Ruth Doan MacDougall: "Ruth's Neighborhood"

Ruth Doan MacDougall's Neighborhood photo

Facebook Columns: January - March, 2019:

Current entries are HERE.


March 31, 2019

           “The shrunken snowbanks looked like heaps of frozen ashes.”
           That March description in The Cheerleader popped into my mind last week as I stood on the porch contemplating the scenery, searching for signs of spring. The snowbanks are shrinking, that’s a sign . . .
           Then I saw the first chipmunk of the season, scampering across a snowbank! Of course my immediate instinct was to run indoors and tell Don. And we would laugh over the heroic effort the little creature had made, tunneling up out of his burrow to find a mate.
           Everybody is searching for signs. At the Old Fogeys’ lunch last Wednesday, one of the folks announced that she had seen a skunk. We were delighted—with warnings, however, about dogs’ encounters. We’re reporting sightings of returning birds: I’ve seen mourning doves, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and juncos in the backyard and at last on Friday the first robin.
           Literal signs of spring are the weight-limit signs that go up on roads at this time of year. The one on our road says “Six Tons,” which always inspires me to start singing “Sixteen Tons” whenever I see it.
           And while doing errands I saw, with joy, the Moulton Farm Market’s OPEN sign. Although in front of the greenhouses there was a snow pile almost as high as their roofs, the market had opened for business. I bought lettuce and baby kale.
           Last weekend was New Hampshire Maple Weekend, so I went to the neighborhood farm for that sign of spring. I’ve been planning a maple-syrup scene in Lazy Beds; therefore this was research! (Well, I’ve been researching ever since in my childhood my father found enough maples around our house on a Laconia residential street to tap.) The season is late this year and there are climate-change problems, but I put these temporarily out of my mind and enjoyed the excitement in the sap house with its hot boiling sap and drove home with fresh maple candy and jugs of warm maple syrup.
           I hope you too are seeing signs of spring.

© 2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


March 24, 2019

             Penny, my sister, visited last week, and as we drove around doing errands she burst into song, into the same line from “Buttons and Bows” that I sing at this time of year, “My bones denounce the buckboard bounce . . . ”
             ’Tis the season of “frost heaves” on the roads.
             And last week our Selectmen’s Office posted this plea on our online board:

“The Road Agent and the Highway Crew ask for your patience as they shift their vehicles from winter maintenance mode, which requires the removal and storage of plows, sanders, chains, etc., to mud season mode of operation. The crew is aware of the road conditions . . . During this time of year there is no perfect or easy solution, so please (when possible) consolidate trips, use alternate routes, run errands early in the AM, etc., until the crew can attend to each road.”

             In April 2006 I wrote a piece about frost heaves for my website’s “Ruth’s Neighborhood.” Here’s an excerpt: 

             Back when Don and I were young we translated the “Frost Heaves” signs on roads as “Poet Pukes” and made jokes about Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken.”
             These signs go up during spring thaw to warn of the changes in the roads’ underpinnings caused by winter . . .              We’ve memorized all the bad sections on all our roads, but sometimes when there’s something interesting on the radio we forget and find ourselves jouncing and flying.
             On one such occasion I was reminded of Mark Twain’s description of his stagecoach ride to the Nebraska Territory in Roughing It. When we arrived home, teeth jarred, bones shaken, I got out our copy of the book and found that I was wrong; his ride was smooth in comparison: “Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most sumptuous description—an imposing cradle on wheels.”
             I read on, however, and came to what I’d remembered, an anecdote Twain was told over and over about Horace Greeley. The stagecoach driver says to Twain, “I can tell you a most laughable thing indeed, if you would like to listen to it.              Horace Greeley went over this road once. When he was leaving Carson City he told the driver, Hank Monk, that he had an engagement to lecture at Placerville and was very anxious to go through quick. Hank Monk cracked his whip and started off at an awful pace. The coach bounced up and down in such a terrific way that it jolted the buttons all off of Horace’s coat, and finally shot his head clean through the roof of the stage, and then he yelled at Hank Monk and begged him to go easier—said he warn’t in as much of a hurry as he was awhile ago. But Hank Monk said,  ‘Keep your seat, Horace, and I’ll get you there on time’—and you bet he did, too, what was left of him!”

