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Travel Essentials

Amtrak Empire Service between Albany, Hudson or Rhinecliff, NY and Penn Station, NYC.

Amtrak 449 Lake Shore Limited between Pittsfield and South Station, Boston.

Bard Bus and Shuttle  On select summer weekends, Bard offers round-trip bus service from Manhattan’s Lincoln Center directly to the Fisher Center, exclusively for performance ticket holders: $30 round-trip. Reservations are required. Box dinners can be ordered in advance for $10. Bard also offers shuttle service from and to the Poughkeepsie Metro-North train station for select performances: $10 each way.

Mega-bus between Albany and Ridgewood, N.J. and Penn Station, NYC.

Metro-North Railroad between Wassaic, Dover Plains, or Poughkeepsie, NY and Harlem (125th Street)  or Grand Central Station, NYC.

Peter Pan Bus Lines  Boston/Albany route serving Albany, Great Barrington, *Lee, Lenox, *Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Williamstown, and Boston South Station and Boston Logan Airport  (*greater frequency, better fares). NYC/Williamstown route serving Williamstown, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, MA, or Canaan, CT and Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC.

Roosevelt Ride Free Shuttle  Free round-trip shuttle service daily (summer through October) from the Poughkeepsie train station to Hyde Park, Val-Kil, the Vanderbilt Mansion, Top Cottage, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum so Metro-North train passengers can tour historic sites without a car. For reservations and tour info, call the Wallace Visitor Center: 845-229-5320.

Weather Underground
The radar is especially useful for tracking snow, sleet and thunderstorms.

Gas Prices
The price of gas at many of the stations in your zip code and those immediately surrounding it.

Kitchens For A Cause: The 12th Annual NWCT Kitchen Tour

If you’re looking for pie-in-the-sky kitchen design ideas, you can read scores of shelter magazines, watch endless HGTV programs, and tour pristine kitchen showrooms. But the best way to accumulate ideas for redoing your own kitchen is snooping around other people’s houses to see where they’ve hidden the recycling bins and where they’ve put the sinks (yes, no self-respecting kitchen has just one sink anymore). Whether you’re thinking about resale value or just your own needs for cooking and entertaining with ease, the 12th annual Kitchen Tour of Northwest Connecticut offers five private kitchens to visit on Saturday, November 1. The tour raises funds for the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society, which provides the backing so that students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School can produce a full-fledged musical (The Boy Friend, March 19 - 21, 2015), because unlike the fictional high school on the TV show Glee, there’s not enough money in the public school budget to support musical theater as an extra-curricular activity.

The five kitchens on the tour — which covers Sharon and Lakeville — each displays a uniquely inspiring approach to the “heart of the home.” They include: new construction that incorporates genuine period pieces and details; artist Ellen Griesedieck’s vibrant interpretation that includes a bonus tour of her art studio; a Victorian home with a light-filled kitchen and a spectacular view; a 1929 farmhouse with hand-painted custom-built cabinets, marble countertops and vintage lighting; and a Colonial set on 32 acres, with a modern kitchen that includes a center island, plentiful prep areas, and an informal eating area. Local caterers and restaurants will be offering “nibbles” at each kitchen on the tour, local florists will create unique bouquets for each house, and a number of raffle prizes from area shops will be up for grabs.

Lori Belter, founder of the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society, says the fundraiser isn’t simply supporting a play, but an invaluable program that instills self-confidence in the students who participate in it. Athletes perform side by side with drama students, and, she says, “Students with very different interests come together and they form a bond.”

Housatonic Musical Theatre Society Kitchen Tour
Saturday, November 1; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets $40 (available online and at the Sharon Pharmacy, Salisbury General Store & Pharmacy, and Kent Apothecary)

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 10/20/14 at 12:11 PM • Permalink

It’s Baaaaack: The New York State Sheep & Wool Festival

October 18 & 19 in Rhinebeck
Rural Intelligence Road TripsA few years ago, a friend of mine bought a 200-year-old manor house near the Hudson River with an impenetrable, overgrown meadow, and he decided that keeping goats might be the most efficient, ecological and economical way to clear and maintain the land.  He knew nothing about goats so he persuaded me to accompany him to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, which was as entertaining as it was educational. We toured the livestock area and met dozens of people who raise goats, and they were all full of tips about fencing, shearing and milking. So were the sheep owners and breeders who were justifiably proud of their beautiful animals that often had exotic pedigrees. “Are you looking for a fiber animal?” the exhibitors would say, making me aware of the distinction between animals raised only for their wool and those raised for food.

Rural Intelligence Road TripsIf you’ve been mulling the idea of getting some sheep to maintain your lawn and up your rural cred, the Sheep and Wool Festival is a must. You can find lots of folks who’ll advise you on what type of fences and outbuildings you’ll need and how to keep the animals’ water troughs from freezing during the winter. At the festival, my friend learned that he’d also have to get two gigantic Great Pyrenees to guard the Shetland sheep he was coveting. Apparently, coyotes like to dine on lamb.
 
