We drove north out of NYC under a perfect blue bird day. Our mission was our friend’s farm in Upstate NY. Mike and Rachel use to live about three houses down from our home in the Lettered Streets in Bellingham, WA. Two years ago they moved to a beautiful country house in the rolling hills of the Hudson River valley about 2 or so hours up the Taconic Parkway north of The City. It was pretty much guaranteed that when we hung out with Mike and Rachel there would be ample full belly laughing. We were sorry to see them go from Bellingham although we were now psyched that we would have a good solid week of merry making.
Their big country farmhouse in its pretty pastury landscape prepared us to be poised and ready for the start of one of the most spectacular shows on Earth. The deep green summer foliage was just receiving it’s first brush strokes of reds, oranges and yellows. This was actually part of the grand plan: spend the Autumn in the east, starting up north and working our way south so we can experience the colors to their maximum potential for the longest duration. This was going to be the kid’s first time experiencing the whole show beginning to end.
Mike and Rachel have three kids, Quinn, age 10, Tula, age 6 and Harper age 1. Quinn won the take home prize on that first evening for providing us with the most memorable laughs, a child with no regrets and a skilled dancer and (hilarious) entertainer. The image of Quinn dancing around with gusto to some Abba tune takes the cake. Although to be fair Tula, an explosive fire cracker, is a close second with her ability to entertain “valley girl style”!
The first night we stayed in their house but for the next several nights we stayed across the country road at this very old house owned by a previous governor of Alabama. The “Govna’s house”, as we called it a very old and immaculately restored farmhouse built in the mid 1800s and furnished right out of a magazine with a very expensive mix of classic farmhouse/southern-country/NYC-entertaining. We were comfortable but concerned that the kids would touch an antique or commune with one of the ghosts…pretty sure that the upstairs creaking doors were ghosts of farmers past…maybe not. What it did have was three artsy fartsy terrier/poodle type dogs who where given a pile of shredded cheese on the kitchen floor each day after their morning walk. Two of them suffered from extreme neurosis. One of them (the biggest one) was terrified of everyone and was curled up in a corner the whole time while the others loved to freak out and bark all night, every night. In the end, the house was a bit weird but was more fun and novel than anything else.
Mike and Rachel have lots of acreage and several ponds on their land. Throughout that week we went fishing, running, picked apples, caught up on work and home schooled quite a bit while the kids where in school. The Haley’s showed us a great time in the country which included the dukes of Hazard ride to the next farm – kids hooting and howling out of the sunroof!
On Thursday we went to the Gunks, (Shawgunks, NY) one of the most famous climbing areas in the country located close by. The Gunks were plenty fun for cragging but beware, it’s $17 dollars per person to climb for the day. For me that took quite a bit of the fun out of it. In the end I wouldn’t go out of my way for that. The odds of waiting in line for a popular route were high, and there were a lot of people there. Also, it could be that each of these routes have seen more ascents than any other collection of climbs in the country. Most of the climbing was uncommonly slick and steep, which made for some welcome exercise all said and done.
On Friday we went to check out the Hawthorn Valley Waldorf School where the kids attend and Mike works. Waldorf is an educational system that began in Austria at the beginning of the 20th century. The system is based on Rudolph Steiner’s philosophy stating that a child’s development into adulthood requires a strong competence in moral responsibility, educational integration into their practical lives as well as an emphasis on promoting a growing child’s freedom of spirit and expression.
A very rural and pretty country side surrounded this picture perfect school which looked more like a small village in the countryside of Europe. Actually the school itself was on one side of the street and the Waldorf health food store and farm on the other. The farm was actually quite large with a creamery and a fermenting area. One of the elements that have always rung true for me about Waldorf schools is their natural appeal. The buildings were beautifully sculpted to blend into the natural environment surrounded it. This gives a calming vibe and pulls you into the community. The fact is though, that the school where our kids attend in Bellingham (and where Mike used to teach), the Whatcom Hills Waldorf School, is next to impossible to top. Much smaller and simpler than this one but with great community and home town vibe. We were reminded that we have what we wanted right at home.
The last few days were great fun. We moved back into Mike and Rachel’s house and Mike and I got the chance to go and get rowdy at the local pub. On the very last day we picked enough apples from their young apple and pear orchard to make several gallons of fresh apple cider. Actually I think more than several.
Next stop, Putney Vermont to visit our friend Annique and Thomas’s.