Category Archives: Carding Chronicles

Short stories about Carding, Vermont

Roy

Blueberries-July 31-2016 for web
Hi folks—we’re on the dark side of the moon today so it’s time for another foray into Carding, Vermont.

I ran into some friends at a local store the other day, and they asked about getting a copy of my latest novel, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. I told them there’s going to be a book sale here this month because I’ve got to make room on my shelves—for more books, of course.

So watch this space, as the marketers like to say! And now on to Carding where it’s blueberry picking season.


The sun was still thinking about getting up when Christine Tennyson padded into the big barn in her rubber boots. She loved the solitude of early morning, the time of day that’s so full of peace and promise.

She knew the animals were aware of her presence—the hens dozing in their coop, the goats stirring in their hay beds, the cats patrolling for mice among the rafters—but they made no demands on her. Later, when the sun got a bit higher, Houdini would rouse his harem of nannies and their kids, and demand that someone open the barnyard gate so he could take them up to his favorite summertime pasture to feast on Queen Ann’s lace and early goldenrod. Then, after a late breakfast, the flock would retire to the shady spots at the edge of the field to wait out the heat of the afternoon before descending to sleep in the barn again.

Christine was glad the “Alpha Billy,” as she liked to call the obstreperous goat, had decided to keep his ladies and their children in the barn at night. She guessed that her husband, Lee, wasn’t the only one who’d heard the coyotes up in the woods.

Still clutching her large cup of honeyed tea, she climbed the open steps to the loft where they stored the farm’s sales paraphernalia—signs, cash boxes, wooden tables, event tents, canvas aprons, and the like. The whole family—Christine, Lee, and their two boys, Scott and Little Freddie—had spent all of yesterday dragging out the “You-Pick Blueberries” sign to the large berry orchard, setting up tables under their event tent, and stacking white picking buckets.

Being five months pregnant—Christine was sure it was a little girl this time—she’d been grateful for the help of Wil Bennett and his friends. Now heading into his senior year of high school, Wil showed signs of loving the farming life, and Christine wondered how his parents would feel about that. No one ever got rich running a small farm.

But it was a satisfying life.

She paused at the top of the stairs to let her eyes adjust to the dusky light that filtered through the chinks in the walls. She felt a little bad that she hadn’t remembered the scarecrow until this morning, and even though the idea was a bit silly, she hoped that Roy’s feelings weren’t hurt.

He was named Roy for Roy Rogers because that’s how old the scarecrow was. Its first cowboy hat was long gone, and Christine had finally replaced its flannel shirt last year. But the stuffed blue jeans were original, the final resting place for a pair worn by Lee’s Uncle Cedric from when he was a teenager.

Toeing her way toward the old trunk against the back wall, Christine heard a purr, and the boss cat, Big Yeller, jumped up on an old chair to ask for a back scratch. She was happy to comply, scooping the cat up to hold him against her chest. There was nothing quite like the sensation of a deep purr, and the tabby was happy to comply with Christine’s silent request.

She felt her baby roll over, obviously intrigued by the sensation, and the three of them took a moment to enjoy the pleasure together. Then the cat squirmed—he’d had enough—and Christine reached him down to the floor.

“Okay,” she whispered to the growing light, “let’s see how Roy fared over the winter.”

The trunk’s lid creaked as she pulled it up, raising a cloud of dust. She let it settle, and then hooked her hands under the scarecrow’s  arms. Roy’s head bobbled—he needed more stuffing—but his embroidered smile was intact. Christine carefully prodded its large black-button eyes to make sure they were secure, and one popped off in her hand.

“Well, if that’s the only thing you need, that’s not bad,” she told Roy.

“Chris, are you in here?” It was Lee, standing in the open barn door.

“Upstairs.”

His boots clattered across the floor, and then the face she loved more than any other popped up in the stairway’s opening. “What in the world are you…? Oh, Roy. Of course.”

“Can’t start the blueberry season without him,” Christine said as she handed the scarecrow off to her husband.

“Hmph, yeah, the birds would have to find another perch,” Lee said.

“Hey, hey, don’t say that,” Chris said. “You and I both know that’s not his job.” Her hand reached out to find the railing before she set foot on the steps. They were worn and irregular, and she knew Lee was watching to make sure she didn’t fall.

