Maine Craft Weekend & Registration for the 2016 Paris Hill Hook In Happening Now!

exterior1 The Fourth Annual Paris Hill Hook In is not yet filled!  Join us on November 5th for a hook in that past participants describe as one of the best (and sometimes they say “the best) hook ins they have ever attended.  I chalk this up to our warm, welcoming, and historic venue, our amazing locally catered fresh food, and, of course, the good company of over 60 hookers coming together for a wonderful fall day.  We also have an informal rug show, the ringing (by you!) of the historic Revere Foundry church bell, and this year only we will pull the winning ticket for our Maine Medical Center raffle rug.  Don’t have a ticket for that yet?  No problem.  You can buy them now by clicking here or you can even buy them in person the morning of the hook in.  Once again we will be welcoming Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes and Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures as our vendors, along with, of course, Parris House Wool Works.  There will be door prizes as well (it’s not a hook in without door prizes).

You can get a hook in registration form HERE, but there’s a doubly fun way to sign up.  You can join us this coming weekend for Maine Craft Weekend!  We will be participating by having the Maine studio open both days, Saturday and Sunday, October 1st and 2nd, from 10 AM to 4 PM.  Here is what you can expect:  Parris House Wool Works is located in the beautiful Paris Hill National Historic District of the Western Lakes & Mountains Region of Maine. You can find us at the 200 year old historic Parris House at 546 Paris Hill Road, Paris and we will be open both days to introduce you to the heritage craft of North American wool-on-linen rug hooking! Join us for refreshments, demonstrations, lessons in rug hooking, and a studio filled with everything you need for the craft, including hooks, frames, original patterns, and wool, as well as assorted finished decor pieces to purchase. You will also be able to buy a raffle chance on a 3’x5′ hooked rug to benefit the Maine Medical Center Kidney Transplant Program; drawing November 5th. Feel free to walk the historic village while you’re here! Walking tour maps will be available.  

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We have recently added a variety of classes and events to our new calendar, and you may notice that the website is completely, beautifully re-imagined.  This creative work was done by Jacks McNamara of Root & Blossom Design.   Her services were extremely professional, but also warmly collaborative so that the site ended up looking like Parris House Wool Works, not a cookie cutter version of other sites.  I highly recommend her!

So, hopefully you will join us for Maine Craft Weekend, the Paris Hill Hook In, or any of the other fun classes and events we have scheduled for the fall and beginning of winter.

Happy hooking, and see you soon! – Beth

The Second Annual Paris Hill Hook-In, Paris Hill, Maine – November 15th, 2014

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Our second annual Paris Hill Hook-In seems to have been a great success, thanks to both the attendees and all of the people who helped bring it together!  I am very grateful to everyone who was a part of this event.  I think it’s generally agreed that although our first hook-in last year was also great fun, this one was even better.

My husband, youngest son, and I worked with Reverend Mary Beth Caffey of the First Baptist Church of Paris to set up the venue.  This is a new venue for us.  Last year we used the 1853 Paris Hill Academy Building, but because of handicapped accessibility issues, we thought we’d try the church this year.  The church is situated at the very center of historic Paris Hill village, and commands fantastic views of the village “loop” and the White Mountains in the distance.  It’s beloved by us, and we think by the time Saturday was over, it was beloved by many more.

Our beautiful historic venue.  Some of the beams were left exposed in a recent restoration, and that rope to the far right of the bottom photo?  Well, that's the pull rope for the approximately 200 year old church bell that we had a little fun with.
Our beautiful historic venue. Some of the beams were left exposed in a recent restoration, and that rope to the far right of the bottom photo? Well, that’s the pull rope for the approximately 200 year old Paul Revere foundry church bell that we had a little fun with…
At what other hook-in do you find hookers ringing a historic church bell?  These are a couple of Parris House Hookers giving it their best.  On the left, Cindy Mitchell.  On the right, Irene Adams.
At what other hook-in do you find hookers ringing a historic church bell? These are a couple of Parris House Hookers giving it their best. On the left, Cindy Mitchell. On the right, Irene Adams.