 
Rural Intelligence Road TripsEven if you have no interest in keeping livestock, the festival makes for a wonderful outing; it’s part petting zoo and part holiday bazaar. If you knit, you can find skeins of every imaginable type of wool from suppliers like Red Hook’s Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool, and you can attend workshops in spinning and felt-making. And if you’re planning ahead for the holidays, you can buy handmade scarves, blankets, ponchos and mittens from dozens of vendors. And if you’re bringing children, the organizers suggest that the sheep dog trials, leaping lama contest, and canine Frisbee Demonstration will equally amuse the kids and adults. — Dan Shaw

New York State Sheep and Wool Festival
Dutchess County Fairgrounds
Rhinebeck, NY; 845.756.2323
October 18, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
October 19, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Admission: $12 (Two-day pass: $17)
Children under 12: Free

Free parking; no pets allowed.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/10/14 at 03:43 PM • Permalink

A Fall Foliage Drive: Millerton to Hudson, NY (or Vice Versa)

Not all scenic drives are created equal, and this bucolic 30-mile jaunt delivers enough smiles per mile to justify the gasoline you’ll use. The route, which connects Millerton and Hudson, is not only an insider’s shortcut between the two towns, but also a reminder that local agriculture is the key to preserving the rural landscape.

Rural Intelligence Road Trips



Though we started our drive in Millerton and ended at Olana, you can just as easily do this trip in reverse, concluding at the Harney & Sons Tea Lounge. The route is a rural cliche in the best sense, as along the way you can buy pumpkins and gourds, pick apples, shop for baked goods, and procure the last tomatoes and peaches of the season. You can even pick fall raspberries which, for some reason, are so much tastier than the ones you get in early summer. Best of all, you can revel in the vistas and fall foliage, and marvel that we reside in such an unspoiled land.






Begin at the intersection of Route 44 and Route 22 in Millerton. Head north on 22 and make your first left onto Route 60 (a.k.a. Winchell Mountain Road). When you reach the peak of the hill, there will be a cemetery on your left; make a right on Pulver Road, passing farmland and views of the Catskill Mountains in the distance.  Make a left at the fork onto County Route 60, which brings you into Ancramdale. If you need coffee and an egg sandwhich, stop at The Farmer’s Wife. Continue straight ahead on 82, which becomes Route 23 when you cross Route 9, continuing on until you reach Route 9G. Turn left onto 9G just before the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.


Millerhurst Gardens
This farm offers more than just the perfect background for family photos. The pumpkins and gourds here are in pristine condition and they are exceedingly well-priced, with extra large pumpkins you can barely lift at just $10 each.
3201 Rte. 82, Ancram; 518.329.2280




Rural Intelligence Road Trips

Thompson Finch Farm
Thompson-Finch is not hard to find; it’s the second right, Wiltsie Bridge Road, after you pass through Ancram. As of September 27, you could still pick organic raspberries on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but call first to double check availability or check their website for daily updates.
750 Wiltsie Bridge Rd., Ancram; 518.329.7578



Rural Intelligence Road TripsThe West Taghkanic Diner
Whether it’s early or late in the day, this vintage 1953 diner is always convenient (and affordable) for comfort food like grilled cheese and french fries. It’s not hyperbole to say this is as all-American as it gets and feels like an appropriate stop when on a long country drive.
1016 State Rte. 82, Ancram; 518.851.7117




Taconic Orchards
If your impulse is to bypass any place that looks like it was designed to appeal to tourists, you’ll drive right by the yellow barn that resembles a set director’s conception of a country store that you’d come upon on a Sunday drive in Columbia County. It’s exactly what you’d suspect, and Taconic Orchards has the aw-shucks feel of an old-time general store, with over 20 different varieties of apples, locally made cider, pies, apple fritters, fudge and a large variety of produce.
591 Rte. 82 Hudson; 518.851.7477


Fix Brothers Fruit Farm
Heading towards Olana, you will see a sign for “Fix Bros. Pick Your Own Apples.” Follow the arrows and you’ll pass acres and acres of orchards. This fourth-generation family farm has a wide variety of apples, including Macintosh, Cortland, Honey Crisp, Empire, Macoun and Jonagold. A corn maze and hay ride will keep the kids happy. And they’re open every day. 215 White Birch Rd., Hudson; 518.828.7560




Olana
If you want to tour the inside of the fantastical 19th-century Persian-style house, you have to call in advance and make a reservation. The owner and creator of Olana, the revered artist Frederic Church, created a landscape that makes the most of its hilltop setting, and the view down the Hudson looks like one of his famous paintings. It’s a magnificent vista any time of day, but never more so than just before sunset. 5720 Rte. 9G, Hudson; 518.828.0135

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 10/03/14 at 02:04 PM • Permalink

Autumn Outings: Harvest Festivals Across the Region

By Rachel Louchen

Oh summer, we hardly knew ye. After our never-ending winter, it felt like things finally were getting warm again. But if there’s one positive that comes with the return of cooler temps, it’s the abundance of harvest festivals and autumn activities in our region. Whether you want to go the traditional route with hay rides and apple pressing, or mix it up with some garlic ice cream, you have the best of three states to chose from.


