Tag Archives: Carding Chronicle

Always a Pleasure Doing Business with You: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Wood pileToday is a day of noticing in Carding—noticing the changing angle of the sun, the wind turning from the southeast to the northwest, and the end-of-season state of gardens.

Let’s meander around town together and check in with some of our favorite folks, shall we?

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.

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Edie Wolfe’s cocker spaniel, Nearly, likes long doggie naps as much as the next canine. And like most dogs, he has his favorite napping sites.

Somewhere around Memorial Day at the end of May, he moves his post-breakfast napping site from a rug on the kitchen floor to the top step of the porch on the back of Edie’s house. From there, he can watch his human pottering about in the back gardens, picking green, yellow and red stuff of one kind or another. He can gauge the heat of the coming day, watch the ants parade through the grass, and sniff the different aromas of breakfast seeping from the nearby houses.

Stretching out on his side, Nearly began his morning survey in his characteristically casual fashion, moving his gaze slowly from right to left. The chipmunks, wise to the spaniel’s ways, made sure they kept their seed gathering out of his sight behind the wood pile. Otherwise, they’d have to play tag with the dog all morning.

Now dogs, being built much closer to the ground than their humans and having nothing like books or meetings or exercise classes to distract them, are particularly in tune with the details of life, stuff that the rest of us never notice. Nearly, a particularly attentive canine, always makes note of the sun and its location vis-a-vis his preferred spot on the back porch.

For weeks, the shining orb has been his constant morning companion, warming the step where he likes to lay and seeping down through his fur to the skin beneath. At this time of year, even when the weather promises to be too hot by noon, he welcomes the sun as an old friend.

But today the sun’s angle is sharper degree and Nearly has to readjust his position to accommodate it. He knows what this means and sighs with a resignation mixed with hopefulness. To Nearly, winter isn’t so bad because it means evenings by the wood stove sharing popcorn with his human.

Nearly loves popcorn.

Across town, Charlie Cooper is out in the garden with his partner, Agnes Findley, pulling waist-high (and now bitter) Romaine lettuce and exhausted beans from the soil. He can still smell the basil on his hands from yesterday’s marathon pesto-making session and the thought of the pizzas to come makes him smile as he pushes his wheelbarrow over to the compost pile to make a deposit. 

Agnes grumbles as she tugs stray stalks of goldenrod out of her beds. She considers weeds one of nature’s most offensive weapons, like mosquitos and stinging nettle.

“I wish this stuff wasn’t quite so successful,” she tells Charlie as she does every year. “I love its color and it doesn’t fall over like so many other tall plants. But if it goes to seed, it will take over, and I’ll never get it out of the garden.”

Over in the center of town at Cooper’s General Store and Emporium, owner Andy Cooper is checking in the morning’s produce deliveries when Lee Tennyson’s largest dump truck arrives, its tires a lot less than round because of the heavy load of firewood in the back. Andy sighs and shakes his head.

“It can’t be that time of year already,” he says.

“I know, I know,” Lee replies as he pulls on his work gloves. “No matter how we try to hide from it, the heating season isn’t that far off. Is your bulkhead locked from the inside?”

“Nope, I felt the wind change direction this morning and figured you’d be here so I unlocked it earlier. Just give me a minute to finish up with these veggies and I’ll give you a hand.”

The conventional philosophy about heating with wood—that it warms you twice—is not commonly accepted among folks who actually heat with wood. By Andy’s calculations, wood has at least seven opportunities to warm you on its way from tree to furnace.

  1. Cutting trees in the forest.
  2. Cutting the felled trees into log lengths.
  3. Splitting the lengths into firewood.
  4. Stacking the logs to dry.
  5. Getting the dried logs inside so they’re accessible during the winter.
  6. Stacking those logs so they don’t take up so much space.
  7. Stoking the wood stove.

When he was a younger man, Andy was involved with all seven steps, helping his father and brother fell trees then cutting, splitting, and stacking the beech, oak, ash, and maple they needed to get through a Vermont winter. Even now, when asked, Andy refuses to calculate how many cords of wood he’s moved in his lifetime because the total is staggering.

Over the years, Andy has spent some time figuring out how to pare his wood-warming opportunities list down from seven steps to one. 

He takes care of one through five by paying Lee Tennyson for the cords of dry, cut and split wood he needs to heat the Coop for the season.

“It’s so worth the money,” he tells himself every time Lee shows up with the 20 cords of wood Andy needs to keep the store and his living quarters warm.

Lee and Andy solved the problem of number five—getting the dried logs into the store’s basement—by constructing a slide with a couple of sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood and some 2 x 6 lumber. The result is so rugged, it easily bears the weight of Lee’s wood deliveries as they slide from his truck into the Coop’s basement.