Reverend Caffey gave the group a nice presentation on the history of this building.  If you are interested in a brief history, please click here.  This building requires a great deal of tender loving care to keep it as beautiful and intact as it is.  I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is a stewardship organization called Friends of the First Baptist Church.  If you, or anyone you know, would like to make a donation to its care, please contact the church on its contact page.

When we first set up the spaces the looked like this...this is Friday afternoon...
When we first set up the spaces they looked like this…this is Friday afternoon…
Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking cheerfully greeted our guests and provided the pretty fall themed nametags.  Connie is also my teacher, mentor, guru, and her assistance is incalculable.
but on Saturday morning…Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking cheerfully greeted our guests and provided the pretty fall themed nametags. Connie is also my teacher, mentor, guru, and the value of her assistance is incalculable.
The church hall is divided in to two sunny rooms.  I confess that when I first signed on with this venue I was concerned about the split, but it turned out to be a non-issue.  Here is the main hall at the entrance area filled with hookers!
The church hall is divided in to two sunny rooms. I confess that when I first signed on with this venue I was concerned about the split, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Here is the main hall at the entrance area filled with hookers!
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The Parris House Hookers took up one of the long tables and then some!
These are the ladies in the second room, with some of their handiwork laid out on the round table.
These are the ladies in the second room, with some of their handiwork laid out on the round table.

We were so happy to have the same two wonderful vendors return this year for our hook-in.  Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures in Brunswick and Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes in Gray.  So talented, so nice.  It is always a joy to work with them.

Cherylyn of Hooked Treasures on the left, Kim Dubay (far left of the photo) of Primitive Pastimes on the right.
Cherylyn of Hooked Treasures on the left, Kim (far left of the photo) of Primitive Pastimes on the right.

So, aside from beautiful scenery and tempting vendors, what else is important to (hungry) hookers?  The food!  This year we had Jennicakes Bake Shop of Norway cater our hook-in and wow…well deserved rave reviews all around.  Jennifer and her staff created and served wonderful pastries for breakfast and dessert, including gluten free options, and a savory lunch of pumpkin soup, vegetarian baked beans, turkey pot pie, salad, and fresh breads.  There was so much left over of the sweets that we donated some to the church’s coffee hour for Sunday morning!

The food!
YUM!

And, of course, we had our annual rug show.  So much talent in one space.  Ellen Marshall off Two Cats and Dog Hooking kindly and ably coordinated our rug show, which was held in the upstairs sanctuary of the church.  Here is your virtual tour of our rug show…

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Left: hooked by Edna Olmstead, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio. Center: hooked by Edna Olmstead, traditional scottie dog design. Right: hooked by Bob Galloup, designed by the Moshimer studio.
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Top left: hooked and designed by Cindy Mitchell. Top right: hooked by Donna Lowe, must ask for designer’s name! Bottom left: left rug hooked by Kelly Hasselbach, right rug hooked by Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking, who also designed it. Bottom right: hooked by Edna Olmstead, designed by Maine Hooked Rugs.
Top left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking.  Top right: hooked and design adapted by Cindy Mitchell.  Bottom left: hooked by Linda Rokowski, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio.  Bottom right:  hooked and designed by Cindy Mitchell.
Top left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking. Top right: hooked and design adapted by Cindy Mitchell. Bottom left: hooked by Linda Rokowski, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio. Bottom right: hooked byCindy Mitchell and designed by Sally Van Nuys.
Top left: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes.  Top right and Bottom left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking. Bottom right: hooked by Irene Adams, designed by Wooly Red Rug.
Top left: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes. Top right and Bottom left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking. Bottom right: hooked by Irene Adams, designed by Wooly Red Rug.
Top left, Top right, and Bottom left:  hooked and designed by Beth Miller of Parris House Wool Works.  Bottom right: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes.
Top left, Top right, and Bottom left: hooked and designed by Beth Miller of Parris House Wool Works. Bottom right: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes.

I took a little climb up to the balcony space to photograph our attendees viewing the rug show…

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One little surprise discovered by one of our rug show attendees…a hooked foot stool beneath a pew toward the front of the church.  It is very old, hooked on burlap and affixed with the kind of hand wrought hardware that is also displayed, albeit in much larger form, in a glass case from when the church was renovated.  Any guesses as to the age of this foot stool?  Insight welcome!

