Saturday, November 24, 2018

Diary of the Great War

(Lauriston Berdan Goetschius, 1918)

I have been prompted by this year's interest in World War I to share a portion of my grandfather's war diary with you.  In April 2012, I gave a presentation on the diary to a French class at The College of St. Rose.  At that time, I borrowed the diary from my mother and photographed many of its pages and memorabilia, which are the basis for this post.

(Journal de Grand Guerre [sic] 1918)

My grandfather, Lauriston Goetschius, spent most of his youth on a farm in the western Catskill hamlet of Downsville.  Lauriston's father was a noted historian, who named his son after Jacques Alexandre Bernard Law, marquis de Lauriston, a general in the Napoleonic Wars.  Brought up with a sense of history and patriotism, my grandfather volunteered to join the army as his honorable duty.  Serving his country during The Great War was for him and for many, a coming-of-age experience.

Laul, as Lauriston's family called him, left Camp Dix, where he was trained, and sailed for France out of New York Harbor on May 27, 1918, at the age of 22.

(Despite harsh conditions, Laul's beautiful penmanship prevailed)

Writing a war diary was not an unusual practice during World War I.  Not only did soldiers write, but they wrote with the idea that their diaries might be read by others, perhaps even future generations.  We certainly feel this when reading Laul's diary.  His writing is sometimes poetic or grandiose by our standards.  Thanks to Laul's artistic ability, his diary is sprinkled with drawings as well.  I have chosen to share entries with you that I think are particularly interesting or descriptive.

(The formidable cootie)

By the time summer arrived in France, Laul's nostalgia for his native farm country becomes evident.

"August 7, 1918 --  A beautiful summer morning out on a reconnaissance march up the valley.  Everywhere there was the smell of newly cut grain and smell of buckwheat and a humming of the honey bee. "

Laul's job was to take care of the horses in the cavalry.

"August 23 -- Formation, stables, foot drill, clean pistols.  Women come around and peddle nuts and plums. Men go to the Moselle River for bath in the p.m.  Half of men have cooties.  Bury horses.  Extremely poor food and scant.  French children beg for food at mess."

When I read these passages to St. Rose students, I had to define words like "mess," and later, "drive."  To my surprise, they also needed me to tell them what "cooties" were.

(Detailed drawings of various cemetery crosses)

September brought the horrors of war.  Here are excerpts from September 3 and 16.

"Stormy.  All night changing position of guns.  Germans shelling us.  Hear them whistling and singing just over our head and crashing through the trees just behind, and throwing dirt and wood for hundreds of yards.  No loss in men, however.

Advanced into territory occupied by Germans previous to drive.  Very bad odor of dead Germans and horses.  Forts completely torn down, nothing but stubs left.  Shells holes every two feet and dugouts torn to pieces."

The writing, which seems somewhat detached, forces us to use our imaginations to conjure up pictures of soldiers in trenches or trudging through gruesome scenes.

(Mama and Papa)

In this excerpt from September 17, we move from discomfort, to the beauty of the countryside, and finally to horror and back to general discomfort -- a fascinating juxtaposition that offers a glimpse into the turmoil Laul may have been feeling.

"Pick cooties off undershirt and drawers.  Meals terrible.  Wonderful view from here over the Lorraine country and the beautiful Moselle valley.  Very fertile valley.  Beautiful cathedral.  City partially destroyed by shelling every hour of the day.  Old stone bridge across Moselle destroyed.  Hills much like Catskills.  French fort to east of city, also statue of Joan of Arc.  Ran across a dead German in the wire entanglement.  Have not had dry feet for two weeks and no water to wash in for more than that long."

(Laul loved children; here are three of his nieces with strands of baby hair taped to the page)

By October, Laul was getting sick and times were harsh.

"October 5 -- Sergeant Crowe of my gun killed. A great loss.  Men demoralized over it.  I helped take off his personal property.  Roads full of dead men and horses, torn wagons and caissons.  Have a heavy cold and dysentery very bad.  Shed my clothes and slaughtered cooties--big catch.  We are nearly exhausted.  We lay down in muddy roads where we stopped to sleep."

(The diary has a back pocket with money and mementos)

Illness hit hard by October 17 and Laul lets us know how he feels.

