So Much to See in Dutchess County

LensesCloseupI’m not surprised, but I’m always happily delighted when I find a display of someone’s creative re-purposing. Some call it junking–coined by expert junker, Mary Randolf Carter, who lives up in this neck of the woods.  Making good of cast-offs is good for all of us; it produces less trash in the long run. (Read here, junk=good, trash=bad.) These two photos are of things I found for sale at last year’s Country Living Fair, held at our fabulous Dutchess County Fairgrounds, about a half hour north west of Hilltop House B’nB. FairSignThe bracelet links above are made from old optometrist lenses–”do you see better now? how about now? and now?”–with nostalgic images secured inside. We made the photo big so you could see how wonderfully involving they are.

LidsCropThis photo above, shows a whimsical wall decor of pottery lids which have lost their bottoms long ago. I always thought that the lids were the first to break, “Auntie Em, I love these sweet potatoes, oops! Hot lid! Sorry.” but someone somewhere pulled all of these beauteous pieces together and they made for a compelling display.LidsSignage And you know, there’s money to be made in them thar lids, even if you don’t have a bottom seeking cover, they’re very handsome just on the wall (come to think of it, I wonder if any of those were used for chamber pots?).

There is so much to find and be inspired by in Dutchess County and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. I hope you can find a little piece of summer yet, or then again, leaf-peeper timing is just around the corner. Come on up and see us!

Happy Labor Day Weekend,  Sandy

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

Updates from Hilltop House

So just to keep you updated, we keep on keepin’ on here at Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast in Amenia. The major construction on the porch is just about done. RedoScreenedPorch

We are rebuilding the screened-in part of the screened-in porch where we serve breakfast weather permitting. It feels great to have the stone topping off the porch wall. It’s so impervious!!!!

Still not 100% on the outside

Still not 100% on the outside

For those of you who have embarked up renovations, there are those little dangling issues that are more like chipped fingernail polish than broken nails, but they still need fixing none the less. Still the plantings around the porch have come in well and that makes me smile.

The Amenia Drive-in Still Up and Running

We also got a few pictures from the drive-in down at Four Brothers on Route 22. We see more of these pocket drive-in theaters popping up around Dutchess County and the Connecticut/Massachusetts/New York tri-state. They are doing a lot to promote a sense of family night out–”Throwback Thursdays!” and nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia.

DriveIn1There are folks who swear by their menu. The girls love the mozzarella sticks! And just to give you as sense of how close we are, The greeny-blue Hudson Valley hill in the back of the screen, directly below, is the same blue hill less than a mile away, peeking through the trees in the photo, below/below, of the corner of Hilltop House porch taken recently. Just another way of showing off the profusion of flowers that happily fill our days here.

DriveInScreenCornerPorchCome on up soon and see them for yourself!

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

O, Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling…

GirlsJust Wanna Have

GirlsJust Wanna Have


Deep into the porch renovations, when we were planning the foundation plantings with the garden designer, I mentioned maybe putting in a water feature. She said why don’t you just put a small one on the porch? She didn’t mention it again, so the foundation planting went ahead without a water feature.
I love houzz.com, which had an article on how to make your own water fountain. While we may be a Bed and Breakfast off the beaten path (that’s a big part of the appeal, right?) in northern Dutchess County, the web keeps us connected to all the best of the best. We picked out a nice pot, got a fountain kit, followed the simple directions and built our own water feature. Which now sits nicely on our new stone porch cap. As you can see, we all love it! Especially the small ones, there’s something fascinating about water.
I think part of my job as an innkeep is to look for little ways to make our guests’ experiences as wonderful and relaxing as possible. We all know how soothing the sound of water can be. So now along with the pleasant experience of eating a homemade breakfast on the porch, our guests can also hear the soothing sound of our hand-crafted water feature in the background.
fountainPackfountainpumpFountainPink

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

 

BerryTitleMy good friend’s brother would make his annual sojourn to pick wild blueberries that he had found once in New Hampshire while a young boy at camp. Over the many years of going back there, he perfected knowing exactly when the blues would be ripe, a factor affected by the heat and rain which he also mixed into the equation. He would return home with baskets and buckets full of the most beautiful blue and yummy berries. I think one of the factors that allowed him move away to Oregon from the northeast is that one year he went up and tractors clearing the land for houses had decimated the low bushes. There was nothing to stick around for.BerryHTH

If you love blueberries, they’re supposed to be easy to grow. When we fixed up our beds (that get lovely direct light, something berries need) during the porch project, people implored us to get berry bushes. Didn’t take much imploring. Like maple syrup, berries are B&B owners’ delight. Growing them is another thing.

