Apple picking at Wilklow Orchards

Yesterday some friends and I had a fantastic fall trip to Wilklow Orchards near Highland. It was raining as we drove from Vassar to the orchard, but when we got there it stopped and became a brisk, cloudy, and beautiful fall day. It was only a 30 minute drive from Vassar, and just 10 minutes from New Paltz. You definitely need a car to get there, but it’s not too much of a trek, and it’s so worthwhile! We went there with the goal of picking apples, but found that there was so much more to do and see, and in fact, you could spend all day there!

When we got to the turn off for Wilklow, we were greeted by a man directing cars where to park, something I wasn’t expecting, but that was necessary because of all the people trying to get in. The first thing you see of Wilklow is a low dark red barn-type structure that serves as the farm store. This quaint building, with an interesting mix of kitschy and authentic fall decorations, is set against the picturesque backdrop of the orchard spread out over the hill with larger, forested hills rising up behind the farm. It’s a very stunning and quintessential view that made us all take out our phones immediately and start taking pictures.

We got in line (yes, there was a small line!) to pay for our picking bags and a map of the orchard. I heard at least four different languages as we waited, and saw people who looked like locals who do this every year, people from the city or Long Island on a weekend getaway, and one group of tourists from Japan. Mostly there were family groups with younger children, but people of all ages were there because Wilklow seems to have something for everyone. We tromped along the main path, muddy from today’s rain, amidst the happy chatter of other visitors. We had planned to head for the Fuji apples, but couldn’t restrain ourselves and went down the one of the first rows trees. One of the best things about picking apples is taste testing–so we each picked a russet-red apple and bit in. The apples were really good, just like you’d expect a freshly-picked apple to taste, and very crisp. We wandered up the path and into different rows, trying bites of each kind as we passed and slowly filling our bag.

A gorgeous, almost panoramic view greeted us as we climbed up the steep hill at the back of the orchard. People around us were taking pictures with their apples and the farm laid out beneath them. I imagined the hillside behind us in a few weeks, which was mostly leafy and green, and could see how breathtaking the blaze of fall colors would soon be. Wilklow definitely has the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley at the center of its appeal. But, as we headed back down to the barn to pay for our apples, I also noticed a “Kids Fun Barn” with inflatable bouncy houses and hay bales to play on, and I could smell the amazing aroma of fresh-made apple cider donuts. There was also a store selling other fresh produce, farm-baked goods, and apple cider, a hot dog stand, the apple cider donut stand, a covered area full of silly Halloween decorations that kids seemed to love, a covered picnic area, and goats and chickens. Wilklow seemed to have it all!

As we drove away with bellies full of apples and fingers sticky from donuts, I reflected on how Wilklow Orchards attracted such a large amount and variety of people. It’s primary product is apples. But I think what really draws people and makes them stay is the experience it offers–through apple-picking, family-friendly activities, the homemade and down-to-earth feel of its farm store, and an overall distillation of the “quintessential Hudson Valley.” All of these experiences help people feel connected to nature and to each other, while simultaneously helping the family farm make profit. I did some research on Wilklow when I got home (after I’d put the apple crumble I’d just made in the oven) and found out that it goes to some farmer’s markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and also has its fruit in some CSA shares. It’s also on the Hudson Valley Apple Trail. It seems to me that Wilklow Orchards fits in to many aspects of the Hudson Valley amenity economy, and provides great apples and a fun experience for anyone who visits.


Newburgh and Storm King!


A brief but scenic van ride from Poughkeepsie brought us to a nearly empty parking lot, the Hudson River to the east and a passing freight train to the west. A slight breeze, the sound of construction work, and the passing of trucks matched our first glimpses of the city of Newburgh. Rusted storage containers amidst piles of pipes and tires, a scene of mechanic rigidness set to the picturesque view of the river flowing into tree covered hills. Once a prosperous port town in the late 1800’s, Newburgh has seen transformation after transformation, taking a toll on both the landscape and its inhabitants. Our guide for the day, Richard, debriefed us in the parking lot on what was ahead, a complicated history riddled with misfortune but hope for the future. Taking shape as a significant shipping destination in the early 16th century, with a harbor at the widest part of the Hudson almost two miles in length, Newburgh became a hub for travelers and trade. Serving as the headquarters of the Continental Army in the American Revolution(1782), the city was more thoroughly established, both physically with government buildings as well as socioeconomically. As it became a popular destination and outlet just north of New York City, a surge of artists, immigrants, and wealthy prospecting homeowners flooded Newburgh in the early 19th century. Richard told use that famous architects and park designers, such as Frederick Law Olmsted the designer of Central Park, used Newburgh as a sort of ‘test’ city for their projects before completing their larger scale commissions in NYC or other major cities. This lead to Newburgh collecting the largest number of historic sites in the US spanning more than half the city, a rich history still visible today.

