New York State of Mind
|The Suri fiber shown above is being used by Evelyn at YB Normal Suri Alpacas to make the yarn shown below it.
The landscape changes dramatically as one drives up from the Charlotte area through West Virginia. The mountains appear and rapidly become steep and craggy, and there are long expanses with little sign of gas stations or motels. Last week, at the onset of a vacation, after driving for five or six hours, my family found ourselves in the dark in a motel in West Virginia from which we watched a raging thunderstorm rip strips of vinyl siding from an adjacent building. While this state of affairs might have seemed to be an inauspicious beginning to our trip, we were fortunate that we’d returned from dinner and were safe inside, albeit in the dark and annoyed by motel guests on either side of room who did not take advantage of the lack of electricity to go to bed early, but rather made noise for hours. One older couple (the husband used a walker) fought incessantly, taking a break for a while and then resuming their cranky comments at 3:00 a.m., while another more jovial older man to the other side of our room played noisy games with his grandchildren until the wee hours.
|Tamarack, located along Interstate 77 in West Virginia, is a good place to stop, view the handicrafts, and take a rest.
These strange events followed an even stranger dinner, in an artsy looking old storefront replete with bright orange paint, Christmas lights, a pottery studio, and an eclectic collection of antique and modern knick knacks and furniture. Our waiter, who was the only server in the place on a Friday night, was utterly overwhelmed and suffered from an obvious disability that prevented him from remembering orders or carrying more than one item at a time to a customer. Many of our fellow diners, after waiting forever, gave up and ordered to-go boxes but those didn’t seem to arrive either. My sons’ hamburgers were huge, but my salad could have fit into a teacup.
Our schizophrenic dining experience and primitive motel conditions, however, didn’t put much of a damper on our holiday spirits—at least we were safe inside for the storm which wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid for days, and our car was undamaged.
We arrived safely in New York, where we spent a week in a small town with Cindy, a longtime friend and my former co-worker who retired from teaching in North Carolina and moved back to New York to the community where she was raised. Cassadaga, with a population of 400 or so, is a tiny magical place, with a beautiful lake surrounded by rolling countryside dotted with farm stands and Old Order Amish farms. My family and I swam in Cassadaga Lake as well as Lake Erie, rode on the Chautauqua Belle, one of only four steam ships in operation in the United States, took a tour of the Chautauqua Institute, and some of us kayaked a bit too on Cassadaga Lake.
|While famous for its Concord grapes, the area of western New York we visited grows many other types of wonderful produce.
I was also extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to indulge in my yarn hobby. Cindy took me to a knitting store in Mayville, NY--The Yarn Cottage at Brick Farm, where I purchased some bulky yarn to make the frog purse on display in the shop. Cindy loves frogs, so I plan to give her the bag as a Christmas present. The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, but the owner of the shop had knit up her sample in bulky weight, and I decided to do the same as the material gave the bag a great thick, woolly look. This shop is located near Lake Chautauqua and apparently there is a sister shop, St. Elmo's Fiber, etc., in the Chautauqua Institute itself, but when my family and I visited there, it was the evening, and it seemed that most of the shops were closed already, so, much to the joy of my children, I didn’t take the time to locate the yarn store. I’ll have to go back someday. . . .
|The Yarn Shop at Red Brick Farm has a wide array of yarns for sale. I particularly liked the new Casablanca yarn from Cascade, a linen blend with an interesting nubby texture.
On the day that Cindy and I went off by ourselves to the Red Brick Farm shop, however, I was also able to visit a Suri alpaca farm and store. This property was originally owned by an Amish family, but is now in the possession of Evelyn Brumwell, who is busy renovating the farmhouse and tending to her alpaca herd, along with spinning and running a farm store as well as an Etsy shop. I purchased some two-toned yarn after seeing a shawl she had on display made with the soft fiber. I also couldn’t resist two skeins of hand-painted alpaca yarn—out of which I think I will make fingerless gloves or a cowl. Evelyn has a blog with lots of pictures of her operations and local scenery.
|I wished I had lots of money to spend on the soft alpaca yarn at the YB Normal farm store. But for now am happy with the
skeins below that I did buy.
On this trip, my husband and I were also extremely fortunate to spend a few nights in a large historic house. A retirement venture of Cindy’s sister and her husband, this venue is used for weddings and other events. But most of the large parties are held in the beautifully rustic converted dairy barn out back. The business is a nonprofit one, and proceeds derived from Red house events go toward youth development efforts in the Cassadaga Valley region. No one lives in the house, so, for a few days in the middle of the week, my husband and I lived in the style to which we would like to be accustomed. It was, however, a lot more cozier and lots of fun to stay in my friend Cindy’s cottage by the lake, with its homemade quilts and quirky cat Graymalkin (named for the Weird Sisters' cat in Macbeth, not the member of the Young X-Men from Marvel Comics). I enjoyed many pleasant hours there, chatting and knitting on the porch.
|The Red House's website describes the house as "one of the best examples of 2nd
Empire French architecture in Western New York." It is a stunning place.
|I had to put on a long skirt and sit and knit in this sunny alcove.
|With two stories of party space, the dairy barn is large enough to accommodate a wedding reception for several hundred people.
|Cindy's sister made the chandeliers in the barn from Amish buggy
|Another freak thunderstorm cut short my family's enjoyment of a Fourth of July parade in Mayville. The Scottish bagpipers, however,
not to be dissuaded by wet conditions, forged on.