Ask PC Abby

A compendium of problems and oddities that arise while living life in a little town...
Let us know what you think. Maybe someone has the answer and wants to share it.

Send your e-mail to and we'll put your question right here.

Summer 2019

PC Abby takes a stab at all questions but one - do not ask "Who is PC Abby."

Dear PC Abby:
 I think I remember seeing "alternate" driving instructions on this web site some years ago. Where are they now?

Dear Just Passing Through:
You are correct. And like a lot of other things that just get put down someplace, we think they wandered off and can't be found. As best we can remember they went something like this:

From the West: (Albany, Pittsfield, etc.) Travel along Route 2 heading toward Boston. When you reach Orange, STOP. Turn around. Go back. You've come too far.

From the East: (Boston) Travel West on Route 2. When you reach Route 495, turn North until you get to route 93. Take Route 93 North. Call us when you get here. Follow the signs and remember to pack your toothbrush.



Dear PC Abby

Russian doping? Performance enhancing drugs? In Curling? Seriously? Is that even a thing?


Dear Icey

Please don't get your water hot about those pesky Russians. Abby Avers that you might fog up your glasses. Last we knew, liberal quantities of alcohol were the only performance enhancing drug needed to be a curler. But never mind. One can pop into the Petersham Curling Club this fall and get the whole lowdown on why grownup people like to slide rocks on ice.

PC Abby

Dear PC Abby

Watching the news I began to worry whether my vote in the next election might get hacked. I want my vote to be counted. Should I be concerned?

Registered Voter

Dear RV

Never fear. You can vote in confidence here. Go to the polls with no worries except about the outcome. A poll worker will hand you a paper ballot. Make your mark and turn it in. Another poll worker will hand crank the paper  into the ballot box. After the polls are closed, each ballot is counted by hand. by people you may know. At least our local results are guaranteed to be safe from the cyber criminals out there.

PC Abby

Dear PC Abby

My grandfather used to say not to pull up the garden weeds. "It only disturbs the roots of the good plants." Risking my reputation at the community garden I took his advice happily and along with vegetables, grew a crop of knotweed and other leafy intruders.

Last summer, when I went out to pick the Japanese beetles off the potato plants, I found plenty of them -- all munching happily on the pink knotweed and none in the potato patch.

What do you think about that?

The Weedy Gardener

Dear WG

Abby avers that balance and cooperation can indeed be found in nature. Perhaps you should share this bit of intelligence with your gardening friends... Oh, perhaps you just did.

PC Abby

Dear PC Abby

Now that everything is green   in our yard we notice there is a profusion of this green plant growing everywhere. It is about 12 inches tall and it seems to crowd out everything else that grows. What is it? Can it be got rid of?

Mr. Bishop

Dear Mr. (Aptly named as it turns out) Bishop

Abby suspects that you are referring to ground elder or Bishop's weed, aka herb gerard, goutweed, and snow-in-the-mountain. Like you, Abby encountered this stuff only in Petersham and has spent the better part of 40 years trying to make it go away.

Bob Clark reports that his father brought this stuff to town and shared it with his many friends as an excellent ground cover. It surely is that. Each year, Abby sends occasional e-mails to Mr. Clark including recipes for soups and more in hopes that if we all eat enough of this stuff, we might defeat it. No luck with that so far and none either with mowing, chopping, various toxic herbicides, mulch and black plastic. Nor with All of the above. It just doesn't go away.

Wikipedia says: Aegopodium podagraria readily spreads over large areas of ground by underground rhizomes. Once established, the plants are highly competitive, also in shaded environments, and can reduce the diversity of ground cover, and prevent the establishment of tree and shrub seedlings. Because of its limited seed dispersal ability, short-lived seed bank and seedling recruitment, the primary vector for dispersal to new areas are human plantings as an ornamental, medicinal or vegetable plant, as well as by accidentally spreading rhizomes by dumping of garden waste. It spreads rapidly under favorable growing conditions.[3] Because of this it has been described as a nuisance species,[4] and been labeled one of the "worst" garden weeds in perennial flower gardens.