"I got up but could not stand on my legs.  Had been up every 15 minutes all night with dysentery.  Had to lie down.  Boys wrapped me in blankets.  Sergeant found me in this condition and gave me hell and told me I must work since I hadn't sense to go on sick report.  Doctor comes and marks me "influenza" and to be evacuated, against my wishes.  Major tells me if I stay another night I will contract pneumonia.  Leave by ambulance at 7 p.m.  Red Cross right on job with hot chocolate, crackers, cigarettes, and chewing gum.  On American R&R and nearly dead.  Spirits low and disappointed.  Think of home."

Influenza was especially frightening at this time during the pandemic of 1918.

(French francs)

Finding and re-joining his unit after his convalesence proved difficult.  How communication and travel has changed in 100 years!  Laul was with soldiers of a different unit on November 11.  His writing becomes flowery as he describes the dramatic historical moments taking place, evoking the strong possibility that others might read what he wrote.

"At 4 p.m. the news of the armistice signing arrived. Hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. and once more the world is at peace though thousands of boys were at rest and peace on the battle fields months ago.  The camp and town were in a wild uproar.  I went into town.  One old man cried with joy.  Noise kept up way into the night. The war is over.  How queer it all seems to me to picture the front no more with the roar of incessant gunfire or aeroplane motors or the spatter of hundreds of machine gun bullets in the mud like a heavy hailstorm.  Two things remain and remain always, the lonely soldier graves and the scars of battle on the fields and hills of Europe and on the hearts of every mother, father, sister, brother, wife or sweetheart who has sacrificed all that God can require of them, a heart and soul on the battlefield.  God be with them all, and a curse on every German who is directly responsible for the sacrifices of this war."

(a photo, pressed flowers and leaves)

Months plodded on after the armistice, but, on New Year's Eve, Laul writes:

"Last day of the year.  Drilled all morning.  Took cross-country walk in the afternoon.  At night we built a great fire in the fireplace which was roaring all night.  Conway and I sent the old year out playing chess.  Had great time as the new year came in.  Much wine, everyone happy.  Sang songs and raised the deuce in general.  All men formed a circle and drank a cup of wine to the health of all our people home, and the hopes of seeing them and God's Country in the very near future.  And so the year of 1918 passes behind us a year of history all the world will carry as long as this old globe continues to travel about the sun making its years of wars and peace.  A year which has left sorrow and then peace in all the hearts of everyone.  Now America bring us home."

(Armistice Day)

The diary continues with notes about drills, bad food, cold, homesickness, and horses.  Laul did not arrive in New York until May 14, 1919.  During those post-war months in France, he did have three days of of leave and went to Paris.

When I was a child, my grandfather told stories about his fellow soldiers and the pranks they pulled.  The horrors were left to his diary.  However, for the rest of his long life of 97 years, my grandfather suffered from a mustard gas burn behind his shoulder.  My grandmother rubbed cream on it.  After she died, he fashioned a tool to spread the cream himself, reaching awkwardly behind him to find the spot.  When we visited, he always asked us to do this for him. 

(Hand-drawn map of path across the Atlantic home to New York with days drawn on longitudinal lines, April 27 - May 14, 1919.)

The St. Rose students had lots of questions about the war experience which I enjoyed answering. They also wanted to hear about my grandfather's life after the war.  In 1921, he married my grandmother and and raised a family of two girls in northern New Jersey, where he was an insurance salesman.  During the depression, when he lost his job, he used his creative talents to make wooden toys which he sold to FAO Schwarz in New York City from 1936 through 1970.  My sister and I still have some of these toys today. The St. Rose students thought that I was very lucky to have had a toy maker for a grandfather!  I assured them that I was indeed.

(letter from General Pershing thanking soldiers for their service)

After I had answered all of the questions, the professor spent the rest of the class time on World War I.  She projected a map of France on a large screen and showed the students where my grandfather had been.  She also showed them pictures of trenches, missiles, and grave markers.

The professor's grandfather had been a mail carrier on a bicycle for the Canadian Army in Belgium during the war.  On the screen, she displayed pictures of Flanders Fields with its poppies and read the famous poem, "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrae.  At The College of St. Rose, students receive poppies on Veteran's Day.  They were fascinated to learn how the tradition came about.

(A news article stipulating the terms of the armistice)

The professor told me later, "The students need to understand how important the Twentieth century was." 

(The book my grandfather bought during his three days in Paris)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October, Red to Yellow

Haven't the red trees been beautiful?  I've been trying to figure out why reds have been so outstanding in this year's fall foliage.  I have decided that red fights the gray cloudy days better than yellow and orange, which, though lovely, have struggled against this autumn's dark skies.

(Lots of red trees behind us.)

I come by my infatuation with fall color honestly.  I inherited it from both of my parents and from at least one of my grandparents.  In October, I get outdoors whenever I can.

My friend, Deb, and I hiked Giant Mountain in Keene Valley on October 10.  Colors were at peak and the sun was out!  In fact, a photographer from I Love NY hiked alongside of us and took our picture in various locations. He preferred that we look away from the camera while pointing a finger towards something in the distance.  I asked him to take a picture of the two of us with the colorful view behind us.

(Giant's Washbowl)

He took our picture again as we walked across the bridge over the end of the Washbowl, too.  He asked us to look towards the water and its reflection of yellow trees.

The photographer left us after he took photos from this rocky ledge.  He said that he had never been to the summit of Giant, only going as high as he needed for pictures of the valley. He planned to go to other locations for more photos on this day of peak foliage.

(Looking down on the Washbowl from one of Giant's many overlooks)

When people ask me which Adirondack High Peak I recommend, I suggest Giant.  Open views abound.  Every time a hiker needs to stop and catch a breath, there's a viewpoint.  Nowadays, if you go, pick your days to avoid parking issues and crowds on this popular peak.  Deb and I were fortunate to hike on the Wednesday after Columbus Day.  We only ran into about a dozen people all day.

(Looking Southeast through the valley)
We spent time at the summit of Giant having lunch and taking pictures, and we stopped again at every rocky outcropping on our descent.  In fact, we began hiking from the car at 9:30 in the morning and got back to our car at 5:30, almost twice the time Giant usually takes, but, hey, why hurry on a rare day such as this?

(a golden trail near the base) wasn't all leisurely.  We added an unexpected trail run for the last half-mile. In dense woods, I stopped and said, "What's that noise?  It sounds like a whiny truck, but it's not moving on."  Deb listened too.  "I think it's construction noise," she said.  The sound stopped briefly, but when it re-started, it seemed to be just over our right shoulders and it was LOUD.  We stared at one another and gasped, "Bees!"  "Swarming bees!!" "And very close!"  We took those final tenths of a mile as fast as we could, dodging roots and rocks at top speed.

When we reached cell service on the drive home, I googled "swarming bees" on my phone.  Apparently, they are not dangerous and are interesting to watch.  Regardless, the sound of tens of thousands of bees would still send me running.

Exactly a week later, my friend, Linda, and I hiked Moxham Mountain in Minerva.  A dusting of snow and 28 degrees greeted us.  In just these past few days, shorts and t-shirts weather had changed to a need for long underwear and woollies!

Not only that, most of the colored leaves had fallen.  Those hillsides awash in crayon-box color, that Deb and I had seen as we had driven by Warrensburg and farther north the week before, had turned to gray.  The sky was gray too.

(An oak tree offers color with Gore in the background)

Despite this day's distinct November feel, Moxham is always a fabulous hike.  Although much easier and lower than Giant, it also has overlooks all the way to the summit.  We could see snow on Gore Mountain's ski trails and distant ridges of blue mountains.  Oak and beech trees, that keep their leaves almost into the winter, brightened the foreground. 

(Linda on the trail up Moxham)

The trail curves along a ridge.  Some of the exposed rocky overlooks faced the wind; others were more protected.

We admired lightly snow-dusted trailside ferns and dark hemlocks amidst the hardwoods.  Linda and I hadn't been out together beyond our neighborhood since February. What a treat to be here now.

(Linda looks for a windless lunch spot on the summit.)

Moxham's summit view is grand, expanding to nearly 180 degrees.  And blue sky -- what a surprise! We could see Snowy Mountain in the distance with its rocky face and snowy summit, and a few ponds and marshes immediately below Moxham's cliffs.

Despite the sun's arrival, the wind was brutal at the top.  We headed back down the trail, past the first overlook to the second one, out of the wind and with most of the panorama still in view. We spent an hour relaxing and soaking up the scenery.

(Red stands out on this dark day at the Saratoga Battlefield.)

