Tag Archives: Carding Chronicle

Little Green Postcards: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Double day lilyEvery year, the Carding Garden Club organizes a weekend-long “Home and Garden” tour as a fundraiser for its work to beautify the town. Most of the time, this event generates friendly competition as well as collaboration among Carding’s dirt diggers.

And let’s face it, it’s just so much fun to wander through other people’s gardens knowing that any weeds you see are someone else’s to pull.

However, there’s a new twist to the decidedly non-competitive spirit of the event this year—a new gardener who believes that winning is everything.

Hope you enjoy the competition.

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.


The Carding Garden Club is pleased to invite every gardener in town to participate in their annual “Home and Garden Tour” on the third weekend of July.

Back in March, the little green postcards bearing these words brightened up mailboxes and community bulletin boards all over Carding. At the time, seed packets were just starting to appear on racks in Cooper’s General Store, and Lee Tennyson had barely accepted delivery of the compressed peat flats in which he would start everything from lobelia to geraniums, begonias, pansies, petunias, coleus and back again for his greenhouses.

In other words, July seems like a long way away when there’s snow on the ground.

By April, conversations around the coffee mugs in the Crow Town Bakery had turned from the right way to sand a driveway to hopes for a good growing season. You know the drill—not too hot for too many days, not too much rain either, every weather condition in moderation, and no frost after Memorial Day though it would be better for everybody if frost never appeared again after May 1.

Gardeners began to potter out to their garden sheds to assess the tool situation, sharpen their clippers, fit that new handle into the square-ended shovel, and check the hoses for splits and cracks.

Then Andy Cooper put out his first bags of compost on May 3 and suddenly, every gardener in town felt the pressure to weed even though the ground was still cold and very wet.

You have the full range of gardeners in Carding. There’s folks such as Edie Wolfe who inherited her mother’s mature gardens along with her family home. In other words, her peonies are older than she is.

That makes Edie a “maintainer,” separating and replanting the iris on a regular schedule, controlling the day lily hedge along the road, and tucking in marigolds to replace the narcissus after they’ve spent their flowering energy early in spring.

Edie’s best friends, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findley, are like “two paths that diverged in a wood” when it comes to gardening. Agnes is very precise. Her autumn joys never droop. Her bronze hens and chicks rigidly maintain their heart shape within a greater field of green succulents by the same name. Her escargot begonia’s leaves always swirl perfectly in their aubergine pot by her shaded front door.

They wouldn’t dare do otherwise.

Ruth, on the other hand, likes to take her gardening cues directly from nature which seems to do just fine without a lot of human interference, thank you very much. She does manage to put taller plants in the back of her gardens and yank the grass back from the worst of its intrusions.

But otherwise, her red bee balm runs riot with the buttery yellow of the evening primroses and her lime green spirea with its strawberry-ice-cream-colored flowers is taller than anyone has ever seen that plant grow before because, Ruth says, “it would inflict too much pain to prune it. Besides, I like it that way.”

I have to confess that Ruth’s gardening style drives Agnes crazy, and she’s often threatened to show up and weed in the middle of the night.

But she doesn’t.

The three friends used to maintain a mild competitive spirit among them during the Home and Garden Tour. Edie would win one year, Agnes the next, and much to everyone’s surprise, Ruth would take the trophy once in a while.

But now they demur from competition. Instead they use the frail and fleeting time from the arrival of compost bags at Cooper’s to the garden show as a spur to get their grounds into shape so they can enjoy the rest of the summer at their leisure.

But the same cannot be said of Carding newcomer G.G. Dieppe. Mrs. Dieppe, as she likes to be called, does not hold with this non-competitive concept. The idea is to win.

And even though she’s never gardened before, how hard can it be to buy better plants than anyone else and hire someone to put them in the ground?

“All it takes is money,” she told Andy Cooper. Of course he alerted Edie, Agnes and Ruth right away.

And the chase for the Carding Gardening Club trophy was on.


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.

Little Green Postcards

Every year, the Carding Garden Club organizes a weekend-long “Home and Garden” tour as a fundraiser for its work to beautify the town. Most of the time, this event generates friendly competition as well as collaboration among Carding’s dirt diggers.

And let’s face it, it’s just so much fun to wander through other people’s gardens knowing that any weeds you see are someone else’s to pull.

However, there’s a new twist to the decidedly non-competitive spirit of the event this year—a new gardener who believes that winning is everything.

