Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Traveling Along Route 7

From Rural Intelligence

“I love Route 7,” says photographer Stephen Donaldson. “It’s not only the history of our region, it’s the history of our country. It’s the road the defines western New England.” Stretching from Norwalk, CT, on the Long Island Sound to Vermont’s border with Canada, the 308-mile stretch of road has scores of farmhouses, clapboard churches, cemeteries, barns and breathtaking vistas, which Donaldson has loving documented in his new book, Along Route 7 (Schiffer Books; $45.) While the natural landscape becomes bigger and bolder as you drive north, the manmade landscape—especially from the 18th and 19th centuries—is remarkably consistent, which is why many of the best preserved towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont look so much alike. “It’s a very comfortable part of the world,” he says.

Naturally, Donaldson has favorite parts of the road. He says nothing compares to the stretch from Bulls Bridge in Kent, CT, through Cornwall and Falls Village to Canaan. “It’s the Goldilocks section—it feel just right,” he says. “It feels very intimate. The landscape seems to wrap itself around you.” The most breathtaking part is just north of Bennington, VT. “It’s very dramatic when you arrive in this valley with 3,000 foot mountains. There’s a private toll road called the Equinox Skyline Trail, with incredible views.”

Route 7 is called the Ethan Allen Highway in both Connecticut and Vermont, but not in Masschusetts. “Ethan Allen was born in Litchfield, raised in Sheffield, and was very involved in Vermont politics,” says Donaldson. “It’s the mystery of Massachusetts as to why it’s not named the Ethan Allen Highway there, too.”

Photographs by Stephen G. Donaldson.

Friday, December 25, 2009

What To Do Today

by Maria Sacco

It's Christmas Day, you have had your fill of candy canes, plum pudding, Christmas Cheer and visiting relatives.

In need of a break?  Head out to Bantam Cinema.  It will be open this afternoon with two movies- Nine starring Daniel Day Lewis ( a Litchfield County Resident) and It's Complicated starring Meryl Streep (another Litchfield County Resident) and Steve Martin .

Go to Bantam Cinema for show times. Enoy a great movie, organic popcorn, or a variety of other treats. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

All of us at Litchfield Country Living wish you the happiest of holidays and a stellar 2010!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cross Country Skiing In Litchfield

by maria sacco

Not all skiiers want to barrel down a mountain.  Some prefer to cross country ski. Some years our area barely gets enough natural snow fall to make a snowman, some years we are blessed with an over abundance of snow.  Unlike most ski resorts, if you want to cross country ski, you are at the mercy of mother nature!   Here is a list of local areas that offer cross country skiing.

All Connecticut State Parks and Forests permit cross country skiing. The state DEP has designated 12 areas that are well suited for cross country skiing.  Click here for that list. 

Locally, Topsmead State Park in Litchfield offers over 500 acres of land for skiing. Topsmead is located on Buell Rd in Litchfield. 

White Memorial Conservation Center is open to cross country skiiers, weather permitting.  They do not offer rentals, but several local shops will rent out equipment.

Woodbury Ski Area is one of the few areas that offers both cross country and downhill skiiing. They also offere lessons.  Click here to go to their lesson page. Click here to get mountain conditions.

Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Area is located in Farmington.  They offer groomed trails and lessons.  Click here to go to the lesson page.  Click here for current trail and skiing conditions.

Some years Connec

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Downhill Skiing In The Litchfield Area

by maria sacco

Litchfield County has several Ski Areas, the best known being Mohawk Mountain located in Cornwall Connecticut.   Here is a list of several ski areas, let us know if we have missed your favorite!

Mohawk Mountain:  Located in Cornwall, Mohawk has been a favorite ski destination for over 50 years. Weekday hours are 9:30 AM until  10:00 PM, Saturdays 8:30 AM until 10:00 PM, Sundays 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM.  Mohawk offers both skiing and snowboarding. Programs include private lessons, group lessons, childrens programs, and racing programs.  Click here for more informaiton on lessons.  Click here to go to Mohawk's page for current conditions at Mohawk.

