Hilltowns

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

As a relatively new rescue-dog owner, I can personally attest to the mental and physical health benefits of walking and hiking. There is not a season, or a day that goes by, wherein I don't have to take my energetic dog on a lengthy walk or hike. Since we adopted her, nearly 4 years ago, I have discovered numerous walking and hiking areas in the Pioneer Valley. I enjoy them all immensely, for various reasons. And, while I admit that there are days when I dread the walk - once I am out, moving my body, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Northampton area- the dread washes away and is replaced with gratitude.

Check out this recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette which highlights some local hiking areas to enjoy this summer (spring, fall and winter as well!)

Five serene treks that can promote physical and mental well-being

  • A walking path at Atkins Reservoir in Amherst Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • By ANDY CASTILLO
    @AndyCCastillo

Monday, August 06, 2018

Ahead in a clearing lies a pine tree. Sunlight, filtering down through a leafy canopy illuminates its bare branches. There’s nothing to be heard but the gentleness of wind and the sweet trill of birdsong, which echos through towering oak trunks and across the many vernal pools scattered throughout Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.

I’ve walked through these woods many times, having grown up in Northampton near the Big Y shopping plaza on King Street. Not far away, a great blue heron stalks cautiously forward into a tributary of the Mill River, startling a deer, which raises its head from grazing in the reeds. Peace reigns over the clearing for a little while. But it doesn’t last.

It’s broken, suddenly, by two squirrels. They leap, one after the other, down from a tree and into dry leaves that outline a narrow path ahead of me, which winds on for four miles through the nature preserve’s 724 acres, which is spread across Northampton and Easthampton.

While familiar, the scene never gets old. And, even though I’ve watched Hampshire County’s commercial industry and its neighborhoods expand over the last few decades, I still find it easy to escape into the quietness of nature, for my physical and mental health, on readily accessible trails throughout the region.

Below are a few of my favorites, close to my hometown, where I still escape to for a peaceful walk.

 

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton

The trails at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, are open to the public from dawn until dusk. The preserve’s terrain is diverse, ranging from forest, to grasslands, to wetlands, and the walking paths aren’t too strenuous. Native flora is prevalent along the trails, as is wildlife, which can be viewed from a tower overlooking the Mill River.

A variety of trails, which include an 850-foot loop over crushed stone with a guide rope along the side, are accessible from a parking area at 127 Combs Road in Easthampton. Next to the parking area, there’s a nature center where events are held throughout the year. Audio tours that coincide with the trails can be listened to by calling 413-272-0006. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Members are free.

Directions: Arcadia Wildlife Sactuary is at 127 Combs Road, Easthampton. From Route 10, turn onto Lovefield Street, which isn’t far from Valley Recycling, take a left onto Clapp Street, another left onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road. From East Street, turn onto Fort Hill Road, pass Fort Hill Brewery, take a right onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road.

 

Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Northampton

The dock at Fitzgerald Lake, which is about a two- minute walk from a parking area at North Farms Road in Northampton, provides a quick respite from the busyness of life. Even though it’s not far from a few of the Pioneer Valley’s main thoroughfares, with Route 9 on one side and Route 5 on the other, while standing at the end of the dock surrounded by reeds, it feels as though you’re miles from civilization.

From the dock, a two-mile trail leads around the lake to a dam on the other side, and from there, another mile or so of trail connects to a second parking area at the former Moose Lodge off of Cooke Avenue. The lake itself is artificial, and shallow, created when the dam was made in the 1960s. Growing up, jogging to the dam from the Moose Lodge, or around the lake from North Farms Road to Cook Avenue, were favorite running and mountain biking routes of mine. The trail system, which includes a shorter loop that takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk near the dock, can also be accessed from Marian Street and Coles Meadow Road. Trails are mostly protected from the sun by forest canopy and traverse rocky sections and cross small sections of grassland and wind through the woods that surround the lake.

Wildlife can be seen from various lookout points along the way, including a wildlife observation blind, and sections of the trail pass close by large swamps. The conservation area is maintained by the Broad Brook Coalition, a nonprofit organization, and the Northampton Conservation Commission.

More information on walking the trails, which are free and open to the public, can be found at www.broadbrookcoalition.org.

Directions:61 North Farms Road, Northampton. The North Farms Road access point has gravel-lot parking, and features an accessible paved path, bridge and boardwalk out to the dock. 196 Cooke Avenue (former Moose Lodge, up behind the Northampton Walmart), features an entry point to the trails and street parking on the right side of an unpaved lot. Marian Street: Entrance and street parking. Coles Meadow Road: Entrance and street parking.

Robert Frost Trail, Amherst

While there are many sections of the Robert Frost Trail, which stretches 47 miles from South Hadley to Wendell, my favorite section can be found just off of Cushman Road in Amherst next to the Atkins Reservoir. Across from the trailhead is a short walking path that leads along the reservoir’s edge, which is another beautiful place for a peaceful and short walk.