All month, I had been watching the progression of color on the Northway from my Albany home to my mother's in Saratoga. Everyone I spoke with here or there, had an opinion on the quality of this year's foliage display. Some folks had been critical of the season for weeks: the colors were patchy, some leaves fell while still brown, some colored trees were dull, many were still green.

In many ways, they were right, but when the section of highway between Albany and Clifton Park, the halfway point to Saratoga, turned, it was spectacular.  I know every inch of this road and watch for the parts that will offer huge swaths of color, such as southbound exit 2W, the area near exit 6, and others.  I passed one section with at least six brilliant red trees in a group.  I always wish that I could get a picture of these road views, but driving at highway speed just doesn't allow for that! 

Peak color had arrived close-to-home.

(The sun appears through the trees at the Battlefield)
Recently, I had time, after a music rehearsal in Saratoga, to go to the Saratoga Battlefield before returning to Albany.  Rain hit the windshield, slowing just as I arrived at the Visitor Center parking lot.  Clouds hung heavy.  I kept wishing for sun to "light up the color," as my father always said.

Rain had completely stopped when I headed out on the Wilkinson Trail, a 4.6-mile walk through the Battlefield.  It felt great to get outdoors, and damp fall smells filled the air.  And what happened next?  Sunshine again!

(The sun brings out the yellow, while the red recedes)

I have walked the Wilkinson Trail many times over my entire life.  Something struck me as odd.  I double-checked the trail signs. The entire trail direction had been reversed! When I returned to the Visitor Center, I asked about changes to the trail.  The ranger said, "The trail is the same, just in the opposite direction.  We decided that walkers should see the Battle of Saratoga from its first ambushes to the last in chronological order rather than the other way around.  It seemed to make sense to change the trail's direction."  It did make sense.

When I got home and looked at the pictures I had taken on the Wilkinson Trail, red trees appeared more pronounced in the dark picture.  Yet, on my return, when the sun was out, the yellow overshadowed the red in the same group of trees.  That's when I began to think that red outshines yellow in gray weather.

(The Mohawk River at Colonie Town Park)

Not long after, I had an meeting in Latham, just a mile from Colonie Town Park. October was on the wane and I knew that my days were numbered for catching fall foliage.  Besides, a nor-easter was predicted for the weekend, forecasted to bring a wintry mix of snow, rain, and high winds.  Our leaves would come down.  I couldn't resist taking a quick walking tour of the park.

(Light from the river meets the yellow and dark green in this woodsy view.)
Colonie Town Park is fronted by the Mohawk River.  I walked for an hour along the river and through the woods.  A colored hillside dominated the view across the steel-gray water.  On the trail, the dark sky made deep hemlock forests even darker.

The trail eventually comes out to a narrow inlet and the park road's covered bridge.  Colorful maples and dry grasses framed the water and bridge. A red bench looked inviting where couple of red trees and a large orange tree dotted the curve of land and reflected in the water. On this dark day, the dominance of orange tested my red theory, but so what.  I loved it all.

I drove the short distance home.  The sun came out and disappeared again.  Once at home, I heard rain hitting the windows.  Then a brightness flooded in my kitchen.  The sun had fought its way through the rain, and produced a new view. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Two Lakes, Two Days

(my campsite )

The car thermometer registered 87 degrees in Speculator, as I drove to the Lewey Lake Campground.  I knew that it was far warmer back in Albany, but the heat was pretty intense even here.  Arriving in the early afternoon, I asked for a site on the Indian Lake side of the campground.

(A loon swims nearby)

My camping life at Indian Lake began when I was child with my parents and sister and continued through Bill's and my years with our children.  Recently, I had camped here with friends, but this day I was by myself.

At my campsite, I had lunch and changed into my bathing suit.  I couldn't wait another minute to escape the nearly intolerable humidity. Being able to swim from the campsite always feels like a luxury.  Even chilly Indian Lake was not as cold as usual after our record-breaking hot summer.  I swam to nearby rocks and a small island.

When I returned to my site, I took on the next business of camping -- getting my boat off the car and setting up my tent.  No other campers were visible from my site and I was glad.  I didn't feel like socializing and making small talk.  I also didn't want anyone to watch me haul my boat.  I can handle the boat but getting it on or off the car isn't always graceful!

