Party of the Sun guitarist and songwriter Ethan McBrien and producer/multi-instrumentalist Rory Hurley have been collaborating together for 15 years. The two met as students at ConVal Regional High School—McBrien from Dublin and Hurley of Francestown—and their musical partnership evolved into Party of the Sun in 2015, a psychedelic-folk band with a sound that is weaved in the traditions of Americana. (Photo by Ben Conant)
They record at McBrien’s home studio in Nelson, where he also works to create a self-sustaining space for his family. His connection to farming and the earth reverberates through many of his songs. Through the building and arranging process of songs, Party of the Sun often collaborates with local musicians like Garett Cameron, a drummer and bassist, filling out each arrangement based on “what the song wants,” McBrien explains.
In March 2020, “Ball of Time” from their latest release, Goldenwood, was featured on the season finale of the Fox network’s sheriff drama “Deputy.” When the EP released in June 2020, Party of the Sun donated 100% of all Bandcamp digital proceeds to Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a group dedicated to improving Black maternal health. The track “Remember What It Means” is described online by the band as “a song about the return of deep joy, primordial memory and the surge of purpose we feel when things line up.”
During the pandemic McBrien has focused on writing, recording, and parenting his 7-month-old son. Recently, he performed a livestream event at Nova Arts, a live music venue on Emerald Street in Keene. He says they’re optimistic about the possibility of booking outdoor shows over the summer, “depending on comfort levels.” The duo is planning for a spring 2021 release date of their next album. Stay tuned at partyofthesun.com, stream here, and follow on Facebook or Instagram for new music and upcoming shows.
Jen Risley, Marketing Manager at Monadnock Food Co-op
Ignacio Oreamuno is an articulate man. The eloquent words on his blog flow together effortlessly, speaking on his lifelong passions, his love for appreciating the little things in life, and how he got to where he is today by simply following the path that life laid out for him. “It all started once upon a time when my cocktail bar trailer—the unique and very beautiful Troubardour, crash landed on a small and beautiful coffee farm in the green mountains of San Ramon, Costa Rica,” he writes.
A self-proclaimed “impulsive” man, Oreamuno’s coffee brand Troubardour stemmed from letting life take the reins. A piece of art designed to provide a party of Great Gatsby proportions anywhere at any time, the Troubardour cocktail bar took about a year to build, partially using wood taken from his late grandmother’s piano. “When it was done, destiny decided that it had to go to Costa Rica,” Oreamuno explained. “I let accidents happen in my life. I understand that things lead to things.”
What do you do when your cocktail bar ends up shipwrecked on an incredible coffee farm? In Oreamuno’s case, you share that coffee with the world. “Coffee is the muse of an artist. A writer’s best friend. A dreamer’s companion. All the great projects I’ve done in my life have been done with coffee by my side,” Oreamuno said.
Less than a year later (and right before the pandemic hit), Oreamuno had developed this vision into a fully working online coffee subscription, effortlessly bridging a connection between the coffee and the Monadnock Region, his home for the last five years. The deliciously bold coffee is not only ethically sourced, but is organic and authentic in every sense of the word, including the eye-catching label. Roasty and chocolatey with some subtle fruity notes, one cup will have you wishing you were planted on a beach in paradise somewhere, watching the tide come in and breathing warm, salty air while you savor each and every sip.
The Troubardour coffee brand was created during Covid and is primarily online for now, but with everyone having extra time to whip up a barista-style cup of coffee, Troubardour has flourished. Oreamuno’s plans for the brand include a travel experience for those who wish to visit the coffee farm in San Ramon. An adventure guide in the area for the last three years, he hopes to provide a Covid-friendly, all-inclusive Costa Rican vacation bubble with plenty of beach, coffee, cocktails, and peace. He recently launched the Troubardour Cocktail bar experience, a fun adventure of great food, cocktails, and outdoor activities. “No thinking—just experiencing,” he said.
As far as Oreamuno is concerned, Troubardour coffee is about connecting all the positive and adventurous people in the world. Troubardour isn’t just about coffee—it’s about the experience.
Find the coffee experience perfect for you at Troubardour.