When they reached the barnyard, Lee stopped to take a close look at the aged scarecrow. “You have to admit that us Tennysons have some strange family heirlooms,” he said. “Hey, one of his eyes is missing.”

“In my pocket,” Christine said. “Why don’t you put him in the truck while I go get a needle and thread?”

Lee smiled at her then hoisted the bobble-headed Roy over his shoulder. Christine turned toward the house but then her head whipped around. It must have been a trick of the light but she swore that scarecrow had winked at her.

She knew all about the Tennyson family’s myths and legends, about magical Christmas trees and the like. There was something about the old family farm that just seemed to inspire tales of the bewitching sort. But a winking scarecrow? Seriously?

But then one of Roy’s arms rose higher than the other, and he waved at her. There was no denying it. Christine felt a pleasant chill slither over her shoulders, and she glanced around expecting…what?

Houdini bleated in the distance, and she heard the mutter of hens rising from their evening roosts. Christine drew in a rather large amount of the cool morning air, and laughed at herself.

“Okay then,” she said as she fingered the button in her pocket. “Winking scarecrows it is.”


 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find four short stories in your inbox every month, one on the full moon, one on the new moon, and one each at the waxing and waning half-moons. In between, there will be other moments to share.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please encourage your friends to subscribe to this website, and talk about them on social media. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who enjoy Carding talk and write about them, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Tom’s Lawn

Joe Pye-closeup-7-19-2016 for web 2Hi folks–The waning half-moon rises precisely at 7 p.m. tonight which means it’s time for another Carding Chronicle.

Please keep your eye on this space for an upcoming book sale because I have some inventory that I want to share with you! Carding books make great gifts.

Enjoy!


Lydie Talbot glared at the dry-as-a-bone sky as she finished her cup of tea. Dry, dry, dry, dry—she couldn’t remember such a dry summer.

Like every other gardener in Carding, she yearned to hear the drip-drip-drip of rain from her roof. Everyone felt the unnaturalness of it. Even the kids racing around on the beach at Half Moon Lake loving the sunshine, were unsettled by the summer’s aridity.

Lydie leaned forward to rest her elbows on her porch railing, and inspected the browning patches in the lawn that her late husband Tom laid down so long ago. Lydie respected grass, the master of persistence, but she couldn’t abide lawns, and she’d tussled with Tom over the sod he wanted to put in front of their house.

“What sense does it make to grow something just so you can cut so it can grow?” she’d asked.

While her Tom had been many things—kind and funny and handy—her man was not a gardener, and try as he might, he never understood his wife’s objection to his vision of a green expanse. “What’s the sense of planting things so you can weed them and worry over them and tend them just so you can cut them back in the fall so they can grow again?” he’d asked her in return.

The truth, Lydie finally realized, was that Tom wanted to buy a lawn tractor from his friend Elmore Tennyson, and he knew he couldn’t justify it unless they had a lawn. So after a lot of backing-and-forthing, they’d finally compromised on a his-and-hers package—Tom got a lawn to mow in front of their cottage on Beach Road while Lydie reigned in the backyard over squash, six colors of iris, tomatoes, bee balm, daffodils, beans, and anything else she could coax from the soil.

After Tom died, Lydie treated his lawn as some sort of shrine to her beloved, and even learned how to drive the tractor so she could keep the greenery just the way Tom liked it. But after half a decade of mowing, Lydie started chipping away at the edges of Tom’s lawn, planting garden phlox close to the house, and orange day lilies close to the road.

But the mix of intentional grass and flower beds wasn’t working for her any more. Lydie’s hands and hips just weren’t what they used to be, and she found her gardening forays shortened by joints plagued by the first intimations of arthritis. She now resented the perpetual stooping and squatting and kneeling made necessary by the grass’s insistence on growing where it was not wanted.

So after she finished her gardening chores last fall, Lydie took stock of her options, and decided that come spring, the grass had to go.

As her daughters Hillary and Amy pointed out, it was always what she’d  wanted to do anyway.

The Big Green Removal Project, as her kids dubbed it, started with stockpiling newspapers in her garage over the winter, Then in early spring, Lydie took delivery of 75 bales of hay from Lee Tennyson, stacking them “just-so” along the edge of her driveway where they formed a shoulder-height wall. As soon as predictions of snow or freezing rain disappeared from the weather forecast on Dirt Road Radio, Lydie slipped into her favorite gardening boots, and started killing grass.