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If you would like to view all of the photos in larger format, click here. 

Thanks again to all of our attendees and helpers!  We will definitely be doing this again next year.  Please watch our website and our Facebook page for details once I am able to come up with a date for next year.  Also, do come see us at the Maine studio on December 6th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for our annual Holiday Open House.  We’ll have refreshments, a prize drawing, open hooking, and 10% off all wool purchases.  Hope to see you then and happy hooking!  – Beth

It’s PIE Season! Prepare Your Pumpkins! – A Guide to Making Fresh Pumpkin Puree & What To Do With Those Seeds Too

Well, Halloween is over, the big box stores are hauling out the Christmas merchandise, and this can only mean one thing:  it’s pie season.  Apple pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, chocolate cream pie, shoofly pie (for you Pennsylvanians), and……….pumpkin pie!  To make pumpkin pie, you can resort to canned pumpkin, but honestly, there’s something a whole lot more heartwarming, and fresh tasting, about pumpkin pie made from fresh sugar pumpkins.

I am one son away from the empty nest.  My oldest three sons have all flown the coop and I have 17 year old Paul, my “baby,” in his senior year of high school at home.  So, one of our pumpkins got carved last week – in to Jake from the cartoon show Adventure Time.  That one ended up like this:

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But…we had three more.  Two sugar pumpkins from Slattery’s farm in West Minot, Maine and a behemoth we have still not dispositioned.   Here they are in their full pumpkin-y glory.

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So, the sugar pumpkins are the ones destined for pies.  Paul was happy to help.

Step one…wash and cut the pumpkin in half.

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Cut the top with stem off the pumpkin. Then begin slicing in half. If you find it difficult, you can use a soft (wooden or rubber) mallet to tap on the protruding knife edge to help ease it through the pumpkin.

Step two…scoop out the interior seeds and stringy parts.

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The pumpkin will be full of seeds and slimy goop. Take all of that out, either by hand or with a spoon as a scoop, but save the seeds! Paul is putting the seeds in a Ball jar for the time being.

Step three…roast the pumpkins.

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Once the interiors of the pumpkins are well scooped out, place them cut side down on foil lined baking pans. Place them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about an hour, or until the flesh of the pumpkin is soft and scoopable with a spoon.

Optional step…feed the goop to your chickens.  Don’t have chickens?  Well, maybe you can compost it.  Throwing it away is a last resort.  Our chickens LOVED this fresh pumpkin treat.

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Step four…boil and roast your seeds while you are waiting for the pumpkins to roast.

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Prepare the water for boiling the seeds by adding a fair amount of sea salt. Bring the water to boil, add the seeds, and boil for ten minutes.
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After boiling for ten minutes, drain the seeds and thoroughly pat dry on paper towels. Next, spread the seeds in a baking pan and drizzle a small amount of olive oil on to them. Stir them around to coat and roast in the oven with the pumpkins until just turning crispy and brown.
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Yum! You can munch on these while you’re processing your pumpkins.

Step five…scoop out your roasted pumpkins.

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OK, so your pumpkin is roasted and soft and scoopable. Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin in to a large bowl. Really scrape the sides of the skins clean. The skins may then also be given to your chickens, or composted, or…you know…whatever. If you find that you have a little watery residue in the bottom of the bowl, you can drain the roasted pumpkin flesh in a colander.

Step six…puree and bag!

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Spoon the roasted pumpkin in to a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. Then measure two cups of puree, because most fresh pie recipes call for two cups per pie, in to freezer bags. Label and freeze if you are not going to make the pies right away. See the next photo for a little tip on freezing.
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I stack the bags horizontally like this in a flat pan and lay them in my freezer this way. After they are frozen I can bring the pan back out of the freezer, but the handy little bags of puree remain frozen in a flat shape that’s very convenient for freezer storage.

