This month the girls turn one year old and I can happily say it has been fun and fabulous to discover that I have a genuine affinity for raising chickens. From the time they arrived I have enjoyed watching them explore their surroundings, giggling at their awkwardness, and surprised how smart and not so smart they can be. Sadly, we lost 2 girls early on to a hawk… (moment of silence) but we have yet to loose one to Harriet. It’s been close on a few occasions but the chickens have learned to scatter when Keith or I scream, “HARRIET! NO CHICKENS!!” As they transitioned from baby chick to full-grown fat and fluffy chicken, I did take notice of a bossy one among the flock. She pushed her way to the front of whatever line was forming, pecking a few ladies along the way. Then she started “cock-a-doodle-dooing” which I thought was quite strange, but not completely unheard of. Then her feathers started to change from the other hens bringing some serious gender identification issues. I referenced my nightstand copy of “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” and learned that this does in fact happen and should rectify itself after the first molt. I shared my newfound wisdom with my neighbor and long-time chicken keeper, Jonathan, to which he promptly announced “Zsa, Zsa”, he calls me that sometimes, “That is a rooster!” And so it is. Given my blessing to become anything he/she wants to be, Red, has grown up into a proper looking rooster and does a fine job of keeping the ladies safe and in-line. Our little flock of 9 hens are producing 7-9 of the most delicious eggs a day and I could not be happier to add chicken raising to my list of favorite things.
One of the greatest things about living in New England is that I can get on a train and be in New York in just a few hours. It is such an amazing city with such epic and familiar sights that even your very first trip feels like a return visit. My dear friend, Jen and her sister Wendy, decided that such trip was the perfect way for our friend Kristi to celebrate her 40th birthday. How anyone can live in the US for 40 years and not make it to New York is just sad and it had to be remedied. It took almost a year to coordinate our schedules ~ life is always getting the way of our fun plans ~ but this past October we made it happen. I should say, Jen made it happen. Her tireless efforts and fab connections scored us a great hotel room in Times Square with a sweet view, a private back stage tour of Wicked (eeek!) followed by orchestra seats the following night, yummy food, a little shopping and amazing memories. Thanks to her pedometer we knew the reason our feet were so tired; we logged 74,600 steps in 3 days. What a great way to spend a weekend!
As you may have heard, this past winter brought record snowfall with predictions of snow banks into July. But, as nature would have it, the snow melted by the exact same date as last years snow and the crocus, tulips, daffodils pushed their way through the thawing earth. Next the grass quickly turned from its sleeping yellow hue to bright green, the forsythia blossoms glow about town as if someone ran around with a yellow highlighter. Baby lambs are hopping around our neighbor’s field, and then, the magnolia trees start their fashion show. And so it happens… spring has sprung.
Well, we survived the Big Storm and didn't need to use our generator (yay!) Storm preparedness is a little different than what we experienced in CA with earthquake readiness. For an earthquake, you carry around a host of supplies in your car just in case the disaster without warning hits. For a New England snowstorm, you know ahead of time which is helpful even if it does cause some mayhem. On Sunday and Monday, the grocery stores and gas stations were mobbed by people gearing up for the blizzard and the host of unfortunate situations that they can bring; namely, loosing power for several days and not being able to leave your house. Although I have never experienced such an awful set of circumstances, I still felt the need to prepare by picking up a few essentials: a second snow shovel, 2 cases of water, half & half, lamb shanks, and 12 bottles of wine... just in case.
We ended up with 30" of snow which made for a LONG day of shoveling today. After 5 hours (I'm NOT exaggerating) of shoveling and a hot shower, I'm ready for a cocktail but wanted to share this with you first. To grasp the true drama of that much snow in one day, I've decided to showcase some before and after pictures.
We regret to inform you that the state of Massachusetts will be closed until Wednesday at noon. That is the message that was on every newscast Monday night in anticipation of the 2015 blizzard. While New Yorkers have had the luxury of calling it a "Fizzard" since it was grossly over-forcasted for our friends to the south, such is not the case in Bolton, MA. Beginning almost 24 hours ago, we've had a steady snow fall with gusty winds that have created drifts taller than me in some places and more snow than we've ever had to shovel.
This morning the levels were taller than Hamish requiring our first of many tunnels and trails that weave a constantly shoveled path down to the barn. The dogs are having a blast, the chickens, not so much. The snow is predicted to stop around midnight so who knows what will be covered up by then. Stay tuned...
I have to say, getting another puppy is about the best thing we have ever done. Who cares that I sleep in 2 hour intervals and that the temperature at 3 a.m. is 36 degrees? Who cares that it takes 10 times longer to do anything because I keep stopping to take a picture or remove little "h" from the chicken coop? Hamish adores his sister and she loves him right back! The chickens are still deciding...
You know how you go on vacation and come home with a puppy?? Well, that is exactly what happened to us. For the past few months we have been looking for a playmate for Hamish; we've searched rescue sites as well as breeders and thought our search was over a few weeks ago. Ridge, a two year old chocolate Lab seemed the perfect fit… unfortunately, he hated Hamish. Ideally, I would love a puppy but they are expensive and the timing of available blonde fuzz balls was not in our favor.
Keith's aunt and uncle were visiting from Seattle so we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous fall foliage fashion show and head up to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, ME. Along the way we stopped in the quintessential New England town of Camden, ME and literally ran into our new puppy. She was the last female in a litter of 6 and the breeder was taking her on a field trip to the local library. We were smitten!