Berkshire County

Hancock Shaker Village County Fair, Pittsfield
September 27 – 28, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
A bountiful festival featuring a farmers’ market, local and regional arts and crafts, horse-drawn wagon rides and agricultural demonstrations set against the perfect backdrop of the grounds at Hancock Shaker Village.

Lenox Apple Squeeze
September 27 – 28, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The two-day festival celebrates autumn in the Berkshires with a memorable street fair featuring food, rides, music and shopping, plus there will be crafts, artists and vendors all down Main Street.

Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Parade, North Adams
October 3 – 5, parade begins at 1 p.m.
A full weekend of events, culminating with the sizable Fall Foliage Parade. This year’s theme, “100th Anniversary of the Mohawk Trail,” celebrates the adventures people have experienced while hiking the trail over the last century, and pays homage to the culture it brings to our region. Other events over the weekend include a 5K race, children and dog parades and an all-you-can-eat breakfast.

Berkshire Botanical Harvest Fest, Stockbridge
October 11 – 12, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Celebrate the bounty at this annual festival that usually draws a huge turnout (up to 10,000) and offers events for all ages. Showcasing local arts and crafters and artisan food producers, the festival also brings in food trucks, runs a silent auction, entertainment, tag sale, country bazaar, used book sale, jewelry boutique, plant and bulb sale and farmers’ market. All proceeds support the educational programs at the Garden.

Berkshire Coaching Festival, Stockbridge and Lenox
October 11 – 13, times vary
This festival takes advantage of the beautiful foliage scenes in the Berkshires via horse-drawn carriages that pass through Stockbridge and Lenox. Departure locations are Shakespeare & Company on Saturday, October 11; the Norman Rockwell Museum on Sunday, October 12; and The Mount on Monday, October 13. The Gilded Age experience is further heightened by formal attire; men are encouraged to wear suits, and women can take the opportunity to try on the era in dresses and long skirts.



Columbia County

Chatham Farm and Art Tour
September 27, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Chatham Agricultural Partnership offers a glimpse into the life of a farmer with a full (free) day of local farm tours. The sixth annual event will have products available for purchase from farm stands; horses, alpacas, sheep and cattle will be present for children to enjoy; and some farms will offer special activities. New this year, the featured farms will exhibit artwork inspired by the beauty and vitality of farming life in Chatham. Farm locations vary.

FarmOn! Friends of the Farmer Hudson Valley Food Lovers Festival 2014, Copake
September 27, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The unique, experimental event (which also features a live performance from a Disney music artist) introduces attendees to food businesses from throughout the Hudson Valley. Celebrate local farms and food producers and take advantage of the best seasonal fruits and vegetables available. Eat, drink, enjoy a picnic, pet farm animals, try free samples and sign up for CSAs.

The Sylvia Center’s Fall Harvest Day And Community Potluck, Kinderhook
September 27, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Activities include pressing fresh cider, helping with garden projects, visiting with animals and horsing around on hay rides. Bring a dish for the potluck lunch or participate in the 11 a.m. cooking class and help the chefs prepare the meal on the farm using a wood-fired oven.

Hawthorne Valley Fall Festival, Ghent
October 12, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Celebrating its 20th year, the festival features events that are synonymous with the season: hay mazes and rides, apple cider pressing, pie baking, scarecrow making, pumpkin carving. There will also be a large selection of local foods, live music and an open house at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School.

Autumn in Austerlitz
October 12, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The day serves as a living history museum depicting the town of Austerlitz as it would’ve been in the 1830s. The 18th annual event features volunteers dressed in early 19th-century costumes, as well as antiques, live music, food, activities for children and craft vendors.



Litchfield County

Salisbury Fall Festival
October 10 – 12, Salisbury and Lakeville; times vary
In the twin villages of Salisbury and Lakeville, churches, local businesses and merchants participate in this harvest festival, which includes rummage sales, book sales, bread-making classes, a scarecrow contest, live music and hay rides for the kids. A highlight of the busy weekend is the pancake breakfast on Sunday morning at Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service.

Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival, Bethlehem
October 11 – 12, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Bethlehem Fairgrounds will hold this event that features garlic-centric cooking demonstrations, garlic-growing lectures, free samples and produce stands. The food court will have a huge variety of garlic dips, spreads, cheeses, oils, sausage, sandwiches – even deep-fried garlic and garlic ice cream.

Harvest Bounty Wine & Brew Fest, Litchfield
October 18, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Attendees can sample local and domestic craft beer and wine from more than a dozen vendors. There will also be food, indoor and outdoor settings with firepits, raffles, two live bands and free tasting glasses to the first 300 people.