Andy takes care of number six by hiring a team of high schoolers expressly for the purpose of neatly stacking Lee’s wood deliveries in the Coop’s basement. Not only is this easier on Andy’s back, it gives him the chance to audition potential new hires for the Coop because, in his words, “some kids work and some kids don’t.”

Which leaves Andy with only number seven on the wood-warming opportunities list to do himself—stoking the enormous wood furnace that heats the Coop and its customers. He never lets anyone else do this chore because it’s his way to escape the press of shoppers a few times a day, an escape that’s augmented by an old rocking chair, a stack of crossword puzzles, and a pen. 

“Sorry I had to raise my price per cord this year,” Lee said as Andy handed him a check.

But the older man just grins. “That’s quite all right, Lee. It’s always a pleasure doing business with you.”


I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to enjoy this Carding Chronicle . Please share it with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

Do a bit of good in the world today.

Always a Pleasure Doing Business with You

Tomorrow will be a day of noticing in Carding—noticing the changing angle of the sun, the wind turning from the southeast to the northwest, and the end-of-season state of gardens.

I hope you can stop by so that we can meander around town together and check in with some of our favorite folks.

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.

SH-Wood pile

The Change of Seasons: A Carding Chronicle

SH-First touch of fallThe slide of calendar pages coincides with the roar of yellow school buses this week as folks in Carding start to walk a bit faster.

Even though the temperatures are still balmy during the day, you definitely need a sweater or light jacket in the evening. There’s a reason for the wide variety of outerwear (as the retailers like to call it) in everyone’s closet.

But before they fast-forward through fall, some folks are pausing at Edie Wolfe’s house to celebrate the change of seasons.

Let’s join them, shall we?

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.

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Ruth Goodwin pulled back the curtain on Edie’s front window to peer across Carding green.

“Are you sure they’ll come?” she asked again.

Edie smiled as she fished a set of heavy wine glasses from the deepest regions of the most seldom-used cabinet in her kitchen. Though not to her more simple taste, Edie treasured the gaudy stemware. They’d belonged to her grandmother, Kitty Wolfe.

Edie always thought of her grandmother as a no-nonsense kind of lady. Oh, Kitty baked her share of cookies, hosted Thanksgiving dinners, and tended cuts and bruises with solicitous care. But Kitty preferred things in her life to be rather stripped down and practical.

So why in the world did she own a dozen fluted glasses in swirls of deep autumn gold with overripe eggplant-colored stems? They were so unlike her.

“Do you know if anyone has everything done yet?” Ruth called from the living room while Edie rinsed the drinking vessels under the tap and wiped them dry.

“I think everyone has made a start,” she said. “I saw Lydie in the Coop yesterday, and she’s cut down the small garden by her front door.”

“What about Agnes? There was a huge pile of wood in their front yard when I drove by yesterday afternoon,” Ruth said.

Edie craned her head around the doorway so she could see her best friend. Of the two of them, Ruth had always worried more about…well…about everything, really. Agnes often teased her about being the lady with the permanently puckered brow.

Ruth caught the glance, and laughed at herself. “I know, I know,” she said. “But at my age, I’m scarcely going to change, am I?”

“Do you want to put your rolls out on the table?” Edie suggested.

Ruth grinned. “So that I’ll stop fretting by the front window?” she said. “Sure.”

While some of the younger families in Carding relied on oil-burning furnaces for winter heat and the shelves of the Coop for fresh veggies, the majority of Carding-ites loved the deep warmth of their wood stoves and smothering their pancakes in applesauce they’d canned themselves.

Participation in these rituals means stacking wood, gardening, and picking fruit at local farms. These activities inevitably lead to what Edie calls “the delicate dance of autumn.”

“You have to hit it just right,” her friend Andy Cooper advises first-timers to the traditions. “If you start stacking wood too early in September, you’ll die of the heat while you’re doing it. It’s definitely a chore you want to save for a cool day. And let your gardens go as long as you can to get every last bit of the harvest.”

Of course, the trouble with this timing business is hitting the sweet spot of daytime temperatures cool enough to stack wood but not so cold that cutting back a garden means frozen fingers.

Locals figure that you can ignore the first swirl of frozen precipitation because “it doesn’t stick.” So their lawn furniture stays out because the wood and gardens take precedence. In general, this means that Halloween is a good target for “getting it all done.”

But one year, the first snow came on October 15th, and it was deep, about ten inches. And  it stayed cold.

“Froze my picnic table to the ground,” Charlie Cooper said. “And I still had half my wood to stack. That was a miserable fall.”

But none of that matters tonight. Now is the time for Edie’s annual celebration with her friends, the moment when they gear up for the race to winter readiness.