The natural colors along the trail are vivid and change with each season. In the spring, aquatic plants pop from the blue water in vibrant yellow tones.

Summertime brings a Jurassic torrent of green that’s tempered come fall by the rustic orange grace of autumn. And in the winter, the redness of dead leaves lining narrow streams, bubbling from the adjacent Adams Brook, contrasts with the whiteness of untouched snow.

The trail is aptly named in honor of Frost, the great American poet, as it highlights the simple beauty of New England’s woods. I often escape here, alone, to find inspiration in nature. A few other sections of the Robert Frost Trail that I particularly appreciate include one that leads around Puffers Pond, and another in Sunderland at the Mount Toby State Forest near Cranberry Pond, which has a beautiful trail system, albeit a little challenging, of its own.

Directions: Area of 60 Cushman Road, Amherst. The entrance to the Robert Frost Trail is on the right, across from the Atkins Reservoir, and there’s a narrow pull-off for parking nearby. From Bridge Street, which passes by Cushman Common and Cushman Market and Cafe and turns into East Leverett Road, turn right onto Market Hill Road. From there, drive straight about a mile and a half, continuing on after the street turns into Cushman Road, to the pull-off.

The Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, Amherst

Mowed paths crisscross 28 sprawling acres at the Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From a house built to look like a Renaissance cottage, home to the center, the paths sweep down a grassy hill filled with native flora and birds, which dive after crickets and other insects. At the top, next to a period era garden, a few of the trails lead into a wooded section.

It’s a beautiful place for an evening walk around sunset because of the expansive view from the top, and because many of the walking paths are completely exposed to the sun. The trails are open to the public all the time, but the center, at 650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At closing time, a gate at Pleasant Street is locked, and any cars still in the parking lot must call campus police to get out. Elsewhere, cars can also park on nearby side streets.

Directions:650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, not far from the North Amherst Fire Station and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s main campus. The center has a gravel lot, which closes at 5 p.m., and there’s additional parking at nearby streets such as Sherman Lane, which is across the road. 

Fort River Birding and Nature Trail, Hadley

A one-mile-long pathway, carved into the landscape, leads through diverse habitats, ranging from grasslands to wetlands and forest, at the Fort River Birding and Nature Trail in Hadley, which is in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The path, which was completed a few years ago, is mostly gravel, graded to accommodate wheelchairs, and traverses over vernal pools and woodland areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The pathway itself is beautiful — sometimes it’s elevated on stilts — carefully designed to highlight quintessential elements of Connecticut River’s watershed, such as tributaries, vernal pools, and the surrounding forest. At a few different points along the way there are shaded gazebos and platforms with seating areas that overlook particularly beautiful areas for birdwatching.

It’s the perfect place for a morning or afternoon walk, although it can be hot at times because some sections of trail aren’t covered. Come evening, especially in the spring and summer months, mosquitos are out in force.

Directions: 63 Moody Bridge Road, Hadley. From South Maple Street, which is one of the back roads to the Hampshire Mall from Northampton, turn onto Moody Bridge Road at the four-way stop sign. The nature trail is at the end of a dirt turn-off on the right, as indicated by a small sign.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

New Listing in Chesterfield MA - 206 Bryant Street!

Contemporary home on 17.22 bucolic acres in the heart of beautiful Chesterfield MA. This 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath has all the bells and whistles! Open concept floor plan on first floor with large cook's kitchen, wood stove, dining room, family room and TV room, shaded porch and sunny deck, tiled mudroom and office/guest room across from first floor powder room. Second floor is comprised of a gracious master suite, with a large walk-in closet, 2 additional bedrooms and addtional full bath/laundry room. Walk out basement is ready to be finished, or can be used as-is. There is also a large walk up attic with ample storage space. In the spacious yard, you will find a large storage shed, fire pit, stone walls and plenty of wildlife. 12 minutes to Williamsburg, 20 to Florence, 26 to Northampton center.

Enjoy camping, hiking, skiing, fishing, horseback riding, berry-picking, bird watching and all that Chesterfield and the hill towns have to offer - as well as an abundance of cultural events and natural beauty in the nearby Berkshires. This property is approved for horses, and would be great for gardening. With an abundance of sunlight, it would likely be a great candidate for solar power too!

206 Bryant Road in Chesterfield. Offered at $399,000. Call Julie Starr to set up your private showing, or attend the open house this Saturday, May 5th from 11-1 pm.

View from the top of the driveway

Side of the house

Cook's kitchen

Wood-burning stove in living room

TV room

Master bedroom

Second bedroom

Third bedroom

 

 

 

Spring is Springing!

