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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hadley Maple Syrup -- Good on EVERYTHING!

The nights are freezing and the days are above freezing (hopefully,mostly), and the sap in the sugar maples runs, and the local sugar shacks get busy. It's maple sugaring season!
In Hadley, the place for all your maple needs is the North Hadley Sugar Shack at Boisvert Farm on Rt 47, where they have syrup galore -- jugs of syrup, bottles of syrup, cans of syrup, syrup recipes, syrup candy, syrup news...
Syrup ...
...and more syrup!
... and people pouring syrup over pancakes and waffles and french toast and sausage -- some even pour the syrup into their coffee, sweetening up that bottomless cup! (Yes. This syrup really is that good.)
The North Hadley Sugar Shack does a very tasty breakfast (from the end of February until mid-April), featuring their very own syrup, and people come from miles around to share in the farm, the community, and that maple sweetness.

Mr. Madley and I had our first sugar shack breakfast last Saturday morning, and I eagerly anticipated piles of syrup-drenched pancakes, bacon, eggs, and home fries -- and a look-see at the syrup-making process.  Upon arriving at the "shack," we put our name on the restaurant list and had a 35-minute wait (go early or go before you're actually hungry-- the place gets quite busy on weekend mornings).  But there was plenty to do before eating, and the time flew by.  We took some time to visit the animals,
Available for petting...
...or for sleeping.
and spent a good deal of time talking with Joe, one of the owning brothers, about the making of syrup (contents of that discussion found below).
After our chat with Joe and our visit to the animals and some looking around at the maple products (donuts, candies, t-shirts, and more), a table finally opened for us and Mr. M and I happily (OK, it's true, I was a little giddy) enjoyed pancakes, eggs, bacon, and homefries -- with fresh 100% local maple syrup.  We were surrounded by families and couples and friends and children all doing the exact same thing -- enjoying happy community and good syrup.
The food was tasty, the service was great -- it was definitely well worth the wait.  I would go back again anytime.

The North Hadley Sugar Shack produces some tasty syrup -- bucketloads of it.  Before the season starts, the Boisvert brothers and their crew put 5000 taps into those lush sugar maples that dot the hills and vales of Hadley.  When the temperatures declare sugaring season has begun, the sap runs through hoses or collects in buckets and is deposited at the sugaring house, where it is reduced and distilled in a wood-fired boiler --
The sugar shack
Sap steam in the boiler
-- the boiler heats the sap and boils the excess water out of it, leaving behind the thick sweet syrup that we know and love.
Joe and John have been sugaring since their teens, and they loved it enough to buy out the family farm in 1995 and turn maple sugaring into a family business; their mom even runs maple sugar candy making classes during the season.
Classic old syrup tins.
Surrounded by the steam off the hot sap.
The Sugar Shack is open late February until mid-April, and the farmstand is open from mid-August through the end of December.  I recommend visiting again in the autumn, when they have pumpkins and mums out in full force.   No matter when you go, don't leave without picking up some syrup to take home -- we have a 1/2 gallon on our counter just waiting to make something perfectly delicious.
Thank you for visiting!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bunches of New Businesses?

Interested in what stores and businesses want to come to Hadley next?  The* printed the article "Hadley's influx of new business" (search it here and click on the link from March 28), citing the interests of Firestone, Chipotle's, Denny's, Long Hollow Bison Farm in moving into the area.
A new addition to the Cinemark will be appearing at the Hampshire Mall soon, as well.

Have some thoughts on the situation?  Talk to the Select Board and the Planning Board -- and definitely attend the town meeting on May 5.

* features require a subscription or entry through a search engine like Google.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Off the Main Drag - N'hampton Eats

As often as we go to Northampton, we find ourselves usually sticking to the main drag of Rt 9.  Occasionally, we head down Rt 5/10 for bowling or to find parking or to visit La Fiorentina, but we don't often hit the "side" streets.  Last weekend, with the near-warmth and the extra light, we were feeling the need for new adventures and took a stroll down Masonic Street -- where we discovered and explored 3 small new (for us) eateries:

WoodStar: a cafe & bakery (with great key lime tarts -- yum!)
Mosaic Cafe: Moroccan-Euro fare (I've been hearing lots of commercials on the radio), related to Amanouz
Bela: a vegetarian joint with dairy & gluten free dishes

We walked in to each one, checked out the menus and prices and atmosphere, and we can't wait to try them.
Have you been there yet?

