Blueberries and The Silent People of Finland

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The Silent People of Finland outside of Suomussalmi, Finland


What do wild blueberries and The Silent People of Finland have in common?
A hike in the Belknap Range
By Gordon DuBois

Anyone for blueberry pie, blueberry jam, blueberry cobbler? The wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) season is upon us and picking is in full swing. If you are a wild blueberry aficionado better head to the barrens before the fruits have vanished from the bushes. This week, with my friends Karen and Tom Barker, along with Reuben, I headed to the Belknap Range where the wild blueberries grow in abundance. On the side of South Straightback Mountain we found an incredible field of blueberries just dripping off their slender stems. In an hour we filled our pails and mouths with hundreds of the beautiful, blue, iconic fruit of Northern New England.

Earlier in the summer (see the article "Hiking Into the Eastern Belknap Range," 7/8/16) I had hiked to the summit of South Straightback mountain via the Jesus Valley Road and the Straightback Mountain Trail. There I encountered field upon field of blueberry blossoms. I knew that in a few weeks the mountainside would be covered with the gorgeous blue fruit. So this week I put out a notice to friends who would be interested in harvesting a crop of berries along with hiking some of the best terrain in the Lakes Region. Tom and Karen jumped at the proposition of hiking a section of trails and picking blueberries along the way.

On a very hot and humid day, we set out for the Jesus Valley Road trail, just off Route 11 to begin our trek up Straightback Mountain via the Blueberry Meadow Trail. As we approached the ridge running over to Mt. Major, we beheld a beautiful sight: an Elysian Field of blueberries. It was like magic when we spotted the endless meadow of low bush berries full of ripened fruit. It seemed as though a magnet just sucked us into this meadow. Within an hour we had filled our buckets and our stomachs with this delicious fruit. Reuben laid beside me in this beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers and berries. A slight breeze was blowing that provided a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the day. I felt as though I was laying in Elysium, the beautiful meadow referred to in Homer's Odyssey, the ultimate paradise where men lead an easier life than anywhere else in the world. I found my own Elysium where the berries hung like grapes from the vine, just waiting to be picked. If you have never tasted a wild low bush blueberry, then you have never lived. Forget those propagated high bush barriers or better yet, throw out those frozen berries from the grocery store and head to the hills with your bucket in hand to begin picking.

As we filled our canisters with berries, the wind began to pick up and the skies turned cloudy. The weather report for the day predicted severe storms that would be moving in by the afternoon. We decided to pull stakes and continue on our hike along the Belknap Range Trail, hoping to be off the mountain before the storm hit. As we hiked the trail at a brisk pace we couldn't resist the temptation to stop and scoop up a handful of berries as they dangled from bushes along the trail. We even had a contest to see who could grab the most berries in one swipe. I think Karen won with nine! As we neared Mt. Anna we decided to head down the Precipice Trail into the valley below.

We wound our way along the ridge of Straightback, traversing sheer cliffs that provided exceptional views to Piper and Hill Pond below. Upon reaching the Cascade Brook waterfalls we descended carefully. Reuben took advantage of the small pools of crystal clear, ice-cold water that were dammed up behind blocks of granite. I'm sure it was a welcome relief for him in the sweltering heat of the day. Karen, Tom and Reuben zipped down the rock strewn cliff as I stumbled downward on my two metal replacement knees. When we arrived at the base of the cascades, with little water flowing due to the recent drought, we followed the trail out to the Old Stage Road, or at least we thought.

We followed this woods road, which also serves as a snowmobile trail, for about a mile until we came to a housing development on a lake. We were confused. We thought this path would take us back to the Jesus Valley Road. Instead, we were wandering aimlessly around looking for a clear way back to where we started our trek. Tom took out his trusty compass and Karen her outdated map. They came to the conclusion that we were headed in the wrong direction. However, Reuben being the smart dog that he is, began leading us along a trail that led to an open field filled with what we thought were scarecrows. There were 20 to 30 of these fixtures planted in an open area in the middle of nowhere – at least this is what we thought. It was surrealistic. It was as though we had entered the twilight zone, with these stick creatures eyeing us. After my initial shock I noticed a sign on a post that read, "The Silent People of Finland." Apparently this strange outcrop of stick figures is a replica of an artwork located in the small town of Suomussalmi, Finland, and created by the Finnish artist Reijo Kela. This particular reproduction must have been created by a Finn who lives in the area.