“It’s educational, in a way,” she’d explained to her friend Edie Wolfe. “I keep finding stuff that I never read in the newspapers as I lay them out. Or stuff I meant to cut out but never did.”

Edie Wolfe smiled. She’d always enjoyed Lydie’s perspective on life. “Doesn’t all that reading slow you down?”

Lydie nodded. “Yeah. But I’ve discovered the news loses a lot of its sting when you read it so long after it’s happened. I think the lapse of time gives you a way to really see what’s important and what’s not. I still think the comics and the crossword puzzle are the best parts.”

But Lydie’s plans had been made before the rain goddess decided to withhold her gift of water from the Vermont soil, and her method of killing grass—covering it with a four-ply layer of newspaper over which she piled a thick layer of hay—needed water to achieve its maximum effect. Without rain, she was just creating a dust bowl.

Hence her hesitation.

She sighed, and opted to hold off on her second cup of tea until later. Grabbing her clippers, she marched to the furthest reaches of Tom’s lawn to a small peninsula under a stand of boxelders next to the brook that delineated the western edge of her property.

The seasonal streamlet had long since been reduced to a wet ribbon but thanks to the dense shade of the trees, the peninsula had an entirely different ecosystem than the greater lawn. In spring, jacks-in-the-pulpit pushed their hooded heads up among the dead leaves along with painted trilliums and coltsfoot.

Lydie began to clip, dropping unwanted grass in a bucket by her side. She inched along, taking close note of the number of earthworms that silently glided out of the ground, and occasionally swatting at a gnat determined to land on her nose. She smoothed her hand over a thick patch of moss, and acknowledged the “chip-chip-chip” of a brown creeper that thought Lydie was too close to its nest.

The sun rose higher, and the small air current that had cooled her face stopped. Lydie rocked back on her heels then leaned forward to clip just a little more.

Finally, Lydie stopped at the edge of her disappearing lawn to spend time admiring the dusky pink of the Joe Pye weed that she’d nurtured in the wettest places on the edge of Tom’s lawn for so many years. She had a great admiration for plants that other gardeners called weeds, their tenacity in the face of human ignorance. In her opinion, there was far more to learn from weeds than the most delicate rose.

She eased herself down on a large stump left behind by an ash, and turned to look at her progress. By her back-of-the-envelope thinking, Lydie was about halfway to her goal of total lawn elimination. Even though she’d never voice it, she often wondered if she was being disloyal to her husband by taking away his beloved grass, and wondered if this had been a good idea.

Sniffing loudly, she stared up at the hard, dry sky. “I hope you understand,” she whispered, “because I don’t.” Then she blinked, shook her head, and then blinked again, forcing herself to breathe slowly in and out, in and out. Over time, her grief had softened into a persistent ache which Lydie figured was better than the take-your-breath-away pain of the first year.

But it never went away. And neither, she realized, did Tom.

Off in the distance, a chipmunk chattered, a pair of robins swooped over the hay wall, and the earth turned one more notch on his trip around the sun.


 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find four short stories in your inbox every month, one on the full moon, one on the new moon, and one each at the waxing and waning half-moons. In between, there will be other moments to share.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please encourage your friends to subscribe to this website, and talk about them on social media. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who enjoy Carding talk and write about them, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

The Light of Water Dancing

Hi folks–The full moon rises at 6:57 p.m. today. Since I’m often inspired by benign lunacy, I decided to time the latest wave of the Carding Chronicles with the monthly phases of the moon.

Please keep your eye on this space for an upcoming book sale because I have some inventory that I’d like to share with you! As my friend Dana likes to say—Carding books make great gifts.

And now on with the story.


Turtle 3 for ChronicleVirginia Somerville sighed loudly as she stretched out on the lounge chair she’d positioned just-so on the porch of her cabin in the Carding Campgrounds. It wasn’t summer until this moment arrived—early morning with nothing to do but listen to the kingfisher cackle as he hunted around Half Moon Lake.

I have hours and hours of time, Virginia thought, with no principals, no parent-teacher conferences, no students, no grades, no tests, and no lesson plans.

In other words, the days of teacher bliss had commenced.

A turtle plopped from a log into the lake shallows as Andy Cooper slid by in his kayak. Every summer, Andy and his brother Charlie (both avid photographers) set themselves up in a friendly competition, choosing some obscure subject or another to see who could get the “best of.” This year, the subject was spiders and spider webs, the latter being visible only when wet with dew or rain. Which, of course, explained Andy’s early morning glide-by.