It seems that my favorite time of year is upon us once again (despite the lingering chill in the air). What is more hopeful and celebratory than driving down the Northampton roads and seeing the dogwoods, cherry trees, magnolias, apple trees, peach trees, lilacs and azaleas all in bloom? Before your garden beds are overcome with weeds and the colorful flowers of early spring have died back to allow for the next group of perennials to show their beautiful selves -- you have an opportunity to fill in the blanks! The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette lists some local plant sales going on this weekend and beyond - as well as suggestions for colorful additions to your garden beds.

Mickey Rathbun: Colorful New Perennials to Consider

Every year when my perennial beds come to life, I notice two or three places where a shriveled brown clump is all that’s left of a once-thriving plant. I often blame the burrowing rodents who kill my plants by feasting on their roots over the winter. (Surely, the cause of death couldn’t be my lack of care!) Last summer’s drought caused the demise of some of my newer perennials whose root systems hadn’t had the chance to develop. I’m certain I’m not alone in discovering bare spots in this year’s emerging garden.

There is a silver lining to this cloud, though: the opportunity to buy new plants to fill those holes. Many local plant sales in the coming weeks offer hardy perennials. But if you’re looking for something new and different, local plant nurseries are selling scores of bold new perennial varieties. Every year adds a dizzying array of new color choices. Here are some top 2017 picks that will add a welcome punch of color throughout the summer: 

Threadleaf coreopsis provides an easy color infusion for a sunny border. The new coreopsis ‘Crazy Cayenne’ is as hot as its name suggests. Masses of fiery sunset orange blossoms hover over needlelike foliage. The sun-loving plant has a compact, mounding habit. With occasional deadheading, it will continue to bloom throughout the summer.

I love delphiniums. They are short-lived, but their colorful spires of flowers are so spectacular in the early summer garden I can’t pass them up. ‘Pink Punch’ delphinium is perhaps the deepest pink delphinium ever. It bears frilly mulberry-pink blooms with white, brown or pink-striped centers (called “bees”). A New Zealand hybrid, ‘Pink Punch’ grows from 3 to 6 feet tall, but its strong stems seldom require staking.

Delphiniums come in a range of colors, from deep purple to pink and white, but I’m a sucker for blue, a hard-to-find color in the perennial world. ‘Blue Bird’ is another brilliantly hued new variety of this stately, elegant early summer plant. This is a Pacific Giant Hybrid, with a bright blue blossom and a white “bee.” It grows from 4 to 6 feet tall, so staking is recommended.

Foliage can add color, too. I depend on hostas to brighten up my shady areas. A lovely new hosta, ‘Earth Angel,’ has variegated lime and blue-green leaves edged in creamy white. Its pale lavender flowers bloom in early summer.

Heucherella x. ‘Plum Cascade’ is another foliage star, with lobed, silvery-purple leaves that have a trailing habit. Its pale pink flowers rise above the foliage on short, strong stems.

Some people dislike daylilies because, as their name suggests, the blossoms last only a day before wilting and turning yucky. Despite this, I am a huge fan. The bright green, strappy foliage holds up well through the summer, and the abundant blossoms come in an ever-widening assortment of colors. This year’s ‘Primal Scream’ sports enormous blooms (7 ½ to 8 ½ inches wide!) in brilliant tangerine. Its petals are narrow, twisted and ruffled. I’ve found that if I choose varieties carefully, their range of bloom times will keep my daylily border colorful all summer.

‘Primal Scream’ blooms in early July.

Who can resist a splash of bright yellow in the garden? The new Echinaea ‘Golden Skipper’ has abundant, lemon-yellow blooms on sturdy, compact stems that reach only 15 to 18 inches tall. This plant is named after a yellow butterfly of the same color.

Stokesia laevis ‘Blue Frills’ is a new variety of the popular Stokes Aster that brings color in late summer and early fall, when other perennials have finished blooming. With a tidy, vase-shaped growth habit, this aster has large, electric blue flowers (2 ½ to 3 inches wide) with a sparkling white eye. It does best in full sun with good drainage.

This sampling barely scratches the surface of the latest offerings from perennial propagators everywhere.

Mother’s Day Dig Sale

Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway is having a Mother’s Day Weekend Dig Sale, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A wide variety of field grown perennials, hardy flowering shrubs, organic small fruits and excellent annuals will be available.

For more information and directions, go to wilderhillgardens.com

 

Berkshire BotanicalGarden plant sale 

On May 19 and 20, Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge will hold its 40th annual plant sale. There will also be a tag sale. Members have special early bird privileges on May 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. The sale is open to the public May 19. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and May 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, go to berkshirebotanical.org 

Garden Club of Amherst plant sale 

The Garden Club of Amherst will hold its annual plant sale May 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. under the tent, next to the Amherst Farmers Market on the Amherst Common, rain or shine.