The competition begins tomorrow. Hope you can stop by.

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-Double day lily

Pretty Hair: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Table of foodLately, the Carding Chronicles have been documenting changes about town but especially in the family of Harry and Louisa Brown.

As Chronicles go, this one has wallowed in the telling before getting to this point. If you need to catch up, you can read each of the segments individually here: one, two, three, four and five or you are welcome to read all the segments together here: The Uncertainty Principle.

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.

——————————–

Louisa sat in her car long after she’d turned off the engine, staring at the house where she’d spent her married life with Harry Brown, where she’d raised their three sons. To her eyes, it seemed faded. 

She shook her head and looked again, taking time to inspect the building for neglected maintenance or the need for a new paint job.

But everything was fine.

It must be the mist of memory, she told herself as she gathered her bag and the leashes for her two dogs. She had to grin as she thought about how Harry would have complained about canines in his house and then she frowned.

I don’t need to care about Harry’s opinion any more, she reminded herself, aware of the sense of relief that accompanied that thought. Does that make me one of those widows who dances home from her husband’s funeral?

Judging by the sounds coming from the way-back of her car, the puppy was now awake and doing his best to roust the female that Louisa had named Gracie. She opened the car door and headed toward the hatchback. It was time to face the wrap-up of Harry Brown’s life.

Connie Lindfors, the woman hired to be Harry’s cook and housekeeper, was in the kitchen washing lettuce when Louisa came through with the dogs.

“I checked the fencing around the old play yard,” Connie said. “There was one place where the little one could have gotten out but Jacob was here earlier this morning with some wire mesh to patch things up so I think we’ll be all right.”

Louisa resisted the urge to hug Connie. The woman had been a steadying hand over the past bewildering week, taking care of the house, the food, and all the plans for the reception after Harry’s funeral. But once the funeral was over, Connie would have to move on to another client so Louisa didn’t feel hugs were appropriate under the circumstances.

There was something too familiar about that gesture.

But she could be honest. “You have been just amazing,” she told Connie. “I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you.”

Connie waved her hand about the kitchen. “This probably feels weird to you, halfway through a divorce, no longer living here, and yet you’re burying a husband from this house. Life can take some pretty strange twists, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I do. None of this seems real to me. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and Harry will be arguing with me.” Louisa sighed. “Toward the end, that’s all we had in common.”

Connie picked up a towel to dry her hands. “I don’t know if this is a good time to bring this up or not but local realtors have been by to ask what’s going to happen to the house. With the market so tight and all, it would be a good time to sell. It’s a great location and a really nice house.”

“To tell the truth, I don’t know. I don’t want to come back here. It’s too big for me to handle on my own and there are way too many bad memories in these walls.” Her face tightened up with pain. “Too many angry words and too few apologies.”

“What about your sons? Would they be interested?”

Louisa shook her head. “Gideon definitely isn’t. Jacob seems content with his apartment up at the Tennyson farm and Noah loves Boston. He likes to visit Carding but he doesn’t want to live here.”

“Then would you consider selling it to me?” Connie asked. “I like Carding.”

Louisa’s eyes flicked around the house. “I’m not trying to be nosy but why would you want such a big house? Between mowing the lawn and the gardens and keeping up with repairs, this place can be overwhelming. Not to mention expensive.”

“Hmm, yeah. But I’ve been thinking. There are three bedrooms and two baths on this side of the divide and lots of common spaces like the living room and den.”

“You’re thinking about renting out the rooms, aren’t you?”

“Well, I overheard a couple of women in the Coop the other day talking about the Carding Inn,” Connie said.

“Hmph, that place doesn’t exactly have the best reputation and the owner is not the most pleasant man on the planet,” Louisa conceded. “Were the women here to take classes at Carding Academy?”

“They were. Quilters, both of them. And that got me to thinking that I could team up with the Academy to supply some housing for their students.” Connie spread her hands toward the kitchen table. It was covered by casserole dishes and plates of cookies, brownies and deviled eggs that would be consumed after Harry’s funeral. “I’m used to cooking for other folks and I’ve been a housekeeper for years. I can hire people to do the lawn and clear snow and any repairs that come up.”

Louisa started to nod. “I have no idea what the sale price should be on this.”

“I’ve been putting away money for a long time,” Connie said. “When you’re a live-in cook, you don’t have many expenses.” She stuck out her hand. “Can we agree to at least talk about it?”

“Absolutely.”

