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Garden Lifestyle

Gardeners Dig Country Living

Fans of the country lifestyle flock together every year to celebrate a simpler way of life.

  • Fans of country living flocked to the fair in search of one-of-a-kind finds.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Handmade seed-starting pots feature porous walls that help keep seeds moist and need watering just once a week.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Blue Jade corn is an heirloom variety now offered by The Hudson Valley Seed Library.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • 'Sweeties' everbearing strawberries bloom with pink flowers.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The Rockerbox Spice Company's booth was filled with garlic dust and artisanal spice mixes. The jars of pickled garlic cloves is something vegetable gardeners could try making at home.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • There were barns filled with rusty old implements at the Country Living Fair, but these hand-powered tools weren't for decoration when they were new.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The basket display in the Antique Musem Village shows how each basket's design serves a specific purpose.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

There’s a little something for everyone at the Country Living Fairs held in cities across the country each year. In addition to several hundred antiques dealers, there’s plenty to see, do and eat at these celebrations of the country lifestyle, no matter where you live.

I had the chance to get an up-close view of the fair in Rhinebeck, N.Y., earlier this summer. I came away with a some new ideas for vegetable gardening and an appreciation of the area’s rich agricultural history.

Among the hundreds of antique booths, I scoured the fair looking for tools and products aimed at vegetable gardeners. Here are just a few that I found especially interesting:

The Hudson Valley Seed Library booth was filled with organic vegetable plants, seed packets and items to make gardening easier. I thought the Orta pots are a brilliant idea for starting seeds for the vegetable garden. These handmade self-watering seed starting pots are made of terracotta and need watering only once a week. Each pocket has porous walls that wick water from the inner reservoir to keep seeds moist. 

Packets of the Seed Library’s new ‘Blue Jade’ corn seeds also attracted my attention. This heirloom corn grows steel-blue kernels on pint-sized plants. The ears are small, but they’re said to pack plenty of sweet corn flavor. Like all of Hudson Valley Seed Library seeds, ‘Blue Jade’ corn has a special art pack illustration.

I wasn’t able to bring home any of the strawberry plants I saw, but I already regret it. The everbearing ‘Sweeties’ strawberries feature delicate pink flowers, something I hadn’t seen before. These strawberry plants are advertised as hardy to pests and able to produce fruit all summer long. 

At the Rockerbox Spice Company’s booth, I fell for the hand-made spices that included an assortment of artisanal spice blends and pure garlic and onion dust. Also for sale were jars of pickled garlic cloves, something vegetable gardeners could try at home.

The antiques filled up every inch of the barns on the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, except for one. Walking into the Antique Museum Village barn was like stepping back in time to get a glimpse of what real country living was all about when this area was first settled.

Each display features a different aspect of country life as a reminder that country living isn’t just about using old tools, buckets, ladders and such for decorating. When those tools were new they made working and living on a farm just a little bit easier.

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