Summertime

Summertime Local Eats!

I love living in the Pioneer Valley through all four seasons - but spring and summer bring with them a bounty of local produce that are the icing on the cake! I love buying seasonal produce at local farm stands, the Northampton Farmer's Market (plus the Florence Farmer's market and Tuesday Market), the River Valley Coop, even State Street, Cooper's Corner and larger supermarkets carry some local produce this time of year. Of course there's also the option of taking a farm share at one of our local CSAs - there are many to choose from in the Northampton area.

I feel my inner chef start to rear her head once the Hadley Grass (asparagus) hits the local markets in the spring. And rarely does a summer dinner go by that doesn't include grilled local corn, asparagus, or squash, a Caprese salad, grilled fish or meat with bountiful salads, desserts made with berries or peaches, or a bowlful of chilled watermelon to fight the summer humidity! I thought this article from The Kitchn which hit my inbox today, did a great job of making suggestions about what to eat in the summer. I might advise against eating ones' weight in ice cream, but otherwise....

 

50 Things You Need to Eat by the End of Summer
 

Sheela Prakash
Aug 5, 2017

There are many iterations of the summer bucket list. Some include going to the beach, hiking, or watching the fireflies outside on the back porch. All crucial to the season, yes, but so is eating all the delicious things the warm weather brings. It seems there aren't enough hours in the long, sunny days to consume all the fresh produce, burgers, and ice cream cones the summer entails. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try!

Here are the 50 foods we think absolutely must be eaten before the season comes to a close. This is our summer food bucket list.

 

 

(Image credit: Brie Passano)

All the Tomatoes

We forgo those mealy, tasteless tomatoes at the grocery store the entire year in anticipation of the sweet, juicy orbs that hit farmers market stalls mid-summer — and it's completely worth the wait. Once they arrive, it's a seasonal requirement to consume as many as you can, in every shape, size, and color, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Icon: 1-Minute Tomato Sandwich

When tomatoes are this good, they don't need to be fussed with too much. The iconic summer sandwich celebrates their sweetness and requires no more than 60 seconds to assemble, which means you should have time to eat at least a few before the season is over.

Read more: 5 Things to Do with a Pound of Tomatoes

 
 

 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Eat Your Weight in Ice Cream

An ice cream a day might not keep the doctor away, but it will make for one seriously delicious summer. For the sake of the season, up your consumption. That means ice cream in cones, cups, smashed between cookies, and made into cake. Oh, and other icy treats should be enjoyed too, so don't bypass the Popsicles.

Your Challenge: Make the Best Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Definitely hit your local ice cream shop and open the freezer case at the grocery store multiple times, but also try making your own quart this summer. Creamy, rich chocolate is a great place to start.

Related: 25 Creative People Share Their Favorite Pints of Ice Cream

 

 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Eat Everything That's Hot Off the Grill

Our grills are perpetually fired up all summer long, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It keeps the heat out of the kitchen, and everything from meat to fish to vegetables tastes better after being cooked on one. Toss as many things as you can on the grill while the weather allows it.

 

The New Classic: Easy Lemongrass Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken is a summer standby for most households, but this season bring a new recipe to the roster. This smoky, savory chicken is extra aromatic, thanks to the addition of lemongrass, and adds just the right amount of flair to your summer weeknight dinners.

Read more: How To Make Juicy, Flavorful Grilled Chicken Breast

 

 

 

 

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Eat Bucketfuls of the Juiciest, Sweetest Fruit

That is strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, plums, melons, and more. Eat all of it and eat as much of it as you can. Inhale them fresh, with the juices running down your arms, and then transform them into the desserts you crave.

The Crowd-Pleaser: How To Make a Fruit Cobbler by Heart

A juicy, sticky cobbler is a true celebration of the season. All it asks of you is that you pile as much fresh fruit as you can get your hands on and serve it warm with plenty of vanilla ice cream.

Related: 7 Tips That Will Help Your Summer Berries Last Even Longer

 

 

 

(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Eat Plenty of Light and Easy No-Cook Meals

One of the greatest pleasures of summer is just how fuss-free it is. This applies to what you cook in the season too. Instead of meals that require slow-simmering or excessive roasting, summer meals are light and easy. Embrace this before the weather turns chilly and you do want to stay inside all day and cook a stew. Relish meals that don't require any cooking at all, like salads and chilled soups, and yet are just as satisfying as those that have you crank up the oven.

