All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Greenhouses are the new toilet paper: a carding chronicle

You know, we live in history all the time. But we rarely think about that. However, this time is different. We all know that this moment will be captured in memory for a long time to come.

But life, like dandelions coming up through the cracks in a sidewalk, always finds a way.

Here in Vermont, everyone is itching to get outside and the whirr of lawn mowers fills the air. Let’s check in to see how our three favorite gardening friends in Carding, Vermont are getting into the swing.


You have to admit, reopening the world is a strange experience for all of us. Think about that—in  all the history of the world, never have so many people been simultaneously aware of and reacted to a threat to their health. 

As Alice from over Wonderland way would say: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

If you can stand back from the fear—a highly recommended stance—and watch the passing parade with an objective eye, it’s interesting to see how the global mindset moves through a country, a state, a province, a single town.

Suddenly, lots of seemingly disconnected people feel the same way at the same time. How does that happen?

“It’s the old collective unconscious at work,” Amos Handy said as he held forth at the coffee machine in the back of Cooper’s General Store. “Folks get arrogant and think we’re all nothing but a bunch of individuals with no connections to one another. Then something like this happens and you can see the mood of our whole species change like the wind without any individual communication at all.”

“How do you figure that?” Gideon Brown asked.

Amos tapped the side of his head with his index finger. “Toilet paper,” he said.

Gideon shook his head. “Okay, I’ll bite. What about toilet paper?”

“Have you asked yourself why, of all the things that people wanted to hoard when this corona stuff hit, did they choose toilet paper? If you’re going to be shut in for a while, wouldn’t food make more sense at the outset?” Amos asked. “And then it was elastic to sew masks. Here one day, gone off the store shelves the next. Then flour because so many folks started baking at home. Why baking? And now it’s plants.”

“Plants?”

“Yeh. I have a friend over on the west side of the state, near Burlington. Big gardener, Gus is.” Amos paused for dramatic effect, making sure he had the attention of his whole audience. “I was talking to him last night and he told me that there’s been such a hard run on the greenhouses and garden centers over there, you can’t even find six packs of marigolds. Marigolds, one of the most common garden plants ever. And the shortages are everywhere at the same time. Don’t tell me we’re not connected to one another.”

Ruth Goodwin had been standing on the outskirts of Amos’s listeners consulting her shopping list when his words hit her.

Greenhouse shortages? Why, she and Edie Wolfe and Agnes Findley always waited until the traditional date of Memorial Day (May 30) to do the rounds among their favorite plant emporiums. But if marigolds were scarce in the garden centers near Burlington, what did that mean for the greenhouses in the Corvus River Valley?

She rushed through the rest of her shopping and in the few minutes it took to get to her car, she’d whipped out her phone to get Edie on the line.

“You’ll never guess what I just heard from Amos,” she said breathlessly. “Greenhouses are the new toilet paper.”

“What? You’re kidding.” Edie pounced on the news like a cat on catnip. “If you come pick me up, I’ll call Agnes. I’m not missing gardening season, especially not this year. I’m just aching to get my hands dirty.”

“Yeah, you, me and a whole bunch of other people,” Ruth said as she turned the key in her ignition.

“No marigolds?” Edie murmured as she rounded up her purse and mask, “That’s disturbing.”

It took less than fifteen minutes for the three friends to pile into Agnes’s minivan and rush off in the direction of Harrington’s Greenhouse. 

“It’s off the beaten track so maybe it hasn’t been hit as hard,” Agnes explained her choice to the others. “Can you imagine no geraniums or petunias or impatiens? Cross your fingers, ladies.”

Silence reigned all the way up the winding road, all three women leaning forward to catch the first glimpse of their destination. As Agnes turned into the driveway, they sighed as one. The greenhouses were busy as masked gardeners wandered the aisles.

But there were marigolds. And lobelia and coral bells and parsley.

“Prepare your wallets,” Agnes said as they leaped out of the van. “Gardening season has begun.”


Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Greenhouses are the new toilet paper

You know, we live in history all the time. But we rarely think about that. However, this time is different. We all know that this moment is being etched in our memories.

But life, like dandelions coming up through the cracks in a sidewalk, always finds a way.

Here in Vermont, everyone is itching to get outside and the whirr of lawn mowers fills the air. Here’s a sample of what’s in store tomorrow as our three favorite gardening friends in Carding, Vermont get into the swing of the season.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Green Spears from the Tennyson Fields: A Carding Chronicle

SH-asparagusHuman beings love to be busy. It’s a rare person who’s content to merely sit with her or his own twiddling thumbs.