Virginia thought of the whole event as cameras-at-ten-paces but like most other folks in the Campgrounds, she enjoyed hearing the stories that accompanied each triumph. Everyone in Carding knew you couldn’t get anywhere near a Cooper without hearing a good story.

A shivery breeze caressed her bare feet as Virginia sipped her second cup of honeyed tea.  In spite of her efforts to the contrary, she couldn’t stop thinking about the child’s notebook sitting on her kitchen table, the one begging to be read a second time.

And then a third and a fourth.

Not now, Virginia told herself. I need the peace, the solitude, this time of no-thoughts.

The kingfisher cackled again, and Virginia saw it hook the water in a place known for its eels. She had a special fondness for the waterbirds because they looked, to her, as if they’d been made of spare parts. She hoped it had found breakfast. That thought provoked her own stomach, reminding her of the yogurt, peaches and granola waiting inside for her…along with the notebook.

She leaned her head back to watch mist rise from the lake’s surface. What was it about Tupelo Handy, she wondered. Was the girl, barely seven years old, a prodigy of some sort? Was she older than her mother let on? That wouldn’t be at all unusual for someone in the Handy family, a tribe renowned for its “different way of living.”

But Virginia rejected that possibility immediately. Tupelo (everyone called her Lo) was such a little thing, ethereal, as if she was built of more air than solid. No child that slight could be more than seven.

With another, deeper sigh, Virginia gave in to her curiosity and hunger pangs, and meandered into her tiny summer kitchen. The notebook took precedence over food. Its first few pages were filled with the girl’s drawings, mostly of the moon and stars, but then the crayon yielded to words.

“So many beings do live in trees close to our house,” Lo wrote. “I do see them from my windows, and talk with them in the Star-Time. The stories they do share are filled with rain patters and the breath of pink flowers that I do not know how to write down. But I do write the rest on this paper with green crayon because that is Their Favorite Color.”

Virginia washed the largest peach in her refrigerator, cut it into bits, and tumbled them into the bottom of a bowl. Then she scooped in some granola, and topped it all with her favorite maple yogurt. Tucking the notebook under her arm, she sauntered back out to her perch with the lakeside view.

“Last night, I did hear the Frog, the one I named Prince Jupiter Jehoshaphat Johnson. He sounds like the man who sings loudest in the church when mother does remember to bring me. The man makes booms that get all the way to the roof. The Frog does booms that makes the light dance in the water. I think it is funny and the beings and me, we do have laughs.”

Virginia closed the notebook with a snap then laid her hand on top of it. Lindsay Jeffords, Lo’s second grade teacher, had tried and (in Virginia’s opinion) abysmally failed to reach the little girl. The result was a being that Virginia called “the Tupelo-waif” who drifted around the playground at recess, reluctant to join any group doing anything.

If there was one thing that Virginia understood as a teacher, it was that the first law of group dynamics is that anything or anyone perceived as different creates unease among the members of the group. When difference is perceived, the members of the group close ranks to keep “the different” out.

Virginia, on the other hand, cherished difference mostly because she found conformity dull. So the questions was—how would she protect and fortify this little girl?

She caressed the notebook again while she watched the wind and water play with one another. It was only the first day of summer vacation, and Lo Handy was already taking up residence in her heart. Next thing you knew, there’d be back-to-school sales in the newspapers.


Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find four short stories in your inbox every month, one on the full moon, one on the new moon, and one each at the waxing and waning half-moons. In between, there will be other moments to share.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please encourage your friends to subscribe to this website, and talk about them on social media. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who enjoy Carding, the more I get to write and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Getting Back to the Chronicles

Canada lilies in bloom on the White River in Vermont
Canada lilies in bloom on the White River in Vermont

Hi folks–just a quick word from the author here. It’s been two weeks since the last chapter of The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life was published in this space. The book-on-paper is now available on Amazon and I’ll be making a push to bookstores soon so you can look there as well.

The ebook will follow soon.

Dazzling’s chapters will remain on the website for only four more days, and then it all will disappear except for a first chapter sample for curious readers.

Now just a wee reminder—reviews on Amazon matter, matter, matter. You cannot believe how much they matter. So if you would be so kind, please mosey over there to add your opinion.

