We’ve spent much of the winter inside, doors, windows and often blinds closed, playing with the thermostat to find the perfect mix of not-too-cold yet not- too-expensive, shuttling quickly from door to car or woodpile and back. Sure, the dog still gets walked, we go places and continue to participate in everyday life, but daily life happens with an efficiency that stems from shorter days and conserving energy.
As spring strengthens into summer, this all changes. Time seems less rigid and has a fluidity about it that feels forgiving and encouraging. My internal clock adjusts to the earlier daylight and I find myself enjoying the calm of early morning with a troupe of cheery birds. Bedtime on school nights seems to come incredulously early and we find ourselves letting kids stay up later to continue their play outside. My drive to putter about returns - from lists of projects to finish in the house to what’s next in the garden, my husband lives in fear of my 7 a.m.comment "Honey, I’ve been thinking."
One of the nicest things about the coming of warmer weather is gathering with our friends and neighbors. The kids are good about it anytime of day; play dates transition from yard to yard, to the brook, the climbing tree and back again. There is always time for a discussion while eating yogurt pops sitting on the swing set. I love hearing them out there, chattering, negotiating and laughing as they go about their important kid-business. I also love being out in the garden or hanging laundry on the line and seeing our neighbors heading out their door. We catch up a bit, tickle baby toes and chat about most anything. Often these conversations grow into a small project, or a swap or share (think straw for our garlic a couple weeks ago). It’s the reconnecting and nurturing of a micro-community.
Perhaps this explains why I so enjoy going to larger community events. Grange Hall dinners, fireworks on the 4th of July, parades and block parties, small-town fairs, school celebrations and community fund-raisers all bring people together, helping to bind their community. Seeing people you haven’t seen sometimes in years, meeting new folks and making plans with friends to enjoy an event together is all part of the fun, and as important to the human experience as breathing oxygen, in my opinion.
So when the opportunity to do just this presents itself practically on my front lawn, you know I’ll be there. West Brattleboro Association will be grilling up and selling barbecue chicken, baked beans and coleslaw while next door the First Congregational Church will be holding a bake sale. It will be a great opportunity to see lots of people, while supporting two organizations within the community that help make this area a great place to live and work. And I won’t have to worry about lunch as it all starts at 11 a.m.
To make this even more fun, I discovered that the chicken recipe is being contributed by Joe Jewett, the man responsible for the great fireman’s barbecue chicken at the Guilford Fair, which is known far and wide as delicious - it almost feels like a celebrity is coming to West B! Add to that the fact that the recipe is like no other that I’ve ever seen and I’ve got to share it - roughly scaled down to backyard size. Guilford Fireman’s BBQ Chicken:
3 chickens, split in half
1 cup each water and cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
Three-quarter cup juice from jar of sweet pickles (eat the pickles with the chicken!)
Mix all ingredients together and heat until butter is melted; mix again. Apply sauce liberally to washed and halved chickens while on hot grill (every 5-10 mins). Cook over hot charcoal for 45-60 minutes, again turning and basting pretty much continuously. Chickens are done and ready to eat when you can turn the drumstick (and you eat that one!). Serves 6.
Another local legend will be providing the baked bean recipe. Helen Robb of Robb Family Farm is sharing her mom’s baked bean recipe that was featured in Great New England Recipes, a cookbook published by Yankee magazine in 1983. Helen says that the secret is in testing the beans frequently to make sure that the balance between the maple syrup and the other ingredients is just right.
Marjorie Thurber’s Home Baked Beans
1 pound yellow eye or navy pea beans
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark maple syrup (from Robb Family Farm, of course!)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 cup catsup
Soak beans overnight. Bring beans to a boil, covered, watching closely so they don’t boil over. Turn off stove and let beans stand covered for one hour. During this time carefully add baking soda (the beans will foam over if you just dump in the baking soda). After one hour, bring to boil again and boil until tender. (It is not always necessary to boil the beans a 2nd time; check the softness of the beans after they’ve sat for the hour and if not as soft as you like, boil for another 15 minutes or so.) Drain beans, reserving liquid. Add salt, syrup, mustard, catsup and pork and enough reserved bean broth to keep beans covered. Bake covered in a slow oven for 6 to 8 hours. Check and taste periodically to make sure they don’t dry out and to add more liquid/syrup if necessary. Serves about 10
Come outside, reconnect and share with your friends and neighbors. Pick up some chicken, baked beans and Chelsea Nunez’s coleslaw along with something sweet from the Congo Church’s sale and have a picnic on the West Brattleboro Green or in your own backyard. The warmer months are the perfect time to support our community’s various organizations; keep this in mind as you look at the calendar this summer as chances are you’ll always be able to find a way to do some valuable socializing while getting out of making dinner!