© 2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


March 17, 2019

             These recent books and audiobooks from the library have been keeping me company:
             Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’s Bill Slider mysteries are always entertaining, full of her puns and metaphors and similes, and in her new one, Headlong, I started laughing amid the first paragraph:

“Slider jumped into the car, and Atherton peeled away from the kerb and back into the traffic in a movement so sleek and smooth, a dolphin would have tried to mate with it. ‘Where to?’ he said.”

             But there are serious and poignant moments too, such as: 
“It was so important, [Slider] thought, that small banal thing of having someone to love who loved you: so universally desired, so simple in song and story, so fiendishly tricky to achieve in real life.
             “It made the world go round.”
             Another recent addition to a series is Lethal White: A Cormoran Strike Novel, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), and I listened to the audiobook. Cormoran Strike is a private detective. Into his office comes a mentally disturbed young man who tells him in a confused fashion about seeing, when he was a boy, a child murdered. This begins to haunt Strike too. At the same time, his cases lead him into a blackmail mystery in Parliament. Of course of most interest to me is his assistant, Robin Ellacott, and the mutual attraction between them that’s been going on since they met in the first book.
             I’m now listening to My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, whose Italian-cooking programs I’ve seen on PBS. I had no idea of her background, that she was born in the section of Italy that was annexed by Yugoslavia after World War II. I’ve now reached the part in which she and her parents and brother have escaped to Trieste in hopes of emigrating to America.
             I’m reading The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life, by Katy Butler. It certainly is practical and, I think, essential. The subject is difficult to ponder, but she makes it worthwhile and reassuring. And I even laughed over this in the “Simplifying Daily Life” section: 
“I’ve learned to beware ‘the disease of one more thing’—the attempt to squeeze just one more movie, dinner, car trip, or party into a weekend. My husband and I find that when we do less, we enjoy what we do do more.” 

             And what I’m enjoying is the spring sun on the porch in the afternoons. The snowbanks around the house are still a mile high, but I can bundle up and read on the porch for a spell.

2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved. 


March 10, 2019

             Last week I had another first-without-Don experience, taking the car for its annual state inspection. This was always one of Don’s chores, and so was everything else involving an automobile.
            In the waiting room, I thought with affection of the vehicles he’d dealt with over the years: his high-school secondhand cars, an Oldsmobile he bought with his brother, a Hudson, the cream-colored Chevy convertible he bought with his mother (who adored convertibles all her life); then the secondhand Ford we had in college; a secondhand Volkswagen beetle; our first new car, a sturdy green Jeep; then in England a zippy new black MG Midget; and back in America the succession of other vehicles, Saabs, Chevy Blazers, and, here in Sandwich, pickup trucks and Subarus—including the Forester that was being inspected while I waited.
            And I remembered a piece I wrote for my website’s “Ruth’s Neighborhood” in February 2000, about our first Subaru. I titled it “A Male Milestone”:

 Readers of The Cheerleader know what the girls considered the Big Milestone. I have recently discovered that there is one of comparable importance to males. As we were driving home from a neighboring town, Don began staring at the dashboard.
            He rejoiced, “It’s going to change!”
            I said, “What’s going to what?”
            He pointed at the odometer. “On this trip, it’s going to turn 100,000!”
But as we came to the road to our house, the numbers were still hovering on the brink. So what did Don do? He drove past, into the village. I wondered if other guys there seeing him hunched over the steering wheel peering intently at the dash would know what wonderful thing was about to happen.
            Through the village Don drove, past another road to our house, out to the longest way home, and there on a narrow dirt road that might have had Big Milestone possibilities decades ago, the numbers crept forward all the way, from all those nines to all those zeroes, and Don stomped on the brake to admire the mileage.


