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In my youth, I wanted to be a landscape architect, so the Inn at Green River’s gardens are a source of great delight to this innkeeper. My bed and breakfast is beautifully situated on an acre of lawn and gardens, next to a 20 acre meadow that is bordered by the Green River and Cranse Creek. We are “green” here at the Inn, so no poisons or insecticides are used in the gardens. Hence we have lots of beneficial insects, including all the “good” ones, like honey bees and other native pollinators, lady bugs, beautiful moths and butterflies. The insects in turn, attract a wide variety of birds which feed on those insects, as well as the berries and flowers on the many native shrubs and plants in the gardens. And, of course, the birds in this region are naturally drawn to these native species, so our garden is a real haven for birds.

native plants in the gardens attract many bird species

In the space of 10 minutes one spring morning, I saw an indigo bunting, a bright red Cardinal, a gorgeous Blue Jay, and heard a Baltimore Oriole in the big silver maple next to the Inn.

one of many species of birds found in the Inn's gardens

Rose Breasted Grosbeak Photo Courtesy Antony Gravett

Then, as I was feeding the fish in the small pool in the back garden, a Redstart landed in the lilacs, just 4 feet from me, and flitted from branch to branch for a few minutes. At the same time a Ruby Throated Hummingbird arrived to drink the nectar from the Siberian Iris growing in the pool. It was an ahhh… moment.

native plants attract birds to the Inn's gardens

The Inn’s Fish Pool – Photo by Jumping Rocks

A visit to the Inn at Green River will delight garden lovers and bird lovers alike, particularly in the spring, when the birds are singing very loudly, both to attract a mate, and defend their territory. I just read an interesting British blog post explaining in more detail the reasons for the sudden uptick in both decibel level and numbers of bird calls in the spring.

The Inn is located in the upper Hudson River Valley, in Columbia County. This county has several bird sanctuaries and numerous parks which might interest serious birders, for example, the Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Sanctuary and Center in Craryville, the town adjacent to Hillsdale. Also the Roeliff Jansen Park right here in Hillsdale. Columbia Country Tourism has a listing of the many conservation areas, parks and sanctuaries in the area.

So do plan a visit to my Hillsdale, New York bed and breakfast soon, preferably this spring if you want to be awakened by wonderful bird songs. I look forward to seeing you.

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April always brings old friends to my Inn at Green River – bicycle aficionados who come year after year for the Copake Bicycle Auction. This is the 26th year for this well known auction, taking place Saturday, April 22, 2017.

Swap Meet at Copake Bike Auction

Swap Meet Photo Courtesy Copake Auction

The two day event starts off bright and early Friday morning at 6 am with the swap meet. Bicycle enthusiasts come from all over the world to this annual event.  Some of the people in this photo taken at last year’s swap meet, traveled from the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Germany and England!

As any savvy auction goer knows, you must attend the previews which take place Thursday and Friday from 11 am to 5 pm. This is the chance to personally inspect all the items to be sold, and ask questions of the knowledgeable staff.

I usually get to the Friday preview, and even though I don’t attend the auction, or bid on any items over the phone, I do appreciate seeing the classic and antique bikes, like this beautiful C. 1884-85 Victor adult tricycle which sold last year for $16,380.

antique bicycle at Copake Bike Auction

C. 1884-85 Victor adult tricycle. Photo Courtesy Copake Auction

This 2017 auction promises to be a great one, with items from two museums, as well as two collectors, Robert Trimble and Jim Carpenter. Some highlights include this c. 1898 Rex Pneumatic Safety Bicycle, reportedly owned by Diamond Jim Brady, from the Jim Carpenter collection.

antique bicycle at Copake Bike Auction

Diamond Jim Brady’s Safety Bike Photo Courtesy Copake Auction

And from Robert Trimble’s collection, a c. 1868 wooden velocipede tricycle alleged to have belonged to Lizzy Borden, the famous axe murderer!

For more information on this wonderful event, go to the Copake Auction website, where you can download the entire PDF catalog to help you prepare. And don’t forget to book your room at the Inn at Green River, my 7 guest room bed and breakfast just 15 minutes up the valley from the Copake Auction House. My serious buyers come in Thursday night so they can be at the swap meet before daylight. And guys, if your spouse is coming with you, and does not want to be out the door at 5:30 am for the swap meet, don’t worry, I provide a scrumptious, full breakfast and a ride down to the auction later in the morning. But you can also arrive on Friday afternoon in time to do the preview, stay just Friday night at the Inn, and check out Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast to sustain you through the day long auction. Hope to see you!

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If you are interested in where your food comes from, and how it is raised and grown, then the annual Farm Film Fest at the Crandell Theatre in Chatham, NY, is sure to please you.

