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Rural Intelligence

An RI Recommendation: The Hudson Valley Then And Now Fest

Photos courtesy Barbara Todd.

By Lisa Green

Last summer, my husband and I spent a few jam-packed days in Dutchess County, and its brevity notwithstanding, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable mini vacations I’ve ever had. Which is why, when the Artists Collective of Hyde Park (ACHP)and the Hyde Park Free Library announced the first-ever Hudson Valley Then and Now Festival, I paid attention. And why I wanted to pass the information along to Rural Intelligence readers. At the risk of sounding like the Dutchess County tourist bureau, there’s a lot to see and do, and this festival would make an excellent beginning to a weekend or day trip.

A celebration of the arts, the Hudson Valley Then and Now Festival July 13-16 will present a series of events reflecting the history and lifestyle of the Hudson Valley. The venture is spearheaded by the Artists’ Collective of Hyde Park (a nonprofit organization of local artists dedicated to promoting the arts and artists in the Mid-Hudson Valley), along with the Hyde Park Free Library. A grant from Dutchess Tourism has allowed the groups to think bigger than their typical one-day events and fundraisers.

“Hyde Park is known for its history,” says Barbara Todd, a photographer and digital artist who’s on the board of the ACHP, citing the FDR Library and Vanderbilt Estate. “But Hyde Park isn’t just history; there’s a lot of art, and we’re looking at this festival as a way to bring people into the area.”

Singer-songwriters Eric Garrison and Liz St. Leger.

It’ll be a good start. The festival begins with a Thursday evening concert featuring accomplished Hudson Valley musicians. Friday’s activities include a Paint & Sip session, with the subject being a scene of the Vanderbilt Overlook at Hyde Park on the Hudson. On Saturday, there’ll be art and music all day, hosted by musician, author and DJ Myael Simpkins. An evening concert follows, with Kevin and Carol Becker and Rich Keyes, acoustic folk musicians. On Sunday, ACHP welcomes the public to a reception for its group show and a fusion dance performance. A community art contest is the festival wrapup. Throughout the weekend, the Hyde Park Free Library will be open to its exhibit of historical photos on loan from the FDR Estate.

Activities will toggle between the library’s annex building at 2 Main Street (at Route 9) in Hyde Park, and the Artists’ Collective at 4338 Albany Post Road (also Route 9, and just a few blocks south of the library). Many of the events are free.

And after the festival, or between events, you can do what we did last summer: tool up and down Route 9, visit the FDR home, library and museum, indulge in a meal at the Culinary Institute of America, stroll the Walkway Over the Hudson, check out snazzy Rhinebeck, attend a concert at Bard SummerScape or the Spiegeltent, and buy a fiberglass goat at one of the town’s antiques and collectibles shop. (Well, you don’t have to do that, but I couldn’t resist.)

Hudson Valley Then And Now Festival
July 13-16
Hyde Park, NY
(845) 229-9029

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/03/17 at 10:29 AM • Permalink

Music And Food Take Center Stage At Winery’s Summertide

By Jamie Larson

Live music, wine and food, all of the highest quality, enjoyed in a meadow overlooking the mountains…sounds like a dream. It also sounds like the Summertide Festival from July 7-9, at Cascade Mountain Winery in Amenia, New York.

It feels a little like the setting of a fairy tale, down a winding dirt road, when Charlie Wetmore’s winery emerges around the bend. But it may feel even more surreal when you leave the quiet wood and emerge into the festival ground dotted with vendors from the best regional wineries, distilleries, breweries, restaurants and farms. And there’s a stellar lineup of performers, too, including Sunday evening’s headliners Jesse Colin Young, Jonathan Edwards, Cole Quest, Kerri Powers and many more.

“It started with wanting to do something special for the winery’s 40th anniversary, and it just grew from there,” says Wetmore. “We want people to come here and think music.”

The first night will even include a fireworks display. Wetmore has clearly put a lot of thought and care into the planning of the event so that it’s balanced, exciting, but still relaxing.

“It’s important to know that the festival is kicking off a whole summer of music,” Wetmore says. “We hope people who come out here for the first time for the festival will see what a great spot this is to sit back with some wine and food we’re really proud of, and enjoy some music.”

Summertide, named for the winery’s best-selling vintage, opens the season-long celebration of the 40th anniversary. Wetmore began building the winery with his father, novelist Bill Wetmore, when he was just 14. The winery officially opened when he was 18, in 1977, and now he runs the place with his sister, Joanie Wetmore Yahn. The legacy of the winery goes back to a time when New York wine wasn’t really a thing. They were only the fourth in the state and the first east of the Hudson.