According to the sign, "No one knows the artist's idea behind the Silent People. He feels the viewer should come to their own conclusion. Some (people) view it as a state of psychological withdrawal, some as forgotten people." Others reflect that it could be a symbolic gesture of the thousands of Finnish soldiers who died in the Finnish-Russian war of 1939-40. Whatever the meaning, it is a very eerie, yet powerful work of art.

After spending a few moments contemplating the display, we continued on our journey, hoping to find the Old Stage Road and the way back to our waiting vehicles. After walking for some time on a snowmobile trail, we finally found, to our surprise, that we were on the Old Stage Road and would soon be back at the Jesus Valley Road trail head. When we did reach the parking area, we were relieved to know we didn't have to spend the night in the woods or have to call the Alton Fire Department for a rescue. We could drive home to the comfort and safety of our own homes. What a day it was, beginning with the Idyllic Elysian Fields of blueberries and ending with the Silent People of Finland, representing the tragedy of war. Hiking the Belknap Range never lets me down.

If anyone knows the story behind the Silent People of Finland that stands in the Gilmanton, Alton, area please contact Gordon DuBois at the email address below.

Gordon has hiked extensively in Northern New England and the Adirondacks of New York State. In 2011 he completed the Appalachian Trail (2,285 miles). He has also hiked the Long Trail in Vermont, The International AT in Quebec, Canada, Cohos Trail in northern New Hampshire and the John Muir Trail in California. Gordon has summited the New Hampshire Hundred Highest peaks, and the New England Hundred Highest in winter. He spends much of his time hiking locally and in the White Mountains with his dog Reuben and especially enjoys hiking in the Lakes Region due to the proximity to his home in New Hampton. He is also a trail maintainer for the BRATTS (Belknap Range Trail Tenders) and can be found often exploring the many hiking trails in the area. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Karen picking blueberries

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Buying 'ugly houses' and the Lakes Region sales report

By ROY SANBORN

There were 132 single-family residential homes sold in June in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered by this report. The average sale price came in at $303,761 and the median price point was $217,250. That compares to 112 sales last June at an average price of $325,548.
That brings the total number of residential transactions for the first half of 2016 to 542, at an average sales price of $311,342, with a total sales volume of $168.7 million. That is up from the 417 posted in the first half of last year and the average price is up a bit as well from last years $309,625. The six-month total sales volume last year was $129.2 million. Even more impressive is the increase over the first half of 2014 when we had just 408 transactions at an average of $299,623. So things are looking pretty strong so far this year!

Home sales numbers increased in all price ranges except for properties below $100,000 where sales dropped from 61 for the first six months of 2015 to 52 transactions so far this year. The number of sales in the $100,000 to $199,999 range rose 52 percent from 129 transactions to 196. In the $200,000 to $299,999 bracket, sales increased 30 percent from 115 to 149 and in the $300,000 to $399,999 bracket they increased 59 percent from 37 to 59 sales. In the over $400,000 category, sales were up 15 percent from 75 to 86 year over year for the same period (85 percent of the sales over $400,000 were waterfront homes.)

I stumbled across a website called "We Buy Ugly Houses" somehow the other day. The site has a cute little cartoon caveman character on it who I guess represents an ugly person (I think) who might buy an ugly house? Apparently this company, which has franchises all across the country, buys ugly houses for cash. When they say ugly, they really mean a property that is distressed or that perhaps the owner is more distressed and wants to sell it quickly.