The Seasonal Standby: Farmers Market Salad

This colorful salad is a catch-all for whatever you may discover on your farmers market strolls this summer. That means it's one you can, and should, turn to over and over again throughout the season.

Read more: How I Turn a Trip to the Farmers Market into Dinner

4th of July Sales!

Since there are fewer open houses in the Northampton area, given that it's a holiday weekend, perhaps your plans include some home decor or home improvement projects? Check out this comprehensive list of in-store and online July 4th Sales from Apartment Therapy!

The 2017 Mega List of July 4th Sales

 
Tara Bellucci
Jun 30, 2017
 
 

Before the festivities and fireworks begin, retailers have already started celebrating America's 241st birthday in the best way they know how—with sales. July 4th is historically a good time to stock up on summer clothes and swimwear, snag a new grill or patio furniture, and check out outdoor sports equipment and gear. We're rounding up all the best sales for home, apparel and more that we've come across, so no matter what you're looking for, you can save this weekend.

 

Home

  • 2Modern—Save 15% on American designers
  • ABC Carpet & Home—Up to 60% off online, sample sale up to 70% off in store
  • AllModern—Extra 20% off with code USA
  • American Heirloom —Free shipping with code AMERICAN; take 50% off all hardwood cutting boards with code HEIRLOOM (codes cannot be combined)
  • Bambeco—60% off site wide with code FIREWORKS17
  • Benchmade Modern—20% off with code HAPPY4TH
  • Bunglo — 25% off with code JULY4
  • The Company Store — 15% off $100+ / 20% off $200+ / 25% off 300+ with code JULY4TH
  • Crane & Canopy—Free shipping on orders $150+ with code SPARKLERS
  • DENY Designs — 30% off with code HIPHOORAY30 through 7/4
  • Design Within Reach—Up to 70% off summer sale
  • Dormify — 20% off site wide sale with code FIRECRACKER through 7/4
  • Gray Malin—30% Off aerial beach prints with code BEACH30
  • High Fashion Home—Up to 20% off select art, valid 7/4 through 7/9
  • Home Depot—Up to 40% off appliances, $10 to $40 off select paint and more
  • Houzz—Up to 75% off
  • IKEA—20% off mattresses and more deals for IKEA Family members
  • illy—$20 off $100 with code JULY4
  • JCPenney—up to 40% off major appliances, 55% off mattresses & tons of other deals
  • Joss & Main—20% furniture, lighting, bedding, upholstery, pillows, rugs and more with code FIREWORKS
  • Laurel & Wolf—Up to 50% off the design package of your choice with code SUMMER50
  • Leesa—$100 off mattress purchase
  • Lowe's—Up to 40% off select appliances, plus rebate when buying 2 or more
  • Lulu & Georgia — 70% off warehouse sale through 7/5
  • Lumens—Up to 40% off plus free vintage string lights with purchase of $350+
  • Overstock—Up to 70% off
  • Of A Kind—30% off select limited editions with code FREE4ALL
  • RugsUSA —Additional 20% off + free shipping with code JULY20
  • Serena & Lily — 20% off everything with code HAPPY4TH
  • Solid & Striped—25% off select styles and free overnight shipping with code USA25
  • Sweetgum Textiles—20% off any order with code JULY4TH. Valid 7/1 to 7/4
  • Target—Up to 30% off on home, furniture, & patio, and extra 15% off with code AMERICA
  • Wayfair—Up to 70% off on patio, living room, rugs, and more
  • West Elm—20% off in stock furniture in stores and online, additional 20% off markdowns with code SUMMER20

Gifts

  • Ban.do—Free shipping on all orders + free sunglasses with purchase of $50+
  • MoMA Store—Extra 20% off with code SUMMERSALE
  • Rifle Paper Co.—20% off everything + four free postcards with every purchase
 

Kids

  • OLLI+LIME — 20% off sitewide with code SUMMER20 through 7/5
  • Oeuf — 40% off spring/summer styles + free shipping (including furniture) through 7/5

Apparel

Don't Cut Back those Spring (Bulb) Flowers!

It's that time of year when the spring bulbs have stopped flowering, and our annuals are coming to life. This week full of rain has gone a long way towards helping our gardens to grow! Mickey Rathbun of the Daily Hampshire Gazette weighs in again, in the following article, about how to care for your spring bulbs to ensure that they continue to bloom. She offers advice about prettying up garden beds where deflowered bulbs are still hanging out, and lets us know about some upcoming gardening and nature events in the Northampton area! The moral of the story is, don't cut those bulb flowers back just yet!