March 3, 2019

           Ever since I decided to name a certain character “Henrietta Snow” and nicknamed her “Snowy” (because I was nicknamed “Doanie”), I’ve been intrigued by Snowy Owls. I’ve never seen a Snowy Owl in person, so to speak, but one evening last week on Channel WMUR’s New Hampshire Chronicle there was a segment about a Snowy Owl who’d made the trek from the Arctic to New Hampshire’s coast, where it was spotted at Rye Harbor State Park.
           Rye Harbor! This was the first seacoast for Penny and me, because our grandparents rented a cottage there every summer. Thus I could imagine us playing on the harbor rocks in front of the cottage and suddenly seeing a huge white bird sitting ever so still, watching with its scary yellow eyes for a meal (a duck? a seagull? us?).
           On NH Chronicle the Snowy Owl was described as “majestic,” and it certainly looked so, with its three-to-five-foot wingspan. But it is also vulnerable, and we viewers learned about how one was being nursed back to health at “On the Wing,” a refuge center in Epping, NH, for injured birds of prey.
           The next morning, the chickadees at my bird feeder seemed tinier than ever.
           Before sunrise each morning, before the birds arrive, I bundle up and go out to tend to the feeder, shoveling the path if there’s been snow overnight, refilling the supply of sunflower seeds. While I was out there earlier this month, I suddenly heard chickadees calling and calling in the woods, their springtime call. Romance was in the air, despite the snowbanks on the ground. One morning last week I heard them calling in the woods during a snowstorm. Love conquers all!
           And every morning out by the bird feeder I remember what my father wrote in his novel Amos Jackman:
He awoke before daybreak. The birds were beginning to sing in the woods. One called from across the brook and another, as though just awakened, answered with half a song. Amos looked out through the front of the shelter. There was a growing light among the trees. He could see the white cascade of the brook and the gray ledges and the dark pool. The near trees stood out distinctly but he couldn’t see into the woods, although even as he watched they seemed to open up. The sky was growing lighter above the pointed spruce tops. And the birds sang everywhere.”


February 23, 2019

          Because of the storm in Sunday’s forecast, I’m posting on Saturday, just in case.
          In the early 1990s Don and I were visiting a museum and stopped at its gift shop/lunch counter to see what we could find for lunch. They had simple sandwiches. The price was $3.50 each. Back then, this was so sky-high and startling (in New Hampshire, anyway) that I simply balked. Don was startled too, by the price and also by my reaction. I usually give myself up to such situations, but I just couldn’t pay seven dollars for two sandwiches. Thus we laughed and left.
          And by now, of course, I’m used to paying seven dollars for one sandwich.
          The cover story in the March issue of New Hampshire Magazine is “Ultimate Sandwiches,” by the magazine’s food editor, Susan Laughlin. It’s illustrated with scrumptious photographs of sandwiches along with descriptions that make you want to leap into your car and head for the restaurants that serve them across the Granite State, Italian sandwiches and others: Greek, Mexican, Venezuelan, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Korean. Even simple ones are now elaborate: a ham-and-cheese has Brie, pickled red onions, and French cornichons; a grilled cheese contains pulled pork; a BLT’s ingredients include candied bacon and maple syrup. 
          And I began remembering the sandwiches of the past. Restaurants’ menus were indeed simpler: plain ham and cheese, BLTs, chopped ham, tuna salad, cream cheese and olive. Plain grilled cheese sandwiches; Westerns and Easterns. Elegant club sandwiches with that third slice of bread and toothpicks holding everything together.
          Toasted sandwiches, five cents extra!
          At Laconia’s Keller’s Restaurant, where I waitressed, the short-order cook cut sandwiches diagonally in half and then cut one of the halves in half, so you got three pieces, which seemed like more. As Snowy and Bev discuss in A Gunthwaite Girl, this was called “drugstore style.”
          And speaking of Snowy and Bev, how about their made-at-home “winter favorite” sandwich, marshmallow fluff and raspberry jam?
          Susan Laughlin concludes her article with a question, “What’s your first great sandwich memory?” I always loved deviled ham, and I remember a lot of deviled ham sandwiches, at home, in my school lunchbox, at picnics in the woods and on the beach. I wrote of a happy childhood memory in One Minus One: “. . . a perfect moment: I was warm in the big chair in the living room, and I had a new Nancy Drew book and a deviled ham sandwich (with mayonnaise, on squishy white bread).”


February 17, 2019

           In that little book I’ve mentioned, Healing after Loss: Daily Meditations for Working through Grief by Martha W. Hickman, the daily quotation for February 11th was from Roger Rosenblatt: “The problem with death is absence.”
          When I told Penny about the quote, which summed up to me what a presence Don’s absence is, she replied that Don’s “absence is huge. I keep expecting to see him around each corner when I’m visiting. And I’m surprised not to see him.”
          The date of the quote, February 11th, was the sixty-fourth anniversary of our first date. Don always was amused that in later years I called it a date, to simplify matters, when actually he picked me up at a dance.
            I wrote about this on Valentine’s Day in 2016:

