Archive for October, 2011

Hiking through the Mary Edwards Mountain Property in North Granby CT

October 25th, 2011 by nancyross

When does a hike become a truly emotional experience?  When the land upon which you are walking has a direct connection to your own history.  Fall ForestMary Edwards, who for a long time owned the house that is now the Dutch Iris Inn, generously donated land to the Granby Land Trust for everyone to enjoy.  The Mary Edwards Mountain Property trails offer a variety of hikes, where you will come across stone walls, brooks and streams, ponds, “Mary’s Rock,” a view of Springfield MA and more… all from atop the rolling hills of North Granby.  The low-lying ground vegetation, laurels, burning bush and other beautiful underbrush provide an intricate weave of natural beauty.  The sugar maples, spectacular birch trees, evergreens, oaks, and every other kind of tree typically found in New England show off their glory year round. 

Which season is best for a hike?  The answer could be argued in every direction, but one thing is certain, all of the many trails near the Dutch Iris Inn are unforgettable no matter what time of year you visit. 

Mary Edwards

Mary Edwards in 1932

Winter:  The quiet hush of snow among towering trees, when cross-country skiing and snowshoeing bring us outdoors; Spring:  Walking the soggy forest bottom to see the bright green growth that nature puts forth; Summer:  Hiking through lush greenery and coming upon nature in full bloom and views of the rolling hills; Autumn:  This is New England – need we say more about the way we feel when fallen leaves crunch under foot?  Come soak in the awesome autumn colors of the Mary Edwards Mountain Property, offering you an experience like no other!

While in the area, be sure to stop into some of our favorite places in North Granby:  Lost Acres Orchard (orchard, farm store, “quilt happenings”), Lost Acres Vineyard (new winery & vineyard – see our previous blog), and Sweet Pea Cheese (best goat and cow dairy products around!).  North Granby has beautiful countryside, we sure you will enjoy your time there.

Want to learn more about the Granby Land Trust or become a Property Steward (we are!)?  Granby Land TrustIt is so satisfying to enjoy these natural landscapes and make sure they remain the way nature intended.  Generous folks (like Mary Edwards) who have donated land, those that look after the properties, and the energetic volunteers that perform the work to maintain them are dedicated to making a difference in preserving our natural heritage.  For this effort, we are always thankful.

A New Connecticut Winery Is Born! Lost Acres Vineyard in North Granby CT

October 20th, 2011 by nancyross

At long last, the new winery and vineyard that we have been waiting for has finally opened its tasting room – hooray!  LAV Wine PourLocated in a beautiful area of North Granby, Lost Acres Vineyard is a peaceful and yet festive destination for those who enjoy trying different wines.  Kevin and Michelle, winemaker and proprietors, are some of the most hospitable and upbeat hosts you’ll ever find in this neck of the woods.  Their enthusiasm for their wines spreads throughout the place, and everyone who stops in is sure to enjoy themselves. 

Taste the various reds and whites that they have created, and you will get a feel for what is to come year after year.  As their vineyard continues to thrive, the view from the barn deck becomes more spectacular as the day goes on, with the sun hitting the grapevines and reflecting beautiful hues of green.  Be sure to take advantage of the extras you can purchase in addition to the wine.  Sit back and enjoy a cheese platter to accompany your glass of wine, while overlooking the vineyard.  What could better?

The tasting room is located inside the barn, and what a lovely indoor venue to enjoy while sampling wine.  The post and beam construction of the barn is fascinating, the center fireplace is beautiful, and the art work that is displayed on the walls truly draws attention.  A little tidbit of interest…  Lost Acres Vineyard held an art competition among local artists to choose a label for their wines.  The oil painting that was chosen is hanging in the tasting room for all to enjoy. 

For those of us at the Dutch Iris Inn, the opening of Lost Acres Vineyard means yet another fun place for our guests to visit.  One of the most popular things that our guests love to do is to visit the local farms, orchards and wineries in the area.  Now they have one more stop to make – and only a stone’s throw away!  Lost Acres Vineyard is located at 80 Lost Acres Road, North Granby CT 06060.  They are open for tastings and wine sales on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through January 2nd, 11:00am – 6:00pm.  Keep in touch – they have special events at the vineyard as well.

