Sweetwater Farm, Sugar Hill, NH

Good morning, friends, family, and loved ones.

I hereby christen our mountain home “Sweetwater Farm”. 

My sister Sarah made a match box holder for my 21st birthday in 1978,  and in her finest calligraphy, labeled it “Sweetwater Farm”, the name of a 120-acre farm in Cummington, Massachusetts, where I lived for a year, with my old friend, Tom Givan.

Sarah’s matchbox sits on our fireplace mantel, here in Sugar Hill.

The hundred-year-old farmhouse in Cummington was wood-heated, with four fireplaces, one on each side of the massive central stone chimney, and a stovepipe connection in the master bedroom upstairs, which originally connected a small Franklin coal-fired stove. The farmhouse had been built by the parishioners of one Cummington’s Protestant churches, and given to their new pastor, when he arrived in town. The farm was located on a hillside on the western edge of Hampshire County. The Berkshire County line ran along the brook at the bottom of the hill. We had a thirty mile view towards the southeast, including only three rooftops at the County Fairgrounds.

Shortly after moving to Cummington in August 1978, i celebrated my twenty-first birthday. My Mom and Dad gave me a made-in-Massachusetts cast iron woodstove along with a chainsaw and splitting maul. That Fall, scavenging standing dead Ash and Maple with my new chainsaw, I cut, split, and stacked five cords of firewood in the horse stall connected off the kitchen. We set the modern electric baseboard heaters’ thermostats to 45°F, so our pipes wouldn’t freeze, and heated most of that fourteen-room farmhouse from the woodstove connected to a stovepipe run into the living room fireplace.

That forty-four year old cast iron woodstove now heats our living room at Sweetwater Farm in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

Sweetwater Farm in Cummington had gravity-fed spring water, clean, cool, and fresh,  from a springhouse that we could see out the second floor bathroom windows, directly up the hill. Water pressure was really low in that upstairs shower/bath, and if someone flushed a toilet downstairs, you were stuck waiting ten minutes for the spring to recharge. 

Here in Sugar Hill, at 2400 feet elevation, 800 feet above the Gale River valley, we are blessed with a reliable artesian well drilled into the bedrock, that has healthy amounts of dissolved calcium and lime.

Fortunately, our piece of heaven-on-earth, tucked in a knoll between Garnet Hill and Northey Hill, has none of the iron taste often found in Sugar Hill’s bedrock geology. Iron was mined a few miles away on Ore Hill, for the eighteenth century Franconia Ironworks. 

In 2019, I discovered we had a moss-covered outcropping of Staurolite crystals, a mineral once used to make sandpaper (“garnet paper”, “Garnet particles have sharper cutting edges than Aluminum oxide, but are expensive and the particles dull rapidly when used on metal. They also can scratch Glass. Garnet paper works well for polishing Wood and smoothing Gesso”), and the source of Garnet Hill’s name.

Hundeds of Staurolite crystals are visible on the surface each piece of metamorphic shale, occasionally formed in pairs.  Most commonly, the hexagonal crystals form in pairs, at 60° to each other, but occasionally, a pair of crystals develop at 90°, in a cruciform. These cross-shaped pairs  are known by various common names, including “healing stones”.

It was reassuring to learn, in the midst of a worldwide coronavirus plague, that God has graced Sweetwater Farm with an outward and visible sign of His Earth’s healing powers.

Bedrock outcroppings on our land also display the effects of the receding glaciers, after the last ice age. Global warming began long ago, but my observation of the past thirty winters here imply an acceleration of daily record high temps and lower than average snowfall. Good job security for snowmakers, if its cold enough to even make snow.

Every morning, we brew a pot of coffee with our sweet well water, add some Hatchland heavy cream, then add a spoonful of Richard and Claudia Hunt’s maple syrup, evaporated from the Spring sap run they gather from Sugar Hill’s namesake sugar maple trees. 

That’s one sweet cup of coffee!

Since Toad Hill Farm has been growing nothing more than hay for the past ten years, and Ski Hearth Farm no longer grows vegetables for sale, I no longer have any hesitancy in naming our mountain home a “farm”. 

We grow hay, so to speak. It’s a challenge to mow twice a year, to keep our three acres of open fields from transitioning to forest. We tend a pasture full of milkweed, to invite the Monarch butterflies back every summer. I’ve weeded, fertilized, watered and divided our perenial day lilly beds for years. A small “farm”, by some standards.

All in all, I’ve been blessed to live through most of the 2020-2022 coronavirus pandemic here in the peace, quiet, and safe isolation of Sweetwater Farm, and now reunited with my soul-mate, Faye.

That’s all the time I can write, this morning. As I learned to say at our second home, in the Bible-belt,

Have a blessed day!

As always,

Jon 

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