My love for travel, especially travel with my family in tow, comes from the fact that almost always I come away with a new dimension of me and of my kids. The more unique the trip, the more opportunities I have to discover something new about all of us. Thus, those are usually the trips that I am remember the most.
This particular trip was for a weekend stay at Stony Creek Farmstead where we got to spend some time in a working farm and even got to help out a little.
Stony Creek provides guest with spacious tents that comfortably fit a family of five like mine. A master bedroom, canopy bed, and two bunk beds in a separate room along with a flushing toilet, a wood burning cooking stove, and a dining/living room area provide all the comforts one could need. The beds are comfortable and each tent comes with towels, linens, kitchen, and dining supplies. The shower house at Stony Creek, located away from the tent, but at walking distance, does have electric lighting, and warm and cold running water. I thought the showers were really nicely set up. The interior was made up of cedar wood and gave the feel of a nice, spa-like space, which was both secure and comfortable.
With no electricity, and in our case, no wifi or phone service from our tent, we were completely set up to commune with nature, and each other.
I truly wasn’t sure what to expect, but the drive through the Catskills Mountains and into Walton, NY really set the tone for what would turn out to be an amazing weekend.
We arrived at Stony Creek Farm around 6:30PM Thursday night (there is a 3-night minimum). When you first arrive you are welcomed by the sights of a beautiful, over 100-year-old red barn. The kids were so excited as we drove up to it they began singing Old MacDonald’s in unison (well, the little ones anyway). The farm is owned and run by Kate and Dan Marsiglio, a young couple with two beautiful children, who share a love for farming, good food and nutrition, and education. We were greeted by Kate who quickly got us settled in.
We parked close to the barn house, boys spilling out of the car in excitement. Kate showed us the Farm Store where guests can come and collect a various selection of items from meats to dry goods, most directly from the farm, to take back to the tent.
The tents also come with some basic cooking necessities such as salt, pepper, olive oil, etc., but I would say, if you can, bring those from home and save your money for the more amazing purchases such as their meats from their organic-fed and free-range livestock, home-made breads and other baked goods, as well as cheeses, fresh veggies, and greens. Bring some board games too in case you experience a few rainy days and/or nights.
The tent we were assigned, one of six on the farm, was located a short distance away past the barn, the shower house, across a short bridge passing over a small creek, past a chicken coop, and almost hidden behind some trees.
We were all immediately impressed. No matter how unappealing “no electricity, no wifi, and no phone service” may sound to some, the tents are definitely top-notch. Kate had carried over a large cast-iron kettle full of some of the gardens’ picks (can be pre-ordered for $20) as well as some of their very own beef cuts. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with myself as the boys ran out into the field to investigate all there was to see, so I cooked. I had already selected some fresh goat and hard cheese and crackers from the farm store, but the boys wanted more than that for dinner. My husband lit up some candles and I went to work. The end result was one of the most fresh, delicious beef stew dishes I have ever made.
And many more amazing dishes followed after. The kids loved selecting their own eggs from the chicken coop. They also watched as the farmers butchered a chicken, de-feathered it, and prepped it for cooking. My 4 year old even participated in the washing off! We later grilled two of the chickens on the grill out side our tent and sat at one of the picnic tables and had dinner al fresco. Watching the milking of the cow wasn’t one of their favorite things to do, but it sure was mine. Even more fun was making butter from the cream, and I was thrilled when Kate agreed to let me taste some of the raw milk she gives her own children every day. Kate also makes some of the best home-made bread and blueberry muffins ever, and had some warm bread for us on our last day there to eat with our home-made butter! (Thanks Kate!)
Nightfalls at the farm where heavenly. The sky fills up with fire flies. The sounds of bull frogs croaking and the trickling water from the creek add to the sense of peace you experience while there. The soft candle light gleaming in our tent, along with the warmth offered from our wood burning stove (as well as being disconnected from everything else) inspired games, stories, conversations, and more laughter than we ever manage to share together during our evenings at home in NYC.
But as wonderful as evenings were, the mornings at our tent are really hard to describe in words. One morning we woke up to the sounds of rain falling. The birds were happily chirping and the light entering through our tent windows was gentle on our sleepy eyes. Our hope that morning had been to watch the milking of the cow, however, the cool chill in the air had invited the little ones into our bed, where we talked about our favorite colors, flavors of ice cream, and sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” over and over.
All three boys delighted in the opportunities of long ventures up the creek without their parents in tow. They would return to us much later looking a wet, muddy, happy mess.
Even more delightful and fun was Pizza Night (extra fee applies), where we each got to make our own pizzas and watch as Kate and Dan would put them in a man-made stone and wood oven. Here we met their parents, as well as the apprentices they often take on to teach them the ways of organic and small-scale farming. It rained like crazy that last afternoon there. Still it sincerely was one of those perfect moments of coming together with family and just enjoying each other’s company over great food and conversation.
We had the fortune of having two incredibly sweet hosts.
This is definitely not the type of retreat where you will be waited on hand and foot, though if we needed anything at all, all we had to do was ask. However, these are, as I mentioned before, working farms, and the work still needs to be done, part of which is the charm. We were invited to observe, ask questions, and were even taken on a tour where the kids (as well as the adults) learned a lot about how the farm works, and the philosophy of those who run it and how they incorporate that into how they produce the food which we ate the entire time we were there.
Our family loved the experience. If you have kids and want to give them the experience of life on a farm, or just want to get away from the busy-ness of the city, and are looking for a more secluded, simple escape, this is really a great option.
This is a place where dirty hands and feet are part of your day, but so is the sound of laughter and happy children, as well as the occasional mooing cow, barking dog, and clucking chickens. This is a place where the schedule is what you want it to be, and you learn as much about the space you are in as you want to, and we learned a lot! It’s a place where you disconnect from the hectic world and reconnect as a family, while surrounded by the wonders of nature and really, good, natural food. It is a place where you just might learn something new and wonderful about yourself, and your family as well. Plus, if you are as lucky as we were and end up having hosts as great as we did, it will be a place you’ll want to return to more than once.