My first WWOOFing experience was @ Annie’s place in Garrison, New York. Although I have written about my first few days with Annie, let me share some highlights.
Annie describes her farm as a “gentleman’s farm” – a farm that is mainly for pleasure rather than for profit. Which is an accurate description –it is also an historic property. There is an ornamental garden near the pool, flower and fern beds along the house and other buildings, a vegetable garden at the lower end of the property and a small orchard along the drive way with apples and plums. While I was visiting in September of 2016, we harvested a number of things; apples, tomatoes, okra, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and basil.
The Sleeping Arrangements and the Property
The WWOOFers and Annie and Art are in the main house; the carriage house. There are two spare rooms on the second floor that belonged to Annie and Art’s children – which are now typically used for WWOOFers. Each bedroom is cozy and comfortable. Between the two rooms is a shared bathroom. I stayed in their son’s room and their daughter’s room was occupied by Melanie and Alex, the German couple who were also WWOOFing, and later by Rachel, who was to house sit for them over the winter. Annie and Art’s room is at the top of the stairs. There I also a carriage room on the first floor with a bed and a bathroom. The whole house is beautiful; full of wood, art, books and family photos – very welcoming and warm feeling.
Also on the property is a barn that has a full kitchen, a bathroom, laundry, a game room and exercise equipment – Art’s man cave. The barn is next to a small swimming pool and the delightful ornamental garden. There is a small cottage next to the barn; Eleeza and her three children live here and share some of the farm work as well. Next to the carriage house there is also a small turkey house that is occupied some weekend ends by a young couple.
Behind the barn there is a small pet cemetery that was used by the Dick’s family (see link). Further back there is a chicken coop, a cow barn, a corn crib and acres of forest. On my first day I saw a family of deer back behind the corn crib – and over the course of the time I was there I would continue to see the same doe and her fawns in various places grazing. I also managed to see a few other “little friends” while staying with Annie.
A Little About Annie & Art
Annie was a nurse and Art a lawyer – they lived in New York City before they moved up to Normandy Grange full-time about 8 years ago. It was a wonderful to spend time with them. We had great chats about life, children, politics cooking, and whatever else came to mind. They’ve own the property for 20+ years, it was previously their summer and holiday home. Annie and Art have three children in their mid-twenties. The have all grown up and moved on to their own lives. They are still close with their kids, and visit and chat with them often. Annie gave me a tour of the surrounding area; sharing details of various properties and some history of the villages along the way. I was welcomed into their kitchen and to their food – and I was able to cook for myself, do my own laundry and clean up kitchen. Everything you would expect when part of a family.
I spent most of my time with Annie – Annie does the majority of the work in the garden. Art handles the vegetables, the orchard – and the cooking. There was always food in the house and we mostly prepared our own meals – but we frequently ate at the same time. Art would always ask if anyone needed anything before going to the store. There were always fresh bagels, cold cuts, eggs, and plenty of cheese and yogurt. In addition to the abundance of apples and tomatoes, there were always oranges, bananas and sometimes a fresh pineapple to eat. Art also makes an amazing apple crumble and zucchini bread.
Around the kitchen and another places in the house there are signs sharing the house rules, things like; telling you where to put recyclables, to hand wash the wooden handled knives, and to keep wet towels off the furniture. Annie recycles everything; there are separate places for bottle caps, paper & cardboard, plastic bags, plastic caps, recyclable plastic and redeemable bottles and cans, trash – and a compost pail in the kitchen. I spent the first few days reading the signs and asking questions before I really understood where things belonged.
Annie enjoys having WWOOFer’s and it was easy to work with her. Annie is not an early riser – so surprisingly I was often up and having coffee before everyone else. Annie loves her coffee –her and I drank a pot or two every day. As a WWOOFer, you are expected to work 4-5 hours a day, Monday through Friday. During the week I would wake up and put on my working clothes, a cool shirt, long pants, long socks with my pants tucked into them – with the intention of keeping out the ticks – and head down to the kitchen for coffee and breakfast. Everyone is one their own to make breakfast. For me, breakfasts consisted of things like; eggs, bagels, yogurt, bananas, cereal, quiche, tomatoes, toast or oatmeal. Normally by eight or eight-thirty everyone was up and eating. We’d chat about our day and then head outside to find work to do.
Annie didn’t always have a plan – but there was always work – all we had to do was go outside to find something that needed to be done. Annie supplied work gloves and bug spray. We’d gather a few tools and head to a spot that needed attention. In the time that I was with Annie I helped with things like; pulling weeds, digging up weeds or invasive plants, cutting thorny bushes, raking leaves, moving rocks and stones, taking down and putting up fences, collecting wood, hauling wheel barrels full of leaves, rocks, dirt or wood to various places on the property. We also moved a couple pieces of furniture, cleaned patio furniture and organized the garden shed. Most days we would break for lunch around one o’clock and then go back outside for an hour or two of work.
In addition to the work on Annie’s farm, we also visited Boscobel to work in their garden. Annie volunteers every Tuesday at Boscobel – and so we spent our Tuesday morning’s pulling weeds and watering the historic herb garden – and chatting with Annie’s friends. It was always a beautiful day at Boscobel.
Once my hours were done, I’d shower and read, nap, go to the pool, watch a movie, take a walk – or just sit in the kitchen and chat with whoever was around.
History of the Property
Annie and Art’s place is on the U.S National Register of Historic Places. It is a Normal-style house built in 1905. The main house was to be the carriage house a large castle Evans P. Dick, a wealthy financier was building on the hill above. The carriage house and the other out-buildings were to be used by the servants. However, Dick and his family lived in the carriage house while working on the castle. In the end he ran out of money, and the castle was never completed. You can read a little about what happened to the castle here.
Their home is situated on Route 9 along the Hudson River, about an hour from Manhattan. Normandy Grange is beautiful and nestled nicely in the forest – with all the natural beauty you would expect.
Annie and Art did a wonderful job of making me feel welcome and part of the family. I was included in all of their events and excursions. Here’s a little list of the delightful adventures I had during the time I was at Normandy-Grange.
- Followed a family a deer around the property.
- Spent a couple of afternoon’s walking through Cold Springs Village.
- Had a personal tour of Boscobel and was able to spend hours helping in the garden.
- Went for pizza in Cold Spring with Annie.
- Annie give me a driving tour of the homes and historic places around Cold Spring.
- Took camp chairs over to Annie’s neighbor’s and watched fireworks at West Point, across the Hudson.
- Met some wonderful people through Annie’s garden club and visited Miriam’s garden, complete with a glass of refreshing pineapple and ginger ale.
- Got ice cream with Annie in Cold Spring.
- Took a day trip to New York City – went to see Chicago the musical, ate hot dogs and wandered through Central Park.
- Joined Annie and her church for a Midnight Run. We prepared sack lunches and hot coffee and took them in to Manhattan to hand out to the homeless.
- Wandered through an estate auction in Beacon.
- Took another day trip to New York City and rode the ferry to Staten Island and ate some amazing pizza.
- Was included in a garden club workshop to learn about propagating native, drought tolerant plants.
- Invited to their end of summer party, met some wonderful people and listened to some amazing music
I enjoyed every minute I was at Normandy Grange and was honored to share a few weeks with Annie and Art.