Friends of Right Up Our Valley
Local, homemade and environmentally friendly products and services that make us happy
Three Sisters Sanctuary
Situated in off-the-beaten path Goshen, MA, artist Richard Richardson has created and
8-acre haven of solitude filled
with dramatic sculptures, rock gardens and a show-stopper mosaic fire-breathing dragon. This is one of our favorite getaway destinations. And if you need sustenance, you can always stop at Elmers or the Lake House in Ashfield on the way.
Chase Hill Farm
Voted best pork chops in the Valley... by us! Ben and family raise cows, pigs, and chickens in the rolling hills of Warwick, MA. They also produce a variety of cheeses that are to die for. The pastoral drive to their self-serve farm store on their property is worth the time, but you can also find them at the Amherst Farmers' Market.
No one does more for the Pioneer Valley farmers than the folks at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). It's Local Hero program is renown for celebrating all that is fresh, sustainable and local. CISA's website is wealth of information, including a complete guide of all the farms in the Valley and what each farm has to offer.
We met Josh Levangie when he was part of the crew that did some work on our house. Little did we know he had a voice that rivaled Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and was the leader of the country covers band the Pistoleros. We love heading to the Shutesbury Athletic Club on a Saturday night to hear the boys' foot-stomping brand of rockin' country.
Garlic & Arts Festival
The North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival is one of the best fall festivals around with more than 100 local artists, farm, and food exhibitors participating. The hardest decision is what to eat. There is so much great food from local farmers and restaurants, you have to really plan to snack throughout the day. Musicians and area dance groups perform as well.
The Sawyer's Syrup
Our friends Kim and Eric live in Rowley, MA, and while they are not true locals, they are in spirit! Kim is an amazing artist, gardener and cook and Eric is a sawyer. Just for fun, in their spare time, they crank out the best maple syrup. Sure, pour it on pancakes and waffles, but also add it to your favorite cocktails! Their neighborly get-togethers when the sugar shack is in full swing are just as sweet as their syrup.
Is it going to rain? Snow? Be 60 degrees and sunny? Who the hell knows in the Valley... as I wrote in a past post, Dave Hayes the Weather Nut knows! What's happening in Northampton is different than what's going on in Amherst, and the Hilltowns? God help them. Only Dave can tell you... with meteorological knowledge and a great sense of humor, his forecasts are must-reads.
Our first introduction to Barb April's paperless towels was at the Garlic & Arts Festival, and they have become our gift of choice for friends and family who are trying to cut down on paper products. Made from flannel and coming in a bunch of colorful designs, these towels can be tossed in the laundry when dirty. We bought a half roll and found that it was plenty for our kitchen use.
The Back Porch
The Back Porch is our favorite radio program in the Valley. Airing on WRSI (93.7 FM) from 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays, it is hosted by Jim Olsen of the local music label Signature Sounds and features an eclectic mix of country, folk, blues and bluegrass, and whatever else Jim finds interesting. I'm always pleasantly surprised at hearing something new -- or old.
Yeah, there's a lot of barbecue around right now, but Bub's is special. Sure, you get great ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and more, but it's the sides -- oh, those sides -- all you can eat. There are typically six hot sides: hickory smoked potatoes, baked beans, collards, dirty rice, french fries; and six cold sides: picked beets, coleslaw, potato salad, succotash to name a few. So good, and so close to our house, it's scary.
Leverett Crafts & Arts
Leverett is a small town with a very quiet town center. Pretty much the only time there's a bustle is when Leverett Crafts & Arts hosts a gathering, either for a gallery show, a wine tasting or other occasion. The building itself is a jewel. Built in 1903, it was box shop and a poultry house. Today, it's a magical space filled with artist studios and gallery space that the whole community can enjoy.
Elmore Mountain Farm
Finding local soap products without palm oil in them has been a main mission. Luckily, we found Elmore Mountain Farm goat's milk soap. The farm is located in Morrisville, which is way the hell up there in Vermont, but fortunately it is well stocked in our local coops. The soaps, which come in a variety of "flavors," including Fennel and Patchouli-Orange, are made from all-natural ingredients and lather up great!
Olde Hadley Flea
The Flea, as we call it, is our go-to sunny Sunday morning fun in the summer. We have found countless treasures there -- a box for our firewood, a dresser, a painted wooden bread box and even the olde oaken bucket! There's nothing better than strolling the seemingly endless rows of "stuff" looking for that perfect thing. But show up with cash, and don't hesitate when you find something: We missed out on a dragon weathervane because we weren't fully prepared!
