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Heath Fair 2014 on Wordless Wednesday

Heath Fair Vegetable basket

Heath Fair Vegetable basket

What is the why of the Heath Fair?  It is a celebration of the bounty of the earth – and the knowledge and energy to make it fruitful.

Heath Fair cow and calf

Heath Fair cow and calf

It is a celebration of our farms and farmers.

Heath Fair and mini goats

Heath Fair and mini goats

It is about sharing the natural world with our children. Those are miniature mama goats.

Heath Fair Garlic

Heath Fair Garlic

The Heath Fair is about competition,

Heath Fair Music

Heath Fair Music

and music,

Heath Fair Blue Ribbon cookies

Heath Fair Blue Ribbon cookies – baked by Bella

and Blue Ribbons.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Cooking Lessons Over the Years

Rory in 2009 cooking lesson over the years

As a liberated  woman I have made sure that my grandsons have had a few cooking lessons over the years. Rory was 13 when this photo was taken, but it is not his first lesson. Perfect scrambled eggs was probably an early lesson, but by 2009 he had moved along to the perfect omlette.

Rory with Saumon en papillote 2010

Saumon en papillote, a Julia Child recipe, amazingly simple, but a dish with dash, has become Rory’s specialite.

Rory’s pickles for the Heath Fair 2010

I cannot begin to tell you how many blue ribbons this family has won at the Heath Fair in August.

Rory and more pickles for the 2011 Heath Fair

We made a lot more things for the Fair than pickles. Cookies are also always on the list.

Rory with cookies 2012

I told you he made cookies!

Rory making real caramel corn 2013

Making real caramel is quite an operation, but he is up to it.  When we are cooking for the Heath Fair, the rule is that  I can instruct and advise, but I cannot touch anything. That rule has carried over into all our lessons.

Tynan making cookies 2008

Rory’s younger brother followed in his brother’s footsteps.

Tynan kneading his bread 2009

I bake a lot of bread. It is fun to do. I tell all the children that they have to think about all the people who will enjoy their cooking while they work. That love gets cooked right into the dish.

Tynan with his raspberry jam. 2010

If you have a raspberry patch, you must make raspberry jam, and Tynan did.

Tynan at the Art Garden in 2011

I know Tynan did some baking every year, but there does not seem to be a photographic record. However, creativity comes in all forms – many of them are found at the Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.

Drew and Anthony 2009

Because Anthony and his younger brother Drew live in Texas we got them both at the same time in the summer. Less cooking, more field work like picking raspberries.

Anthony and Drew at the Hawley kiln 2011

Of course, we take all the boys touring locally at historic sites like the Hawley kiln, and art sites like MassMoCa. There is lots to do at the End of the Road and all around western Massachusetts. I think these boys have gotten fewer cooking lessons, but they are Boy Scouts. They need to cook around the campfire.

Bella and French toast in 2013

The boys are getting ‘old.’ They’ve got jobs and less time for cooking lessons and frolicking. Fortunately, we have Bella, a great-granddaughter, who has moved close enough to start her cooking lessons.

Great-Granddaughter Bella’s First Heath Fair

Bella baking for the Heath Fair

Bella came to visit in time to prepare her exhibits for the Heath Fair. Baking for the Fair is almost as much fun as the Fair itself. At the age of 6 Bella is in a real competition which means that she has to  make her cookies all by herself. No one else, not even Granny, can touch the cookies. She measured the ingredients, operated the mixer, and used a tiny ice cream scoop to measure the dough and make cookies of a consistent size. Consistency is key to winning a blue ribbon in all baking and vegetable entries.

Bella in the Friends of the Heath Library book tent

Bella helped set up the Friends of the Heath Library book sale tent – and then she spent all the money ($2) granny gave her for the fair on books.

Bella and Hazel feeding the sheep

The Heath Fair is a small agricultural Fair. There are sheep to feed, and fair activities are always more fun when you are with a friend. But we also watched the goat judging, admired the bunnies and the chickens in their special house. Some of the ducks were penned outside where they could have a little swimming pool. There were cows, and two big workhorses that gave people wagon rides around the Fairgrounds.