Ski Sundown: Located In New Hartford, Ski Sundown is another of Litchfield's family freindly ski area's. Opening day for the 2009/2010 season is this Friday, December 18th.  Ski Sundown offers both skiing and snowboarding, kids programs, adult lessons, racing teams, private lessons, and more.  Click here for Ski Sundown's page of current mountain conditions.

Woodbury Ski Area: Woodbury is not just the Antique's Capitol of Connecticut, it also has it's own ski area.  Woodbury Ski Area offers skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, private lessons, kids programs, racing teams and you can set up your own private skiing party/event as well!  Click here to go to their current mountain conditions and click here for more information on the mountain.

Just a short drive up in the Berkshires, Ski Butternut, Berkshire East, Ski Bosquet, Jiminy Peak, and  are just a few of the mountains that offer skiing In Massachusettes.

Ski Butternut: Ski Butternut offers skiing, snowboarding, children's programs, adult programs, private and group lessons, and more. Located in Great Barrington, Mass, Ski Butternut is just over the Connecticut/Massachusetts border.  Click here for today's mountain condtions and clcik here for more information on programs.

Ski Bosquet: Ski Bosquet is located in Pittsfield, Mass. It offers night skiing, snow tubing, group lessons, private lessons and more. Click here to go to the conditions page and click here to get more information on lessons.

Jiminy Peak: Located in Hancock, Mass, Jiminy Peak is the largest ski and snowboard resort park in southern New England. It offers childrens programs, adult programs, skiing, snowboarding. Click here to get the latest mountain conditions at Jiminy Peak.  Click here for program information.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Litchfield Area Music

by maria sacco

Music abounds in the Litchfield Hills.  We are lucky to have several Venues providing us with a large variety of artists and performers.  Here is a partial list of area events, some well known to area residents, some new! We welcome your suggestions.

The Warner Theatre: Located in Torrington, the Warner offers music, plays, dances, comedy and so much more.  Upcoming shows include A Holiday Doo Wop Celebration, Gregg Allman, Momix Revisited, Don Quiotxe, Comedy Night, David Sediris and more. Click here to go to the web site for further information on upcoming events.

One of Torrington's newest venues is Studio 59.  On a quiet street in Torrington, Connecticut, is an historic church, just minutes from downtown. It is here that a bit of old Paris has been recreated as Studio 59, a performance gallery. Owner and founder Timothy Alexandre Wallace has transformed this quaint old church into a setting reminiscent of an Eighteenth Century European drawing room, complete with comfortable wing-back and parlor chairs. Upcoming events include a New Year's Eve celebration, poetry readings, and a Winter Solistice Festival.  Click here to go to the events schedule.

Up in Norfolk, the Infinity Music Hall is chock a block with a fantastic schedule. Upcoming performances include Judy Collins (SOLD OUT), New Riders of the Purple Sage, Littlefeat, The Yale Wiffenpoofs, Al De Meolia, Buckwheat Zydeco, Jane Monhiet, and so much more.  The Infinity has also opened it's Bistro.  Click here to go to their events schedule.

The Palace Theather in Waterbury is another gem of a venue. Upcoming Events include the Musical Hairspray, A Chorus Line, Cirque Dreams Illumination, The Smothers Brothers, and Itzak Pearlman.  Click here to go to the schedule.

In Litchfield at The Common Ground Coffee House and Internet Cafe, they feature area artists as part of the Litchfield Community  Center Music.  Playing on December 19th, Ian Campbell, On January 16th, Jenna Bollard.  The Common Ground is located on route 202 behind the Irving Twin Stop Gas Station.

In New Milford, Hunt Hill Farm founded by Skitch and Ruth Henderson,  has a variety of arts and music.  The Henderson Cultural Center at Hunt Hill Farm Trust has an ever changing schedule.  Click here to go to the web site.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pack Your Bags Fuller and Fly!

