Kenneth Roberts is on Facebook!

You can now like the Kenneth Roberts – The Unofficial Site page on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/rockypastures. You will be able to see when the blog is updated, events scheduled, and follow the wall posts of Kenneth Roberts fans.  Feel free to upload any photos that are Kenneth Roberts related as well.

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Rocky Pastures: Before There Was the Walled Garden, Part I

Walled Garden with the water feature (missing the statue). One can only imagine the greenery and flowers that filled this garden. Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw.

***The following is part of a series to promote Rocky Pastures and the Design Show House the Kennebunkport Historical Society is sponsoring at the estate on June 23 – July 14. You can visit the KHS site here. One of the designers, a friend of this blog, can be visited here.***

In his biography, I Wanted to Write, Kenneth Roberts tells of his search for a quiet place in which to do his research and writing undisturbed.  The genesis of this long search for solitude is difficult for me to pin down (in I Wanted to Write, page 143, in the midst of retelling his travels in Europe as a foreign correspondent on immigration [I believe this is correct], which is roughly around 1919 if my reading is correct), but what can be said is that Robert searched high and low in both Europe and America for his ideal spot in which to write in peace. 

Roberts’ first attempt was an old stable he converted into a home and named Stall Hall (the subject of Part II of this post).  Though he spent several years at this place, his wish for complete solitude was not fully realized due to the nearby golf course and the encroaching neighbors.  In his essay “The Little Home in the Country,” Roberts says of Stall Hall: 

No subtle premonition warned me that the local golf club might build a practice tee beneath my workroom windows: no ominous portent indicated that neighbors would feel an urge to place garages in my front and rear.

One method Roberts pursued to gain privacy from his neighbors and the seasonal golfers utilized his love of nature.  In “The Little Home in the Country,” Roberts provides a humorous account of his trials and errors when trying to plant bushes and vines that were to serve as a barrier to the outside world.

The focus of Roberts’ wit and sarcasm are those “persons who write whimsical pieces for the papers, giving readers the idea that a farmhouse can be remodeled as cheaply and as easily as one can buy a second-hand automobile.”  The implicit target of his humor and sarcasm, though, is himself and his sometimes futile attempts at growing greenery with the ease promised by the experts in the nurserymen’s annuals.  Roberts tells of his battle with unruly hedges (the Laurel-leaf Willow), stout snout beetles that were to ants as cows are to humans, and fruitless fruit trees.  Roberts most trying battle was with the bittersweet vines. 

In the case of my vines…the tip of each bittersweet tendril acts as a summer resort for innumerable aphids; and when these tips rest against a painted surface, the aphids leave unsightly smudges on it – smudges that can be obliterated only with two coats of paint.

The tendrils are long and springy.  When pruned, they sway convulsively, slapping the pruner across the mouth with tips heavily populated with aphids. As a result, for every five minutes spent by the pruner on bittersweet vines, he spends five hours removing aphids from himself…

Roberts search for solitude, then, seemed elusive while at Stall Hall considering his battles with encroaching golfers and neighbors, and the endless pursuit for the perfectly behaving greenery.

Roberts' study opened into the walled garden. These two spots best encapsulate Roberts and his passions. Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw.

When Roberts built Rocky Pastures, though, he succeeded in finding his long sought-for solitude by having his study surrounded by a walled garden.  Though the walled garden is now more of a walled courtyard, one can only imagine the greenery and flowers adording the walled garden, easily viewable from Roberts’ study.  In my opinion, these two spots – more than any other at Rocky Pastures (except the duck pond) – encapsulate Kenneth Roberts the man, especially his passions.

Roberts’ hard-earned solitude was not easily gained though, as recounted above.  In addition to his yearly battle with nature, Roberts had to fight yearly with Stall Hall itself…

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: A Shout Out to an Old Friend

Wow.  At the risk of sounding repetitive, I am amazed at how much has been sitting in the hopper since April 2011 that I just forgot about.  Russ Grimm from the blog My Military History has been a rather helpful friend to this blog since its inception.  Today I saw his numerous comments providing links to old newspaper and magazine archives that discuss Kenneth Roberts and his works in his contemporary setting.  Say what you will about Google, but they have made research easier when it comes to research.

