Mysterious rocks

12-28 Nancy Borski

Nancy Borski scrunches next to one of the disciplinary piles she found in her Waldron Woods back yards. Her book about them is being taught at the Laconia High School. (Laconia Daily Sun/Gail Ober)

Local author’s back yard discovery leads to young adult novel, ‘Disciplinary Piles’


MEREDITH — Nancy Borski's first book was inspired by clearing brush in her back yard.

Borski, a Laconia High School paraprofessional and author who lives in Waldron Bay on Lake Winnisquam in the Chemung section of town, noticed piles of granite quarry stones. She said some were big piles, some were smaller piles but, regardless of size, the piles of stones were all over her newly cleared land.

"I just didn't have any idea what they could be," she said.

She began researching the area where her home is built and learned it was a former boys camp named Camp Waldron and was run by the Boston Missionary School Society, which owned hundreds of acres on the north side of Lake Winnisquam. The society also operated Camp Andover for girls on the other side of the cove.

Borski said that from what she learned, the summer camps likely began operating just after the turn of the century and stopped sometime in the early 1970s. She said the camps were for poor children from the Boston area and were meant to give them a taste of the outdoors.

"But what were those piles of stones?" she kept asking herself.

She learned they were likely a form of discipline for those students who behaved poorly, at least in the eyes of the counselors of the camps. And she said her research and her own daughters' experiences at camp led her to
imagine children from ages 10 to 16, digging with their hands to find the granite stones and put them in individual piles.

"I've worked with children all my life," she said. "So I came up with a young adult story about camp."

"Disciplinary Piles" took Borski 13 years to research and write. She said worked on it in fits and spurts but was able to come up with the final product earlier this year. 

"I could fill a bookcase with all the notes and papers I have," said said with a laugh.

Called "Disciplinary Piles," Borski's coming-of-age story centers around a group of imaginary city boys who attend Camp W, which is somewhere in the woods.

Its protagonist is Kelvin, it's his first summer at the camp, and he is one of the youngest and smallest boys in his cabin.

The entire story is told from Kelvin's point of view, and during the three weeks at camp he and some of his newfound friends, including a rather large older boy named Robert, get into and out of some scrapes, fights, sports and challenges boys at camp usually get into at one point or another.

"Robert is kind of a bully," said Borski, who said the story is based on Kelvin's growing friendship with him and how each relates to each other and the other boys in camp.

One passage in the book from the communal laundry room reads: 

While I was in the washroom, three kids from another cabin walked in.

One boy said, "Did you catch sight of that fat, ugly camper with the greasy, black hair today, down at the beach?"

I wasn't sure if the kid they were saying smutty things about was Robert, until they said his name.

"Yeah, probably smells like a swine rolling in the sludge," the other kid said.

"His gut is so big he can't even see his toes," the other boy continued.

They knew I was there and they still continued. I told them I was a friend of Robert's and asked them to stop talking in front of me. They grabbed my clothes and started throwing them around the washroom. My temper was fueled.

I said, "Stop acting like babies."

Kelvin does make a few unwise decisions in his three weeks at camp and at least one of them meant making his own pile. 

12-28 Camp Waldron rocksI had been digging and stacking for what seemed like hours and my pile didn't even come close to the other boys. Counselor Claude looked at me with pitiful eyes because he knew I needed more practice looking for the special quarry rocks. It's not that I couldn't find them, it's just they are buried too deep in the forest's carpet and too heavy for me to pull them out and pick them up.

I had just enough energy to pick up one more rock and toss it on to my insignificant pile, when I looked down into the hole; I noticed two Indian Head pennies faces staring up at me. I dropped to my knees like an archeologist looking for treasure.

Pennies in hand, Kelvin's luck begins to turn, especially when the boys go over to the girls camp for a visit.

At that moment her name was the beautiful name I had ever heard. She had long, blonde hair, pulled back in a braid behind her skinny shoulders. Her eyes were bluer than the sky, and she had freckles all over her nose and cheeks. She was beautiful. I did notice I was definitely taller than her by at least an inch. She stood looking at me as I stood looking at her.

Published in September, not only did her book get some rave reviews, including one from best-selling Christian author J.J. Hebert, but Laconia High School special education teacher Chris Cook is now using "Disciplinary Piles" as an education tool for her class.

"We use it in reading class," said Cook, adding that she has lesson plans for each of the short chapters and that vocabulary and comprehension are her two primary goals.

She said her class, where Borski is a paraprofessional, consists of students from all four high school grades, and the students are enjoying the book a lot.

"These kids know Nancy, so it's been very exciting for them to be reading her book," said said.

Cook said book's vocabulary is "high level," so she picks out the hardest words and the students learn them as part of their vocabulary. She also uses the book by creating comprehension questions about who is who and who did what.

She recalled one chapter in which all the boys learn how to make acorn whistles. That week, Borski brought in some acorn tops to the classroom and they all learned how to make acorn whistles.

Cook also said that by completing and publishing her book, Borski has shown by example how it really pays off when someone who starts a project competes it.

When asked about other uses, Cook said that while she teaches special education, "Disciplinary Piles" would be an appropriate book for middle school teachers and could also be used by them as a local history lesson.