From the Litchfield County Times

For weary travelers tired of paying excess baggage fees or having to leave their luggage at the airport, there is now a solution. Luggagelimits.com, an up-and-coming travel Web site that provides information about luggage weight limits for various airlines, went live on Aug. 5. Begun by Luke Dudley of Litchfield, www.luggagelimits.com is finding its niche with ever-increasing traffic and a link on the global travel Web site Lonelyplanet.com, as well as mentions in English and Australian media. Luggagelimits.com is completely free and does not require a membership to use.

Mr. Dudley, an algebra teacher at the private Forman School in Litchfield, realized that there was a massive gap between the information passengers needed about airline luggage allowances and the airlines' efforts at making such information available.

"I had the idea, because being a boarding school, every year, every term, these kids would come and go with so much stuff-computers, lacrosse sticks, their school clothes and casual clothes-and they're flying from everywhere, so it costs them a small fortune," said Mr. Dudley. "But also in the past, I've been caught out, because I've lived in England and Australia, and regulations seem to change every time I fly."

Luggagelimits.com allows users to search by airline and airport for the weight and size allowances for luggage-an increasingly important measure in travel budgets, now that most airlines charge fees for bulky or excess luggage to offset the rising costs of fuel. Mr. Dudley, a native of England who has also lived in Australia and traveled widely himself, noticed that while baggage information is often available on airline Web sites, it can be difficult and time consuming to find, and often changes without notice.

"Some airlines are more difficult than others; the smaller the airlines, the more gaps in their information. There are also some I haven't tackled, purely because their Web sites aren't in English. Some airlines don't even print the info I can offer, and I have to refer my users back to the reservation department number on their Web sites."

In addition to varying luggage allowances, Mr. Dudley said, some countries have different methods of measuring luggage, which can confuse travelers even more.

"America seems to have its own way of baggage rules. We have a by-the-piece system, but the rest of the world, or a lot of other countries at least, do it by weight. You have to keep your head up, otherwise you get caught using the wrong one. So I'm tracking and gathering their info with a tool I made that gathers info from their Web sites. I've just put it in a palatable, manageable way, and put it in one place."

Luggagelimits.com also functions as an answering service regarding prohibited items, which has led to some strange questions, Mr. Dudley said.

"One of the most recent bizarre inquiries was, 'Am I allowed to bring my Thanksgiving leftovers in my carry-on?' My answer was 'Yes, but please don't sit next to me.' There have been all sorts of questions; the most complicated ones are for specifics, like diabetics needing needles for their insulin, when, obviously, needles aren't allowed on flights. A lot of missionaries have e-mailed me-this is interesting-asking if they are allowed a greater amount of luggage, because they are taking huge loads of bibles to Africa."

While he has not had any direct contact with executives at airlines, Mr. Dudley said that no one who has contacted the industry has been unhappy with his service so far.

"I've had no negative feedback at all from airlines so far. I've had e-mails from employees, asking me consider adding their airlines and things like that. Generally all the feedback has been very positive. I just have a better tool than a lot of airlines themselves have."

Mr. Dudley, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Web site with some help from friends and relatives, is optimistic about making it a profitable venture in the future, while keeping it free to use.

"There is scope in the model for profit to be made. The site is free for users, so it's an odd sort of case, in that in order to make profit, I've got to have a huge amount of people use the site, but the idea was always to keep it free for the users. I dare say I might be able to, though. There's a great many people who fly every day, and I really only need a small percentage of those people to make it profitable. It's just growing awareness among those people, taking time to develop stronger search engine standings. If I just add South African Airlines, for example, they carry about 30,000 people a day; even a small percentage of that would get the numbers to increase very dramatically."

