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July 14, 2014
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[Author’s Note: The men who agreed to be interviewed for this article insisted on anonymity and a promise not to disclose the locations of their blinds. My appreciation and thanks to The Old Man, The Soldier and The Cowboy for allowing a sneak peek into the male mystique.]

The gentleman farmer; Nice outfit!

I woke up thinking about mowing. Again. This happens a lot between May through October. In my dreams, I find myself having spent what feels like several hours of mowing only to find that I have etched into the field in front of my house what looks like a UFO crop circle. Other times I have an out-of-body experience, and like a Bugs Bunny cartoon I do a “snap focus” high above my property to realize that I have spelled out “Eat at Joe’s” in the meadow in some crazy Etch-a-Sketch pattern.  Read more

Camping in the backyard

When I was little, I would pack up a backpack, grab a flashlight, pillow and blanket and go camping—in my front yard. I had a tiny tent. Each panel was one of the primary colors: yellow, red and blue. I would sleep in my purple sleeping bag, which was pink and fuzzy on the inside. I always brought a book and read it by flashlight way past my bedtime. These are the things I remember.  Read more

At home in a country inn: Restoring past glories

Travel down any number of country roads throughout the Catskills and one can discover architecture that exemplifies what life was like during the heyday, when the region was known as a playground for those seeking respite from the workaday world of city life. Boarding houses, hotels, bungalows and inns were scattered across Sullivan County, and among them, The Old North Branch Inn stood proud.  Read more

From flea market find to art gallery; Dee Rivera thrives on the art of repurposing

Finding inspiration in items other people get rid of, mixed media artist Dee Rivera creates unique objects d’art that might best be described as three-dimensional collages. Her work is all about putting together parts of found trinkets and everyday items—pieces of jewelry, a handle from an old drawer, a candle holder, an old cheese board, vintage buttons, broken watches, wooden and tin boxes. “I’m always looking for things that have an interesting texture, or shape, or color,” she said of her flea market excursions.  Read more

Creating inspiring spaces in our homes

Having a place to call home is meaningful to most of us. As a poetic ideal, it’s a welcoming environment where we can slip into baggy pants at the end of the day and leave the mad world behind to “just be” without pretense. It’s a place where we can rest, recover and recharge ourselves, as well as our smart phones.  Read more

The green, green grass of home; Sowing, growing & eating asparagus

After enduring a punishing winter, there is nothing more welcome than the first signs of spring poking up from the impossibly barren earth. Out in nature, knotweed, ferns and nettles are among the first things to appear. In my garden, it is the incipient tender green of sorrel, rhubarb and angelica. This year, I hope to be adding asparagus to that list, because we planted a patch last spring.  Read more

Diggin’ the seeds

In some years, the weather is warm enough in March that the fence around my garden can be inspected and repaired in anticipation of the upcoming gardening season. But this year, with snow still piled high, the garden gate has not even been opened yet, so garden activities thus far have been limited to starting seeds indoors.

The biggest challenge with starting seeds indoors is getting enough light to the seedlings once they emerge. A bright sunny window will sometimes do, but most windows aren’t sunny enough for a long enough time, and space in front of them is limited.  Read more

Reuse, recycle, restore it!

“Is it Monday yet? Can I please go back to work?” asks Judy Shaffer, emphasizing the word “please.”

For the past 18 years, Judy has worked side by side with Mark and Andee Weller, owners of Sterling Upholstery Co., Inc.(www.sterlingupholsteryco.com/), located at 50 Neville Rd. in Moscow, PA.  Read more

Spring clean your closet

Spring is the season of renewal and birth. It is a time when we get a fresh start in our lives, and the ever-popular phrase “spring cleaning” enters our vernacular (and hopefully our activity). If you’re anything like me, you often throw things into your closet without really paying any attention; it’s the ideal throw-stuff-in-and-shut-the-door kind of space. You might find yourself looking at your closet and shaking your head or averting your eyes from the horror. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s time to tackle that project and spring clean your closet.  Read more

Love and lilacs; Living history revealed in the Skinner House

When Gina and Tom Kaufmann share how they met, they evoke a scene from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” They grew up 20 minutes apart on Long Island, vacationed 20 minutes apart in the Upper Delaware River Valley region and even closer on Long Island, but only first met when they went horseback riding together in their mid-to-late teens. Then, there’s the house. They were dating about a year when they first entered the Skinner House, visiting family friends. Gina recalls thinking it would be romantic to live there one day.  Read more

