The Call of the Loon, The Follansbee Inn, and Peach Pie Salvation

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So our dream come true has really happened.  We're official residents of New Hampshire now.  How does it feel?  It feels surreal.  We feel so fortunate, blessed, and thankful.  We have fresh new licenses, a newly revived garden filled with vegetables, an orchard dripping with fruit, and soon to be acquired...rocking chairs for that big long front porch.

One of our most exciting acquisitions to adorn the old walls of this Ordway homestead is a beautiful forlorn sounding antique clock.  I can't wait to photograph it and put the photos onto Thyme blog.  Our incredibly talented friend, Paul, who lives down the road from us restores old discarded clocks and breathes new life into them again.  The clock whisperer would be most fitting title for him.  The clocks he restores are beautiful and charming. We were captivated by one particular clock that he restored...and what can I say?  After drooling over it as we stood in their home, one thing led to another, and it is now part of the future history of our farmhouse.  Every hour on the hour the clock resonates a very solemn low pitched gong.  Patrick and I look at one another... and smile with delight.  What a lovely possession.

Country scene in Sutton, New Hampshire

Our first summer in New Hampshire has been filled with one delight after another.  We've enjoyed sharing our fun alongside  the new path of adventure our neighbors are pursuing! Our good friends David & Jennifer are embarking on their life dream to spend half the year sailing all over the east coast on their newly acquired sailboat.  

We gathered around our kitchen table many times this summer to hear of their first summer of travels.  They've already sailed up the coast of Maine as well as to the island Martha's Vineyard. Most recently, as we gathered to enjoy peach pie, we were captivated by stories of their most recent escapades.  This latest tale of adventure on the high seas involved  learning to avoid heavy fog which can obscure large looming shipping vessels!  Hearing David tell the tale is pretty priceless.

We've continued to explore the areas around our little town.  Spending weekends at The Hancock Inn here, here, and here was a wonderful experience.  I was searching for a cute inn near us to spend our wedding anniversary weekend.  This year is a big milestone for us...25 years of marriage.  I feel like I age a little bit every time I mention those numbers to someone!

So I discovered a historic inn about 25 minutes from our farm called The Follansbee Inn.  It seems that Louisiana cajuns are continuing to come out of the woodwork up here.  When our neighbor  from Louisiana, David, resettled up here... his brother Denis came up for visits. It wasn't long before Denis decided to chase after a dream of his own and purchased a beautiful sprawling old inn in the neighboring town of Sutton.  The inn was named after a Follansbee and so it will continue to be known under new stewardship as The Follansbee Inn.

The Follansbee Inn truly has a perfect trifecta of  ingredients to lure the Boston and New England crowds looking for both winter and summer fun:  ski resort, gorgeous lake, and nearby quaint artsy town for shopping and dining (New London).  During the winter, because Denis' Inn is nestled right at the base of Ragged Mountain skiers can choose the inn as a cozy spot to retreat after a long day skiing.  We've discovered a passion for skiing over our first winter here in New Hampshire and Ragged Mountain is our go-to ski destination. So for a fabulous winter ski destination, Denis  offers a cozy spot to sit in front of a warm fire at the end of a long day of skiing the slopes.

Directions from locals  often sound something like this:  just go up the road a bit, pass Herb's Garden, lake to the'll see a deer statue on the right...almost there!

The summer months usher in a completely different palette of colors as well as outdoor activities for the inn.  I think we had forgotten how transfixing the change from winter to spring to summer can be up here in the north.  The mind recognizes there will be a change but the senses are dazzled by the utter brilliance in colors, mood, flora, and fauna.  

For our anniversary, we were ready for a relaxing weekend where we could be near a lake. It seems that every other car that is going through Dunkin Donuts for their summertime iced blueberry latt├ęs or their fall hot spiced pumpkin donuts has kayaks and canoes tied up to the top of their cars. This region of New Hampshire is known as "The Lake District"  so we have an entire list of lakes to explore that are just a short drive from us.

This sweet spot sits quietly overlooking Kezar Lake in Sutton, New Hampshire

Oh, what a great choice it was to spend the weekend at The Follansbee Inn.  After a delicious breakfast in the inn, one can tumble right out the front door and slip into one of Denis' collection of canoes and kayaks sitting lazily on the bank of Kezar Lake.