The family ran a highly regarded full-time restaurant for many years and still offers high-end meals and relaxed barbecue on weekends. Their culinary acumen will be on full display, along with that of their vendors, during Summertide with a kitchen and outdoor pizza oven helmed by executive chef Maria Laura Quintero. Wetmore’s love of lobster, especially Maine lobster, has lead to Cascade Mountain’s must-try lobster roll. They’re also serving up fresh salmon, diver scallops, locally sourced steak frittes, a Hudson Valley cheese and charcuterie board and a lot more. Wetmore encourages festival attendees to try the pizzas coming out of the new outdoor brick pizza oven and anything from the trusty smoker. There will also be food on the festival grounds from Chaseholm Farm Creamery, Old Chatham Sheepherding Co., Jacuterie, Muchachula, Big W BBQ, Lobstercraft and other vendors.

Idyllic as it all seems, it’s the performances that are going to keep folks moving at the festival. Wetmore said getting Young (the voice of “Get Together”) was a real honor and they’re excited for what a draw he will undoubtedly be.

Jonathan Edwards, best known for his angry protest song dressed up in a peppy folk melody, “Sunshine,” will perform, as well. Edwards has a winery of his own not too far away in North Stonington, Connecticut.

Any local business that can pull it off with the quality and grace of Cascade Mountain Winery deserves a great 40th anniversary party. We’re lucky we get to join in on the fun for Summertide…and the rest of the summer.

Summertide at the Cascade Mountain Winery
Friday, July 7 – Sunday, July 9
835 Cascade Mountain Rd., Amenia, NY
(845) 373-9021

Day Pass: $80
Weekend Pass: $150
All-Access Pass: $200
Young Adult Pass (12-21): $40
Under 12: Free

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/25/17 at 12:20 PM • Permalink

Go For The Wine, Stay For The Music, Food, Art And Yoga

Music at White Silo Farm and Winery.

By Lisa Green

Last week, while doing our research to bring you a roundup of summer outdoor music series, we saw that wineries have become venues for music. We realized, too, that they are offering more than tastings along with a little music on the side. Given that the wineries’ real estate alone is worthy of a day trip, these extra-viticultural activities — dinners, yoga, chocolate pairings and more — are excellent excuses (or, rather, reasons) to visit your local wine producers.

This is just a sampling of events at some of the wineries throughout our coverage area. For more information, check the individual websites or the area’s wine trails, including the Connecticut Wine Trail and the Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail.

Cascade Mountain Winery, Amenia, NY
The future location of Summertide, a locally sourced wine, food and music festival next month, Cascade Mountain Winery has a restaurant led by executive chef Maria Laura Quintero that offers lunch on weekends. In mid July, there will be a Summer Saturday Concert Series from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. featuring local bands and BBQ every Saturday through August. 

Clinton Vineyards, Clinton Corners, NY
The winery will celebrate its 40th vintage on Saturday, June 24 from 2 to 6 p.m. and will include tastings, a live jazz trio and a pop-up farmers market of local vendors including Crown Maple Syrup, Canoe Hill Café, Hoofprint Cheese, Beacon Bakery and Rock Steady Farm. (Read more about the vineyard’s history and Phyllis Feder, the owner, in The Rural We.)

Millbrook Winery, Millbrook, NY
Talk about a perfect pairing. Here, you get the benefits of yoga and wine combined. Yoga classes (three for $50, or drop in for $20) include a post-class complimentary glass of wine. Classes are scheduled on Sundays, July 23 and August 13, 11 a.m. to noon.

Millbrook Vineyard makes the most of its impressive facilities with a host of other events: a Summer Solstice Lobster Bake, with live jazz in the background, on June 24; and an outdoor jazz concert series on Saturday evenings (with different specials at The Grille each week). Make it a regular Saturday night by purchasing a Jazz at the Grille Season Pass that includes the music, a glass of wine and your own wine canteen. Food Truck Fridays offers family-friendly menus from local food trucks from 5-8 p.m., and wines on tap for $5/glass.

Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston, CT
Take in the view of Lake Waramaug every Saturday at Summer Sadhana Yoga from 10 to 11:15 a.m. Practice yoga outside with instructor Jacquie Rupert (class held indoors if raining) for $20/class. Or consider a moonlit evening at the fire pit. On July 9, join a crowd around the fire and enjoy music by the Kings of Karma. There will be a food truck available for dinners to go, or bring your own picnic.

