Tag Archives: Carding Chronicle

Winning May Be Everything

SH-Weed bucketYou can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members that you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

This week, we continue our garden show saga, the second of three parts. If you need to catch up, here’s a link to the first part of our story called “The Fightin’ Flowers.”

Enjoy!


Even though they owned Cooper’s General Store jointly—an inheritance from their Dad—Andy and Charlie Cooper had settled into an amicable division of labor when it came to its day-to-day operations.

Andy enjoyed the hands-on part of it all, making displays, ordering the seasonal items, relating to the customers (or not, as the case may be), and managing their employees.

Charlie, for his part of the deal, took on the paperwork part of the operation—watching over the accounts, calculating the correct profit margins on the items sold in the store, and taking care of all the legal ins and outs of running a small business in Vermont (of which there are many).

Each brother thought he had the better part of the deal so they were both content.

Charlie, now that he was semi-retired from his legal practice, made a habit of ambling through the back door of the Coop about mid-morning every Wednesday. He’d pour himself coffee from the community urn, nod and say hello to anyone who passed by, and then he’d heat up the computer to go through the finances.

Sooner or later, Andy would show up and after discussing the latest Red Sox game, the brothers would get down to business.

But today, Charlie skipped their detour into baseball and plunged right into the numbers on his meticulously kept spread sheets.

“What is this?” he asked, pointing to a rather large figure. “We’ve never sold that much compost, mulch, and potting soil in the whole history of the store. Is that figure correct?”

Andy chuckled, gave his tea a good stir so that the honey in it was evenly distributed throughout the mug instead of pooling at the bottom, and then sat down next to his “baby” brother.

“I’ve discovered a secret weapon in the town’s gardening wars,” he confided.

A small smile snaked over Charlie’s mouth when he recognized the onset of one of his brother’s storytelling moments.

“Do tell.”

“It’s name is G.G. Dieppe.” Andy sucked in a big slurp of tea.

“Anthony’s Dieppe’s wife? The millionaire of Mount Merino?”

“Yep, her. It seems she’s decided to enter the Home and Garden Tour with the idea of winning the best-in-show trophy,” Andy said. He slurped some more while waiting for Charlie to catch up.

“Ah, so that’s why Agnes is whirling around in our yard from dawn to dusk like a mad dervish,” Charlie said with a chuckle. Charlie’s life partner is Agnes Findley, widely acknowledged as the most meticulous gardener in Carding. “Do you know, she hardly came in long enough for supper last night. And I’d made her favorite pasta dish.”

Andy nodded. “Yep, they’ve all gone mad this year. Personally, I don’t think Edie or Ruth or Agnes cares if they win or not just so long as this G.G. character doesn’t.”

Charlie looked down at the spread sheets on the desk. “It’s been mighty good for business.”

“Yeah, and most of that is her,” Andy said. “I don’t think she’s ever picked up a trowel in her life. She just keeps saying that ‘all it takes is money.'”

The brothers Cooper shared a blue-eyed stare and then they both started to laugh. “Oh, this is going to be fun to watch,” Charlie said.

Picking Clean

SH-StrawberriesYou can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members that you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

When I was a kid, my grandfather was the man I looked up to and admired most in my life. He was straightforward, honest, worked hard, and treated everyone with respect and courtesy.

When he retired, Grampa expanded his home garden into several acres, growing blueberries, strawberries, corn, and lots of different vegetables. In addition to hoeing and weeding and planting and picking, my cousin and I (being the oldest grandkids) ran his roadside stand.

Grampa taught me that you did more than expected for your customers so they would come back. He taught me that a reputation was precious, and a good reputation the most precious of all.

To this day, every time I pick strawberries or blueberries, I think of him. He inspired this story. It was originally published in the summer of 2016.


Edie Wolfe squinted up at the sky while she waited for her friend Andy Cooper to retrieve their cardboard flats from the back of his pickup. As planned, they were the first customers of the day at the Tennyson strawberry patch so they could pick while it was still cool.

“Good thing we’re getting dew in the mornings or we wouldn’t be getting any water at all,” Andy remarked as he handed one of the pails to Edie. “Can’t believe how dry this summer is.”