There will be many wonderful plants including hundreds of perennials, hostas, woodland plants, grasses, shrubs and trees; plants for sun and shade. 

This year’s sale will also feature bags of fully composted horse manure from a local farm. Proceeds from compost sales will benefit Chesapeake Safe Harbor, a wonderful rescue and rehoming operation for Chesapeake Bay Retrievers run by Roger Booth and his daughter, Gibby, of South Amherst.

 

Southampton Woman’s Club plant sale 

The Southampton Woman’s Club, celebrating 100 years of service, will hold the annual Anita Smith Memorial Plant Sale May 20 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the One-Room Schoolhouse at Conant Park on Route 10 in Southampton. Held yearly since 1991, the plant sale is a nonprofit project with all money going to support a college scholarship program for area youths.

The sale will feature locally grown perennials, annuals, vegetable and herb plants. The club will also be selling a selection of vintage and “gently used” garden tools, containers and decorative garden items. Anyone wishing to help this scholarship program in the form of a monetary donation, or in the form of potted perennials, is encouraged to do so. Please call 527-4568 for further information.

Pollinator-friendly gardening: Lecture and guided walk 

Our pollinators are declining at an unprecedented rate worldwide due to human-induced, rapid environmental change. These declines pose a significant threat to our food supply; consequently, there has been major focus on the development and implementation of conservation strategies to maintain pollination of agricultural crops. However, not enough attention is paid to the key role pollinators play in natural ecosystems, making them an ineffective tool for maintaining and restoring biodiversity.

On May 21, from 1 until 3 p.m., Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston will host a lecture and guided walk with Dr. Robert Gegear, from the WPI Department of Biology and Biotechnology, focusing on pollinator friendly environments. Gegear will discuss the importance of developing an ecologically focused approach to gardening. He will also provide information on how to identify local bumblebee species. After the presentation, Gegear will lead a walk through the gardens to show how to put his suggestions into practice.

Free with admission; pre-registration required. Go to: towerhillbg.org 

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.

 

37 Village Hill Road - Midcentury Oasis!

Perched on a 7.8 acre open lot, surrounded by woods, yet close to Williamsburg Center, sits this unique and charming property. The handbuilt stone fireplace, built-in cabinets, beds and seating give this home a cozy and modern feel. There is so much potential in this home and lot. Built in 1947, it does need some TLC, but with a home of this character and charm, sited on a spacious and beautiful lot, the possibilities are endless!

Currently a 4 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home, 37 Village Hill Road in Williamsburg, MA is listed by our very own Winnie Gorman. Showings begin at the open house this Sunday, October 9th from 2-4 p.m. Bring your ideas for expansion and updates! Offered at $299,000. It won't last long!

Side Yard

View from the other side of the house

Living room with built in seating and stone fireplace

Living room

Master Bedroom

What a special property!! This charming custom built ranch, in the Frank Lloyd Wright style, is in a prime Williamsburg location. Sitting atop a knoll this handsome home is surrounded by both spacious lush lawn & breathtaking woods on three sides. Only moments from downtown Williamsburg, the best of both worlds awaits you here with the quiet, peaceful, woods offering a buffer from the outside world. A unique interior, containing a lovely stone fireplace & large picture windows that truly bring the beauty of the outdoors directly into the home. Many closets as well as generous storage offer ample space to keep things neat and tidy. A rare opportunity, indeed. Come take a look!!

ChiliFest at Mike's Maze this weekend!

NOT TO BE MISSED! The ChiliFest at Mike's Maze in Sunderland, MA is happening this weekend! What a great way to ring in the fall. Great food and great music, all in the idyllic New England setting of Mike's Maze in Sunderland. We Northampton-area locals look forward each year to the unveiling of the latest maze. This year, in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the National Parks Service, the maze is called "See America". Check out the link here for the aerial view of the maze.

While you are out and about, check out our weekend open houses.

Let's hope this beautiful weather holds throughout the weekend. Check out the article in the Daily Advocate here:

Hot Damn! Sunderland’s ChiliFest is Coming

By Hunter Styles

Kitchen Garden Farm hosts its annual giant farmer party at Mike’s Maze in the center of Sunderland, with bands, brews and spicy food all weekend long.

Hot Diggity!!!!

Could it be that the lingering heat wave of the past week was due to the potency of the peppers newly ripening at Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland? Probably not, but we hear these little devils are hotter than ever — and just in time for ChiliFest. Kitchen Garden hosts its annual giant farmer party Sept. 17-18 at Mike’s Maze in the center of Sunderland, with bands, brews and spicy food all weekend long.