(The sky darkens with an impending storm)

With chores behind me, I decided to go for a paddle along the north side of the lake where a few campsites are scattered between long sections of woods.  When I was a child, my parents preferred the farthest site, #1.  Later, Bill and I took any available site on this side although two or three were top favorites.  In the era before the reservation system, we were always able to secure one of these upon arrival. 

I watched a loon close by.  Like many people who love the Adirondacks, I never tire of seeing and hearing loons.  I noticed that the sky darkened ominously, so I paddled back, had another quick swim, and prepared my campsite for rain.

(Smooth as glass after the rain)

I felt like Nick Adams in Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," without Nick's PTSD and definitely without his canned spaghetti, but with his deliberate slow methodical approach to his camping trip.  I spoke to no one, did what I wanted to do and what needed to be done.  It seemed very satisfactory.

The rain came down hard, but I was snug in my little two-person tent.  What a great feeling to sit reading in a tent, dry and comfortable, as the rain pounded just a thin breadth of fabric away.  When the rain subsided slightly, I decided to walk over to Lewey Lake to see if the southwest sky looked brighter.  Although I could make out the forms of mountains beyond, the clouds still hung thick.

(Early evening sky at Indian Lake)

I walked back to my Indian Lake site through the wooded campsites where my parents camped when they were empty-nesters.  My father had bought a small camper and particularly liked the site where he could drive the car up one side, disconnect the camper from the car, and drive down the other side.

Days were noticeably shorter now at the end of August.  I ate my simple dinner quickly, and then set out for an evening paddle.  This time I paddled on the south side of the lake which offers views of Snowy Mountain, the highest mountain in the Central Adirondacks.  No other boats were visible on the water and I was entranced by the colors and textures of the sky.

Any time I camp at Indian Lake, I make sure to visit two coves on this side of the lake.  These isolated quiet areas attract shy mergansers with their large families, or herons.  Sometimes a deer may come to the water's edge for a drink.  I saw no birds or animals this time.  Maybe they were still tucked in from the storm.

(Water heading into the cove is still)

A bit of red began to show in the sky where the sun peaked through.  The water ruffled with the merest touch of a breeze.  I sat in my boat watching the display.

Darkness was serious now, so I paddled to an empty campsite where I could get out of my boat and watch the sky until the sun set.

After a while, I paddled along the shoreline back to my campsite, got ready for bed, and settled into my tent, reading for a while by head lamp.

(A solitary light shines under misty mountains)

After a night of more heavy rain, I checked my view in the morning.  Tiny breaks in the clouds foreshadowed the upcoming beautiful day.  In fact, I had come to Indian and Lewey Lakes for a reason -- on this day, my father's outing club, the Crooked Canes, were hosting an Irv Boyle Memorial Paddle on Lewey Lake and into the Miami River as a tribute to him.

The "Canes," as the members call themselves, were to meet at the Lewey Lake boat launch at 10:00 a.m.  I packed up my camping gear and loaded my boat onto the car.  I wanted to be there ahead of them and drove the short distance down and across the road, took my boat off and set it by the launch, parking my car in the lot above.  The sky continued to clear as people arrived.

(The morning sky has some breaks of sun)

I knew some of the Canes, but many were new to the club since my father had been an active member.  When all had gathered, the leader, Lenore, introduced me.  I told the members how my father would have loved this outing in his favorite area of the entire Adirondack Park, and how he had thoroughly enjoyed his more than 20 years of Thursday outings with the Canes.

It was a gorgeous day.  The group was friendly.  Many people spoke to me about my father, asked about my mother, chatted about paddles and hikes that they loved, and told me how glad they were that I was with them.  I was touched by the caring and sensitivity of the participants, some of whom had been close friends of my father, and others who had only heard about him.  Over lunch at a clearing with a small beach, Lenore asked for "Irv stories," and shared cookie bars that she was sure my father would have liked. 

(Paddlers head along the north shore of Lewey Lake)

When we returned to the launch and paddlers began loading their boats on their cars, I spoke with each one and thanked them for this day.  One woman said to me, "It has been an honor to have you with us."  But the honor was mine.  I could never imagine a tribute to my father more perfect than this had been.

