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By Georgetta L. Morque

A visit to the home of Ed and Beth Matthews typically starts with a tour of the backyard garden. Depending upon the season, one will find a variety of edibles, such as juicy tomatoes, large cucumbers, kale, carrots, fingerling potatoes, peas, robust garlic, and prize-worthy pumpkins, as well as light and dark purple lilac. What started as a small project of Ed’s some 25 years ago has grown little by little to nearly 1,000 square feet of meticulously maintained garden areas and an 11- by 11-foot compost pile, which is treated with the same care as the plants.

Now recently retired and an empty nester, Ed has taken his passion for gardening to a new level at the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer Program in Elmsford. Last fall, he enrolled in the intensive 75-hour course work, which consisted of lectures by experts on topics such as insect identification and plant pathology, plus homework and tests. “It really put science first and forward,” said Ed, who found the quality of teachers impressive. He also enjoyed being around a wide spectrum of people from gardening hobbyists to farm and orchard owners.

He has just begun his requirement of completing 100 volunteer hours over the next two years. Every Tuesday, along with 20 other gardeners associated with Cornell, he volunteers at Hart’s Brook Park and Preserve in Hartsdale, handling whatever the needs of the day demand. He says it’s fun to be in a spot with a greenhouse and work side-by-side with more experienced gardeners. Once the requirement is met, trainees like Ed become Master Gardener Volunteers who perform community outreach at schools, garden clubs, farmers’ markets, and more.

Ed had previously taken classes in Botany for Gardening and Botanical Latin at the New York Botanical Garden, which he said gave him the necessary vocabulary for the more intensive Cornell program. Growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, he never had opportunities for gardening and basically learned on his own over the years in Rye.

At home now, he’s getting ready to put tomato plants into a new spot, that will be covered for protection from deer. The seedlings have been growing in small pots that sit on top of a heat mat near the dining room window. Adjacent are marigolds and nasturtium planted conveniently in a plastic toboggan. In the den, in brown paper shopping bags, are organic fingerling potato plants from Vermont waiting for bigger roots and assurance that all damage of frost is gone.

Outside in the main garden plot, garlic is growing and will be ready for picking in July. The plants started from German Hardneck garlic, which is available at farmers’ markets and has a stronger taste than the grocery store variety. Ed will plant the bulbs for the following year. Asparagus, which started from seed packets three years ago, have been growing in an area next to the house. They must be eaten quickly, while still fresh.

The compost pile is near what was once home plate for backyard baseball, a favorite pastime of the Matthews’ sons, Brogan and Leo, and their buddies. Ed uses a mix of leaves, grass clippings, eggshells, egg cartons, coffee grounds, and the woody bottoms of asparagus. Not a fan of newspaper or food, which some gardeners include, Ed prefers items that decompose and won’t attract animals. He enjoys turning over the compost and believes it helps the plants considerably.

Finding gardening fun and good for his head, Ed says: “I’m eternally grateful when I’m out there.” So are his many neighbors and friends who seek and receive his advice.

By Tom McDermott

The cable man arrived at our new home a mere 15 minutes past his three-hour appointment window, so I knew our recent move was already on the right track. While he maneuvered around boxes of books, loose books, and an empty bookcase to finish installing a DVR, modem, and router, we were both greeted by a distinct “Baaaah, Baaaaaah” sound coming from near the den window.

I knew that our country cottage came complete with two horses grazing in the nearby meadow, and that there was a working egg farm just down the road. But sheep? Nobody said anything about sheep. But, then again, we did not know the living room only had two-thirds of a floor until after the old carpet was removed, or that the upstairs plumbing was a sporadic thing. Who cares, we thought, we’re going to live in a sweet cottage and save on rent to boot. So what if it has its quirks and is further away – six miles – from saltwater than we have ever lived in our married lives (35)? We were in love.

“Let’s give it a test,” the cable man said, and voilà, there was a picture on the TV screen, and, more importantly, a strong WiFi signal. At which point, the modem seemed to say, “Moooo, Moooo.” Nobody told us about cows either. A bit of digging inside one of a dozen boxes jammed into the room unearthed an animal puzzle our granddaughter has fun with when she visits from the West Coast. If the sheep or cow wasn’t placed in the right slot, kept mooing, etc. We still have not located the pieces, so are treated to authentic barnyard noises day and night.

The thought of moving makes most of us cluck like chickens. We all say we want to downsize, but where? Big houses are bulldozed for even bigger ones and what in the world are we going to do with all this accumulated stuff in cellars, attics, garages, and bedrooms no longer occupied by our children who live in postage stamp-sized apartments?

