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March
21

By Henry Higgins

As old man winter heads north, Western Massachusetts begins to come out of hibernation. With the rebirth of spring comes april showers, may flowers, and a glimpse into the warm months ahead. When the ground thaws out, so do the people. Spring time in Western Massachusetts means farmers' markets, parades, and spring festivals which draw crowds from around New England and beyond. In Northampton, be sure to catch the annual pride parade. The pride parade is a festival that celebrates love, freedom of choice, and the leaps and bounds of social progress that started right here in the north east. The pride parade began in 1982 and marches right through downtown Northampton. 

Northampton also boasts the Paradise City Arts Festival, a seriously impressive display of local, as well as artists from around the country, ranging from woodworkers to metalworkers to pottery and more. Come and explore the beauty of what area craftspeople have to offer. According to Yankee Magazine "The Northampton visual arts scene explodes at the Paradise City Arts Festival, an extravaganza of 200-plus top-notch craftspeople and fine artists that's been dazzling shoppers since 1995." The Paradise City Arts Festival runs May 25, 26, and 27. Price of admission is $14, and is located at the Three County Fair Grounds in Northampton off of Route 9.

Northampton doesn't have all the fun though. Right across the river, Amherst hosts the Daffodil Run, a fun and exciting 5k that brings together the community to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Be sure to look out for the Jones Group Team, who will be participating in the walk. The walk begins and ends at Kendrick park in the center of Amherst. A bit later into spring, Amherst hosts "The Taste of Amherst." According to the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, "The event, organized jointly by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID), and presented by Atkins Farms Country Market, is filled with food, family, and fun!." According to Amherst locals, the Taste of Amherst is an awesome event where many restaurants from Amherst convene on the common and offer a wide array of culinary options." Amherst Locals are also excited that the event has been extended a day.

Additionally, folks interested in heading to Amherst can also check out the Amherst Town Fair, sponsored by the Amherst Rotary Club, which occurs May 22-27. Here you can find all the typical fair events, from fried dough to rides for everyone in the family. Amherst Town Fair is featured on the Amherst Town Common.  (Photo from Amherst BID)

September
24

Henry HiggensBy Henry Higgins

As summer draws to a close and cooler temperatures begin to creep in, your yard might be yearning for a boost of color and texture. The summer bloomers have done their work in making your yard look beautiful, and now it is their turn to rest and let the fall bloomers steal the show. Fall can be a wonderful time to plant: for one, the act of planting itself won't be horribly unpleasant as it can be in the summertime, and it also has distinct planting benefits that the summer does not. The cooler autumn air is much easier on the plants, and yet the soil is still warm allowing the plants to root and grow until the first frost. Fall also surpasses spring for good days to plant, as in spring unpredictable rain and weather can make working the soil difficult. Fall planting can also be better for your pocketbook, as local garden centers start to hold sales to get rid of their inventory before the colder weather sets in. So now that I've told you why fall is the best time to plant, allow me to give you some insight into what you should plant to give life to your garden.

Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. The cooler temperatures limit stress on the plant, and the warm soil allows them to establish a strong root system before the cooler weather approaches. Some of my favorite shrubs include: Mountain Fire Pieris (also referred to as Mountain Fire Lily of the Valley), a deciduous shrub that has deep red leaf that transitions into a deep green. Limelight Hydrangea, also a deciduous shrub, blooms as white and then transitions to a pink/red. Last but not least is Japanese Beautyberry. Beautyberry is a shrub that produces a copious show of purple berries in fall that appear after the pink flowers fade away.  The foliage is deep green, tinged with purple. The purpling is most pronounced in fall when the berries appear. In terms of trees, the maples steal the show in the fall. The "Autumn Fiesta" Sugar Maple turns to a deep orange/red, although experts say it shows much more orange than other Sugar Maples. Another Maple that attracts attention in the fall is the "October Glory" Red Maple. There are many other trees that attract attention in fall besides Maples, such as Sweetgum, Oaks, and Sourwood trees.

If you enjoy planting vegetables in the spring, then you will absolutely enjoy planting "cool weather" vegetables in the fall. Fall weather is much more predictable, a plus for the gardener and the plants. Examples of vegetables that love to be planted in the fall include beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts and turnips! Seeds should be planted about 12 to 14 weeks back from your average first frost. Or, if you're impatient like me, visit a local garden store and buy "starts" that have been grown in a nursery. Don't forget to enrich your soil with a compost or aged manure to add micronutrients and give your vegetables the best opportunity for success.

