Kingston.

City folk often wonder where exactly we live. Upstate? Catskills? Hudson Valley? Downstate? Upstate is different from the city in it’s arrangement of towns, hamlets, villages etc. We pay our taxes to the ‘town’ of Marbletown which includes the ‘hamlets’ of Stone Ridge and High Falls, but our zip code is in Kingston (go figure), and our ‘fire district’ is Lomontville! Lomontville might best be described as our neighborhood, since it is no longer a proper town, just a fire house. We feel connected to all these towns. Stone Ridge is really our town and Kingston is our closest city.

Kingston is an interesting place and, in 2016, feels very much like it’s on the upswing. Founded in the 17th century, it is full of New York history as well as colonial history. Kingston was settled, along with Albany and New Amsterdam, by the Dutch in 1651. It persisted as a Dutch settlement for many years, but like most of the area, was taken over by English-speaking colonists during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1777, Kingston became the capitol of New York State for a short time until the city was torched by British soldiers during the American Revolution. The city thrived for over a hundred years but was negatively impacted in the 20th century by the loss of the railroad, the end of the bluestone trade, the closing of the upstate NY canal system and the departure of IBM in 1987. The current population is about 24,000. The city has it’s issues, including lack of jobs, an aging infrastructure and budget woes, but it is a beautiful town with lots to offer.

Kingston:

The 17th-18th century neighborhood is called Uptown or the Stockade district, and the more 19th century area, which used to be a separate town, is called the Rondout. There are some amazing houses & neighborhoods here. Many of the stone homes are open for tours, and there are walking tours of historic Kingston. You can have a nice meal in the 1679 Hoffman House.

I can’t claim to have discovered any of these houses on my own (linked below and found on design blogs, etc) but I am happy to share the info. On DesignSponge there was Hayes Clement’s home which I learned was designed by Calvert Vaux, who, with Frederick Law Olmstead, designed both Central Park and Prospect Park, among other things. Turns out Calvert Vaux married a woman from Kingston and lived here.

DesignSponge home tour  http://www.designsponge.com/2014/10/sneak-peek-hayes-clement.html

Uptown Kingston was first settled at the end of the 17th century by the Dutch and there are lots of beautiful stone houses here. Like these:

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This is a pretty rental/event space pictured below. We went to a party in this lovely courtyard but you can also find the entire place for rent on AirBnB.  http://www.churchdesartistes.com/ Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 9.37.12 AM

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Below is a fun design blog of a young Manhattanite renovating some pretty Kingston houses. http://manhattan-nest.com/

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Here’s another home renovation/house rental in Kingston, also featured on DesignSponge: http://www.designsponge.com/2013/09/a-young-couples-charm-filled-hudson-valley-home.html

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I can’t resist a plug for my fave restaurant in town: Boitsons!

It’s worth a trip.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 10.23.35 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 10.24.31 AMUs locals are also incredibly excited about the new National Premier Soccer League team coming to Kingston, the Kingston Stockade! Read all about it here: http://www.kingstonx.com/2015/12/01/soccer-made-in-kingston-semi-pro-stockade-fc-starts-play-at-dietz-next-year

http://www.stockadefc.com/

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So… I realize that this is just barely scratching the surface of Kingston and doesn’t include restaurants, shops, etc. but I have been thinking about how much potential this little city has with great history, architecture, a beautiful location on the Hudson river and only 2 hours from New York City!!

A Visiting Swarm

Last Wednesday Felix came running inside to tell us there was a huge group of bees hanging off of a branch in the yard. We all RAN outside as fast as we could and saw that it was, indeed a large bunch of bees hanging, shoulder-high, on a branch very near our actual beehive.

I remembered that swarms are not dangerous because they have no hive to defend so we went up close to examine it. It was really amazing to see this huge mass of bugs all clinging together. Jem & I ran to assemble an unused beehive to catch the swarm, as we headed back, they all seemed to be taking flight and within a few seconds we realized they were flying up up and over the top of a tall pine tree towards the woods.

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It was the perfect height for us to catch it if we had only gotten there in time.

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They’ve just left their other home because it was too crowded there (swarming is a natural part of life for honeybees), after they find a nice place to hang out for a short while, they send out scout bees to find a new home. When a particular number of scout bees return recommending the exact same location, then they all take flight together.

“The term ‘swarming’ is applied to the act of a family of bees leaving their home to establish a new home elsewhere.” –The ABC and XYZ of Beekeeping” A.I. Root, 1878

The other side.

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Below is a video of them taking off.

This is where we moved the beehive to before we installed the new package of bees in April, they seem to like it better here. This is immediately to the left of where the swarm was.

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Cousin Alex was visiting! and can be heard yelling to the bees in the video ‘Where are you going!?’

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Wintery winter.

