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Hurry to Hawley

Field of greens at Pen and Plow Farm

Who would not like to live on Pudding Hollow Road? It is clearly a road steeped in the history of Hawley, a town settled in 1760, and a unique pudding contest which took place in the late 1770s.  Farms and food have always been important parts of Hawley’s history and culture so I could not resist the opportunity to visit the newest farm and an old established garden, both on Pudding Hollow Road, and both a part of Hawley’s annual Artisan’s and Garden Tour which will be held on Saturday, July 10 from 10 am until 4 pm.

When you turn off Route 8A and cross over the new bridge you are on Pudding Hollow Road, Right across from the tiny town hall is the two year old Pen and Plow Farm, so called because the Velazquez family, Sheila, her son Jason and his wife have all been in the publishing/editorial business , but since early last spring have been turning their creative energies to sustainable farming.

Merlot lettuce at Pen and Plow farm

Sheila, who said she had farmed many years ago and has had varied careers since then, was delighted that her son gave her the nudge (push?) to go back into farming. The family found 21 acres, wooded and clear, with a year round stream. They have planted a large market garden, currently boasting ‘greens’ including reds like Merlot, Red Fire and Red Sails lettuces. These can be purchased among other places, at the new Charlemont Farmer’s Market held on Saturdays at the Hawlemont School.

In addition to the mangelwurzel (for animal feed) corn, squash, and other vegetable fields, they have two Scottish Highland Cows. “They are a good breed for the country,” Sheila said. “ They are hardy and eat brush, poison ivy and wild raspberries.”  I can see that would save on feed bills. They also have chickens and recently added a Jersey milk cow to their holdings.

Jason Velazquez

Jason took time out from his chores to show me how to sharpen and use a scythe, and to talk about his pleasure in being able to return to farming. “Values you learn in a rural childhood are applicable to many walks of life,” and this is one of the reasons he wanted to leave Boston and bring his wife and children to Hawley and to make a farm.

As he showed me all the projects, he explained that they want to learn to do more with less. “Everything we do is rooted in sustainability – what the land can sustain, and the amount of labor we can sustain as a family. We wan to provide our own food, but we plan to farm to a living. We have a commitment to being part of a community that sustains itself.”

As they move towards making a living on the farm they are paying attention to the vegetables that customers prefer. They also sell fresh eggs that have the brilliant yellow yolks that are typical of free range chickens.

Paul Cooper

Paul Cooper, retired neurosurgeon and serious cook, and his wife Leslie have been summering in Hawley since 1981, enjoying the magnificent views of the hills, and tending their gardens.

Cooper toured me around his hillside, showing me new fruit trees, apples, pears, a greengage plum, peaches, and quince. Several years ago they planted two copper beech trees which are still young, but already show signs that they will grow into majestic old trees. There is a special thanks due to people like the Coopers who plant trees that will not come into their noble maturity until they themselves are no longer walking the earth.

There are colorful flower gardens that Leslie tends, daylily borders, and pink honeysuckle vines, not an invasive variety. But Cooper’s favorite garden is the fenced vegetable garden which hints at his passion for cooking.  He grows several kinds of tomatoes, Big Boy, Sun Gold, Early Girl, Celebrity and Donna. Yukon Gold, Corolla and Kennebec potatoes, Fava beans, shallots, leeks, garlic, asparagus and eggplant, “but no peppers, because I hate them,” he said.

Mint is grown in its own circular garden where the lawn mower can keep it under control.  A small herb garden supplies much of the common herbs Cooper needs.

The lettuce was lush and Cooper sighed when he said, “It’s been a lettuce summer,” which is to say cool and damp.

Paul Cooper's lambs

Cooper hasn’t forgotten the main course, He also raises lambs – and he has a large collection of lamb recipes.

The blueberry, raspberry and red currant patches suggest that diners at his table do not leave until there has been a luscious dessert.  Maybe he will find one in The Pudding Hollow Cookbook, written by Tinky Weisblat, another Hawley resident.

Akebia covered pergola at the Cooper's

The Hawley tour includes visits to other farms, gardens and a lunch at one of Hawley’s Great Houses, also on Pudding Hollow Road.

This tour, A Collage of Arts and Gardens Throughout the Town of Hawley is sponsored by the Sons and Daughters of Hawley. Proceeds will help fund restoration of East Hawley Meeting House and the Grove Building. It is hoped that the new bathrooms in the Grove Building will be completed by tour day. For more information about tickets for the  tour call Cyndie Stetson 413- 339-4231.

Betweenthe Rows  June 26, 2010

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