 

Taking Care of Spring Bulbs

 

by Mickey Rathbun, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Most spring bulbs have flowered by now and are looking a bit forlorn, surrounded by burgeoning spring perennials that are growing almost visibly by the day. The green stalks and leaves of tulips, narcissus and other bulbs may look idle, but they are working hard to store up energy to produce next spring’s crop of blooms.

To ensure abundant flower production next year, 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. If the dying foliage is making an eyesore in a visible part of the garden, you can hide it by strategic planting perennials. I finally figured out that if I plant spring bulbs near the back of the border, they are naturally camouflaged by early blooming perennials such as bleeding hearts and euphorbia. This year, a bumper crop of forget-me-nots came up among my bleeding hearts, creating a lake of pale blue. While not tall enough to mask the scraggly bulb foliage, they distract the eye.

Annuals are another solution. Larkspur and Bells of Ireland have good height to block out the dying foliage. Delphinium (some treat it as an annual; at best, it’s a short-lived perennial) and foxglove (a biennial) can also provide a screen. Bulbs of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are deep enough below the surface that you can put in annuals without disturbing them

 

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.

When the foliage is finally caput, 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!

Bulbs will multiply underground on their own. After a few years, if you notice they are producing fewer flowers, it’s likely because they’ve become overcrowded. If this happens, you can dig them up and separate them.

The best time to do this is after the foliage has died but before you have removed it. At this point, the bulbs are fully nourished. Dig them up carefully, separate the bulblets and replant them. The largest ones will mature the fastest. If the main bulb is still firm and in good condition, you can replant it. If it’s shriveled or damaged, discard it.

You might want to wait to replant them in the fall. If you go this route, clean off the excess dirt and let the bulbs dry out for a few days. Toss any that are soft or damaged. Store in a cool, dry place packed loosely in dry peat moss.

You may need to wait a year or two for the bulbs to produce flowers. If you don’t want to wait, you can plant the bulblets in a holding area until they are big enough to bloom. This requires twice as much digging and lifting as immediate replanting. Let your back (and knees) be your guide.

Just think of the delight spring bulbs bring us after a long New England winter. Take good care of yours now and you will be richly rewarded.

Paradise City Arts Festival THIS COMING WEEKEND!

Although this wonderful annual festival offers much more than garden adornments, it’s a great place to find that special object that can transform your garden into something unique and personal. 

Unusual birdbaths, planters, outdoor sculpture, furniture and more. The festival takes place at the Three-County Fairgrounds in Northampton, Memorial Day weekend, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and open until 4 p.m. Monday. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for students, 12 and under free.

Forest ecology exploration

For nature lovers and hikers wanting to learn more about forest ecology, the Hitchcock Center is hosting an exploration with plant ecologist Glenn Motzkin of a rich, mesic forest — one where the soils are not highly acid, are rich in certain minerals, and where the soil is moist but not wet. The site will have good variety of trees, wildflowers and ferns.

Motzkin will help bring the ecology of this habitat alive for participants and will share recent understandings about the importance of these habitats. The walk will take place June 3, 9 a.m. until noon, at a meeting location to be provided upon registration. Be prepared for insects and perhaps ticks! Cost is $20 for members; $30 for non-members. For more information and to register, go to hitchcockcenter.org.

Northampton Garden Tour

Come spend a few hours enjoying the six special gardens featured this year in and around Northampton on the 24th Northampton Garden Tour June 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine.

The self-guided tour raises funds for the Friends of Forbes Library, Inc. to help finance needed programs and materials for the library. It also aims to inspire and educate garden-lovers with visits to a variety of appealing landscape styles and collections of plantings.

This year’s six gardens are located along a scenic 15-mile route, making gardens accessible by car and offering a pleasant bicycle ride with varied terrain.

Driving directions are included with the tickets. At each garden, there are descriptions of the plantings and volunteer garden guides on hand to answer questions. 

Tour tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center, North Country Landscapes and Garden Center, and State Street Fruit Store. On the day of the tour, tickets are $20 and available only at the library.

There also will be a raffle. of gift baskets on view at Forbes Library through June 8.

For more details visit www.forbeslibrary.org or call Lyn Heady, 584-7041.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.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.