This company graciously offers to come in and buy your property at a reduced price, maybe at 60 percent of the real value (not likely the list price), and then turns around to sell it for a profit after perhaps sprucing it up. I suppose this might be a viable option for some sellers who don't want or don't have the money to fix their place up. But, the seller has got to have some pretty good equity in the property to be able to do this kind of thing and most don't.

You often will see little paper signs tacked to telephone poles that say "We Buy Houses for Cash" along with a number to call. It may not be the "We Buy Ugly Houses" people but the idea is the same. When you want to sell your house fast that means you are going to sell it at a reduced price.

Another website touted: "If you have had your house listed with a Realtor for months without any results, or if you are having a hard time selling the house yourself and are starting to get frustrated, let one of our investors make an offer that you can't refuse. We are always ready to buy houses quickly." The translation here is "We are always ready to buy houses cheaply."

There are even some real estate agents that tout that they will buy your house if they can't sell it in 30 days. I think that is pretty big conflict of interest, if you stop and think about it!

The long and the short of it is that time equals money. If you price any home too high, then it will take longer to sell than pricing the same home at a lower number. Underprice it and it will likely sell very quickly. It's so simple even a caveman can do it. It is finding that perfect number between the high and low point that can be a little harder.

 

Pl​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 7/19/16. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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Bob Meade - Equal justice? Or presumed guilty?

We are brought up to believe that everyone is entitled to equal justice under the law. We are to be judged by a jury of our peers who are charged with determining beyond a reasonable doubt, that we either have or have not committed the crime for which we have been charged. And, we are to be presumed innocent until the jury makes a determination otherwise. But, we may find that what we call "equal justice" is often absent.

When someone is brought before a judge to determine the amount of bail required in order to be released from jail, pending the date of their trial, the decision of the judge may actually imply the guilt or innocence of the person being charged. For example, a person bought before Judge "A" for aiming a rifle and shooting at a group of people may be required to post a "cash-only" bail of $25,000. Another person charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with a minor, six or seven years earlier, may receive a "cash only" bail requirement from Judge "B" that is three times larger than what was imposed on the alleged shooter by Judge "A". A case brought before Judge "C" charged a man with participating in the armed standoff between federal authorities and ranchers, in the Cliven Bundy case. The person being charged is a veteran, a family man, the sole support of his family and an elderly parent who requires continuing care. He was denied bail and is being held in a jail about 3,000 miles away from his family, awaiting trial, which is not expected to begin for at least a year.

These examples pose a few questions. Let's start with the "cash only" bail. Normally, when a person is required to post bail, he or she can purchase a bail-bond for about 10 percent of the bond's face value. However, when the court imposes a "cash only" requirement, the person must present to the court the entire amount in cash. In the examples above, Judge "A" would require $25,000 in cash before the person being charged could be released from jail, pending their court appearance. Judge "B" would require the person brought before him to provide the Court with $75,000 in cash in order to be released pending trial. The imposition of "cash only" may make it virtually impossible for the person being charged to be released from jail pending his or her court date. How many average citizens or their families can stop at the bank and walk out with $25 or $75 thousand dollars in cash to bring to the court?

In each of these examples, the person being charged may appeal the cash only bail, or the dollar amount of the bail, or the denial of bail. However, pending the appeal hearing, the person must remain in jail, which most often takes a number of months. That doesn't seem to be "innocent until proven guilty", but a pre-judgement of guilt.

There are a few major issues that need to be reasonably resolved. The first is the issue of the cash-only bail. By its very nature, requiring a person to pay a cash-only bail inflicts a penalty that is 10 times more costly than a regular bail assessment would be. As the examples above showed, cash-only bail for the two individuals was equivalent to purchasing bail bonds in the amount of $250,000 and $750,000 respectively. Excessive?