Musical acts playing the solar-powered pavilion include Bella’s Bartok, The Derangers, Atlas Lab, Lonesome Brothers, Wishboe Zoe, Amber Wolfe, Tang Sauce, and Eli Catlin, whose tunes you can enjoy while munching on Mission Cantina tacos, mango-jalapeno popsicles from Crooked Stick Pops, arepas from Wheelhouse Farm Truck, dumplings from Kailash Kitchen, sriracha swirl ice cream from Bart’s, and spicy grilled Mexican street corn. Wash it all down with local beer from Abandoned Building Brewery, BLDG 8, and Exhibit A. 

That’s just the tip of the spiceberg. The Cook-Off features some of the best restaurant chefs in the Valley. The Hot Sauce Competition, held Sunday, is open to all who pre-register. Then, of course, there are the peppers from around the world, all fabulously monikered: ghost peppers, Hungarian Paprika, Trinidad Scorpions, and Carolina Reapers. Check out the screen printing, face painting, kids market, and the chef demo tent. Learn how to cook, pickle, and ferment. There’s even a “kimchi mob,” whatever that is. It’s a perfect chance to carry out these final days of summer in a blaze of glory. 

ChiliFest: Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. $10 adults; $5 kids; weekend pass $15 adults and $8 kids. Mike’s Maze, 23 South Main St., Sunderland. (413) 387-5163, kitchengardenfarm.com. 

— Hunter Styles, 

hstyles@valleyadvocate.com

Cummington Fair Starts Today!

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy all that the Hilltowns of the Pioneer Valley have to offer. There are so many activities to choose from: hiking, swimming, kayaking, tubing, antiquing, and county fairs, to name a few. Today is the opening day of the 148th Cummington Fair. It is my personal favorite, because the setting is lovely and wooded. It's off the beaten path, and the drive to and through Cummington is beautiful. It's got all the bells and whistles of any county fair - cotton candy, candy apples, overpriced games where you can win "prizes" that will wind up in the recycling bin, pony rides, loads of animals, etc.

While you are driving through the hill towns, be sure to check out Maple and Main Realty's hill town listings!

The Cummington Fair runs today, August 25th, through Sunday, August 28th. Check out the schedule here.


Western Mass Beer Week is Underway!

Exciting news for Northampton area beer lovers! The first ever Western Mass Beer Week has commenced! Check out the following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette with the schedule for all local beer and food-related events:

Hunter Styles: Western Mass’ week-long beer bash starts Saturday

The Western Mass celebration of local brew is under way

Sally Noble and Sonny Han co-own The Foundry in Northampton, one of many venues participating in Western Mass Beer Week

HUNTER STYLES

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Beerhunter’s ears are always pricked to news of local craft beer happenings, and this month, they’re positively tingling. 

All that excitement in the air is thanks to the first-ever Western Mass Beer Week, a series of events at breweries, bars and restaurants all around the Valley Saturday through June 18.

Eighteen breweries and more than a dozen eateries have teamed up to celebrate the beer brewed around here.

All told, 52 events are scheduled as of press time. Stay up to date on Facebook, and check westernmassbeerweek.org for more info.

In the meantime, here’s this beer lover’s first stab at a personal Beer Week to-do list. Hope to see you all there, and elsewhere, all week.

WEEK-LONG EVENTS

Brews & Tunes at Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton: Daily tastings, tours, and live music from Lunar Carnival, Eddie Riel, and more.

Taproom Tasting at Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield: Open Saturday-Friday, 4 to 6 p.m.

SATURDAY

Berkshire Craft Beer Festival in Pittsfield: At the Common Park from noon to 5 p.m.

SUNDAY

German Brunch: Presented by The Dirty Truth in Northampton, with German beers imported by Shelton Brothers. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bike Path Beer Voyage in Turners Falls: New beer debut at Brick & Feather at 3 p.m. followed by a keg tap at the Five Eyed Fox at 4 p.m.

MONDAY

Amherst Brewing Barrel-Aged Golden Sour Release: Gathering on University Drive. 5 to 10 p.m.

Movie screening “Blood, Sweat & Beer”: Abandoned Building in Easthampton hosts a showing of a new documentary film about two start-up breweries. 7 p.m.

TUESDAY

Franklin County Brewers at The People’s Pint: The Greenfield brewpub offers selections from Element, Stoneman, Honest Weight, and more. 5 to 11 p.m.

Learn to Cook with Beer: Chef Zach Shulman invites us to The Student Prince in Springfield, where he will make dressings, sauces and dessert using a saison, two pale ales, an IPA, and a tripel. 6 to 9 p.m.

Beer Trivia at Plan B Burger Bar in Springfield: Test your beer knowledge, with local breweries on tap. 9 to 10 p.m.

WEDNESDAY

BLDG8 at Moe’s Tavern: The Northampton brewery’s IPA makes its Berkshire County draft debut at the Lee restaurant. 3 p.m. to midnight.