I’m not the most patient person, and I need to remember that berry bushes take about three years to yield a full crop. Wisdom has it that one should leave them on the bush a full week after they turn blue. Ours are doing well by my granddaughters, and as you can see, the birds are having their own spree with them. BerryBirds(Next year, tighter mesh on the nets!!!) We also have some blackberries, and plan a few more bushes and varieties over the next few years.

Blueberry pancakes, muffins, scones, cobbler or just a handful get gobbled down pretty quickly. The little ones like them frozen to mouth pop for a healthy snack.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

Part 3: Sandy’s Garden Tour–Onto Hyde Park!

Link

Hyde Park Gardens, Finally!!!!

Continuing westward from Hilltop House in Amenia, we find we’re in an off-year for the biennial garden tours conducted in Hyde Park in the odd years, 2011, 2013, etc. Good news for us as we can tour on our own schedule—have a leisurely breakfast here on our renovated stone porch before heading out—and not deal with the crowds. The bad news is that gardens on tour dates like actors well rehearsed tend to be ready for the show.

The Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield, the Rose Garden adjacent to his home site, and the Vanderbilt Mansion are all parts of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Library and Museum site at 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, New York 12538. In very close proximity is the Vanderbilt Mansion, for which, in 1940, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the enabling legislation to become part of the National Park Service. Vanderbilt was established as a monument to the gilded age, an historic era in America rather than a tribute to any one person or family, today, all clustered together as the NPS historic site in Hyde Park. (And with Val-Kill—the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady a few miles away, plan a day or more to view it all.)

Beatrix Farrand garden in Spring

Beatrix Farrand garden in Spring

Of particular interest and often overlooked by visitors not of the garden variety is the Beatrix Farrand Garden. Farrand, America’s first woman landscape architect, was hired in 1912 to design a series of three gardens descending from the elegant 18th century house (now called Bellefield headquarters for the National Park Service) of her cousin and his wife. Enclosed by hedging and native stonewalls, visitors can glimpse our oldest surviving example of Farrand’s work: flanking flowerbeds of annuals selected for color harmony, bloom sequence, and texture — a technique Farrand helped spearhead. Other areas included a rose garden, a lilac and fruit-tree allée, a boxwood parterre, and something I like, a kitchen garden. Farrand also designed several gates, which have been rebuilt from her original sketches.

In all, over 200 acres of formal and “romantic” or naturalistic landscapes, from high ground to Vanderbilt’s riverside trails are free for the wandering and are open from sunrise to sunset. (To tour the houses is a rose by another name—there is a fee.) There are even pod-casts, and cell phone tours, which you can find of the nps website that help one navigate the landscape.

http://www.nps.gov/history/places.htm

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

So You Want to Own a Bed & Breakfast? Read this and call me in the morning.

The Porch Before

The Porch Before

OldDetailI hear from guests often how much they dream of owning a Bed and Breakfast, and this is my antidote to relieve those symptoms. The wooden pillars and the wide wood planking sitting atop the porch rail were original to the house. The wood was rotting and I knew that something needed to be done. Every time I would water the hanging pots I knew that I was causing more wood rot and knew that something would have to be done sooner rather than later. My contractor’s first suggestion was to wrap the wood in copper. The idea sounded kind of cool, but I couldn’t picture how it could be done neatly and tightly enough so that water wouldn’t get under the copper. Besides the fact, that it was way too expensive. I asked for other options. He came up with stone to replace the horizontal wood; I was sorry I didn’t think of it myself. The new pillars are fiberglass. Although I was sad to get rid of the wood barrel pillars, I knew it was the best option, again because of the rotting, termites and all the other things you worry about what with wood and how best to upkeep it. Now I take the hose and water my pots and rinse off the wall and stone caps and don’t have a worry at all. As you can see from the pictures, it was an enormous undertaking.