She nodded. “Look, the mist has already risen halfway up the trees. Let’s walk over to the eastern corner of the patch. The shade lasts longest there.”

Lee Tennyson smiled at they approached the weighing station then reached down to pick up his eldest son, Scott, planting the child’s feet on a wooden box so he could reach the scale. “What do you say to folks when they come up to you?” Lee prompted.

Scott grinned from one seven-year old ear to the other, showing off the gap where an adult tooth was slowing taking its place in his mouth. “Good morning,” he squealed. “Do you want to pick taw-berries?”

Edie giggled. “I would, yes.”

Scott glanced at his father who nodded encouragement. “Okay, put your flats here.” He pointed to the scale’s platform then turned back to Lee. “What do I do now, Daddy?”

Lee handed him a roll of masking tape. “You tear off a piece of this, and stick it on the outside of the flat.”

Scott spun off a footlong length from the roll and onto his shirt before Lee could intervene. Andy turned away to hide his smile, remembering when his own sons were that size and helping out in his store for the first time.

“What now Daddy?”

“Hmmm, may I provide some assistance?” Edie asked, carefully keeping a serious expression on her face.

“Yeah, sure. Is that okay Daddy?” Scott asked.

Lee nodded. “Oh yes, especially with Edie. She is very good at assistance.”

Edie tore a small piece of tape from Scott’s shirt, and stuck it to the side of her flat. “Now what do I do?” she asked.

“You…you…you put the flat on the scale.” The child suddenly stopped, his whole face tied up in a smile of delight.

“I did,” Lee said, checking the weight of Edie’s flat, and handing his son a marker. “Now, can you put a dot and then a three and a zero on the tape?”

Scott nodded, and applied the tip of his tongue to the corner of his mouth, his eyebrows bunching up over his nose as he slowly marked the tape. Then he handed the cardboard strawberry container to Edie. “Here you are. Pick clean!”

Edie and Andy shared a chuckle as they walked away. “And another Tennyson generation enters the strawberry business,” Andy said.

Edie sighed as she popped a fat berry into her mouth, and squashed it with her tongue. “Pick clean,” she said as they settled at adjacent bushes. The morning mist now floated high above their heads, and a small breeze fussed with the leaves of nearby maples. “Those words always make me think of my grandfather when we picked berries from his patch.”

“Leave no suitable berry behind,” Andy said.

The two friends thumbed fruit from the low-lying plants in a silence unbroken except for the occasional grunt as one or the other of them straightened up to ease their back. Edie’s mind soared a million miles away as she thought about her grandfather’s face, its expression always intent on the job at hand.

Even though David Wolfe had raised his family during the Depression, he never talked about it much. But Edie knew it had shaped his world view. It’s why he gleaned every berry possible from a bush, and fed vegetable scraps to a small clutch of hens he kept in his backyard.

It’s also why, when he had to cut back on his newspaper’s payroll, Grampa Wolfe made sure that every one of his employees got a share of the work that was available.

“You never know what’s going to happen, Edie. Some day you may need help and these folks will remember that,” he’d say. “That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself and your family and your neighbors. We’re all in this together.”

Edie pulled her mind back to the business at hand, and checked the ground near her feet for a good place to kneel. She tried to keep her small “oomph” to herself as she lowered herself to the ground though why she bothered, she had no idea. Andy’s knees weren’t any better than hers, and his groans were always audible.

After a while, she stopped to examine her work site, checking to be sure no berry had been left behind. Edie had spent a lot of time with her grandparents when she was a little girl. Even though she’d admired her Dad, Senator Danielson Wolfe, she cherished her grandfather, and learned her greatest life lessons from him.

Pick it clean = Always do the best job possible.

Be polite = Treat other folks with respect.

Check your math = Make sure you’re honest with other people’s money.

Don’t interrupt = Be sure to listen because you learn more that way.

“How ya doin’?” Andy asked as he reached down to help Edie up.

She brushed her knees then gave her back a stretch. “Got enough for a couple of shortcakes and then some,” she said, indicating her flat full of red fruit.

“Shortcake?” Andy’s whole face turned up.

Edie nodded. “There might be some with your name on it if you bring the ice cream.”

The two friends started back up the path, nodding to neighbors and friends headed in the opposite direction, all of them sporting great lengths of masking tape on their flats.