Bella and her cousin hooping

The Heath Fair only has a couple of mechanical rides, but really, what is more fun than climbing the 20 foot tall climbing wall (she really did even  though we don’t have a photo) or spending hours! leaning to hula hoop. The whole family joined in this. Even the boys, and little Lola, Bella’s 4 year old sister.

Family at rest

After all that hooping everyone had to rest and refresh themselves. Lots of visiting.

Bella on horseback

What is every little girl’s dream? Horseback riding! Look at that head held high, proud and confident.

Bella’s blue ribbon cookies

Hard to say what was the most exciting event of this year’s Heath Fair, but Bella’s first blue ribbons has to be right up there. Notice the consistent size of those cookies (one of the 6 already eaten). Consistency is key. It cannot be said too often. Her vanilla sandwich cookies with raspberry jam filling also won a blue ribbon. Blue ribbons – and eight dollars prize money.


Not all my entries won blue ribbons, but no one could argue the beauty and size of my garlic.

For more (almost) wordlessness this Wednesday click here.


Heath Fair 2012

Heath Fair Quilt

For the first time in seven years weather at the Heath Fair was just right. Not too hot. Not too cool. Not too breezy. Just right. It seems all the world thought the day was just right, too. I don’t know how many records were broken for number of attendees or business for the various vendors, but I can tell you that when I arrived Sunday afternoon to take my turn at the new Authors Tent, set up by Jack Estes and Betsy Kovacs of Pleasure Boat Studio, I was told there was no room to park. Workers were scurrying to create a new parking area at the far end of the Fairgrounds, but they let me park ‘illegally’ so I could arrive on time to read from my book The Roses at the End of the Road.

The Friends of the Heath Library book sale broke records, for book sales and raffle sales. We have to thank all those who donate books and prizes because they are loyal supporters of the Heath Library who understand how important the children’s programming and book collection is, while also appreciating the necessity for good Internet access. The Friends of the Library support both.

Mother Earth

When I saw Mother Earth being dressed in a beflowered and beleafed gown and readied for the Fair Parade I was sure I was seeing another record being made – for the largest puppet ever to appear at the Fair. This twelve and a half foot figure was designed by Larry Sampson, one of our newer Heath residents, whose day job is designing and building sets for movies and whatever dramatic project calls on his skills. The puppet was built by Sampson with the help of the Lyra Johnson and the children’s summer reading program, and dressed by Kara Leistyna, our Town Coordinator, who is also known for her talents as a seamstress. This was the largest dress she has ever made, with the biggest hoop skirt in Fair history.

I am sure all kinds of other records were being set by exhibitors. I know the excitement when a child wins his first blue ribbon for a piece of art, or for her squash. I know the laughter of my daughters who participated in their first skillet toss. No blue ribbons expected or needed for that competition.

The theme of the parade this year was Right to Farm. Now when you enter town on either Route 8A or Avery Brook Road  you are greeted by a Right to Farm Community sign. Heath does not have the dairy farms that it once did, but there is a beef farm, blueberry farms, maple farms and bio fuel farms. Sunflowers! Some energetic gardeners are selling their surplus asparagus and eggs and etcetera from a roadside stand. Some have even been known to sell perfect produce to local restaurants. Farming is not done on the scale as in years of yore, but our whole society is now thinking of the value of small local farms and how they can be an important part of our food security.

Ostensibly there is a lot of competition at the Fair, but while competing in the friendliest possible way there are lessons to be learned,  rules to be followed, and new opportunities to be discovered.

My garlic is on the plate

This year I entered garlic for the first time. Inspired and tutored by Rol Hesselbart, Heath’s garlic king and the man who gave me my first seed garlic two years ago, I searched the Fair premium book for the garlic category. It was not there. All I could do was enter my garlic under Vegetables – Other.

How to do it? All the other vegetable categories explain how to display your veggie – two squash or ten green beans or five onions. Uniformity is always key to winning a prize, and following directions like “stems must be on fruits and vegetables.”  Surely that didn’t mean the whole garlic stem which is about two feet long.

With no direction, I finally decided I would clean five of my most uniformly sized dried garlic bulbs, trim the roots, and trim the stems to about two inches. They looked very much like some of the onion exhibits.

When I brought my entries in on Thursday night another garlic entry was already there, but with no direction, this entry was a little bundle of garlic bulbs with long stems. How were these to be compared?

