The gift of birds

Adolescent pheasant

A morning visit to the flock.

We’re helping some friends with critter care while they’re away. I wear my muck boots after all this rain, and in morning sun with the world gone green I walk the dogs who ring the pond and chase the frogs, then slide open the barn door to check on the birds.

I try to walk calmly and non-predatorily into the stall to check their food and water, but they still flutter to the far corners.

Stay wild, birds.

In the corner, about a third of the flock

When they’re more grown they will be released into fields, marshes and woods of their neighborhood in North Hampton. I think they are common pheasant, Phasianus colchicus, and will look like this someday soon.

Our friends are stocking pheasant not to hunt for dinner but to eat ticks and bugs from their meadows, and for the fun and goodness of it. The birds should naturalize, and survive if they can avoid predators. I have seen a couple of mature pheasants roaming in our area.

Some children’s books I read so many times to my kids when they were little that certain lines are still embedded in the folds of my brain. Whenever I hear the word pheasant, I think of Shrek, by William Steig, when he says…

“Pheasant, peasant? What a pleasant present!”

First boat trip of summer

Boat afloat

Friday we backed our mighty 17-foot craft down the ramp at Hampton Harbor for the first trip of the season.

Breezy and warm, with air temp in the upper 80’s and water temps between 45 and 50.


Sea Hawk

First, a ripping ride up the Hampton River to burn off the oil in the engine. Adding oil to the engine is part of wintering-over, to keep the cylinders from rusting.

Party boat

The Starfish at dock.

For sale

A lobster boat on a mooring, Hampton Harbor.

Looking back at the drawbridge between Seabrook and Hampton Beach

Seabrook Station visible beneath the span.

RV at Hampton Beach State Park

Inlet view.

“Let’s sell everything and drive around the country,” I muse. “I’ll be a travel writer, you can fish.”

Jetty’s end

Young men among the rocks.

Hampton Beach

Longest, widest beach on the NH coast.

A fine day, and many taking advantage of it. Memorial Day weekend crowds boding well for the season.


We puttered north along the beach, then lingered and bobbed in the sun, listening to the distant crowds.

Feet up

The captain, as seen by the first mate.


Sea and sky and a privileged view.

Ospreys in the Hampton-Seabrook marsh

Osprey on a nest, Hampton-Seabrook marsh. We boated past on Friday. Wish I had my telephoto!

On the other side of the marsh we saw four or five osprey from afar, and another nest.

The nesting platform seems to rise right up out of an old duck blind. Seabrook Station beyond.

Article, Sept 2007: Take a bird’s eye view of the Hampton-Seabrook Estuary:
Ospreys, plovers and others protected in Important Bird Area (IBA)

Residents can’t remember any osprey in the Seabrook salt marshes since before World War II.

NH ospreys off the endangered list last year.

Wikipedia: Osprey

Bonus: Red-tailed hawk having a backyard red squirrel dinner, NH Seacoast

On the jetty


The allure of the edge. Friday. Exquisite weather. Rumored to be senior cut day at several area high schools. Youth venture out upon the rocks. As seen from our boat.

The ocean is a wilderness reaching round the globe, wilder than a Bengal jungle, and fuller of monsters, washing the very wharves of our cities and the gardens of our seaside residences. Serpents, bears, hyenas, tigers rapidly vanish as civilization advances, but the most populous and civilized city cannot scare a shark from its wharves. – Thoreau

First farmers’ market

Baby horseradish

The nonprofit Seacoast Growers Association sponsors seasonal farmers’ markets in six locations our region. Yesterday John and I went to opening day at the Exeter market. The weather said summer, with delicious sunshine and the thermometer pegged at 92.

I was juggling a fresh iced tea purchased at the White Heron Tea booth, a jumbled bag, a notepad and pen for my chicken and egg story, and some seedlings in peat pots, so I never did take any photos – but I promise I will at the next one, Marie.

I bought a bar of homemade ginger lime goat’s milk soap from Sue of Jesta Farm in Hampton Falls and ended up talking to her for a while about her Nubian goats and her golden comet chickens.

I also lingered at the Jewell Towne Vineyards booth and finally purchased a bottle of Seyval – “off-dry, full bodied white wine, with hints of passion fruit, nectarine and citrus aromas.” It’s a grape that grows well in New Hampshire, said the proprietor. A working class white.

As it is early in the season, there weren’t a lot of fresh vegetables yet, but plants were available in abundance. We came away with a Munstead lavender for my front garden, mint for the pot, horseradish, and a tomato variety called Black Krim – big, bold, blackish and almost salty in its flavor, we learned.

We were tempted by the fresh meats, and the prepared dinners (like Laura’s favorite, shepherd’s pie) and Indian food, but baked goods and maple syrup just didn’t appeal in the heat so much. There was maple ice cream, though.