Hence the gaudy glasses, the ones that looked like harvest to Edie’s eye and, she suspected, to her grandmother’s as well. They’d fill and refill them with wine or sherry over their traditional supper of roasted chicken, squash from Andy’s garden, potatoes from Lydie’s, onion dressing courtesy of Agnes’s dirt digging, and applesauce made from the first fruit from the trees in Edie’s backyard.

She held one of the glasses up to the fading September light, admiring its rich color. There’s so much pleasure in the change of seasons.


I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to enjoy this Carding Chronicle . Please share it with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

Do a bit of good in the world today.

The Change of Seasons

The slide of calendar pages coincides with the roar of yellow school buses this week as folks in Carding, Vermont start to walk a bit faster.

Even though the temperatures are still balmy during the day, you definitely need a sweater or light jacket in the evening. There’s a reason for the wide variety of outerwear (as the retailers like to call it) in everyone’s closet.

But before they fast-forward through fall, some folks are pausing at Edie Wolfe’s house to celebrate the change of seasons.

Let’s join them tomorrow, shall we? In the meantime, here’s a sample of what’s to come.

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.

SH-First touch of fall

The Difference Between Bees and Ants: A Carding Chronicle

Bees on anise hyssopHow did you feel about the approach of the first day of school when you were a kid?

Some are excited. Some apprehensive.

Little Freddie Tennyson is really unsure about this whole school thing. He’s been enjoying the summer days with his older brother but Scott is now old enough for kindergarten.

But little brothers have important jobs too.

Let’s join the brothers Tennyson, shall we?

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.

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“Will you really be gone all day?” Little Freddie asked as he watched bees move up and down the anise hyssop at the far end of the garden in a frantic search for more nectar.

He liked lying on his back with his brother under the big maple tree that shaded the front of their house. He liked watching the leaves move with the wind and the ants marching to and fro through the grass and chickadees flitting from branch to branch.

What he did not like was the idea of his big brother going to school. School was far away and full of stuff he didn’t understand.

Worst of all, Scott would be gone all day.

Nope, Little Freddie Tennyson did not like that idea at all which is why he kept asking the same question over and over again, hoping for a different answer. “Will you be gone all day?”

“Yeah, Mom says that kindergarten is so important, it takes all day,” Scott said.

“Why is it so important?”

“Oh, it’s got reading and stuff.” Scott sat up so his little brother couldn’t see his face. His last summer of being just a kid had gone by too fast, and to own the truth, he was a little bit nervous about this kindergarten stuff. Thinking about it made his eyes water.

Little Freddie contemplated what this whole reading thing could mean. He loved listening to his Mom and Dad read stories at night about trucks and talking animals and flying through the sky to have adventures with the stars.

To his mind, reading was a lot like magic. Somehow, all those black and white shapes on a book’s pages turned into words whenever grownups looked at them, and Freddie thought that was very cool.

He sighed. “I wonder if I’ll ever get to read.”

Scott’s head whipped around, surprise stamped all over his face. “Of course you will,” he said. “Dad says that understanding words and numbers is just a lot of practice. I mean, you can recite your abc’s, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And I know you couldn’t do that when you were born because you couldn’t even talk,” Scott said, warming to his subject. “And now you can talk and count and you know some songs and you know the difference between an ant and a bee…”

“Hmph, everyone knows the difference between ants and bees,” Little Freddie said. “Ants walk. Bees fly.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know that at first,” Scott insisted. Somehow, talking to his little brother like this made kindergarten a little less scary for him. He got up, brushing grass from the back of his shorts. “You know lots of stuff now that you didn’t know before. It’s just that I’m older so I have different things to practice than you. But Mom says you’ll catch up.”

Little Freddie pulled a long blade of grass from a patch sprouting up close to the trunk of the tree. He twirled it thoughtfully in his fingers before sticking it between his lips where he let it dangle. “I won’t have anybody to play with,” he pouted.

“Well, Dad says you’re coming along when he drives me to school, and I bet you get to do some stuff with him that I won’t be able to do,” Scott said. His brother’s face lightened up a little bit.

“And you can come down to the end of the driveway to meet me when I get off the bus, and we can walk back together, and I hope you save some stuff to do with me for when I get home,” Scott said.

“Will you share your new markers with me?”

Scott opened his mouth to answer but their mother’s voice cut through. “Time to wash up,” she called. “Supper’s almost ready.”

The boys dashed off, Scott taking shorter-than-usual strides so his brother could keep up. The truth was, he didn’t want to share his new markers with Little Freddie because the three-year-old colored so hard, he smushed their tips. In Scott’s older, more mature opinion (one he never ventured to say out loud), sharing was a waste sometimes.

As the brothers blasted through the back door, Scott noticed their Mom was wearing one of their Dad’s old T-shirts, and it was dotted with the paint she’d been applying to the walls of the mudroom. Suddenly, the size of his Mom’s belly impressed him, and he grabbed his brother by the shoulder.