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Home Town Holiday At Hunt Hill Farm

See The 37th Annual Christmas Tree in the Silo Gallery

thru January 4th, 2010

One of Litchfield County's Best Kept Secrets Hunt Hill Farm

View the 27 ft. towering tree decorated with hand-crafted wooden ornaments by folk artist Joy Gaiser. Adorning the tree are 21 well-known New Milford buildings, over 40 snow-capped pine trees and a moon with the silhouette of Santa and his eight reindeer at the top. Gaiser’s garland of festive picket fences and snowflakes made by 4th graders at Sarah Noble Intermediate School add the finishing touches to this spectacular tree!

The New Talent Gallery will feature artist  Diana Luscombe for a second year, displaying her “Healing Strokes” paintings and a new line of note cards.

Photo from the Hunt Hill Farm Trust Web site.

Hunt Hill Farm Trust

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Visitor From The Far North

From Greg Hanisek's Column in the Waterbury Republican

Birds arrive in and pass through Connecticut from far-flung places at this time of year. Snow Buntings visit us from the top of the world, leaving the open Arctic expanses where they nest in search of less-frozen, but otherwise similar, places at our latitude. Since these are birds from beyond the treeline, they have no interest in Connecticut’s extensive forests. We find them in open places such as farmland, close-cropped turf and beaches. The big parking fields at Meigs Point in Hammonasset Beach State Park is a good place to find them, along with Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs. This Snow Bunting was photographed by Ed Doyle of Litchfield on a recent visit to Cape Cod.

Photo of Snow Bunting from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Live Music in the Litchfield Area

Dan Barry's Colum in the Hartford Advocate

Two venues in Torrington and Litchfield offer up an awesome night of brews, rock, and metal.

People around Litchfield County don’t really think it as a destination for music. Instead, the draw seems to be toward the bright lights of Hartford or New Haven — or possibly toward smaller, artsier enclaves like Chester or Middletown. And yet up in this area, there’s a higher-than-usual number of good venues sprinkled in among the ordinary bars. I visited two of them this past weekend.

My evening got started at the Cambridge House Brew Pub in Torrington, where newcomers Addison Station were playing. Based out of Manchester, the group comprises Trent Gerbers on lead vocals and harmonica, and Jeff Kenniston on vocals and acoustic guitar. The acoustic duo carefully selected pop songs that showcased their excellent dual harmonies. They did oldie-but-goodies like “Mrs. Robinson” right next to a silly cover of “Hey Ya.” They nailed the chorus harmonies of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” and they even brought out an old flame I haven’t heard since the ‘90s — Tonic’s “If You Could Only See.” They may be a cover band, but at least they didn’t seem slavish about it, largely because they matched their selections to their strengths.

Later that night I headed to Litchfield, which under most circumstances hardly seems like a place you want to party. However, naysayers probably don’t know about Ditto’s, the pub attached to Bohemian Pizza (342 Bantam Road, past the town green). Imagine a cross between a dive bar, a log cabin, and a classy pizzeria, and you’re well on your way to envisioning what this place is like. Amidst colored lights and big amps was Headwrench, a take-no-shit metal band influenced by groups like Pantera and Priest. The hair was long and sweaty, the guitars were sharp and pointy, and the small crowd only grew as they barreled through their set.

Headwrench have massive underdog appeal. No one in the band is handsome enough to entertain notions of Jimmy Page flamboyance. No one seems to have any pretense about wanting to be a big star, even in this time when metal is cultural gold. And their traditional metal influences are almost unheard of now that grind, sludge, and deathcore have each taken their turn molding metal in their own image. Frontman Scott Wilson took his wireless mic and walked all throughout the building, riling up people who weren’t even in the same room as the band. Lead guitarist Steve Rose is the best local shredder you’ve never heard of; his Kerry King-sized bear paws seemed poised to snap the neck off his guitar. It’s passion and anger, not ego, that drives this band.