KennethRoberts on Rogers' Rangers in MilwaukeeJournal-Aug271942

Take this article, for instance, written on August 27, 1942 by the Milwaukee Journal in which they take parts of Kenneth Roberts’ account of how Roger’s rangers were formed as a way of explaining a new special unit of soldiers being formed in the US forces.  This unit, designed to “strike swiftly, silently, and efficiently,” took their name from Rogers’ Rangers; the new, modern rangers, then, were not something new, but a unit that adopted and adapted a method of warfare almost two centuries old – a method well documented in Roberts’ research and in his novel Northwest Passage

I definitely have my work cut out for me now, as I have a treasure trove in Google’s news archives to find old articles written on Roberts.  The timing, though, isn’t the best…I have a seminar paper to write, but I’d rather be wading through news archives…Again, Russ, thank you very much for your help!  (See also his most recent post in which he provides links on the Battle of Cowpens, which happens to be the subject and title of Roberts’ last book, The Battle of Cowpens, which was published posthumously.)

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: “Laudator Temporis Acti ” on K.R. and Beans

Since bringing this blog out from hibernation, I’ve noticed that I have some posts that have been sitting in the hopper for almost 2 1/2 years.  One I thought worthy of bring forth is mention of a blog post from Michael Gilleland’s Laudator Temporis Acti  in which a brief list is given of the number of instances Kenneth Roberts wrote on baked beans, ranging from his writings of his grandma’s kitchen in Good Maine Food, to his essay titledAn Inquiry into Diets, and throughout his various novels.

Kenneth Roberts was unashamedly fond of food, particularly his grandmother’s food, which seemed to be his standard for anything he ate. He loved his grandmother’s ketchup (“I became almost a ketchup drunkard; for when I couldn’t get it, I yearned for it.” “Grandma’s Kitchen in The Kenneth Roberts’ Reader).  He even gave detailed instructions on how she made the ketchup. 

Roberts was also fond of his grandmother’s baked beans (the subject of Gilleland’s post), for which he provides instructions on how to prepare.  He introduces the instructions with the following:

To bake one’s own beans, in these enlightened days of canned foods, is doubtless too much trouble, particularly if the cook wishes to spend her Saturday afternoons motoring, playing bridge, or attending football games (“Grandma’s Kitchen”)

Roberts’ sharp wit and dry sense of humor extends beyond the current events of his day to food and its preparation!  Interestingly, while appreciation for Roberts’ work in historical fiction has waned over the years (with exceptions, of course), it seems the web is abuzz over Roberts’ writings on food.  Hopefully one’s exposure to Roberts’ writings on food opens their eyes to his other works.

Rocky Pastures: Kenneth Roberts’ Secluded Hideaway – Sort Of

Rocky Pastures' entrance gates. Courtesy Paula Robinson-Rossouw

Rocky Pastures is nesteled in the woods of Southern Maine, offering privacy and seclusion from the masses for Kenneth Roberts – or so he thought.  According to the editor of The Kenneth Roberts Reader, Nelson Doubleday, the driveway leading to Roberts’ home is half a mile long.  This driveway, however, was not enough to deter vacationers and curious fans, so Roberts installed two directionboards.  According to Doubleday, one sign read “PRIVATE: DEAD END ROAD, NARROW AND DANGEROUS: PLEASE DON’T TRESPASS,” and the other read “NOT A PUBLIC ROAD” (Kenneth Roberts Reader, viii n. 2). 

Unfortunately for Roberts, the long driveway and the ominous directionboards did not work.  Doubleday tells us that “Ken says cynically that summer vacationists persistently ignore both signs” (Kenneth Roberts Reader, viii n. 2).   While it may seem ironic that Rocky Pastures will soon be visited by many people, Paula Robinson-Rossouw says that:

Given his very dry sense of humor, I’m sure Kenneth Roberts would have appreciated the irony of his sanctuary being opened to the public for the first time! What he disliked most about idle sightseers was the fact that they disturbed his intensive writing schedule, but he did open the grounds of Rocky Pastures once to demonstrate Henry Gross’s water dowsing skills. I’m sure Kenneth Roberts would be happy to know that his beautiful estate is helping to raise funds for the Kennebunkport Historical Society. After all, history was his great passion – along with dowsing.