Once established, goutweed is difficult to eradicate. The smallest piece of rhizome left in the ground will quickly form a sturdy new plant.


Dear PC Abby

I read on the website that the local Grange has tilled the community garden already. Does this mean it is time to plant things?

Ms. Green Thumbs at the Ready

Dear MGTatR

Please, please, let's not rush this thing lest our tender seedlings freeze to death in the night. At least wait for the black flies to get back from wherever they go for the winter. The common New England wisdom is that Memorial Day is the best time for planting things in the garden. "After all danger of frost is past" appears on almost every seed packet and there is a reason for that. Click Here  to see what Mother Earth News has to say about this. After all, they do say that Mother knows best.




My parents recently mentioned that there was a B&B on the Petersham town common that they wanted to stay in, but I’m not sure the name of it. Could you please help? Thanks!


Hello to you too, Kirsten. Thanks for asking.

Glad to help.  That was Winterwood, now a private home again. Mark & Deni Ellis are  open  at their B&B, Clamber Hill, just a mile further north. And if you like herbs, try Hartman's Herb Farm B&B on Old Dana Road in Barre


Dear PC Abby:

How come the restaurant page has a review of a restaurant in Miami? That ain't anywhere near the North Quabbin area. What's up with that?


Dear WHA: wanders far and wide. So do other folks from around these parts. And when we go, we take our tummies and our appetites along. So go to Miami and find The Big Fish. Expand your horizons. You'll be glad you did. Send us your own reviews.

The Letter That Started All This So Long Ago

Trash Colors Clash with Kitchen Decor

Dear PC Abby:

I have just re-done my kitchen in a lovely harvest color scheme. Now I find that the new Blue bags we will have to use for our trash really clash with my lovely window treatments. Are they going to allow a choice of colors? Will I have to re-do my kitchen? Please help.

J.B., Petersham

And the Answer

Dear J.B. - The Transfer Station switched from Orange Bag Stickers to Bright Blue bags to ensure that everyone pays for using the dump. If the colors really clash, maybe you could stick the bags in a closet or something so they'll be out of sight until Saturday when the dump is open. PS We agree with you about the color.
PC Abby

This is an opportunity that is open to all. Send your information to or post it in the community calendar.


Dear PC Abby,

Don't you think it's just horrible the way they are trying to build windmills everywhere? I mean, how are we going to  enjoy the view if they do that - like out there by Martha's Vinyard? I compost and bring my groceries home in a net bag every week but this is just terrible. Someone has to STOP this.


Dear Eco,

Abby thinks you should go out and see if a wheel has fallen off your hay wagon. Or go to Europe and see for yourself. There are windmills quietly making electricity every few miles all across North Central Germany. You did e-mail your question. You do read after dark, right? Pay attention. The permafrost is melting, the water is rising. It's way past time that we were doing something more than taking a few plastic bottles to the recycling bin. A lot more.


Dear PC Abby: What's wrong with leasing the plywood ranch in Petersham Center to the Country Hen of Hubbardston?  TR

Dear TR: Well, I never... How can you be so flip about such a serious attempt to do good? We don't know where you live, but it is clearly not on The Common. Who could imagine it? Turn a big thing into a big stinky thing by filling it with chickens? What, the Hilltop Town should become chickentown US of A? We think not!

Truly, the former Nichewaug Inn, now boarded up with plywood covering its windows, is a huge project without a clear path to anyplace. It could become a millstone. But a chicken coop?  No. Even organic eggs wouldn't cover the cost of renovations. But thanks for your interest. Actually, if anyone has a viable idea, we encourage them to put it forth. Heaven knows, now that all of us own the place, we do need to do something.