My two sugar pumpkins made enough puree for four pies.  Now, for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, all I will have to do is get one package out of the freezer per pie and defrost it on the counter.  It can also be defrosted in a warm water bath or in the microwave.  Since I also processed some of the apples from our trees and froze them in September, I am also ready to bake apple pies quickly and easily, just in time for those other three sons to be home as well for the holidays.   🙂

Happy holiday baking and happy hooking! – Beth

Hampden, Maine Hook-In, Sponsored by The Keeping Room – 2014

Once again, I was invited to be a vendor at Toni Philbrick’s beautiful hook-in in Hampden, Maine yesterday.  Toni is the owner of The Keeping Room, a gorgeous studio in the historic Hannibal Hamlin building in Hampden.  Toni always goes all out for this hook-in, providing a really nice light breakfast and a hearty lunch.  She adds a theme based swap, goody bags, coupons, and many, many door prizes to the mix, leaving everyone with great memories.  She also provides a short instructional period in which she shares her considerable knowledge and talent.  Last year it was about penny rugs.  This year she spoke a bit about finishing coasters.

To visit Toni’s shop, or take her classes, go to 56C Main Road North in Hampden. For her business hours, fiber art class schedule, or to express interest in attending next year’s hook-in, give her a call at 207-862-3181. Toni has wonderful hooking supplies, penny rug supplies & kits, artisanal lamp shades, and much more.

I was able to sneak a few pics from the hook-in yesterday in between a busy time selling goodies to the wonderful attendees.  It goes without saying that the rug designs are the intellectual property of their designers, and may not be copied without the express permission of the artist.  I was not able to take the time to write down the designers and hookers for all of these, but anyone who has that information may feel free to leave it on our comments.

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Here is a view of the brightly lit space as the attendees were just getting ready to have a nice lunch of corn chowder, sandwiches, salad, and homemade carrot cake.
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A customer peruses the booth of Al Jenkins of Wool & Ewe. Al’s hand dyes are really beautiful.
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Toni assists a customer at her vending booth filled with all things wool.
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My table. The most popular item of the day was the wool, and especially, to my delight, brightly colored hand dyes. Also seen in this photo are our popular Bear Pond Wood Works frames bedecked with Edna Olmstead’s super duper frame covers.
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Loved the braided binding on this one, and the painstakingly shaded fruits and leaves.
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Look at that wool on the sheep. Love, love, love.
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The array of styles at hook-in rug shows is always so much fun to see. These fish were just stunning – I have no idea how many different wools are in that rug, and the two home scenes that flank it were beautifully done too.
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The snowman rug at the center of this photo was voted “favorite” by the attendees, but as you can see, it was tough to choose just one! They were ALL gorgeous.
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True confessions – although I loved them all, I voted for the two cats with the bunny border. It was hooked by Martha Whitehouse, who is one of the Hampden Hookers, based on a design on a quilt square.
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I loved the colors, patterns, and asymmetrical buildings in this one!
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This one reminded me of 18th century crewel work. I loved the warmth of the color combination in this.

I know I will see many of the ladies who were at Hampden at our 2nd Annual Paris Hill Hook-In in two weeks.  Can’t wait!  Til then, happy hooking!  🙂    – Beth

Halloween Coupon Code on Etsy Today!

Happy Halloween!  We have a coupon code up on Etsy for the following patterns, today only, 10% off!  The coupon code is BOO2014 and you can access our Etsy shop here.

Southern Elegy
Candy Corn Season
A Murder Among the Magnolias
Parris House Pumpkin
Candy Corn Season Trivet

Happy Halloween and happy hooking!

Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine – by Beth

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Trail head to the Packard Trail, Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine.

My husband had off for Columbus Day, so we decided to go hiking.  It was unseasonably warm, and we had run a 5K race the day before, so we opted for a very easy trail.  The Virgil Parris Forest in Buckfield, Maine was the perfect choice.  The trail head is on the Sodom Road, which is off of Route 117 in Buckfield.  It’s easy to find, but the road does go to dirt and varies in condition depending on the time of year.  Four wheel drive would not be a bad idea in the winter or during spring mud season if you’re going to visit this trail.