Haight-Brown Vineyard, Litchfield, CT
This is a vineyard that caters to the legions of chocoholics who wouldn’t mind subsisting on it — and wine, of course. Haight-Brown hosts Chocolate Decadence Sunset Tours aboard a train that runs along the Naugatuck River. En route there’s live music, food and wine, and chocolate tastings. The itinerary includes a stop at Fascia’s Chocolates for a tour and make-your-own chocolate session (and more tasting).

Miranda Vineyard, Goshen, CT
Let’s see, we’ve got music, yoga, chocolate, a moonlit fire pit. What’s missing? Oh yes — vintage cars. Thoughtfully, Miranda Vineyard has a “Vintages & Vintages“ annual antique car show, coming right up on June 25 from noon to 6 p.m. Bring your own vintage, (car, that is) or just come to ogle and enjoy some music, food and wine. There will be an open mic event going on at the same time. Miranda Vineyard also hosts live music every Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, CT
The activity here centers on its chocolate and wine pairing sessions, which include five estate wines and five specialty chocolates, nearly every day at 11 a.m. A special message to canine lovers: Sunset Meadow Vineyards produces “Big Lab Cab,” named after the vineyard dog, Churchill, a 120-pound dog adopted by the vineyard’s owners in 2011. You have to love that a portion of the profits of this wine go to The Little Guild in Cornwall.

White Silo Farms & Winery, Sherman, CT
This family-operated boutique winery produces wine in small batches, but that doesn’t stop it from hosting some unique events. This weekend (June 17), the winery puts on the 10th annual Rhubarb Festival. There’s Yoga in the Vineyard with Jessica and Jimmy Serra from Primary Wellness; join them on June 25 from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. followed by wine tastings, iced tea, freshly baked scones and fruit. $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Other events include BBQ in the Vineyard on July 29 from 6-8:30 p.m. with music by Marty/Kayla. On August 4, from 6-8 p.m., Jamie Ray (a.k.a. Conga J) will lead a drumming circle. $10 admission includes a glass of wine. White Silo also hosts monthly exhibitions featuring works from local artists and artisans.

Furnace Brook Winery, Richmond, MA
The Berkshires’ best-known winery is based within Hilltop Orchards, which has sweeping views of the surrounding Berkshire Hills. A popular activity is the full moon trek (prepare to snowshoe it in winter). The hike lasts up to one-and-a-half hours, and incorporates Native American traditions relating to moonlight. Your reward for the physical effort is a bonfire, wine tasting and entertainment.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/12/17 at 02:38 PM • Permalink

Hudson Valley Sunday: A Day Trip For Antiquers And Others

Calling all antiques lovers, historic building appreciators and day-trippers looking for a new adventure: A day-long excursion in the Hudson Valley, hosted by the editors of The Magazine Antiques, is taking reservations for an outing on June 11. “Hudson Valley Sunday” includes tours of some magnificent properties — from private homes to a fabulous round barn — along with opportunities to shop (for antiques and otherwise), plus food and cocktails from some of Hudson’s finest purveyors. And one more thing: transportation is provided. But sign up quickly, because there are a limited number of spots.

Greg Cerio, editor-in-chief of the magazine, wanted to bring back the magazine’s tours; in the ‘80s, it hosted excursions through Europe. As a frequent visitor to Hudson, Cerio has created an appealing itinerary, and, notably, one offering easy access for New Yorkers.

The coach departs from the Hudson rail station and heads to its first stop, Edgewater [above], an 1825 neoclassical mansion on the banks of the Hudson River. The private home of historic preservationist Richard H. Jenrette, it’s a Greek revival jewel box that Jenrette has furnished with a mix of original and period pieces. Visitors will tour the grounds and a docent will be inside to talk about the art and furnishings.

The second stop is Abby Rockefeller’s Churchtown Dairy, an 1830’s farmstead (now a biodynamic farm) that features a stunning new round barn with a domed roof. If the weather cooperates, lunch will be here. If not, it’ll be at stop number three, the recently renovated Hudson Hall, formerly known as the Hudson Opera House, which was built in 1855 as City Hall.

Mid afternoon offers a break for shopping in Hudson, with discounts available at many of Warren Street’s antique shops, galleries and other stores.

The tour concludes with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (from Talbott & Arding) at The Inn at Hudson, a 1906 Dutch/Jacobean house full of decorative flourishes, stained glass, and a garden that should be in full bloom on the day of the tour.