Kent Pumpkin Run
October 26, 12 p.m.
The spectator-friendly five-mile race starts and finishes at the Kent Green and has offers music, refreshments, face painting and Halloween-themed fun. Everyone is invited to attend the post-race party along with the runners.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 09/19/14 at 12:08 PM • Permalink

Hudson River Valley Ramble Is More Than A Walk In The Park

Tour Innisfree Garden in Millbrook on September 27.

By Amy Krzanik

The 15th Annual Hudson River Valley Ramble is something of a misnomer, as it involves so much more than leisurely strolls. Occurring every Saturday and Sunday in September, the Ramble celebrates the trails, the river and the historic and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and National Heritage Area, which extends from Saratoga County to the Bronx. It includes guided walks of all types, but also encompasses fun runs and races for charity, hikes and bike tours, kayak and canoe trips, stargazing, bird watching and more.

Mark Castiglione, the acting executive director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway, says that the goal of the Ramble is to connect people with the resources and organizations in their area, so that they’ll become involved stewards of their surroundings. “We’re trying to connect people to the history of the land, because when people know about and appreciate the sites, they become advocates for them.”

Take a ramble to Bash Bish Falls on September 27.

Each year offers new events, so even if you’ve rambled before, it’s a great time to do it again. “Every year when I look at the Ramble booklet, I’m amazed by all the new things I didn’t know about,” Castiglione says. And an added bonus to touring sites at Ramble time, he says, is that “the tours are led by experienced guides who can orient you to the history of the landscape, which enhances the overall experience.” So you can walk away from an active and pleasant day knowing a lot more about the scenery than someone who goes it alone.

Ramble activities are held in 14 counties and feature more than 200 events in all, but here we’ll focus on a handful of Columbia and Dutchess County excursions to give you an idea of the broad range of events offered.

COLUMBIA COUNTY

September 13 Framing the Viewshed: Groundswell at Olana is a one-day art, nature, history and auditory experience rolled into one. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else, guaranteed. Read the recent RI article to learn more about what to expect.

September 20 In tandem with the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program, garden blogger Margaret Roach’s grounds will be open for touring, along with a rare plant sale held by Broken Arrow Nursery.

September 21 Join Dr. Willie Yee and Joe Macagne from the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association for a Night Under The Stars at Olana. Various sizes of telescopes will be provided to view the moon, comets and stellar clusters. Please pre-register by September 19 to (518) 828-1872, x109 or shasbrook@olana.org.

Cycle through the farmland of Dutchess and Columbia counties on Sept. 20.

September 27 See Lindenwald in a whole new light when you take a lantern lit journey of Martin Van Buren’s home with an NPS Park Ranger and learn about life after dark in the 19th century. Reservations required, (518) 758-9689.

September 27 Ramble through the Copake Iron Works to Bash Bish Falls and back. Learn more about what you’ll find at the Iron Works in this RI article.

DUTCHESS COUNTY

September 14 What You See and What You Don’t See: Enjoy a leisurely guided stroll through the grounds of Staatsburgh, which was designed in 1895 to showcase the good life in the Gilded Age, while deliberately hiding the technology and labor that made a turn-of-the-century estate run.

September 20 Farmland Cycling Tour: Energize with fresh donuts, cider and apples (courtesy of local farmers), then pedal through the rolling countryside of Dutchess and Columbia counties. After returning to Poets’ Walk, enjoy a fabulous lunch while listening to live music. If you don’t want to ride, join in anyway for a fun day in the park.

Hike through the apple orchard at Peach Hill Park in Poughkeepsie on September 28.

September 20 & 21 Revolutionary War Re-enactors Weekend: Re-enactors will have an Encampment on the grounds of the Van Wyck Homestead Museum all weekend with cooking, blacksmith and musket-firing demonstrations scheduled throughout the day. The homestead served as Officers’ Headquarters during the American Revolution. Guides will escort visitors to the Continental Army and Militia Soldiers burial ground located nearby, where an estimated 700-1,000 soldiers were buried, making it the largest Revolutionary War soldiers’ burial site in America.

September 27 Recognized as one of the “world’s ten best gardens,” Innisfree is a powerful icon of 20th-century landscape design. Join the Landscape Curator for a 90-minute tour exploring the garden, its rich history and its unique design.

September 28 During the Apple Cider Ramble, hike through the old apple orchard at Peach Hill Park and collect apples along the way. At the end of the hike, help press your apples into cider.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 09/08/14 at 08:49 PM • Permalink

Behold! New Lebanon Is A Living Museum Of Rural Life

By Lisa Green

We’re quite fond of our towns, villages and hamlets in the Rural Intelligence region. But let’s face it, some towns beg you to jump out of the car and explore their Main Street, while others seem more like drive-through towns. The rural New Lebanon, despite its presumptive cachet as a “Hudson Valley town” hasn’t been able to rev its economic engine the way, say, Hudson — its polar opposite less than 30 miles away — has. 

