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Filtering by Category: americana

Christy Jo Stone + Serving Southern Sweetness

Ben Ashby

CHRISTY JO STONE

the fruit tea chicks

The tiny town of Hartsville, Tennessee, and its surrounding countryside, with its rolling pastures, southern charm and small-town sensibility, provides the perfect palate for Christy Jo Stone to grow her businesses, raise her kids and serve up her signature blend of deliciously refreshing fruit tea. From her family’s farm outside of town, she has transformed a shed into a beautiful space for creating teas, hosting her annual Strawberry Patch Barn Sale and making plans for the future of the Fruit Tea Chicks.

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I live in Hartsville, Tennessee, the same town where I was raised. Trousdale County is the smallest county in Tennessee. It’s predominately a farming community. Like so many others, I grew up in a broken home. My parents divorced when I was in the fourth grade, at which time we moved from Lafayette to Hartsville, which are about 15 miles apart.

Growing up in a small town, I never felt comfortable expressing myself and lived somewhat of a caged-up
life I guess you could say. I really didn’t recognize this until I got older (probably in college) and more in touch with my inner-self. In small towns, it’s not always easy to be “different.” In fact, it was frowned upon, so I chose to conform.


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As I got into high school, I quickly realized if I ever wanted to unleash the beast within, I would have to get the heck outta dodge. So I did. I headed south to Ole’ Miss, which was not a good choice in terms of proper places to unleash the beast! It was one of the most uniform schools I have ever been to, with lots of old money, beautiful people and rich southern gals—none of which applied to me.

I left there after one-and-a-half years and transferred to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where I ended up getting my degree in psychology. While there, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Australia, where I backpacked and lived in hostels for four months. I made this journey all alone, and it’s where my passion for handmade, color and pastry shops came alive. The inner beast was finally released!

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In 2003, I became a stay-at-home mom and a member of the local garden club. Each month we had a potluck, and my “dish” was always my homemade fruit tea. The little old ladies would fluff me up about how good it was and make me feel proud of myself. I started with just a basic recipe, but before long, I was super-bored with it. I started tinkering with the recipe, adding fresh puréed fruits and such.

That worked on a small scale, but when I started the business, that recipe just didn’t work. I finally perfected my own unique recipe using fruit juices, concentrates and a few other specialty blends which have stood the test of time. It’s the one I hope to use until my tea-making days are over.

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I used to journal and doodle a lot. About a year ago, I cleaned out my sewing room and found a journal entry dated June 2009. In it, I had written about my dreams to start my first Barn Sale—The Strawberry Patch—and how I wanted to sell my homemade fruit tea by the jug. I had forgotten I had a vision for my tea, way back when. All these fruit tea ideas finally came together in July 2016 when I did my very first show at Swanky Plank at Rippa Villa.

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I’m completely self-taught with my own cooking. I grew up eating good-old southern food like pinto beans and cornbread, where the only seasoning used was salt, pepper and lard. Being a single mom with three kids going three directions, I never get enough time home to cook. I don’t like frozen or boxed dinners. I love food blogs and pics.

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I’m not sure if it is because of the artfulness of the picture, the staging and styling of it or the beauty of the finished product itself. I’m fascinated by chefs and their ability to create a piece of art using food. I love cookbooks like “The Plantiful Table” and “Whole Food Energy.” I love the pictures in them just as much.

At the end of the day, I’m a single mom without any formal training who is chasing her dreams and doing the best she possibly can. My greatest dream is to deliver a creative product that people will want as a staple item in their pantry for years to come.

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“I’m good at fruit tea—that about sums it up!”

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Summertime Tea

Fresh berries for muddling (such as strawberries or blueberries)

Three parts fruit tea
One part gin
Thyme or rosemary for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle your choice of fresh fruit. Pour in the fruit tea and gin then add ice and shake. Serve on or off the rocks and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.


A Tour of Village Common

Ben Ashby

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VILLAGE COMMON

A PEAK INSIDE THE CATSKILLS SHOP

 

They're one of our favorite candle brands. We've known Ben and Blake of Village Common for years, long before they created their continually growing brand. Back in the fall we popped into their Catskill, New York shop to see the new space and to learn more about the brand and their journey into retail. 

 


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Who are you? The Village Common - Blake Hays and Ben Lebel

What is the story behind Village Commons? Beginning in 1968, and from where we get our name, the first Village Common opened its doors in Avenel, New Jersey. It was run by Grandma Bernadette, current owner Ben Lebel’s grandmother. In its first incarnation, Village Common was an antique store of carefully selected, fine pieces from all eras. Grandma Bernadette also had beautiful plants and flowers for sale on the front porch that always attracted passers by to stop in. 