After a major downsizing six years ago and offloading generations worth of stuff, we’ve spent the last two years shedding even more: a small trailer sent to the West Coast, many trips to the recycling center, especially to the Greenwich book exchange, but we still had 1,000 books. How does that happen? As soon as we (meaning I) discovered our new home had a huge double cellar and a two-Suburban sized garage, I quit tossing.

A lot of moving takes place in summer, in between school terms. As a rule, our own moves take place when we are busiest – a few decorating jobs to manage, two upcoming weddings to plan for clients, a newspaper deadline looming, one home to clean and hand over, and another to prepare for living.

On each of our visits to the cottage, we marveled at how cool downstairs stayed on warmer days, and how the heat could be turned off in April. Then, for two straight days, the thermometer edged towards 100°F. The second one was moving day, of course.

The first night, we experimented with fans in the bedroom, settling on a trusty old Vornado, set atop a bureau. We were utterly exhausted, yet could not fall asleep. We kept our sense of humor, and I was reminded of when Lucy and Desi moved to that Westport country house long ago.

Finally, my eyes closed, I may have even heard the slight rustle of a breeze in the nearby trees as I fell asleep, only to be awakened minutes later by a resounding “Cocka-doodle-dooooooo!”

 

By Kathleen Durkee

 

“Our garden has been home to countless fairy houses, neighborhood games of manhunt, nesting birds and bunnies, lizard and goldfish graves, and huge winter igloos.”

 

Honestly, I wasn’t even pregnant at the time, but I remember feeling overcome with waves of nausea as my husband broke the news that we were being relocated from our hillside apartment in the Hollywood Hills to New York. Having spent my post-college years working in Washington, D.C. and New York, I figured I had “done my time” on the East Coast, and relocating back to New York was not part of the script for this California Girl.

 

A week later we were on a plane heading East on the hunt for our first house. Monday was Westchester, Tuesday New Jersey, Wednesday Connecticut, Thursday we made the offer on a house in Indian Village and Friday it was accepted. By the time we moved cross-country a couple of months later, I was pregnant with our second child. We were the ideal demographic for our new Indian Village neighborhood, newlyweds with a 1-year-old and another on the way, and then a caboose a year later for good measure.

 

Initially, we were known as the family who had moved into the McBride house, and inherited Dr. Sandy Nussbaum’s phone number. We spent years on a re-education campaign, but realized early on we had to earn our address and phone number here in Rye. 

 

The McBride family lived in our home for more than 30 years. They created what we call our “secret garden”, an idyllic sanctuary we have lovingly restored and maintained over our 20-plus years in our home. “The patio” has been the stage for countless birthday, prom, and graduation parties, as well as our famous fiestas with all the “trimmings”. Our garden has been home to countless fairy houses, neighborhood games of manhunt, nesting birds and bunnies, lizard and goldfish graves, and huge winter igloos. Our beautiful and mature plantings are what make our garden unique and secret, providing privacy not usually found in a neighborhood setting. 

 

Built in the 1920s, our home does not boast 8-foot basement ceilings, a mudroom, or some of the more modern “necessities”. Instead, it has been said to have perfect feng shui, the Chinese practice in which “a structure or site is chosen or configured so as to harmonize with the spiritual forces that inhabit it.” We have made a home filled with the new and the old, filled with light, orange trees, flowers, music, and children. Our sunroom, overlooking the “secret garden” is our little slice of California filled with plants and warmth. 

 

Our home’s coziness is its charm. We’ve benefitted from being physically near our kids, using the dining room every night for family dinner — not to mention using every room in the house on a daily basis. I heard lots of stuff going on through the years in my house, and it allowed me to keep my finger on the pulse. If coziness overwhelmed the kids, they hit the streets of Indian Village, where, at one time, there were more than 25 kids their age on our block alone. In fact, Indian Village is famous for having at least 25 kids per block. Families grow exceptionally close because of this and have established treasured neighborhood traditions and parties.  Many of our neighbors have become lifelong friends, and our kids have found their closest friends and prom dates down the street.

 

Life beyond the garden gate has been ideal. When they were old enough, our kids delighted in walking to town with their friends, and disappearing for hours at a time, hopping from house to house. My husband felt blessed that he could quickly walk home from the train station, and make it home most nights for dinner. I loved my morning bus-stop chats, group dog-walking expeditions, and ladies’ poker nights.