Personally, I was not aware that Roberts had opened up his home to visitors at one time, but knowing how much he believed in Henry Gross’ ability, this makes sense.  What also makes sense is Roberts’ intense writing and research schedule, which explains his desire for seclusion from idle sightseers.  I wonder, though,  if the directionboards are still standing alongside the driveway to Rocky Pastures…

Rocky Pastures: Design Show House Info

On June 23-July 14, the Kennebunkport Historical Society will be hosting a Design Show House at Kenneth Roberts’ estate, Rocky Pastures.  According to the website for the show, this is the first time the estate has been opened to the public.  Various designers will be designing the rooms of Roberts’ house.  The cost per person to view the estate is $20.  The tickets are available through the Society, the Kennebunk /Kennebunkport Chamber of Commerce and the Nonantum Resort. 

If you’re up to an evening gala on the grounds of Rocky Pastures, then join the Society on Friday evening, June 22 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $75 per person and $60 per person for Society members. For tickets, call the Society at 967-2751 or email kporths@roadrunner.com All gala tickets must be pre-purchased (information from the Designer Show House website).

There wil also be guest speakers during the public viewing (see the Designer Show House website for dates and speakers).

All in all, this is a great opportunity for not only Kenneth Roberts fans, but history buffs as well.  The house, though for sale, is currently privately owned and went through a major renovation in 2006, so the estate is in great condition and looks very much like when Roberts lived there.   Though built in 1938, the house has an old-world feel to it and is located in a beautiful, wooded area near a duck pond.  Visiting Rocky Pastures, then, will be like a step back in time for history buffs and an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Maine for any who appreciate natural beauty.

Take the opportunity to visit the Facebook page for the Design Show House at: https://www.facebook.com/DesignerShowHouse.  And while you’re at it, join the Kenneth Roberts fan page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/76921638924/

Rocky Pastures: A New Series of Posts

Rocky Pastures. Courtesy Paula Robinson-Rossouw

One of Kenneth Roberts lasting legacies is his Kennebunkport, Maine estate, Rocky Pastures – a beautifull, sprawling estate nestled in the woods and far enough away from the main roads to keep the curious onlookers away (if I recall correctly, Kenneth Roberts stated his annoyance at those who would still make their way to his home, as if the long driveway and a sign he’d placed along the way was not  hint enough that he’d rather have privacy than visitors).  Several times I have posted on Rocky Pasture’s being put up for sale, and recently it has attracted attention from Paula Robinson-Rossouw, a designer (see here) taking part in an upcoming public show at Rocky Pastures.

Paula has proven to be a great friend to this website and a great contact regarding the current goings on at Rocky Pastures.  Since I live about a 24 hour’s drive from Kennebunkport, she has willingly sent over some pictures of Rocky Pastures she’s recently taken, and will send over some pictures of the interior of the house after it’s ready for the show.  As such, I’ll be doing a short series of posts of these pictures so you can see what the estate looks like (and if you’re interested in buying it, see here!).  I hope that I can provide some anecdotes from Roberts’ life along with some of these pictures as well.

In addition to the pictures, I will also be passing along information to the Designer Show House (dates, times, Facebook page, etc.) as I receive the information.  If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comment section and someone will answer your question.  I will make another post after this one with some basic information about the Designer Show House taking place at Rocky Pastures.

With that said, let me pass along a picture Paula sent along of a water fountain in the walled garden of Rocky Pastures as it is today:

Here are Paula's dogs in the spot where Kenneth Roberts posed with his dogs 73 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson-Rossouw)

Now, here is a picture of Roberts with his dogs in the same part (but notice there’s a fountain in the spot) with his dogs.  I think it’s funny that, unlike Paula’s dogs, it seems Kenneth Roberts’ dogs want nothing to do with the photo shoot!

Kenneth Roberts posing with his dogs by the fountain in the walled garden of Rocky Pastures. Courtesy "Vintage Maine Images" and the Maine Historical Society
http://www.vintagemaineimages.com/bin/Detail?ln=1381

I will post more on the Design Show House shortly.  Stay tuned!

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