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.

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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

 

 

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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

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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.

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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)

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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

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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!

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As American as Maple Syrup

I recently heard a radio interview of an author who’d just written a book about maple sugaring. That’s a topic near and dear to B&B owners in the Northeast given a propensity for pancakes and French toast. Here are some of the interesting things I gleaned.

  • Maple is one of the few truly North American flavors. Maple does not come from other sectors of the world.
  • 75% to 80% of the world’s Maple Syrup comes from Canada, primarily Quebec. (Just imaging their national flag with that dominant maple leaf.)
  • The rest—1.32 million gallons– comes from the U.S.—Vermont being the #1 producer, followed by New York, Maine, Ohio and Wisconsin.
  • There is a new Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, called “the OPEC of maple syrup,” and maintains a “global strategic syrup reserve” containing tens of thousands of barrels of maple syrup. Canada in fact, sets pricing of Maple Syrup and is moving to change the labeling of grades
  • The bulk price for Maple Syrup has increased by 89% since 2000.

That’s a bummer. Unfortunately anything that good seems susceptible to getting roped in, controlled, doled out and makes me want to move into a grove of maple trees and make my own. But…

  •  It takes 30 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! Or about one tree yielding a pint of syrup.

One of my friends was diagnosed with a kind of “fatigue syndrome” some years back and her nutritionist took her off all white foods—flour, sugar, pasta, rice—and told her to use only maple syrup as a sweetener. She got better, and she got very inventive with her maple sweetening. True maple doesn’t cause those spikes in glucose levels like most other sugars.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with artificial maple syrup of the Log Cabin type, which is mainly high fructose corn with maple flavoring. After this frigid winter, the maple season is not projected to be that great. The sap has yet to flow steadily—to do that, it must maintain 40 degrees in daytime, 20 degrees at night—and the weather doesn’t make it likely that pricing will get better. The narrow window of time between ideal sugaring weather and the budding of the maple leaves, which detracts from the flavor of the syrup, can get reduced greatly in a year of late storms like 2014.

Down the road in Dover, Madava Farms, the home of Crown Maple Syrup, opened as we reported back with our Red Chair sagas; their website touts 100% Certified Organic Maple Syrup.  It’s a remarkable operation; the site is worth checking out. MapleFactory

MapleSign

Here’s a quote from their site: “Visit Madava Farms on weekends to sample the week’s fresh cuttings for lunch in our selection of fresh sandwiches, grilled panini, composed salads, hearty soups, maple baked goods and specialty desserts.” They’re open 11am to 5pm most Saturdays and Sundays.

Oh, and by the way, it is officially spring in this hemisphere. Will someone tell the Big Guy?

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Hudson Valley Restaurant Week— Bring Your Appetites!

There are seven counties north of the Bronx that claim the historic Hudson Valley as their own. (Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast is in Dutchess county, on the east side of the mighty Hudson.) So when they put together the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week and a .com loaded with delicious details, it’s well worth the gander.
First of all, HVRW is a misnomer since it runs for two weeks, 14 days, beginning March 10th through the 23rd. Nearly 200 top restaurants will spread their collective table clothes to offer up 3-course dinners for $29.95 (plus beverage, tax and gratuity). Some offer 3-course lunch fare for $20.95 (plus beverage, tax and gratuity). You must call the restaurant in advance, but no ticket is necessary—and most, but not all times (usually high traffic seatings of Saturday nights for example) offer the special pricing.

foodshot

 

 

 

Don’t forget, Hudson Valley is home to the Culinary Institute of America [ CIA ] as we’ve pointed out previously—so the proverbial dart board of great chefs circling it is pretty packed.

The Valley is also home to fabulous apple orchards, wine vineyards, maple sugaring operations, and pure and simple historic tourist attractions. Saute that all together and there’s lots to do, lots to eat, and after this winter, mud season will be welcomed with open arms!

You can find a great listing on their website that maps out the restaurants, has menu listings, shows hours of operation and how to contact them: HudsonValleyRestaurantWeek.com

And because the Hudson Valley is also flush with local produce and crafts, we’ve edited this list of indoor farmers’ markets in the Hudson Valley that coincide with the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week(s). Bon Appetite! and we hope to see you soon at Hilltop House.

Beacon
Pier/dock by Sloop Club across from train station
open all year, Sun 11-3
www.thebeaconfarmersmarket.com

Hudson Valley-Greig Farm
229 Pitcher Ln., Red Hook
open all year, Sat 10-3
www.greigfarm.com

Millerton Indoor
North East Community Center, 51 South Center Street
Jan-Apr, 2nd & 4th Sat: 10-2
www.millertonfarmersmarket.org

Rhinebeck
61 & 80 E. Market St.
open all year, Sun 10-2
www.rhinebeckfarmersmarket.com

Pine Island
W. Rogowski Farm, 329 Glenwood Rd.
Mar 15 & 29, 10-3
www.rogowskifarm.com/Farmers-Markets.html

Cold Spring Indoor
Philipstown Community Center in Garrison
Nov 24-May, Sat 8:30-1
www.csfarmmarket.org/info/our-markets

Palisades Indoor
Palisades Community Center, 675 Oak Tree Rd.
Jan 18-May 17: Sat 9-1
www.palisadesfm.org

Callicoon Indoor
8 Creamery Road, Delaware Youth Center
Mar 9 & 23; Apr 6 & 27: Sun 11-2
www.sullivancountyfarmersmarkets.org

Kingston Indoor
Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall St.
Dec 7-Apr 19, 1st & 3rd Sat, 10-2
www.kingstonnyfarmersmarket.com

Chappaqua Indoor
St. Mary’s Church, 191 Greeley Ave.
Dec-Apr, Sat 8:30-1
www.chappaquafarmersmarket.org

Hastings Indoor
Library (Dec, Apr, May); James Harmon Community Center (Jan-Mar)
1st & 3rd Sat, 8:30-1
www.hastingsfarmersmarket.org

Mt. Kisco
St. Mark’s Church, 85 E. Main St.
open all year, Sat 9-1
(914) 666-8069

Pleasantville Indoor
Pleasantville Middle School, 40 Romer Ave.
Dec 7-May 10, Sat 9-1
www.pleasantvillefarmersmarket.org

South Salem
Gossett Brothers Nursery
year-round, Sat 9-1
www.gossettnursery.com

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