The Foundry Firkin Faceoff: Five brewers were each tasked with turning a list of wacky ingredients into a quality cask beer. Come taste the results at the Foundry in Northampton. 5 to10 p.m.

Amherst Brewing / Wormtown Collaboration Release: The debut of a new pale ale, made in Worcester using Valley Malt. 5 to 10 p.m. University Drive, Amherst.

Real Ale Wednesday at Smith’s Billiards in Springfield: Casks and games aplenty. 5 to 9 p.m.

Honest Weight at The Moan and Dove: The new Orange brewery will be tapping a firkin and two pins at the Amherst bar, with additional beer on draft. 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The Dirty Truth Presents Lord Hobo Brewing Company: Eastern Mass brewer Daniel Lanigan comes home to the Dirty Truth in Northampton, which he co-founded, to raise a glass from draft, can, or cask. 7 to 10 p.m.

Firkin at the Brass Cat: Abandoned Building Brewery taps a new cask at the Easthampton bar. 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

THURSDAY

Cask Night at Iron Duke Brewing: Ludlow brewers offer two special casks, plus food truck eats. 3 to 9 p.m.

Vanished Valley Brewing Tasting: Brand-new Ludlow brewery pours free sample tastings of IPA and stout at Europa, the nearby steakhouse. 4 to 7 p.m.

Patio and Pints: Brew Practitioners in Florence host outdoor pours, with a 7 p.m. set by The Tom Savoy Band. 5 to 10 p.m.

Local Focus Beer Tasting Seminar: Provisions in Northampton hosts tastes of 12 wide-ranging beers, paired with cheese and charcuterie. $35 per ticket, or $30 each for 2-plus tickets. 6:30 to 8 p.m.

FRIDAY

Great Falls Harvest Food and Beer Pairing: The Turners Falls restaurant pours tastings of six Element anniversary beers, with Crooked Sticks Popsicles. 5 to 8:30 p.m.

 JUNE 18

C_LVIN India Pale Ale: One-time limited release collaboration between Brewmaster Jack and Abandoned Building Brewery. Available at Brewmaster’s Tavern in Williamsburg, with music, games, and food. 2 to 5 p.m.

The Worthy Craft Beer Showcase: Hosted by Smith’s Billiards in Springfield. Four-hour sampling, featuring Artifact Cider Project, Tree House Brewing Company, White Lion Brewing Company, and many more. Noon to 4 p.m.

Field Notes

Springfield brewery White Lion is teaming up with the city’s business improvement district to launch a summer series called White Lion Wednesdays. Through Aug. 17, the weekly event features White Lion brews with light fare and music, al fresco at one of three rotating locations: The Shops at Marketplace, Tower Square Park, and 1350 Main Street Plaza.

Magic Hat has finally run off and joined the circus. The Vermont brewery has signed on with Cirque du Soleil as the official craft beer of the Boston run of KURIOS, a “cabinet of curiosities” show that runs through July 10. What better way to kick back with a bottle of Circus Boy?

 In world beer news: the Belgian city of Bruges is building a two-mile underground beer pipeline to connect the downtown De Halve Maan brewery to its bottling plant. Once it’s completed this summer, the tunnel is expected to pump over a thousand gallons of beer an hour. Forget the opportunities to divert suds to all those local taplines – I’m wondering when they’re going to offer inner tube rides.

 

The Beerhunter appears monthly. Hunter Styles can be reached at hstyles@valleyadvocate.com.

 

Taking Care of Spring Bulbs

When spring sprung this year, I actually went online to research when and how to prune, fertilize, sod and care for the many plants in our garden. I was encouraged because last year when I followed instructions about how to care for my (dying) rose bush, I was actually able to bring it back from the dead and coax a bunch of flowers from it! This year, my garden has been growing well. Our bulbs seem to have gotten a late start, but they are hanging around for longer than usual. It's exciting to see them come up, and to think about what and where we will add new ones in the fall.

As a fledgling gardener (I can hardly call myself a gardener, to be honest), I was excited to read this piece in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette, about aftercare for spring bulbs. The article concludes with a list of interesting plant-related events happening in the Northampton area this month.

And, speaking of plant-related events in the Pioneer Valley! Don't miss the Asparagus Festival this Saturday, June 4th from 10-6 at the Hadley Town Common!

Here is today's article from the Gazette:

Mickey Rathbun: Aftercare for Spring Bulbs

The lovely season of spring-blooming bulbs has come to a close in my garden, leaving straggling drifts of lanky foliage. It’s easy to forget the weeks of delight the bulbs provided now that they’ve passed.

But resist the urge to cut back the foliage, even though it’s unsightly. The remaining leaves serve a vital function to the plant by restoring energy to the bulb by producing carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Without this, the bulb will not have the necessary nourishment to produce flowers the following year.