Rin Peterson, Owner of The Simple Nest
New Englanders have this unspoken connection with the water. When we paint, decorate or dress, we are drawn to those ocean colors—aquamarine, seafoam, cobalt, and deep sapphire. Own a piece of jewelry by Natalie T. Designs, and you’ll carry the ocean with you wherever you go.
Speaking with artisan jewelry designer Denise was like visiting the seashore and breathing in the ocean mist. The love of the water not only radiates through her art, but her family history and personality as well. She shared stories of childhood summers spent on the beaches of Cape Cod with her grandmother Natalie T. (the company's namesake), and how fond memories of collecting seashells at the shore inspired her to create this stunning jewelry line.
Natalie T. Designs jewelry is one of a kind, as is the process of making each exquisite piece. Every adornment is meticulously hand-soldered and the high-carat, water-inspired gemstones like sapphire, aquamarine, tanzanite, apatite, chalcedony, and raw diamonds are all set by hand. Denise uses a unique argentium, silver-coated with a special (secret) iridescent finish that gives each piece the illusion of constant movement, like an ocean wave.
These skills that she has cultivated after years of training and specialized metalsmithing have landed her a coveted spot as a juried artist in the prestigious League of N.H. Craftsmen. A very well-deserved accomplishment for an artist such as Denise, the honor of being in the league entitles her work to be shown at fairs, festivals, and at fine art galleries throughout the state.
Denise’s favorite projects are her custom orders, working with antique gems, resetting heirloom pieces, and designing engagement and wedding bands. “My greatest gratification is helping a couple design their wedding rings,” says Denise. “Bringing their vision to life and seeing the joy in their eyes is such a magical experience.”
Find your next signature piece of jewelry by visiting Natalie T. Designs online or follow on Instagram to become inspired. For more information on custom orders, reach out to Denise here. Visit her League of N.H. Craftsmen’s page for information on fairs and gallery shows of Natalie T. Designs collections.
Jessica Reeves, MSN, MPH, APRN, FNP-C, Owner of Our Clinic
It’s not the first time Grand Monadnock has inspired poetry, but it is certainly one of the loveliest occasions. Artist and writer Kim Cunningham’s book Block, Paper, Chisels: Prints from New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, which combines haikus with a series of intricate, patterned prints, was released in 2020, and I’ve found myself returning to it most evenings since.
After its release, Cunningham gave a presentation with the Toadstool Bookshop, and even demonstrated her art during the online session. A blend of etchings from earlier in career, current prints, and haikus in calligraphy—the whole of the book is a piece of art. It’s also a bit of a scavenger hunt, revealing different places across the region from which you can catch a glimpse of the mountain and the varied landscapes that surround it.
In an interview with her Peterborough-based publisher, Bauhan Publishing, Cunningham shared: “The Monadnock area of NH never ceases to be an inspiration. Every image in Block, Paper, Chisels is directly influenced by the landscape and animals around me.” Shadows, wings, fins, and flowers sprawl across the texture-filled pages in a way that feels energetic.
The book is bright, intimate, and most of all reassuring—we are in fact, all connected as much as we may have suspected, by this incredible place. When it comes to celebrating local, Cunningham has done so in a way that continues to resonate long after tucking the book in your nightstand.
Ben Rogers, Owner of Loud Sun Studio
You may have noticed that every Monadnocker feature about dessert has been written by me and it’s because I love sweets—and everyone knows it. As a self-proclaimed sugar queen, needless to say, I know my way around a cookie, and the confections at Sweet Macaron in the center of Peterborough are absolutely perfect. Inside the little shop is a lovely chic interior centered around a stunning display of pastel rainbow treats. The intoxicating smell of fresh-brewed coffee happily greets you when you arrive.
I had the ultimate pleasure of joining owner Lindsey at her lovely shop and was invited back to the kitchen office (all masked and social distanced) to chat while she whipped up a batch of her delicious macarons from scratch. Lindsey and her husband are veterans of the restaurant biz, owning and operating several eateries in sunny Orlando, Florida previously, but they had never ventured into the world of baking. Now in a brand-new corner of the country in the middle of a pandemic, Lindsey found herself, like many of us, finding joy in the kitchen. Always willing to try something new, in April 2020 Lindsey baked her very first batch of macarons in her home kitchen, and it was love at first bite.
