Author: jmankowsky

Backyard Music

Last March, I traveled to Backyard Music in Willimantic, Connecticut, to pick up my first handmade folk harp.

(Short audio at the end.)

Willimantic is famous for its frogs, which greet you as you travel across the town’s main bridge.
True to its name, the Backyard Music Shop is behind the owner’s colorful Victorian home.
Owner and musical instrument maker, Dave Magnuson, has been creating harps, banjos and dulcimers here for 35 years.
Dave has a wide variety of unique instruments in his shop, both old and new.

An hourglass shaped dulcimer hangs beside a plainer trapezoidal dulcimer. On the far left, a banjo is fashioned from a wooden box.
Dozens of harp necks stand ready to have strings added. Note the circular banjo soundboxes on the far left.
Here’s my new harp. The wooden neck is strung with 22 strings, and the soundboard is made of heavy duty cardboard. I’ve named it Maeve, which means “she who rules”. In Irish Mythology Maeve is a queen.
All harpers learn “Scarborough Fair”. Here’s my early recording of that famous folksong from the Middle Ages. Maeve and I were getting to know each other at that time.


This local field is usually planted in corn. However, this year I noticed that the plants are more pointy at the top with closely planted rows, and have copious weeds in between . An internet research leads me to believe it is sorghum, which is used as silage.

WordPress farmers, feel free to comment!

A Country Road

North Brookfield and New Braintree, Massachusetts

Past the apple orchard….
By the traditional bales of hay….
Hydrangeas are in full bloom.
A willow tree has been upended by a recent storm.

Driving by spacious fields….
We must be getting close to …
A farm stand.
Do you like Butter and Sugar or Yellow Corn better?

Christmas in July

It may not be cold December, but Kip’s Christmas Trees in the small town of New Braintree, Massachusetts are still a beautiful sight.

Just four months more of caretaking until the Christmas season!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To refresh and renew the front yard, combine seeds and plant cuttings collected last fall with duct tape and spray paint.

Duct tape strengthens the old resin chair, while “spring green” spray paint lends a pop of color to the furniture.
Last fall’s coleus cuttings have taken off in the recent wet weather.
Inside or outside, the succulent green kalanchoe flourishes.
Six cosmos seeds saved from last year go a long way to enliven this year’s flower bed!
Scarlet Runner bean seeds are easy to dry, and never fail in succeeding years.
Bright bean flowers are magnets for a variety of birds and insects.
Last year’s nasturtium seeds have bloomed yet again.
The “outdoor living room” under the hemlocks is a cool and breezy place to chat with friends and neighbors.

Living Local, Part Two

Worcester County, where I live, leads the state in the number of farms.

Within a few miles from me, I enjoy visiting this farm.

How pleased I was to see that it is open!

It’s sweet corn time in Massachusetts!

Aw, shucks, I’ll buy a dozen.

In order to create a super fresh vegetarian meal, I add my own home grown cukes, tomatoes, arugala,

Green and yellow beans,

Swiss chard and kale. Colorful and nutritious. I’m grateful.