Prosperity and wealth were synonymous with the city until the mid 18th century when Newburgh began to see economic decline and the perils that follow. From 1940 to the present, Newburgh has been a center for crime, drugs, deteriorating homes, and a rising lower class.With more than half of the present population consisting of ethnic minorities, the class/race shift in the city has brought dramatic change. The building of the Newburgh Bridge eliminated the need to drive through the city’s main street, originally close to the waterfront, now demolished and moved west several blocks. Visitors from NYC and neighboring towns can take a train or drive, and park in the enormous parking lot we met in atop the reminisce of old Main Street, eat or shop at the few attractive destinations newly built near the water, then leave never having seen more than a sliver of city. Richard led us on a hike, and it was a hike with an incline of no less than that of a mountaineering expedition, up a poorly sidewalked and trash littered hill to the main intersections of the city. Murals covered ancient brick walls, wind chimes sung on the balconies of boarded apartments, and few walked the cigarette stained sidewalks.We passed the keynote shops of developed but economically stagnant cities; barber shops, convenience stores, the occasional bar or liquor store, and not much else. He brought us to a building, fenced-in and roofless, telling us amidst its deteriorating facade that it held value, perhaps not immediate value, but the architectural integrity of the building was attractive to new developers: something about a curved window frame with a rarity worth preserving.

This highlights another profound issue facing Newburgh today: gentrification or perhaps post-gentrification. With rising rent across the city, and the nation in general, Newburgh has had a 20% vacancy in housing and rising. More than 150 churches command the city’s real estate, paying no property tax, and occupying valuable space. With such prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries coupled with severe decline in the present, Newburgh is in a sort of flux. The remains of wealth spatter the city dominated by low-income minorities with new ‘urban pioneers’ starting to renovate and reimage the city as middle/upper class friendly. A strange and complicated melange of class, race, and wealth make Newburgh what it is; a hopeful city with an elegant but damaged past waiting to be reinvigorated.         


Storm King

After a twenty minute drive from Newburgh we finally arrived at Storm King Art Center located near the Hudson River in Orange County. Pulling up to the gates, an entrance fee of $8 for students and $10 for adults was covered by Vassar College’s environmental studies department. They provided us each with a map of the entire facility. At first glance it was obvious that there was absolutely no way we could make it through the entire park in the short hour and a half that we were allotted. There was simply too much to see. Once we got out of our Vassar van it was apparent that the scale of the art center is what would take so long to traverse through, not the number of sculptures. We decided to make a loop from the south parking lot through the meadows into the south fields and back to parking lot. We completely missedout on seeing the sculptures in the North Woods and the Museum Hill due to our time constraints.

My favorite sculptures through the meadows were The Arch, 1975 created by Alexander Calder  and Iliad, 1974-76 created by Alexander Liberman. These are both huge metal sculptures surrounded by the contrasting green grass. Then we chose to make our way to the majestic Storm King Wavefield, 2007-08 created by Maya Lin. This is arguably the most monumental sculpture of the art center. It has been featured in a variety of movies and tv shows with my favorite being the Netflix original series Master of None. For this reason, people from around the world travel to this art center with a large number of New York City people taking day trips to this site. On the walk from the meadows to the south fields we walked along a grove of trees. Off of this path there were ponds with ducks and willows adding to the park feel of the art center. People meandered along the river banks taking in the beauty of the natural landscape and the sculptures. The Wavefield was the only interactive sculpture adding to its allure. You could run across them or just admire their beauty from afar.