There were shoppers, but it wasn’t crowded. Sellers were happy to answer questions and talk about their wares. One guy was making Shaker type brooms on an interesting old contraption. The fresh air experience was quite nice and we’ll go back, maybe trying Hampton and Portsmouth too.

Next we stopped at Dodge’s Agway in Hampton Falls where I hit a motherlode of chicken information. They had chicks too. They’re getting 100+ each week and selling out within days. They are only getting one more shipment this season, but there is a Chicken Swap in June.

Is backyard chicken farming on the increase in the Seacoast? So far, a tentative yes.

Rose and thorn


Dear Blog:

I love you I hate you, you are my pretty hunchbacked twin. I decorate you with flowers. I jot notes and put them in your pockets. I button your jacket and comb your hair.

Sometimes I wish you were dead because you annoy me and take up my time. But I gave you life, my little monster, and I dote on you too. You have a good memory where mine is poor. You are nicer and plainer and better than I am. You look on the bright side and try to do what’s right.

But you are too easy: anybody can find you and have you. You give away the flowers and the nickels in your pockets. You are vague, shy, smiling, stunted. You repeat yourself and others. You duck and cramp to fit. Are you honest?

Come here. Stand up straight. Today I am going to tattoo your pale skin with good words about writing. Hold still. Stop giggling; I know it tickles. Now go read yourself in the mirror and learn something, my sweet stupid hopeless Blog.

Dr. Blogenstein

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. – Francis Bacon

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. – Hart Crane

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. – Ernest Hemingway

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. – Anton Chekhov

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. – Orson Scott Card

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Mark Twain


Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself. – Franz Kafka

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new. – Samuel Johnson

When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.
– Charles Dodgson

Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. – Samuel Johnson

Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. – Colette

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. – Gustave Flaubert

Easy reading is damn hard writing. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. – James Michener

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. – Mark Twain

Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals. – Don Delillo

Let me walk through the fields of paper
touching with my wand
dry stems and stunted
butterflies…. – Denise Levertov

Don’t get it right, just get it written. –James Thurber

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public. – Winston Churchill

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money. – Moliere

Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. – Annie Dillard

A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others. – William Faulkner

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice. – Mark Twain

He that uses many words for the explaining any subject doth,
like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink.  – John Ray

Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. – Benjamin Franklin

Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity. – Gustave Flaubert

One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time and in others’ minds. – Alfred Kazin

True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance. – Alexander Pope

Top dogs in the Seacoast

In the Seacoast Sunday newspaper, May 17…

Seacoast going to (all kinds of) dogs
Plenty of breeds and names to choose from
By Amy Kane

Move over, Rover. Molly, Lucy and Max are the top dogs in the Seacoast — and they are more likely to be mutts, Labs or golden retrievers than any other breed.

A list compiled from current dog registrations in Portsmouth, Exeter and Hampton shows the 20 most popular names and breeds in the area.

Locals love Baileys, Buddys and Daisys. Pugs, poodles and boxers are plentiful. Spaniels and terriers romp in the parks. Maggies and Jakes meet at the beach.

The list merely scratches the surface, though. Dig a little deeper and find a treasure trove of names, and a variety of reasons people choose their canine companions.

But first, a look at No. 1: the colossally popular Labrador retriever.

Twelve percent to 13 percent of all dogs registered in each of the three communities this year are Labs.

Water-loving Labs are suited to the Seacoast (they are also the number one breed in the country). Twice as many Labs are American Kennel Club registered as the next-most popular breed.

So what’s so great about them?

Patrick Nicholas of Rye throws a ball for his chocolate Lab, Indy, at Jenness Beach.

Play ball

On a balmy May evening after work, Patrick Nicholas of Rye and his 3-year-old chocolate Lab Indy head down to Jenness Beach and repeat a time-honored tradition in the great outdoors: man and beast play fetch.

A sporting breed, Labrador retrievers are energetic, intelligent and willing to partner up and play the game. Nicholas said he did a lot of research before choosing a Lab to be his first dog.

He and his wife planned to start a family, so they wanted a dog that was friendly and good with kids. He was prepared to give his dog lots of fresh air, exercise and companionship. He was working from home when Indy was a puppy.

“I did training with him. I made a conscientious effort to be a good dog owner,” said Nicholas.

Shortly after Indy arrived, Nicholas and his wife were expecting their first child; now number two is on the way.

“Getting a dog was the catalyst, I guess,” he said.

Indy is named for movie adventurer Henry “Indiana” Jones, who in turn took his nickname from his pet dog.

Pippi and Jeff McNally of Greenland finish a workout at Jenness Beach in Rye with their dogs, Rally, a golden retriever and Bernese mountain dog mix, and Indy, an Australian shepherd.

