Category Archives: Travels

Hobbits, Unicorns, and a Cow Goddess

I just returned from another trip out to New York, this time to explore the Schoharie valley and Delaware County. This trip, thanks to the farmers who housed me, really invigorated me.  I think I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from farming, despite the daily regimen because we’re currently partially uprooted. Being on a farm started by a woman and witnessing the incredible foundation she has built, along with the connectivity she fosters with neighboring farms, has really inspired me not to “begin again,” but to continue with this mission forward to build a farm and fiber business.

photo 2 (3)
Isadora, the Adorable

The farm where I stayed (had to make this trip out alone so Chris could tend to the alpacas), is technically East Branch Farm, but most of the locals know it as Straight Out of the Ground, a beautiful property with a goddess of a guernsey cow, who is the apple of Farmer Madalyn’s eye, for sure. And it’s easy to see why. Look at that adorable face!

In addition to farming, Madalyn also co-produces a radio show called the Farm Hour Radio.

The mountains are nothing short of magical. The roadways and farmland trace their contours, and in the mornings, mist hovers over the valleys, leading me to look for hobbits and unicorns as much as farmland.

Madalyn connected us with some good folks and resources for farmers and reinforced the awareness that New York is a good state for agriculture. Beneath every county sign I passed, the words “Right to Farm” appeared prominently. The soil in the valleys appears good and the prospect of a fiber mill feels welcomed.

photo 1 (2)Moreover, the locals are fiercely loyal to their agricultural roots and at one stop, in a village where we had been told we could not house our alpacas, a local business owner stormed down to the local village office and demanded to see the ordinance. When the village couldn’t provide any specific wording ruling against alpacas, she called me and said, “You can have your livestock here.” Can’t help but love these folks.

I would like to say we have figured this whole thing out, but after an inspection revealed some significant issues on the house we were under contract to buy, we are once again looking for the farm. However, despite this setback, I feel more confident than ever that we’ll find the right place, because more significant than where we will land is that feeling of where we belong. And it’s there, among the mountains and the hard-working farmers of the Schoharie, where we feel most at home. Looking forward to calling this place home.

Last trip out, we traversed Sharon Springs, where an inspiring couple revitalized a farm into an enterprising business. Madalyn told us it’s not only a thriving business, but they even had a television show. Check it out below. Also, living in the region, a woman I look forward to meeting at some point in the near future, Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker. And so much more I would like to share, save for the time to write it all down…

If you don’t know them already, the Beekman Boys are fabulous.

Begin again with the Beekman Boys:

Love Letter to Little Falls

Our landing in Little Falls happened quite by happenstance. We had planned on littletracksstaying closer to Cooperstown, but found a quaint B&B alongside the Erie Canal instead. It was love at first sight. This small town girl, reunited with that feeling of small town life on the water’s edge. Different from Elk Rapids, MI, but also very much alike in its industrial heritage. The people of the village live within the context of the area’s rich history. They still talk about the mills strike of 1912, in which mill workers (mostly women and children) shut down production of the knitting machines in pursuit of better working conditions and compensation.

In more recent decades, much of the town’s industry has been gutted, but what remains is a people steadfast in their desire to sustain their community by sustainable means. It’s a town on the precipice of rebirth. And in that, it’s an exciting place to visit. Ideas swirl in coffee shops, over downtown street benches, at the history museum – ideas for the future of Little Falls.

Little me against the backdrop of the big ocean - crying like a baby at the breath-taking view.
Little me against the backdrop of the big ocean – crying like a baby at the breath-taking view.

We called this place home all week as we traversed the valleys of Upstate New York, visiting farms and touring the small villages. On Monday, we traveled to Gloucester, Mass. via US 2, stopping in North Adams, Shelburne Falls, and landing our feet in the tepid ocean current. Then on to Boston, oh! the history of the place!

In NY, we saw Cooperstown, New Berlin, Morris, Gilbertsville, and numerous small towns dotting the undulating landscape. We’ve always prided ourselves on being from northern Michigan, and Michigan is wonderful, but being in the middle of upstate NY gave us a new perspective on people and place. In some ways, we felt like falling in love with towns like Little Falls was a bit like coming to a new place of appreciation for our nation’s history, the good the bad the beautiful and ugly. The churches, architecture, and the colorful personalities of place, the languages and accents, and the history woven together to form an enduring, unfolding narrative of us. In essence, we felt we belonged. Like we were coming home. Hard not to love a place like that.