Now we’ll be resuming the Carding Chronicles, four-times-a-month short stories about the wee town that somehow keeps getting missed by all the mapmakers in Vermont. You’ll also notice a few additions along the way.

As you might have guessed, I love the little green state where I live, and enjoy sharing it with friends and readers. I also feel like we could all use some support—emotional and otherwise—as we try to claw our way through the political season and the violence in our country.

So think of these little bites of Vermont as my way of trying to insert a smile or good thought into your day.

Thank you all so very much. I enjoy your company on this journey.

Out of Order

Out of order signA few housekeeping notes: Join me starting April 7 when the third novel of Carding, Vermont, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, debuts in this space. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find an installment of my new book in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday for 12 weeks.

A paper edition of Dazzling will be out in May along with the ebook. Then in June, I’ll release the first Carding Omnibus, all three novels together in one book with a couple of kicker short stories.

The Carding Chronicles (these short stories) will be suspended while Dazzling appears in this space because I have a new novel and a new non-fiction book on publishing that need my attention. The Carding Chronicles will resume once Dazzling comes to an end.

Promise!


“Aaaaggghhhh!” Andy Cooper shrieked as soon as he reached the coffee machines at the back of his general store. “What in the…?”

Water, steaming water, lay between him and the door to the Coop’s ladies room.

“What is it, Andy?” his sister Maureen asked as she raced up to stand beside him. “What in the…?”

“Judging by the temperature of this,” Andy said as he squatted down to touch the shallow puddle with his fingertips, “I’d say that one of our coffee makers sprung a leak overnight. Would you round up some mops with people attached while I get the water and electricity turned off? Oh, and keep the front doors locked. The last thing we need is a crowd standing poolside with commentary.”

Rumors of all sorts were flying by the time the Coop reopened its doors at mid-morning.

“Jeezus, Andy, we thought somebody died in here,” Amos Handy said. “Glad to see you’re all right. Hey, where’s the coffee?”

“Gone for the moment,” Andy told his friend. “Along with the tile on this part of the floor, and some of the wall board. It was a helluva mess, Amos.”

“And what does that mean?” Amos asked, pointing to the Out of Order sign on the ladies room door.

“It means we’ll be unisex on the bathroom front for a few days,” Andy said. “The water from the leaking coffee maker made a mess in there as well.”

“You mean we’ll be sharing space with women?” Amos looked as though his heart would stop.

Andy clapped him on the shoulder. “I believe men and women will not be in the same space at the same time. We’ll just be taking turns, is all.”

Amos, a man renowned for his shyness around anyone of the female persuasion, turned and fled from the store. “I’ll be back next week,” he assured Andy, “after everything is the way it should be.”

As much as Andy Cooper loved his hometown, he had to admit there were times when he wished for the peace that anonymity could bring. It seemed that everyone who came into the store had to hear the story about the leaking coffee maker and the steaming puddle directly from his lips. Many folks felt the need to weigh in on what color the replacement tile should be or needed to tell him the best way to install new wall board.

By closing time, Andy’s head throbbed, and he promised to scream at the next person who asked, “What happened?”

Edie spotted her best friend’s fatigue from across the store. “Are you still up for our cribbage game tonight?” she asked, figuring Andy would say no.

He shook his head. “I’m not sure I could be civil. Can I have a raincheck?”

“Sure,” Edie said as she headed toward the new mens/ladies room. She was back out as quickly as she went in.

“Um, Andy?”

“Don’t tell me.”

“Have you had a moment to look in there since this morning?” Edie asked. “I’m really sorry to say anything but I know you wouldn’t want your customers to see it that way.”

He sighed, big and loud. “Let me guess—unflushed?”

Edie nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

Andy shook his head. “I can’t be in there every minute, and it’s illegal to watch what folks do in there.”

He walked toward the closest mop and pail. “Thanks for letting me know, Edie. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“It’s not fair,” Edie whispered to herself as she watched Andy’s slumped shoulders disappear into the bathroom. “Not fair at all.”

Edie admired her friend’s vow to never ask anyone to do a job in his store that he wouldn’t do himself, and it troubled her that people using the sanitary facilities in the Coop wouldn’t take a few seconds to flush. It seemed like such a small issue but she knew from her role as the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts that customers always remembered the condition of a bathroom (if it was not up to snuff) more than anything else.