Go, dog, go

Breeds with high activity levels are a good match for the adventurous. Pippi and Jeff McNally of Greenland, who are expecting their first child in August, like to go running along the beach and exploring in the mountains. They wanted a couple of dogs that could keep up.

Indy is an alert, athletic Australian shepherd. Rally is a golden mountain dog — a hybrid of a golden retriever and Bernese mountain dog. He has the playful good nature of a golden, and the mellow disposition and sturdy build of a Bernese.

Rally is a “purpose-built breed,” according to Pippi McNally. Their previous dog, a golden retriever, died of cancer. They hoped a hybrid would have more resistance to the problems that can plague purebred dogs.

Jessica Burrows and Brady

Where everybody knows your dog’s name

Hybrid vigor was on display at the Portsmouth Dog Park at South Mill Pond in the late afternoon on Tuesday as pups and their people came out to play.

Tom Griffin of Portsmouth kept an eye on Luna, his 2-year-old shepherd mix. Luna was named for the full moon in the sky on the day of her adoption.

Brady, a cheerful 9-month-old husky-Lab mix, was a rescue from Arkansas. Owner Jessica Burrows of Dover said her boyfriend, who is a big Patriots fan, chose the name.

Oliver and Mindy Triandafilou

Mindy Triandafilou leaned against the fence while 4-year-old Oliver, a lanky Lab and Great Dane mix, romped with his cohorts. He was one of 11 puppies in his litter, adopted from Louisiana through the nonprofit Labs4rescue.

“He came with that name, and I thought it was a good one,” she said.

Gary Gansburg of Portsmouth said he brings his 5-year-old collie, Sadie, to the dog park for some quality time after work, and to let her socialize with other dogs.

“It socializes the people too,” he said. “We love coming here.”

Anthony Albine and Hunter

Anthony Albine of Exeter adopted his 2-year-old black-and-white dog from the New Hampshire SPCA in Stratham. The mystery pup may be part Lab and part pointer.

He didn’t have a name for the first few weeks until a friend said, “He looks like a Hunter.”

Dan Simmons of Newburyport said his Lab and pitbull mix, Lucy, is a sweetheart. His wife and two daughters chose the name, which he thinks is “kind of girly.” Lucy is from the NHSPCA, too.

Jen Corbin, director of animal services, said most of the dogs arrive at the NHSPCA already named. Many come from other states, and sometimes their new owners will rename them based on their geographical origin, with names such as Dakota and Bama.

When staff members name a litter of puppies, they often choose a theme, sometimes associated with the closest holiday, said Corbin. One litter born near Presidents Day included a Jefferson, a Madison and a Washington.

“It makes them feel important,” she said.

Odin and Zack Taylor

Odin, Sparky, Darwin
and Cupcake

Zack Taylor of Kittery named his Newfoundland after the king of the Norse gods, Odin.

“I tried to think of a big name, something to fit him,” said Taylor.

Famous for their size, strength and sweet nature, this breed has natural water rescue tendencies and webbed feet. Odin is 1½ years old and weighs 135 pounds. He will stop growing when he is 2, said Taylor.

Perusing the list of registered dogs reveals some interesting trends within municipalities.

In Portsmouth, mythology is big — with dog names of Apollo, Elektra, Athena, Thor, Zeus, Grendel and Hercules. Nautical names too: Splash, Rudder, Fathom, Tiller, Breezy, Fisher and River are popular.

Hampton likes spunky dog names: Sport, Rascal, Mischief, Courage, Sparky and Fang.

Exeter favors famous figures from history: Caesar, Charlemagne, D’Artagnan, Darwin, Dillinger, Toulouse, Satchmo, Cary Grant and Zorro.

Sometimes the size of a dog is evident just by its name, especially for the wee ones. Little Squirt, Little Bear, Love Muffin, Mr. Mini, Runtster, Munchkin, Tinkerbell, Bitsy, Shortcakes and Termite all live in the Seacoast.

The most popular dog names are people names, too. But deep in the dog registration lists are some odd characters with mysterious monikers: Mimi Bikini, Charlie Q-tip, Woo-Tang Jack, Dolly Lama, Ewok, Beetle Bomb, Mrs. Pickles and Sir Tonka.

In the food and drink categories, Portsmouth favors Pinot, Guinness, Truffle, Pumpkin, Popcorn, Raisin and Tostito. Hampton has Apple, Cheeto, Budweiser, Pepsi, Tequila, Cocoa and Cupcake.

Sweets and baked goods influence Exeter dog naming, with a registered Biscuit, Buckwheat, Bisquick, Cinnamon, Jelly Bean, Snickers, Licorice, Peaches, Kahlua and Chocolate Mousse.