“It’s a great day trip with the opportunity for shopping, drinks and snacks built in,” Cerio says. “There’s real interest in it — we’ve already heard from people in Chicago, Columbus, Ohio and Virginia who plan to join us for the tour.”

Hudson Valley Sunday, hosted by The Magazine Antiques
Sunday, June 11, $275

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/29/17 at 12:13 PM • Permalink

Sweet Freedom: The Rehabilitation Work of Audubon Sharon

Sunny Bettley releases the red-tailed hawk.

By CB Wismar

It’s an incredible thrill… a pure adrenaline rush… and it’s over in an instant.

The elegant bird, in this case a juvenile red-tailed hawk, has been in the care of the rehabilitation unit at Audubon Sharon for over a month. It’s about to be released.

Sunny Bettley, wildlife rehabilitation and outreach specialist at the Sharon Audubon Center, has supervised the raptor’s recovery from injuries that were the result of being hit by a car on the back roads of Lime Rock. 

“He had some head trauma and was really thin,” Bettley says as she reaches into the carrying case with heavy leather welding gloves and carefully extracts the patient. “As he gained strength, the bruises healed.”

Bettley is calm, almost serene, as the powerful bird sees the open sky for the first time in a month. “We let him gain strength in the fly cage,” she says, “then it was off to ‘mouse school.’”

Only when the rehabilitated bird can fend for itself, hunt and forage for its own food, will the center staff affect its release. “We provide quiet, heat and hydration to the birds, and pain medication if they have fractures,” Bettley explains.

The outreach specialist supervises the 30-plus volunteers who undergo extensive training before they deal directly with the birds. Great care is taken to not let the patient birds “habituate” and learn to rely on their caregivers.

“Stress is the number one killer of birds in captivity,” says Bettley, so the center works diligently to minimize the trauma of captivity and speed the healing process.

With no fanfare, just a gentle release, she lets the hawk move into the prevailing breeze, then watches as the young red-tail turns, soars, finds its bearings and settles into the top branch of a nearby oak. The moment of release, when the hawk regains its freedom, is pure magic… and over in the blink of an eye.

In the past year, over 750 animals — predominantly birds — have been brought into the rehabilitation unit at Audubon Sharon’s main center on Route 4. Quickly diagnosed and triaged, the “patients” are assigned cages and treated, carefully and respectfully, until they are ready for release.

Sean Grace

“Some of the animals have been too badly injured,” says Sean Grace, the center director who also serves as team leader for Eastern Forests. “And some will never be able to survive on their own.” Outplacement and careful selection of nature centers that can accept the birds is another activity of Audubon Sharon.

Unsurprisingly, the facility’s comprehensive services come at an impressive cost. “We’ve been fortunate to get grants from organizations such as the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation,” Grace says. “And the generosity of our community of friends is very important, as well.”

The annual Raptors and Riesling fundraising reception that benefits the rehabilitation program at Audubon Sharon will be held Sunday, May 28. Guests will enjoy the social aspects of the reception, but also will be able to explore the Center grounds and see, firsthand, the work being done there. 

The Center manages over 3,000 acres of wild lands in the Northwest corner of Connecticut and offers 10 miles of hiking trails. Educational programming is tied to area schools, and is supplemented by a summer camp and traveling programs. More than 5,000 students each year experience the conservation and rehabilitation work of the Center.

Walking back through the open field, Bettley and Grace look up to a cloudless sky and watch their latest release begin the great, looping turns of a hawk hunting for its prey. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” asks Grace, as they watch their skilled handiwork blend back into nature.

Audubon Sharon Center
325 Cornwall Bridge Rd., Sharon, CT
(860) 364-0520
For information and tickets to Raptors and Riesling, click here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/21/17 at 02:41 PM • Permalink

Art In The Elements: Turn Park Art Space Opens

By Amy Krzanik

It goes without saying that you visit a sculpture park in order to view its sculptures. But, if that were the only reason, why would collectors go through the trouble of purchasing land and building a park, when they could house these artworks in a building – a venue people could frequent all year round? The truth is people love parks, and a well-designed sculpture park not only serves as a showcase for its acquisitions but as an enjoyable outdoor experience in and of itself.