So once the order to stay-at-home came from Vermont’s governor, the folks in Carding looked for ways to stay busy and productive.

To no one’s surprise, cooking has become a favorite pastime.

Edie Wolfe started a group dedicated to seasonal foods with recipes from one of her favorite cookbooks, Simply in Season, to take advantage of locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

This week, there’s local asparagus on the shelves of Cooper’s General Store. Care to drop in to see what’s cooking?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.


It doesn’t bear repeating that the past three months have been a tough slog for the world and we’re all itching to get outside and spend time with our friends.

But there have been some benefits. Ruth Goodwin finally learned how to text on her cell phone, a fact that makes her daughter happy. Andy Cooper took advantage of his reduced customer level to refurbish and upgrade the produce area of Cooper’s General Store. Between Andy and his brother Charlie, they made a big old mess out of the store’s entry way, forcing the folks who did venture inside to step over wiring and watch out for stray pieces of old flooring.

By general agreement, the result is a big improvement over the dilapidated patchwork of old shelving and bins. There’s new lighting, a fancy array of sturdy baskets for items such as winter squash, apples and pumpkins, and a way to prominently display the best of the local fruits and veggies.

The Tennyson family is one of Andy’s favorite suppliers. They  own a large farm on Belmont Hill where Lee and his wife Christina form the core of the fifth generation of Tennysons to urge the best from Vermont’s sweet soil. While Lee’s always been about what can be grown in the fields, Christina has stretched their offerings to include eggs, cheese and the best Greek-style yogurt you’ll ever eat.

Now there are certain spring rituals that folks in Carding like to observe. One is the annual raft race down the Corvus River on what always turns out to the be coldest day in May. There’s the pleasure of watching the new lambs bouncing in the greening fields. (And they really do bounce.)

And then there’s the arrival of the asparagus raised in a bed first planted years ago by Lee Tennyson’s father. When the green spears appear on the shelves of Cooper’s General store, everyone’s ready to celebrate the arrival Vermont’s short-but-intense gardening season.

Edie Wolfe’s been checking for asparagus at Andy’s every day since the middle of May but the green spears have been shy to appear because it’s been so cold. (We had four inches of snow on Mother’s Day!)

It seems especially important this year because of the online cooking group Edie started in response to the governor’s state-at-home order. The group’s activities are based on one of Edie’s favorite recipe books, Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Each week, the dozen members of the group choose a recipe to test and consume, reporting back on the outcome and trading cooking tips. By the time they’re done, everyone’s copy of Simply in Season will be filled with alterations and notes (and probably a few tomato-colored fingerprints).

Tennyson’s asparagus is a star in one of everyone’s all-time favorite recipes: Lemon Asparagus Pasta. Hence the anticipation for the vegetable’s appearance.

The first green spears hit Andy’s shelves at 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning. They were gone by 2:00 and cooked by 6:00. Edie thought you might like to join in the fun since it’s that time of year. So here’s the recipe (with a couple of her alterations).

Lemon Asparagus Pasta

This recipe comes together quickly at the end so it’s best to have all the ingredients prepped and at hand before you begin.

8 ounces angel hair pasta (Edie uses fettuccine)

2 1/2 cups asparagus cut into one-inch pieces

Cook pasta in boiling water until it has only 2 minutes to go on its cooking time. Add the asparagus and boil for that last two minutes. Drain thoroughly then return to their pan.

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup green onions, chopped (Edie uses one regular chopped onion since fresh green onions are hard to find this time of year)

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

3 tablespoons lemon juice

While pasta cooks, melt butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions (green or otherwise) and lemon peel and sauté for one minute. Add lemon juice and cook until liquid is almost evaporated.

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

Beat together. When the pasta and asparagus are ready, add the milk and eggs to the pan with the pasta and asparagus. Add the onion/lemon mixture. Stir and cook over low heat until milk mixture is slightly thick, about 4 minutes. Do not boil.

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Edie likes to add some course-ground pepper as well.

Serve immediately on warm plates.

Enjoy!!!

Green Spears from the Tennyson Fields

Human beings love to be busy. It’s a rare person who’s content to merely sit with her or his own twiddling thumbs.

So once the order to stay-at-home came from Vermont’s governor, the folks in Carding looked for ways to stay busy and productive.

To no one’s surprise, cooking has become a favorite pastime.

Edie Wolfe started a group dedicated to seasonal foods with recipes from one of her favorite cookbooks, Simply in Season, to take advantage of locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

This week, there’s asparagus on the shelves of Cooper’s General Store. Care to drop in tomorrow to see what’s cooking?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.