The kicker is that Headwrench played original material almost exclusively. They have a knack for writing hard-driving ‘80s- and ‘90s-style metal without aping their influences. Late in their second set, they played a well-timed cover of Pantera’s “Regular People (Conceit)” that brought all the boys to the yard. One senses there would have been a pit if there weren’t restaurant tables strewn throughout the room. At worst, drummer Will Fitzgerald lost sync with the band a few times, but it’s more than likely because there were no monitors to link him up with the rest of the band. He was also in the back of a small, recessed area that probably deadened the sound even more. The missteps were a little too glaring to cover up, but everyone in the band was good-natured about laughing it off and forging ahead. Man, being angry is fun!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Arethusa Farm Dairy

From the Providence Journal

Farms are being put to bed for the winter, but for some, life remains busy inside their barns. While there’s been a dramatic loss of working farms throughout New England, some are creatively reinventing themselves even in a tough economy.

Arethusa Farm in historic Litchfield is an operation that continues to evolve. What began as a moderate-size dairy farm, operated by one family for 100 years, has now become one of the top dairy breeding and award-winning farms in North America. This is not your grandfather’s farm.

The original farm property, close to the center of town, was saved from development in 1999 by longtime neighbors, and now owners, George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis. The farm was up for sale and a golf course or tract housing on the rolling pastures were proposed by developers. Both possibilities compelled Malkemus and Yurgaitis to jump in.

As new owners, Malkemus and Yurgaitis were committed to restoring the farm’s heritage, saving irreplaceable agricultural land and open space — and making sure that Connecticut didn’t lose yet another farm. Plus they wanted to treat the animals in the best possible way, in state-of-the-art (but traditional-looking) barns offering all-around cow comfort.

Arethusa Farm’s owners also happen to be president and vice president of Manolo Blahnik USA, high-end fashion shoes (familiar to anyone who’s watched “Sex and the City”). While this seems like an odd juxtaposition — the glitzy, high-fashion world meets the bucolic setting of, well, “designer” cows — it’s logical. The two businesses have superior quality at their cores.

Sure, ample resources were necessary; not everyone can buy a local farm to save and transform it. These owners did their homework, hiring the best people they could find who knew how to breed premier cows and make the farm grow, especially in reputation, by carving out a very precise niche.

Two of Arethusa’s star-status cows, Melanie and Veronica, made history by winning the two top awards at the 2004 World Dairy Expo, which no single farm had ever done. Think Secretariat winning the Triple Crown, and you get the idea.

But Arethusa Farm isn’t just about an investment, nor is it for cachet. Owner Malkemus says, “What we have tried to do, through the grace of God, is to support the industry and bring it back to Connecticut. Hopefully, we’ve accomplished something.”

The farm has 300 head of cattle—Holsteins and Jerseys. Its revenue streams are embryo sales to U.S. and international farms, sales of cattle offspring, leasing bulls and selling high-quality milk. It hosted a phenomenal international cattle sale in 2008, called Global Glamour, where one of the Holstein consignments fetched $1 million and the 40 animals sold averaged $97,000.

Reinventing itself again in June 2009, Arethusa Farm Dairy was born. Before this the breeding farm’s milk was mostly a by-product sold to Marcus Dairy. The farm decided it was time to process and sell its own premium-quality milk, following a drastic drop in milk prices paid to farmers (a 50-percent drop over a six-month period); in addition, embryo sales had slowed down because of the U.S. economy and a weakening euro.

Even before the dairy operation began, Arethusa had been a recipient of a national milk-quality award from Dairy One and was already producing high-quality milk. They felt that they could capitalize on this by meeting the growing demand by educated consumers for local, fresh and natural products. The dairy’s truck, which sports a color photo of its prize cows, is painted with the slogan, “Milk like it used to taste.”

The farm uses a low-temperature vat-pasteurization method that yields exceptional milk, with a flavor close to melted vanilla ice cream, and which preserves the taste best, unlike the high-temperature process more commonly used. This is artisan milk, bottled at a Bolton, Conn., family-run business, Fish Family Farm.

There are 10 full-time employees, plus two trainees from Japan and one local high-school agriculture student. Most have come from out of state — Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine — and ages range from 15 to 70. New England has so little production agriculture left that there aren’t many young people interested in working on farms, so Arethusa needs to tap a larger area.