You will guarantee beauty in the spring by planting spring bulbs in the fall. All spring bulbs require a period of cold dormancy to allow them to bloom. To pre-chill, set bulbs in their bags in the refrigerator for 6-10 weeks. Be careful not to put them close to fruit, especially apples, as ripening fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can kill or damage the flower inside of the bulb. Examples of beautiful spring bulbs include: Daffodils, Alliums, Fritillaries, and Snowdrops. Luckily, those bulbs are also bulbs that deer don't like to nibble allowing you to preserve your garden in the spring. Other bulbs that might not be so lucky are Tulips, Dahlias, Crocus, and Iris. Spring bulbs don't like wet feet. Make sure that the area you plant them in is an area that water doesn't accumulate. Also, pay attention to the heights of bulbs in your planting arrangement. Make sure to not plant tall bulbs in front of short!

Fall is a wonderful time. The weather is beautiful, the kids are back in school, the forest transitions into a myriad of deep, rich tones, and with the right plants, your garden will be looking fantastic.

Henry Higgins is an Intern studying Economics at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

April
9

By Sabrina Sparda

Moving can be tough, but moving to the Pioneer Valley makes the prospects seem much brighter! Imagine taking a step out to your back porch and smelling the crisp, sweet air of spring blossoms, complemented by the beauty of the rising sun over the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts. After drinking your morning coffee with the chipping sparrows singing their symphony to you, you go inside and get ready for a day on the town with friends and family. With opportunities and activities ranging from foodie bites, hikes,  arts, music, and more, the Pioneer Valley has just about everything you could fathom for that relaxing day of bonding with your loved ones, and of course, for nurturing a peaceful and happy lifestyle.

Amherst

Amherst is the home of the University of Massachusetts flagship campus, as well a Amherst College and Hampshire College. This college town has a plethora of opportunities for children and parents alike, from toddlers to seniors. For a great show ranging from ballet, to jazz, to theater and chamber choir, stop at the UMass Fine Arts Center. If performance isn't your highest interest, you can still enjoy some of the culture of Amherst with the Emily Dickinson Museum and Beneski Museum of Natural History which features hundreds of real dinosaur fossils! Both museums are in close proximity of each other, with Emily Dickinson's homestead being just across the way from Amherst College, the location of the Beneski Museum of Natural History. After learning all kinds of fun facts at the museums, enjoy a steaming cappuccino or fine glass of whiskey at the detailed whiskey and wine bar, Amherst Coffee. To continue your outing adventure, drive around town just past the rotaries to Atkins Farm Country Market, where I insist that you tantalize your taste buds with their famous apple cider donuts. Inside the fully decked out market you will find fresh local meat and cheeses, bread, hot dishes, local fresh produce, veggies, and fruit! Don't forget to stop into their pastry section and pick up a cheesecake square or two (just because they're my favorite!) If your tummy is grumbling after shopping for all those delicious local groceries, then you can finish off your night with a stop into some of Amherst's favorite restaurants, Judie's or Johnny's Tavern. Judies features a homestyle menu of American cuisine, most famously their popover dishes. Their turkey-"pop"-pie comes as a heaping dish of pot pie, topped off with two delicious flaky popover pastries. If that's not quite your style, then you can head over to Johnny's Tavern, where you'll find Italian style cuisine, flat breads and burgers, softly seared scallops and Italian sausage pizza. If you're looking for a more casual bite, then steer yourself towards two of Amherst's hottest spots, Antonio's Pizza, and Glazed Donuts on North Pleasant St. I've got to say, there's no shortage of excellent food in this sweet little college town.