Andy grinned. “Looks like Scott is getting the hang of the family business.”

Just then, a little girl toddled past, her fingers wrapped firmly in a hand much older than hers. The white-haired man nodded at Edie and Andy as he steered his granddaughter toward the rows that still lay in the shade.

“What does ‘pick clean’ mean, Grampa?” the little girl asked as they passed by.

Strawberry Season

There are two Carding Chronicles this week in honor of strawberry season. These incredible red berries always make me think of my Grandfather Hakala and that is always a reason to celebrate. This Chronicle, called “Picking Clean,” was originally published in the summer of 2016.

Plus, tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. Jay and I have been married for 38 years and that is another reason to celebrate.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday. The forecast for here in Vermont is for sun which for this summer, is an unusual occurrence.
SH-Strawberries

Victoria’s Web

SH-Victoria's webYou can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members that you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

In this week’s Carding Chronicle, I have an update one the news from last week about the Victoria Quartermain papers discovered in the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. It seems that determining who owns the rights to the letters, journals and book drafts is more complicated than first thought.


There’s a house on Carding Green that’s renowned for its complicated ownership. Locally, it’s called “the Tennyson house” but no one in town is ever sure who owns it at any given time.

Or, to be more correct, which family members are in control of the house at the moment.

It’s a rambly old structure with an original core built in 1761. Or at least that’s what the Tennyson family claims.

Over the decades, successive generations have added to the family manse with greater or lesser degrees of skill. One ell, which now houses the wood burned in winter, is so swaybacked, you have to duck when walking from one end to the other. Two of the bedrooms at the back have doors that open into what’s left of the barn (now a garage), and the back stairs are so narrow, no one in their right mind would use them to get to the second floor.

But the kitchen and front parlor, as the two reigning Tennyson sisters like to call it, were built in the 1920s by someone who knew what they were doing. Both rooms are large, airy, and bright.

The kitchen has a bay window where the resident cat sleeps in the sun twined among pots of herbs. And the parlor has pale yellow walls outlined by sculpted wainscoting made when people knew how to make those things.

As I explained earlier, ownership (read control) of the house changes without explanation. Locals suspect that every once in a while, the Tennyson clan meets on a misty hillside to draw lots to see who gets stuck—or who wants—to be in charge of the “great home on the Green” this time.

Or maybe they cut cards for it. No one’s sure.

What is certain is that the Tennyson home is now under the control of two sisters born in in the 1940s. Christened Blanche and Bess, the siblings have traveled the world indulging their interests in all things occult, the collecting of salt and pepper shakers, breeding rare cats, and yarn.

They never knit, you understand. They just like the feel and colors of wool yarn.

Over the years, depending on what interest was paramount at the moment, the sisters have changed their first names to suit their mood. Nowadays, they insist on being called Ginger (née Blanche) and Goldie (née Bess) because they feel those names are “more 21st century” and more magical. They recently co-founded something called the White Iris Society for the preservation of unicorns.

“We believe one always has to make a proper space for magic,”  Goldie explained.

The sisters Tennyson happened to be in Carding when volunteers discovered the Victoria Quartermain archives in the attic of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

Quartermain was a renowned spiritualist—she preferred the term “seeker of answers”— in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not content to simply read tarot cards or conduct séances, Quartermain became a champion of women caught in the tangles of Victorian life. She rescued heiresses from fortune hunters, recovered objects used for blackmail, and in several cases, solved murders in ways that confounded the police and the public.

During her lifetime, writer Hansen Willis (who summered in Carding for decades) interviewed and wrote about Quartermain extensively. When the archives were found last week, it was assumed they belonged to Willis. But further investigation has revealed that the letters, journals, and even book drafts are in Quartermain’s own hand.

The Tennyson sisters claim they are Quartermain’s sole heirs, and earlier this week, they hired an attorney to press their case in court.

“We have family papers that prove Victoria’s intentions to leave her estate in the care of the Tennyson family of Carding, Vermont,” Ginger Tennyson said.

Throughout her long and eventful life, spiritualist Victoria Quartermain was renowned for spinning webs to catch those who thought themselves too clever to be caught. It seems that that ability has now transcended her death.

Stay tuned. This should get interesting.