Harvesting the Seacoast of New Hampshire

Tools used in salt marsh 'hay day' prove symbolic today

Bill Pappou Drew

Howard Crosby
Recently Howard Crosby, a New Castle resident and University of New Hampshire Marine Docent, gave a talk to the New Castle Historical Society titled “Haying the salt marsh.”

I have often wondered about those vertical stakes in the middle of salt marshes along the coast of New Hampshire, as being mute evidence of the existence of a previous life and the necessity to bring in such a crop.

Upon the arrival of our ancestors to the shores of New Hampshire, three crops stand out as already being in existence but for the need of harvesting them; fish, timber and salt marsh grass.

An empty "staddle" on the left awaits the harvesting and accumulation of salt marsh hay. On the right, the hay has been harvested, piled up and ready for removal. The hay will be used for animal fodder, bedding material, insulation and serve many other purposes. (These two photographs and the final one below are courtesy of Alan Kitch)

From Howard’s talk, the subject of the latter jogged my teen age memories of an enlightened experience of working with uncle Sam Jenkins in bringing in hay from a field now the site of Portsmouth High School.

A scythe, pitch fork and sickle, the latter shown at top pf the picture. (Photo by Pappou)

I remember the tools well and the boredom that quickly came upon me with their use. It was like a physical exercise class with dozens of repetitions only in this experience there were thousands and more.

As I began doing research for this particular story, it occurred to me that there are parallels when considering the meaning and purpose of Rye Reflections.

From Seabrook to New Castle, like the existing salt marshes, so too is there a world around us both past and present. From the subject matter of the Isles of Shoals to that from each of the towns along the New Hampshire seacoast, Rye Reflections has made all of us aware of the wonders that existed or can be still observed.
The harvesting tools used are the individuals involved, each with a diverse set of talents melded together to bring about the successful task of publishing articles that are of interest to readers.

Personally, not being a man of letters but of an engineering background, my attack on subject matter has tended to be research and a relation of observations leading up to a presentation. My high school English teachers would be astounded to see my improved ability to put more than one hundred words together into a written piece. I appreciate that every member of the group has mentored this “C” student in high school English to prepare an intelligibly written and observable dissertation.

See MELBA TOAST for more detail  Graphics by Pappou

Jack Driscoll’s push for “Citizen Journalism,” has proven that a group of individuals and readily available subject matter can produce significant benefits for the enlightenment of the general public. It has given each one of us the opportunity to create and be proud of our individual and joint success.

The growth matures and reaches the point where it finally needs to be gathered and put to use.

Harvest time

So too, has Rye Reflections reached that stage where our efforts need to be “put on the shelf” and become a resource for those who will follow.


September, 2010