Monday, July 21, 2014

Uniquely New Hampshire

We rolled the dice and successfully (I think) navigated our way through the vast deserts and bright neon lights of Nevada.  Now we head all the way back to New England this week to the ninth state to join our fine Union, New Hampshire.  One of the original (and furthest North) thirteen colonies, New Hampshire has a long history similar to the other states that compromise New England.  In fact, I found the state itself and what might be some of its distinguishing characteristics, features, crops, economics, heritage and current population are very similar to those other states.    So when I started in on what I wanted to share about New Hampshire, I dug a little deeper, and as Grant put it, turned a little geeky about how excited I got about some of the thing I found.  I wanted to make New Hampshire unique for the kiddos this week and I think I’ve done so.  Ready for an adventure?  If so, hitch up the Clydesdales (Budweiser’s East Coast team is in Merrimack), pack up a few snacks in your Tupperware (the inventor was born in Berlin) and listen to native son Alan Shepard if he tells you New Hampshire is out of this world (because being the first American in space, he’d know!)  as we make our way through “The Granite State” this week!

First of all, I started the kiddos with some of the fun ‘firsts’ New Hampshire can claim.  Besides Shepard’s famous ride as part of Project Mercury, one of the most important firsts for the nation that New Hampshire can claim is the first place potatoes were planted in North America.  (In 2013 it was officially named the State VegetableThe first permanent potato patches in North America were established in 1719, most likely near Londonderry , by Scotch-Irish immigrants, and from there spread across the country.  Though for the most part it’s on hiatus here over the summer for the kiddos, Concord resident Levi Hutchins’ strict policy of rising at exactly 4am led to his creation of the first alarm clock.  A clockmaker, Hutchins used his skills to build a device where  (in his words) “the minute hand of the clock reached and tripped the pinion” which “set a bell in motion, and the bell made sufficient noise to awaken me almost instantly.”  Hutchins never mass produced his invention and it was only ever set to ring for him at 4am. 

New Hampshire is also home to the first (legal) State Lottery in 1964.  Originally known as the New Hampshire Sweepstakes, the lottery was proposed by Representative Larry Pickett as a way to raise money for education.  Since its inception the New Hampshire lottery  has paid nearly $1.5 billion dollars to New Hampshire schools.  All those students benefitting from the lottery might want to think about making a trip to Peterborough to do their research at the library located there.  Established in 1833, the library is the first in the world to be supported by taxation.  As a statement regarding the celebration of its 175th anniversary states: “Its importance rests in its being created on the principle, accepted at Town Meeting, that the public library, like the public school, was deserving of maintenance by public taxation and should be owned and managed by the people of the community, who thereby ceased to be dependent upon private munificence.”  I don’t know about you, but I ADORE our library here and just this past year gladly voted to pay a little more in taxes for all the benefits we reap, so thanks to the citizens of Peterborough in 1833!

One more fun New Hampshire first that I couldn’t resist showing and teaching the kids about (I told you I was going to get a bit geeky this week) was the Segway!   (Both mine have decided we HAVE to find these this week for them to try out…)  Invented by Dean Kamen (who along with his company now resides in Bedford) the Segway is an electric self-balancing transporter which is controlled by the rider moving their body weight.  It senses the change in its center of mass, and first establishes and then maintains a corresponding speed, forward or backward.  Come on, I can’t be the only one out there that would like to take one of these for a spin! (And they only get up to 12.5 mph, so I’m pretty sure I could keep it under control!)

If its firsts and inventions aren’t enough, how about holding a Guinness World Record like they do in Keene?  An average New England town most any other day of the year, one October afternoon each year Keene works to hold onto its record for the largest number of lit jack-o'-lanterns in one place as part of the Keene Pumpkin Festival.  In 2013, 30,581 pumpkins became part of the massive wall built to display them on to reclaim its title.  (Incidentally in 2006 the pumpkin also became the state fruit of New Hampshire).  As if the beautiful foilage the state boasts wasn’t enough, I’m thinking seeing this impressive display may be more than enough reason to add an autumn trip to New Hampshire to my ever growing bucket list.  If Noah and Kayla have anything to say about it, we’ll be there this year on October 18th – they both agreed this was their ‘favorite’ thing about New Hampshire.