"We are all so proud of Nancy," she said.

12-28 Camp Waldron plaque

This plaque is in Waldron Woods in the old Camp Waldron. It's not known exactly who William Belton was, but he was clearly an important part of the camp on Lake Winnisquam. (Courtesy photo)


Father, toddler in critical condition after crash

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Hospital personnel prepare a man injured in a crash in Gilford for a flight from LRGH to Dartmouth Monday night. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)



GILFORD — A father and his 3-year-old daughter remain in critical condition at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon following a two-car collision that occurred at 8:08 p.m. Monday on Lake Shore Road near the entrance of Belknap Point Road.

Gilford Fire and EMS officials said the toddler was taken by ambulance to the Laconia Airport, where she was flown to Dartmouth. Her father, who was driving the Ford Focus, was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital, where he was stabilized and also flown to Dartmouth.

A 1-month-old child and his or her mother, who were on the passenger side of the car, were taken to LRGH by ambulance, treated and released. The male driver of the white work van was also transported to LRGH and was treated and released.

Gilford Police Lt. Chris Kelley described the crash as an offset head-on crash in which the driver's side of the van collided with the driver's side of the Focus. He said the collision opened the passenger side of the car "like a can opener" and the male driver and his daughter were sitting on that side of the car. Both cars, he said, ended almost off the road and facing west.

Police are not releasing names at this point to insure that all family members have been notified. Kelley said the car is registered in Pembroke and the van is registered in Laconia. The car was headed east toward Alton and the van was headed west toward Gilford. Both vehicles are impounded at the Gilford Police Department.

Deputy Fire Chief Brad Ober said the woman in the passenger seat of the car and the driver of the van were out of their vehicles when first responders arrived. He said firefighters needed to remove the driver from his seat and the two children who were in the back of the car and in car seats.

"We took the children out of the back window," Ober said, adding he's not sure if firefighters removed it or if it was destroyed in the crash.

Gilford Police accident reconstructionists were assisted at the scene by the the New Hampshire State Police. Kelley said they knew there was rain coming and decided to complete their investigation while the road was closed last night rather than close it again on Tuesday. As of Monday afternoon, Kelley said they are not sure how the collision happened and are still examining the data.

Ober said Gilford Fire and Rescue were assisted at the scene by Laconia and Belmont while crews from Stewart's Ambulance, Tilton-Northfield Fire Rescue and Meredith covered the station. At the time of the crash, Alton Fire and Rescue were already responding to two individual calls including a serious medical condition and a crash.

Emergency Management Director at Lakes Region General Hospital John Prickett described the incident as a small mass-casualty event. Because the female toddler was taken directly to Lebanon, he said the emergency room treated one critically injured person.

He said in Monday's case, helicopters from Dartmouth and Maine Medical Center both responded. He said like mutual aid emergency responders in this area, helicopter crews have a similar cooperative agreement.

Prickett said Monday night was a very busy night at the LRGH emergency room even before the motor vehicle crash.

"Fortunately, we had plenty of staff," Prickett said, noting he was called in to coordinate resources.

"My job is to make sure the emergency room has all the equipment and people it needs," he said. On Monday, and with the exception of Dartmouth, he said he didn't need to use the resources of the other area hospitals although they meet regularly to plan for mass casualty events.

He said the majority of mass casualties involve moving vehicles but recalled LRGH reaching out to other hospitals during a lightning strike at a boys camp in Gilmanton where the patients were sent to four area hospitals.

"We all work together and at LRGH we are there for them, knowing they will be there for us if we need them," he said.

He said the patients who get treated first are those with the most critical injuries or sicknesses and with the case of a critically injured or sick patient, the physician and nurses don't leave that person's side.

"This is hard for the patient in the waiting room because nobody likes to wait," he said. "Remember, if you're in the waiting room, it means others are sicker than you are."

Prickett said the nursing and ancillary staff did "an amazing job Monday night getting people where they needed to be."

"They are doing all of the right stuff down there," he said.

01-03 van in crash

This is the van involved in a head-on collision in Gilford Monday night. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

Agritourism - As farmers try to adapt to today’s needs, regulators struggle to keep up

Krebs Farm 1 Krebs Farm 3

Krebs Farm in Sanbornton offers commanding views of Lake Winnisquam.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)


SANBORNTON — Just six months after the state legislature changed the definition of agriculture to include agritourism, and more than a year into a different battle over agriculture and wedding events in Gilford, an Upper Bay Road family finds itself in a similar situation but under very different circumstances.

Ralph and Kris Rathjen run a farm with a spectacular view of Lake Winnisquam. For at least four years, KREBS Farm has provided fresh produce and a variety of berries to local restaurants as well as at their own farm stand. There is a piggery and food ducks at the farm, as well as a pick-your-own season.