Screened-in Porches in the Pioneer Valley

Maple and Main Realty was mentioned in an article in the Boston Globe yesterday, August 11th. The article, written by local writer/author Debra Jo Immergut, is about screened-in porch design and function. It focuses on screen porch projects in the Northampton and Pioneer Valley areas, and features local architect, Tim Stokes of Stokes Design/Build.

We are in the process of planning to add a screen porch to our home here in the valley, so this article is timely indeed. How lovely to enjoy the few warm spring/summer months of Western MA, without being pestered by bugs! 

Screened-in rooms are cool again

ADI NAG

Gayle Kabaker and Peter Kitchell’s dog, Charlie, relaxes in “The Pondhouse,” a screened-in slumber spot on their Western Massachusetts property.

By Debra Jo Immergut GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  AUGUST 11, 2016
 
Illustrator Gayle Kabaker and artist Peter Kitchell are well-versed in the pleasures of a summer’s snooze on a sleeping porch. They have not one but two screened-in slumber spots on their rolling property in the Western Massachusetts town of Ashfield.

One inviting berth occupies part of a screened dining/sitting area adjacent to their sunny kitchen. A few years ago, Kabaker swapped out the sofa for a twin bed. “It’s a great place to nap,” Kabaker said of the space, which she uses for nearly half the year. “I set it up as soon as I can each spring.But the true star of the property is just out of view, a hundred or so yards down a meandering path. There, a graceful freestanding screened pavilion, built by Kitchell from local hemlock and inspired by Japanese teahouse architecture, overlooks the property’s small pond. Visiting friends and family sometimes overnight in “The Pondhouse,” and Kabaker uses it often as a place to read, nap, and practice yoga. But that’s only when it’s not occupied by the paying guests who book it through the AirBnb website. Kabaker first posted her listing in summer 2012. The Pondhouse is now booked most weekends, and many weekdays, from May through October. Despite the fact that it has no electricity or running water (and the bathroom is up the hill in Kitchell’s studio), “we recently had a mother and her two daughters fly up in a private plane from Georgia just to stay here for 36 hours,” Kabaker said.

In this overstimulated age, the idea of a quiet screened porch certainly has allure — and, after decades in which screened-in spaces were often torn down or enclosed for year-round use, many homeowners are taking another look. Judging on the number of images of the airy structures shared or saved on sites like Pinterest and Houzz, the screened-in room is enjoying a popularity not seen since the early 20th century, when sleeping porches were de rigueur for new homes. Back then, such indoor/outdoor rooms were not simply pleasant spots to catch a summer breeze. Rather, the trend was fueled by the common belief that sleeping in the fresh air was an essential way to ward off tuberculosis.

In 2016, that trend may be coming full circle. This summer has seen a healthy uptick in window-screening sales, said Gregg Terry, marketing director at the Alabama firm Phifer Inc., which supplies the mesh materials to building-supply distributors, home center and hardware retailers, and window manufacturers. Much of that demand has been driven by a healthy housing market, Terry said.

But there’s also a disease that is inspiring builders and renovators to consider screened porches. The Zika virus — and the recognition that controlling insects is a growing health concern — “has been a motivating factor,” said Terry, whose business has an international presence.

Whether motivated by health worries or visions of long, lazy afternoons with a good book and a cold drink, “people do love screened porches,” said real estate agent Julie Held, co-owner and manager of Maple & Main Realty in Northampton. Of course, she added, “It sort of depends on when people are looking at houses; it’s seasonal. It’s really appealing if they’re looking at it in the summer, but in the winter they have a hard time believing it’s ever going to be warm again.” Still, she said, they’re a covetable asset, especially when placed in the right spot for maximum beauty and functionality.

As a renovation project, a screened structure offers a relatively inexpensive way to add usable space to a home. The screened porch is “a really elemental form of shelter,” said architectural designer Timothy Stokes of Stokes Design/Build in Westhampton. “The porch has very simple things it needs to do — just keep the rain off of you and keep the mosquitoes from eating you alive.”

Stokes recently added a screened porch, constructed from cedar and ipe wood, as part of an addition to a client’s home in South Deerfield. By opening up the south side of the home with large expanses of screening, the porch increases air circulation and “acts as a huge lung for the rest of the house.” The clients often end up sleeping in the breezy space, which was designed to maximize views of Mount Sugarloaf, Stokes said. “If they can sleep through that time from 4:30 to 6 a.m. when the birds are really going off, then it’s great,” he joked.

EDRICK VANBEUZEKOM/EVB DESIGN

Architect Edrick VanBeuzekom designed this pavilion with an eye toward natural materials.