The architects behind Turn Park Art Space (TPAS) in West Stockbridge, Mass. – Alexander Konstantinov and Grigori Fateyev – know this and factored it into their design of the new 16-acre space meant to serve both a cultural and a recreational purpose. Turn Park, whose goal is to highlight contemporary architecture and sculpture, is located smack in the center of town, on the site of a former quarry. The architects made use of the property’s natural features – its hills, meadows, steep cliffs and a quarry lake – as well as its stone. One large stone outcropping, resembling a giant’s toes, was kept, and the gatehouse (comprised of a gift shop and a gallery) was built atop it. The cool, shady spot will host a children’s animation festival this summer. Other large stones were moved to help create pathways, and some were repurposed as smooth gray tile for the gift shop’s bathroom.

The Gatehouse, the building that greets you upon arrival, is stunning. It’s bright white, and both sharp and rolling, mimicking its setting. The pathway leading to it from the lower parking lot acts as a mirror of the sky above. The rocks are round and evenly spaced, resembling clouds on land. Even the parking lot grass has been planted with a designer’s eye for detail, some long, some short. A meadow up above (the Piazza del Campo) has had the same treatment – its groundcover a custom-made seed mix chosen by local garden expert Naomi Blumenthal. The grasses resemble short, tousled hair and invite visitors to sit and linger.

Around back, large glass doors on one side of the gift shop slide open for access to a patio, called Brussels Square. From there, you can take the Loop path, which is wheelchair-accessible. Swing by the quarry (you’ll want to snap a photo) and view TPAS’s 8 current sculptures, most the work of Turn Park founders Igor Gomberg and Katya Brezgunova’s favorite Russian artists, and one piece by current Plainfield, Mass. resident Gene Montez Flores.

A small stone amphitheater, also on the upper level of the park, will be the site of future outdoor performances. Far-range plans include upper and lower playgrounds, a second gallery and a Precipice House built on a cliff. Workers already have begun rehabbing a home on the property, which will be used to house visiting artists.

Be sure to end your jaunt on the roof of the Gatehouse for a bird’s-eye view of the town.

More than just a setting to house their collection, Turn Park was created by Gomberg and Brezgunova to be community space, a gathering spot for people to meet and share ideas, and the scene of creative collaboration not only now, but for generations to come. A lofty goal, perhaps, but one that comes into focus more clearly when you visit the site.

According to the project’s executive director, Grigori Fateyev, and its assistant director, Sarah Cooke, this vision is one that the town of West Stockbridge has endorsed. “The town is excited,” says Cooke, “and it has embraced the fact that we’re here.” In this spirit, the Park offers annual memberships to encourage locals to use the grounds as often as they’d like, and to make Turn Park an integral part of their lives. West Stockbridge residents enjoy free admission on weekends. The cost for non-members is $15 per visit, and children under 12 are free. Quarterly “community days” for residents of the Berkshires and Columbia, Dutchess and other surrounding counties are in the works.

Meet the owners and the architects, and enjoy a live performance at Turn Park’s Opening Event on Sunday, May 14. A ceremony kicks things off at 11 a.m., followed by an immersive four-hour music and theater experience by Floating Tower, in collaboration with director and stage designer Doug Fitch.

Turn Park Art Space Grand Opening Event
Sunday, May 14 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
2 Moscow Rd., West Stockbridge, MA
(518) 755-7968

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/08/17 at 07:21 PM • Permalink

The RuraList: Where To Savor Maple Syrup Season

Thank goodness for maple sugaring season. Its sweetness helps bridge the gap between winter and spring, giving us places to visit and reasons to get out when the weather feels raw and uninviting. Maple Weekend, an official celebration of all things from the sweet sap, is March 18-19 with an additional weekend, March 25-26, in New York State. Here are a few of the many opportunities where you can join the festivities around the region.

And because: maple bacon muffins.

Dutchess County
Crown Maple, Dover Plains, NY
Think of a fine winery, with the tastings, elegant store and café, and a beautiful estate to explore. That’s Crown Maple, where the vineyard is a farm and the wine is organic maple syrup. To celebrate New York State’s Maple Weekends, Crown Maple will be featuring complimentary tastings, a maple-inspired lunch, tree tapping demonstrations, open hiking trails and a firepit for roasting marshmallows. There will be maple cotton candy and maple popcorn, and Crown Maple cocktails for the adults.

Maple Weekends: Saturday, March 18-19 and March 25-26 from 10 a.m – 5 p.m.
47 McCourt Road, Dover Plains, NY
(845) 877-0640
To find other places to visit in New York State, check the NYS Maple Weekend website.

Berkshire County
Ioka Valley Farm, Hancock, MA
There’s always a lot happening at this spread. Weekend sugarhouse tours and tastings are going on now through April 9. With more than 10,000 taps and 2 modern boilers, the operation is impressive, but the big draw is “Pancake Season” at Ioka’s own joint, the “Calf-A” (which has to be one of the cleverest names ever), serving homemade pancake, waffle and French toast meals accompanied by, of course, pure maple syrup. Sides of bacon and sausage — and desserts — are available, too.

3475 Hancock Rd./Rt. 43, Hancock, MA
(413) 738-5915
For other maple activities in the state, visit the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association website, the organizer of Maple Weekend in Massachusetts, happening March 18-19.

Columbia County
Maple Leaf Sugaring, Ghent, NY
Run by Ben and Veronica Madey, the farm offers tour of the sugaring process from tree to bottle. “The weather this year has been tricky,” Ben says, echoing the sentiments of other maple harvesters. “It warmed up too soon and accelerated the season, but hopefully the recent cold spells will have helped.”

During the maple weekends, the farm will be open and you can sample the maple cotton candy, maple cream and other goodies. Ben suggests you call or email before you come to see if the sugarhouse is boiling — it’s still an informative, fun and tasty tour either way.

93 Dupier Road, Ghent, NY
(518) 929-0484

Litchfield County
Sharon Audubon Center — MapleFest 2017, Sharon, CT
Sharon Audubon’s annual MapleFest may be one of the oldest maple celebrations, according to Sean Grace, the center’s director. The popular event offers guided tours through its sugaring operation, including the sugarhouse and a re-creation of Native American and early Colonial sugaring methods. Last year was the first time they held a bake sale, with goodies made by board members and other supporters using Sharon Audubon’s own maple syrup. It sold out, so you might want to get there early before all the baked goods go. Last year’s maple bacon muffins were “to die for,” says Grace.

Rescheduled for Saturday, March 25, noon-4 p.m.
325 Cornwall Bridge Road, Sharon, CT
(860) 364-0520
Admission: $6 adults; $4 children (2 and under free)
For other maple sugaring festivities in Connecticut, check the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut website.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/06/17 at 03:07 PM • Permalink

It’s A Zoo At Millbrook School (And We Don’t Mean The Kids)

Red panda cub with Millbrook School student Zooies. Photos courtesy Millbrook School.

By Merida Welles

Coati and Kinkajou, Kea and Rhea.

Foreign dishes? Exotic holiday spots? Hardly!

These extraordinary creatures are just a few of the 180 exotic and indigenous animals housed at Trevor Zoo, Millbrook School’s six-acre animal sanctuary, conservation education center and veterinary clinic. The only zoo located at a high school (and one of 230 in the country accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums), the Trevor Zoo in Millbrook, New York is a local gem, offering a bucolic woodland escape against the backdrop of a glimmering pond and waterfall.

Despite being a school’s in-house zoo, Trevor attracts some 35,000 visitors annually, predominantly in summer. But the zoo is open daily all year, thanks in large part not only to its staff but to its students. About a quarter of Millbrook’s 310 high school students volunteer at the zoo daily, preparing and delivering food, building perches, cleaning habitats and observing vets at work. Classes in environmental science are part of the academics and the Zoo Squad is a student alternative to participation in a sport.

North American river otters.

But to start at the beginning: how did a college-prep boarding school become home to these exotic species?

The story sounds like something out of an old Disney film. In 1936, animal lover and aspiring biologist Frank Trevor drove up to the school in a car loaded with crates of his own pet animals. He offered his services and was hired on the spot as the school’s first biology teacher. With his backseat animal collection serving as the foundation of the zoo, Mr. Trevor, the stern taskmaster for whom the zoo was named, remained to inspire generations of students to pursue animal bioscience and conservation. 

Other transformative Millbrook School alumni in the zoo’s history include world-renowned conservation biologist Dr. Tom Lovejoy and 42-year Zoo Director Jono Meigs who, with his wife Jane, modernized the zoo and paved the way for today’s conservation efforts. The current director is endocrinologist Dr. Alan Tousignant, who joined the zoo in 1994 after earning his doctorate at the University of Texas.

Dr. T, as he is known by his students, is proud that Trevor Zoo is a member of the 230-strong Association of Zoos and Aquariums, “a kind of Seal of Good Housekeeping,” as he puts it. To qualify, zoos must meet four criteria: be open to the public and offer educational programs, conservation in the wild, and scientific research. Being a member allows for advantageous collaboration with fellow AZA institutions across the country.

