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Seeking solace – and pork chops

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

One of the few upsides to all this virus/social distancing nonsense is time: time to sleep, time to read and time to enjoy your closest relationships. For Sue and I, it means more time for excursions together.

Our most recent adventure was spurred by a need for meat -- pork chops, to be more specific, the best pork chops in the Valley (in my opinion) to be even more specific.

Chase Hill Farm, in Warwick, Mass., is owned by Ben and Laura Wells-Tolley. I've known Ben since my Simple Gifts days and to say I've become fond of his farm's pork chops is an understatement. Since the farmers' market -- my usual pickup location -- is on hiatus, Sue and I took advantage of a nice spring Saturday morning for a trip to the farm and a hike up Tully Mountain in nearby Orange.

The backroads of Western Mass. are dotted with tidy cottages to cluttered farmhouses to eccentric who-knows-what-they-are. It makes for great sightseeing. Chase Hill is what you expect from a New England farm. It sits comfortably on its hilly property with chickens and kids running in the yard. Just inside the driveway is a clean, self-serve farm store with freezers filled with the family's local meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal and chicken), eggs, cheese and raw milk, plus other local farms' products, such as Sidehill yogurt (Hawley, Mass.), Maple Mama sodas (Wendell) and Real Pickles fermented veggies (Greenfield).

With social distancing the way it is these days, we got some nice waves from the family but we'd expect in a more-normal climate, there would be warm greetings for customers.

We ended up coming home with some wonderful cheese, bulk hot Italian sausage, eggs and, of course, pork chops!

From there, it was on to Tully Mountain. To get there, more backroad beauty and then up a dirt road to a small trailhead parking lot. The hike is roughly 1.6 miles to the peak (1080 ft.) and the "easy" ascent is winding and gradual, but also allows for a little bit of a workout. There is also a 5-mile steeper ascent trail that we did not try (someday, maybe!). The trail we took was well marked and very pretty. There are downed trees everywhere and plenty of mushrooms to keep a mushroom lover happy.

At the peak there is a rocky ledge that looks southeast over the valley offering great views of ponds and forests and to other mountain peaks in the distance. After a snack of apple and clementine, we made our way back down to the base of the mountain and through a field that was a haven for bluebirds.

This trip was such a pleasant surprise that we can't wait for our next chance to hit the road on another social-distancing excursion.

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