Dear PC Abby:

Has anyone ever considered making an Arboretum and public gardens where the Nichewaug Inn and the old school building now exist? Grant money is available for this purpose. I would really like to have a few opinions from the abutters.


Dear Thekla:

PCAbby avers that the future of the Nichewaug Inn is a critical element of town policy making - now that we own it. 30 years of failed private efforts to find a viable use is not encouraging of the prospect that a public entity will do much better at coming up with a viable use. Deeper pockets? Taxes are already significant. Suggestions to date have included some sort of town office and public safety complex or a couple of house lots. The Selectboard created a task force, but nothing much came of that. The windows are boarded up for safety sake. Perhaps you want to ring up the Select folks and suggest a solution? Surely, some heriloom roses or whatever would be a lovely addition and done right, might even bolster tourism? Please do ask the abutters - the outcome will affect them most directly and they certainly deserve a role in the process.


Dear PC Abby

I visited Petersham about 3 years ago hoping to find some information about my ancestors who were living in Petersham in the mid 1800's. Your historical society was closed and after looking through your cemeteries and finding two graves of my ancestors I had to continue on my trip. Is there still a viable historical society in Petersham? I have not been able to find one listed on the web.
Thanks for any help you can give.
Linda, La Canada, California

Hello Linda from Canada - and Thanks for visiting.

Jim Baird is president of the Historical Society 978-724-3430 and Larry Buell is major domo of all things historic
978-724- 3448 or through

Dear PC Abby,
Thought I'd start here as I'm trying to trace some of my relatives. The only info I have is that Samuel Holbrook married Harriet Hamilton on 26 April 1826 in Petersham Ma. I am trying to fill in the blanks as to her parents etc. Who would I contact in Petersham? I do know they had a son (among other children) Joseph who was my great Grandfather. Thanks so much
Susan Kast

Dear Susan: Larry Buell has become our local history expert. Perhaps he can help get you started. or should get to him. Jim Baird is president of the historical society and is likely in the phone book. Good luck in your search and thanks for visiting

Hey PCAbby: I have a question

Dear PCAbby:

My friend and I were at a recent weekend event and we saw a local farm selling gently raised turkeys. Now, we like to support all that Local Hero and Buy Local stuff, but when we asked, it turned out that these turkeys were selling for about $3.20 a pound. Kind of makes you want a Butterball, doesn't it?
B & R

Dear BRrrrrr. (oops, the key got stuck)

It was sort of chilly over the weekend and yes, with regular - whatever that means - turkeys available for under a buck a pound, you raise an excellent question. The Solar People, the Bio-Diesel people and the Grow Locals must have all been brought up on the same farm. I don't know where they think the rest of us come from, but the prices they'd like to charge are often eye-poppers. Eggs in the supermarket are less than $1.50 a dozen. Can we afford to pay $2.50 to $6.00 for local and/or organic?  Nine dollars a pound f or chicken wings?  You'd think with no transportation in the mix, they could do better. A lot better.

PC Abby

Dear PC Abby:
Sometimes, as we come close to the end of the year, we have to consider adjusting our federal tax forms by making donations to charities. Is there any way to find out what non for profits are local so we can consider making donations to local causes and activities?
ANON - Petersham

Dear Anon
PC Abby is here to help, as always. Click on over to This Page to see a list of Petersham-based not for profits. The list seems fairly complete but we didn't find the Petersham Branch Alliance registered anywhere. We have also added the names of three organizations that are based elsewhere but have significant properties or activities in town.

Waiting for Godot? Or Perhaps a Customer Service Representative

Dear PC Abby:

I just spent most of an hour waiting on hold to speak to a customer service representative. Not the way I want to spend my remaining time on this planet. Do you have any suggestions?