“Wil, what are you doing here?” she asked. Her grandson stood up from his squatting position by her front steps.

“Well, I promised you I would fix that crack,” he said, pointing. “Only I mixed too much cement, and I don’t know what to do with it. Any ideas?”

Edie looked at the bucket by her feet. “How much do you think that weighs?” she asked with a smile.

Wil hefted it. “Oh, twenty, twenty-five pounds, somewhere in there,” he said.

His grandmother’s smile broadened. “Come with me, and bring the bucket.”

No matter how hard he tried to convince himself, Andy really didn’t want to go to work the next day. He hoped that the wonder of all that passed in his store was over, and the winds of gossip would be calm.

He kept the main lights off as he trudged from the front door to the back, and then up and down each aisle, checking and rechecking that all was well. At one point, he heard his sister talking to somebody as she opened and closed the customer entrance but he didn’t pay it much mind.

His last stop was the functioning bathroom, the one place sure to give him headache upon headache throughout the day. After staring at the closed door for a few minutes, he sighed and walked away. It was clean when he went to bed. He’d check it later on.

As expected, the hours clicked by rapidly as Andy shepherded plumbers, carpenters, and an expert in tile repair toward the damaged area. Then there were deliveries, a jammed cash register, spilled milk, and lightbulbs to replace in the ice cream freezer.

So it wasn’t until lunchtime that he thought about the bathroom again. Arming himself with mop and pail, he walked like a condemned man toward the back of the store.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Andy asked the five men waiting in line at the door. Then he heard a “whoop” and a laughing Amos emerged, wiping his hands on a paper towel.

“Whoa, Andy, that’s a good one,” Amos said with a laugh. “I’ll bet that takes care of your problem.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You mean you don’t know?” one of Amos’s cronies asked. “We’ve been watching people come out of here laughing all day.”

Andy rolled his eyes and shook his head. “What is it, some graffiti?”

“No, it’s a sign,” Amos said. “Look.”

So Andy opened the door. There, next to the toilet tank, stood a bucket filled with cement. A three-foot metal rod was stuck in the center of the rocklike substance, and on the rod there hung a sign with an arrow pointing to the toilet’s handle.

“When you’re done,” the sign read, “wiggle this too.”


The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, the next novel about Carding, Vermont, will appear in this space (twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays) starting April 7 through June 28.

Encourage your friends to come join the fun. The more the merrier, eh?

Beet Dreams Are Made of These…

BeetsA few housekeeping notes: Join me starting April 7 when the third novel of Carding, Vermont, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, debuts in this space. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find an installment of my new book in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday for 12 weeks.

A paper edition of Dazzling will be out in May along with the ebook. Then in June, I’ll release the first Carding Omnibus, all three novels with a couple of kicker short stories.

The Carding Chronicles will be suspended while Dazzling appears in this space because I have a new novel and a new non-fiction book on publishing that need my attention. The Carding Chronicles will resume once Dazzling comes to an end.


Lee Tennyson frowned as he watched his wife’s car disappear over the hill, headed toward town and the hospital where she worked. Six months pregnant, and she was still doing twelve-hour shifts on the floor of the ICU.

He didn’t like that. He didn’t like that at all. Yes, he was proud of Christine, and he knew she was an amazing nurse. And yes, he understood how passionate she was about her work.

But he also sensed how much of their sons’ growing up Chris was missing.

“Are you ready, Buddy?” He bent down to question his oldest, curly-haired Noah. “Time to get to the bus.”

“Can we walk to the bus stop today?” the child asked.

Lee smiled because he knew the real reason behind the question. “It was cold overnight,” he said, “and the water in the ditches is still frozen. How about John and I meet you at the bus after school, and we can play with the water on the way home?”

Noah started clapping and jumping. “And you’ll bring my water boots to the bus?” he asked, referring to his favorite pair of bright yellow knee-highs.

“I’ll bring the water boots, promise,” Lee said. “Now let’s git.”

That’s what Chris misses, Lee told himself as he rumbled down the long driveway in his farm truck, his sons taking turns imitating the grinding noise of its old gears. She’s missing draining puddles, redirecting streams, and making sand dams.

And the thing of it is, if she’s not there today, she can’t get it back.

After they waved Noah off, Lee faced dressing John for their daily trek to the barn. No matter how much he cajoled and promised, it always took Lee longer than he planned. “I swear you are the wiggliest child ever born,” he muttered as he searched for a second arm to stuff into the empty sleeve of John’s blue jacket.