Storm King felt like a mixture between a museum and park. It has more green space than sculptures and incorporates the landscape into the overall experience. The staff were very friendly and even gave us a ride back to our van from the south fields. To make the experience less lengthy bicycles are also available for rental near the entrance of the art center. Overall the only things that would make this art center better are more time and free admission. To learn more about Storm King Art Center go to


Stormking Wavefield

The Arch



A Happy Day at Hawthorne Valley Farm

After a sleepy mid-afternoon ride up the Taconic State Parkway, our tour of the Hawthorne Valley Farm kicked off with an introduction to our guide, Lily Giles. Lily explained that she’s very passionate about what she does (her face noticeably lit up when asked about the herd of dairy cows she manages), but she didn’t necessarily take a conventional route to get to where she is now. For starters, Lily Giles actually went to Vassar like all of us! She started out as an Urban Studies major, thinking that when she graduated she vaguely wanted to do something with food. So after Vassar she moved to California to figure out exactly what she wanted to do in the food industry. To make a long story short, Lily found herself in the food marketing business, working for big companies like Starbucks. After working at this “respectable” job for many years, she decided she was working in a far too corporate environment than she wanted to be. So made the decision to try out the complete opposite end of the food industry– farming.

Lily didn’t join just any old farm though. She picked a very special kind of farm to work on. Lily explained that Hawthorne Valley is a biodynamic farm. The term “biodynamic farming” comes from Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy that a farm is treated like one, self-sufficient organism. At first this concept was hard to wrap our heads around, but as the day went on we got to see exactly what this means firsthand.

Our first stop congregated around what Hawthorne Valley Farm calls the twelve corner gardens named after the different zodiac signs. There, we had the pleasure of meeting Bob Bower, the leader and manager behind tending to the many unique fields spanning before us. Bearing a warm smile, dressed in worn boots and a farmers hat, it was easy to tell that Bob loved farming and had been doing it for many years. He shared insight with us into the intricate process of tending to his fields that involved rotating the crops yearly to ensure soil fertility and diversity. The corner gardens are unique from the rest of the crops found in Hawthorne Valley Farm for they are tended to solely by human hands given the one exception of a push-around plough machine. Even better, before leaving for our next stop in the tour, Bob insisted that we take a bag of old beats to feed to the pigs and offered each of us a carrot fresh out of the ground as an organic Hawthorne Valley sample for ourselves. By the way, they were delicious!

From there we went to see the #pigs! Meet Betty, Marge, and Percy, the two sows and boar  featured in the above right picture. To be honest, these pigs were probably the fattest, dirtiest, and cutest pigs I had ever seen. They snorted at us as they came to say hello and I have to admit it was hard to resist jumping over the fence and joining in their dirty, muddy fun. Since Hawthorne strives to be a biodynamic farm and organism, they repurpose waste by feeding any leftovers that are not consumed in other sectors of the farm and food scraps from the Farm Store and Deli to their pigs. This reduces the amount of waste and lessons the input that the farm consumes for they do not have to waste time and money buying pig food. We then proceeded to meet the rest of the pig family where the smaller, younger pigs were kept together. We threw out beats for them to eat and watched as they dashed their way to the fallen snacks.  


Our next stop brought us to the main event–the cows. On site, Hawthorne feeds and supports around 70 dairy cows and one feisty, busy bull named Monte (pictured on the far left) who seasonally mates with the rest of the herd. The healthy, adult dairy cows are milked twice a day and are sprayed with an all natural, non-toxic fly spray to keep them comfortable. As a vegetarian who is very passionate about animal rights and the mistreatment and abuse that often occurs at large agricultural farms, coming to Hawthorne Valley Farm was an interesting and hopeful experience for me. In being an organic and animal welfare sanctioned farm, I deeply appreciated the careful and respectful ways in which this biodynamic farm dealt with their creatures. The cows, as you can notice in the middle picture, have not been de-horned, which is a common practice in larger corporations for they claim that they do not have the space or patience to let the cows keep their horns. Horns are rumored to not only be a mechanism for protection, but are also thought to be one of the cows many organs. Compared to de-horned cows found in other farms, Hawthorne Valley cows are substantially healthier, happier, and friendlier towards humans, proving that making the extra space and giving caution towards being speared is well worth it when it comes to the cows happiness and therefore higher quality of milk and production. I also found it relieving that this farm does not practice artificial insemination but instead keeps a beautiful, healthy bull to mate with the females on their own time. This prevents the females from becoming pregnant too often which lessons their life expectancy and health and also prevents udder infections from constant and thoughtless milking techniques. As we were leaving, Lily offered our group a jar of raw cow milk. Of course, we tried it and I’ll say that I was pleasantly surprised by the yummy taste although it was a little uncomfortably warm! I guess that’s raw milk straight from a cow for ya!