          Don and I have a doubly romantic February, because our first date occurred a few days before Valentine’s Day.
          Well, it wasn’t really a date. It was sort of a pickup. On Friday night, February 11, 1955, there was the usual dance in the Laconia High School gym after the usual basketball game. Some of us girls in the Gang who didn’t happen to have dates decided to stay for the dance for a few minutes just to see who was there. But we began dancing with various unattached boys we knew and we stayed longer than planned. I was dancing with an ex-boyfriend when Don tapped his shoulder and cut in, laughing.
          I was a sophomore; Don was a senior. We were acquainted in the way that Snowy and Tom were at the beginning—that is, I worshipped from afar and Don was scarcely aware I existed. We began dancing. And kept on dancing.
          He suggested he drive me home, then realized he’d walked to the school and didn’t have his car (that cream-colored Chevy convertible). So he rounded up a friend with a car who was here with a date and hitched us a ride. To my joy, the date lived far out in the countryside and she was taken home first, even though I lived near the high school. Thus in the backseat Don and I had time to get further acquainted.

          And that getting-acquainted continued! 


February 10, 2019

           This weekend the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby is being held on Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s an annual fundraiser for the Meredith Rotary Club, and the top prizes for the winning fish are $15,000, $5,000, and $3,000. Wow! Reading about it in the Meredith News, I remembered ice fishing in my childhood. I wrote about this here on Facebook three years ago:            

           In The Husband Bench, Bev observes the winter scene on the frozen lake in front of her house:
“She glanced farther beyond at the bob houses in the bay where ice fishermen were walking around and conferring, circled by the tracks of their pickups and snowmobiles on the snow-covered ice. What a mystery, people and their hobbies. Of course it had once been a vital necessity, part of the survival struggle, to chop a hole in the ice and drop a line in and hope a fish would bite before you froze to death. But now? The activity seemed especially harebrained and mortal below the density of the stark blue mountains.”

           It’s always intriguing to write from Bev’s viewpoint, to see things through her eyes. When I wrote her ice-fishing observation, I had to remind myself that she hadn’t gone ice fishing with her father, as my sister, Penny, and I had in our childhood, so her observation wouldn’t include memories.
           Happy and humorous memories, especially about the cold. Dan, our father, didn’t bother building or acquiring a bob house (which ice-fishing shacks are called around here), so his fishing was done in the full blast of the winter wind across Lake Winnipesaukee. We sat on an upturned pail and on the stool that held his ice-fishing equipment, and we waited for the little flag to pop up on the tip-up—hooray, a fish had been caught!
           However, Dan had friends with bob houses, thank heavens. When he visited the guys, we were invited inside and sat on an actual bench, luxurious. It was rather like camping out, protected from the elements by a little house, not a tent. With ice for a floor.
           Penny and I also remember an occasion when we hadn’t accompanied Dan. He brought home a pail of yellow perch, but the poor fish had frozen in the cold. Penny and I watched in stunned fascination as, for our amusement, he filled the bathtub, dumped the fish in, and they came alive, thawing out and swimming merrily around.
           Nowadays we wonder what our mother must’ve said to him about such use of the family bathtub. At the time we didn’t think of that—or worry about how thoroughly he or she had scrubbed the tub out afterward! 

©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved 


February 3, 2019

          Last week when my sister was visiting, she and I went to lunch at a locals’ favorite, George’s Diner in Meredith. On the dessert menu Penny spotted lemon meringue pie. Yes! So after our BLTs and French fries, we split a slice, reminiscing about how we’d learned to make lemon meringue pie in our home-ec courses in junior high.
          By the time we reached seventh grade (Penny two years after me), we had learned cooking fundamentals from our mother and helped out with meal-making as well as the fun stuff like cookie-and-cake-making. But to make a pie in home-ec, a fancy pie, a lemon meringue pie, that was a milestone. I remembered that I’d brought the recipe home and tried it on my own in the pantry—a big success!           Probably our mother waxed extra-enthusiastic about this accomplishment because it relieved her of some pie-making. Indeed, whenever a pie was needed afterward, she suggested I make “my” lemon meringue pie. Again and again. It became my specialty. (Penny’s specialty already was gravy-making.)
          What else did we learn to make in home-ec cooking classes? Penuche, more sophisticated than plain fudge and harder to spell. We students also had a lesson in canning vegetables and took home the results. I canned a jar of carrots. At home there was much amusement about whether or not my family would dare to eat it, but eventually we did and survived.
          Soon after lunch at George’s, the mail brought another reminder of home ec, in the February/March issue of Reminisce magazine. Its piece about sewing, “In Stitches,” showed a 1950s “Butterick pattern 6015” for a dress “so easy to make, you could start it after breakfast and walk away wearing it by lunchtime.” And it looked so familiar I wondered if I’d seen this pattern in our home-ec sewing classes. But it wasn’t the dress I made for my big project; my dress had the addition of a bolero. A lavender polished-cotton dress, white pique bolero. I remembered that I’d brought the outfit home to finish, and luckily my grandmother Ruth came to visit. She was an expert seamstress, and her help with the finishing touches earned me a higher mark than I deserved! 