Tucked into the trees at the top of a slight slope behind a house in suburban Framingham, a freestanding pavilion completed in 2007 by Somerville architect Edrick vanBeuzekom of EvB Design was inspired by Japanese teahouses and traditional New England building techniques. Working with the Claremont, N.H., firmTimberpeg, which specializes in heavy-timber structures, the architect designed it with an eye toward natural materials: its Douglas fir frame is assembled with traditional joinery methods and topped off with a copper roof.

The pavilion’s owners use the multitasking structure for lounging with the Sunday crossword, sleeping on summer nights, and hosting acoustic jam sessions. The pavilion is screened through the summer, but it’s also outfitted with custom-made interchangeable glass and screen panels that extend its usability through much of the year. “If you have all the glass panels in, and you get the lower winter sun in there, it actually warms up pretty well,” vanBeuzekom said. When not in use, panels can be stored in a crawl space reached via a hatch in the floor.

Adding such a feature to one’s property can be fairly inexpensive, the architect said. “I’d do a very simple roof shape and put it on piers, and it would be fairly easy with some basic carpentry skills,” he said. “And, as in any architectural project, the beauty comes with the details.”

Inspired? Here are a few pointers:

Site it right. A porch’s orientation to prevailing light is critical, Stokes said. “Be very aware of the predominant sun angles on your property, so you don’t end up with a very open wall on the south if your intent is to have a shaded, cool area.”

Choose the right screens. Screening is made from a range of materials, including woven wire, polyester, and Fiberglas, so do your homework before you buy. Stokes chose a high-density Fiberglas pet-proof screen for the South Deerfield project: “It’s designed to prevent small bugs like no-see-ums and gnats, and at the same time it’s incredibly strong and can be very tightly stretched with no billowing.”

Cover the floor, too. When Stokes designs a porch feature, he always specifies for screening to be installed under the floor. “People forget to do that, and then they’ve got a big problem because these bugs come right up between the boards.”

Make it usable on rainy days. Kitchell designed The Pondhouse sleeping porch with extremely deep eaves, which means the space stays dry and cozy in wet weather. “When summer storms come through, it’s incredible for sleeping,” Kabaker said.

Avoid run-off problems. “You don’t want to create any drainage issues on the landscape,” vanBeuzekom said. For the Framingham pavilion, he hung copper rain chains to slow the flow of water onto the ground (and to add an ornamental element).

Furnish it with style. Part of the success of The Pondhouse is due to its simple but luxe accoutrements. Kabaker favors bedding from Pittsfield company Pine Cone Hill for the comfy bed that forms the space’s centerpiece. “In your budget, allow for outdoor furniture that can stand up to the elements — for example, an outdoor sofa with cushions that can be removed and washed,” Stokes advised.

 

THE PONDHOUSE & THE SLEEPING PORCH

 

PETER KITCHELL

Charlie the dog waits outside The Pondhouse in Ashfield.

RICK MILLER

It’s a great place to nap,” Gayle Kabaker said of the space, which she uses for nearly half the year.

ADI NAG

The sleeping porch off Gayle Kabaker and Peter Kitchell's home in Ashfield.

 

THE FRAMINGHAM PAVILION

 

EDRICK VANBEUZEKOM/EVBDESIGN

This pavilion is tucked into the trees at the top of a slight slope behind the house.

EDRICK VANBEUZEKOM/EVBDESIGN

Somerville architect Edrick vanBeuzekom of EvB Design completed it in 2007.

EDRICK VANBEUZEKOM/EVB DESIGN

VanBeuzekom hung copper rain chains to slow the flow of water onto the ground (and to add an ornamental element).

EDRICK VANBEUZEKOM/EVBDESIGN

The design was inspired by Japanese teahouses and traditional New England building techniques.

 

THE SOUTH DEERFIELD ADDITION

 

ANN LEWIS

Timothy Stokes of Stokes Design/Build in Westhampton created this addition for a home in South Deerfield.

ANN LEWIS

By opening up the south side of the home with large expanses of screening, the porch increases air circulation and “acts as a huge lung for the rest of the house,”Stokes said.

ANN LEWIS

The clients often end up sleeping in the breezy space, which was designed to maximize views of Mount Sugarloaf.

 

 

 

The Goat Girls will Clear Your Yard!