While we are there, I think we’ll have to make a trip to Mt. Washington.  With an elevation of 6,288 feet, it is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States.  And while that’s all well and good, there were two things about it that I just had to point out to the kiddos.  First is the very erratic weather the mountain is well known for.  The Mount Washington Observatory, located at the summit, actually has as a slogan “Home of the World's Worst Weather” and that’s really not so much of a stretch.  Until 2010 it held the world record and still holds the Northern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere record for directly measured surface wind speed, at 231 mph!  Due to this the primary summit building was designed to withstand 300 mph winds while other structures are literally chained to the mountain.  Okay, so we may not go to the top when we visit…. 

But maybe we could if it meant taking a ride on The Mount Washington Cog Railway.  The world’s first mountain climbing cog railway (and second steepest rack railway) has been in operation since 1868 and takes riders to the top of Mount Washington on a three mile track in approximately 65 minutes with a maximum grade of 37.41% (it averages around 25%).  Both the kids are ‘all aboard” but just this video made me a tad nervous.  Definitely unique to New Hampshire, though!

Besides the natives that I have already mentioned, two other famous New Hampshirites made our “famous for” wall this week.  First was fourteenth President of the United States, Franklin Pierce.  Born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire may not be so quick to claim Pierce as he is widely regarded as one of the worst President’s in US History.  Historians believe that Pierce’s inability to calm tensions over slavery and the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act    hastened the outbreak of the Civil War.  (A democrat, and Northern, Pierce actually was pro-slavery).  He was not renominated to run for a second term and his reputation in New Hampshire and other northern states suffered even further when he became a very vocal critic of eventual President Abraham Lincoln.  Pierce died in Concord in 1869 from cirrhosis.    Perhaps not one of New Hampshire’s finer contributions to history.

On the flipside if you are a fan of Thanksgiving or the nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb” you can thank New Hampshire for giving us Sarah Josepha Hale.  Born in Newport in 1788, Sarah benefited from her parents belief in the education of both sexes.  She was a teacher, the first American woman novelist with Northwood: Life North and South (which also made her one of the first novelists to address the issue of slavery in 1827) and the Editor of Ladies Magazine.  Even more important, Hale wrote letters to five Presidents asking them to make the observance of Thanksgiving a National holiday.  Her letter to Abraham Lincoln contributed to his decision to do so in 1863.  So this year when you pass the turkey and stuffing you can thank New Hampshire for giving us Sarah Hale!

Have I geeked out on you enough about some of my favorite uniquely New Hampshire bits and pieces?  Yes, it is part of what is all lumped together as “New England” but I found plenty that set it apart.  I’m excited to continue to explore it this week and teach my twosome what makes it special.  Have a couple of fun things in mind for the week, especially the debut (FINALLY!) of the coolest “Flat Noah and Flat Mikayla” travel guide.  And of course, I’ll be cooking up some unique dishes as well.

In fact, I think I definitely caused plenty of rumbling tummies around here today when I threw Yankee Pot Roast and Vegetables into my crock pot this morning.  I found this interesting article on the history of pot roast which suggest that what we know as ‘yankee pot roast’ evolved from the early boiled dinner (Which you’ll be seeing here tomorrow night!) using fresh meat instead of cured meat.  Any which way, the smell of it cooking today was amazing.  I’m not a huge pot roast fan but even I could get on board with this one. And the Bean especially enjoyed it.  I paired it with some awesome Maple Syrup Cornbread .  Though not as well-known as Vermont maple syrup, New Hampshire does consider it among its leading products.   Apples are also important to the economy, so for dessert I tried my hand at some Maple Apple Crisp.  I can say you can expect to see lots of maple, apple and root veggies around here this week….

Alright, lots more coming at you from New Hampshire this week, but until then…

New Hampshire Fun Fact of the Day  On December 30, 1828, about 400 mill girls walked out of the Dover Cotton Factory enacting the first women's strike in the United States. The Dover mill girls were forced to give in when the mill owners immediately began advertising for replacement workers.

On our way to hunt down some Queen Anne's lace today

Found it! (Right next to our mailbox for starters)

Still trekin'

Popsicles in order to cool down were a must

And a push-up for the Bean

Hot and sweaty, we made it home

And started the dyeing process

And then filled the vases

Mikayla's flowers

Noah's flowers

The New Hampshire wall is up!

Maple Corn Bread - yum!

Yankee Pot Roast - seriously only had enough leftovers for Grant's lunch tomorrow

Apple Maple Crisp

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