Farm Film Fest logo

Artwork Courtesy ChathamKeepFarming.org

This is the 9th annual, free afternoon of documentaries about farming, put on by three local Columbia County organizations – the Chatham Film Club, the Columbia Land Conservancy and the Chatham Agricultural Partnership. The Film Fest takes place Sunday, March 19, from 1-4 pm and includes the screening of 8 films, followed by a discussion featuring a panel of local farmers, moderated by Peter Paden, the Executive Director of the Columbia Land Conservancy.

I have attended several of these festivals, and they are always fascinating. Several films being shown this year piqued my interest. One is “Grazin’s Grassfed Burgers:A Small Diner Aims to Make the Cleanest Burger You’ll Ever Eat”, by filmmaker Liza de Guia. This diner is owned by the Gibson family. Dan Gibson left the corporate hotel world (Starwood’s W hotels) to raise grass fed Black Angus cattle on a farm in Columbia County in the early 2000s. I toured that farm, Grazin Angus Acres, and marveled at the return to the way things used to be done, cattle and chickens raised out in open pasture, leading happy and surprisingly symbiotic, lives. In 2009, the Gibson’s daughter Christine, and her husband Andrew Chiappinelli, also moved upstate, and started an AWA restaurant, Grazin’, in a vintage diner in Hudson, NY. What is AWA? Animal Welfare Approved. The Village Voice wrote an interesting article about the family, the farm, and the diner (there is now one in TriBeCa as well) in 2015. You can read it here.

Another short film I look forward to seeing is “How Does It Grow? Hydroponic Spinach” by filmmakers Nicole Coltroneo Jolly and Mark Jolly. And the list goes on, “Milking Robots and “The Beekeeper”.

So come learn a bit more about where your food comes from. Just bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to Chatham’s Silent Food Pantry which is the only cost to attend. A reminder, the Inn at Green River is just 15 minutes from the charming town of Chatham. Hope to see you there.

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Inn at Green River guests love my spicy ginger molasses cookies, and frequently ask for the recipe, so here is my holiday gift to you! Now you can enjoy these great cookies even when you are not at the Inn.

Deborah's famous Ginger Molasses Cookies

I have been making these delicious cookies for years, and never look at the recipe any longer. When I went searching through my old recipe file today in preparation for writing out the recipe for you, I found this old card which my mother wrote out decades ago! She called them Gingersnaps, I call them Ginger Molasses Cookies, but they are great, whatever you call them. Also very retro; notice they call for shortening, not butter. I have tried making them with butter, but the cookies tend to spread, rather than holding their shape and texture as shown in the photo above.

family recipe card

I have also upped the spices and the molasses, and lowered the amount of baking soda and shortening. And I make a smaller cookie so I get about 24-30 cookies per batch. My mother’s recipe card calls for dark molasses. I use “Grandma’s Molasses” which is unsulfured and made from cane sugar. And I add the spices directly to the wet batter, before mixing in the flour.

So here is my Ginger Molasses Cookie recipe:

Cream together 1 C. white sugar and 3/4 C. shortening (Crisco). Beat in 1 large egg, and add 1/3 – 1/2 C. dark molasses. Stir well. Add 1 tsp. baking soda; 1/8 tsp. salt; 2 tsp. ground cinnamon; 1 & 1/2 tsp. ginger; 1/2 tsp. ground cloves; 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg. Mix the spices in well, then stir in 2 C. white flour.

Form the mixture into one inch balls, and roll them in sugar and place at least 1″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. The batter will be rather wet, but rolling it in the sugar makes the cookie balls easy to handle and keeps them from sticking to the cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool the cookies for a minute on the tray, then carefully remove with a spatula to a rack to finish cooling. Do not leave them too long on the cookie tray or you will have great difficulty getting them off.

Store in a cookie tin. No need to refrigerate, they won’t last long anyway! And need I remind you that the Inn at Green River is known for the delicious breakfasts we serve. Check out our breakfast page on our website, and then go to the “book now” button in the upper right hand corner! I look forward to seeing you soon and serving you some tea and home made cookies!

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FilmColumbia is a great little film festival presented each year in Chatham, New York. 2016 marks the 17th year for this “small town, big movies” festival which runs for seven days, October 22 – 30, 2016. And it really isn’t so little anymore. Presented by the Chatham Film Club, the festival presents “top-notch independent and foreign films, often well before they are released” says Peter Biskind, Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director of the festival. Past Oscar winning movies which were screened at the festival’s home base, the Crandell Theater in Chatham, before their national releases, include Birdman, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The King’s Speech, Spotlight, and one of my favorites, the documentary Particle Fever.

FilmColumbia Film Festival

The festival kicks off Saturday, October 22nd, with a screening  of a restored print of the 1992 Merchant and Ivory film, “Howard’s End”, followed by a cocktail party and silent auction, and the chance to hob nob with the likes of Julianna Margulies, Parker Posey, Richard Dreyfuss, Ruth Reichl, Peter Riegert, Karen Allen, and others. Director James Ivory will introduce the film.