The joy of sleeping in

Listed under the Special Skills section of my resume are ballet, cooking and sleeping in. Just kidding. But really, if sleeping in were an Olympic sport, I would get a gold medal. If you wanted to give me a present, you should give me a day where I can sleep in. As The Postal Service (the band, not the mail delivery system) said, “Don’t wake me; I plan on sleeping in.”  Read more

Alpaca: The new-age Golden Fleece

The Catskills and Upper Delaware River Valley are known for many things: hiking, river rafting, apple picking and the beauty and serenity that a visit to our region provides. Each season has something different to offer to visitors and residents alike, but since the 1970s, a warm and fuzzy attraction has caught on—alpacas. The gentle creatures have been domesticated for thousands of years and the Moche people of northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art. Too small to be used as pack animals, they have been bred exclusively for their fiber and meat, but it’s their fleece that has made the alpaca highly prized throughout the world. Today, alpaca can be found all across the United States, including right here at home, where their incredibly soft hair is made into scarves, hats, gloves and socks, along with stylish high-end garments that are sought after by folks from all walks of life.  Read more

Ten steps to a safe heating fire

Madonna Badger wasn’t awakened by her three daughters’ squeals of delight on Christmas morning 2011. Instead she awoke to smoke in a dark and silent house. Quickly the house was engulfed in flames, and all efforts to save her family failed. Ashes from the fire that had warmed her Connecticut house on Christmas Eve had been carelessly disposed of, and in the night, the embers caught fire. In addition, no smoke alarm sounded a warning. The resulting inferno robbed Badger of her children, her parents and her home.  Read more

Top tips for saving energy

Most, if not all, homeowners would fix a window broken by a wayward softball. What many people don’t know, though, is that there are often small air breaches in many different places of the home that, if combined, could easily be the size of a softball or bigger. As a result, much energy, and many dollars, can be lost.  Read more

The Great Pumpkin

Nature’s timing is flawless. As if on cue, the winter squash and pumpkins appear just as the onslaught of zucchini starts to ebb. And they’re here to stay, their stout curves and painterly colors a pleasure to behold throughout the winter. Every year I stock up on the many varieties grown by Alice and Neil Fitzgerald of River Brook Farm in Cochecton, NY including international heirlooms like the brilliant orange Hubbard, the voluptuous Musque de Provence and the charmingly bumpy Marina di Chioggia. These all have a dense, creamy flesh that is equally delicious roasted, fried (pumpkin tempura!) or stewed.  Read more

House plants; Prepare them for the journey back inside

After a summer vacation on your porch or deck, it’s time to prepare your house plants for the trip back to their winter home. For their survival and your enjoyment, they need to be prepared for the lower levels of light, temperature and humidity of the house. It’s really just a reversal of the process of hardening off plants or seedlings in the spring. When night temperatures cool to the 50s, the fall ritual can begin. These tips should help with the process:  Read more

The warmth of a cup of tea; Giving a tea party

Imagine yourself on a leisurely drive through the winding countryside of South Wales. You pass luscious green rolling hills speckled with woolly sheep and patches of lush woodland. This journey ends down in a deep valley, complete with a river running through it, at a stately home built somewhere around 1810. You make your way up to the beautiful home past the stables and horses, and find yourself sitting in the conservatory in the center of the large house. The conservatory is filled with beautiful plants, where the sunlight pours in through the many windows to warm your soul. This memory was one of many shared by Christine San Jose, who has “84 years’ experience in high tea.”  Read more

Kelly McMasters; Reader, writer, independent bookstore owner

Kelly McMasters owns a small, independent book store, Moody Road Studio, located in Maude Alley in the 1000 block of Main Street in Honesdale, PA. She writes about the experience in a monthly column for The Paris Review. She is the author of “Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town,” the personal story of growing up in her hometown on Long Island, NY where there were three nuclear reactors and all three leaked. A documentary based on the book was shown earlier this month at the Black Bear Film Festival in Milford, PA.  Read more

Honoring traditions, fabricating new; Meet the divas of quilting

Some do it for the fellowship and conversation. Some do it for the satisfaction of having something to show for all their hard work. Some do it for the art. But they all have the same goal: to make a quilt.  Read more

Something old, something new; A country house lovingly restored

There’s a reason that people are obsessed with home makeover shows. There’s nothing like a good transformation story and the big reveal. We constantly tune in to “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Trading Spaces” to watch cringe-worthy spaces become homes you want to live in, all led by the skilled and snarky renovators who have become household names (Ty Pennignton, Genevieve Gorder). Not to be outdone by celebrity makeover artists, Ramona Jan of Country Home Restoration (Abrahamsville, PA) has recently completed a project to restore an 1800s farmhouse in Hortonville, NY, owned by Westchester resident Cheryl Greenberg.  Read more