 

But what is a home? If you have lived in a house a long time, it becomes what my grandma used to refer to as a “memory storehouse”. It is a place where memories reside — snapshots of Christmas morning, Halloween night, and the laughter and tears of childhood. It is eagerly awaiting the colorful march of spring through the garden each year; enjoying dinner al fresco on a warm summer evening; putting the garden to bed in the autumn; and watching the snow blanket the garden from the warmth of the sunroom. 

 

Now that my husband and I are empty nesters, we have decided to begin a new chapter. We will leave this house as reluctantly as we did our Hollywood Hills apartment more than 20 years ago. 

 

Our house is de-cluttered — and a little echo-y in my opinion — and our memories and stuff are packed away in closets, the attic and garage, but mostly in our hearts. Our daughter recently returned from her first year of college and burst into tears, saying she hated our now tidy house, with so much of its personality hidden and tucked away. 

 

We have made room for a new family to fill it with life, and give it a new name. I picture our home’s next family cheerfully building their own “memory storehouse” and no longer having to call it the Durkee House. 

 

 

 

Members of the Durkee House

The rhododendron in bloom

 Princess on the patio

 

Light streaming through the sunroom

By Robin Jovanovich

Anyone who has worked with Jen Howard — and that’s most of Rye — knows that her cabinetry design is fine, and she delivers on time. For the last 20 years, she has averaged an astounding 50 kitchen projects a year— in between bathroom, dressing room, mudroom, library, and family room renovations.

To every project she brings energy, enthusiasm, and efficiency, which may be one of the reasons she got a call from Jon de la Cruz. The nationally renowned designer needed assistance creating a dream kitchen for House Beautiful’s 10th annual Kitchen of the Year, which would be unveiled at the 40th San Francisco Decorator Showcase.

Howard’s job was to design, provide the specs, build, and deliver the custom cabinetry — in eight weeks!

 

The baking area of the House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year

“It was a huge honor to be selected,” said Howard at her JWH Design & Cabinetry office in Rye, fresh back from opening weekend. “They could have chosen a major national company… but our turnaround time is hard to beat.”

Owning her own mill shop, in Pennsylvania, enables Howard to price her cabinets competitively and ensure that they are what the client ordered.

The House Beautiful kitchen project afforded Howard the opportunity to design outside the traditional suburban kitchen box.

This was her fourth project with de la Cruz. “While I was the ‘quarterback’ for the cabinets, I was also a team player who had to make sure Jon’s vision worked.”

That vision included: a baking area; a breakfast area; a mix of wood and paint; hardware in brass and oil-rubbed bronze; amazing light fixtures; a sculptural pot rack; lots of black; Caesarstone’s new ‘Raw Concrete’; varying counter edges; Farrow & Ball’s new cabinet paint; and enormous tiles on the floor.

 

An iron pot rack seems to float over the main work island.

The kitchen was designed for a family with eight children, which is another reason Jen Howard was the right woman for the job; she’s the mother of five.

She left a little bit of her heart and a lot of drawings in San Francisco. “This was my third completed project out there, and a fourth is under construction.”

Come September, the award-winning kitchen will be featured in House Beautiful. While Jen Howard won’t be the cover girl, she’s happy to have been asked to the design dance.

 

 

Designers Jon de la Cruz and Jen Howard

By Robin Jovanovich

Katherine Doherty grew up on the other side of Westchester, in the river town of Hastings-on-Hudson, where her family has lived for generations. Kat, as she is known, always wanted to be an architect, but her mother always thought she would make a great teacher. So that’s the career path she took.

After earning a B.S. in Elementary Education, with a concentration in Psychology, and an M.S. in Special Education, Kat taught first and second grade and Special Ed in Valhalla. While she loved teaching young children, in short order she had two of her own.

When she moved to Rye five years ago (“I like to think of myself as bi-coastal because my roots are still in Hastings”), Kat followed the arc of many her age. “I gave up a salaried career and decided to wing it!”

A self-described “house nerd”, Doherty became a real estate associate at Houlihan Lawrence. “I love looking at layouts, seeing how spaces are designed and decorated, and then reimagining them. I think being passionate is a quality that draws people to you.” She added, “It’s not just social media that brings you buyers and sellers.”

While many realtors are quick to tell you that buyers in our neck of the woods only want “new and done”, Doherty is seeing signs of a shift among young families. “Yes, everyone is looking for walkability, but more and more want charm and character.”

The challenge in the current market, she noted, is that a lot of buyers are slow to pull the trigger. “Before the first open house, potential buyers have already done their research — and walked or driven by the house multiple times. Some of them are Facebook ‘stalkers’ who’ve researched the sellers!”