As a frequent visitor to the "Dog Park" here in Northampton (the land which is leased by Smith Voc where many local dog owners currently take their dogs for off leash walks), I was tickled by the presence of The Goat Girls of Amherst, MA at the park, earlier this summer. The goats were contained within a well marked electric fence, and within a short time frame, they had munched away a large area of unwanted shrubs, vines and weeds. It was fun to see the adorable animals on our walks (though I confess, my dog did receive a shock while trying to get a sniff of the industrious animals), and I was amazed to see that they worked so quickly and did such a great job! I was equally tickled to see the following article today in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about the same Goat Girls. Round up not needed! These goats do a great job of clearing yards, leaving behind a great looking finished product! If you have land which needs to be cleared, look them up! 

 

No thicket too thick: With guts of steel, the Goat Girls of Amherst are here to clear

Joe Wille carries Lily to the trailer to be transported to a landscape job. Gazette Staff/Andrew Whitaker

 

Autumn the goat is working hard to devour a tangle of weeds that have overgrown on the border of a backyard in Amherst.

Her ears flop back as she munches on some poison ivy, leaves dangling from her mouth. After four days of non-stop nibbling, with the help of five other goats, she is just about done clearing the yard of invasive plants like bittersweet and Virginia creeper.

“The goats are diligent, hardworking —They don’t know that they are working, but they are,” said Peter Vickery, the property owner on Cherry Lane.

After years of wondering what to do about the undergrowth that had overtaken the yard, his wife, Meg Vickery, decided to choose an environmentally friendly alternative to herbicide and a quieter choice than a weed whacker. They hired Goat Girls, a company harnessing the eating power of goats in what is essentially a land-clearing and lawn-mowing service based in Amherst.

For a minimum of $500, the company will deliver a herd of goats to properties in any of several Hampshire and Franklin County towns to devour just about any foliage.

Before the goats are sent out, the land is inspected for plants that might be poisonous to the animals, but for the most part, these creatures have guts made of steel, able to munch through almost anything, said Hope Crolius, owner of the company.

“We say we are just going to let the kids play in the backyard with the poison ivy,” Vickery said.

Getting down to business

Before the goats go to work, Crolius’s one full-time employee, goat herder Joe Wille, sets up a temporary electric fence to keep the goats in and the coyotes and bears out.

Homeowners are asked to check on the goats twice a day to look for signs of illness and make sure the animals look bright, alert and responsive. Sometimes they need fresh water, but the thick weeds provide them with all the food they need.

The company’s more than two-dozen goats have exceptionally diverse diets, they specialize in invasive plants, typically munching through more than 25 jobs per year ranging from golf courses to community gardens. This year the goats also devoured more than 250 Christmas trees dropped off by local residents at the Goat Girls headquarters, a rented plot of land at Many Hands Farm on Pelham Road in Amherst, where the goats spend most of their time when they aren’t working.

“They’re economical, they’re earth-friendly, plus they are the neighborhood entertainment,” said another homeowner Sue Ellen Bisgaard. She hired the Goat Girls a few weeks ago to clear the wooded land at her house in Pelham, where about eight goats gnawed through two acres of brush in only two weeks.

Before the goats showed up, the weeds were so overgrown that Bisgaard couldn’t fathom walking through the property. She didn’t know what the plants were, she just knew she wanted them gone. “It really is just fighting the woods from taking over my land — I have eight acres,” she said.

Not only are the goats pleasant company, in this case their services came at a decent price, she said.

Bisgaard’s landscaper gave her a quote of about $1,000 to clear the property, while the goats provided the same service for half the price.

Depending on the size of the job, the number of goats needed varies. Six animals were used to clear the roughly 300 feet of land in the Vickery backyard.

Seven goats can clear a quarter acre in about a week, said Crolius. So far there have been no complaints about the productivity of the animals, she said.

A daydream come to life

Before starting the business in 2011, Crolius had worked in a high-pressure job as a journalist, often fantacizing about being a shepherd in biblical times.

“You’re working with nature to manage land. The goats are part of nature,” said Crolius.

Many of her clients live in neighborhoods that are not zoned for livestock and love having the chance to spend time with the animals, she said.

“We have an ancestral memory of the role of livestock in our everyday lives — these animals are remarkable. I don’t think we have had a client yet who isn’t delighted by the antics of these goats.”

Crolius, who started with three goats, has every kind of goat from Nigerian Dwarfs, a miniature dairy goat with West African ancestry, to Saanens, a Swiss dairy goat. She isn’t selective about breed because all goats tend to eat at the same rate.

