddarwurst, and all the fixings.
One afternoon, we drove to Winsted to meet with Lucille’s cousin Rita, who lives in Vermont, who had been visiting her cousin Lorraine in Connecticut. Lorraine recommended we meet at The Tributary for lunch – a great choice. We continued our visit by following them back to Lorraine’s campsite at Sodom Mountain Campground in Southwick, Massachusetts.
Habitat friends Dave and Mary and their Wheaton terrier Molly stopped in for several days, sharing the leased site with Brian and Bonnie. Dave and Mary were touring New England – we were delighted we were part of their itinerary.
Let’s see how we can tie in trains and sewing machines and saw blades now….To give you a little background….In July, the town of Lee, Massachusetts, had a crafts fair on the Green where we met Michelle, owner of Functional Art (thermal insulated window treatments.) We kicked around ideas on how to use her product in an RV, got her business card, and continued browsing the crafts fair.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to a stop in Chester (small town located between Lee and Westfield) to check out the railway museum’s hours and lo and behold, who do we see but Michelle, whose office is across the street from the museum. Very few people visit the museum during the week so she keeps an eye out for visitors – she gave us a quick tour, we picked up some brochures, and she was chock full of Chester’s history. We have dubbed her Chester’s unofficial mayor, visitor’s bureau and chamber of commerce. Michelle’s seamstresses use part of the museum’s main room (when not in use by other functions) to create the window treatments.
That’s the train and the sewing machines – now for the saw blade. Michelle told us that Chester used to be a very busy mill town, processing granite from nearby quarries. Behind her office are the remains of one of the old granite mills, including an eight-foot diameter saw blade that was stuck in a piece of granite, probably the last one processed there. We saw bits and pieces of the machinery, as well as several polished pieces of granite, some of which were gravestones that for whatever reason were left behind – maybe a spelling or date error? Chester also was the only place in the US that processed emery (emery boards) quarried locally but the emery is now coming from Turkey and processed elsewhere.
What a fantastic stop that was, and one that we repeated twice more during the month – once with Brian, Bonnie, and friends Louie and Anne and again when Dave and Mary came by. Dave is a major train enthusiast, so we knew he’d enjoy the museum. The Chester Railway Station Museum has many one-of-a kind artifacts from the world’s first mountain railroad, the Western Railroad.
When we went back with Dave and Mary, David was our docent. He gave us tours of the sleeping caboose, the cooking caboose, and the railcar that has been converted to a children’s car with lots of hands-on activities for the kids. Inside the children’s car is a model train that circles around the interior. David told us about the remains of the round house about a half mile down on the other side of the track. A short hike brought us to the ruins – it must have been quite an operation during its heyday.
David also told us a little history of the Keystone Arch Bridges designed by Major George Washington Whistler (his son James MacNeil Whistler is the artist who painted Whistler’s Mother). Along the length of the West Branch of the Westfield River are the first keystone arch railroad bridges built in America. Built in 1840, the bridges range in height up to 70 feet, making this stretch of the railroad the longest and highest in the world. This is still an active line with most of the bridges still being used. Friends of the Keystone Arch Bridges have created a trail to view about nine of these bridges. Time was short that day so we visited the only double keystone arch bridge within the system, located within just a few minutes’ walk from the trailhead. We hope to walk the entire length of the trail in the future.
Some other fun things we did in August – the zucchini festival in West Stockbridge. We feasted on some zucchini treats, checked out the decorated zucchinis, watched zucchinis catapulting across a parking lot, and wandered around the festival checking out the crafts. Bonnie and Lucille also attended the annual quilt show in Otis – beautifully made quilts on display. One of the quilts was raffled off and Lucille won it – woo hoo! This “Hip to be Square” quilt will be traveling with us, a nice reminder of our times here in the Berkshires.
At last – let’s talk about trees! A major project during the month was having six trees cut down. Earlier in the month, a dead tree unexpectedly fell across our new screened gazebo, destroying its frame in the process. We were lucky no one was in it at the time and that the tree didn’t hit the fifth wheel. There was no wind that day – Mother Nature must have decided it was time for this tree to come down. We had one of the tree experts from Gary O’Brien and Son come by to eyeball the trees close to the fifth wheel that needed to be taken down. Joe suggested six of them, one of which was too close to the fifth wheel for comfort and another one which would have taken our neighbor’s shed down if it fell. The requisite paperwork was submitted to the Tree Committee at Klondike, permission was granted, and the job was subsequently scheduled.
We had to move the fifth wheel out of the site to allow easier access to the trees so we found a nearby spot just off our road to park it. Because it had been threatening to rain, the crew got started mid-afternoon, so they didn’t finish that day. We spent the night in our original home-on-wheels, the MountainAire, which was parked down in the storage lot. It was a bit of a challenge – the generator didn’t generate, the airbed didn’t air – must be payback for being stored for so many months. By noon the next day, the crew had finished – we kept two of the larger trees for firewood which they cut to size. Gary’s crew always does a great job cleaning up the area – all the limbs and branches were hauled off and debris cleaned up.
We spent the rest of that afternoon getting the fifth wheel backed into its site, blocked and leveled – hopefully it won’t have to be moved again. A neighbor commented that now that these trees have been cut down, sunlight can come through and melt any snow on the roof. We’ll take her word for it as we’ll be well south of the snow belt by that time.
Coming up: another month at Klondike; then off to Elkhart, Indiana for some routine maintenance work on the MountainAire with stops near Scranton, Pennsylvania and Fairlawn, Ohio en route. We’ll spend about a week in Huntsville, Alabama before returning to Rincon, Georgia and surrounding area for the rest of the year.