She derives the most satisfaction from working with buyers and helping them find a home where they’ll be happy and want to stay.

And she said she’s already learned from the best. “Barbie Haynes is among the best. She’s that authentic, relatable agent, in addition to being a wonderful woman.” She added, “I’ve already had that teachable moment: You can still be an honest, ethical person in this very competitive business.”

Doherty’s the first to admit that being a realtor and the mother of young children (and class mom at both Rye Presbyterian Nursery School and Milton School) requires a lot of juggling. “It takes a village. Luckily, Rye is an amazing village.”

On a recent Friday on which she had an appointment with a buyer, she got a flat tire. “Joe from Rye Brook Service came to get my car. My friend sent her husband to get me. I borrowed their car and made it to the appointment with five minutes to spare,” she recalled with a smile.

“Right now I’m trying to get my friends from high school to move here. That’s one of my dreams.”

By Chris Cohan

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enjoy an attractive, colorful garden without spending all your free time working at it? It can be done. All it takes is some know-how about the right plants and techniques. Find out about easy-care trees, shrubs, and perennials before you plant, and you’ll save time and money well into the future.

Five Lazy Principles

  1. Choose plants that are known to be reliable and problem-free for your garden and ones that won’t outgrow the space you are working with.
  2. Reduce the size of your lawn or eliminate it entirely.
  3. Prepare the soil well before planting, so plants get a strong start.
  4. Mulch to reduce weeds and conserve soil moisture.
  5. If watering is a necessity, install an automatic system or drip line.

Right Plant, Right Place

Considering the dizzying array of choices available at nurseries, choosing the best will require a little research. Start by making a list of plants you like. Consult gardening books, magazines and, go back and read The Rye Record gardening columns for answers (a bit of self-promotion).

A common mistake is to choose plants that look right on planting day, and then rapidly outgrow their space, creating a continual maintenance headache. Unlike static architecture that looks best the day it is finished; a landscape design should look best about five years later.

Look for compact varieties of well-known plants. Many favorites, such as spirea, spruce and holly are now available in compact forms that will suit the scale of smaller gardens. It costs more for growers to raise dwarf varieties because they usually grow more slowly than their full-size cousins, but the extra initial cost pays off over time because such plants need minimal if any pruning.

Named varieties resist pests and diseases that plague the common species. ‘Prairie fire’ Crabapple is resistant to both apple scab and fire blight, and ‘Carefree Delight’ Rose is rarely troubled by black spot, a common rose disease and Miss Lingard Phlox for early season white and Glamour Girl for late season strong pink, both native, attract butterflies and powdery mildew resistant. Choosing disease-resistant varieties will result in fewer pests, and ultimately this translates into lower maintenance.

Some Practicalities

There’s no real trick to proper plant spacing. If a plant’s mature width is 3 feet, it needs about half that distance all the way around. But if your plants are slow-growing or if you want them to grow together and look as one eventually, space them closer. This will also minimize weeds in ground cover.

Mulch is a very effective weed deterrent. If a weed sprouts through the mulch, it is easy to pull with roots intact. Spread a 3-inch layer of shredded bark mulch between the plants. Shredded bark, as opposed to nuggets or chips, provides the best coverage. Mulch adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down. It also shades the soil in summer and insulates it in winter. Add a light topdressing of mulch at the beginning of each season to provide coverage and freshen up your beds.

Even if plants require minimal maintenance, water and fertilizer are still essential. A drip irrigation system on a timer eliminates the need to stand with a hose or to move sprinklers around. Watering for a long time occasionally is healthier for plants than a lot of water over a short period. Invest in a drip or soaker hose, drip irrigation or more elaborate system. Since most of the water goes underground, drip irrigation cuts down on weed growth, particularly in dry summer. Water early before sunrise to ensure most water goes to plants and doesn’t evaporate.

Enriching the planting hole will ensure a healthier plant. Start by saving topsoil, then mix with homemade compost, peat moss if your soil is heavy, or scavenged topsoil from a corner of yard. My favorite additive is the cleanings from gutters, packed downspouts and drain traps. This source is usually full of worms and their casings which plants like. Use the remaining soil to create a moat to retain water around trunk. To make fertilizing a snap, use an organic slow-release fertilizer where one application can last an entire season.

For fencing and garden benches, use cedar or other rot-resistant wood. No paint, stain, or fuss when you let it weather naturally.

There you have it. Now back to the hammock.

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