North River Hobby Farm
After more than one 100 years as a family summer camp, this historic property has become a picturesque “hobby farm” and at last has family members living there full time.
Last summer, Leslie Clement and her two daughters moved from western Massachusetts to become year-round residents in North River and to fulfill the dream of creating a scenic farm selling produce as well as serving light picnic foods and Saturday night country dinners.
Clement cleared some of the 8 acres for a large scenic vegetable and flower garden, creating raised beds with soft sod paths between. She was surprised at the results of a soil analysis which showed a high degree of organic material and an almost perfect pH balance.
This spring, she built a small greenhouse where she started tomatoes, basil, squash and other warm weather crops in early spring, thereby giving them a head start before they went into the ground in late May. Cold weather crops including broccoli, lettuce, onions and potatoes where planted in early April.
In her 20s, Leslie worked as a carpenter apprentice, completing four years of training. She then went on to restore a number of historic homes in Springfield, Mass. as well as building 50 new Craftsman-style homes which were featured in the national Builder Magazine. Locally, she worked as a designer on her sister Cari Clement’s North River historic schoolhouse and restored the Cedarwood Bed and Breakfast on Schoolhouse Road before selling the property to the current owners, Sharalee and Louis Falzerano.
In the last few years, Leslie returned to her original profession as a working carpenter. This winter, she converted a barn on her Cemetery Road property into a farm stand and kitchen, using many recycled and “already owned” materials. She received a permit from the Johnsburg Planning Board to become a farm stand selling herbs, flowers and fresh produce as well as a “food processing” permit from the New York Agriculture and Market which allows her to sell take-out food, ice cream and home canned goods.
Also working on the North River Hobby Farm is Brandi Galusha, of Bakers Mills, who obtained an environmental science degree from Paul Smith’s College. The Galusha family has also helped out by supplying honey and maple syrup, which is sold at the farm stand, and providing two gentle older mules which for entertainment are trained to pull an antique wagon up and down the road.
Today, Leslie is harvesting produce right out of the new garden, and bringing it into the new farm stand kitchen where she creates light squash fritters, salads sprinkled with fresh herbs, potato and scallion pancakes and smoothies from the blackberries which grow wild throughout the property.
“Customers are delighted to find a new local farm which offers beautiful views of Gore Mountain and the surrounding wildflower meadows,” Leslie said. “And I’m enjoying meeting new people and making new friends.”
Visitors can watch a flock of free-ranging chickens and ducks that roam everywhere. For the ducks, Clement built a small pond using a recycled pump as well as hundreds of rocks dug out of the new garden, but for some unknown reason, the ducks won’t go into it. They gladly swim merrily in a small plastic toddlers pond. At night, they all return to their new chicken coop that Leslie built this spring, again using some new materials as well as some handsome 50-year-old pine boards and mahogany flooring from an “odd lot” of miscellaneous materials from Murphy Lumber. The chickens are now laying eggs that Leslie uses for cooking as well as for sale.
The land and the two camps on the property date back to 1905 when Leslie’s great-aunt was sent from Port Washington, Long Island to North River where it was hoped that the young woman would recover from tuberculosis by breathing the fresh mountain air. (She did, in fact, recover and lived into her late 80s).
Delighted with their daughter’s recovery, the Bird family built a camp in 1910 using leaded glass windows from a demolished Guggenheim estate on Long Island, bringing these and other building materials all the way up by train.
Traditionally, the women stayed all summer while the men traveled back and forth. Life was leisurely. Visiting, and having visitors, was an important part of life. Cooking was done with a hand pump and wood cook stove. There are still a dozen 100-year-old apple trees planted by her great-grandfather.
“These camps and the land around them are very dear to my heart,” Leslie said. “This is our first year as a small farm, but having visitors, being outside in the fresh air and walking in the wildflower meadows are traditions which go back more than one hundred years.”
This year, Clement’s daughters — June and Emeline McCarthy — attended Johnsburg Central School.
“It was admittedly a big change from their former suburban school in Massachusetts, but they adjusted well, and I couldn’t be happier with the education they’re receiving at JCS,” Leslie said. “The teachers and staff are committed and caring.”
The North River Hobby Farm is located on an 8-acre parcel with panoramic views of Gore Mountain and a historic cemetery next door. The property is off Route 28 up 13th Lake Road to the top Cemetery Road, historically known as “Christian Hill.”
The farm is open Thursday through Sunday noon to 8, and other times by chance. Every Saturday night, Clement serves a “farm to table” dinner buffet priced at $12 and $8 for children or seniors.
Details can be seen on NorthRiverHobbyFarm.com. For more information, call 251-5331.