Leave the foliage until it turns yellow and dies back, a process that can take six weeks or longer. Some fastidious gardeners try to improve the leaves’ appearance by tying them or braiding them together, but this decreases the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize. So save yourself the bother and leave them alone.

If the dying foliage is making an eyesore in a visible part of the garden, you can hide it by strategic planting of annuals. Bulbs of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are deep enough below the surface that you can put in annuals without disturbing them.

You can also interplant bulbs with perennials like hosta and epimedium that leaf out as the bulbs are recharging.


To maximize the bulbs’ ability to send out next year’s blooms, it’s a good idea to snip flowers as soon as they have wilted. This prevents the bulbs from wasting energy on producing seed. Leave as much stalk as possible to promote photosynthesis. With spent hyacinths, run your hand along the stalk to remove the dead flowers instead of cutting the whole stalk.

If you want smaller bulbs such as scilla, muscari and galanthus to spread by self-seeding, don’t deadhead them. (Who has the time and patience to deadhead these plants, anyway?)

When you are finally able to get rid of the dreary yellow remains, cut them close to the ground. Don’t pull them out or you will risk damaging the bulb. After all you’ve done to nurture the bulb, you don’t want that to happen!

The bulbs don’t need to be watered unless you have an unusually dry spell. In the fall, apply a slow-release, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 10-15-10. Those numbers indicate the levels of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in the fertilizer.

Do not use a high-nitrogen fertilizer (the first number); nitrogen stimulates vegetative growth, which you don’t want at that time of year. A few inches of compost is also a welcome addition.

Every few years you might want to divide your bulbs if you notice that the flowers are getting smaller and the stalks shorter. Wait till the foliage has died, then carefully dig out the bulbs. You will find that the original bulb has multiplied into many smaller ones. You can replant these right away or you can clean them off and dry them and set them aside in a single layer in a cool, dry, airy space and wait until fall to plant them.

After a long, cold winter, spring bulbs are an invaluable lift to our spirits. It’s worth taking care of them now so they’ll be back the next year, when we’ll be aching again for colorful new life in the garden.

FRAGRANT PLANTS THAT DELIGHT
We focus so much attention on the visual appearance of plants. But what about their scents? Join noted plantsman Andy Brand at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on June 4 from 1 to 3 p.m., for an exploration of ornamental woody plants and perennials that offer more than just visual appeal to our gardens.

The plants highlighted in this lecture have exceptional fragrances that warrant a special place in the garden where they can be fully enjoyed — near an entryway, alongside a terrace or deck, or along a woodland path.

Participants will learn how to make their gardens feasts for all of the senses.

For over two decades, Brand has been nursery manager for Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, Connecticut, known for its rare and unusual woody plants. He is the former president of the American Rhododendron Society, past president of the Connecticut Butterfly Association, past President of Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association (CNLA), and received the Young Nursery Professional Award from the New England Nursery Association.

He is an amateur naturalist with a strong interest in native plants and attracting wildlife to yards.

The fee for members is $15; nonmembers, $20

WILDFLOWERS ON THEHOLYOKE RANGE
Woodland wildflowers are everywhere, but so often we don’t really see them. Gain a better appreciation of spring wildflowers by taking a guided tour of wildflowers at the base of the Holyoke Range on June 4 from 9 until 11 a.m. The Kestrel Trust has organized the tour, to be led by Karen Searcy, University of Massachusetts professor and botanist. RSVP for meeting location to: office@kestreltrust.org.

TOVAH MARTIN IN GREENFIELD
Celebrated garden writer Tovah Martin will give a lecture and workshop on making terrariums at the Brandt House, 29 Highland Ave. in Greenfield on June 5 from 1 to 4 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Greenfield Garden Club.

If you’d like to participate in the workshop, bring a glass terrarium and adornments. All other materials will be provided.

The lecture and workshop is $50; lecture only: $25.

For information and tickets, contact Jean Wall at 773-9069, or jeanwall1313@gmail.com.

SUNDERLAND CHURCH PLANT SALE
The Sunderland Congregational Church is having its annual plant and bake sale on June 4, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The sale will include annuals, perennials, and some small trees and bushes. The sale is to benefit the church, located at the corner of Routes 47 and 116. There will be parking at the rear of the church buildings.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.
 

 

End of Summer Events in the Northampton Area

Here we are in the final weeks of summer in the Pioneer Valley - it seems to be going by quickly! The weather has been lovely and it has been a great summer so far. There are still some highlights to look forward to in August and September here in Northampton and the surrounding areas.

1. Tuesday, August 25th from 4-9:30 p.m. is our 25th Annual Transperformance presented by the Northampton Arts Council and held at Look Park. A fantastic events where local bands and performers cover songs based on a specific theme - this year the theme is "Look at the Movies".