Back in the storefront, a constant flow of eager customers streamed in and out of the bakery with sweet little boxes of goodies. It was a difficult decision as I saw others make their careful selections...Should I go with a fruity palate of Triple Berry Cheesecake and Key Lime Pie, or go the chocolatey route with Cookies and Cream and S'mores? And how many macarons can one person buy without looking like a psychopath? Turns out, I did not care! I sampled as many as I could with the button of my jeans still remaining intact, and found that each macaron was delicate and delicious and completely unique.
Of their classic and funky flavors (Fruity Pebbles was superb!), the one I would make the trip for again and again would be owner Lindsey’s favorite, Pistachio. It was a lovely spring-green crisp and chewy cookie with silky cream filling that has the perfect punch of fresh and sweet pistachio flavor—so often too subtle for me in most treats. Trust me when I say, these little pillows of sugar heaven are well worth the visit.
Sweet Macaron is open daily, Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Sundays, 10 am to 5 pm. Curbside pickup is available as well and online orders can be placed on their website. Be sure to follow Sweet Macaron on Facebook to see new seasonal flavors and to make sure your favorites haven’t sold out for the day!
On a (not-so-long-ago) cold, snowy day, I couldn't wait to check out the greenhouses of Cheshire Floral Farm in Marlborough. Inside the greenhouse, it felt like a warm, spring day surrounded by the smell of dirt, flowers, herbs and plants. Proprietor Bob Powers is very friendly and full of amazing stories -- I could have chatted with him all day as he excitedly showed me around. Being a gardener myself, I had to fight my urge to play in the dirt and start potting with him or to spend hours checking out the thousands of different plants.
Locals may remember Cheshire Floral Farm when it was on Route 101. The business was started in 1979 and moved to the Route 101 location in 1984. It was sold around 2010 due to health issues and is currently open at the Powers’ property at 92 Pleasant St. in Marlborough.
From biodegradable “cow pots” made from manure and flower-filled planter boxes built using hemlock slabs from a nearby sawmill, to reusable greenhouse “blankets” purchased from the Troy Mills, they do their best to support the local economy. Heirloom plants are also important to the family; they make sure they have plenty of the popular heirloom varieties in addition to many you may not have heard of before.
Cheshire Floral Farm has done a great job at keeping up with the latest practices and trends. Bob showed me some terrific rose bushes that are grown from a tissue-like substance placed in water. Another fun item are the lettuce bowls, single bowl-like planters filled with a variety of lettuce plants that can be harvested throughout the year.
In the gift store, Bob’s wife, Jane, greeted me warmly. There is a huge craft room full of ornaments and bows where she creates fabulous seasonal decorations and custom wreaths up to 10 feet wide for the business. You can even come with a picture and she will create a custom wreath or decoration just for you. Plan ahead, though, as last December they sold approximately 2,000 wreaths!
During different holidays they have other options available, such as Memorial Day wreaths to float down the river that are made from biodegradable materials. Trees, ropes and many other items are available to purchase at very reasonable rates, made of all types of greenery harvested from trees on the property or locally sourced.
Vegetable starter shares are sold from April 1 to Sept. 15 and three different sizes can be purchased, depending on your family’s size. Items such as apples, pears and grapes are available seasonally -- find Cheshire Floral Farm on Facebook for prices and info. Selling at “farm prices” is the goal so that affordable, quality plants are available to everyone.
They welcome people to come by and wander around. I will definitely be back for plants and future Christmas decor and highly recommend you check out Cheshire Floral Farm to shop and buy locally from lovely people. Bob, Jane, and their son Andy can be reached at 603-313-4124.
When the first dandelion of spring pokes its golden feathery head from the sleepy soil, it’s a sure sign that our friends the pollinators—bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, and flies—are not far behind. Although many homeowners seek to eliminate the pesky dandelion from their pristine lawns, experts say this is one of the first sources of nectar and pollen for bees and should be preserved to feed them, at least early in the season before more nutritional feeding sources bloom and bud.
Spreading chemicals to kill garden weeds can also be lethal for bees, something to carefully consider with the knowledge that bee populations have been struggling for many years now due to colony collapse disorder, a devastation caused by the disappearance of a majority of worker bees in a colony.
