A mere hour from the concrete jungle that is New York City, beyond the Lincoln Tunnel, lies a land of verdant farms and bucolic landscapes! Who knew? Newton is a remnant of antebellum America and was officially incorporated by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 11, 1864. The arrival of the area’s first railroad in 1854 brought rapid commercial and residential growth. Construction of the Merriam Shoe Factory in 1873 introduced the modern factory system to Sussex County (where Newton lies) and inaugurated the town’s age of industry boom and sprawl.
Here’s a dandy little description of the town during the 19th century, found here: The town lies upon the slope of a gentle hill, of mingled slate and limestone, at whose foot a spring sends forth the first waters of the Paulinskill, the chief river of the county … Some of the dwellings are very neat: the place has an air of business, and there is in fact a very considerable trade carried on with the surrounding country. In healthiness of situation, by the report of the inhabitants, it cannot be excelled. – Thomas Gordon, 1834.
With a population of less than 8,000 people, I am not sure so much has changed since those first days. I say this lovingly. Sometimes the ebb and flow of NYC is overwhelming, the sheer speed of evolution juxtaposed with the lack of wildlife can be trying. Sometimes, all I want to do is meander into the woods and lose myself in a leaf pile or examine the way stones skip on water. This is simply not possible in my urban existence. So, every now and then, my boyfriend and I get an invitation to escape the confines of the city and play at farm life. It was reinvigorating!
This past Sunday we travelled a mere 60 miles to Newton, New Jersey. Those 60 miles might as well be 100 years worth of construction and growth. The brick facades of Main Street and farm-stands lining the streets transported me to another era! The slight chill in the air and the foliage oscillating between red, yellow, brown and green all helped to make last weekend one of the most relaxing I have ever had – a perfect autumnal experience!
Like my wooden name tag made with tree bark and a Sharpie? We all got to personalize our own! Please note, the table runners were burlap potato sacks!
Peter from Spirit Family Reunion made me with wonderful portrait while taking a break from playing! He drew this in a mere 20 seconds!
The BBQ was complete with tomato bread salad, homegrown collared greens, roasted chicken, pulled pork, goat cheese beet salad, potato rolls and fried potatoes! We also played badminton, hula hoop, croquet and bean-bag toss. By the time we had finished drinking apple cider and pumpkin ale, we were all feeling pretty nicely warm and slightly buzzed. The band, Spirit Family Reunion, began to play their jug-handle, washboard, spoon-fed folk tunes on top of a grassy hill. Spirit Family Reunion plays homegrown American music that’s easy to stomp, clap, shake and holler with. As Paste Magazine writes, “Ever since they started singing together on the street corners, farmer’s markets and subway stations of New York City, their songs have rung-out in a pure and timeless way. When Spirit Family Reunion gather to sing, there is communion. Strangers and neighbors come to rejoice in the sound, and there is no divide between performer and spectator.” This magical afternoon was no exception.
Who needs a bucket of ice?
Have you ever seen “hearty kiwis”? They are able to be grown in New Jersey! Surprise!
Goodbye nature and time to head back to NYC! Do you ever take a “staycation” – a small weekend getaway that might as well be on another continent it feels so different?