But that may be changing, and it won’t be by rehabbing historic buildings, bringing in big name chefs from the city or creating a design district (or any district, for that matter). It will be in the recognition that the heritage, agriculture, scenery, food, culture, arts, crafts of New Lebanon — in other words, the people who live there — have skills and experience to share with visitors.

That’s the mission behind Behold! New Lebanon, a living museum of today’s rural American life. Last weekend kicked off a series of four weekends this fall. Consider it a “choose your own adventure” in which you can go into the homes, farms, workshops and places of businesses of the people who are living successfully in rural America.

That might mean visiting a first-generation farmer and finding out why and how he’s harvesting 150 varieties of organic vegetables using two Belgian draft horses. Getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lebanon Valley Speedway, or learning why the town’s postmaster loves hunting — without a gun. Or watching a chef as she demonstrates how to make New Lebanon’s famed slab pie. It’s an opportunity to find out who lives in a small town and how they spend their time.

Each event is eye opening, bringing focus to a city dweller or suburbanite’s possibly fuzzy lens on rural life. The “country guides,” who are paid an honorarium, are sharing their hopes and dreams — things you cannot glean when cruising Route 20 on your way to I-90.

Behold! New Lebanon is the brainchild of Ruth Abram [photo, right], an historian and activist who founded the wildly successful Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The concept of Behold! New Lebanon was tied with an economic mission. After Abram bought a weekend home in New Lebanon, it saddened her to learn of the town’s early shining history, contrasted with the current situation of its loss of businesses and people. 

“In the 18th and 19th centuries, New Lebanon was the natural healing center of the world,” Abram explains, referring to the world-famous Lebanon Springs. “It was alive with spirituality. The Shakers were here. The abolition and temperance movements were here. It was a centerpiece of evangelical thought.” It was thriving — a very different story from what she found in her new community.

Abram isn’t exactly evangelizing, but listen to her and you’ll see the idea makes sense. “We see Behold! New Lebanon as a way to serve as an economic engine for the entire town,” she says. “Inviting the resident ‘experts’ to share their knowledge, talent and enthusiasm for the rural life can ignite their wherewithal to bring in tourism dollars and” — keeping the historical reference going — “create their own salvation. We hope that people from surrounding cities and suburbs will visit Behold! New Lebanon, and enjoy their interactions with our marvelous country guides and our magnificent landscapes.”

At the Visitor’s Center, Rich Crouch handles registration.

Bring a good idea to the table, and people will come. The program has been seeded by donations (and, as a nonprofit, will be applying for grants).  The New Lebanon community has embraced Abram’s idea and it showed at their launch day. The Visitor’s Center (a rather deluxe shed, which was donated for Behold! Lebanon’s use by the Shed Man) was practically vibrating with good spirit and excitement as volunteers registered visitors, shepherded them to their events (a bus drops off and picks up visitors; no need to seek out the locations on unfamiliar country roads) and hand out surveys.

Tickets range from $25 for a one-day pass to $40 for a weekend of events. Residents of nearby towns get a 50-percent discount. Kids 12 and under are free.

Even that first day, the mission was being well accomplished. “I’ve lived in this area for years, but never knew how to find out about these people and places,” said one participant.

The country guides express enthusiasm for the program. The common refrain: they simply like showing and telling people about themselves. Melanie Hunt, owner of the Blueberry Hill Market Cafe, enjoys the opportunity to talk about what she does. “Instead of just doing, it’s nice to talk about what we do,” which is, for Behold! Lebanon, the slab pie demonstration and a coffee chat.

“I think it’s a tremendous effort to promote this wonderful town,” said Heather Van Ort, who is owner and designer of Masterpiece Jewelry Studio, and whose event was “Gemstones Demystified: Pearls Renewed.” Eric Johnson of Wild Goose Chase NE (he demonstrates how he trains dogs to help people rid their ponds of geese in a humane way) acknowledges that some residents have expressed some skepticism for the venture. But he appreciates that it helps preserve the town’s heritage. Plus, he says, “it’s a way to self promote. Anytime I can present myself as a dog trainer to the public, it’s a good thing.”

And, if the concept works in New Lebanon, Abrams says, why not in other towns? 

“I want to establish a working model for small towns to use their own resources to benefit the town, and develop a how-to manual for other towns.”

The logo and website were designed by Peter Blandori of Columbia County.

So sign up and get on the bus to “Surviving in the Forest,” “Pigs On Whey,” Working Dogs,” “The Farming Life” or any of the other events, available only in New Lebanon. You’ll walk away from these authentic experiences — and people — awed and impressed, as I was. Plus, you’ll be helping them expand their tourism base. And that is rural intelligence at its best.