That was the last quiet moment of a very long day for Louisa Brown. When her sons—Gideon, Noah and Jacob—arrived, their attention to her was robust in all respects and she was glad of that.

The four of them traveled to the service together and sat together in the front pew of the Episcopal Church while Reverend Lloyd struggled to deliver a eulogy that was both truthful and compassionate. After all, everyone in town knew that Harry had been a difficult man.

Harry’s first wife, Edie Wolfe, was the last to arrive. She was accompanied by her daughter Diana and granddaughter Faye. They sat quietly in the most obscure corner of the church but heads still turned in their direction and a light whisper remarking their presence wafted through the air like smoke from a dying cigarette. 

What was she doing here?

In fact, Edie had come to support her friend Louisa, Diana had come to support her mother and Faye had come out of morbid curiosity. She still didn’t understand why Harry’s last words had been directed toward her and why she felt this strange bond with a man she barely knew.

Later on, back at the house where Louisa no longer lived, Faye circulated among the adults, most of them strangers to her, feeling ill at ease. But then she discovered Louisa’s two dogs in the backyard. As soon as she sat on the edge of the deck, the puppy made itself at home in her lap, trying to chew on her finger as Faye stroked his ears.

“You look just like your grandmother when she was your age,” a voice said. 

As Faye watched, a very old man leaned forward in one of the wooden chairs tucked deep in the shade.

“You knew my grandmother when she was young?”

“Oh, I knew them all—your grandmother, Harry Brown, Andy and Charlie Cooper, Ruth Goodwin, Robert Owen. They were all in high school together,” the man said.

“Were you a teacher there?”

“Nope, principal.”

“What was she like back then, my grandmother?”

“Pretty, just like you. Smart as a whip but kind of uncertain about herself.” He emitted a wheezy laugh. “But then most teenagers are kind of uncertain about themselves, don’t you think?”

“Yeah. Most of the time I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.”

“That’s how Harry got her to marry him, I’m sure of it,” the old man said. “Harry was one of the few kids who was always certain. It’s what got him so disliked. He never understood that other people had feelings and limits. I think he bullied your grandmother into saying yes to him but she came to her senses pretty quick. I knew she would.”

“It’s weird to think of Grandma being married to Harry Brown,” Faye said. “There’s so much about her that I don’t know. To me she’s always had gray hair and run the Carding Academy.”

“Oh there was a time when her hair blazed in the sun just like yours,” the old man said.

Suddenly this strange feeling came over Faye and she clutched at her hair.

“Is something wrong?” the old man asked.

“My hair. That’s what Harry saw.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I was with my brother and a friend across the street from where Harry was sitting when he…he…”

“Died,” the old man finished the sentence for her. “It’s okay to say the word in front of an old guy like me.”

“Yeah. Okay. Anyway, I called 9-1-1 when I saw him fall over and then we ran across the street.” She shook her head. “That must be it. He’d been watching me and he thought I was Grandma way back when.”

Just then, footsteps disturbed their conversation. “So this is where you’ve been hiding out,” Edie said, bending over to stroke the puppy in her granddaughter’s lap.

“Hello Edie.”

“Why Jack, Jack Knowlton, I had no idea you were here. How are you?”

“Not bad for an extremely old man. Can’t complain.” He nodded toward Faye. “Tell me, does she have as many opinions as you did at that age?”

“Oh probably more.” Edie looked at her granddaughter with obvious affection. Just then, the sun touched Faye’s hair, turning it from brown to a coppery amber and Edie touched it with a fingertip. “You know, my hair was that color when I was your age.”

“Funny thing,” Jack said, leaning back in his chair. “We were just talking about that.”


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.

Pretty Hair

Lately, the Carding Chronicles have been documenting changes about town but especially in the family of Harry and Louisa Brown.

As Chronicles go, this one has wallowed in the telling before getting to the final segment. That will appear tomorrow.

If you want to catch up, you do that here: one, two, three, four and five.

I’ve gathered all the stories together in one piece and that will be available tomorrow, if it’s your preference to read the whole story at the same time.

Hope you enjoy.

SH-Table of food

 

Sitting on a Bench on Carding Green on a Sunny Day

Everyone seems to be in a state of flux in Carding these days. What with high school and college graduations, weddings, the advent of summer, and vacations, everyone seems to be coming or going.

But underneath all the bustle, there are threads of anxiety, especially in Harry Brown’s family.

Especially for Harry Brown.