“You know, since I’m not here all day, you’ll have to do the stuff for our new baby sister that I did for you,” he said in a low voice.

Little Freddie’s head bobbed up, and now it was his turn to look nervous. “Like what?”

“Oh, like feed her, and hold her, and when she gets big enough, help her learn to walk,” Scott said as they headed toward the kitchen sink. “It’s important stuff, like what I did for you.”

Freddie stayed silent while he climbed to the top of the stool that let his hands reach the water and soap. “Does that stuff take practice, like words and numbers?”

Scott nodded solemnly, glad that his brother’s sharing-markers idea had been replaced by a bigger one. “Lots of practice, yeah. But someone’s got to show her the difference between bees and ants.”


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Difference Between Bees and Ants

How did you feel about the approach of the first day of school when you were a kid?

Some are excited. Some apprehensive.

Little Freddie Tennyson is really unsure about this whole school thing. He’s been enjoying the summer days with his older brother but Scott is now old enough for kindergarten.

But little brothers have important jobs too.

Let’s join the brothers Tennyson tomorrow, shall we, to see how they fare with the big changes coming up in their lives?

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.

Bees on anise hyssop

First Tree: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Red maple treeSchool starts soon and even though the daytime temperatures are still quite warm, the hours of daylight are getting shorter.

So the thoughts of folks who live in Carding, Vermont are turning to the next season on the calendar.

There are signs everywhere, if you know where to look, of the autumn to come.

Let’s check in on the waning of August in Carding, shall we?

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.

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Even though the days have been growing steadily shorter since June 22 (the day after the summer solstice), no one seemed to notice until the calendar reached August. Suddenly, the lazing air of July has taken on a new urgency.

The town beach is crowded with families during the day and teenagers trying out their night moves in the evening. The lines at the Coop’s ice cream window are longer, and there were more lawn chairs parked gathered on the green for the summer’s last free concert than there have been all season.

In the midst of the annual August hustle, people start watching a certain maple that gracefully arches over the waters of Half Moon Lake. Everyone in town knows that this particular tree’s precarious perch make it susceptible to “early autumnal onset,” as Andy Cooper once described it.

In other words, this seasonal bellwether is the one that signals the oncoming rush of orange, yellow and red foliage. 

Like so many other things in Carding, a friendly local competition has sprung up to see who spots the change first. The dynamic duo that does the weather on Dirt Road Radio started promoting it this year so interest has spiked.

The winner has to take a picture with a date stamp to prove the sighting. In return, she or he gets bragging rights, a T-shirt from the Coop, and a day’s ration of warm muffins from the Crow Town Bakery. 

So who do you think will take the prize this year? Here are some of your choices.

Ruth Goodwin, in her position as the town’s splendiferous mail carrier, is usually the first one to notice the oncoming yellow because she drives Beach Road, which is the easiest access point to the “first tree,” every day. 

But Charlie Cooper, semi-retired lawyer and social activist, has been regularly commuting to the state capital, Montpelier, since taking on a consulting job last spring. There’s a gap in the trees just before he turns onto Route 37 where he can see the tree. So he thinks he’s in a good position to get the scoop on Ruth.

Earlier this month, Wil Bennett vowed to paddle his kayak on the lake every morning in August, and he always circles Half Moon so some of the early betting is on him. 

His younger sister Faye, however, is not to be outdone. Much to her parents’ amazement, she has taken up sunrise running on the beach. She swears it has nothing to do with the fact that her boyfriend, Dave Muzzy, is also sprinting there. 

But I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Then, of course, there’s the ever-reliable angler, Bruce Elliott, who always stops to cast a hook in the water on his way to and from work as well as Mr. Yancy, the refugee from the tech sector who’s passionate about birds.

You can eliminate all of the people who own condos and houses on the golf course on Mount Merino. To them, Half Moon Lake, seen in the distance from the fifth, sixth, and seventh holes, is nothing more than an anonymous sparkle in the distant landscape. Years ago, their landowners association tried to purchase lakeside property but couldn’t scare up any willing sellers so they mostly ignore the lake in favor of their new pool.

It’s just as well because the folks who live in Carding proper have never granted any Mount Merino resident the status of “local.”

Tree watching has been the subject of friendly banter and passing-the-time conversation everywhere that town folk rub shoulders—the bank, the bakery, the library, town hall, and the Coop. 

Andy’s going to post the winning picture on the community bulletin board at the front of his store. Afterwards, people will go back to filling the remainder of their summer days with a frenetic round of barbecues and biking dates while digging out a fleece vest or two for the cooling evening air.

And that rumbling you hear in the distance are the school buses revving up for the start of another year.

Aah yes, change is in the air.


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.