Why Harriet? Two days prior, while showing the family around Boston, a gentleman came over to pet Hamish. When I introduced him, he enthusiastically declared that his twin niece and nephew are named Hamish and Harriet. A classic pairing!
As you know, I love my barn and I cannot wait for it to be ready for a bride's special day. It still needs some structural repairs and the floors need some work, but a girl can only wait so long to have a party. Inspired by Sunday dinners at my cousins house, the Phineas Wright House is proud to host seasonal barn dinners. We set a long table for 20 guests, $75 per person, bring your own wine, make 18 new friends. Fun, right??
The menu was a celebration of seasonally inspired, locally sourced produce that included:
Course One: Trio of Garden Goodness featuring our own tomatoes, basil, chiogga & bull's blood beets, and french breakfast radishes with "THE" french butter.
Course Two: Shaved Zucchini Salad with toasted marcona almonds and parmesan
Course Three: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with bing cherry sauce, Roasted Cauliflower-Caramelized Onion Tart, Blue Lake Green Beans with shallot & pancetta
Course Four: Bourbon Poached Peach & Fresh Blackberry Cobbler
I have to say that the actual event was even better than the dreamy experience I planned in my head. A local artisan built 3 gorgeous farmhouse tables for me using wood that we removed from the third floor hay loft. I've been collecting mis-matched chairs from thrift & antique stores, flea markets, yard sales, the side of the road and even our transfer station. My new friend and amazing custom wedding invitation designer, Meagan Sears of the Brocade Blackbird created beautiful menus and favor tags for the big night. My dear friends and visiting house guests from CA helped me hang mosquito netting and market lights, place decor and even penned our fun "Bolton Local" chalkboard. My neighbor, Marie helped me shuttle platters of yummy courses from the kitchen to the barn, and dear new friends gathered around the table. I can hardly wait for the next one!
Special thanks to Kristen Turcheck of Kristen Jane Photography for capturing these lovely images!
I know I've made it abundantly clear that there is no time for us to vacation, but hooray for California friends and family that added us to their itinerary this summer.
My brother, Michael and nephews Jackson & Connor joined us at the beginning of July. We explored the Freedom Trail in Boston, ate ice cream every day, and even incorporated some farm chores. Coincidently, their visit overlapped with my sister and her family's trip to Cambridge so we had the opportunity to spend a very rainy Independence Day all together. I can't remember the last summer holiday I spent with the southern CA contingent of my family.
With just a couple of days to launder and iron sheets (yes, I iron my sheets!) our next group arrived. Jason & Emily Bergendahl with their fabulous kiddos Lucas, Jenna, & Rachel made our house a stop between J's family in Lenox and our mutual friends on the North Shore. The Bergendahl's have a gorgeous home in Cupertino and I often use their guest room when I'm in town for a wedding. One lovely plus is that there is never any dog hair on my clothes when I visit because they have no pets. That can be tough on a kid - to not have something small to love - so we've come to a great arrangement; Lucas has a golden retriever and the girls have chickens that just happen to live at Ms. Wendy's farm. Their visit included ice cream every day (a theme!), strawberry picking, and leisurely dinners.
Fast forward a few weeks to my dear friend Jamie and her daughter, Tabitha's visit. Jamie and I met over 20 years ago when we were neighbors in Southern California. She is one of those fabulous friends that you can pick up with wherever you left off regardless of how much time has passed. Tabitha is about to start her freshman year at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego; we are ALL so proud of this amazing and delightful young woman. Their visit was a perfect balance of sight-seeing interspersed with crossing things off my very long to-do list. We visited Boston, Concord and Rockport, MA, went peach picking and got the barn all dolled up for my first Seasonal Barn Dinner. And yes, there was ice cream!
Overall, I would say summer is a more difficult transition for me than winter was. The humidity and mosquitos are unbearable at times, but I have found out the secret to summer happiness in Massachusetts... ICE CREAM.
The ice cream here is better than any I've had in California. In fact, I ate more ice cream last summer than I have in the last 10 years - no joke! There are countless family owned dairy farms with small batch ice cream counters open from mid-April to mid-October delivering all kinds of creamy goodness. Full parking lots, long lines, and men in suits eating ice cream in their cars at 2:00 in the afternoon. I LOVE this place!
I've decided it would be a noble effort to attempt to identify the "best" ice cream in Massachusetts and I am completely committed to this mission. To be fair to each establishment, I order the same flavor at each stop - Chocolate Peanut Butter (oh my yummy!) The current front runner is Rota Springs Farm in Sterling, MA. The ice cream is delish and the cows are wandering around the property so you can thank them personally. Let's have an attitude of gratitude people!
It's far too early in this process to declare a winner, but the contenders are:
Kimball Farms in Westford, Lancaster, Carlisle & Jaffray, NH (I've tried in each location and although they are bordering on a chain with all these options, they are small batch at heart)
Bedford Farms in Concord (super snobby high school girls with terrible customer service skills, but this is an ice cream competition)
Berlin Farm in Berlin (unfortunately they do not have chocolate peanut butter, but I do my best with the 40 other flavors)
Still on the list to try is Rail Trail in Pepperell, but I'd love to hear your favorite too.
Hi - I am a wedding and event planner that just moved from the San Francisco bay area into the Phineas Wright House, in Bolton, MA. Here, you will find stories about our New England life, the fabulous discoveries that each day brings and all the things that make me smile. Thanks for visiting!
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