The second issue deals with the apparent disparity in the amount of bail assessed in the three examples, by three different judges. The person charged with shooting his rifle multiple times was assessed the lowest bail amount. The person charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with a minor six or seven years ago, was assessed an amount three times larger. And, the person participating in a protest by ranchers because of what they believed to be significant government overreach, has been denied bail and has essentially been deemed to be guilty and will be confined to jail, for over a year before he will be able to have his case heard by a jury of his peers. Equal justice?

The third issue is that there needs to be a way for a citizen to present an appeal to an independent judge/arbiter panel to plead for some reasonable level of bail equality. The dollar disparity in the examples shown should be a cause for concern. And, the denial of bail for an individual who has been a pillar of his community, is a veteran and an honorable man, and who is the sole provider for his family, appears to be the worst kind of governmental bullying that may well lead to bankrupting his family before his case is even brought before the court. There should be an urgency in the appeal processes so the independent judge/arbiter can reasonably quickly ensure there is equal justice in the assessment of bail . . . being ever mindful of the presumption of innocence.

(Bob Meade is a resident of Laconia.)

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Pat Buchanan - Is party over for Bushism?

Neither George W. Bush, the Republican Party nominee in 2000 and 2004, nor Jeb, the dethroned Prince of Wales, will be in Cleveland. Nor will John McCain or Mitt Romney, the last two nominees.

These former leaders would like it thought that high principle keeps them away from a GOP convention that would nominate Donald Trump. Petulance, however, must surely play a part. Bush Republicans feel unappreciated, and understandably so. For Trump's nomination represents not only a rejection of their legacy but a repudiation of much of post-Cold War party dogma.

America crossed a historic divide and entered a new era. Even should Trump lose, there is likely no going back.

Trump has attacked NAFTA, MFN for China and the South Korea trade deal as badly negotiated. But the problem lies not just in the treaties but in the economic philosophy upon which they were based. Free-trade globalism was a crucial component of the New World Order, whose creation George H. W. Bush called the new great goal of U.S. foreign policy at the United Nations in October of 1991.

Bush II and Jeb are also free-trade zealots.

But when the American people discovered that the export of their factories and jobs to low-wage countries, and sinking salaries, were the going price of globalism, they rebelled, turned to Trump, and voted for him to put America first again.

Does anyone think that if Trump loses, we are going back to Davos-Dubai ideology, and Barack Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership is our future? Even Hillary Clinton has gotten the message and dumped TPP.

Economic nationalism is the future. The only remaining question is how many trade deficits shall America endure, and how many defeats shall the Republican Party suffer, before it formally renounces the free-trade fanaticism that has held it in thrall.

The Bush idea of remaking America into a more ethnically, culturally, diverse nation through mass immigration, rooted in an egalitarian ideology, also appears to be yesterday's enthusiasm. With Republicans backing Trump's call, after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, for a moratorium on Muslim immigration, and the massacres in Paris, Nice and the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida, diversity seems to be less celebrated.

Here, the Europeans are ahead of us. Border posts are being re-established across the continent. Behind the British decision to quit the EU, was resistance to more immigration from the Islamic world and Eastern Europe.

On Sunday, French President Francois Hollande was booed at memorial services in Nice for the hundreds massacred and maimed by a madman whose family roots were in the old French colony of Tunisia. Marine Le Pen of the National Front, who wants to halt immigration and quit the EU, is running far ahead of Hollande in the polls for next year's elections.

As for the foreign policies associated with the Bushes, the New World Order of Bush I and the crusade for global democracy of Bush II "to end tyranny in our world" are seen as utopian.

Most Republicans ask: How have all these interventions and wars improved our lives or our world?

With 6,000 U.S. dead, 40,000 wounded, and trillions of dollars sunk, the Taliban is not defeated in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida and ISIS have outposts in a dozen countries. Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are bleeding and disintegrating. Turkey appears headed for an Islamist and dictatorial future. The Middle East appears consumed in flames.