This trail system has special meaning to me.  Virgil and Columbia Parris purchased our home in 1853, and it remained in the Parris family for nearly the next century, thus “the Parris House.”  Parris House Wool Works takes its name from this heritage.  While the web page for the Western Foothills Land Trust says zero about Virgil Parris and his family, the history is interesting.  Here is an excerpt from a previous blog post I did about our home:

“Located in the Paris Hill National Historic District, the Parris House dates back to 1818 and is named for its most well known owners, Virgil D. and Columbia Parris.  They purchased the home in 1853 and it remained in their family until the 1940s.  Virgil was a member of the United States Congress of 1840, a United States Marshall for Maine, and an acting Governor as well.  Perhaps even more interesting, however, is the story of a young man Virgil and Columbia adopted after Virgil prosecuted a slave ship, the Porpoise.  One young man aboard that ship had been abducted to be a slave from East Africa.  His African name was Tovookan, but he came to be known as Pedro Tovookan Parris.  Pedro came to live at the Parris House and became a very popular member of Paris Hill society.  He was a public speaker, a water color artist, a ventriloquist, and an inspiring survivor of his time as a slave.  There is much more information on Pedro and his life that I can share with anyone interested in his story.  Our stewardship of the Parris House has brought us in to close contact with this story and it has been a very moving experience.”

Here are some pics of the Parris family…

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Virgil Delphini Parris
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Columbia Parris, right, and her sister, Abigail Prentiss, when both ladies were at an advanced age. Columbia was past 100 years old when she passed away.
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Pedro Tovookan Parris

What I have not been able to ascertain is specifically why this tract of forest preserve was named for Virgil Parris.  Virgil’s father, Josiah, was a Revolutionary War veteran and the family lived in Buckfield when Virgil was growing up.  Virgil also was the founder of the Buckfield Railroad in the 19th century.  However, whether this specific land had any connection to the Parris family, I do not know, and nothing I have been able to find on the web explains it.  I would have to (and probably will) contact the Western Foothills Land Trust to ask that very question.  Again, I find it odd that there is no explanation of this by the land trust, but then I have to think that sometimes the people who thankfully and very ably preserve land for our use are not always historians, or even that interested in history.   I will update this post if I find the answer.

On to the actual nature of the trail though.  The primary trail through the forest is called the Packard Trail.  At the trail head there is a nice box containing the trail map (although it is impossible to become lost on this very well marked trail) and a guest book.

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It is a loop, with a very short additional trail, called the Cascade Trail, coming off at one end.  We did not do the Cascade Trail as we were running short on time, but will in the future.  The Cascade Trail has a falls on it, and there are other water falls on the trail as well.  On this particular day, the streams were on the dry side and the falls we saw were just a trickle, but it is not at all hard to imagine how they would be rushing in the spring and I look forward to going back and seeing them then.

A few things struck us about the trail.  The forest growth is generally very, very young.  Again, it would be interesting to know more about the history of this land that would explain why so much of the growth is so young.  As a result, the trail feels relatively open and sunny.  The foot path itself is nicely maintained, although there are many very small stumps sticking up from it which present a bit of a trip hazard in the fall when they are obscured beneath a little blanket of leaves.  I don’t know that I would recommend trail running this at this time of year for just that reason.  We opted to walk.  Really, it was such a gorgeous day, and the trail is so pleasant, that walking gave us more time to soak up the beauty of it all.

I could not help but think that this trail would be fantastic for snow shoeing in the winter, and it is meant to be used that way.  It is also open for cross country skiing.  I would not recommend the trail to inexperienced cross country skiers because there are areas where it would be pretty easy to slide down some steep side slopes toward South Pond if you were not in complete control of your skis and trajectory.  I do plan to visit again over the winter.

What follows are some photographs I took along the trail.  The trail runs right along the shore of South Pond, and as you will see, the pond was absolutely breathtaking on this day, the water reflecting the foliage like a mirror.

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Needless to say, it was just one more day in the paradise that is the great state of Maine.   From my husband, Bill, and me to you…happy hiking (and happy hooking!).