Starting Monday, October 24th at noon, the film screenings begin at several venues in Chatham, NY and one in Hudson, NY. The highlight is the “sneak preview” film shown on Saturday night, which often turns out to be a major, Oscar nominated film. And many of the films shown have already won awards at larger and more famous film festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Telluride, etc.  You will be impressed by the offerings.

The Inn at Green River is an easy 15 minute drive from the Chatham, NY festival. As always, the Inn offers discounted rates for the mid week nights, so plan an extended stay, and immerse yourself in film and small town, country life.

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Innkeepers can’t usually get out of the kitchen early in the morning in the busy Berkshire summer season, but I managed it this week and made it to the BSO morning rehearsal at Tanglewood. It was a rare treat.

Tanglewood lawn in the morning

 

When I walked onto this gorgeous lawn just before 10 am, there was literally one man sitting in a lawn chair reading the paper. I had never had the opportunity to gaze across the lovely great lawn with almost no one on it. It is a most beautiful serene spot. Although I didn’t realize that one can’t sit inside the shed during these working rehearsals, there are several staffers patrolling the shed who will lend you one of the folding chairs that the ushers use during concerts. Or bring your own.

I plunked myself down, right in the center, just at the edge of the shed, with perfect sight and sound lines, and for the next hour and a half, I listened to Sir Andrew Davis rehearsing the world class Boston Symphony Orchestra, preparing for the Friday night concert. It was a serious working rehearsal, with a number of stops and starts, lots of laughter, and discussion (or should I say direction from the conductor!) about how certain passages should be played . While I was there, they were working on Sibelius’ Symphony #5 which I love. With no audience sitting in the shed, I felt like the orchestra was playing just for me, and the sound coming across the empty shed just washed over me! It was thrilling.

Other folks did start to straggle in, and by 11:30 when the orchestra took a break, and I left, probably 40 or 50 people were there, enjoying the music and the perfect, cool, breezy, summer day.

You can drop in for these morning working rehearsals on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at no charge. On Saturday mornings at 10:30 there is always the rehearsal of the Sunday afternoon concert, and tickets are required to sit in the shed or on the lawn. But I heartily recommend the mid week rehearsals.

So come spend a mid week night or two or three at the Inn at Green River, enjoy a free morning rehearsal, and don’t forget, if you stay three days, I will provide 2 lawn tickets to one of that weekend’s concerts. Hope to see you soon.

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Hidden Gardens Poster

Spencertown Academy, “just up the road and across a bit” from the Inn, is hosting their annual “Hidden Gardens” which includes five country garden-themed events this weekend, June 17-18, 2016, kicking off with a twilight party on Friday and then a breakfast lecture, tours of local gardens, and the final weekend of a gallery exhibition of still lifes by eight regional artists.

Also, from 9 ’til 3 on Saturday, the Arts Center will be hosting a Garden Market on the green in the hamlet of Spencertown, with twenty vendors selling a fine array of unusual plants, garden furniture and other garden-themed items. Garden demonstrations will also be offered on the green in the afternoon.

Admission to the gallery exhibition and the garden market is free, while the other events have individual admission fees, so you can pick and choose the ones you’re interested in.

There’s more detail about the Hidden Garden 2016 events on the Academy’s website, and you can save money by buying tickets for the tour, lecture and workshop in advance.

All in all, it’s a great way to celebrate nature in the area’s most beautiful gardens, and you’ll be supporting the Spencertown Academy Art Center, to boot.

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The recipe most often requested by Inn at Green River guests is my Cream Scones. Guests frequently comment that they don’t ordinarily like scones, but they find mine light and delicious. This recipe is not complicated, and most scones recipes I have checked are basically the same, but I have a few tips about ingredients and the handling of the dough that I want to share with you.

cream scones

First, you must make them with heavy cream and real butter, otherwise they will not be light and fluffy. Don’t even bother trying this recipe if you plan to substitute milk for the cream or try other ways to make it “low fat” — you will not be happy with the results.

Also, as scones are a quick bread, i.e., no yeast and no rising time required, you must take care not to handle the dough too much, or you activate the gluten, and end up with a tough scone.

You should also keep the ingredients cold, working with cold, right-out-of-the-fridge butter, cream and eggs. You could even put your mixing bowl in the fridge beforehand.