I had left my boat by the water, and, after good-byes, I told those that remained that I was going to go for a swim and then head home.  The beach at Lewey Lake is shallow for a long way so the water was still quite warm even though the previous night's storms had brought in cool temperatures.  I slipped into the water easily and swam laps.  Finally, I got out and sat on a picnic table wrapped in my beach towel.  Only one couple, Diane and Kurt, appeared to still be loading their boats.

(The Crooked Canes paddle out of the Miami River with Snowy Mtn. in the distance)

Lewey Lake is beautiful, and I gazed across it with gratitude for my personal and family history here, for my solo camping trip at Indian Lake, and for the kindness shown to me this day.

Suddenly I saw motion near my boat and glanced over to see Diane and Kurt picking it up. Diane motioned that they were going to take my boat up the hill.  I hopped off the table, but in a chorus they shouted, "No, no, you stay sitting there!"  Kurt added, "We'll leave your boat in front of your car." There clearly was nothing for me to do but to thank them and sit back on the picnic table.  They drove away, and I was the only person left in the beach and boat launch area.

It is always hard to leave an Adirondack lake on a beautiful day, but it was time to go.  I changed into my clothes, loaded my boat on the car, and drove away.  I would carry my memories of these hours camping alone and paddling with thoughtful people home with me.

Friday, August 17, 2018

A Day at Beekman 1802

(Meredith on the farm)

When Meredith asked for personal care products from Beekman 1802 for her December birthday, it was easy to go the next step and plan a visit to the farm.

Beekman 1802 is open to the public for tours and during two annual festivals.  We chose July's Garden Tour.  In Sharon Springs, less than an hour from Albany, Beekman 1802 has become a huge business for Brent and Josh, since they bought the farm with little know-how and high hopes. The Beekman Boys' message is hard work, living seasonally, and neighborly sharing.

Nasdaq reported: When Josh Kilmer-Purcell (advertising executive and NY Times Bestselling author) and his partner Brent Ridge (physician and former Vice President of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia) purchased the historic Beekman 1802 Farm in 2007, they had no idea that it would launch one of the “fastest growing lifestyle brands in the country.”

In fact, these guys seem to be everywhere now, 11 years later.

(The front of the house faces a country road lined with maple trees)

After a pretty ride on a blue-sky day, Meredith and I drove into the driveway between tall sugar maple trees, where we were ushered into a grassy parking space by the barn.  Already, we knew that we would be a very pleasant tour.

Brent shared the farm's history, with our group of about 30 people, and described various aspects of the house built in 1802.  While largely restored before Josh and Brent bought it, the house had not been lived in for a few years.  Despite coming upstate only on weekends in their early days of ownership, they put significant energy into making the house, and the farm's 60 acres, their own. 

(Brent told us about the farm's history, the flower gardens and other plantings)

The Beekman Boys have been restoring the land by growing trees, vegetables, and flowers consistent with the early-1800s era.  Brent showed us young trees that he and Josh had bought from a heritage nursery in Seattle.

One of the problems with re-introducing trees from hundreds of years past is that many of the pests that we have today did not exist long ago.  While Brent and Josh have had mixed results with their plantings, they persist in finding horticulture that would have existed here when the house was built.

(Meredith with a huge row of white hydrangeas)

Meredith and I learned a lot.  I had not known that hydrangea canes could be laid down in the earth and would sprout a new plant.  The bountiful blooming hedge thriving in front of the porch had been a project over the previous ten years. 

(This is the lovely view most often seen in the Beekman Boys books and advertising)

For a long time, the house had not had a porch, now such an integral part of its appearance.  During one restoration period, evidence of a previous porch surfaced.  Researchers were able to find the builder's description of another house just like this one, but with the front porch, that he built around 1802 in a nearby location.

After visiting that house and seeing the porch intact, current builders knew how it should be rebuilt at the Beekman house.  We were fascinated by the serendipitous discovery of the original builder's plans and the care that went into historic accuracy.

(perennials dominate the flower gardens)

After we admired the porch, the house details, and the hydrangeas, Brent showed us the flower gardens.  Filled with old-fashioned flowers in a riot of summer color, the gardens' deep-rooted perennials appeared to be surviving the Northeast's ongoing drought quite well.  Brent said that the eventual height of the plants would give this space a sense of privacy, conducive to reading, meditation, or just relaxing.