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The Fryeburg Fair, 2014, Fryeburg, Maine – by Beth

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In Maine, the Fryeburg Fair is the biggest and grandest of fairs.  People come from all over the country.  In fact, it’s estimated that 300,000 people come annually to attend the Fryeburg Fair, which began in 1851.  It is very common for Mainers to take a weekday off from work to go, because the crowds on the weekends are so intense that both parking and navigating the fair can be problematic.  My husband took last Thursday as a vacation day, and off we went.  Disclaimer:  It is absolutely impossible to capture the breadth of the Fryeburg Fair in a short blog, but what follows is a photo introduction.

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First things first.  Edna Olmstead, who hooks with us on Tuesdays, and who makes our super popular flannel frame covers and felt snip containers, won two blue ribbons in the hooked rug category at the fair.  I had the privilege of seeing Edna working on both of these pieces, and photos can not do them justice.  Additionally, I had to shoot them through a glass case, but you get the idea.

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Vintage style Scottie dog, hooked by Edna Olmstead. Traditional pattern.
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Cows and ivy, hooked by Edna Olmstead, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio.

There were so many skills, handcrafts and trades represented at the fair it was mind boggling.  Here are some of the examples I found particularly interesting.

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Top: Spinning and weaving. It turned out that the lady spinning was a good friend of a former neighbor of mine on Paris Hill, and we had a nice conversation about that. Bottom: Endless fleeces in the fiber building. I am not yet a spinner. Probably just as well right now!
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Clockwise: 1) This is sea scene made via eggshell mosaic. I’ve never ever seen such a thing before. 2) The wall of quilts went on forever. 3) This is extremely fine cross stitch. You had to get right up on to it to determine that it was cross stitch at all. 4) Christening outfit in lace crochet/tatting.
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Clockwise: 1) Peeling apples in the old fashioned kitchen 2) Blacksmithing demonstration 3) Making rice pudding on the wood fired cook stove 4) Sorting cranberries old school
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Clockwise: 1) Making apple cider using an antique press 2) Getting corn off the husk with 19th century machine 3) Evaporating sap for maple syrup 4) Beekeeping
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As the owner of a 200 year old home that has both antique clapboards on the house and had antique shingles (which regrettably we are now forced to replace) on the barn, this equipment fascinated me. The shingle making machinery is from the 1860s. Top: Jig and saw for carving tapered clapboards from a round log. Bottom left: Shingle cutter and finisher. Bottom right: Pile of finished clapboards.
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Call me crazy, but I find color and pattern in almost anything, and I loved the variety of each in these tools of the trades displays. Top: vintage oil cans Bottom: chainsaws through the ages
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The making of beanhole beans is an important New England skill. You dig a deep hole, and via either wood or hot coals build a fire in the bottom. A crock or Dutch oven of New England baked beans is then lowered in and slow cooked until they are done. My husband Bill enjoyed a sampling.

There are so many animals at the Fryeburg Fair.  The Wikipedia entry on this fair says that it may have the largest number of oxen, for example.  I did not photograph the oxen, I’m sorry to say.  Had I known of their claim to fame at this fair I might have.  However, I did photograph many of the other animals.

First, the cows…

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I regard this as a practice cow…
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Top: the milking parlor Bottom: my favorites, Belted Galloways
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There were animals on the move everywhere, going to shows and events.

Sheep.  I love sheep.  After all, they are where our wool comes from.

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The bottom left photo is actually of a “sheep show” that was going on. I have no idea why that one guy has his hand over the sheep’s tail area. Anyone else know?

Poultry.  Although we have twenty-one hens at the Parris House, I find that I am only partial to my own.  Not that crazy about a building full of others for some reason.

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Top: cute chickens Bottom: not nearly as cute chickens; don’t even get me started about roosters

I know there are some of you who came to our page via also being fans of Beekman 1802.  Here are your goat pics.

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Fair warning.
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Goats seem to be like puppies that never grow up.

Let’s not forget the cool old vehicles…

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Clockwise: 1) Stanley Steamer 2) this is how mail was delivered in winter in Lovell, Maine in the 1830s 3) an original military type Jeep – I coveted this 4) antique wagon belonging to the agricultural society

Before I end, I want to just throw a trivia question out here.  What are these two things, what do they have in common, and what are they each used for?  The Mainers will all know.