In many of the shops around the area, there is a collection of lovely books and calendars portraying photos of the loons that populate this area.  These birds are so alluring with their black and white  speckled wings and formal striped collars around their necks.  

7 coveted peaches collected in my newly acquired woven peach baskets

When we were researching New Hampshire before our move here, I read an article in New Hampshire Magazine about how important this lovely bird is to New Hampshire-ites.  I remember googling the bird call for the loon on the computer.  At the time, we were visiting Patrick's parents in Missouri.  We were all gathered around the kitchen table there at breakfast time looking online at old ramshackle farmhouses in New England when I got sidetracked by investigating the call of the loon.

I found this youtube video about loons.  I think we collectively gasped when the forlorn wailing sound of the loon filled the kitchen. Mentally, spotting loons and hearing their captivating calls went onto my list must-dos if we moved to New Hampshire.  I really couldn't imagine what this ethereal sound would be like while sitting in the middle of a lake during the waning hours of a summer's day.

Now, being full-fledged residents of New Hampshire, we were about to row ourselves into the middle of Kezar Lake.  I remembered that google search from one year earlier.   I was hopeful that we might see and hear loons but thought it better not to get hopes up.  What were the odds?  Patrick and I slipped one of the canoes gently into the water.   The air is so fresh up here.  The breezes flowing over the water kept us cool and comfortable.  The mood on the lake was relaxed and quiet.  The sound of the paddles slipping through the water was so gentle.  Every now and then, the air was punctuated by 2 or 3 children laughing at the far end of the lake on a tiny sandy beach.

As if on cue, like a magic trick someone organized, the long echoey wailing sounds started. We sat transfixed by this exquisite sound.  It seems too planned.  Too perfect. Patrick whispered, "Over there...look".  I peered along the horizon of the water and saw a mother loon with a little baby loon paddling behind her.  Just a few seconds later, another profound wail came from a different direction.  We could barely make out (and my lack of a good zoom lens for my camera doesn't do justice to the scene) a male loon returning the call.  We sat in the canoe completely absorbing the moment.  The only sounds were the water drip, drip, dripping off of the paddles and plopping into the lake, the cry of the loons to one another, and the distant muffle of children spending the last of the summer weekends playing in the sun.

Eventually, we paddled back to The Follansbee Inn.  We both agreed that getting a canoe or possibly kayaks was something we should definitely look into for next summer.  I can only imagine what being on the lake would be like with the trees dressed in their fall colors and the loons sounding their call over a mist filled remote lake.  At the inn, I noticed a stack of birch wood tidily arranged next to the large fireplace at the inn.  Returning after a cool crisp outing on the lake to spend the rest of the evening relaxing in front of a crackling fire sounds ever so tempting to plan as we move into the fall months.

Everything about Follansbee Inn offered the types of experiences that I had read about in either Yankee Magazine or New Hampshire Magazine.  We were thrilled this spot is so close to our home.  Kezar Lake is such a nice size.  After one of Denis' delicious breakfasts, there is a pine tree studded 3 mile loop that encircles the lake...perfect for hike to walk off a scrumptious meal.

Our son, Riley, has been working at this inn all summer long before starting his freshman year of college two weeks ago.  I do believe a fair amount of breakfast sampling took place on his part while working at the inn!  One of Riley's favorite samples of Denis' breakfast creations was the Stuffed French Toast.  Fortunately for us, when we made our way down the wide beautiful staircase the next morning, stuffed french toast was laid out on the breakfast buffet table.  

Sunset from The Follansbee Inn on Kezar Lake

Growing up in Louisiana, Denis lends a charming cajun touch to his culinary creations in the kitchen.  At the time of Denis' visit in 2012, The Follansbee Inn was currently up for sale.  It took him one visit to this picturesque spot up here in New Hampshire nestled right on a sweet lake, to decide to pull up his Cajun roots and bring a little southern spiciness to this bucolic setting.  

Denis, along with his sweet lovable dog, Angel, took on running the inn and I do believe the two of them have never looked back.  He is inspired by the celebrated southern chef, John Besh.  The recipe for Stuffed French Toast is one of Besh's creations and after one bite, I can see why my son hoped that recipe would be on the day's menu for our stay.  Little french bread pillows stuffed with a subtly sweet cream cheese filling were delicious next to southern cheesy grits and herb spiced sausage patties and fresh fruit.  Of course, New Hampshire pure maple syrup was only a reach away.  Being a cajun myself, I was tickled by the "touch of southern culture in New England" that is the expression Denis uses to describe the experience of staying at his inn.