Northampton

In Northampton, you'll fall in love with a small city that many people consider to be the heart of the Pioneer Valley. Driving or walking into downtown, you'll find an explosion of arts, culture, music, local mom and pop shops, foodie food (delicious and interesting Valley Food as we call it), and much, much more. Truly, this is where my heart lays in the Valley. My day in Northampton often starts with a perfectly frothed latte from the 26 years in the running, Haymarket Café. A staple of Northampton, this café features ornate décor that makes you feel like you've been catapulted back 100 years or more. This living wage, socioeconomically conscious café features a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan options. Following my first stop of the day, I'll mosey around the shops in town, whether that be for some handmade jewelry and local pottery at Pinch, or some comfortable and fashionable clothing from one of the  many stores in Thorne's Market.  Northampton is home to Smith College Campus, with notable alumnae Julia Child, Yolanda King & Gloria Steinem.  Often I  either find myself on the beautiful campus down by the pond renting a canoe or kayak, or in the Smith Botanical Gardens. I have strolled through the many rooms of the botanical gardens as part of a date night out on the town, with friends for an afternoon of natural beauty, or even all on my lonesome, just to relax. By the time I finish up with all those activities, I'm usually hungry again, so I'll stroll over to Homestead, a fresh new restaurant right in the center of town. This beautifully rounded establishment is led by Chef Jeremy Werther, a young and incredibly creative mind who combines flavor profiles in ways that will leave your taste buds dancing. Between the rack of lamb currently on the menu, the seasonally rotating, locally sourced salads, and the array of top notch cheeses used in many of the dishes, this New England Italian style cuisine will blow you out of the water. Make sure to finish your meal off with a delicious dessert like the traditional rich chocolate truffles, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt for the perfect sweet and salty crunch. But hurry in, because the menu is always changing! Often times I will find myself wandering back out to town after dinner, and picking up a thing or two at the lovely Urban Exchange. This luxury consignment shop features top brands like Citizens of Humanity, Frye, Hermes, Madewell, and , in only the best condition. To round out the exciting day, I recommend taking a walk just a bit down the road to Bishops Lounge where you can dance the night away to some of the best local live music in Northampton. If you go on Sunday evenings you can even catch some karaoke, if you're the daring type!  

North Adams

In the curves of the mountain roads, we'll bring you to The Golden Eagle Restaurant in Clarksburg, resting right on the hairpin turn. This lovely little family seafood joint is a well-adored place by most all of the locals, with melt in your mouth lobster and melt your heart views of the mountain ranges. Keep on driving down to the base of the hill, and you'll find MassMOCA, a contemporary art museum with gorgeous exhibits and installations rotating on a regular basis along with music venues.  There are exhibits with commentary on riveting subjects and offers such as socialism, infidelity, and environmental responsibility.

Charlemont

Mosey on up the trail, and soon you'll come across the little town of Charlemont. With plenty of nature surrounding Zoar Outdoor, Crabapple, and Berkshire East Mountain Resort they have the perfect location for outdooring adventures. With Zoar Outdoor and Crabapple offering guided kayaking and whitewater rafting, you'll have a variety of options to cool off in the summer sun. Right across the Deerfield River, you'll reach Berkshire East Ski resort where you'll find a wide range of outdoor adventures for you and the kids, from skiing and boarding, to zip lining, mountain biking, and the thrilling Mountain Coaster, with 3,870 feet of downhill track. This sweet little town has more to offer than simply leaf peeping in the fall.

Shelburne Falls

5-10 more miles down the road, you'll land at the rambling town of Shelburne Falls. Shelburne is full of art, nature, and sweet treats such as the delicious assortment of homemade fudge flavors you can find at Mo's Fudge Factor. Once you've finished your dessert-before-dinner, take a short walk across the Bridge of Flowers;  a world renowned bridge with every square inch covered in bright flowers and   winding vines. Take a right, and walk down the street to the splashing Glacial   Potholes. Here, you'll see an astonishing display of a man-made dam which has revealed massive rocks that have been carved and pushed into beautiful rounded shapes by the rushing water over thousands of years. I've spent hours here before, just admiring the way that nature always perseveres. After a long gaze at the falling water, you can loop back around the 128 year old Iron Bridge, and stop in for a mouthwatering riverside meal at West End Pub. Sink your teeth into one of their local beef burgers, with top of the line ingredients that will elevate your dining experience to a new level. If you're interested in local art as well, you can take a short walk up the hill and peruse the Salmon Falls Art Gallery. There you'll find pieces by artists both locally admired, and world renowned.

Greenfield

Keep going down Route 2 for about 15 miles, and you'll arrive in the upcoming and bustling town of Greenfield.  Dear in my heart, Greenfield offers lots of family fun activities, venues for date night where you can enjoy live music and microbrewery tastings, and much more. On those sprightly spring afternoons, I would take a few mile hike from Sachems Head, which is only .5 miles from the base of the peak, to Poet's Seat which sits about 2 miles away from Sachem's Head. On sunny summer days you might be able to catch the local volunteer firefighters doing training drills near the tower. After a day in the sun, you can head over to Hawk's and Reed Performing Arts Center to hear an excellent local band, watch a stand-up comedy show, or just stop in for an artisanal drink or craft beer that's sure to impress.