Overall, I believe that if you are going to have farms that are involved in producing meat and dairy products, this is the best kind of farm that there can be. Hawthorne Valley Farm not only strives to be as sustainable and ethical as possible, but they also encourage passion and thought into what they are doing and are always thinking of ways that they could improve.

Our final stop on our visit was to the farm store where they sold products from the Hawthorne Valley farm as well as from other local farms and producers. It has to be the nicest farm store I’ve ever been to! It was almost like walking into a high-end supermarket– except it was clear that every product in the Hawthorne Valley farm store was chosen with care. In addition to selling raw milk (which can only be bought on the farm), homemade cheese and hand-picked vegetables, the farm store also had an entire aisle dedicated to organic and environmentally friendly toiletries, makeup and other household products. It was so nice to just sit and people-watch as locals came in to buy their groceries and daily items. It really stood out to me how much care was put into making the farm store welcoming and homey.

After buying a couple souvenirs for the road and engaging in some pleasant conversation with the cashiers, we headed outside to board the van. On our way out the door, I noticed one last thing that really stuck with me: the “Barter, Borrow, Ask” board. This was a board posted outside the store where people can advertise services and goods they have and what they are looking for in return. This is something I don’t think any of us had ever seen before! For me, this board really highlights everything that is special about the Hawthorne Valley Farm. It is clear that the owners of the farm aren’t just aiming to provide food for their community, but they are also trying to enhance the sense of community itself. In the end, Hawthorne Valley farm is both a beacon of hope for the future of ethical farming and an incredibly unique amenity to its surrounding community.  

Wyn and Rachel


A trip to Soundscape Basilica 2017.

This past mid-september weekend, I traveled to Hudson, NY to experience the Soundscape Basilica. Soundscape is a cultural event that mediates sonic, performance and visual arts over the course of a weekend to establish an desirable atmosphere and state of experience in those who partake in the event. Soundscape is/was a three day event that ran from the 15th of September to the 17th of the same month – of which I only attended on the 16th. Individuals throughout the area rushed to Hudson to experience the local vision of performance and activity based foundation built upon the infrastructural and economic legacy of the city; which gave way to a community functioning as a system of interest in the amenity economy of the Hudson valley


Getting to Hudson is possible through the use of ‘public’ transportation. The Basilica itself is located a short walk away from the Amtrak train station located in Hudson, which can be taken from Penn Station in NYC. Soundscape Basilica offered the opportunity to camp in sites with limited services and transportation to and from the event, which many decided to do for the weekend.

The easiest, and certainly most convenient form of transportation was through automobile – I thought it would be wise to park farther away from the venue, but this was not explicitly necessary, for there appeared to be more than enough parking spaces for those who came to the event by car that day. After a short stroll through heading west and then south along the town of Hudson, the Basilica was visible.


The site of this function is the Hudson Basilica – a remnant structure of supply chains now past made out of brick walls, terracota/clay ceiling tiles. The structure originally housed a railway wheel works and forge in the late 19th century, a glue factory until the late 20th century, to now – where it houses curated experiences centered around the arts.


The event itself is explicitly bound to the local economy and the community. The founders and individuals in charge of the event take the efforts to curate a list of those who are seen to fall within the atmospheric and experiential vision desired to imprint to those present. During the day of performance – a small trailer resembling the form of a tiny diner hatched onto the back of a pick-up truck- housing modified and curated clothing and robes. There was a small bar/beer garden available – offering beer, wine and sake for a relatively d\adequate market price considering the cost of the ticket – with picnic tables arranged in two parallel lines outside and beside the beer station and the entrance to the small chamber of the Basilica. A few yards across the beer garden a strong and captivating grilling scent hovered around the other outdoor section- with chicken among some of the things being grilled and prepared in the kitchen/food cabin stand. It was wonderful to have one’s thirst quenched and hunger fulfilled without having to make an effort to leave and return to the venue. Albeit it came at a price – in my hunger and exalted state after the jumping, dancing, and yelling after the experience of seeing John Maus – I was induced into paying ten dollars for a bowl of tasty stew. Which was delicious.


