Public hearing for Timber Hill Farm in Gilford set for Monday

GILFORD — The Gilford Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Monday, October 19 at 7 p.m. to take up a site plan application from Andy and Martina Howe for holding farm-to-table events at their 250-acre Timber Hall Farm property on Gunstock Hill Road.
The property is located in a single-family residential zone and has been the site of farm-to-table events for the last several years, including five this past summer, some of which were weddings.
After receiving a complaint from an abutter regarding weddings being held on the Howe's property this summer a cease and desist order was issued by town's code enforcement officer on August 26 which said that the Howes could not resume holding weddings or other similar activities until they had obtained site plan approvals from the planning board.
The Howes appealed the ruling to the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustment, which held a lengthy meeting two weeks ago which culminated with a 3-1 vote by the board to lift the cease and desist order.
During that meeting, Attorney Patrick Wood, who represented the Howes, said that the issue was the Farm to Table aspect of the business, which he said encompassed weddings as they were a part of selling products which were produced on the farm, and met the standards of the town's zoning ordinance.
Town Planner John Ayer said that the town's cease and desist order also said that site plan approval might be contingent on a land-use variance from the ZBA but that might no longer be required as the ZBA's ruling includes farm-to-table events with weddings as being allowed under the town's zoning ordinance.
The Howes plan calls for construction of a 40 foot by 84 foot timber frame farm with a 20 by 30 foot porch, as well as construction of a sugar house and an irrigation pond. The plan also calls for a parking area and a temporary events area.
Andy Howe said that he is hoping to obtain a building permit this fall and install a foundation and anticipates the barn would be completed in time for the 2017 summer season.
He said that the barn will be constructed of timber harvested from the farm which he will use a portable sawmill to turn into lumber which will be used to build the barn.
''It's going to be an authentic old-fashioned timber frame building with wooden pegs in an old New England style of construction,'' said Howe.
He noted that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests holds a conservation easement on the property, which allows only agriculture and forestry uses of the land with only agricultural buildings allowed.
He says that last summer, following a washout of one of the scheduled events, a large tent was purchased to protect the events from the weather. Howe said that he was also receiving many inquiries about using the site for other events.
He contacted the Forest Society about the content of the events in order to confirm that they were allowed by the easements, which was the first request to society had ever received about farm-to-table events. Howe said that after an internal committee process was conducted, the society concluded the use was allowed as long as the event was focused on the farm to table meal and created a discretionary consent document which limits the event to 15 years.

Walking field trips give Elm Street 3rd graders first-hand look at local history

LACONIA — 42 third graders from Elm Street School, the classes of Andy Mercer and Megan Vesconvellos, spent a recent noon hour roving through the Lakeport Freight House Museum, the most recent stop on their weekly walking field trips that introduce them to the history and character of the community.

Mercer explained that the trips are part of the social studies curriculum designed to "get the history in the hands of the kids". Earlier this year the pupils visited Leavitt Park and followed the route of the Lakeport fire of 1903. With each trip, he said, the pupils engage in "place-based writing" about their experience. For example, at the museum they were asked to record three things they thought their teachers would like to know about and another three about which they would question their teachers. "It's stump the teacher," Mercer remarked, "like a competition."

The museum is filled with an eclectic array of exhibits for the pupils to draw from. A map designates each of the 108 buildings consumed by the fire of 1903 as well as the few that escaped the blaze. Much of the memorabilia commemorates the halcyon days of the railroad, including a tribute to the first woman conductor on the line. One features Hank DeCato of White Hat Realty, remembered as "the Gene Autry of Lakeport" for his friendship with the famous singing cowboy. Along with the machines from factories and mills there is also an early electric hair curler belonging to the grandmother of Ginger Ryan, secretary of the Lakeport Community Association. A horse drawn snow plow drew much attention. And of course, the late Wanda Tibbetts, "Queen of Lakeport", is well remembered with an exhibit that includes the original "Save the Hathaway House" bumper sticker in hot pink.

The pupils went from one thing to another, writing in their notebooks. Several boys were taken by the plow. A girl gazed at set of hand-sewn children's clothes. Sitting top a wooden chest, a boy wondered what was inside and learned about tools for working on the railroad. Another boy asked about a miniature motorcycle atop a display case and found it was a reminder of long lost shop in Lakeport.

Mercer said that when the children returned to school they would all present their work to the class and pose their questions to their teachers. But, before leaving he asked what they might like to donate to the museum. Several mentioned their "PAWS" T-shirts, which they were sporting for the first time. "PAWS" stands for "positive attitude, always respectful, wise choices and safety and is the moniker of their mascot, a tiger. One pupil even suggested donating a tiger.

Halloween masquerade wedding developed into haunted house attraction in town of Hill

HILL — Bruce Perkins says that the impetus for the haunted house events that he has held at his home off from Rte. 3-A just north of Hill Village for many years was actually his own wedding.
''My wife and I were married at a Halloween masquerade wedding in 1995. It was the idea of the Justice of the Peace, who said that she had officiated all all kinds of weddings, but never one at which everyone was in costume. So all of the guests wore costumes and the Justice of the Peace was the only person at the wedding without a costume.''
Perkins said that he and his wife, Barbara, decorated their home for other anniversaries in years that followed. ''It just kept getting bigger and bigger every year. People liked it so much that they asked us to open our home to the public and we did one year and invited the whole town.'' says Perkins.
He says that after that he was encouraged to start charging admission in order to raise funds for the Franklin Animal Shelter and other charities and started at $1, then raised it to $5. Then, with the idea that the event would be able to help even more people, the admission price was raised to $10.
He says that he and his wife, who died last October, have had a lot of help in putting the haunted house together over the years. ''There are a bunch of volunteers who have helped us and hey keep coming back year after year.''
Perkins said that Barbara worked at the Jenny Blake School and at the Hill Village Sore and was a strong supporter of events which bring the community together.
The haunted house opened last weekend and drew large crowds, with many people telling him that this year's version is the best ever.
Contributions this year go to the area Boys and Girls Club, the Franklin Animal Shelter and a Christmas fund. Those who bring non-perishable canned goods or pet food receive a dollar off the price of admission.
The haunted house is open to the public on weekends through November 1. Friday and Saturday hours are 7-11 p.m. and Sundays 7-9 p.m.

CAPTION: Pix slugged haunted house

A haunted house at the Bruce Perkins residence on Rte. 3-A in Hill raises funds for local charities. (Courtesy photo)