Deerfield

Hop on the rotary and down I-91 to Deerfield, and pop into Magic Wings Butterfly Museum, a location reminiscent of a fairytale. Inside the 8,000 square foot facility, there are 4,000 different kinds of exotic and domestic butterflies, and other creatures in the tropical indoor ecosystem. Even if it's a rather drizzly day, as is characteristic of New England springs, you can still keep warm with the tropical temperatures inside this live museum! After you and the kiddos have been amazed by the marvelous show of butterflies, you can hop in the car and take a short 2 mile drive down the road to Wolfies Family Restaurant. Here you'll find yummy home style American comfort food, with a wide range of options from their excellent fresh haddock fish and chips, to their Cajun chicken Caesar salad, to their classic Wolfie Burger, a local favorite (also my top 3 favorites!) On your way out of Deerfield, make sure to pop in and check out Historic Deerfield where you can find homes that date all the way back to 1730!

Montague

If you're looking for more of a secluded or quiet retreat, then cruise on over to Montague, where you'll find a sweet historical town center, an adorable little café, and a mix of younger and well established families perusing the landmarks of town, such as the community library. In this town of book lovers, you'll also happen upon The Montague Book Mill, praised by both The Boston Globe and The New York Times for being one of the most beautiful and pristine place for readers in all of North America. This location, originally a grain mill built in 1834, features a gorgeous babbling waterfall proudly displayed through the massive windows along the backside of the converted barn. This view is one you surely do not want to miss. Once you've sat and enjoyed a crisp coffee, or even a local microbrew draft beer from Lady Killigrew, (the petite but delicious café attached to The Book Mill), I recommend you take a stroll around the back of the building, and grab a 5-star dish from The Alvah Stone. Chef Dave Schrier, the genius of the kitchen, creates wholesome, balanced dishes out of every plate that leaves the kitchen. With all the ingredients sustainably sourced (as it is a core belief of the establishment that any and all food should be sourced this way,) there has never been a dish I have tasted there that did not exceedingly impress. If it's a nice day, I implore you to enjoy your dish out on the patio next to the waterfall, so the rushing water can sing to your ears while your taste buds dance with joy. Wrap up your satisfying visit with a stop up at  the Sawmill River Arts Gallery, where you'll find a range of art from paintings to yarn work to hand crafted jewelry. You can consider this your one stop shop for coffee, cocktails, delicious food, gorgeous views, and fascinating art!

We know, there's so many things to get out and do here in the Valley that it would take a year to get through just this list alone! But we think that is just all the more reason to settle down out here, because after all, who doesn't want to live somewhere that's been coined The Happy Valley?

 

Sabrina Sparda is a UMass Intern pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Individual Concentration (BDIC)