The main chamber and the counter-chamber were the sites of performance. The function began at around 1730; yet I arrived slightly after 1800 to experience the performance of Yellow Eyes. Following that, in the main chamber there was Yvette performing after them. After their nice set, Amy Rose Spiegel orated some thoughts – which were followed by the smooth function that was Priests. Returning to the counter-chamber, Protomartyr performed a great set of which I partially saw – for I moved to the main chamber early to get close to the stage and the speakers for the performance of John Maus and his band– which was riveting and a delirious experience. After this I felt slightly exhausted and went outside for air and a snack(the stew). I was able to see and hear most of the performances, which is a great quality of the space – whether one decides to be directly present in the performance or to watch from the outside, one does not miss the experience.

I am keen to return and experience this again in the years to come.


Woodstock Blog Post!!

Our trip to Woodstock began with an hour long drive across the Hudson and up I-87, which took us through woods and small towns, and eventually to the base of the Catskills where Woodstock is nestled. Even the drive tells you something about Woodstock: it is rural, small, and surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains. As we passed through West Hurley, a small town right outside Woodstock, I noticed an interesting combination of businesses along the road amidst the woods. There was a simply-built Dollar General, and next to it was a fancy but rustic looking shop called Cheese Louise, which advertised “voted #1 cheese and caviar”. This juxtaposition of upscale and more working class, old and new, nature and human settlement, and outsider vs. locals really represents the atmosphere, history, and economy of Woodstock.

We drove through the town of Woodstock and stopped in small and spread out Bearsville by the Bearsville Theater, which happened to be next to the headquarters for 100.1, Radio Woodstock! A group of musicians, guitars in hand, were just coming out of the studio when we pulled in. Later, we heard their folksy live recording on the radio! We walked down to the Sawkill stream and put our feet in, where Professor Nevarez commented, “there’s probably been thousands of acid trips right here, guys!” The grave of Albert Grossman, famed folk music manager, was nearby. I took a picture and sent it to my mom, who grew up on Bob Dylan, and she couldn’t believe it. The stream and woods around it were very peaceful and pastoral, with the sound of water bubbling and sunlight filtering through leaves.

We met up with Josh Colow, a Woodstock native, who wore a beat-up leather jacket, a warm smile, and who introduced himself as a “hippie for hire.” We drove a little ways up into the Catskills along winding two lane roads to get to his childhood home, an idyllic but rustic white house with an old red barn next door. Josh told us his sister owns the house now and uses it occasionally, but mostly rents it out on Airbnb, where it’s usually booked up solid. Josh, a musician, moved here as a boy with his artist parents in 1969 (the same summer as the Woodstock festival) and has called Woodstock home ever since. As we walked along the road to the sound of crickets, Josh told us about fond memories playing in the woods or stream all day with the neighborhood kids and how music was a big part of his, and everyone’s, lives in Woodstock. We saw a house along the stream that used to be an old mill, and in fact still had the 35 foot tall mill wheel inside. Most of the houses seemed to capture that same vibe–maintaining the simplicity and focus on nature of bygone rural life, and now supporting not farmers or millers, but wealthier, mostly outsider artists and musicians looking for quiet and community.

Josh helped us jump the guardrail to get to some well-loved wooden stairs leading down to the stream. We ignored the “Private, No Trespassing” sign since Josh said that’s just to keep it from getting too crowded, as some of the nearby swimming holes have become. This was probably my favorite part of the trip. We all took our shoes off and spent an hour exploring the stream and getting some quality nature time. The water was super clear and a little chilly, and the stream bed, made of slate and other rocks smoothed by time, had all sorts of interesting pools, waterfalls, and even a natural waterslide! Some people waded up the stream and explored, some climbed rocks and found a nice place to sit for a while, and everyone took lots of pictures since it was so pretty!

