Blog :: 08-2016

Welcome to our blog! Here you will find posts about can't miss properties, local events, and more! Here at Maple and Main Realty we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the Northampton area. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us

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.