To do its part locally, the Keene City Council passed a resolution in February to accept designation as a Bee City, committing the city to make efforts that create and maintain pollinator-friendly habitats and to raise public awareness about the necessity and benefits of pollinators. John Therriault, president of the Monadnock Beekeepers Association and an alternate member of the city’s Conservation Committee, began spearheading this designation last year.
Bee City USA is based in Portland, Ore., but was initially established in North Carolina in 2012 to protect declining bee populations. Bee Campus USA is a sister initiative that works to support similar pollinator conservation efforts on college campuses. By June 2020, the movement had grown to a national network of 109 cities and 102 campuses in 42 states. As part of its commitment to becoming a Bee City, Keene will provide pollinator projects and programs that will be posted for the public on its website. These programs are expected to begin this spring and summer.
Protecting bees is not a new concept for many residents living across the region. The Monadnock Beekeepers Association is a club for beekeepers of all levels that is “dedicated to promoting beekeeping in the Monadnock Region.” The group meets monthly at Stonewall Farm in Keene and also runs an educational Bee School with classes. The association is working toward the creation of a sustainable beekeeping network, decreasing local reliance on southern “nucs,” or nucleus hives, and queens.
Jodi and Dean Turner have been beekeeping for more than 20 years and are the owners of Imagine That Honey in Swanzey where in addition to honey, they provide private instruction to hive new-bees, educational workshops and beekeeping classes at all levels, several of which are on tap for this spring and summer. They also raise and sell queens, nucs and packages.
Maybe you aren’t ready to raise bees, but still want to preserve and protect pollinators in our own backyard and neighborhood. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden! Check out this Native Plant Trust plant finder to research the ideal native plants to attract and sustain pollinators or find a list by region on the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation website. (Photo by John Sepe)
“Owning a business is like a relationship. It takes hard work, has its rewards and hardships. In the end, the only thing I regret was not doing it all sooner,” says Carolyn Edwards, owner of Sunflowers Café and Catering on Main St. in Jaffrey. Her eatery, which specializes in “bistro fare with a gourmet twist” has been part of the region’s restaurant scene for 16 years. It first opened in Fitzwilliam, with the plan to offer catering and takeout only. But soon, locals made it clear they were looking for restaurant service, as well, so the business moved to its current location.
Edwards spoke of the ice storm that happened several years ago, when a long power outage created a challenge for business. A local contact offered her a space for meal preparation that included a generator, and she was able to make up to 1,000 to-go meals in one day! Bags of food for neighbors that lacked power to cook lined all the way down the hall, she recalls. The last year has been similarly tumultuous, and Sunflowers has responded with the same community-first approach. In early 2020, Edwards even began ordering staple ingredients in bulk and providing locals with needed grocery items when stores were running low.
How have things been at the restaurant lately? A little different, but the meal service is as it always was: top-notch. Seating is limited due to social distancing and reservations are recommended but not necessary. Takeout is very popular and is about 85% of the weekly business. Date night in anyone?
Dinner for two to-go is a great option to take home for a special evening. Specials are posted Thursday afternoons on the cafe’s Facebook page. I tried the beef stew, and it was out of this world, full of fresh herbs and the meat just falling apart and melting in your mouth with hearty cuts of veggies. Yum!
Craving seafood? Sunflowers’ chef specializes in tantalizing dishes, like the ever-popular seafood casserole. That and the steak tips are two favorites customers return for again and again. Produce for all dishes is purchased locally when in season, assuring the freshest and tastiest flavors. And desserts are prepared on-site or purchased locally.
Though the café’s dining experience is exceptional, Edwards’ favorite part of the business remains catering. She loves creating custom menus for each occasion and enjoys the presentation aspect of the food, as well. (Visit the website or on Facebook for photos of past events.)
Sunflowers plans to expand hours when things settle down, with Sunday brunch added and a full bar available. “NOTES,” a popular weekly event where local artists play music, tell stories, or share poetry will be resuming, as well. “Something for everyone to look forward to in these strange and uncertain times,” Edwards says.
