Stomping Grounds

The Mountain Farmgirl will be heading for the hills again soon, but this week she is trekking through her old stomping grounds … taking a stroll down memory lane. Join her for some childhood nostalgia in … Stomping Grounds.

Twice a year I take a mini-vacation to visit my mother and the area in which I grew up, which I refer to as my old ‘stomping grounds’. This area, called the Hudson Valley/lower Catskills of New York, is about 400 miles from my mountain home in New Hampshire. I like to spend time visiting with my mom because even though I talk on the phone to her almost every single day, I just feel so far away from her the rest of the year.

You may remember me writing about the dear friend we lost at Christmas time in that freaky sea disaster. Frankly, that was one of life’s defining moments for me, much like other major turning points such as getting married, having kids, September 11th … (need I say more about that?), and the reinventing of myself as an innkeeper. Prescott’s untimely death changed me forever, and I have looked at life as the gift that it is ever since. (Not that I didn’t appreciate it before … but somehow I now cherish each moment more and realize that I cannot take any of them for granted).

This is my first visit since that loss, and I am seeing my old home, my school, and my friends & family who still reside here through different eyes. My 10-day trip is waning as I write this; it is going so fast! I’ve spent half of it at my mom’s house doing projects with her, and the rest visiting special friends and relatives, and seeing places that have meaning for me. My oldest son Christopher flew in to NH to drive down with me and we had some golden moments together before he drove back to his Pittsburgh home. On one of our first days here we went to have lunch at the beautiful home of our long-time family friends, Lee and Angela.

So basically this week I’d like to share some of the people and places that have meaning to me, and to remind everyone how very important it is to spend time with loved ones, even if it is hard to make the time and the distance is far. As my sister reminds me, “No one ever lay on his deathbed wishing that he had worked more!” It’s the people and the places that have touched us that we need to make time for … and most importantly, to let them know how special they are to us. Don’t you agree?

Here are some highlights of my trip, starting with our 26-year old married son Christopher, who spent a week helping my husband and me at our inn before sharing the long drive down to New York State with me.

Here he is with my mom at her house. Chris calls her ‘Amah’, a childhood name he had for her that stuck! Amah is a fantastic cook, and extremely talented as a knitter! I am the lucky recipient of dozens of creations from her needles over the years … from hats, scarves and mittens, to knitted coats and sweaters. This trip I had the pleasure of being able to repay her a tiny bit for all these beautiful things by helping her with a project she is making: a Noah’s Ark baby quilt and knitted stuffed animals, which she is making and donating to one of the many organizations she helps with. It will be raffled off to help raise money for scholarships. Knitting together and creating this amazing project has been quality mother-daughter time. Do any of you have projects you have made together with your mom, a sister or a cherished friend?



Our next project before I leave is to work on a dollhouse that she is restoring. Unfortunately, I will only have time to re-stucco the outside of it for her, but this is a long-term project which will still welcome future input from me the next time I visit in the fall! The dollhouse was made for my mom when she was 5 years old, by her great-uncle. It is a 2-story, 8-room house with amazing architectural details, and all the more precious because it was made by a cherished relative and has many memories. Over the next year or so, she will be re-wiring the electric lines which illuminate the inside; putting down some tile and linoleum floors, painting and wallpapering the interior, and decorating it with period furniture. It is a real treasure which I will inherit someday. Right now the first and second floors are separated so that they can be worked on more easily, but when finished, it will be a 2-story house. (You all know how much I love tiny houses, right? Well, this one is so adorable, I am tempted to move into it myself!). I have stuccoed the outside, painted the trim and the roof, but I am out of time. The rest will have to wait.


One day before Chris had to leave we visited my great-grandparent’s house, which is now a simply gorgeous restaurant called Valeria’s. This home was built at the turn of the century, and we experienced a fabulous meal as I tried to picture my mother’s ancestors on the magnificent stairways from the dining room all the way up to the third floor!

While I’ve been here in New York I’ve made time to visit some special people. Here is my Farmgirl friend extraordinaire, Joani, which whom I spent an overnight and who then later came to have tea with my mom and me. Joani is my best friend and a kindred spirit:

My daughter-in-law Dana (my son Noah’s wife) is originally from this part of New York as well. I spent a delightful afternoon with her mom, my friend Rowena, catching up on the comings and goings of the past year since their wedding. It was a wonderful day!

Here is my old school, which I often passed on my travels. The one on the right was a Kindergarten through 12th grade school all under one roof when I attended it at the age of 5!! The other is my old high school, which I graduated from in 1972!! Now did THAT time go?!