The Pumpkin Patch - An October Tradition in Granby CT

October 6th, 2011 by nancyross

Each year, directly across the street from the Dutch Iris Inn, South Congregational Church’s lawn is covered with beautiful pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors.  It is quite a sight to see, and a visit to The Pumpkin Patch has become a Granby tradition for many families in the area.  Pick a PumpkinPumpkins and gourds are everyone’s favorites for autumn decorating, and the selection at The Pumpkin Patch offers great inspiration for holiday displays and pumpkin carving.  The beautiful setting is a wonderful photo opportunity, too! 

The Pumpkin Patch tradition was started many years ago, with the special efforts of a select few from South Church who wanted to help support the pumpkin growers and offer a way to raise funds for outreach activities that Church youth and members participate in throughout the year.  This festive endeavor has become well known throughout the region.  People come from near and far for the varieties offered here.  As for us, here at the Dutch Iris Inn, we cart wheelbarrows full of colorful pumpkins across the street to decorate our grounds for the fall – and you’ll find them indoors, as well.

Pumpkin Patch

Create an autumn excursion around your visit.  Driving down Salmon Brook Street, where beautiful sugar maple trees line the street, you’ll appreciate New England’s landscape and the colorful harvest that adorns the South Church lawn.  After you have made your pumpkin and gourd selections, stop at nearby farms to pick apples, watch cider pressing, munch on some cookies and other baked goods, and stock up on your local canned fruits and vegetables for the winter.  With the chilly air coming into the area soon (it has been a warm summer!), we look forward to crisp fall days and the slow approach of the quieter months to come.

The Evil FruitThe Pumpkin Patch is open throughout October.  You may come by to select your pumpkins and gourds 7 days a week:  Monday through Friday noon – dusk, and Saturdays and Sundays 10am – dusk.  It’s a lot of fun – bring your family, neighbors and friends!

The Concord Grape…How Sweet It Is!

October 4th, 2011 by nancyross

Concord Grapes - Round 2We are so lucky to have beautiful Concord grapes dangling from the grape arbor in our yard each year.  These sweet purple jewels are a special treat for the early fall harvest.  Friends of ours with thriving vines also take in bountiful bushels of grapes which they share with us each year.  We cherish these beauties and utilize every drop of juice we can get!  This year, we made our usual stock of Concord grape jelly, enjoyed the juice at breakfast, and we made our favorite sweet treat – Concord grape sorbet.  (More about the sorbet later) 

For those who like a little history…  Ephraim Wales Bull developed the Concord grape in 1849, according to the Concord Grape Association.  He planted around 22,000 seedlings on his farm outside Concord before he found the ideal grape.  This hardy grape ripens early (September, in our yard here in Granby CT), thereby escaping the killing frosts that are just around the corner.  The Concord grape has full-bodied flavor, beautiful blue-purple skin, and the aroma of the ripened grapes is unbelievable.  We enjoy walking beneath the grape arbor before harvest, breathing deeply the scent of sweet grapes that matches no other.  

All of the grape concoctions that we prepare at the Dutch Iris Inn begin with the Concord grape juice itself.  When we first began, we boiled the grapes down, put them through a food mill or cheese cloth to get as much of the juice as possible.  This labor intensive process took quite some time, until we learned of a way to extract the juice from all of the grapes within an hour or two – without the mess.  A friend of ours, a quintessential New England woman (and former military nurse), loaned us her stovetop triple-boiler juice extractor that she has been using for about 40 years.  Before you knew it, we had a couple of gallons of grape juice, and we were on our way to jelly preparation. 

We put up many jars of Concord grape jelly once again, having plenty to share with our guests at the breakfast table throughout the year.  For those of you who enjoy canning, you may understand the attraction of canning Concord grape jelly and juice – this all happens after the hot summer season, so the kitchen does not become a sweatshop the way it does when canning the summer harvest!

As for our Concord grape sorbet, it is a very simple process.  Here’s how we do it:  Mix 4 cups of Concord grape juice with ¾ cups sugar in a saucepan.  Heat gently and stir constantly until sugar dissolves – the mixture does not need to boil, it just needs to get warm enough to melt the sugar.  Remove from heat and allow to cool; chill in refrigerator.  Add 1-2 Tablespoons vodka to the sweetened grape mixture (this keeps the sorbet from freezing rock-solid), pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer the Concord grape sorbet to a freezer-proof container, cover and freeze until firm.  Serve and enjoy – and think about us as the sorbet passes over your lips, and your lips turn purple.  You’ll feel like a kid again!