Frustrated to say the least

Dear F

Abby does have a suggestion or two. Abby avers that at $10 or $12 an hour, the folks who run call centers could easily afford to add more staff to speed things up. Failing that, Abby suggests that every one could decide to retaliate by asking for the offending companies' billing address. Send them a bill for your time on hold - your time on this planet is valuable. Abby suggests your time might be worth $75 an hour - perhaps more. And do not accept the answer that the company does not have a billing address. They surely do. Maybe that will get their attention.

PC Abby

A Rose by Any Other Name?

Dear PC Abby:

Silly question but maybe you can put an end to this debate I have going on. What is the correct pronunciation of Petersham? Peter-sam Peter-sham Peters-ham? I grew up in Worcester County and have always pronounced the town Petersam – silent H. Lately I hear Peter”sham” repeatedly and wonder if I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all my life. Thanks for ending the debate!


Dearest Kim,

PCAbby is willing to explore the question and perhaps so shed some light, but we aver that if there truly is a debate, we may not put an end to it in this space. Pronunciation of place names can be tricky business. We understand, for example, that the natives in BERlin, MA changed the way they say BERln to set themselves apart from that formerly divided city in Germany berLIN.

Nothing so dramatic here, perhaps, but if one were to be strictly guided by our antecedents in Surrey in the UK, then we've got it all wrong. Residents of Petersham, Surrey, near Ham and Richmond, enunciate the Peter and then sort of mush up the ending as shmmm yielding PETERSHMMm wherein the H is clearly pronounced and the A sort of vanishes; i.e. Petershum. It's a lovely village and Petersham Road runs right through it and the common is a large grazing area. Many of the homes are massive, stately Victorians.

That same pronunciation can be heard in Petersham Sydney, Australia, although that community is an urban suburb, a bustling place with its own train station and a college of technical and further education.

Here at home, the issue becomes somewhat more complicated as we locals depart entirely from the British inflections and, Abby suspects, use what we hear to determine who lives here and who is from out of town. Peter-SHAM with a strong SH, usually indicates that the speaker is from out of town. One supposes the local listener may derive some sense of satisfaction from the knowledge. Secret handshakes anyone?

There is also a baseball cap emblazoned with the legend "There is no Sham in Peters-ham." Abby avers that softening the H, therefore, is always a good strategy. Peter-sham would likely be the least desirable choice. The more languid Peter's-Ham works well enough so long as one does not push too hard on the H.


Dear PC Abby,
While going through some bags at the transfer station, my wife found some salacious correspondence between some married, but not to each other, residents of Petersham. The problem is that we can't figure out who they are. They used pet names for each other. Is there some way Petersham could require that names be written on trash bags? It would make solving this and other interesting fact-finding missions at the transfer station a lot more fun.

Oh, Dear, Oh Dear, DEAR HP. Oh Dear.

What ever could you mean? How delish! Small towns like ours have always, always provided titillating grist for naughty rumors. Why, PCAbby avers that one could write a novel... Oh, but that HAS been done, hasn't it? One's Victorian prurience could well become excited. Why, the trash bags could be brimming with -- but perhaps one ought not to go there. Does the Board of Health not have a regulation protecting the privacy of bags in the dumpster? Does the "Logistics Engineer" not hover jealously over the precious contents of the bins? But THAT is a different subject entirely and for another day. Oh, but we DO go on. Lest we forget? Perhaps Best We Forgo Further Speculation. Why, how gritty, how interesting were these missives? Pet names? Snuggums? Bootsie? But no. PCAbby sagely counsels you to consign the documents to the woodstove and let this dog lie sleeping through these last few cold winter nights till spring.


Dear PC Abby:

My car is a few years old but is fairly new to me. Last week, as I was leaving the Friday Market, an indicator l ight came on that I had never seen before. I was a bit alarmed. It said "Passenger Airbag Off." I wondered if something was broken. What do you s uppose caused that?