©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved 


January 27, 2019

           In Henrietta Snow, when Snowy and Bev drive to Camden, Maine, to meet Puddles at the Whitehall Inn where Edna St. Vincent Millay recited her “Renascence” poem and was “discovered,” they drive through Rockland, the town south of Camden. Snowy sees Rockland’s downtown as “scruffy.”
           And so it seemed, back then. But change came to this downtown, with the opening of the Farnsworth Museum and the arrival of other attractions—including Café Miranda.
           I’ve been reading our library’s recent addition to its cookbook collection, The Best Comfort Food on the Planet, by Kerry Altiero, Café Miranda’s chef/owner. He describes how he founded the café in 1993, when “restaurants were traditionally built around deep fryers. We built ours around a wood-fired oven instead.” And as the café began to thrive, he saw “the town grow from a down-on-its-luck fishing village to a culturally rich tourist destination.”
           In the 1990s Don and I often visited this area of midcoast Maine, and one time the owner of the bed-and-breakfast where we were staying suggested to try this new café. Well! We were expecting a deep fryer. We saw instead the open kitchen and the wood-fired oven, and the menu was startling, an education! I’d have to delve into my little journals of our trips to be certain what we chose, but I’m sure it was seafood in some interesting form. I do remember I had my first Thai-ish dish there. We returned at least one more time.
           Chef Altiero’s cookbook is great fun, as are the names of his recipes, such as a salad called Et Tu, Brutus. Yes, not a traditional Caesar. I love shop talk and he provides this in his recipe notes, such as telling us that “Restaurant cooks don’t like making soups. You have to guess how much to make and keep it hot, and figure out what to do with leftovers.” So he’s devised a made-to-order method of making a soup when a customer orders a soup. 
           He occasionally appears on Maine Channel 6’s “207” program, and he is very entertaining, full of energy. While cooking he’s so much in motion that I’m reminded of Jimmy in The Cheerleader’s Jimmy’s Diner. But Jimmy definitely had a deep fryer.

©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved 


January 19, 2019

            I’m posting this on Saturday instead of Sunday because the big storm that’s crossing the country is scheduled to reach us tomorrow with two feet of snow and I don’t know how things will be functioning. I hope you are safe through this storm.
           The other day when I was going over some papers, I came across a letter I had written to my parents on March 3, 1982. It’s about an experience that has stayed with me: 

Dear Parents,
           Last Thursday afternoon, very cold, clear, windy, I took my usual snowshoe hike out back to the waterfall, and below it I heard through the wind a strange noise. I looked around and spotted in the middle of the brook a biggish bird I identified as a kingfisher. My delight immediately ended, however, when I realized it sort of was panting, the way a bird will when it’s recovering after slamming into a window, only this bird also was doing hiccupping jerks. I started down toward it, and it squawked wildly and flopped onto its back. Its foot was caught somehow! What to do?
           Well, of course I raced back to the house for Don, who didn’t bother with snowshoes and mostly managed to stay atop the crust as we ran up through the woods. The bird was still there, panting. Don said, “Oh my God, it’s frozen to the pipe.” Remember those water pipes in the brook? [The pipes supplied water to the neighborhood in earlier days.]
           So Don floundered down across the brook to the rock nearest the bird, while the bird fell over backward again. There was a tablespoon of blood on the rock underneath it, and Don said, “Its foot must be dead,” and, wondering if he was going to have to drown the bird, he splashed water on the foot and tried peeling the foot off.
           And, freed, the kingfisher didn’t drop from exhaustion, it flew strongly away.
                                                               Much love,