In the end, neither one of us won first prize. That honor went to Doug Mason who made a whole big bouquet of garlic bulbs, with long stems beautifully bound. Well!

The judges do the best they can, but they had no direction either. There was clearly a problem. More people in town are growing garlic and more people may very well want to compete for the blue ribbon next year.  The upshot is that by the time the Fair had closed we garlic gardeners learned that not only would there be a separate category for garlic next year, there will also be a special Hesselbart prize. Does that mean a blue ribbon might carry more than a $3 premium?  We can only wait and see. ###

Between the Rows –  August 25-2012

Composting and Recycling at the Heath Fair

We try to make the Heath Fair as environmentally sound as possible.


A Creative Community Shows Off at the Heath Fair

Heath Fair Exhibit Hall

Our creative community got to display its imagination and skill at the 95th Annual Heath Fair from August 17-19. The Hall exhibits range from flowers, flower arrangements, vegetables and fruits on a plate or in jars, cookies, bread, maple confections, eggs, ciders, honey, quilts, knitted or crocheted hats, sweater and scarves, lego constructions, photography, art of every sort – and all categories are organized by age. Ribbons and money can be won by everyone!

Friends of the Library Book Sale Tent

I spent a lot of time working at the Friends of the Heath Library Book Sale – as I do every year. Donors of books know this is the best way to recycle books, and the pleasure they have already harvested from them while helping the library fund children’s programming and – more books. We love books in Heath!

Peter Brown - Photographer and Author

This year there were even more books than usual at the Fair. Betsy Kovacs and Jack Estes of Pleasure Boat Studio, a Literary Press, are now spending much of their time living in Heath. They organized a Local Authors tent to add to the Fair’s offerings and festivities. They collected the works of an amazing number of very local authors, and the authors themselves to read, sign and sell their books. Their list included me! I was there to read chapters from my book, The Roses at the End of the Road.  Peter Brown, pictured above, has been a part-time resident of Heath since before he was born. In a manner of speaking. His parents met in Heath when they were very young and although Robert McAfee Brown and Sydney Brown went on to notable careers far away from Heath they drove here every summer. Those trips across the Plains from California to Heath and back made a big impression on Peter who now has two beautiful books of magnificent photographs published by Norton: On the Plains, and West of Last Chance. Peter has had a stunning career both as an artist and teacher which you can read about briefly here. We Heathans are proud to claim him as one of our own.

Others who read at the Author’s Tent were Tinky Weisblat, author of the Pudding Hollow Cookbook (which includes a recipe of mine!) and of the What’s A Girl to Do Blog. I do not have any other good friends who are such good cooks and good writers. Tinky spoke with the illustrious Alice Parker (they both live in Hawley and have known each other for eons) who brought her books on music and recordings. Susan Todd was there reading Carol Purington’s poetry. I have written about Carol and her work, and her family’s roses in earlier posts. Susan’s husband Dick Todd also read from his latest book, The Thing Itself.  Laura Rodley, Jody Cothey, Dave Howland, Michael Hoberman, Susie Chang, Alfred Alcorn, Deborah McCutchen, Saloma Furlong,  and Jim Carse all read from their books. Talk about local creativity and skill!

Drew, Mother Earth, and Anthony

While I was very interested in all the literary activity at the Heath Fair, and I did come home with a BIG box of books, there were many other delights that other members of my family enjoyed. The gymkhana, the Fireman’s barbecue with their own homemade root beer, the ox draw, the skillet toss, the blueberry/whipped cream eating contest, Mr. Flynn’s wagon rides, fabulous music including the Sweetback Sisters, and of course, the Heath Fair parade. I didn’t get a photo of the parade this year, but I did get a photo of my Texas grandsons standing with Mother Earth created by Larry Sampson with Lyra Johnson and the Summer Children’s Reading Program and dressed by Kara Leistyna who is know for her talent with a needle.  We love books; we love nature; we love children – and all our loves meet at the Heath Fair.