Soon, you will also be able to watch a show nearby at the newly rebuilt The Park Theatre and grab a light meal, appetizer, or cocktail followed by a sweet dessert at Sunflowers. Show your community support with a visit to this local gem and you will be glad you did.
Nestled in the peaceful forest of Alstead, Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail is a thoughtfully created and exquisitely maintained pocket of joyful outdoor exploration. Named one of the marvels of New Hampshire, this environmental and horticultural learning center is on a mission to cultivate connection to the natural world.
In addition to its nature trail, accessible by both wheelchairs and strollers during the warmer months, the 128-acre property also boasts ornamental gardens, as well as a tree farm, 10-site geology trail, cranberry bog boardwalk, the White Rock Woods children’s play area, and a monthly children’s storywalk collaboration with the local library.
Open to the public daily (leashed dogs also welcome) from dawn to dusk, owners Michael and Kathy Nerrie have successfully implemented a self-guided tour model. The evolving signage system educates visitors about the trail’s many plants, animal life and features, incorporating fun facts about the fascinating wonders of the natural world that exist right in our own backyard. “You don’t have to be an avid hiker,” Michael says of the inclusive trail system, adding that many families with young children who are not even walking yet frequent the trail.
Mid-April brings forth a special burst of spring at Distant Hill as the forest’s smallest creatures wake from their long winter’s rest and take up residence in its vernal pools. Michael says Distant Hill has a surprisingly high number of these pools for its size—11 have been documented there—thanks to its conducive soil makeup of clay bedrock.
These miraculous pools of life are defined by being the only bodies of water where obligate species like the spotted salamander, wood frog and fairy shrimp can survive readily, due to the fact that the pools slowly dry up as the season progresses and are thus incapable of supporting fish. Although their exact dates of activity are dependent on weather conditions, vernal pools exist to support life for only about 4-8 weeks.
By traversing the trail to the pool signs, visitors can learn about each species and observe labeled water cages into which Michael places samples of egg masses that can also be touched by curious hands— their feel is akin to “a baseball of Jell-O,” he describes. Much different than the tell-tale voice of peeper frogs, listen for the call of the pool wood frogs along the way, a deep quacking that he says really sounds like that of ducks.
The signs of spring may be fleeting at Distant Hill, but its mission to foster community, curiosity and natural connection thrives on through every season.
Starting in late spring, Distant Hill will host a new nature-connection program for children ages 4-8 led by Linden Nature Connection Skills and a virtual Q&A about the program will be held April 18. Follow Distant Hill on Facebook for updates and more events.
Not since the actual New Hampshire town of Happy Corner, has a place lived up to its name quite like The Cozy Cottage in Troy. When I first walked into the quaint little storefront, I had this overwhelming sense of, well, coziness. The intoxicating aroma of sweet pine and eucalyptus wafting from their house-made candles beckons you in the front door, while a carefully placed sign invites you to literally “stay a while.”
And stay a while, I certainly did. Not just because this store happened to be exactly how I wish my house were decorated if it wasn’t so absolutely filled to the brim with my daughter’s dollhouses and Matchbox cars, but it also just felt like a home. Like a place you would want to come hang out at when we can all go hang out in places again. It’s just a really… cozy… cottage.
Of course, that feeling was by design. “I just enjoy seeing people happy,” says owner Brandi of her new and thriving small business. “If someone can come into the shop and forget their worries for a bit, that is a great day for me!” And although I couldn’t see the smiles beneath the masks of my fellow patrons, I could certainly tell that was precisely what they were doing.
The Cozy Cottage works with 15 different local vendors offering unique items, home decor, vintage treasures, and gifts. Best sellers include handcrafted leather purses, Sweet Grass Farm’s gardener’s soap and beautiful shutters repurposed into shelves and side tables. The Cozy Cottage is open Friday to Sunday, from 10 am to 4 pm. They offer curbside pickup and shipping on most items as well. Be sure to take a peek at their website for online purchasing options. Follow the Cozy Cottage on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates, new items and fun live events!
Whether you’re looking for a small trinket to liven up your curio cabinet or a big piece of vintage furniture to tie a whole room together, The Cozy Cottage will help to transform your home into your own version of a…well, you know.