Sylvia Rodriguez, Federico Garcia and their dog Arepa

One sweet pup trundling around the Portsmouth Dog Park was a 3-year-old basset hound named Arepa. Her owner, Sylvia Rodriguez, named her for a popular Puerto Rican food, a sweet and savory cornbread pancake.

“Five of my parents’ seven dogs in Puerto Rico are named after food,” she said.

She and her beau, Federico Garcia, are busy graduate students and chose a low-energy breed that wouldn’t need too much exercise and would be happy to sleep during the day while they were away.

“She’s the perfect dog,” said Rodriguez.

Ann Mikulich and Sue Gosselin, of Newfields, meet at North Beach in Hampton to walk their dogs, from left, cairn terrier Heather, Norfolk terrier Jimmy, and Sam the beagle

Little dogs are big, too

Dachshunds, pugs and Chihuahuas are the third, fourth and fifth most popular breeds locally. Shih tzus, bichon frises, beagles and terriers also rank high.

Ann Mikulich of Newfields owns a cairn terrier named Heather and a Norfolk terrier named Jimmy, because he was born on the front seat of a GMC Jimmy truck on the way to the veterinarian.

Heather and Jimmy have big personalities, said Mikulich.

“I picture them in motorcycle jackets. They may be little, but they’re tough guys,” she said.

In taking care of them, she likes their manageable size.

“I have been dragged down the street by a golden retriever I was walking on a leash, and I have the scars on my knees to prove it,” she said.

Mikulich brings her terriers to North Beach in Hampton for morning dog walks with her friend Sue Gosselin of Newfields and Sam the beagle.

Sam, like most beagles, is good with kids, said Gosselin. He has a mild, though sometimes stubborn, temperament.

“He’s usually on an even keel,” she said. “I think people choose dogs that match their personalities.”

When he was a puppy tripping over his long ears, the Gosselin family held a meeting to choose his name. “We decided he looked like a Sam.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 37 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog. Gosselin thinks she knows why.

“The thing about a dog is that it’s unconditional,” she said. “They’re never unhappy to see you. Life is enriched by a dog. If you feel bad, you look at your dog and you feel better.”

Sue Carmell of Newmarket and her Kerry blue terrier, Finnegan, both have ancestors from Ireland.

Rare and true

Finnegan, a rare Kerry blue terrier, has been a companion to Sue Carmell of Newmarket through hard times and good times.

When Carmell moved from Oregon back to the Seacoast to be with her dying mother, she saw an ad in the paper for Kerry blue terrier puppies. The sociable sheep-herding breed from Ireland appealed to Carmell, who has an Irish heritage, too.

Carmell took a cross-country road trip with Finnegan, but a more typical itinerary includes a stop at the dog park several times a week.

“She’s a real comfort, and a friend,” said Carmell.

Dan Briere, of Hampton Beach, and Mercedes

Two-year-old Mercedes is one of a kind — in Hampton at least. She is the only presa canario registered in town. Her owner, Dan Briere of Hampton Beach, liked the way they look, so he sought a breeder and found one in Connecticut.

Mercedes has the muscular body and big square head characteristic of the mastiff-type breeds. Presas are working dogs from Spain, where they are used to herd and guard livestock.

Mercedes loves other dogs, said Briere, but her best friend is a rottweiler named Chevy. These cool canines meet in the morning to cruise Hampton Beach.

. . .

Top Dogs in the NH Seacoast

Most popular dog names

1.    Molly
2.    Lucy
3.    Max
4.    Maggie
5.    Bailey
6.    Daisy
7.    Buddy
8.    Lily/Lilly
9.    Jake
10.    Bella
11.    Sam/ Sammy
12.    Sadie
13.    Roxy/ Roxie
14.    Toby/ Tobie
15.    Jack
16.    Abby/ Abbie/ Abbey
17.    Tucker, Sophie, Riley (tie)
18.    Cooper, Chloe (tie)
19.    Annie
20.    Brady

Most popular dog breeds

1.    Labrador retriever
2.    Golden retriever
3.    Dachshund (long-haired, short-haired, mini)
4.    Pug
5.    Chihuahua
6.    Shih tzu
7.    Poodles (standard, toy & miniature)
8.    German shepherd
9.    Bichon frise
10.     Beagle
11.     Boxer
12.     Yorkshire terrier
13.     Cocker spaniel
14.     Jack Russell terrier
15.     English springer spaniel
16.     Maltese
17.     Boston terrier
18.     Shetland sheepdog/ sheltie
19.     Schnauzer (standard and mini)
20.     West Highland White terrier/ westie

(Based on current dog registrations in Portsmouth, Exeter and Hampton, NH.)