September
28

It is time once again to pack away our sand pails and beach umbrellas, and roll those charcoal grills back  into the garage, because as of September 22, summer 2017 has come to an end and autumn has officially  begun. For many, fall is the greatest time of the year. Living in New England during autumn is full of  wonder, especially in the Pioneer Valley where we are surrounded by majestic mountains and enveloped in  picturesque foliage. Curbed Boston has recently reported that the weather for the last few months has  created the perfect conditions for the brightest, most vibrant foliage New England has seen in the last few  years. To truly grow an appreciation for the environment and the New England terrain, you and your  families should explore the best areas in New England to marvel over the leaf peelings. Curbed Boston   acclaims: Vermont through U.S. 7 through the Green Mountain and Finger Lake National Forests, up  through Maine on U.S. 201 off I-95 is Baxter State Park which is also home to Maine's highest mountain top, Mt. Katahdin, and of course, Massachusetts's 10-mile Minuteman Trail through Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington, to be some of the most panoramic vistas in our part of the country. After you have had your full of leaf-gazing, enjoy many of the most popular events and fall inspired activities this area has to offer all throughout October and November 2017. Funtober reports all of the Massachusetts Festivals, enjoyable to all families and friend groups, throughout Boston, Springfield and Worcester. This weekend the Big-E of West Springfield comes to an end on October 1. The Big E is the largest fair in the Northeast, where in the recent past, around 1 million to 1.5 million people attended over the 2 weeks of its course. At the Big E, you will be delighted by the Mardi Gras parade, the circus spectacular, food contests, arts & crafts, and agricultural competitions. Some of the Oktoberfests throughout Mass are coming to an end this weekend too, on October 1. Catch the last few days of the Duxbury and Mashpee Oktoberfests and Boston's Harpoon Oktoberfest. This year marks Boston's 27th annual Harpoon Oktoberfest where Bay Stators partake in "Harpoon beer, German food, Oompah bands, chicken dancing, keg bowling game, and German chocolate cake-eating contest," located on 306 Northern Avenue, Boston. Later on throughout October, the cities of Douglas, New Bedford and Hadley are hosting their renditions of Oktoberfest, which will take place on October 7 and the 14th respectively. Other than Oktoberfests, food lovers may particularly enjoy WGBH's Food and Wine Festival in Boston, October 5th-8th, where there will be a "Chef's Gala, Wine and Craft Beer Paired Dinners, Brunch Bar, tasting event and Food Fight chef competition," this may well suit a twosome's day out and satisfy those with an appreciation for culinary. For those into performances and live music, Somerville's Honk! Festival will elate your musical palate. Honk! Is best described as, "a festival of activist street bands. You'll hear honking horns, beating drums and see flags waved by people of all ages, classes, ethnicities and backgrounds," which will run from October 6th-8th.  For all of the athletes and sports enthusiasts, partake in the Head of the Charles Regatta, at the Charles River in Boston, where hundreds of thousands gather to row or watch the Regatta, which will be held on October 21st-22nd.  What would autumn be without some form of appreciation of apples? For all of you apple lovers, Franklin County CiderDays has just what you need! Head to Deerfield, Massachusetts on November 3rd-5th and enjoy Franklin County's 22nd annual tribute to all things apple, "Orchard tours, cider-making, apple cuisine, amateur Cider Competition, hard cider tasting, cider making workshop, apple pancake breakfast," is all but some of what to expect at this delicious event! As you can tell, autumn in New England and Western Mass is a remarkable time. No matter if you decide to stay near the PV, venture throughout Western Mass, or troop out to Boston, any of these experiences will leave a lasting, positive impression on you and your family's hearts, and further deepen your love for autumn in New England.

By Tiffani Rice, Intern, UMass, Isenberg School of Management

 

 

December
23

The Jones Library is one of Amherst's finest treasures. Our REALTORS® were treated to a tour this week discovering the many offerings of our library including the Special Collections room where an extensive assemblage in the fields of local and regional history, genealogy and Amherst authors are housed, offers a display area plus a comfortable research room.  Additionally, we viewed an amazing fiber arts display from the Fiber Artists of Western Mass entitled Rivers Flow.  Community artists and crafts people may display their work at the Burnett Gallery.

Additionally, we toured the children's room, the audio books and CDs area, the resource room, the meeting room, and an area for young adult readers.  The library provides computers, internet access, DVDs and e-books. On-line with your library subscription you may access numerous periodicals such as Kiplinger's, National Geographic and Martha Stewarts's Living, just to name a few.

The Jones Library is in need of contributions for new books for the coming year of 2015. Your monetary donation allows them to take advantage of their significant discount towards books. Visit the Jones Library online or stop in for a visit. 

 

February
7


We invite you to request a showing or ask a question about any property on the website, or create a My Home Finder account and sign up for emails of new listings, listings back on the market, sold listings, and other area real estate information. Quickly find properties by mobile phone with the JonesRealtors.com mobile website, sign up for market trends and learn more about community and school information. Join us-we're here to help!

December
21

Jones Group REALTOR® and author of Challenge Your Taxes (Wiley 1998), Jim Lumley was recently quoted in a Greenfield Recorder article. "Property taxes are more a function of how much money a community, municipality/and/or county need to operate.  As state and federal dollars previously spent for local needs shrink, communities must often make up the difference with property taxes."

 You may take several steps to ensure that your home assessment is accurate.

     1.  Visit your town website and examine information about your property.

     2.  Evaluate your neighborhood. How does your home compare to your neighbors'?

     3.  Contact a Jones Group REALTOR® about current values, market trends or request a professional market analysis of your property. 

 To learn more about your current home value contact Jones Group REALTORS® in our Amherst, Northampton and Belchertown offices.  Read more information from the Greenfield Recorder article. 

December
5

 Thinking of making a move in 2012?  Is your current home feeling a little cramped, or are you ready for less upkeep and ready to downsize?  Begin your search now and you will not only get a good sense of the exterior assets of the property, but also how you will live in the space during the winter months.  Our Jones Group REALTORS® in our NorthamptonAmherst and Belchertown offices are Buyer's agents and are ready to give you a tour! Find an agent. Just give us a call or go online and request a showing.