Tomorrow is the fourth part of a family saga, a family evolving into tomorrow. Here’s where you can go to catch up: one, two and three.

We’ll wind it all up after the 4th of July. Wow, that’s next week!! How did we get here so fast?

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-Baseball player

Operation Harry Brown: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Purple irisPoor Harry Brown. Between his health issues and the fact that his wife Louisa has left him, life seems…well…a little out of control.

It’s time to reassert himself, take charge like the man he is.

Right?

Well…maybe not so much.

Last week, Louisa finally decided to file for divorce. And with the help of her friend Edie Wolfe, she’s got plans for Harry as well.

Let’s check in to see how it’s going, 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.

————————————————————

Nowadays, Harry Brown couldn’t decide whether it was worthwhile to open his eyes in the morning or not so he’d worked out a compromise, slitting them open the merest fraction just to ascertain whether the sun had decided to come up or not.

You can never tell about these things.

He heard a rattle in the kitchen and his heart gave an involuntary flutter before he remembered that Louisa—his wife—no longer lived in her proper home. She had abandoned him. Just like their three sons.

Harry pressed his eyelids together, straining to remember the name of the aide that was with him now. He dredged up a vague image of her—brown hair fading to gray, watery blue eyes, more waist than hips. In other words, she looked like all the other aides that the agency sent to his house.

The last aide had lasted two weeks, something of a record in Harry’s new life as he coped with the results of his near-fatal stroke. If Louisa would just come home where she belonged, Harry wouldn’t have to put up with strangers in his kitchen.

But Louisa had stopped answering his phone calls and she wouldn’t return his messages. He’d even resorted to begging her to come back, something that Harry now regretted.

He groaned, rolled over on his back and then pushed himself upright. As he did, his bedroom door popped open.

“Do we need help with the toilet?” the aide asked.

Harry felt his tongue sharpen for a reply but then thought better of it. “No, that’s all right,” he said. “My canes are here. I can manage, thank you.”

“Would you like eggs for breakfast this morning?”

“Yes, scrambled with some toast. Is there any sausage in the freezer?”

“I’ll look.” The aide, whose name was Connie by the way, bit back her admonishment about eating a healthier diet. Let the old codger eat whatever he wanted, that was her attitude. He hadn’t got much time left, did he? Might as well enjoy it. “How many would you like if there are any?”

“Three,” Harry said and added a please because she didn’t lecture him. She was the first aide who hadn’t done that.

Connie, as it turned out, was a good cook. Breakfast was nothing fancy but her eggs were tasty and the sausage were cooked perfectly—nice and brown—and she didn’t skimp on the butter when it came to his toast.

“More coffee, hon?” A steaming pot hovered over his cup.

Harry smiled. “Sure. Why not? And could I have another piece of toast?” He let his smile extend further. “Please?”

The two of them existed in companionable silence while Connie cleaned up and Harry sipped and chewed. She would do, he thought. She would do well enough until Louisa came back.

“I was planning to do some grocery shopping this morning,” Connie said as she wiped down the stove. “Anything in particular you want for supper?”

“Hmm, will you be here as well?”

“Oh yes, I’m scheduled for the next three days and nights,” Connie said.

“Well, how would you feel about a pork roast? You do eat pork, right? So many people have different ways of eating nowadays.”

“Huh, don’t I know it. I’ve got a granddaughter who won’t touch meat at all. Claims that killing animals for eating is wrong. When she makes a BLT, she only uses lettuce and tomato. What kind of a sandwich is that?” Connie complained. 

“Hmph, no bacon?”

Connie turned to face him, a sponge in her hand. “No bacon. No steak. No burgers. I tell ya, where would this country be without meat?”

This time, Harry’s smile was genuine. Yes, this one would do nicely. “Would you mind if I went with you?” he asked.

“To the grocery store?”

“Yeah. I don’t get out much and I could do with a change of scenery.” He smiled again. One of his many lady friends had told him he had a charming smile so Harry figured he could always get what he wanted if he just turned up the wattage.

Harry knew that aides from the agency were not supposed to drive their clients in their personal vehicles but Connie had been given a lot of leeway in her care of this patient. “Sure thing,” she said. “Why not? Probably do you some good. And with everything in bloom right now, we could even take a bit of a scenic ride.” 

Harry couldn’t believe his luck. “I know a road where you can see the whole valley.”

“Sounds lovely,” Connie reached behind to untie her apron. “I should be ready in about half an hour.”