©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


January 13, 2019

            On New Hampshire Channel 9’s weeknight program New Hampshire Chronicles, Fritz Wetherbee does segments about New Hampshire’s history. In one of the programs last week he was in Nashua, showing us a statue by sculptor Chris Gowell, explaining that he is stunned by her work. And I gasped. This wonderful statue is a six-foot bronze of woman and a boy, an 1870s millworker and her son, created to commemorate Nashua’s Franco-American heritage. It is titled “La Dame de Notre Renaissance Francaise.” It’s installed on the Nashua River; her skirt is blowing, swirling, and you can feel the wind off the water.
            I immediately thought of Anne, the heroine of my historical novel, The Flowers of the Forest, although she was of Scottish heritage and was a single young woman when she worked in my fictional shoe factory, Huddersfield Shoe Company. I remembered writing the scene, set in 1878, in which she and her sister walk to work:

          Anne and Marjorie walked around the house to the sidewalk, which was crowded with people, a quiet cataract of Huddersfield workers streaming down to the factories and mills on the river, everybody still half-asleep, their boots louder than their voices. Anne coughed. The chimney smoke tasted yellow . . . The river, inky below the waterfall’s dirty foam and diverted into many canals, cut between cliffs of brick buildings. Anne looked up at Hudderfield Shoe’s stern façade . . . They entered the building. The thump of machines had begun, and, as it always did, the dark tanned smell enveloped her like a huge leather pouch.

             I chose to use a shoe factory instead of some kind of mill because I had once worked in a shoe factory, albeit in 1960. This is also why in The Cheerleader there’s a shoe factory where Snowy’s mother and Puddles’s father work.
            In the summer between our junior and senior years at Keene Teachers’ College (as it was then known), Don worked as a caretaker at a summer house in Dublin, a pretty town nearby, and via a friend I got a job in the office of a Keene shoe factory. I punched a time clock, a new experience! Even though my job involved math, figuring how many shoes needed to be made to replace what had sold, I rather liked it, probably because it was such a change from English classes.
           Don and I laughed about the contrasts in our jobs. He would drive me to the factory, drop me off, and then continue on to Dublin where he’d mow the lawn and, as I would accuse, “spend the rest of the day pruning roses.” Then he’d drive back from this outdoorsy toil and pick me up after I punched out. 
             On paydays we’d go shopping. I remember in particular the delight of buying a little Weber grill and bringing it home to our apartment in the married students’ barracks, where Don then grilled hamburgers in the backyard. 

©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


January 6, 2019

            Almost everyone seems to have a squirrel story lately. My sister and a Sandwich friend tell of squirrels running around in their ceilings; a squirrel chewed a hole through the roof of another friend’s barn. And so forth, and now at last I have a squirrel story too.
            Because of our bird feeder, squirrels have always taken an interest in our backyard. Don rigged up a bird-feeder pole with a baffle that did seem to—er—baffle them (sorry); they resigned themselves to grazing for dropped sunflower seeds underneath the feeder. But this winter they ventured farther. One morning I looked out the glass back door and saw a large gray squirrel lumbering around the porch. To enter, it had chewed a hole in the porch screen. After investigating the porch’s interior, it exited. The next time I looked out, a vicious little red squirrel was there, racing around the inside of the screen.
            I’ve often told the tale about a bear’s invading the porch. After that excitement, a squirrel invasion shouldn’t be a big deal, but eventually, when I realized that if I wanted to open the back door I first had to yell and bang on the door for fear a squirrel was hiding behind a snow shovel or something and would make a dart into the house, I decided enough was enough. I asked our friend who plows the driveway if he could patch the hole in the screen. He did. He and I agreed that the squirrels may just chew another hole but perhaps the patch will discourage them. I’m also tossing extra seeds onto snowbanks to distract them.
            Havahart traps are usually mentioned in these stories, with squirrels moved to undisclosed locations. But there they might die, without their caches.
            In the Winter issue of the Appalachian Mountain Club magazine, AMC Outdoors, there’s an article by Heather Stephenson titled “Cache Deposits.” She explains that some animals store food in one place, while others, like squirrels, store it in different places, which is called “scatter hoarding” or “scatter caching.” I suppose I’m supplementing their scattered caches.
            Speaking of the AMC, in the Winter/Spring issue of their journal, Appalachia, there’s a review by Lucille Stott of a feature-length documentary about Thoreau’s life in Concord, Massachusetts: Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul. The movie has interviews with “local Thoreauvians,” including Walter Brain “who notes that the correct way to pronounce Thoreau’s name is by placing the accent on the first syllable: THOR-eau.” Aha! My sister and I learned from our grandmother Ruth, who was born and grew up in Concord, Mass., that this is the correct way to pronounce it and we always have. But we’re apt to get startled looks from people.
            Maybe not so startled as my look when I first saw a squirrel on the porch.

©2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved 

RDM titles collage

Current entries are HERE.



Audiobooks (March 26)
The Cheeleader's 50th Anniversary (Mch 19)
The Lot, Revisited (March 12)
Parking and Other Subjects (February 26)
Concord (February 19)
Bird Food & Superbowl Food (February 12)
The Cold Snap (February 5)
Laughter and Lorna (January 29)
Tea and Digestive Biscuits (January 22)
Ducks, Mornings, & Wonders (January 15)
Snowflakes (January 8)
A New Year's Resolution  (January 1)


Jingle Bells    (December 25)
Fruitcake, Ribbon Candy &Snowball
.(Dec. 18)
Christmas Pudding (December 11)
Amusements (December 4)
Weather and Woods  (November 27)
Gravy (November 20)
Brass Rubbing (November 13)
Moving Day (November 6)
Sandwiches and Beer (October 23)
Edna, Celia, and Charlotte (Octobert 16)
Sandwich Fair Weekend (October 9)
More Reuntions (October 2)

A Pie and a Sandwich (September 25)
Evesham (September 18)
Chawton (September 11)
Winter's Wisdom? (September 4)
Vanity Plates (August 28)
2022 Golden Circle Luncheon
(August 21)
Agatha and Annie (August 14)
National Dog Month (August 7)
The Chef's Triangle (July 31)
Librarians and Libraries (July 24)
Clothes and Cakes (July 17)
Porch Reading (July 10)
Cheesy! (July 3)

The Summer Book (June 23)
Bears & Goats & Motorcycles ...(June 19)
Tuna Fish (June 12)
Laconia (June 5)
More Publishers Weekly Reviews (May 22)
Shopping, Small and Big  (May 15)
Ponds  (May 8)
The Lakes Region (May 1)
TV for Early Birds; An April Poem    (April 24)
Family; Food; Fold-out Sofas (April 17)
Solitary Eaters (April 9)
National Poetry Month (April 3)
Special Places—Popular Cakes(March 27) Neighborhood Parks ( (March 20)
More About Potatoes—and Maine (March 13)
Potatoes (March 6)
Spring Tease (February 27)
Pillows (February 20)
Our Song (February 13)
Undies (February 6)
Laughter  (January 28/30)
A Burns Night  (January 23)
From Keats to Spaghetta Sauce (January 16)
Chowder Recipes  (January 9)
Cheeses and Chowders  (January 2)


The Roaring Twenties (December 26
Christmas Traditions (December 19)
Trail Cameras (December 12)
Cars and Trucks(December 5)
Return? (November 28)
Lipstick (November 20)
Tricks of the Trade (November 12)
A New Dictionary Word (November 7)
A 50th Reunion (October 31) "
Sides to Middle" Again
(October 23)
Pantries and Anchovies (October 1i7)
Fairs and Festivals (October 10)
Reunions  (October 3) A Lull  (September 26)
The Queen and Others (
Sept. 19)
Scones and Gardens (Sept.12)
Best Maine Diner (September 5)
Neighborhood Grocery Store; Neighborhood Café (August 28)
PW Picks of the Week (August 21)
A Goldilocks Morning_and More (August 15)
Desks (August 8)
Sports Bras and Pseudonyms (August 1)
Storybook Foods (July 25)
Rachel Field(July 18)
The Bliss Point  (July 11)
Items of Interest  (July 4)
Motorcycle Week 2021 (June 27)
Seafood, Inland and Seaside  (June 20)
Thrillers to Doughnuts (June 13)
National Trails Day  (June 6)
New Hampshire Language (May 30 )
Books and Squares(May 23)
Gardening in May (May16)
The Familiar (May 9)
Synonyms (May 2)
"Bear!" (April 25)
Blossoms  (April 18)
Lost Kitchen and Found Poetry (April 11)
More About Mud (April 4)
Gilbert and Sullivan (March 28)
St. Patrick's Day 2021 (March 21)
Spring Forward (March 14)
A Blank Page (March 7)
No-Recipe Recipes (February 28)
Libraries and Publishers Weekly (February 21)
Party; Also, Pizza (February 13)
Groundhog Day (February 6)
Jeeps (January 31) Poems and Paper-Whites (January 24) Peanut Butter (January 17)
Last Wednesday  (January 10)
Hoodsies and Animal Crackers  (January 3)


Welcome, 2021December 27
Cornwall at Christmastime( December 20)
 Mount Tripyramid ( December 13) 
New Hampshire Pie ( December 6)   
Frost, Longfellow, and Larkin ( November 29)
Rocking Chairs ( November 22)
Thanksgiving Side Dishes ( November 15)
Election 2000 ( November 8)
Jell-O and Pollyanna ( November 1)
Peyton Place in Maine  (October 25)
Remember the Reader  (October 18)
Sandwich Fairs In Our Past  (October11)
Drought and Doughnuts  (October 4)
Snacks (September 27)
Support Systems, Continuing (September 20)
The 85 Best Things to Do in New England (Sept
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 3
Poutine and A Postscript(August 23)
Pandemic Listening and Reading (August 16)
Mobile Businesses (August 9)
Backyard Wildlife (August 2)
Maine Books (July 26)
Garlic (July 19)
Birthday Cakes (July 12)
A Collection of Quotations  (July 5)
Best of New Hampshire (June 28)
Hair (June 21)
Learning (June 14)
Riding and "Broading" Around (June 7)
Sunday Drives, Again (May 31)
The Passion Pit (May 24)
Schedules & Sustenance (May 17)
Doan Sisters Go to a British Supermarket (April
National Poetry Month 2020 (April 12)
Laconia (May 10)
Results (May 3)
Singing (April 26 )
Dining Out (April 19 )
Red Hill (March 29)
An Island Kitchen (March 22)
Pandemic and Poetry (March 15)
Food for Hikes (March 8)
Social Whirl in February (March 1)
Two Audiobooks and a Magazine(February 23)
Books Sandwiched In   (February 9)
Mailboxes February 2)
Ironing (January 26)
The Cup & Crumb  (January 19)
Catalogs  (January 12)
Audiobook Travels  (January 5)


Christmas Weather  (Dec. 29 )
Christmas in the Village  (Dec. 22)
Marion's Christmas Snowball, Again  (Dec. 15)
Phyliss McGinley and Mrs. York  (December 8)
Portsmouth Thanksgiving.  (December 1)
In the Dentist's Waiting Room, Again.  (Nov. 24
Louisa and P.G.  (November 17)
The First Snow  (November 10)
Joy of Cooking  (November 3)
Over-the-Hill Celebration  (October 27)
Pumpkin Regatta  (October 20)
Houseplants, New and Old(October 13)
Pumpkin Spice  (October 6)
Wildlife  (Sept 29)
Shakespeare and George  (Sept 22)
Castles and Country Houses  (Sept 15)
New Hampshire Apple Day  (Sept 8)
Maine Woods and Matchmaking  (Sept 1)
Reunions  (August 25)
Sawyer's Dairy Bar  (August 18)
Old Home Week  (August 11)
Summer Scenes  (August 4)
Maine Foods (July 28)
Out of Reach  (July 21)
This and That, Again  (July 14)
The Lot  (July 7)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
The Big Bear (May 26)
It's Radio! (May 19)
Archie (May 12)
Department Stores  (May 5)
Spring Is Here!  (April 28)
Dorothy Parker Poem  (April 21)
National Library Week, 2019  (April 14)
National Poetry Month, 2019  (April 7)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Our First Date (February 17) 
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Home Ec (February 3)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Kingfisher (January 19)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Squirrels (January 6)


Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
Thanksgiving 2018
(November 25)  
(November 18)
A Mouse Milestone (November 11)
Farewell to Our Magee   (November 4)
Sistering (October 28)
Sears (October 21)
Love and Ruin (October 14)
A New Furnace (October 7)
Keene Cuisine September 30)
A Mini-Mini Reunion (September 23)
Support System  (September 16)
Five & Ten  (September 9)
Dining Out Again  (September 2)
Summer Listening (August 26)
Donald K. MacDougall 1936-2018  (August 19)
Update--Don (August 12)
Telling Don (August 5)
Don's Health (July 29)
Seen and Overheard (July 22)
Donald Hall  (July 15)
Fireworks (July 8)
Off Season (July 1)
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (June 24)
2018 Motorcycle Week (June 17)
Springtime Sights (June 10)
Seafood at the Seacoast? (June 3)
Lilacs (May 27)
Going Up Brook, revisited  (May 20)
The Weirs Drive-In Theater  (May 13)
The Green and Yellow Time, (May 6 )
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing (April 21)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (April 14)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Old Country Store (March 25; First  FB entry)

Earlier: :Ruth's Neighborhood
(multiple entries, 2011 - 2017)