Here is the Cream Scones recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. unbleached flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, or none if using salted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 C. heavy cream

I stir the dry ingredients together, then cut the butter into the flour mixture with an old fashioned pastry cutter, or even two knives, until the butter is dispersed throughout, but is still cold and solid, and shows lumps about the size of a pea. Then, after adding the beaten egg, vanilla and cream, I quickly use my hands to gently work the liquid into the flour and butter mixture, until it just holds together. I form three balls of dough, and pat each one out in a circle about 7″ or 8″ in diameter and about 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick. I don’t roll out the dough because that would again be working it too much. I just cut each circle into 8 wedges as if cutting a pie. I transfer the wedges to an un-greased cookie sheet, sprinkle with a bit of sanding sugar, and pop into a preheated, 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

video still

If I don’t have a full house at the Inn, and don’t need 24 scones at breakfast that morning, I pop the cut circle of scone dough wedges, wrapped in the parchment paper I worked on, into the freezer on a cookie sheet, until they harden. Then I put them into a zip lock bag, and keep frozen until I need them. In the morning, I take out as many frozen scones as I need, and bake on an un-greased cookie sheet in a cooler oven for a longer time, ie. 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

I had a great time filming a video with two friends, B. Docktor and Tony Gravett on how to make these cream scones. You can see the video on the Inn’s Youtube page.

camera man shooting B-roll for a video about the Innkeeper's scone recipe

You will see that although I make these scones so often I could do it in my sleep, I made a few mistakes while on camera, like measuring the 1 cup of heavy cream the recipe calls for, and adding it all at once, which I never do when making the scones ordinarily. In fact, I don’t measure the cream at all, just add a bit less than I think I need to the egg and vanilla, and after incorporating the liquid with my hands into the flour mixture, I add a bit more cream if needed. As I added it all at once, I ended up with a dough that was too wet, but that can be remedied by adding a bit more flour, which I did. I also forgot to mention the baking powder. This being on camera is tough work!

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I look forward to June every year, not only because the Inn’s gardens are their most beautiful, but because it is strawberry season.

When was the last time you tasted a local strawberry grown in season, in your own region…not California, or Mexico or Chile? If it has been awhile, you won’t believe how delicious a strawberry can truly be. And beautiful, red all the way through, none of those white centers that we see in supermarket strawberries.

Organic Strawberries

Yes, I know those unripe strawberries above are white, but you know what I mean about white centers.

In Ancram, NY, just a scenic 25 minute drive from the Inn, is the beautiful Thompson Finch Farm. Every June I make a pilgrimage to pick their fabulous organic strawberries. I am always impressed by the beautiful rows of plants, carefully mulched with clean straw to dissuade any bugs from trying to make a meal of the ripening strawberries. For more photos of the beautiful drive down to Ancram to the farm, and of me picking strawberries, see my June, 2012 blog post. The farm expects strawberries to be available for picking from the second week of June through the second week of July. But check first by calling the farm at 518-329-7578 for up to date information on the picking conditions.

So plan a visit, bring your basket,  or I will lend you mine. You will be so pleased with the results.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay, the celebrated 20th c. poet, spent the last 25 years of her life just up the road from my Inn at Green River, on her 700 acre farm high up a ridge in Austerlitz, NY. She named the property, Steepletop, after a wildflower which grows there -Steeplebush, or Spirea Tomentosa. This Saturday, May 21, and again, once a month through the summer and fall season, you can take an expanded hiking tour around the property, led by head gardener, Michael Minchak.

Views at Steepletop

Photo courtesy of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society – millay.org

Even if you have visited Steepletop before, this hiking tour offers a broader experience of this historic property.  The tour will include a selection of Millay’s nature poetry, much of it inspired at Steepletop.  You will hike to areas of the property that are not included in the regular House or Grounds & Gardens tours.  You need to wear appropriate attire and foot gear as the hike will take you over uneven terrain, through the forest and the fields, and some areas may be boggy.

This special monthly hike is held on Saturdays; May 21, June 11, July 9, August 20, and October 8, from 10am to 12pm. You will meet at the Visitors Center at Steepletop 15 minutes before the hike begins. The cost is $35.

The woodland photo below was taken along the Poetry Trail.

Photo courtesy of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society – millay.org

For those who wish to take a tour of Millay’s home afterwards, a 12:30 pm tour will be offered at a special price of $12.

Also, this Saturday & Sunday, May 21-22, 2016, there is the added bonus of an Herb and Plant Sale, which takes place from 10am to 4:30pm at the Steepletop Visitors Center.

Millay was a serious gardener, and her kitchen garden included many different herbs.  Her last herb order, placed in 1949, included 36 varieties.  Between 20 and 25 different types that were included in that order will be offered for sale this weekend.  In addition to the herbs, Steeplebush plants and a limited edition of Steepletop Lupine seed packets, harvested from Millay’s kitchen garden, will be on sale.

You might also like to read my very first blog post from June 2010, which was about my tour of Steepletop that spring. The blog post also includes a link to an excellent Washington Post article about Millay. (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

So bring your hiking boots, and enjoy a Saturday hiking around Steepletop. It will surely be a highlight of your 2016 getaway.