The traditional pond built for fire safety is shallow and growing in.  Brent admitted that his favorite place to sit on the entire farm is under the big willow tree on the edge of the pond.  Unfortunately, the willows drink up the water, contributing to growth of unhealthy plants and a low water table.  "Someday the willows will have to go," he said regretfully.

(Cattails surrounding a small pond can be an indicator of poor pond health)

In fact, the chair placed beneath the willow boughs appeared idyllic.  We had seen many pretty places on the farm, so it might take a while for us to choose our favorite, but this shady spot on a warm day would certainly be in the running.  It did not escape us, however, that sitting and soaking up the beauty and calm in the gardens or by the pond was very likely a rare activity in the busy lives of Josh and Brent.

(Such a nice view from the willow tree across to the house and barn)

John Hall is the resident farmer at Beekman 1802.  Although Brent and Josh have learned a lot about farming over the past ten years, Farmer John's wealth of knowledge and experience has been a huge asset. The farm is primarily a goat dairy. Farmer John manages his own herd of approximately 130 goats. The goat milk is used to make Beekman 1802's signature Blaak goat milk cheese and other products. 

(Meredith makes a new friend)

Farmer John answered lots of questions from people in our group.  We could tell that he loved talking about his goats.  Eventually, Josh came into the barn and told John that it was time for us to move along to the vegetable garden.  Our one-hour tour felt very leisurely, even though we were one of three tours on this day.

Josh grew up with some farm experience and took on the project of growing a vegetable garden.  Josh and Brent found no evidence of a previous garden location until they stumbled upon some struggling raspberry bushes that appeared to have been planted in a row.  This fortuitous discovery settled the question of where the garden should be located.

(Josh pulls up garlic bulbs to share)

They chose to make raised-bed gardens, because weeds do not infiltrate raised beds except from seeds that are airborne from the fields.  Raising the beds also creates a barrier to slugs, snails, and other pests.  To me, these beds appeared easy to work in, rather digging at ground level on hands and knees, and how orderly they were with gravel paths between! 

Josh and Brent travel often and have to leave the farm when their produce is at its best.  They tell the neighbors to pick whatever they want for themselves during their absence.  Josh told us the same, and began by giving us garlic cloves which he pulled from the garlic plot.

(Nobody has to tell me twice that I can eat as many raspberries as I can pick!)

It became increasing clear that the Beekman Boys are not concerned about garnering an income from farming. They make their living through the products they sell, their books and magazines, a reality television show, and now the Home Shopping Network. 

While they can afford to experiment with heirloom plantings and share their bounty, they do this with a generous spirit, which has made them good neighbors in Sharon Springs.

(Our farm garden bounty)

Meredith and I were not greedy, but enjoyed pulling heirloom beets from the beet bed and plucking a couple of bean pods, besides keeping the garlic cloves that Josh gave us to take home. Despite Josh warning us that the drought had dried up almost all of the raspberries, we still found enough to have a good taste.

(I later gave Meredith my beet with its lush greens and my garlic clove, which she took back to Brooklyn along with her own.  The next evening, she boiled and sliced the beets and alternated them log-style with slices of goat cheese on top of the sauteed greens and garlic!  Yum.)

At the end of our tour, Josh said that we should feel free to roam any part of the property.

The original description of our tour had encouraged participants to bring a picnic blanket and a picnic to eat on the grounds.  Although we had brought a blanket, we found a table and chairs under a large maple tree and had our picnic lunch there.  We saw others from our group scattered in different areas on their blankets or a bench as well.

Finally, Meredith and I drove into Sharon Springs and visited Beekman Mercantile.  Back in the early 1800s, the Beekman house had had a mercantile on the farm property where the family sold provisions to people heading west.  The idea of a Beekman Mercantile was not a new one.

Josh and Brent chose to open their mercantile in an old building on Main Street.  Many of their products are made by local artisans which connects the store to its community. From jams and foods to personal care products, and upstairs to furniture and home decor items, this store is fun to browse.

Next, Meredith and I walked Main Street.  Surely, the Beekman Boys have given this struggling town an economic boost.  We saw people from our tour going in and out of galleries, gift shops, and restaurants.  It's no wonder that Brent and Josh wear t-shirts with the words, "Hi Neighbor," printed on the front.

All that remained to complete our day was ice cream, which we found at Dairyland, a classic ice cream stop on the way out of town and recommended by Brent and Josh.