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This is my last country fair post of the season.  I did not make the Common Ground Fair in September because we were at Harvest Festival in Sharon Springs, NY instead.  Common Ground would be the other contender for grandest fair in Maine, although with a decidedly different (and wonderful) character.

Foliage is at or near peak in many places in Maine right now, the air is crisp, and the scents of the outdoors are pretty intoxicating.  I hope if you haven’t already, some of you will share in fall and fair season in Maine.

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Isn’t this what everyone does with their round bales?

Libby Hill Trail, Gray, Maine – by Beth

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This is the first in an ongoing series on trails and hikes.  I was originally going to write a single post on a number of trails here in Western Maine, but received feedback indicating that we have plenty of outdoorsy followers who would like to see multiple posts.  Since trail running, hiking, and snowshoeing are some favorite recreational activities for me, I’m happy to oblige.

Not too far from our lake cottage, Sunset Haven, is the Libby Hill Trail System in Gray, Maine.  The highlighted link will give you a fine array of information regarding location, events, and other details about this trail.  It’s beautiful, and fairly gentle, at least on the white blazed trail which, admittedly, is the only one I’ve done in its entirety so far.  I hope to get on to some of the other parts of the system before the fall is over.

It was a spectacular fall day last Saturday when I went out on the trail.  Record warmth was on tap for Maine, and it felt almost like summer except for the tell tale signs of fall all around me.  Gray is in southern Maine, and a bit away from the higher elevations as well, so the foliage was not in full glory yet.  These woods are gorgeous year round, however.

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The Libby Hill trails are also used as the cross country trails for the Gray-New Gloucester school district.
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I must have been influenced by endorphins, because it occurred to me to use my head to show the scale of the boulders behind me. In fact, the pic does not do the boulder justice.
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In looking at these yellowing ferns, I could not help but think about the tiny, fuzzy, delicate little fiddleheads they had been in the spring. The seasons are wondrous.
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This is the cellar hole of the old Libby homestead, just by the side of the trail. A remembrance and brief history of the Libby farm is posted trail side.
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Color. Everywhere.
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The trails are well marked. Note the white blaze on the tree to the left. There were only a couple of cross paths where I’d wished I’d had a trail map in hand, but it didn’t take much figuring to know which way to go. Disclaimer: Do not go in to a trail system without access to a trail map. I did not have one “in hand” but knew I could look it up on my phone at any time.
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It’s been pretty dry, but this little thing is managing to survive.
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The stone walls throughout the Libby Hill trails are a reminder that this was once farmland. Whenever you’re in the woods in New England and the Northeast and see old abandoned stone walls, look around at the trees. Chances are very good that the trees are not ancient. Then imagine all of that land cleared, because it was.
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Monument to the Libby (or Libbey – it’s spelled both ways) family. There is a side trail that runs near this dedication marker.
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These were falling all around me, reminders of the mighty oak that grows from the small acorn, although this one was not so small. There’s a life lesson in that.
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These tree species markers are all over the trails. I was reminded of a species or two that I’d forgotten, but no one here in the “Pine Tree State” can forget this one.
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As I said, foliage was not near peak in Gray last weekend, but this lone standout was pretty marvelous.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse of the Libby Hill trail, and that you might even get out on it, or one near you, this fall.  Happy hiking!

Cumberland County Fair, Cumberland, Maine – 2014

Once again, I attended the Cumberland County Fair in Cumberland, Maine last week.  I did not put up a post on it right away, because our own Maine studio hooker, Irene Adams, had some lovely hooked items at the fair and did not want to know the outcome of the judging before she herself could attend and be surprised.  I am certain she was not disappointed!  So let’s get straight to the good stuff regarding Irene’s entries.