"All Ralph has ever wanted was 40 acres and a mule," said Kris Rathjen about her husband with a laugh.
After a successful test run with a farm-to-table dinner in their renovated barn last year, the Rathjens developed a plan to host various events, including weddings, in a large tent on their property. They also plan to have smaller events in their barn during the winter. The Rathjens submitted a site plan request and a parking plan to the Planning Board for review.
And that's where the problems began.
According to Town Planner Bob Ward, the Rathjen's proposal could have fallen under one of three Sanbornton zoning categories, which are home occupation level 1, home occupation level 2, or commercial. Agriculture is permitted in all zones.
Ward told the Planning Board that the new state law that was passed in June 2016 defining agritourism as a component of agriculture in New Hampshire is a "complication."
However, after considerable deliberation, the Planning Board decided the KREBS Farm request was "way beyond level 2" and should be considered commercial. They instructed KREBS Farm to seek a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustments for a commercial use in a general residential zone.
The Rathjens and their neighbors, who by and large support the wedding venue proposal, have said they do not want the use of the property classified as commercial, despite the fact that Ward told them it would only be a change in use and the zoning would not change.
Rather than apply for a variance for a change in use, the Rathjens asked the Zoning Board to overturn the Planning Board's decision to classify the proposed use as commercial.
In a well attended meeting on Dec. 22, the ZBA, which had previously met with town attorney Chris Boldt for about an hour, voted 4 to 1 to consider the Rathjens' project as agritourism, which is allowed by right, and would not need a variance.
Presumably, the Rathjens will take their site plan back to the Planning Board for site plan review.
What makes the KREBS Farm case different than the Timber Hill Farm case in Gilford is largely a function of time, local zoning ordinances and legal definitions.
It was the summer of 2015 when Timber Hill Farm on Gunstock Hill Road began hosting weddings and abutter Monique Twomey complained to the town toward the end of the summer. The town code enforcement officer issued a cease-and-desist order, which was overturned twice by the ZBA late that year.
The Planning Board also determined that agritourism is not agriculture, citing their own local ordinances and a pivotal case from Henniker about a Christmas tree farmer who wanted to host similar events.
In 2014, the Forster v. Henniker case regarding agritourism made it to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which determined in June of 2015 that because of the state law at the time and the deliberate decision of the legislature to define agriculture and agritourism separately that the wedding event plans of Forster couldn't happen.
Because of the Henniker decision, the Gilford Planning Board determined that they didn't have the authority to issue a site plan because, legally, agritourism is not agriculture, according to both state law and the Forster Supreme Court decision.
Timber Hill Farm appealed the Planning Board's decision to the ZBA, which overturned it. Timber Hill Farm returned to the Planning Board for a site plan approval but the Planning Board still refused to review the case, until ordered to do so by the Gilford Board of Selectmen, which is provided for in state law.
The second decision by the ZBA to not enforce the cease-and-desist order was appealed to the Belknap County Supreme Court where it is still being considered by the court.
The Gilford Planning Board has since granted Timber Hill Farm a site plan and the town of Gilford passed a new ordinance in its March 2016 annual Town Meeting to include agritourism as a component of agriculture.
Because the legal case had not been finally adjudicated, the Howe family, which owns Timber Hill Farm, has been unable to go forward with any events on Gunstock Hill Road. Andy Howe said they had a few events at their pavilion this past summer at their long-running farm stand Beans and Greens, and that they were successful.
The differences between the two cases are substantial.
While Gilford had its own definition of agriculture when the Howes first attempted their program in 2015, the town of Sanbornton does not specifically define agriculture, although it is allowed in all zones. By state law, when a town doesn't specifically define something, the legal definition reverts to the state definition. The town of Henniker, at the time of the Forster application, didn't have a definition of agriculture, which is why its court case and subsequent Supreme Court ruling depended solely on the state definition at the time.
The Howes' request came before the state changed its definition of agritourism to include "attracting visitors to a farm to attend events and activities that are accessory uses to the primary farm operation, including, but not limited to, eating a meal, making overnight stays, enjoyment of the farm environment, education about farm operations, or active involvement in the activity of the farm."
In addition, the Howes' request came before the town of Gilford and added a specific definition of agritourism in their zoning ordinances, which is consistent with the newest state definition but adds some restrictions as to the number of people attending the event, the number of events per week, and restricting amplified music and alcohol beverages.
The decision as to what laws apply to the Howes and their complaining abutter, Twomey, will be determined by a judge in the Belknap County Superior Court. The court has already heard oral arguments at a hearing on the merits held two weeks ago.
The Rathjens' application comes after the state changed its law in 2016, said their attorney Courtney Herz, who said "It fits squarely within the definition of agritourism" that includes a "no exhaustive list" of allowed activities.
At last week's Sanbornton ZBA meeting, Herz also cautioned against changing the use of KREBS farm to "commercial" because, while it will likely not open the rest of that neighborhood to additional commercial uses, or the so-called slippery slope argument, she said there is some legal precedence to the contrary.
She cited a case in Newington ( Simplex Technologies v. Newington in 2001) where the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision and the ZBA when it determined that an industrially zoned area for a former manufacturing plant that was nearly surrounded by a commercial zone could be used for commercial expansion because the existing commercial uses in that neighborhood had proven there was no adverse effect to the area and that the owners of the former plant had met their hardship burden by seeking a commercial use variance for an industrially zoned area.

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Krebs Farm in Sanbornton covered with a blanket of snow.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)