The whimsical slogan of the Bookmill says it all: "Books you don't need in a place you can't find." Montague, a tiny town north of Amherst, houses a cute group of former gristmill buildings that include a used record store (Turn It Up!), a restaurant (the Alvah Stone), a cafe (the Lady Killigrew), and a gallery (Sawmill River Arts). The bookstore, the cornerstone of the complex, is filled with tiny rooms crammed with books and is such a cozy spot, you can sit for hours gazing out at the Sawmill River.
Amherst Survival Center
One would hope that if you were ever in a situation where you needed food for your table, a hot meal, health services or some clean clothes, there would be a place like the Amherst Survival Center there to help you. While I perform a minimal task (picking up produce at a supermarket) for the Survival Center, I have a maximum appreciation for all that they do for so many. The open, accepting environment makes the Survival Center a true jewel of the Valley.
This is our favorite place to go with best friends before a Josh Ritter concert in Northampton. OK, not necessarily just for Josh shows, but you get the idea. It's fun to order a bunch of their outrageously delicious small plates and pass them around. The charred shishito peppers
with sea salt are especially to die for. But if your not careful, it's easy to end up with a rather large bill at the end of the night! Not only is it a cozy spot on a cold, New England evening but the waitstaff is friendly, informative and almost become your friends before your ready to leave.
Mapleline Farm Milk
You can't get much more local than right down the road! That's where Mapleline Farm is, right over the Amherst line in Hadley. While not organic, the farm's herd of Jerseys are pasture fed and their milk is produced without growth hormones. And because it is our mission to rid ourselves of plastic, we love the fact its available in glass bottles! Now if only we could get refills right from the farm!!
Mapleline also produces chocoate and strawberry milk, as well as a top-notch egg nog for the holidays.
Amherst Farmers' Market
Only in Northampton
There's nothing better than waking up on a beautiful summer morning and heading out to a farmers' market. Everyone seems to be in a great mood. It's such a treat strolling down the aisle of tents filled with a bounty of vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meats, eggs and goods all produced locally. Among my go-tos are pork chops and cheese from Chase Hill Farm (see Friends above), an almond croissant from Bread Euphoria with java from Amherst Coffee, and, my find of last summer, shishito peppers!
I have no idea who runs this Facebook page, but whoever it is, has a boatload of energy and love for all things Northampton and beyond. Each post begins with the phrase "Only in
Northampton..." and always provides a giggle, a heartwarming story or even some news about the area. The Page is community-building at its best. One of its most regular posts is a photo of yet another truck hitting the pedestrian bridge heading into town: "Only in Northampton early morning during pandemic is the same as it ever was."
Green River Festival
Where to start... The music? The food? The family friendly atmosphere? The hot air balloons? This is my favorite music festival period. I love it so much I now volunteer there! There are so many things that make this festival great, but it's set up so well, with three stages set over a two large fields with a rolling hill between them. Kids of all ages run rampant on the lower field throwing frisbees, making art, while their parents are able to listen the some of the best curated rock, folk, bluegrass and everything in between.
We have a lot of great choices of where to shop for local, fresh and environmentally friendly goods here in the Valley. Even the chain grocery stores sell local products. So why then travel to Vermont? The Brattleboro Food Coop has the widest selection of bulk food and cleaning products as well as local meats, cheeses and even beer. Going there for us is like kids going to Disneyland. It's an adventure, and there's always something new to try or taste!
This is my go-to place for all things related to growing pot. Have a question about what kind of soil you need to grow the best bud? Want to learn about hydroponics? Worried about mold or insects attacking your plants? A quick call to Doug the owner or a visit to their Hadley store and you'll come away with whatever you need to keep your plants happy and healthy. Oh, and while they do cater mostly to marijuana growers in the area, they can also help you with your vegetable and flower needs as well.
The Harp is townie hangout, but so much more. We love to stop in on a Friday night for dinner and a beer (or two!). In the winter, it's cozy and warm inside; in the summer, there's great patio. There's a solid beer list -- Guinness is always a good choice here! It is an Irish pub after all -- and the food is a large step above typical pub fare. There is always something interesting to try on the specials menu. It's worth getting there early for a seat at the bar, which is the place to be.
We have a lot of good local roasters around here that make great coffee. Our favorites include Fogbuster from Pierce Brothers out of Greenfield and Dean's Beans in Orange. But our mornings don't start until we brew up Yep Coffee's Honduras San Vicente "Cielito Lindo," an organic dark roast that gives us the kick in the pants to get us out of bed. Yep is based in Florence, MA, which is part of Northampton. They claim notes of caramel, cashew and milk chocolate. I don't claim to taste any of those, but it's dark and smooth, and just what I need to get out of bed.