Within a few weeks of acquiring her first herd, Crolious said, the phone started ringing with requests for jobs and the company has kept growing since.

“They have been so efficient,” said Meg Vickery. “I often thought that sheep and goats should be doing this work.”

While abroad in England, she said, she started to think about the concept of goat lawn maintenance, where the animals can be seen grazing beside highways.

“I was impressed by the intersection of agriculture and daily life.”

When she returned to the United States she noticed the invasive plants overtaking her yard, did some research and found Goat Girls.

She’s happy not to have to dump weed killer on her property.

“For me, it’s a more gentle way of achieving the same end and it has less environmental impact,” Vickery said. “We avoid, as much as possible, using herbicides.”

A yard emerges

While the Vickerys were worried that the goats would make noise at night, they have barely made a peep. They are mild mannered and they keep to themselves, said Peter Vickery.

Since the goats got to work, the couple rediscovered property lines and found a few soccer balls and an animal skull. A few trees were also saved from strangulation by invasive vines.

They are looking forward to planting flowers on some of the re-claimed land. “I am surprised because it is so much more open. We can see what trees we want to preserve and which mangy ones we want to get rid of,” said Peter Vickery. As he talks, a short distance away the Swiss dairy goat Muffin is sunbathing in the brush, chewing on a few twigs, the remains of the fourth and final day on the job for her and the rest of the crew.

For more information about Goat Girls, visit http://www.thegoatgirls.com or call 461-6832.

 Lisa Spear can be reached at lspear@gazettenet.com.

 

Northampton-area Summer Events to Check out!

If you've never been to the Northampton Sidewalk Sales - run, don't walk! They started today, July 28th, and run through Sunday, July 31st at 5 pm. Many store owners in Northampton are selling their wares at a major price reduction. There are also food vendors selling good things to eat. So, put on your hat, your sunblock and don't forget to hydrate. It's hot and humid out there!

In addition, the Daily Hampshire Gazette published the following article highlighting some fun events for the whole family still to come this summer! Read on here for that story.

 

FAMILY TO-DO LIST: Calendar-Worthy Events

Struttin’ their stuff

One of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States, the Morgan horse, originated with a colt named Figure, who was born in 1789 and acquired by Justin Morgan, a musician and horseman who lived in Springfield before moving to Vermont.

Morgans have served many roles in American history, being used as coach horses, for harness racing, as calvary horses and as general riding animals.

Underway this week and continuing through Saturday, the annual New England Morgan Horse Show at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton is the second largest Morgan horse show in the country. The show includes competitions in park saddle and park harness, English pleasure, Western pleasure, pleasure driving, hunter pleasure, dressage, carriage driving and more. Events begin at 10 a.m. each day and admission is free. nemha.com for details.

Choose a scoop

A benefit Saturday for Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (supports local farms) and MassBike Pioneer Valley (supports better biking), the River Valley Ice Cream Ride features three routes to suit every cycling appetite: the Kiddie Scoop Loop, five miles along the Canal Side Rail Trail in beautiful Turners Falls (ideal for young families); the Single Scoop Loop, 25 miles through the towns of Montague, Sunderland and Deerfield; and the Double Scoop Loop, a 50-mile ride through additional gorgeous scenery in Gill and Northfield. 

All rides begin at Unity Park in Turners Falls, where a truck from Bart’s Homemade will be scooping ice cream and chef Tom Easton from Historic Catering will be preparing lunch.

Big rigs

Fire trucks, police cars, utility trucks, ambulances — they’ll all be on view at the annual Big Rig Day Aug. 4, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at South Hadley’s Buttery Brook Park. All are welcome to climb into the cabs, ride the aerial ladder and meet the people who operate these huge vehicles. The free, kid-friendly event is co-sponsored by Friends of Buttery Brook Park and the South Hadley Electric Department. butterybrookpark.org.

Back in time

Not so long ago, most New England towns had a poor farm, a county- or town-run residence where paupers — mainly elderly and disabled people — were supported at public expense. On Aug. 6, Leslie Bracebridge, chair of the Shutesbury Historical Commission, will lead an informative tour of the cellar-hole remains of Shutesbury’s poor farm. Sponsored by the Pelham Historical Society, the hike will begin at 1 p.m. at the Pelham Town Complex, corner of Route 202 and Amherst Road, and will be about 45 minutes each way. Bracebridge will supply an oral history and photographs on site.

American fest

Also on Aug. 6: The Third Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival returns to the waterfront at Unity Park on 1st Street in Turners Falls.