In Vermont, the hills and trees and flowers and gardens spend so much time in the deep freeze of winter that spring isn’t so much a season as it is an explosion. Change is rapid, as if the natural world is afraid that the warming sun will be taken away if it doesn’t hurry up. If you’d been spending a lot of time indoors—like Harry Brown—the speed of the outdoor transformation could catch you unawares.

The old crabapple in his front yard was the first thing to catch his eye. Most years, it bore only a vague sprinkling of white blossoms. This year, it was covered with a veritable snow of fragrant petals and it hummed with bees. When Harry stopped to take it in, Connie heard a muted “wow” escape his lips.

Next he looked down the street toward his neighbors’ yard. Mr. and Mrs. Cummings had been puttering about their “heavenly acre” (as they liked to call it) ever since they’d moved to Carding many years ago. Harry considered gardens as nothing more than obstacles to a mowing machine so he paid little attention to the Cummings’ efforts. Connie saw his jaw drop as he took in the purples and reds and yellows in his neighbors’ yard. He could barely see their house.

“It’s been quite a spring,” Connie commented as she stowed Harry’s canes in the back seat of her SUV. “A lot of rain and clouds and cool weather and the flowers are just loving it.”

“So I see,” Harry murmured as he examined a hedge of purple iris. Their petals were so dark, they were almost black. Unnatural, that was.

“Where would you like to go?” Connie asked.

“Up Belmont Hill, toward the Tennyson place.” Harry smiled again even though his face was starting to hurt from the effort and indicated the binoculars he’d looped around his neck. “It’s amazing what you can see from up there.”

“Okay, just give me directions.”

Harry began to relax as they drove along. Connie took directions well and listened as he pointed out the roads built by Brown & Sons and explained how the company worked with the state after Hurricane Irene on Carding’s bridge and culverts.

“You sound proud of the business you built,” Connie observed as they started up Belmont Hill. 

Harry’s chest puffed out a bit. He couldn’t help it. A man was his work, after all.

Harry leaned forward eagerly the higher they climbed and Connie caught his involuntary gasp of breath when he spotted a small new house sunning itself in the middle of an emerald field. She pointed out the structure.

“That looks like a modular to me,” she said. “My brother and sister-in-law live downstate in one that’s similar to that.”

Harry merely grunted, his eyes fixed on the structure he knew his sons had built for their mother. “Could you pull in just up there? And then turn around so we can see the valley?”

Harry trained his binoculars on the structure, sucking up every detail. It was sided with cedar shingles. Its doorway and window frames were painted a dark sapphire blue and there were solar panels on the roof. Under other circumstances, he would have been proud of his sons’ work.

But instead, he searched for something to criticize. “Hmph, solar panels,” he huffed aloud. “Bet the roof leaks under ’em in winter.”

Connie said nothing. Edie Wolfe had told her who lived in the new house.

Harry grew still as a pickup truck turned into the yard and his youngest son, Jacob, hopped out.

He had a big grin on his face as the front door opened and a black-and-white border collie launched itself into the front yard. Then Louisa stepped into the sunlight, a huge smile on her own face and a squirming puppy in her arms.

“Dogs.” Harry’s voice was weighted down with his disgust. Louisa would have to get rid of them when she came home. He hated dogs. A waste of time and money, in his opinion. 

“This is going to end right now,” he muttered as he pulled his phone from his pocket and angrily stabbed the speed-dial button for Louisa’s number.

Louisa jumped at the sound of her ring tone. Still chattering to Jacob, she gently placed the pup on the grass in order to pull her phone from her jacket pocket. As Harry watched, Louisa glanced at her screen then clicked the phone off. At the same time, Jacob looked up the hill at the car where his father sat with Connie.

He waved. Louisa turned around to see what had caught her son’s attention. When she saw Harry, she pointedly plunged her phone back into her pocket.

Harry shrank in his seat. “Take me home,” he growled. “Now.”

Connie did as he wished. Operation Harry Brown had begun and so far, it was all going according to plan.


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.

Operation Harry Brown

Poor Harry Brown. Between his health issues and the fact that his wife Louisa has left him, life seems…well…a little out of control.

It’s time to reassert himself, take charge like the man he is.

Right?

Well…maybe not so much.

Last week, Louisa finally decided to file for divorce. And with the help of her friend Edie Wolfe, she’s made plans for Harry as well.

Let’s check in tomorrow to see how it’s going, shall we? In the meantime, here’s a wee 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-Purple iris