 

2. August 27th - 30th is the 147th Annual Cummington Fair, in Cummington, MA. A traditional country fair with animals, shows, rides, great food all  nestled on the beautiful Cummington Fairgrounds.

 

3. The Three County Fair in Northampton is held annually over Labor Day weekend, September 4 - 7th. This is a much larger fair than the Cummington fair, held at the Fairgrounds in Northampton.

 

4. Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket MA in happening through August 30th, 2015.


For more information about summer events and festivals, check out this list at masslive.com

 

Maple Sugar Season Snafu!

One of the perks of living in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley, is the celebration of winter's end and spring's beginning that is earmarked, in part, by maple sugar season. This provides us Western MA folk with a post ski-season excuse to spend a weekend day driving through the picturesque Hilltowns to have pancakes and homemade maple syrup at one of the many sugarhouses which pepper the area. The very long and cold winter (which seems to be clinging on for dear life) has thrown local maple syrup producers and fans alike, a curveball this maple sugar season. The cold temps throughout March have created a shift in the freeze and thaw cycle necessary for "normal" sap production, as you can read about in the following Daily Hampshire Gazette article. Here's hoping that there is enough syrup produced so that we can all enjoy some sugarhouse fun!

Maple sugaring season comes at long last to Valley, as producers hope for best after long-delayed start

By LARRY PARNASS

Gazette Editor

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

WILLIAMSBURG — Easy does it. Now that maple sap is flowing, sugarers hope spring continues to play hide-and-seek in the Valley to salvage a sluggish season.

 

With night freezes and daytime thaws finally here, sugarers are making syrup, starting in earnest to boil at a time of year when they have sometimes been wrapping up.

 

At the Lawton Family Sugarhouse in Williamsburg, Bill Turner had produced just 11 gallons by Sunday. This time last year, the small family operation, founded by Deb Turner’s great-great-great grandfather George Lawton, was halfway to the 133.5 gallons it produced from trees on an adjoining sugarbush of 40 to 50 acres.

 

“From what I hear, we haven’t missed much,” Turner said. “Everybody’s in the same boat.” 

 

Unlike past years, when March has brought thaws, 2015 remained cold through the month. “This year it was more like an old-fashioned year,” Bill Turner said.

 

The depth of snow in the Hilltowns may help preserve sugaring conditions, several maple producers said this week in interviews beside their evaporators. Deep snow still on the ground at high elevations helps moderate rising daytime temperatures and preserve the freeze-and-thaw cycle maple producers need for a robust sap flow.

 

“I hope it keeps running and that we can make some decent syrup before it goes to dark,” said Deb Turner, referring to the hues that result with sap gathered later in the season, when warm temperatures bring up bacteria levels and affect quality and taste.

 

Paul Zononi, who taps trees on a few hundred Hilltown acres, estimated Sunday inside his Williamsburg sugarhouse that he has produced just 40 percent of the syrup he expected to turn out. Zononi said he hoped to do better.

 

“We got to. We have to,” he said. “Nationally, nobody’s making syrup. Our production is barely keeping up with our sales.” 

 

Usually, his season wraps up April 1. This year, Zononi is playing catch-up. He is hauling 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of sap a day down Route 9 from land he owns or leases in Goshen and Cummington. 

 

Zononi first boiled March 13, earlier than many Hilltown sugarers, instead of starting the first week of March. His operation produced 1,000 gallons of syrup last year, the last 200 of them darker commercial grades because the 2014 season was also late.

 

At South Face Farm in Ashfield, visitors on Sunday passed a stone-cold evaporator on their way in to the restaurant now run by the Olanyk family. The farm, owned by Tom McCrumm, has been making syrup this year, but did not have enough sap to boil on Sunday because it remained at freezing or below in the sugarbush the day before.

 

“The weather forecast looks pretty good for this week,” said Todd Olanyk, as restaurant customers waiting for tables sipped coffee near displays on sugaring history. “Hopefully, we’ll make up for it.” 

 

His restaurant, like most in the Hilltowns, will remain open for two more weekends.

 

As a veteran producer, McCrumm smiles at the notion that anything can be predicted in an agricultural enterprise.

 

“There is no such thing as average,” he said. “People have to understand. It’s all dependent on the weather.” 

 

McCrumm estimated that his sugarhouse has produced one quarter to one third of the syrup it may make this year. 

 

By the calendar alone, the season should be nearly over. Last year, after the late start, conditions allowed for 17 days of boiling that enabled the farm to produce 825 gallons of syrup. “We had this continuous, long stretch of sap weather,” he said of 2014.

 

While good endings are possible, they are jeopardized by rapidly warming days. He is buying sap this year from Heath and Colrain, two Franklin County towns at high elevations where the snowpack may help extend the sap season.

 

“Most producers would rather start early than start late and have to see how far it goes,” McCrumm said. “We don’t know how far ahead of us this end will be.”