Yet, despite Trump's renunciation of Bush war policies, and broad support to talk to Russia's Vladimir Putin, the neocons, who engineered many of the disasters in the Middle East, and their hawkish allies, seem to be getting their way for a new Cold War. They are cheering the deployment of four battalions of NATO troops to the Baltic states and Poland, calling for bringing Sweden and Finland into NATO, pushing for sending weapons to Ukraine, and urging a buildup on the Black Sea as well as the Baltic Sea. They want to scuttle the Iranian nuclear deal and have the U.S. Navy confront China to support the rival claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia to rocks and reefs in the South China Sea, some of which are under water at high tide.

Who represents the future of the GOP?

On trade and immigration, the returns are in. Should the GOP go back to globalism, amnesty or open borders, it will sunder itself and have no future. And if the party is perceived as offering America endless wars in the Middle East and constant confrontations with the great nuclear powers, Russia and China, over specks of land or islets having nothing to do with the vital interests of the United States, then it will see its anti-interventionist wing sheared off.

At issue in the battle between the Party of Bush and Party of Trump: Will we make America safe again, and great again? Or are globalism, amnesty, and endless interventions our future?

Do we put the world first, or America First?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Froma Harrop - Sexism is business at usual at Fox News

What to make of Gretchen Carlson's suit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes alleging sexual harassment? If Ailes did demand sex as a condition of her employment and Carlson can prove it, then she'd seem to have a good case.

But other complaints about "inappropriate" behavior at Fox News don't sit quite right: So she was mocked on the air over her high hemlines and paid slithering compliments about "looking good today." On the air, a male co-host pulled down her arm to shut her up. I mean, what ballpark did she think she was playing in?

With a few exceptions, the Fox News sets purposely pair men in business attire with women in sleeveless, short dresses — some featuring adorable peekaboo cutouts revealing cleavage. You don't need a fashion anthropologist to tell you that this dress code screams inferior status.

I hit upon "Fox & Friends" on Saturday morning when the discussion centered on the Dallas tragedy. There was Abby Huntsman, all arms and legs in a flamingo-pink dress, flanked by two male anchors encased in conservative business suits with ties. Huntsman was offering the smartest commentary, but how many viewers took notice?

It's not just Fox News Channel. All over TV you see women doing news dressed for the cover of Cosmo. The need to play the babe is why so many newswomen get yanked off the air the moment they age. Carlson herself is now 50.

(It's especially painful to watch one of the survivors, Andrea Mitchell at 69, displaying arms and legs alongside fully dressed men with lesser intellects. It does not matter that she's in terrific shape.)

Carlson sat on the "Fox & Friends" set for years as an accomplice. She soldiered through the lame sexist joshing. She once stomped off the set in seeming complaint but came back saying she was kidding. Her recent book praised and thanked Ailes with profusion.

Now, we can say this is entertainment. She was hired to perform as the ditzy foil to the men. The formula includes a revolt against politically correct feminism.

Whatever. In the age of hipster androgyny, the female hootchy-kootchy on Fox News Channel seems increasingly dated. It may account in part for CNN's narrowing the ratings gap with the once-dominant Fox News, particularly among younger viewers.

The fashion industry has been in on promoting retrograde aesthetics for working women. Decades ago, there was a brief "dress for success" movement, urging women to wear suits in professional settings. But the notion of women getting by with a work wardrobe of five business uniforms — as men do — could not be tolerated. Women in suits with those floppy bow ties were quickly made fun of. The message was: You can flaunt your femininity at the office and be powerful at the same time. That women in well-tailored suits are actually quite alluring (check out the Hitchcock movie heroines) got lost in the demands of selling fast fashion.

Some may argue that enduring fraternity-level taunts was the only way some of these women could get on camera, become famous and make good money. That may be so. And I won't begrudge their trading dignity for fame and fortune, if that's their wish and they don't pretend otherwise.

The main problem with Carlson's suit is the timing. It was filed only after the network decided to not renew her contract. While gainfully employed, she helped advance a business model that championed overt sexism. And that's why the sisterhood probably isn't losing a lot of sleep over Carlson's case, even as it quietly hopes she prevails.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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