The North River Hobby Farm will reopen in May for its second season, offering picnic foods, flowers, honey, local produce and Saturday night “farm to table” dinner buffets.
This year, the Hobby Farm is adding an additional amenity --- an opportunity to take a “farm holiday” in a restored family camp on the property.
Sometimes called “haycations,” many small farms are inviting guests to take a break from the bustle of city life, and a chance to pack up the kids and enjoy a down-home night or two on the farm. Children can stay busy getting eggs from the chicken coop, watching the ducks paddle around the pond and climbing into the hay loft of the barn while grown-ups may enjoy picking their own peas, herbs and tomatoes from the garden and walking through the wildflowers admiring the gorgeous views of Gore Mountain. At the end of the day, visitors will sleep well in an authentic Adirondack camp built in 1910 by Leslie’s great-grandparents which Leslie has restored “hands on” over the last four years.
“Less than a hundred years ago, about half the population was involved with farming of some kind, and the rest of the folks who weren’t farmers had cousins or grandparents who were, and they took Sunday drives out to visit them. Today there are few places for non-farming folks to go home to,” says Clement. Urbanites who have an urge to embrace the country life can get out of the city, enjoy real food, see how food is grown and wake up to the sounds of farm life --- chickens and ducks, mules and a pony --- and at night see stars that aren’t dimmed by city lights. Participation in farm chores is not required, however, an extra hand is always welcome.
In an increasingly mechanized world in which many people have lost touch with how their food is produced, or the region where it originated, “agritourism” offers tourists a chance to reconnect with the land, providing a “hands on experience” with local foods. Agritourism activities include picking fruits, tasting wine, tending bees, milking cows and other educational pursuits while immersing visitors in the heritage of a particular culture and to discover local people who offer intimate knowledge of the history and traditions of their region.
Visitors will stay in an authentic Adirondack camp known as “Bird Camp” which was built in 1908 after 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 small “shingle style” camp 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.
Bird Camp will delight anyone with an interest in architectural history. It retains the original leaded windows, porcelain kitchen sink, stone fireplace and wide pine floors, but for the first time in a hundred years there is reliable water, new electrical and plumbing. Leslie converted one of the three bedrooms to a bathroom, adding a glass vessel sink atop a beautiful hand-painted ladies dressing table, and during construction was delighted to find the words “Bird Camp” chalked on the back, verifying it to be original to the camp. The kitchen received hand-made painted cabinets from a wrecking yard in Massachusetts which were removed them from Bob Villa’s own home, new appliances and the original sink.
In the living room, Wilshire oriental rugs original to the camp have been cleaned and repaired, beams added to strengthen for the weight of the new bathroom above and a glass front fireplace insert installed into the stone fireplace.
The walls and ceilings had never been finished with plaster or drywall, and after wiring and insulating, Leslie spent two long winters cutting and hand-nailing narrow “beadboard” wainscotting which she discovered at Murphy Lumber. The beadboard was decades old and had a beautiful natural patina after aging outside under cover all those years. She finished the walls with amber shellac to pull out the gorgeous coloring of the wood.
The cedar shingle siding on the south side had worn down to about a sixteenth of an inch after a hundred years of exposure to Adirondack winters. Clement pulled them all off, and nailed up new cedar shingles, going up ten feet high, then hiring friends to help complete it. “I tell folks that I built, painted or fixed everything under ten feet. Although I was a daredevil union carpenter in my twenties, I don’t go any higher than ten feet anymore!” Rosa rugosa shrub roses and perennial flower beds were tucked into place after siding completion.
During another scouting expedition at a wrecking yard, Clement discovered a set of reproduction leaded glass casement windows similar to the ones brought to Bird Camp from Long Island in 1908. She bought them for use in partially enclosing the front porch which has suffered from a hundred years of snow and rain, and to complete a barn she built last summer.
The bedrooms retain the original metal painted bedframes but with fresh new mattresses, feather duvet comforters and new sheets. There are numerous framed historic photographs which will fascinate anyone interested in North River history.
Clement is in the process of nominating Bird Camp to the National Register of Historic Places.
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 Hobby Farm will be open weekends starting in May, and full-time after school is out. Clement’s daughters, Emeline and June McCarthy, attend JCS and will be helping their mother this summer at the Hobby Farm. For more information, see NorthRiverHobbyFarm.com or call (518) 812-7770.