Behold! New Lebanon
Friday, September 12 – Sunday, September 14
Friday, October 10 – Monday, October 13
Friday, October 31 – Sunday, November 2
Visitor’s Center: 14398 NY Route 22, New Lebanon, NY
(518) 795-5756

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/01/14 at 01:45 PM • Permalink

W. Cornwall’s Covered Bridge Parties With A Paint-In

By Kimberly Jordan Allen

Some people know it as the Kissing Bridge. Others recognize it from its cameo in the opening scene of the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. And for some Connecticut residents, it’s just the way they get to work each day.

“Our family has been crossing this bridge for 150 years,” says Melissa Andrews of West Cornwall. She’s talking about the West Cornwall Covered Bridge, a New England landmark that celebrates a big birthday this year.

On Saturday, July 26, local artists will mark the bridge’s 150th year with “Paint the Bridge Day.” Artists, professional and amateur, are invited to render the landmark in whatever medium they choose — photographs, paintings, drawings, sketches, or sculpture — and their work will be on sale that same afternoon. Space will be limited, so if you want to participate in the creative rendering, arrive early to choose a good spot on the riverbanks.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the artists and West Cornwall Village Improvement Association for maintenance of the flower-filled areas surrounding the bridge — riverbanks that have long been used for contemplating and absorbing the scenic beauty of the Housatonic River. Submissions must be entered by 2 p.m. and a sale and reception will follow from 3-6 p.m. at Cornwall Bridge Pottery [shown right]. The artwork will be exhibited through the following day.

The iconic covered crossing is a piece of Americana that was built in 1864. The bridge is made from red spruce and tree nails (wooden pegs) and is 172 feet long and 15 feet wide. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, it has been renovated, reinforced and painted over the years to handle weathering and the increased traffic of the area, but otherwise, it’s unchanged.

The bridge was originally named after the Hart family, dairy farmers who lived in Sharon, CT, who constructed the bridge in the early 1800s for traveling to and from West Cornwall farmland. Since then, it’s become recognized as a significant example of New England architecture, featured in many books and websites as a scenic Connecticut destination. The construction and history also prompted the creation of a booklet by historian Michael Gannett.

Brendan O’Connell West Cornwall resident and well-known contemporary artist, will be participating in Saturday’s event and selling his work at the celebration. “We’re painting landmarks and natural beauty that are disappearing in other parts of the world,” O’Connell says.

Bianca Langner Griggs [left], owner of the Wish House shop in downtown West Cornwall, organized the event and is thrilled to gather locals in town to enjoy its historical features. “We should constantly have parties and get-togethers,” she says. With the help of Debra Tyler, active homesteader and owner of Local Farm, Langner Griggs created the farmers’ market eight years ago after the last grocery store had closed in West Cornwall. “We feel it necessary to continue to bring people together. Celebrating our landmarks is a way to gather the community and draw attention to this beautiful, bucolic town. Just as the farmers’ market brings people together, celebrations do the same.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/22/14 at 01:39 PM • Permalink

Ramblewild Sees The Forest For The Trees — And Then Some

By Lisa Green

A tree-hugger’s dream-come-true has materialized in the forest on Brodie Mountain in Lanesborough, MA.

At the same place and time, anyone who fancies a challenging adventure on the mountain will be equally delighted.

The two interests can coexist, and they do, in Ramblewild, the tree-to-tree adventure trail that’s not so much an adventure “park” as an immersion into nature, which visitors happen to experience via aerial courses that include riding saddles across a river gorge or a snowboard on a zip line. 

There’s something else that sets Ramblewild apart from other adventure parks: it’s owned by Feronia Forests, a corporation that, it says, sees the forest for the trees — and wants to see it that way in perpetuity. Rather than razing the forest for timber, Feronia chooses to offset its revenue with recreation and environmentally friendly businesses. Mostly, though, the company wants people (focus on young people) to learn about the forest as they learn about themselves.

On a preview tour of the property, a red fox dashed across a trail.

Ramblewild CEO Tim Gallagher at the top of the mountain.

“See, that’s what we want kids to see,” says Ramblewild’s CEO Tim Gallagher. “We want to give kids who don’t get to experience nature the chance to see things like this. If we can get young people interested in nature, they will become stewards of the forest.”

The goal, he says, is to get every visitor to develop an understanding, appreciation and respect for nature, and see that by coming to Ramblewild, they’re helping to preserve the woodlands, protect the wildlife and conserve energy.

But back to the adventure part: Ramblewild, which officially opened on June 21, takes its visitors off the grid (no cellphones allowed while aerial bound) while they’re flying from platform to platform. There are 135 platforms in all, located on eight separate trails throughout seven acres. There’s no electricity on the trails, either, so it’s fly-by-daylight or moonlight.

Once adventurers pay admission (prices range from $55 for a child to $69 for adults for a three-hour visit), they’re handed a safety harness and shown how to use it. Walking up the main trail, they hit a practice area where they learn the basic skills needed to negotiate the self-guided tours. Gallagher says visitors will have time to go on 3 to 4 trails in a visit; there are 12 to 15 sections per trail. Trails range from lower, beginner trails to much higher, more difficult expert courses.