After a long while hanging out in the stream, Professor Nevarez decided that it would be good if we got to experience the actual Town of Woodstock itself, and we drove from the hillier part of town (where Josh’s house was) down to a parking lot near the center of town. On the way, we drove through an area that is perhaps best described as a hybrid between a neglected rural area and a tony getaway: some houses appeared run-down (I saw a collapsed bridge in one backyard) while other houses appeared more newly renovated with flourishing gardens and shiny SUVs out front. The only street sign I caught said “South Byrdcliffe Road”, the name a leftover from the Byrdcliffe artist’s resort founded by Ralph Whitehead in Woodstock’s early days. After walking from the parking lot to a spot right in front of the town’s one-room tourism office, we were sent out to explore at our leisure. The town itself is very tourist-friendly and pleasant to visit, which is perhaps to be expected considering it has almost as many TripAdvisor reviews (4,985) as residents (5,884 as of the 2010 census). The first thing Clare and I did was check out the real estate listings. We were impressed by how nice the houses for sale looked for the price (for me especially coming from the crazy real estate market of Greater Boston) and amused by the overall quirkiness of the houses for sale, including a converted doctor’s office and a house that is the “original Brothel of Bearsville” according to local legend.

Across the street was a small shoe store called Pegasus Footwear that reminded me of a similar shoe store in my hometown, with a wood-paneled interior, limited floor space, and shoes for all kinds of activities and uses. Most notable were the pair of Chacos displayed prominently in the window that sported Grateful Dead dancing bears along the straps, designed exclusively by Pegasus Footwear themselves. Even though the music festival itself happened 75 miles away, I thought that the Chacos in some ways represented the present character of the town itself, as a combination of an appeal to the nostalgia of the Grateful Dead days and an appeal to stylish, outdoorsy young people. (Though few people might call sandals “stylish” with a straight face, Chacos in particular are quite popular these days!).

I also got the chance to visit Bread Alone bakery, whose bread was featured in the old Vassar dining hall but has sadly been discarded by the new dining service provider. The bakery also had a wide variety of pastries, baked goods, sandwiches and coffee available; if I couldn’t see outside I might have mistaken it for a coffee shop in Manhattan! The crowd in this bakery tended on the younger side, and I got the sense that Bread Alone was definitely trying to appeal to a young and hip crowd visiting from somewhere else (though liking good food is not of course limited by age or geographical area!). After visiting a few more stores we piled back into the van and got back on the road to Vassar. Overall, our visit to Woodstock couldn’t have been more lovely: we were able to experience the rustic parts of town up and away from the bustle, adventure in a few different streams, and get a sense of the tourist experience as well. Woodstock is at an interesting spot, between a hippie heyday and a potential new boom as more and more city-goers seek an escape, but its beauty and charm will hopefully keep it attractive to visitors of all stripes for many years to come!

John and Clare


Amenia Visit!!



My name is Zahra and I am super excited to be a part of the ES291! Here’s some pix from when the gang went to Amenia! I spent most of my time in this quaint yet unique drive-in theater. I got a wave of nostalgia seeing the post with a Florida label (where I’m from!!) so I had to take a selfie with it. Enjoy the rest~



Amenia, NY

Hi, I’m Min.

I told my friend that I was going to Amenia on a field trip for a class and she got really excited because she thought I meant Armenia, the country. But Amenia the town was really cool too. The views from the drive there were so great!

I spent all my time at the farmers market. Tried some cucamelons (which I’ve never even heard of before).


Flipped through a farm vendor’s photo album, which had lots of pictures of chickens and eggs.

I also ended up getting an awesome potted plant for my suite. Here it is now:



Hi all,

My name is John Ammondson and I’m so excited to be part of ES 291 this semester! On Friday we visited Amenia, a small town near Connecticut in a gorgeous hilly setting. We went to the farmer’s market and saw all the different fruits, vegetables, cheeses, flowers and more that were being sold by local vendors! We also saw a drive-in theater that I hope to come back to at some point this year. Can’t wait for more adventures with #es291 in the #hudsonvalley


Amenia field trip

Hey there, my name is Clare McClellan, and I’m really excited to be part of ENST 291 this fall! Here’s my selfie with part of the drive-in movie theater in Amenia, which was really cute and had fun decorations. I noticed a big tour bus driving by the drive in theater, and also the two movies playing were recent big releases, which was interesting for such a small place.



Today we had the pleasure of visiting the small town of Amenia. A quaint place with historic homes, a local farmers market, and even a drive-in movie theatre. We had the opportunity to talk to local vendors and craftsmen from wine and cheese makers to a Japanese knife connoisseur!