John jabbered incessantly as he propellored himself toward the barn. He pointed at the dwarfish spikes of grass beside their path, crowed at the rooster who crowed back, stopped to examine the sculptural qualities of various sheep droppings, and threw kisses to their head goat, a buck aptly named Houdini, who turned his face away as if offended by contact with a lower form of life.

The boy was so busy, he didn’t notice his father’s contemplative silence. Lee’s eyes flicked from one part of the Tennyson family farm to the other as they walked, adding up the annual worth of each income stream that the land represented—logging, hay, wool from their growing flock of merinos, maple syrup, heirloom and commercial apples plus blueberries.

Lee grew and Chris canned or froze most of their vegetables, and they sold corn in season at a roadside stand. and through the Coop general store. He wasn’t sure about Chris’s latest project—goat cheese—but he was willing give it a try even though Houdini spent more time wandering outside his fenced pasture than servicing the harem he had in it.

“He’s just an intelligent Nubian goat,” Chris grinned when Lee complained. “You’ll notice he never takes his ladies outside the fence, and you always find him somewhere close to them. He just refuses to accept the fact that you think of him as a domesticated animal.”

Lee’s jury was still out on the goats until he tasted Chris’s first batch of Tomme de Chevre Aydius.

The real question was this: If the cheese was a success, would they make enough for Chris to stay home after their third child was born?

Lee mulled the money issue over as he moved from chore to chore, hay for the sheep and goats with cracked corn for the chickens while he and John gathered their eggs. For all the boy’s inability to stay still, the child had a well-tuned instinct for carrying fresh eggs without breaking them. And John was the only one could get into the small nook where one of their Ameraucanas liked to hide her pale blue contributions to the Tennyson breakfast table.

When John started rubbing his eyes, Lee sat him up on a stool next to their seed sorting table, gave him a small bag of apple slices from his pocket, and then poured a jar’s worth of beet seeds across the sorting surface.

He and Lydie Talbot were both avid seed savers, and had been swapping and testing antique vegetables from each other’s gardens for a few years. This year, Edie Wolfe, Charlie Cooper, and Ruth Goodwin were part of the swap that Lee planned to host in his barn early in April.

With one eye on John and the other on a small glassine envelope, Lee counted out twenty seeds, rolling each one of the nubbly nuggets free of the group with his thumb.

“This is for Edie,” he told John as he opened the flap of a second envelope, and started counting again.

He was on the fourth packet when his thoughts strayed back to the library’s annual midwinter fundraiser, a Taste of Carding, that he and Chris had enjoyed. There were always strange concoctions to try—zucchini pickles, hot pepper jelly, flat bread pesto pizza, a wide variety of cheeses all made in Vermont, and relishes, chutneys, salsas, and sauce.

There was this one jar at a tasting table filled with a curried sweet potato salsa that beckoned every time Lee walked by. He and Chris eventually struck up a conversation with the vendor who called herself an “aggie entrepreneur,” and their talk turned to value-added farming.

“Dairy farmers got tired of seeing all their profits go down the hill in a milk truck, and so they started making cheese which added a value to the milk that people were willing to pay for,” the woman said. “We all know how the price of milk fluctuates but the price of a good cheese…well…that’s pretty constant.” Christine’s head had snapped up when she heard that, which is the reason why they owned a billy goat named Houdini and three does named Bippity, Boppity, and Boo.

“I looked around and realized no one was doing much with sweet potatoes,” the woman continued, “so I figured I had a niche.”

Lee picked up one of his beet seeds, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger while he imagined a beet empire based on salsas, relishes, pickles, barbecue sauce, pesto, and chips. Did he dare? Could he do that?

The cock crowed, and so did John. Lee finished his packaging, labeled the small envelopes, and then lifted his son to the floor of the barn. The little one looked up, his cheeks brightened by the cool air of early spring. “Ready Daddy?” he asked, curling his fingers around Lee’s index finger.

Lee slipped the jar of seeds into his pocket. “That’s a good question,” he said. “I think so.”


The next Carding Chronicle will be published on April 1. And then six days later, on April 7, I’ll start sending you installments of The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, the next novel about Carding, Vermont.

If you enjoy your visits to Carding, please tell your friends and encourage them to subscribe. The more the merrier, eh?