Harnesses and helmets ready for a crowd.

Safety is a given; the full-body harnesses have a safety system, and everyone wears a helmet. There are staff operators on each of the platforms and others monitoring action on the ground. Those who would rather be earthbound are welcome to just walk the trails, and parents can follow their kids and take pictures from down below.

Feronia is serious about its mission to sustain forests, and sees its future in education. Its Feronia Forest Fund is a nonprofit created with the mission to connect youth with forests and their ecosystems, and the funds are being used to bring inner city schoolkids to the Berkshire woods. As an extension of its “sustainable full forestry” mission, Ramblewild leases part of the land to the owner of the Berkshire Wind turbines on Brodie Mountain. There’s also a maple syrup operation (with 110 acres of tubing and 7,500 taps), with the sap being processed at Ioka Valley Farm just down the road. Plans to install solar panels near the turbines are in the works.

The climbing wall.

Despite the 135 tree-to-tree elements, little of the property has been modified and everything on the challenge courses has been installed without harm to the trees; in fact, not one tree has been subjected to a nail or spike, thanks to an ingenious clamp system that holds up the platforms and lines.

Gallahger, born and raised in Dalton, has a background that, in hindsight, seems to have put him squarely on a trail to Ramblewild. At Hillcrest Educational Centers in the Berkshires, he ran the adventure-based skills program and was director of training and staff, and then business development, there. He had his own team-building company, and at Canyon Ranch, was director of health and healing. Now he’s training Ramblewild’s staff of 25-30, some of whom also have Canyon Ranch backgrounds.

While families, school groups and of course tourists are a target market, Ramblewild also hopes to attract other groups looking for ways to practice team-building exercises. Prior to its public opening, Ramblewild hosted several middle school groups. The kids were completely engaged with the physical and mental challenges of the courses. In fact, Gallagher was surprised that their presence didn’t create a lot of noise. It was as if they took their cue from the hush of the forest.

The kayak element.

Sounds like Feronia’s mission is working.

Ramblewild
110 Brodie Mountain Road, Lanesborough, MA
1-844-I-RAMBLE


There are no food vendors on site but visitors are welcome to bring their own and use the picnic area.

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/23/14 at 01:47 PM • Permalink

Witnessing A Force Of Nature At The Copake Iron Works

ciw2By Jamie Larson

Though the structure around it has long since disappeared and its last 2,500-degree blaze was extinguished over a century ago, the old blast furnace at the Copake Iron Works Historic District remains an arresting sight, timeless and still imbued with a ghost of furious power. Even in such an historically rich region, the Iron Works is a summertime site not to be missed, whether you’re a diehard history buff or lazy Sunday rambler.

The site, museum and surrounding trails scattered with beautiful blue old slag (a glass-like chemical byproduct) are located in Taconic State Park in Copake Falls. It’s open to the public throughout the summer and there will be a half-dozen weekend opportunities to tour the Works with the extremely knowledgeable and engaging historian Jim Mackin. Dates and times are available on the park’s website. Mackin will also be speaking about the Iron Works at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library on Saturday, June 21 at 2 p.m, with a tour the following day at the site at 1 p.m.

ciwThe Iron Works, which produced 4,000 tons of cast iron a year throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th, is made up of the furnace, frame office, brick explosive powder storage building, engine house, pattern and mold shop and worker homes.

“This place has an incredible legacy,” Makin says, “but there’s still a lot of mystery.”

It’s that mystery that captivates visitors both regular and new. While the industry was huge in the area at the time, with its own section of railroad, and forest teams that cleared 100 acres of surrounding woods each year to create charcoal to feed the furnace’s insatiable appetite, there is little known about the business, started by Lemuel Pomeroy in 1845. Records have been lost to time and even the physical layout of the production operation is still a bit of a puzzle. On each tour, Iron Works enthusiasts actively work out theories about how exactly everything was configured.

Looking up at the crumbling pile of stone and its restored Gothic brick arches, portals to what was once a molten river of iron ore, one can’t help but feel a connection to a time in our collective human history when we truly began to reshape the natural world with brute force and an insatiable industrial will.

ciw4Edgar Masters, park commissioner and a founding member of the Friends of the TSP, has remained captivated by the ironworks for years. “I’m amazed by the vision these industrialists had,” he says, “to create an entire industry out of nothing, in the woods. The scope of what these people did, essentially by hand, is incredible. It’s a little like building the pyramids.”