This is one of my favorite places on earth, our old family homestead-now-museum called the Bull Stone House. It used to be within walking distance of the home I grew up in, and was originally built in 1722 by ancestors William Bull and Sarah Wells. Our family spent many wonderful days there over the years, working and volunteering. I love to go by it each time I go home:

Our former Pastor and his wife (my friend) Barbara, will finally be retiring this spring from 24 incredible years of service. (Actually, they are calling it “re-firing”!) because they are all fired up for the next phase of their lives and the exciting new directions that God is leading them. Barbara and I had to have tea one day and catch up on all the family news! Here is Barbara on the left with friend Phyllis.

Speaking of family, visiting my brother Donny, his extremely artistic and talented wife Jeanie, and my niece and nephew, Danny and Lori (of whom I’m extremely proud!) is always a must! We very much missed our sister this time, (the one who LAUGHS and always has us in stitches) … other commitments kept her in her native state of Florida. We miss you, Sue!

My 5th Grade teacher, Av, is a dear family friend whom we always see when we visit. Av started an awesome natural history museum years ago, and instilled in me a love of science and nature. Our 5th grade classroom was amazing, and to show you that she could accomplish absolutely ANYTHING with her students, I used to wear our classroom mascot George around my neck!!! (George, by the way, was a very long, very docile black snake, and if you were to get me to do it today, you would have to kill me first … but Av made it seem like the most natural thing in the world!).

My friend Ricky came over for dinner one evening. Ricky and I have been best-friends since the First Grade! We had a great evening.

One of the highlights of my trip was an overnight with my mom to visit my Aunt Ruth (who is like a second mother to me) and my cousin Barb, who is like an honorary sister! We are very close. Barb celebrated a milestone birthday while we were there, and commemorated it with her debut vocal performance in concert with a prestigious group called the New Jersey Chamber Singers. It was awesome!! I am always amazed at how music can reach so deeply into our hearts and minds and stir so many emotions within us. From the Funeral Ikos by John Travener, to pieces by Fred Gramann and Lili Boulanger, and ending with the Durufle Requiem, I was transported to new heights and back, and overcome with emotion several times.


I still have 3 days left before I leave, and yet I still managed to get an adjustment from my trusted chiropractor; fit in a 1-hour therapeutic massage on my tight-as-a-drum neck and shoulders by one of his associates; get Chinese take-out at our favorite Chinese restaurant, eat out a both an Indian and a Thai restaurant … and beat my mother 5 times (so far) at a word game called Quiddler. (Sorry mom!).

Of course none of this would be possible without my sweet husband and son Joshua staying home and tending the home fires at the inn. Thank you, thank you, guys … I appreciate this time more than you know. I’ll see you soon. In the meantime, Friends, thanks for letting me share. I guess the best advice I have is to remind you to make and spend time with people who are important to you, in places that have special meaning. I’d love to hear about some of those adventures, either big or small you have experienced. Until next time,


Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from
The Mountain Farmgirl


By: Adrienne
On: 04/15/2013 12:12:14
It sounds like you had a wonderful time and I'm so glad you made your trip a priority. Too many people are too busy to see a friend until it's too late. Gathering at a memorial service after someone has left the earthly realm is a nice gesture but empty. Time is more important than money: you can always get more money but you can't get more time. You have all the time there is and you have no idea how much time you have left. Making the best use of your time is so very important. I hope you and yours are happy, healthy and successful until your next visit.
By: Carol Norwood
On: 04/15/2013 17:54:50
Cathy ... Great post! It sounds like you are having a wonderful time at your old "stomping grounds". The one thing that compelled me to write is about your mother's dollhouse. Please be sure to have your mother write down the story about who made it, when it was given to her, etc. and take a picture of the house with you and her if you can. This is a precious, family heirloom and documentation like that is so important, in my opinion! Thanks! Carol
By: Betty Benesi
On: 04/17/2013 13:01:03
I think it's so great you were able to take this trip. I live pretty much in the same area I grew up, but I know no one here anymore that I grew up with. My brothers and sister live reasonably close by so we see each other often.
And I am really sorry, but the first thing I thought when I saw the picture of your husband was "I want that breakfast."
By: Jan Shook
On: 04/18/2013 17:00:09
Cathi, thank you so much for reminding me of the importance of staying connected. I have a small family of origin left, but I have tried this year to put some resentments behind me and just forgive. My children (grown) and husband are so precious and often prayer is our connection. Thanks again for sharing.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir