Written by Art Petrosemolo
If you read my somewhat sporadic blogs on the Garden Spot Village website, you know that being retired is just a phrase for me. Since moving to the Sycamore Springs neighborhood at Christmas in 2016, I have been as busy and, at times, busier than I was working fulltime but don’t tell my former employer that!
I love writing and telling stories about the fascinating people and businesses here in South Central Pennsylvania and sometimes miles and miles away.
In the past few weeks, making adjustments to interview and photograph with the world’s focus on a virus—that if it finds a way into your lungs can end your stay on the planet—has been interesting.
I have been observing stay-at-home, health and other medical protocols and it has been challenging but it can (and has been) done.
So while you may have been reading or binging on Downton Abbey or another television series, I have been able to get several interesting stories completed and learned—as I usually do—a lot about some new subjects.
Let me explain….
Just before Coronavirus moved front and center in the US in the middle of March, I had spent three days in New England taking (wife) Tina to visit her mother in Rhode Island while I continued on to Northern New Hampshire to research and photograph three stories.
When we finally got home four days later, I had driven about 1,400 miles and the 600+ miles on the last day with one bathroom stop. It was a haul.
Anyway, my first story was in Vermont, not far from where I lived along Route 5 in Norwich. I was doing a story on Stave Puzzles, probably the makers of the finest (hand-cut wooden pieces) jigsaw puzzles in the country. You try not to think of it but depending on size and complexity, each hand-cut piece can cost $5.
I have known the founder and owner—Steve Richardson—for 43 years since he started the venture. At the time I was the sports information director at Dartmouth and among other things was doing the college’s football programs. Steve and I worked together and he made two, unique puzzles from Dartmouth football images to be used as program covers.
Stave is a small, niche company with loyal or fanatic customers in every state and 10 foreign countries. If you are a puzzle fan, look at their website and if you have an urge to own a Stave classic, it won’t be cheap.
The story is complete and will run in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette over the summer. On my way to the hotel, I stopped at the home of King Arthur Flour (made in Vermont since the 1700s) and again close to my former home. They are now a destination with a baking school, store and restaurant and I had my lunch—a great sandwich on bread made with King Arthur Flour.
That second day, I was up before dawn and out in the woods of an 80 acre Etna, New Hampshire, farm-woodlands with my gentleman farmer friend Dave Cioffi. Dave owned the Dartmouth Bookstore which, before Amazon, was the largest seller of books in New England.
Dave taps some 500 sugar maple trees on his property for sap each early spring and turns it into about 70 gallons of Maple Syrup. He does it alone and the old fashioned way with tree taps and pails and cooks the syrup down in wood-fired evaporators.
Dave and I are close friends and I had written about the operation before, so I needed to update my research and take new photos. It was a cold, windy morning collecting sap but ended with bottling some syrup right out of the last evaporator and relaxing with black coffee flavored with syrup that just a few hours before had been sap.
The story appeared in the March 21st Lancaster Farming North edition.
On the 600-mile drive home, I stopped at a friend’s home in Madison, Connecticut, to research a story on New England estate sales. My friend Ann owns a business called Grand Finale Estate Sales and it was the second antique appraiser story I had agreed to for Lancaster Farming. I had previously written about a Lancaster County antique-appraiser auctioneer.
New England estate sales are so different from Pennsylvania estate auctions and the story was a good contrast and ran March 28 in Lancaster Farming.
Since I returned home, I have written about a small, Amish-owned garden center called Pinewood and Posies in Paradise, which is worth a visit. The story will run April 4 in Lancaster Farming. And I just finished my fourth draft on another Lancaster County business called 9 to 5 Delivery Service whose customers are 80 percent Amish and they service farms and businesses with same-day delivery faster and less expensive than UPS. It is one of those stories where you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that????”
So with new technology, the research and communication abilities of the world wide web, I haven’t slowed down much at all other than sleeping until 7am. But I do miss my 5am swim at the community pool. The too will pass so please stay safe.