Irene's Bear Pond loon foot stool was selected as one of the Best in Show items!  Design by Parris House Wool Works.
Irene’s Bear Pond loon foot stool was selected as one of the Best in Show items! Design by Parris House Wool Works.  I was photographing through a glass case, thus the somewhat less than perfect photo.
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Irene’s beautiful interpretations of our “Summer in Paris” designs earned blue and red ribbons.
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“Best of the Best.” Indeed. Well deserved, Irene! <3

Seeing Irene’s great success was the highlight of the fair for me, but of course, there was much more to see and do.  The first thing I did was head for the animals.  It was a toss up:  animals or fiber art?  Since I was with my husband and didn’t want to bore him too much right out of the chute, we went for the animals.

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Beautiful sheep, some of whom were being auctioned.
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The activity on the left leads to the activity on the right.
The activity on the left leads to the activity on the right.

There were also chickens, rabbits, pigs, ducks, and more, but I did not photograph those.  Maybe next year.  The crowing of the roosters in the poultry house made me glad a thousand times over I have always refused to have a rooster among my flock.

OK, well…time for the fiber art!

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Clockwise: 1) This was a best in show hooked rug. So well deserved. It’s gorgeous. 2) Needle felted sheep. Precious. 3) Penny rugs! These always make me feel warm and fuzzy just looking at them. 4) I can’t even tell you how long the glass case filled with knitted and crocheted items was. It was astonishing.
Once again, the Maine Tin Pedlar chapter of ATHA had a breathtaking display of their members' work.
Once again, the Maine Tin Pedlar chapter of ATHA had a breathtaking display of their members’ work.
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I see these ladies at quite a few events. Always wonderful.
Yum.  Enough said.
Yum. Enough said.

Of course, there were many, many handcrafts and products represented.  Here are a few more.

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Clockwise: 1) Beeswax items 2) Fly tying 3) Preserving 4) These were made of alpaca. Don’t you want to just touch them?

One of my favorite animals at fairs is the draft horse.  I love these horses.  If I ever had a horse, strictly as a pet, it would be a draft horse.  I know that’s ridiculous.  We were lucky to be at the fair when the draft horses were doing a pulling competition.

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And, of course, as at the Oxford Fair, a sugar house, complete with maple sap evaporating going on.

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One of my favorite features of the Cumberland Fair is its extensive farm museum.

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Sooooo…how about an antique shop in a trailer?

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I’ll have all the cast iron, please.

There were quite a few horticultural displays too.  The two that caught my eye the most were the MEGA pumpkins and the hydroponic growing display.

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And, of course, at every fair, the decadent food and the rides.  Frankly, I stay away from both, but I’m guessing some day grandchildren might pull me back in to this part of the scene.

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And that’s my photo tour of this fall’s Cumberland County Fair.  We hope to get to the Fryeburg Fair next week, which is one of the biggest fairs in the country, let alone Maine.  We are such a diverse nation, and yet I think fairs are a common thread for all of us.  Feel free to post your fair pics over on our Facebook page under the link to this blog post.  Happy fair-ing!

A Southern Girl Wakes Up in The City That Never Sleeps…

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…as well as the little town of Sharon Springs, which was experiencing its own bout of festive insomnia.

I departed Nashville last Thursday, landing four score and several milligrams of Xanax later in the poorly-aged concourses and listless luggage carousels of LaGuardia Airport. My apprehensions at this arrival quickly waned as my shuttle whisked me past blocks brownstone and canyons of concrete, finally depositing me in the midst of sensory overload, courtesy of the neon-fed fervency of Times Square!

I stayed at the nearby Hilton thanks to my father’s wise recommendation, and savored every moment of the posh and pampered atmosphere they provided. Two days of deco skyscrapers, decadent dinners and Dita Von Teese and it was time for Penn Station and the final leg of my odyssey: boarding the Empire Service to Albany! Business Class on rails!

Once there, the PHWW team was reunited and Beth and I were on our way to Sharon Springs and the Harvest Festival! It was a weekend of new friends, new experiences, and new beginnings…and I thought you’d all like to see a few samples of the Northern hospitality this Southern girl got to enjoy!

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View of the Chrysler Building

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New York Public Library

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Radiator Building

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Sharon Springs Harvest Festival

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American Hotel

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Black Cat Cafe

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Beekman 1802 Mercantile