WoodStar Menu
WoodStar Breads
Photos by Mr Madley

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Rock Gym Grows in Hadley

Greetings! I have the honor of creating the first guest post on MH. It's probably nepotism: I also bear the honor of being "Mr. Madley." (I'm more well-known around the Web as Velosopher, proprietor of a blog about cycling, sport psychology, and the active life. Go here for a peek.)

I'm here to report on an exciting new development in Hadley: the grand opening of Central Rock Climbing Center, at 165 Russell Street/Route 9.

I don't have any experience with dedicated rock gyms, but years ago, while living in Taos, NM, I enjoyed tremendously climbing both outdoors and in. I also continued for a while after moving east to the Boston area. For years now, I've been missing it, so when I saw the CRCC building being constructed just down the street from us this winter, I got excited, and set about finding a replacement pair of climbing shoes on Craigslist.

Mrs. M. and I stopped by the gym shortly after they opened for business a few weeks ago. It was about 8:00 on a Friday night, and the generous parking lot was nearly full. Inside the cavernous building, crowds of folks were clambering up all manner of pseudo-rock formations, jutting out or overhanging in every direction. It really feels like a giant crag somewhere in the back of beyond, except there are hundreds of multicolored hand- and foot-holds on the rock wall, mats on the floors and giant lights in the ceiling. The vibe was friendly, and the place was clean and sharp-looking.

 Abutments and overhangs everywhere.
At Central Rock, you can take climbing lessons, or learn to belay (hold the safety rope for another climber). If you're more of a lone wolf, there's lots of wall dedicated to bouldering, which is stripped-down climbing on lower-lying rock, with no rope or hardware needed. Bouldering's a bit cheaper by the hour, and if you bike to the gym with your gear, you get yet another couple bucks off -- an incentive of which I naturally approve.

Solving a bouldering problem. (Notice the thick mat below.)
You can climb as late as eleven o'clock or even midnight on various nights, and they also host sleepovers for parties of kids or teens -- a great way to spice up those cold New England nights. There's tons of comfortable space for adults or significant others to hang out and watch the action.

Think about stopping by the grand opening on April 2nd; they'll have door prizes, a raffle and a band. They're in that large, warehouse-looking building you've seen going up all winter, just west of the Hadley Garden Center.

As the belayers like to say, "Climb on!"

The rope (trailing the climber) will safely stop a fall.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disappearing Eateries

Mr. Madley and I were back in Northampton Saturday night to seek out a new 2-for-under-$20 restaurant; we thought we'd try Taipei and Tokyo*, but when we arrived at the dark storefront, there was a sign on the door saying that Butterfly: Chinese and vegetarian would be soon opening there.  No more T&T.
There is a Butterfly restaurant on Rt 9 in Hadley -- one that serves Japanese, Chinese, and vegetarian.  Whether the Butterfly coming to Northampton is the same Butterfly moving spaces, a clone Butterfly, or a completely new one, I can't say for sure yet.  I look forward to finding out.

There is yet more restaurant news for Northampton -- according to rumour, Union Station and company will be leaving Northampton in the coming months.  Keep a watch on that one -- I'm not sure when they're closing up shop.

And in case you haven't yet heard, Amherst Brewing Company is looking to relocate from its keystone position in downtown Amherst to Newmarket Center on University Drive.  The Zoning Board meets tonight to take a vote on issuing the permit.

(By the way -- Saturday we were able to eat at the Teapot for under $20 by eating off the noodle section of the menu.)

*Update 3/20:  Upon walking more of the streets of Northampton last night, we discovered that Taipei and Tokyo isn't leaving -- it's simply moving down the street to the storefronts where Sid Vintage and Sabin Star Lock used to be on Crafts Avenue.  Rejoice!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Blooms of Spring

March 5-March 20 marks the date for the Smith Spring Bulb Show at the Lyman Conservatory of Smith College.  The Spring Bulb Show is a wonderful preview of spring flowers -- tulips, daffodils, narcissi, crocus, hyacinths, cyclamen, forsythia, camellia, freesia, and more.  Mr. Madley and I went last night, and were exceedingly pleased -- the colours were vivid, the scents were intoxicating, and it felt just like spring!


I love flowers -- and I love spring. This is my second visit to the bulb show, and I can't even begin to tell you how happy it makes me -- so much beauty and hope compacted into that small space (especially after a winter like this one).  Today, during a walk around the yard (which is almost possible, with the melting and thawing), I discovered a few fresh shoots poking up out of the ground.  Not yet sure what they'll turn into, but I can't wait to see.

If you've never been to the Conservatory, I highly recommend it -- even outside of the special spring and fall shows.  There is a large variety of amazing plants organized into different collections.  More on the Lyman on a later post.

In the meantime, get to Smith for the bulb show.  Hours are 10-4 daily, 6-8 next Friday (March 18).  A donation of $2 is suggested at the door.  Go during the day or go at night -- just make sure to get there!

Mt Holyoke College also has a spring flower show going on.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What Time is It?

An early reminder that this weekend is the time to push forward your clocks an hour and start Daylight Saving Time.  Change your clocks at 2am Sunday morning, or before you fall asleep Saturday night.

You can read more about Daylight Saving Time, why we have it, who participates, and stories about how it has affected people around the nation here, at

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter Farmers Market: Amherst

Saturday I made my first trip to the Amherst Winter Market at the Amherst Middle School.  A little late, I know, but it was definitely worth the trip, and I look forward to going back.  Many local farms, bakeries, and artisans were represented at the market, and just about everything and anything was being sold -- from grass-fed beef (King Creek Farm) to popcorn sprouts (Astarte Farm) to rainbow carrots (Winter Moon Farm) to sheepskin (Balky Farm) to shares in CSAs (Simple Gifts Farm) to whimsical animal art (artbug) to fresh baked bread (The Black Sheep) and more (like soap, cheese, eggs...).

The pictures below should give a good feel for the market, though not every table was photographed (note the student art on the walls). 

Yarns and woolens from Balky Farm.
Delicious breads from El Jardin Bakery.
Organic sprouts from Astarte Farm.
Rainbow carrots and an irresistible sales girl from Winter Moon Farm.
More from Winter Moon Farm (beets, radishes, parsnips).
Bags of carrots and potatoes by Atlas Farm.
Whimsical animal art by Chaldea Emerson: artbug.

With a little music (musicians were setting up just as I was leaving), tables where one could sit and eat and visit, fresh local foods, and enthusiastic members of the community, there aren't many better places to spend a wintry Saturday morning.

Debit/credit is now accepted, making purchasing much easier, especially for those who don't tend to carry much cash.

For more information about the Amherst Winter Market, visit:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pothole Watch

After a winter like this (and I'm not sure it's over yet), the roads get sloppy -- and not just in an "ice is melting" kind of way -- more like a "who tried to eat the road and spit it out?" kind of way.  Asphalt gravel litters the ground whe

Recently I discovered a pothole that almost ate my car: eastbound on Bay Road in Amherst, just across from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, there is a pothole that is nearly the width of the lane and twice as deep (just kidding on the deep part, but it is significantly sharp and deep). On the same stretch of road, on both sides there are multiple holes and jags and crumbling asphalt.

Do you have a pothole that you drive out of your way to avoid, a car eater or a tire smasher?  Add a comment below and let people know where it is.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Town Election: April 12

From The Amherst Bulletin on Feb 25, Contests Set for 2 Hadley Board Seats, by Nick Grabbe:
HADLEY -- In the only contested race in the April 12 town election, School Committee members Tracy Kelley and Linda Dunlavy will face challenges from Molly Keegan and Terri Earle.
Daniel Dudkiewicz, who chairs the Select Board, is running for re-election unopposed.
An event featuring all the candidates has been scheduled for April 4.
Read more at The Amherst Bulletin, and get ready to vote on April 12.