Faithful Friday Market Fan

Dearest FFMF

PC Abby avers that we know more about produce than auto repair but we do  have a clue to your worry. Not to worry, dear. Some older model cars have a sensor in the seat to remind you (and your passengers) to buckle up to be safe. Newer models solve the reminder problem differently. When there is no passenger, there is no reminder. Did you have a passenger? If not, Abby wonders what  you purchased at the market. Produce? Baked goods? Perhaps you purchased a pumpkin and set it on the seat? If so, the auto thought the seat belt should be engaged, if not faithfully married. So there you go. Some times a pumpkin is a passenger. At most other times, a pumpkin is just a pumpkin. We'll see you at the market next Friday

PC Abby                                                                                     

Dear PC Abby.

What does the PC in PC Abby stand for? Politically Correct?

Lefty Liberal

Dear Lefty


PC Abby


Dear PC Abby,

I am so worried about all these viruses and earthquakes and big storms and the presidential election and the melting ice caps. What about the extinction of all those species? What is happening?

Can't Stop Thinking

Dear Can't Stop

Sometimes it would help if we could all hop on a plane and spew carbon footprints all over the atmosphere on the way to one of those climate summits in Macao but someone has to stay home and mind the store. So relax. There is good news just in from the North Atlantic. Those schools of gluten are rebounding nicely since we stopped eating them and adding their stuff to everything in sight. Go ahead, check the packages. Even Vodka and bottled water can be "gluten free" these days. Isn't that just the best news ever?

So you see? Abby avers that mother nature has a long record of taking care of herself -- and us. Pull up the covers. Sleep well.

PC Abby

Dear PC Abby,

Not to poke the bear but.........any updates on the Nichewaug Inn?If so, where can I obtain this information? I have been a long time admirer of this property and am concerned about this "grand lady's" welfare.  I am sure that everyone is grateful for any attempts or efforts made by these people to save this property.


Dear April:

Abby grows weary of this. But to update... Thanks for asking. Yes there was a Task Force (long defunct but you can read their 2009 report to the town HERE) and a newer Nichewaug Property Committee. Now a consultant from greater Boston is in town and will get $25,000 to study all the options and make suggestions.

Some ideas have included tearing the place down and putting in an orchard  (seriously?), tear the place down and sell it as three house lots (really?), or tear the place down and put in a new municipal office/public safety complex (and how much would THAT cost?). Abby detects a trend here -- and a very real deficit of imagination.

Abby avers that other historic places in a lot worse shape have been saved (Union Station in Worcester and Wentworth by the Sea to name just two).  Restoring the inn would preserve an historic feature of our town common, could actually pay taxes and would contribute to business activity at the Country Store.

For more information email - There is a Facebook page here


The "Old Maid's Mile" 

Dear PC Abby
An article in the Barre Gazette reported that the July 4th parade in Petersham would be traveling the "old maid's mile." What is that? 
Dave in Holliston

Dear Dave: You raise more than a single interesting question. Among those, What is someone from Holliston doing with a copy of the Barre Gazette? 

But, to your point, The Old Maid's Mile is the distance (REPUTED TO BE A MILE) along West Street, Hardwick Road, Spring Street and Main Street starting at, say, the Unitarian church and going west, south, east and north back to the church. It is sort of like a large "block" with not much in the middle. When next we see our able local historian, Larry Buell, we'll ask "Who was that Old Maid anyway?" and get back to you with the info.


Dear PCAbby

How many 50-pound school children does it take to fill up a 57-passenger school bus?

Just Wondering

Dear JW

We have often wondered the very same thing. When school gets out here, and in other communities, rolling yellow behemoths from another era line up outside the doors and sometimes as few as a half-dozen children climb aboard for the ride home. Worse, in Paxton center the other day one bus stopped four times to drop children at their doors between the town common and the Dunkin' Donuts -- a distance of about a quarter mile. Is walking a forgotten art?

I does seem that with the high price of fuel today that someone ought to be figuring out how to move children back and forth to school more economically. Maybe someone from the school committee could explain?

PCABBYburning up scarce petroleum in our haste.

