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September 2015 Upstate House

Living off the land

Learn about sustainability 17th-century style at Kingston’s Senate House this Saturday

byLynn Woods
May 12, 2011 10:34 AM | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A darning clinic will be offered by Dawn Elliott, who invites visitors to bring their own textiles for a consultation
A darning clinic will be offered by Dawn Elliott, who invites visitors to bring their own textiles for a consultation
The spacious yard of the Senate House State Historic Site, located in Uptown Kingston, will be bustling on Saturday, May 14 with people in Colonial dress cooking over open hearths, darning homespun clothing and writing with quills. There will also be tours of the Senate House, with a focus on the historic building and household practices of the Hudson Valley in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The free event, which is titled “Sustainable Living, 17th- and 18th-century Hudson Valley Style,” will have a green bent as well: Master gardener Allyson Levy – hosted by the Kingston Land Trust, one of the event sponsors – will shed light on the types of plants found in a typical Colonial kitchen garden and what they were used for, at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The discussion and demonstration by herbalist Dina Falconi, who concocts her own herbal preparations and medicinal remedies, is proof that plants continue to inspire and heal people in modern times.

Town of Ulster historian Robert Sweeney will lead the Senate House tours at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.; as a member of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture, which is also an event sponsor, he is well-versed in traditional building styles of the region. Peter Cutul, a history educator with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at Fort Montgomery, will talk about historic land use as it relates to farming and food preservation practices.

The darning clinic will be offered by Dawn Elliott – she invites visitors to bring their own textiles for a consultation – and the Scions of Patria, resplendent in their authentic 17th-century Dutch clothing, will present the Colonial cooking demonstrations. Kids are invited to try out the quills as well as learn about plants, with each potting a seedling to take home.

For more information, call (845) 338-2786 or visit The free event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., includes free admission to the Senate House

Read more:Kingston Times - Living off the land Learn about sustainability 17th century style at Kingston’s Senate House this Saturday

Heritage Weekend - Senate House ~ !8th Century Colonial Women's Dooryard Garden

Out with the new

Senate House Heritage Weekend fest focuses on making old ways hip again

byCarrie Jones Ross
May 05, 2011 04:25 PM | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rob Sweeney, left, in Sons of Patria mode, discusses fur at last year’s TimeFest.  
Photo by Dan Barton.
Rob Sweeney, left, in Sons of Patria mode, discusses fur at last year’s TimeFest. Photo by Dan Barton.
The Senate House is rolling out all the adages in touting how what’s old is new again for next Saturday’s Heritage Weekend “Sustainable Living, 17th- and 18th-Century Hudson Valley Style” program.

The Friends of the Senate House will partner with the Kingston Land Trust and Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture (HVVA) in what the group hopes will be an annual “re-purposing” of the historic estate for a day dedicated to environmental and historical education.

Free demonstrations, tours and living history interpreters will educate and inform on the many resourceful methods employed by the region’s ancestors in order to garden, heat the house, build homes, cook, make clothing and generally survive.

“You’re coming to learn about history, but the relevance of history is what you can take from it and put into use in the present or future,” explained Rob Sweeney of the HVVA, who will be conducting tours and speaking on 17th- and 18th-century building and house-holding. “That’s what makes history relevant — is that it’s useful. How we can find sustainable living ideas from the past, and put it to use in the present.”

“The theme is everything old is new again,” said Sweeney on the topic of sustainability. “Thrifty ways of the past can be revitalized. We look to the past to see how we can be more environmentally sound in the future. … The Senate House is made of stone which didn’t really wreak environmental havoc to secure that stone and all the labor was done by hand. And the fact that it still stands. If we are looking to protect the environment, we don’t want to harm it while removing our materials from it, but also use things that are long-lasting.”

Guests will tour the Senate House to learn more about good old-fashioned efficiency and true Dutch economy. “They were not a throw-away society,” explained Sweeney. “Lighting candles. Using daylight savings time — it was not a modern thing. There was the 18th century saying of ‘early to bed and early to rise’; rather than lighting candles but using what’s naturally available.”

Kids will learn how to write “green” — with a natural quill, of course. Park educators will also impart history and uses of a plant, and help the kinder pot a seedling for at-home enjoyment.

Master gardener Allyson Levy of Hortus Conclusus, who specializes in edible and ornamental landscaping, will speak on a colonial woman’s dooryard garden, and present the historic garden she created. Levy said that her business employs the old with the new for the Senate House. “We designed a custom-made cedar bed and planted out the bed with about 20 different specimens that would have been found in a 1770s women’s dooryard garden for the public to learn about and enjoy.”

“I decided on a woman’s dooryard garden since every household would rely on their own self-sufficiency not only for food, but for medicine and household sundries,” explained Levy. “This type of garden would be set off right by the door for easy access for women to get herbs like thyme or rosemary to enhance or even mask the flavor of older game or meat. During their household chores they could easily grab a handful of southernwood to throw on the fire to clear out bad odors or soapwort to cleanse clothes. Even more importantly these herbs served as important medicinal functions, like betony for headaches, herb robert for toothaches or lungwort for coughs.”

Dina Falconi, practicing herbalist and author, will speak about herbal preparations with examples of the herbs and concoctions. Peter Cutul, a history educator with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at Fort Montgomery, will deliver a presentation on “historic land-use, farming and food preservation practices”, offering samples.

Got a hole in your favorite sock? Darn it! No really … darn it. Dawn Elliott will be offering a not-oft-seen “darning clinic” to which guests are encouraged to bring their troubled textiles for either consultation or possibly a repair.