Running 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the annual free celebration of Native American culture features Native American artists, musicians, vendors and educators.

This year look for Penobscot hoop dancers, spiritual teachings by Native American elders, primitive skills demonstrations, Native American history presentations and children's crafts ($2 fee) and storytelling. More information is available at nolumbekaproject.blogspot.com.

— DAN DENICOLA

Daily Hampshire Gazette, July 26, 2016

 

Circus Smirkus at the Northampton Three County Fairgrounds, Includes Some Local Talent!

If you are looking for something fun to do with your family in Northampton this weekend - check out Circus Smirkus at the Three County Fairgrounds. There are shows tonight at 7 pm, and tomorrow at 1 pm and 7 pm. Though based in Vermont, this talented troupe boasts some local performers. See the article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette to follow.

Local Circus Smirkus acrobats fly high for home crowd

Cameron Zweir, of Holyoke, and Serafina Walker, of Greenfield, demonstrate a move they use while performing for Circus Smirkus, Thursday at Three County Fairgrounds. —Gazette Staff/JERREY ROBERTS 

By ALEXA CHRYSSOVERGIS
@achryssovergis

Friday, July 15, 2016

When Lucia Mason, 17, was growing up, she was always up a tree somewhere.

The Montague native loved to climb — did it every chance she got, so much so that her mother decided she needed an outlet.

“My mom was like, ‘we need to do something with you,’” she laughed.

That led to joining Circus Smirkus, an international youth circus that has had several performances in Northampton already this week. Shows continue into the weekend, with performances at 1 and 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and feature performances by two other local troupers in addition to Mason: Serafina Walker, 13, from Greenfield and Cameron Zweir, 17, from Holyoke.

Smirkus hails from Vermont and is in its 29th year of touring. The 2016 Big Top Tour begins performing in late June and continues through mid-August, traveling through Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and upstate New York for a total of 67 shows.

Troupers’ individual tricks and stunts stand alone. But many others contribute to the effort, including tent and concession crew members, counselors and organizers, said Circus Smirkus assistant counselor Casey Venturelli. Working together, she said, they create a “beautiful dance.” 

Without one piece, the rest could crumble, and the dance could fall out of sync.

“There’s a lot of togetherness,” Venturelli, 22, said.

A leader, natural and mature

If the troupers were an airplane — to play along with this year’s theme, “Up HUP, and Away: The Invention of Flight” — Zweir might be the engine. One of the older, taller and sturdier of the troupe, he often is physically supporting the weight of his fellow performers in the show, face twisted in concentration and knees shaking.

Zweir is a natural leader, Venturelli said. He contributes to the group and carries his weight — and sometimes, the weight of the other troupers. He’s conscientious and thoughtful, Venturelli said, and listens to calm instrumental music or Flume in his free time.

Zweir is a third-year trouper this summer and performs as a clown, acrobat and aerialist. He was a gymnast for most of his life before joining Smirkus and plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design to study acting and stunt work.

“I definitely wouldn’t be who I am without Smirkus,” Zweir said. “It’s taught me so much.”

Toughness and strength

Mason is only a first-year trouper, but being 17 and strong, she’s a leader in her own right. A few hours before the show Thursday, she stretched her limbs on a rope outside the group’s backstage tent, guiding fellow troupers to do a “hip hop climb” in an encouraging tone.

The muscles in her lithe body rippled as she demonstrated the trick to her friends Isle, Sarah and Jeannette, and then slid down to explain. 

Up on a swing, together

Then there’s first-year-trouper Walker, who Venturelli says takes constructive criticism with the utmost seriousness and whose bio in the program booklet says she speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.

When she found out she’d made it into Smirkus, she said she “squealed very much” and almost broke her mom’s ribs from hugging her so hard.

Though young, Walker easily matches the synchronization of some of the older teammates. In one of the first performances of the show Thursday, she lifted her body elegantly  up a swinging metal structure with four other acrobats, contorting and twisting. The girls all held each other up and balanced just right so as not to tumble off. 

The togetherness manifests in the trouper’s relationships with each other, too, Venturelli said. They create a tight-knit community.

The show teaches them valuable lessons, Venturelli said. Being on the road for weeks at a time at a young age matures them rapidly and shows them perseverance, resilience and strength. And those 11- to 18-year-olds inspire her, as well.

“They’re tiny people but they’re really incredible,” Venturelli said. “They teach me a lot.” 

 

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.