In 1984, the Village Common moved to Stroudsburg, Pa., on the property of the Stroudsmoor Country Inn, and was re-imagined into a country store by Susan Lebel, Bernadette’s daughter and Ben’s mother. Antiques were still available alongside candles, soaps, homemade canned goods, and unique gift ideas. Susan has since blossomed this once country store into a thriving floral and decor studio. 

 From our southern roots, Billy Hays, current owner Blake Hays’ grandfather, opened his first country store in Pineville, Louisiana in 1960. It served as a vintage bodega; offering local produce and custom goods. Because of the construction of the new “American Highway”, Billy moved and opened his second store in 1978. This time offering mouth watering barbecue and other country store favorites. After years of serving his community, he decided to close the doors to his store. 

We bring to you a new installment of these family traditions blended together. Creating handmade, natural apothecary goods, kindled by their family history, we are continuing the legacy of the Village Common.

 

 

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Why did you want to become a maker? I believe it’s just who we are and born to be. We were always making something as individuals and as partners. We saw the yearning for quality goods and something besides the mundane or what was available at every corner store. We wanted to create that for people. We also found a beautiful community of makers in the Hudson Valley and Catskill region of New York and wanted to contribute our skills and heritage to the movement. 

TO READ THE FULL STORY PICK UP A COPY OF FOLK SUMMER 2019 HERE

 

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New England Colors; Kyle Finn Dempsey and the Art of Photographing Autumn

Ben Ashby

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Photographer Kyle Finn Dempsey is one of the bests when it comes to documenting the changing colors of New England. We are continually inspired by his work. We sat down with him to learn more about shooting the best shots of autumn's many colors....

 

"Fall feels like a dream in New England. It's not about big grand views here, but about little nooks and crannies and a vast variety of colors."

 

My name is Kyle Finn Dempsey and I live in the hills of Western Massachusetts. I go by the name Huck because my best friend and I were (and still are) a modern day version of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. We've always called each other that, and if you spent an afternoon with us, wandering around the forest barefoot, it'd all start to make sense. I grew up along the Westfield river and and currently live in the same area. I will never let go of my spot, it's my zen and I plan to keep it in the family forever. 

 

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Fall feels like a dream in New England. It's not about big grand views here, but about little nooks and crannies and a vast variety of colors. There's not many other places in the country (or world) that you can find so many different trees who's leaves change color at once. The colors I show in my photos are very real. Of course I put my own spin on them with my edits, but when you're on a fall drive here, you're going to see colors you won't believe. From rich golden yellows on the birch trees, bright red oak and swamp maple leafs, bright orange sugar maple, orange & gold beach leaves and everything in between. Sometimes the colors are so bright they look fake in person. It's seriously jaw dropping.

 

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My favorite places to shoot in New England for the fall are southern Vermont and right near my house in western MA. Southern Vermont always turns about a month early, and is very swampy, so the colors are extremely rich and vibrant. All near me is small valleys and winding backroads, which are my absolute favorite places to explore and shoot. I love traditional New England fall scenes as well as finding new ways to share fall that not many people have seen. Each Northeast state has his own unique flavor to offer, along with classic scenes that come to find when you think of fall. If you want guaranteed color and good views, try the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

 

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One of my favorite towns near me that celebrates fall very well is Ashfield, Ma. It's an incredibly quaint little town with a lake in the middle, a rope swing and a beach, a pizza shop and and an old fashion hardware store. There's always something going on, and in the fall, they have a fantastic little festival in the common lawn. Local crafts and garden vegetables, local music and everything else you can imagine that fits into a small town fairytale. The singer Ray LaMontagne actually has a home in Ashfield. It's one of Massachusetts biggest hidden gems. Keep that between you & I.

 

Peak season is generally right around mid October, though it depends on where you are and how the season is developing. In Southern Vermont, peak was probably October 5th. Here in Western Ma, we're just past peak, and its Oct. 22nd. I'm heading up to southern Maine tomorrow to stay in a tree house, and from what I've heard they are pretty much at peak.

 

I became a photographer when I was 19 or so. I used to rap and make music videos, and I got a camera so I could do all my own media by myself. I didn't seriously start shooting until I was a junior or senior in college. I'm 25 now, and I've been doing photography and video work full time for about 3 years.

 

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Tips for capturing autumn- Check near swamps, rivers and ponds. Try shooting with a drone if possible to find unique formations from above and go places that no one knows about. Drive down backroads near water sources and see what you find. Some of the best colors happen in the places you least expect. Also, overcast and rainy days are will enhance the foliage by about 50%. Sometimes it looks like there's no color on a bright sunny day, and then the next day it rains, the colors shine bright and you're like "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!?"

 

— @KYLEFINNDEMPSEY

 

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