Even simmering aromas will be authentic, harkening from the cauldron on a hearth. The Scions of Patria, re-enactors of 17th century Dutch life will be cooking traditional foods and offering savory samples.

This event, which will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on the Senate House grounds is in conjunction with New York Heritage Weekend. For more information visit or or call the Senate House at (845) 338-2786.

Read more:Kingston Times - Out with the new Senate House Heritage Weekend fest focuses on making old ways hip again

 Daily Freeman (, Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871


Flower garden makes way for vegetables

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

By Bonnie Langston
Freeman staff

As the sun shone on newly installed cedar boards lining a terraced raised-bed garden in Kingston, an appealing fragrance filled the morning air.

“When it rains, it’s just heavenly. Don’t paint your cedar FYI,” said Rebecca Martin as she admired the work on a slope of lawn next to steps that lead to the home she shares with her husband bass-player Larry Grenadier and their son, 3-year-old Charlie Grenadier.

The “heavenly” scent, however, is merely a perk. The real reason Martin — founder of the Kingston Victory Garden Project — had the beds installed was to replace railroad ties treated with toxic materials like arsenic and creosote, which can leach into soil.

In previous years, Martin had filled the beds with flowers, but this year she is changing over to vegetables.

“The soil was good for flowers,” Martin said, “but not great for food.”

So, in order to ensure true victory for her victory gardens, part of a project that has morphed this year into community gardens, she will replace the soil and the structure that maintains them.

Various materials may be used to build the exterior of beds, she said, but cedar is ideal. It resists insects and water, which prevents rot, said Hugh Cummings, a Kingston builder committed to “green” practices and the re-use of viable materials.

Martin said raised beds are especially useful in small, urban spaces that not only are limited in size but sometimes type. Even lawns with a solid rock base, she said, are amenable to raised beds because they can be built on top. Aside from easing constraints of available space, the encased gardens prevent erosion and the loss of nutrients that follows.

Martin said her gardens, the two out front that are 6-by-4-feet each, and a long-standing organic 6-by-6-foot patch bordered with bluestone and other rocks, should result in plenty of vegetables despite their diminutive sizes. In fact, she said the latter has provided Swiss chard and kale to feed the entire family during the growing season.

Aside from other positive appeal, raised beds also are attractive, said Allyson Levy, of Stone Ridge, who along with her husband Scott Serrano helps people design and maintain edible gardens through their small business Hortus Conclusus.

“Inter-planting the bed with different varieties of lettuces and green, leafy crops will create a beautiful-looking garden,” she said in an e-mail.

“Placing a trellis or teepee on the northern part of the bed will allow for viney … crops like beans, peas and small squash to grow without shading the rest of your crops. ... A fence to keep out deer can also be used as a trellis for growing berries …, cucumbers or cold, hardy kiwi or grape vines.”

Indeed, Martin has kiwi and grapes as well as blackberries growing along fencing in the back of her house.

“The blackberries are the size of silver dollars,” she said. “They’re huge.”

Their girth likely has to do with the fertile soil in which they grow. Martin draws upon compost she builds in a closed container in her backyard. This year she plans to place fall leaves, which she said make ideal mulch, in a cylinder of chicken wire where they will decompose during the winter.

“By the spring, in the bottom you’ll have a really good, black soil,” she said.

Martin, a strong devotee of natural gardening methods, sticks to them.

“You want to stay away from Miracle-Gro” gardening products, she said. “You don’t need all that stuff.”

The hefty yield and larger vegetables associated with the product, she said, can be accomplished through skillful gardening techniques using materials provided by nature. That doesn’t mean gardeners must totally give up certain lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.

“In a speedy world, where we are used to quick results,” she said, “a raised bed can provide you with that.”

To reach that goal and to attain healthful vegetables, Levy said proper soil preparation is necessary. Among the most important things to remember, she said, are: Soil development takes time, and the addition of compost and decayed leaf mulch greatly assist that development. Well-aged horse manure and peat moss also can benefit garden soil, she said. For people who don’t have a supply of these items, organic materials can be purchased at garden-supply shops.

Gardeners who are starting a new bed and don’t know where to begin, Levy said, should take heart because the process is simple. Dig down to about a foot of soil, she said, then place it on a tarp. After removing rocks, incorporate soil and organic material in proportions of about 70 percent to 30 percent, she said, and mix well.

“This … will provide good soil structure that will allow plant roots to receive the available nutrients from the soil…,” Levy said. “Once your bed is established, you can add compost at the beginning of the growing season by side-dressing your plants. When weeding, try not to dig up the soil too much since this disturbs natural air passages that allow soil to drain well.”

Worms are the critters who create those air passages, and they also break down organic matter for the plants to use, so they are a welcome addition to any garden, Levy said.

Martin said the lack of worms in the soil of her front gardens is another indicator that it needed to be replaced with organic materials after the cedar structure was finished.

Cummings, of Hugh Name It Builders, estimated an 8-foot-long, 4-by-4-inch post costs about $25. Another source of material is fallen logs from woods on one’s property or rocks, he said, like Martin uses in an upper garden at the front of her home.

Martin said gardening is not only fun and a nurturing way to build community and become closer to the earth, it is a way to better ensure healthful nourishment for one’s family.

“Of course Charlie’s my complete inspiration for all of this,” she said.

For information about the Kingston Victory Garden project, visit Related information is available at http://kingstonlandtrust.word dens-sows-things-up/.