The Iron Works, which is slowly being reclaimed by the stronger-than-iron force of nature, is a monument to the founders of the Modern Age. Molten iron poured through the hellish womb within the furnace and into wooden molds resting in sand. Those molds made plows to feed an expanding nation, canons to protect it and pieces of infrastructure that connected us like never before. The furnace in Copake was a crucible not just for iron but also for, at the time, America’s industrial future. The workers, mostly immigrants, who sweat and broke their backs and died here gave birth to our nation and instilled it with the ideals of progress. It’s surprisingly easy to see and feel that, just by visiting the Copake Iron Works and standing before its furnace.

ciw5Take a tour and you’ll experience all that. It only takes an hour. Plus, it’s free, the park is pretty, the hiking is limited and there are good places to eat nearby.

Copake Iron Works in Taconic State Park, Copake Falls.
Jim Mackin speaks at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library Saturday, June 21 at 2 p.m., with tour the following day.
Check website for other tour dates.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/09/14 at 08:48 PM • Permalink

Club Members At Lime Rock Park Feed Their Need For Speed

The Chalet deck, best corner of the track and home to Lime Rock Drivers Club during all Lime Rock Park races.

By Don Rosendale

It’s a damp Friday morning in May. Jeanette Veitenheimer, executive administrator at the Driver’s Club at the Lime Rock race course (the members call her their “den mother”) has set out a continental breakfast and is helping Carol, who has driven from Long Island for the day, select the club patch she wants on her Nomex suit. From the perch of the Driver’s Club chalet overlooking the Sam Posey Straight, a solitary Porsche Cayman is turning lap times — 58 seconds for one circuit — which would be impressive in a race in a couple of weeks.

Created in 2007 by racing champion Skip Barber, the private Lime Rock Drivers Club in Lakeville, CT offers private track time, fully coached, on the same track that’s welcomed nearly every great road-racing driver. A high-end sports cars and a hefty club fee get you into this rather rarefied world of cars, racing and hobnobbing with the sport’s greats.

But before the private, one-on-one coaching begins, a non-moving class is in session. Simon Kirkby of South Egremont, the chief instructor (and an internationally renowned driver coach) is using a blackboard to explain the theories behind driving fast. (“When you step on the brakes, the adhesion shifts to the front wheels.”) Joe Courtney, who lives “between Litchfield and New Milford” explains why he belongs to the Driver’s Club.

Joe Courtney

“It’s like a country club for people who love cars,” he exudes. People who like putting will join a golf club, polo players head for Mashomack in Pine Plains. Those who love cars pay a $55,000 initiation fee and $3,630 a year to belong to the Driver’s Club so they can drive as fast as they want without looking for flashing blue lights.

Courtney’s stable includes a Porsche Cayman, a Ferrari 457 and a Lamborghini, each capable of 150 miles per hour and zero to 60 before you can sneeze. Courtney doesn’t keep his scuderia at home, but rather at a specialist garage. When he needs one, he calls and it is delivered like a Domino’s pizza. As we speak, which one is en route is still a mystery, but when it arrives he’ll drive it on the same Lime Rock course where professional drivers compete in major races.

For people like him, places like the Lime Rock Driver’s Club and the Monticello Motor Club in New York State are springing up. They’re called “automobile resorts” where those with high-performance cars come to realize their potential. The members are no budding race drivers. They just want to drive fast legally and safely.

Jeanette Veitenheimer, the club’s den mother.

There are 80-odd members of the Lime Rock club. Most are men, but there are women, too. Fathers bring their sons. “We have a couple of people who have bought homes near here so they can come and drive more often,” says Veitenheimer. John Steinmetz, who lives just across the road, comes for lunch.

There’s no actual racing, no trophies for being fastest. “The only person you are racing against is yourself,” she says.”

Because, in an earlier time, I won pewter trophies at Lime Rock and held a lap record when 1:14 was considered blistering, I’m offered a chance to take my vintage Porsche on the track for a few “hot laps” — that is, drive on the track at racing speeds but not actually compete. A pair of crash helmets are pulled from the closet and the car windows go down. Kirkby, who came to Lime Rock after being a champion rally and race driver in England, bravely belts himself into the passenger seat.

The starter checks to make sure I have a Day-Glo orange wristband, and we’re off. Simon waves out the window to show overtaking cars on which side to pass (we don’t pass anyone). He points to the best “lines” to take in a corner and warns what’s coming up.

Simon Kirkby and the author, Don Rosendale, after a few “hot laps.”

Lime Rock offers “hot laps” but these are, at best, “cool laps.” I am what serious race drivers call a moving roadblock, but there is still an adrenalin rush, a sharpening of the senses, an emotional high.

When we pull off, I’m stopped and lectured like an errant school boy for using the turn signals to show we were pulling into pit lane; the flashers here are counterintuitively used to indicate to overtaking cars where you want them to pass.

Back at the Driver’s Club building, Veitenheimer is showing Courtney pictures taken at a “field trip” the club took to the Watkins Glen racecourse in upstate New York in April, and then recommending places to take his new friends for dinner.

“It’s about more than just driving cars,” says Courtney. “It’s a family atmosphere. I’ve met a whole group of new people who will be friends for life.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/12/14 at 03:50 PM • Permalink