Heath Fair 2011

The Wealth of Heath

We moved to Heath in the fall of 1979 and attended our first Heath Fair in 1980. However, we had heard about the Fair years before when we were living on Grinnell Street in Greenfield. Deb Porter of Heath was visiting her friend (and my temporary boarder) Wendy Roberts in my kitchen, but she had to cut the visit short that day in order to race back to Heath and bake pies for the Fair.

Deb still works at the Fair in many capacities, as does her sister Pam Porter who is just finishing her stint as Co-President of the Heath Agricultural Society. The Porters have been attending and working at the Heath Fair from their childhoods, and have seen more changes than I, but we all agree that the essence of the Fair remains the same. It is a celebration of this piece of land that we are attached to, literally and emotionally, as well as a celebration of our productive, creative and cooperative community.

After moving frequently in my early years I have now lived in Heath for almost half my life. This year many exhibits and events at the Fair made me aware of the way my roots have sunk into my Heath hill and community, adding my own history to that of the town.

As usual I worked in the Friends of the Library’s 20 by 20 foot sturdy white tent filled with books for sale. I remembered the year quite some time ago when the weather was threatening and my husband and I donated the use of our 10 by 10 foot camp tent to house the sale. As it turned out the tent was needed and many sheltered among the books during a terrific storm. Using a tent for the sale became routine but it quickly outgrew our little tent.

My granddaugher Tricia Waitkus was born in July of 1986. That was the year that the Heath Fair t-shirt featured a big blue ribbon with the text – First Prize Person. What better t-shirt for to wrap around her stroller for her first Fair. She attended the Fair this year, mugging in the goat cutout. This year the Fair was also the scene of Margaret Smith Jones 100th birthday celebration with her family; Karen Brooks and Melissa Ortquist in the Music Tent sang out a birthday serenade for us all to enjoy. It is clear that while Tricia has been a First Class Person for a quarter of a century, Margaret Jones has held that title for a full century, six years more than the Heath Fair has existed.

Three years ago Pam Porter reinstituted the Speakers Tent which had been an element of the Fair during the 1940s and ‘50s. Rumor has it that noted theologians and summer Heathans Reinhold Neibuhr and Robert MacAfee Brown were among those who Spoke in those days. The speakers these days do not have such lofty reputations, but the speeches remain inspiring and practical. Young people from the Gardening the Community: Youth and Urban Agriculture project in Springfield provided inspiration as they described their gardens and bicycle delivery of produce which you can read about on their website Bob Bourke, Fair secretary, provided practical information with his talk on composting.

Rory, Sue Gruen and me

When we first began attending the Fair there was no big Solomon Temple barn, an edifice that the Historical Society had dismantled and rebuilt on the fairgrounds. Now the barn contains a collection of agricultural tools used in earlier days. The barn also houses a huge loom that was dismantled and reassembled by Bob and Sue Gruen. The two of them will be giving a talk about weaving at the Heath Historical Annual Meeting on Saturday, August 27 at 7 pm.

Sue Gruen was on hand at Saturday’s Fair to demonstrate and let fairgoers, like us, try our hand weaving on a small loom. My grandsons and I took turns gingerly shooting the shuttle through the shed.

The Exhibit Hall was filled with quilts, knitted sweaters, pies, cakes, breads, cookies, eggs, maple syrup, photographs, sculptures, beautiful jars of pickles, jams, and vegetables. My daughter Kate won a First Prize for her counted cross stitch wall hanging. She is three dollars richer.

Large organizations displays were set up against the back wall of the building. I enjoyed the Heath School Garden exhibit – and even guessed correctly that the mystery tool had nothing to do with gardening. It was a hair crimper.

I was fascinated by the beautiful signature quilt that was a part of the Ladies Aid exhibit. Theresa Peters told me that it was started about ten years ago when she was part of a quilting club, but the club did not last long and she put the unfinished quilt in a closet and forgot about it.

Last year she found it again and brought it to a Ladies Aid meeting where the ladies decided to finish it. Sometimes signature quilts are made for a special occasion such as a family moving away. The quilt is a memento of friendships. This quilt is also snapshot of connections. Anyone could sign it, they didn’t have to sew or quilt. Peters brought it to the Senior Lunch in the Community Hall for people to sign. A few of the squares are signed as memorials for people like Michael Peters and Catherine Heyl, both of whom left us too soon.