Top: Golden Lion Tamarin. Bottom: Ring-tailed lemur.

There are benefits to being affiliated with a demanding school, too: Many students select the Millbrook School expressly because of the opportunities the zoo affords them to work with animals as part of its academic curriculum and community service program. Some of the most serious “zooies” pursue independent research projects for full credit, and many continue their love of wildlife and conservation in careers as vets and biologists. Hannah Petri, a former student, has become Docent and Interpretation Coordinator at the St. Louis Zoo.

This veteran Dutchess County resident thoroughly enjoyed visiting even on an icy February day. There was Luna, the handsome red wolf, bounding up to greet me before loping gracefully around her enclosure; a furry black and white ruffed lemur named Bombo screeching “love songs” and displaying his outstretched form before a reluctant mate; dashing silver-coated “Foxy” emerging sleepily from his hut to paw for prey in the snow; and Ghandi the eclectus parrot showing off wolf-whistles.

Emus, white-naped cranes, wild turkeys, owls and other species were also on clear display outside on this blustery day, while a boa constrictor, Kaiser’s spotted newts, poison dart frogs and leopard geckos appeared to doze, snug in their shelters inside. If animals aren’t visible during a visit, live video cameras allow fans to track some animals’ – red pandas, waterfowl and great blue herons – daily movements via the internet.

In addition to educating students and visitors, Trevor Zoo is also committed to protecting nine endangered species, including the popular red panda, the red wolf and the black-and-white ruffed lemur. As part of its breeding program, it coordinates with other AZA-accredited zoos to mate selected endangered species. “It’s a giant dating game, a kind of for animals,” says Dr. T. describing how he and his colleagues use modern technology to further their program.

This April, a historic grist mill overlooking the zoo’s waterfall will be christened as the new Welcome Center and Gift Shop. The gracefully renovated 150-year-old mill takes the zoo one step further along an 80-year trek from its humble beginnings. 

Trevor Zoo
282 Millbrook School Rd., Millbrook, NY
(845) 677-3704
Open 9 a.m - 5 p.m. every day of the year including holidays.
Adults $6; Children and Seniors $4; Groups $3.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/20/17 at 10:47 AM • Permalink

The RuraList: Ways To Sweeten Your Valentine’s Day

You don’t have to be part of a traditional twosome to take advantage of these special Valentine’s Day meals, deals and ideas. Treat your best friend to a swanky dinner and a show, or invite your mom to a wine and chocolate tasting or a love-inspired lecture. Since Feb. 14 falls on a Tuesday this year, the holiday will be celebrated in our region all weekend long.

Lenox is for Lovers
Wine, dine and recline all in one place by taking advantage of The Kemble Inn’s Valentine’s Day & Weekend packages. From Feb. 10-12 (as well as on the 14th), enjoy dinner at the in-house restaurant, Table Six, which is offering a prix fixe menu for the occasion. A special room rate is also available, or go all-in with a package deal that includes the reduced room rate, a $134 food and beverage allowance at Table Six, in-room Pol Roger Champagne and a $250 allowance towards a treatment in the spa room. Swing by The Lion’s Den (attached to The Red Lion Inn) in Stockbridge or The Gateways Inn in Lenox for late-night music. Or, if you’re in the mood for something a little different on Sunday, there are two 2 p.m. talks from which to choose. The Mount will host author Jennifer Wright to discuss her book, It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History, or a short drive to Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield can get you schooled on The Secret Sex Life of Plants. 
Make the love last: Purchase tickets for one of this summer’s Tanglewood concerts.

A Feast For The Senses
Stimulate your ears on Saturday afternoon when the Hudson Opera House welcomes The Orchestra Now for a concert inspired by Voltaire‘s Candide. Stop by the HOH at any time from 12-5 p.m. to listen while you browse the current art exhibit. But don’t stop there – your mouth ought to be in on this, too. On Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 p.m. the Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent invites you to sample a selection of homemade chocolate “barks.” And, since you just happen to be at a winery, pick up a few bottles to take home to continue the celebration.
Make the love last: Take a cooking class together at HGS Home Chef in Hillsdale.

The Choice Is Yours
Make reservations now at one of these two romantic dining spots on Tues., Feb. 14. Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck will offer an ‘Amore‘ Specials menu, which will include two “Love Laced Cocktails” – My Honey Bee (Bulleit bourbon, Barenjaeger honey, dark cherry garnish) and Modern Love (White Godiva liqueur, Nonino Amaro, rimmed with dark chocolate drizzle) – as well as a Sicilian love cake for dessert. Shadows on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie will feature its Valentine’s Day menu on the 14th, as well as on pre-V-day weekend from Feb. 10-12. Its Sweetheart Dinner Dance, however, will only be available on Feb. 10. All diners are entitled to free dance lessons courtesy of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. Show what you learned beginning at 8 p.m. Those looking for something more low-key will appreciate the Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Tasting at The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center in Poughkeepsie on Saturday from 2-4 p.m., held in their intimate Victorian grand parlor. If at any time from Feb. 10 on, you need some inspiration, Tivoli Artists Gallery is mounting its Annual Erotica Show, featuring tantalizing work from more than 30 artists. Things kick off with an opening reception and fundraising party on Feb. 11 from 7-9 p.m. with live music and entertainment, erotic edibles and lively cabaret entertainment.
Make the love last: Tickets are on sale now for spring performances and SummerScape events at Bard’s Fisher Center

For Music Lovers
The bistro at Infinity Hall in Norfolk offers dinner and a live music serenade by Glenn Roth while you eat on Saturday evening from 4:30-9 p.m. Litchfield Jazz has put together a fun evening at Litchfield Distillery. “The Spirits of Love” offers dinner, drinks, sweets from Fascia’s Chocolates and live jazz music by the Albert Rivera Ensemble. You can do your gift giving on the spot at the silent auction, and each guest will receive a rose.
Make the love last: Write a personal Valentine’s message and have it engraved in chocolate by Noteworthy Chocolates.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/07/17 at 09:39 AM • Permalink

Make Connections: Travel The High Road Through Berkshire County

All photos courtesy of BNRC.

By Amy Krzanik

As walkers, hikers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers know, the Berkshires is one of the best places to work up a sweat while you “bathe in nature.” Unfortunately, you’ll have to carry your own cold water or hot drink and snack with you, because you’ll be far away from any amenities. And you’ll have to have a car to drive to the trailheads. There’s planning that needs to go into even a casual outing. But those inconveniences might not exist for long if Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has anything to say about it.

Just this month, BNRC launched The High Road capital campaign to the public with the hope of raising the $5 million needed to create a system of linked trails that covers the entirety of Berkshire County and lets users hop on and off in more places. Two hundred miles of trails will traverse the ridge line (“the high road”), but will also dip into towns, where hikers can grab a coffee, meet up with friends for dinner and even stay overnight at one of the area’s inns or B&Bs.

Excited donors already have committed $4.25 million to the campaign during its “quiet phase,” says BNRC President Tad Ames. He says that being able to walk from one town to the next has captured people’s imagination. “This is a vision for all of Berkshire County,” he says. “Anyone who’s lived here for a while knows that things tend to be divided into north, central and south parts of the county, but our organization covers all of the Berkshires, from Florida Mountain to Mount Washington.”

The BNRC, for those who are not familiar, conserves and keeps land open for public use and enjoyment, with a special focus on public access to land. They also protect wildlife habit, farmland, and land that has scenic value.

“Wherever appropriate, we encourage people to get out and use the land,” says Ames. “We want conservation to be part of people’s daily lives.” To that end, the organization runs about 50 free, guided hikes a year. Sometimes the purpose will be to track wildlife in the snow, says Ames, or to bird-watch, but mostly the purpose is to introduce people to new places.

The High Road funding, which the organization hopes to have completed by its 50th birthday in September of 2017, will go to help the BNRC fill in the gaps or “missing pieces” between the 10,000-plus acres it owns and the 11,000 it preserves through easements. This will create a fully connected trail system that can provide lunchtime walks of 30 minutes or a 30-day vacation excursion through every town.

By building The High Road, with its paths through both wilderness and town centers, the BNRC hopes to connect the natural, social, cultural and economic lives of Berkshire County’s residents.  And the organization isn’t content to simply protect what it already has, but wants to add to the area’s reputation as a first-class destination for both natural beauty and cultural experiences.

Ames hopes the project will encourage locals and tourists alike to visit parts of the county they may not have explored before. “Berkshire County is one place and one people,” he says. “Having our bigger towns do well is good for all of the Berkshires.” And soon it’ll be easier to start there and explore even more of them.

Donate to The High Road campaign.
Take A Hike with BNRC.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 10/25/16 at 10:49 AM • Permalink