The local communities of Litchfield County appreciate the good will that Arethusa generates. The farm hosts visits for 4-H groups and Future Farmers of America, and supports local high-school farm education.

Arethusa Farm’s success is truly about doing the right thing — the right staff, the right facilities and the right way to run a farm with superior care for the animals. The ripple effect of sustainable agriculture and supporting the local farming sector are at the core of this farm’s principles and a theme that repeats itself as they continue to creatively adapt.

Linda Hedman Beyus is a Connecticut-based writer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Local Artist Participates in Reality TV Series

Local Artist Edward Spaulding DeVoe does not personally know high-end decorator Christopher Hyland or television personality George Oliphant. Mr. DeVoe has never seen "Open House: To the Rescue," an NBC/LX-TV home redecorating series. Nor, for that matter, is Mr. DeVoe familiar with the O'Hara family of Parsippany, N.J.

However, all of those people, places and things are interwoven. And by next month, Mr. DeVoe will be part of that circle.

The Bridgewater painter was recently contacted by Mr. Hyland, who works on the "Open House" series with host Mr. Oliphant, and was asked if he would be willing to contribute a painting to the O'Haras' New Jersey home, destroyed in a fire but now rebuilt and refurnished by the television program.

Mr. DeVoe, a proponent of charitable work, readily agreed, even if he still doesn't know all the details.

"We haven't been given a date of when the show will run, but it will be between now and Christmas," said Mr. DeVoe, whose art, while hanging at a New York City display, was noticed by Mr. Hyland. "But I do know that my painting will be featured above the mantelpiece in the living room."

Already dubbed "Firebird Suite," the interpretive painting is part of Mr. DeVoe's music series of paintings inspired by classic works. In this case, the muse was Igor Stravinsky's composition of the same name.

Though his art typically follows a realist approach, the music tends to pull a more abstract element out of his paintbrush. Indeed, in the case of "Firebird Suite," the O'Hara family will enjoy a multi-colored swirl of energy, snaking through the canvas in patterns that almost, but not quite, represent a majestic and honorable avian.

"Normally, I do these to live concerts, but I did this one to a recorded piece of music," said Mr. DeVoe on his music series method. "In this case, I wanted it to be non-specific. I'm very much a realist, and some of the sketches looked like birds, but I took that out and used the pure energy of the music."

Just as he doesn't know when the show will air, he's also unsure of whether he will be on hand for the house unveiling, which, as with many home makeover shows, will feature the previously sequestered O'Hara family coming back home in an intensely documented "ta-da" moment.

Even if Mr. DeVoe only gets to see the O'Haras' reaction on television with the rest of us, it'll satisfy his Samaritan spirit. According to Mr. Devoe, "I'm just happy to do something for a good cause."

©Litchfield County Times 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival This Weekend

Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival December 4th and 5th, 2009

Bethlehem will be hosting it's annual town holiday festival this weekend. There is ample parking at the town fairgrounds, buses will be transporting people to and from the village green and best of all, admission is free!
Festivities include tree-lighting in the centre of the Village Green, photos with Santa at the Firehouse, hay-rides, holiday music, and holiday shopping for handcrafted items such as toys, decorations, wreaths, and homemade jams, pies, and other goodies.

An ornament-making workshop is held at the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden, which dates back to 1734 and is now a small museum. Bethlehem also has an Abbey-- the Abbey of Regina Laudis -- and visitors can buy crafts such as pottery, candles, knitted goods and wool from the abbey's own sheep, or iron work hand-forged at the Abbey Blacksmith Shop.

Visitors can also buy limited-edition pewter Bethlehem Christmas Town ornaments, at the Festival's Information Booth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Housing Trends Update

In October the housing market continued to stabilize, according to respondents to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance Monthly Survey of Real Estate Market Conditions. Real estate agent survey respondents reported increasing short sales, decreasing REO sales, and a rapid ramp-up in transactions by first-time homebuyers.

Please click here to go to the full report.