The Heath Fair has become my time to look back, but also to look forward to new ideas and projects. Never again will I be exhibitless at the Fair.

Antique tractor parade

Between the Rows   August 27, 2011


My First Book Signing

Book signing at the Heath Fair, The Roses at the End of the Road

The Heath Fair gave me a unique experience this year. In addition to enjoying all the other delights and events, I got to meet and talk to other gardeners who asked me to sign my book, The Roses at the End of the Road, when they bought it.  This was a  thrill for me. The book my family and I had been working on all summer was finally in our hands – and on sale.

Of course, The Roses at the End of the Road has been my project for much more than a few months of summer. The idea of writing a book has been percolating for a long time, but the question was how to focus it. I have no qualifications or interest in writing a how-to book. I saw no benefit to trying to collect The Best of 30 Years of Garden Columns. Nix that. Finally the obvious subject revealed itself, the hardy roses that I have been tending for 30 years.  The subject is not how to grow them, but how I have grown in the company of the roses, with my family and among fascinating neighbors. My chickens play a part, a very small part. Please note – I have had chickens for 30 years — before they were chick. I mean chic!

I will be signing books again on Saturday, August 27 at World Eye Books between 11 am – 1 pm. Actually, my husband Henry who did the wonderful drawings will be with me, adding his signature. Two for the price of one. I am looking forward to meeting more rose lovers, lovers of country living, and hearing their stories.



Monkey on His Back

Heath Fair Midway

For more Wordlessness, click here.

Another Heath Fair is Past

I spent a lot of time working, one way and another, in the Friends of the Heath Free Public Library Book tent. This book sale and raffle is our big fund raiser of the year.

The Book Tent is a good place to read, and eat homemade pie a la mode, and to visit. But there is a lot to see at the Fair.

Food preservation is a hot topic in the general culture these days, but canning is a traditional Heath skill.

The Exhibit Hall is full of wonderful entries, artistic, agricultural,  and natural history. This ball gown made of egg crates welcomed visitors to the Hall.

There was only one entry is the perfect breakfast category, but no question that it would be a prize winner any time.

My garlic guru naturally won first prize. Mine looked almost as good.

The Heath School was only one of several organizations that put up big exhibits. The garden is doing beautifully.

Of course, we wanted to see the grandsons’ exhibits.  Anthony won a First for his duct tape mosaic.

His brother Drew won Third for his Not So Perfect House Sculpture. I think he’s been taking notes while staying at our house.

There are lots of things to DO at the Fair. Blueberry and whipped cream eating contests, Firemen’s BBQ to eat, a ladies skillet toss, gymkanas, ox  and horse pulls, tractor pull, too.  Tricia went down to the new barn building. This year they had a goat show for the first time. This goat was not entered.

At the Historical Society’s barn master weaver Sue Gruen was showing us all how to weave. Rory caught on fast.

His brother Tynan was equally quick to learn.

I took a turn, too.

There are several parades over the course of the Fair including the  Oxen Parade, and an antique tractor parade. This was the final ‘big’ parade which included a couple of floats, fancy old cars, fire engines and more tractors. Most of these tractors are still in use and remind us that although the dairy farms are gone, fields are being tended for hay, sunflowers, and corn. We treasure our agricultural history . . .

and look forward to a new generation carrying on.

Signature Quilt

The Ladies Aid exhibit in the Hall featured another important historical artifact.  One of the ladies found a half made signature quilt in the back of a closet. Not her closet. The signature quilt had been started many years ago, and included the signatures of a generation that has passed. They decided to finish the quilt adding their own signatures. What a treasure this quilt is.  A treasure that reflects the richness of our life here in Heath. We are blessed.


Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

This morning dawned cool and misty.

A walk through the garden was so quiet and peaceful.

A glorious morning indeed. And we look forward to a glorious day at the Heath Fair.

Yesterday was all energetic activity. We had scores of boxes of books to bring to the Fair for the Annual Friends of the Heath Free Public Library book sale. $1 for hardcovers! This is our big fundraiser for the year.

After loading up the books, we had to unload the books and organize them. You don’t think these people will stop to read every book as they take them out of the boxes do you?  It is tempting. See you at the Fair! I’ll be signing my book, The Roses at the End of the Road, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.