Removing the pillars, I loved those wooden things!

Removing the pillars, I loved those wooden things!

PillarsOld

Propping up all around. View from where the breakfast porch is.

Propping up all around. View from where the breakfast porch is.

Fixing the masonry

Fixing the masonry

New Pillar in

New Pillar in

Porch complete, new back beds.

Porch complete, new back beds.

The Beautiful After waiting to be planted

The Beautiful After waiting to be planted

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

Memorial Day: More than Just the Start of Summer

We fly the American flag here at Hilltop House

We fly the American flag here at Hilltop House

WE can’t pass up Memorial Day here without a tribute to our fallen men and women who served our country in time of war. One of the great things we liked about Hilltop House when we bought it five-ish years ago is our flagpole. We fly our flag not just on holidays, but to show we care about our country and its values.
Please, when you start this summer season off—as long in coming as it was this year—remember when we celebrate Memorial Day. It’s why we experience freedom in this country. It’s why we are open to new thoughts and ideas. It’s why we have things called Amendments although we don’t always know which one is which.
Freedom is worth fighting for but only when we remember what it costs to keep it going. When we all pay our share for that freedom, we should pause and remember those who paid the ultimate price.
God bless our fallen brothers and sisters who died in the name of the United States of America.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

Garden Tour Part 2: Millbrook

Sorry to have been delayed on my garden journey report. If anyone had started at my first posting, they would have been long trapped on the road between Amenia and Millbrook. Or maybe you just would have holed up here with us at Hilltop House for the duration.
But off to Millbrook, west of us on Route 44 to visit two very different gardens. Gardens, you see, are as different as the gardeners who create them. I use the word create, because there is nothing more creative than gardening. It is a wonderful way to see beauty evolve, to eat healthier, to involve children, to stay active, probably introduce us to all sorts of microorganisms that have been absent from most of our diets for all the anti-bacterial era closing behind us, and well, these gardens will inspire all sorts of souls.
Warning: You may not want to visit both on one day. They are both vast landholds covering many acres.

CaryArboretum
The Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum is a private enclave open to the public from dawn to dusk on most days. Founded in 1971, it is nearly 2,000 acres wide, and is home to / operated by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Originally the homestead of Mary Flagler Cary—an heir to the Standard Oil fortunes, Cary passed in 1967 and left her property to a trust. The trust asked the New York Botanical Society to take over oversight in 1971, and since then has the added surname “Arboretum.” In the 1980s the Institute for Ecosystem Studies was founded, which has since become an independent, nonprofit corporation. In 2008, they adopted a new name, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
There is no charge to tour the grounds, and Cary Institute holds regular talks and demonstrations. If one is interested in vegetable gardening, for example, this is the place to go to learn the rudiments of composting, and combination planting and what organic really means. But the grounds are vast with maples, a meadow, a swamp, trout stream and hiking paths.

Innisfree
Not two miles away is Innisfree!
Named one of the “world’s ten best gardens,”* Innisfree will overwhelm your garden senses and make you rethink landscape design. Largely the creation of landscape architect Lester Collins, (1914–1993), with collaboration from his client, the artist and teacher Walter Beck.
To quote their website: “Innisfree merges the essence of Modernist ideas and traditional Chinese and Japanese garden design principles with a nuanced reading of its glacial landscape. The result is a distinctly American stroll garden on 185 acres surrounding a large, shimmering lake — a sublime composition of rock, water, wood and sky.”
I urge you to wear good shoes, sunblock, a good hat, and give Innisfree the attention it deserves. Take two or more days if you’re like me and can’t take too much in on one visit.
Innisfree is open weekends and legal holidays from 11 am – 5pm
Admission is free for members and children 3 and under, $7 for the general public
The garden has been open since April 19th. There are many events on the web that might inspire you. Here’s one for this weekend:

Late May Wildflower Walk, May 24

• Explore Innisfree’s wild spring beauties with George Petty, a life-long naturalist who has led many wildflower and bird walks for the New Jersey Audubon Society. He is a Life Member of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Author of Hiking the Jersey Highlands: Wilderness in Your Backyard, George is also a published poet and a retired professor of college English.
• 11.00am, $10 for Innisfree members; $15 for the general public.