Dear PC Abby:

Please help. I am at my wits end. I have been trying all afternoon to get the woodstove going. My wood pile got snowed on. I've used up about a dozen copies of Quabbin Valley Voices with no luck. What's my problem?


Dear Spunkster: Don't fret so. Sometimes combustion just isn't so spontaneous as one might wish. Why I could tell you stories... but I digress. Getting the stove going requires only two things, well, three, really - heat, air and a fuel source. You might be right about the wood. Is it punky, spunky? It wants to be as dry as the journals you are igniting to get things going. (And aren't we all so glad that newspapers have not completely disappeared yet?) Newsprint - even with typos - burns ever so much better than those slippery four-color slick Martha Stewart Living magazines. And there are stacks of the stuff right by the door at Hannafords, free for the taking. Wet (or green) wood is not good. Make sure the air can get in and around your sticks. Patience is sometimes required. Bring your wood in under cover. All will be well. And if all else fails, just grit your teeth and turn up the oil heat if you can stand wondering why $3.10 a gallon and climbing is OK with those folks down in Washington Abby avers that we could use some backbone there -- and a tax on the speculators who are to blame for all of this. Be of good cheer, reports of the first Robin cannot be far off.


Hi PC Abby,
My boyfriend and I have been to Petersham a few times to look at houses for sale. We're dying to know what the huge, empty, shingled building (with the brick building behind it) on the town common used to be. We would love if your answer could solve the mystery for us.
Thank you,

Gotta Know

Dear Gotta:

You strain Abby's usual unflappable composure, dear, but that is hardly your fault. Thanks for visiting. The building to which you refer could be considered a White Elephant of monstrous proportions. It is the former Maria Assumpta Academy and the former Nichewaug Inn, all rolled into a moldering property that has stood silent for three decades. Ten years ago now, town fathers and a friendly group of concerned citizens convinced voters to agree to take over the property.  I guess they figure the town could come up with a plan where private interests have consistently failed to do so for 30 years. Some hoped they were right, but apparently not so much. It is what you want it to be, but it is by some accounts 100,000 square feet of once asbestos-laden outdated building in pretty bad shape.

PC Abby

Hi PC Abby

I am looking for information on the Maronite Monastery of the Holy Trinity that is or was located in Petersham Mass. I would like to know if it is still in existence or not. If it is still around I would like an address and phone number. If it is still inexistence but changed its name I would like that or if it moved to a different locale. Also is it an actual monastery or a convelescant home etc. Thank you for any information you may have


Hello Tab: Thanks for asking. All the words you need to know are right here on the web.


Dear PCAbby:
I'm certain you know that out here in the country we sometimes have unwanted visitors.  If they are small animals, a HavAHart trap can be a pretty good solution. But what if a skunk wanders into the trap?
Worried in P'ham

Dear Worried:

Worry no longer -- PCAbby, long-time Internet maven, found the answer in the FAQs on the HavAHart web site. Follow the instructions below -- exactly. We did -- twice -- and two of our nocturnal visitors have been safely relocated. Please note: This approach does NOT work with bears

1.       What should I do if I catch a skunk? It is best to prevent any undue annoyance to the skunk then there will be no need to fear any obnoxious odor! First, find an old cloth, towel or sheet that will be used to cover the trap. Next, approach the trap cautiously holding the trap covering in front of you. Make sure that this covering extends to the ground while holding it - don't let the skunk see your feet coming as this may alarm him. When you're close enough to the trap, gently cover the trapped animal--trap and all. Since skunks are nocturnal, den-dwellers this covering will help to calm him. He may even curl up in a corner of the trap if given a few minutes to relax. After that, the covered cage can be lifted by the handle and the skunk transported to a safer place and released.  

We do suggest that transporting the varmint can best be accomplished in an open vehicle like a pickup truck. It is also wise to keep Fido in the dog house during the first part of this exercise. Skunks often react, well, like skunks, when barked at.