Hello! It’s only January but it’s been a very wintery winter so far. The colors of winter are amazing, as is the winter light. The early morning sun turns the tops of the pine trees pink at the woodland edge.IMG_3089

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There are wonderful mature trees next door, which is also our sledding hill (big thank you to our neighbors Dennis & Chelsa).

sledding2Some instagrammed pictures below: shadows, fog & blowing snow.

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Flat grey sky.

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Doggie face.

Dog days.

It’s so long since I last wrote! And much has transpired. We have moved. We got a dog. And a kitten. And are welcoming visiting family from the UK. So there is lots going on here in Lomontville. It’s hard to synopsize all of this onto a cohesive post but I’ll try.

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We packed up our Brooklyn house and put it all in a truck. Of course it was a broiling hot day, but we managed to get everything loaded and moved upstate without incident. So far, moving upstate hasn’t really felt like moving, per se. It just feels like a normal August spending as much time upstate as possible. I just realized that, until now, our upstate house has been sort of half-furnished. Now it finally feels like a home instead of a weekend house because we have all our books, artwork and photos here. We’re still working on unpacking but that can wait.

rainbowThis lovely sight was spotted over our driveway 2 days after we arrived. A lucky omen perhaps?

IMG_0587Introducing Layla Bugs. The first new addition to our menagerie. We adopted her from Pets Alive in Middletown, NY.

IMG_0739Layla is extremely gentle and not too interested in the cats except as playmates. Here we are in the shade with both Luna (cat) and Layla.

IMG_0638Apparently adding one family member was not enough, because no sooner had we gotten Layla steeled in but we raced BACK to Pets Alive and adopted a kitten! Here is Stella test-driving  some kitties at the shelter.

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And the winner is… Socks! She is a small grey and white kitten, very playful and cute. And very afraid of the dog. There are a lot of dog gates and cat doors and general pet-wrangling going on over here. The original pet (Luna the cat) and the dog will get along fine, the kitten is the monkey wrench really because she is scared of the other animals. She is ridiculously cute though and sleeps on your lap when you sit at the computer, and bites your toes with her tiny teeth.

IMG_0755We took Layla to Minnewaska where she practically pulled Jem’s arm off pulling on the leash with excitement. She seems a very sniffy dog, so she had to smell EVERY SINGLE thing we came across. She also must have some herding/working dog in her because she seems very concerned that the group stays together. I think we are  sheep to her, and she’s just trying to do her job.

IMG_0348The garden is in full August swing. I have done NO gardening/ weeding/ planting since mid-July. I basically just look at the garden and think of all the things I need to do. But then I don’t do them, I just contemplate them. The flower garden is full of every kind of pollinator you can imagine.

IMG_0784We collected another small batch of honey too. Stella & Felix decorated the lids.

Long live the Queen!

hivesJuly The hive that swarmed lost their queen when she led the workers to a new location (see my brief blog post on that here). BUT when we opened the hive this week we saw that there were eggs and ‘brood’ which means that the worker bees have MADE a new queen, she has mated (!) and is laying eggs. Bee books say that queens can lay up to 1500 eggs a day in the high season, this is a bit hard to comprehend. In any case, we were so relieved to see that the colony is thriving and would continue after the swarming. Whether they make it through the winter is another matter entirely.

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Extracting Honey

combWe extracted our first honey this past week! It was really fun. Here’s an empty comb in all it’s mathematical beauty & precision.

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This is the frame (the wooden part) filled with capped honey. The bees cap the honey with wax to seal it. The comb is irregular because we only put a half sheet of wax foundation into each frame and let the bees do the rest. Master beekeeeper Chris Harp of Honeybee Lives taught us that.

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Here we are uncapping the comb. This basically involves cutting off the wax so that the honey inside can be drained or spun out in an extractor.

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Jem & Felix are spinning the extractor, it works on centrifugal force. The uncapped comb with honey inside faces the outside of the barrel and the honey spills out as the frame is turned.

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When all the frames are done we opened the spigot at the bottom and the honey poured into a clean bucket with a fine filter fitted on top. The filter just ensures that no wax makes it into the honey. The honey itself is still raw and untreated.

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Here’s the honey dripping into the filter.

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The honey!! Note the light color. it may be Catalpa or clover honey, we’re not sure. it is very flavorful and clover honey is supposed to be mild so we don’t really know where they got their nectar.

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We thought these little bottles would make nice gifts, they hold 8 ounces each so we ended up with about 7 lbs total. The little bear was a gift from Megan at Hudson Valley Bee Supply where we get lots of our supplies.

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Our ladies seemed to really loves these drumstick allium. I think I’ll plant more this fall.

IMG_0176Summer in the Catskills has a lot to offer, and Felix was a huge help with our adventures in honey collecting.