*Rory Stuart, What are Gardens For? Experiencing, Making and Thinking About Gardens (2012)

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

Garden Tour Across Dutchess County Starts here in Amenia

As we promised, and just in time for Arbor Day this Friday, we’re going to take a trek across Dutchess County. From here at Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast in Amenia, NY, to the easter shore of the Hudson River. We will visit five gardens, one here in Amenia, two in Millbrooke and two in Hyde Park. Gardens as interesting if not more so, than pre-opening Broadway plays. For those who love gardens, every season is a wonder, and the changes in budding, to blooming to off-season quietude offer visitors great insight and real time in-the-moment experiences. So “best times to view” aside, take the risk and get out to herald in the season.
We start close to home at Wethersfield Gardens:
Wethersfield is located in Amenia, NY at 214 Pugsley Hill Road. It was originally the country estate of Chauncey Devereux Stillman (1907-1989), left to Homeland Foundation, a not for profit organized by Mr. Stillman in 1938. After Mr. Stillman’s death in 1989, Wethersfield was opened to the public for open space and scenic enjoyment. Mr. Stillman named his farm after Wethersfield, Connecticut, where his ancestors had settled in the late 1600s.

Wethersfield occupies 1,200 acres in Northeast Dutchess County and consists of–
Wethersfield House Museum, Gardens, Carriage House, and Farm. The House, Museum, and Gardens are situated at an elevation of 1,200 ft., the highest point in the region, which provides panoramic views of the Catskills to the west and the Berkshires to the north.
Open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday Noon to 5PM; June –September. (845) 373-8037
www.wethersfieldgarden.org
Local Activities Prior to June opening:
APRIL
Fri. April 25 – 9am-noon
Arbor Day – Pine Plains Science class, planting tree
MAY
Sat. May 3 – 9am-noon
Spring Conditioning Ride and
Tack Swap & Shop

Fri. May 16 – Sun. May 18
Amenia Cub Scouts Campout

Sun. May 18 – 10am
Carriage Conditioning Ride
Garden only
$12 per person, $10 Seniors and Students 13-18 years of age.
$8 per person for groups of 3 or more
Garden, Carriage House, and Main House-
$20 for adults, $15 for Seniors and Students, $12 per person for groups of 3 or more
Advanced Reservations are required to tour the buildings.
Children ages 12 and under are free.
Here’s a link to the slideshow of the gardens on the Wethersfield.org site: copy and paste into your finder: http://www.wethersfieldgarden.org/garden-slideshow.html

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr

Sandy’s Veritable Garden Tour across Dutchess County

Our own garden trail across Dutchess County starts in Amenia

Our own garden trail across Dutchess County starts in Amenia


Happy Spring. It’s getting here; so I’ve been searching ways to entice it along a little faster. I came to a great website that listed all the gardens one could visit in Dutchess County and decided that every few days, I was going to write up a portion of Sandy’s Veritable Garden Tour across Dutchess County, since Hilltop House holds the eastern-most border, it’s a dandy spot to start or finish. Or maybe start and finish? Our trip takes place across Rte 44, less than half a mile away, (for some reason, Rte 44 doesn’t show on this map, but just follow our red lettering and take our word for it, it’s there. Rte. 44 turns west in Amenia, having snuggled up to Rte 22 South from Millerton to our north, then chugs up a hill and lopes gently (after that hill which is not gentle at all) through horse and cow farms till it hits Millbrook which we’ll skip for now but is the second stop on our traverse. It ends its meandering through Dutchess County, at Hyde Park on this side of the Hudson River, where we’ll end our jaunt.
I’ll post the first of our garden visits in a few days, when we will tour Wethersfield Gardens, right here in Amenia. Come and visit us soon, we have lovely places to visit very close by!

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblrfacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedintumblr