New Hampshire

Posted by Ellen

Of the various dogs who've come to live with us over the years, only one–this one–was named Professor Brophy. We called her Professor for short. Professor was a dumpy-looking brown dog from the pound with big jaws and an unfortunate personality, to put it mildly; she snarled at people when they tried to come in the house and then snapped at their heels when they tried to leave.

You may ask why we invited such a beast into the family. Well, obviously, Professor was smart enough not to treat us as rudely as she treated outsiders. Maybe she did what she did because she cared for us and felt she had to protect us from dangerous intruders. Or maybe she really despised us right along with everybody else but realized she'd better suck up to us.

Whatever was going on in that professorial little dog brain, it kept us hopeful for a while. And mixed in with the trying times were some very, very nice days with Professor–such as this perfect summer afternoon up above treeline on Mount Washington. That's Professor Stein following along behind as Professor Brophy breaks trail; a good time was had by both.

Posted by Ellen

 When they built the Grand Trunk line from Portland to Montreal in the early 1850s, they had to figure out a way over or around the White Mountains in New Hampshire. They ran the tracks up the Androscoggin River valley past the tiny village of Gorham, just eight miles north of 6,200-foot Mount Washington. Gorham became the railroad maintenance and service center, and this late-nineteenth-century birdseye view of Gorham shows the extensive railroad yards developed there.

Anyone who has been to Gorham, however, will notice something a little odd about this image of the place. The mountains in the background look low and unprepossessing, just some handsome, rolling topography off in the distance. Actually, they loom crazy big over the town, with Mount Washington in particular filling the sky and dominating the view almost like an Alp. Gorham is less than 800 feet above sea level; the peak of Mount Washington is more than a mile higher. Perhaps the artist (and/or his patrons in town) feared that big mountains might scare people away from Gorham. Gentle country would look more hospitable.

But the railroad that created Gorham eventually brought tourists to the hills, and today the town survives as a jumping-off point for vacationers in the White Mountains. An artist publishing a twenty-first-century birdseye view of the town would probably want to emphasize the mountains, maybe even drawing them bigger and steeper and closer than they really are. Wild, dramatic country is what the people want nowadays.

Trains don't stop here any more, but there is a railroad museum.

Posted by Ellen

This salt marsh at Seabrook, New Hampshire, is now the backyard of a nuclear power plant.  When this area was first settled, the marsh was the town hayfield, cut over every August or September for animal bedding, mulch, banks of insulation against the sides of houses, and packing material for shipping fruit, pottery, and other fragile items, back before foam peanuts and poppable plastic. After cutting, the grass was left in the marsh till wintertime, when the frozen mud would support the weight of horses to haul it out. If hay was needed before winter, horses could be driven in on unfrozen marshland by equipping them with huge wooden shoes that spread their weight.

But in the twentieth century, when marsh grass began to lose its value as a cash crop, the marsh was regarded as a nuisance. Drainage projects were expensive, but they were often justified on public health grounds, as mosquito-control measures. The Seabrook marsh, like many, was "ditched" with narrow little canals to dry up mosquito habitat. The project failed because the ditching destroyed habitat for important species of mosquito-larvae-eating fish.

Nowadays, we are beginning to understand the critical importance of marshes and other wetlands, for wildlife, storm-buffering, and many other functions. A handful ofl New England marshes have been restored to something approaching their pristine condition. And many others, including Seabrook, are slowly recovering thanks to protective legislation.

The mosquitoes are not an endangered species.
 

Posted by Ellen

Winter is sneaking up on us fast--in fact, these last couple of days here have left the impression that it's done snuck up already, and snagged us in its clutches. Anyway, here are a last couple of fall pictures, from last month. The first one is of Rye Beach, New Hampshire, by Tanja Baker. The other one shows a hydrangea bush on my street in Portland.

Posted by Ellen

A couple of nights ago, the season's first snow blanketed this meadow high on the shoulder of Mt. Washington, shown here in its August colors. But heavy rain forecast for today should wash away any lingering taste of winter. For now.

Posted by Ellen

Monday was hot and sunny in Concord, New Hampshire, a good day for a Clean Energy and Green Jobs Now Beach Party in front of the capitol dome. The idea was to encourage New Hampshire's U.S. senators to help pass a clean energy jobs bill when they go back to Washington this fall. Among those beaching it in Concord were  environmental activists from the Sierra Club, 1 Sky, and other organizations, including our friend Cathy Goldwater and these girls with their big bear.