After a lovely captivating stay at The Follansbee Inn over the weekend, it was time to charge back into reality.  Keeping up with our own farmhouse as well as leaping into renovation work has been a fun and exhausting  challenge as soon as warm weather arrived.  The home and lot had been sitting empty for 4 1/2 years before we bought it in May.  The projects are endless and from sun up to sun down, we have todo's that keep us busy and active.

The lot needed quite  bit of clearing as weeds and vines crept up from the river and were attempting to take over the lot as well as the wrap around porches.  One delightful challenge has been becoming owners of a fruit orchard.  We have pear, peach, apple, and plum trees in a back plot behind the big red barn.  I nearly camped out at our nearby Aubuchon (hardware/gardening store) in the spring filling my head with knowledge about care and upkeep of fruit orchards.  

We really didn't know which tree would bear which type of fruit until they started producing in mid-summer!  I would slip on my rubber boots and take a wet morning walk in the dewy grass each morning to peer closely at the buds.
Is this one apple?  
Which one is plum? 
Could that be a peach tree?

I learned how to prune the branches of each tree by watching Youtube videos.  Slowly, I acquired the right tools for the job and got to work restoring these lovely fruit trees.  Pruning is hard work and the big picture of the tree must be taken into account so the tree can form a nice round shape as well as be thinned out so the branches don't hang too heavy with too much fruit to weigh them down.

The apple trees were the first to bloom.  It was awe-inspiring to see the tiny little apples form after the flowers opened.  Each tree is now dripping with apples and we cannot pick nor eat them fast enough.  Expect several apple dishes to appear here on Thyme blog because I have several lined up:  Braised Apple Cider Sage Pork Loin, Apple Cake, Apple rosettes pastries, etc.

As I would stop by Aubuchon Hardware/Gardening store for what seemed to be my daily visit, I learned unsettling news about the peach trees.  I noticed that with my muddy boots and dirt-wiped clothing that I was beginning to look more like the locals around here.  All day long, people working on their gardens can be found having little pow-wows at Aubuchon while swapping valuable tidbits about orchard care-taking, gardening, beekeeping, canning, etc.

I had one tree that was producing peaches.  I counted about 7 burgeoning peaches...but that was all!  There are about 5 or 6 more identical looking trees that I suspected were also peach trees but only one tree...barely producing peaches it seemed.  

"Not a good year for peaches,"  one local murmured as I arrived with questions of concern over my lack of peaches.  The farms up the road this way and that way are also reporting no peaches this year.  

"It's an every other year kind of produce," another local pointed out.  "Last year, they were dripping with peaches, this year...hardly anything."

So I knew I had a mission to fulfill...namely a peach orchard salvation mission.  As I drove our pumpkin orange Jeep back to the house after my revealing pow-wow with my newfound hardware friends, I was determined to lovingly tend to my 7 peaches hanging from the one producing peach tree.  Instead of unfortunate...I was one of the fortunate few to have ANY peaches at all.  

I curiously watched as their fuzzy soft skins formed.  I peered through the branches as their colors took on a pretty blush colored pinkish-yellow hue. 

Kezar Lake in Sutton, New Hampshire

Ironically, as I was marveling at some pretty wooden baskets at my favorite go-to antique store along Rt. 4 (Antique Alley), R.S. Butler's Trading Company, I noticed the little tag said they were peach baskets.  I didn't know fruit had particular types of collecting baskets but I couldn't resist bringing a handful of these baskets back to the Ordway.

Lovingly, and carefully, I plucked each of the precious 7 peaches that were now weighing down the branches.  

I sliced them, spiced them, rolled out some pie crust dough and into the oven went my first peach pie with home-grown peaches.  Mention of this pie reached the Bean Tavern neighbors, the Chandler House neighbors, and our clock-restoring neighbors.    Patrick ran to the store and brought back vanilla bean ice cream...because what is pie unless there is ice cream alongside?  

Before long, the kitchen table was surrounded by new acquaintances...people we admire and offer us continued friendships.  We hope we will know each of them for years to come as we gather around the table for many more future pies, soups and stews, lobster boils, and memory making in New Hampshire.

** I threw a small handful of the herb, thyme, into my pie mixture.  Personal preference but I enjoy this subtle herb flavor in pie.

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