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Rural Rules of Life: Twenty Questions for Margaret Roach

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Margaret Roach photographed by Erica Berger

A year ago, when Rural Intelligence was brand new, so was A Way To, the garden blog produced by Margaret Roach from her home in Copake Falls, NY.  Though Margaret had been spending weekends toiling in her Columbia County garden for more than twenty years, she had only recently left her executive job at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to live full-time in the country.  She has had an breathtakingly productive year. Besides managing to keep A Way to Garden lively and compelling during the winter and upgrading and redesigning the site, she started two other original websites: The Sister Project and Frog Boys. With so many projects and her garden to tend to, Margaret is careful about how she uses her time. She was generous enough to share some of it with us, explaining how she makes the most of living in the Rural Intelligence region.
Rural Intelligence Issues1. Where do you go when you crave solitude?
A funny question to ask a loner. I simply don’t leave my house [right], or property, for days on end. I could stare at the undulating terrain of the Taconic Mountains and the light here forever (and plan to, till I go face-down in the compost heap).
2. Where do you when you crave buzz?
Again, you may be asking the wrong girl, who’s somewhat buzzed-out. The bar at John Andrews is plenty of buzz for me these days, and somewhere I always feel like there will be good conversation with good people.
Rural Intelligence Issues3. What’s your favorite library or bookstore?
We are so blessed in our tristate hub to have many great independent bookstores, and depending where I am, I’m likely to drop money in any/all of them, from Oblong in Millerton (the first I discovered when I moved here 23 years ago); to the Bookloft in Great Barrington; to The Bookstore in Lenox. Oh, and when I get a craving for a taco and head to Lucy’s in Red Hook, I stop in at Merritt. Each has its distinct personality.

4. What’s your favorite place for bargain hunting?
The Berkshire Co-op Market. Is there a more consumer-friendly store? Ask at the counter for a “tour” of how the pricing system works: published specials; their bulk staples; items they get a great deal on and have on promotion; case-price bulk shopping for things you use a lot. Plus members’ discount days a few times a year. I love buying food this way. I love that they want to teach you how to be a price-conscious shopper.
Rural Intelligence Issues5. What do you buy for yourself when you need a treat and want to splurge?
CDs at Tune Street by the dozen. I still love getting the “liner notes” with my music, which is something Tune Street understands. This is one of my real local happy places, my longtime little escapes. Good people, and always a great recommendation or two.
6. What’s your favorite way to spend a Friday night?
Having a massage at Body and Soul in Great Barrington. This gardening and blogging is hard work.
7. What’s your favorite way to spend a Sunday morning?
Writing, which is what I do whenever I am not gardening. In season, sometimes I go to Loomis Creek Nursery in Hudson or Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington to talk plants with Bob and Andrew, or with Dennis, respectively (and buy myself a botanical treat).
Rural Intelligence Issues8. What’s your favorite one-hour drive from your house?
To Troy to visit my sister, Marion. Or my once-yearly adventure to Williamstown (just over an hour, sorry).
9.  Where’s your favorite place to hear live music?
I don’t stay up that late (but I did hear live music accidentally during a dinner at The Point at the Thornewood Inn in Great Barrington last week).
Rural Intelligence Issues10. What’s your favorite historical site?
Olana wins, hands-down. There simply is nothing like it, in eccentricity or in views. Wow.
11.  Who do you trust to recommend wines?
Tony Avenia of B&G Wine and Gourmet in Hillsdale was into wine since well before the craze, when he used to share the then-smaller space with his father Moose’s barbershop. True. It was priceless. Gradually Tony took over more and more of the square footage…the wine went from a closet-sized spot to dominate the store. A treasure (Tony, the shop, the story of its roots…all of it). And now great cheeses and treats (not a barbershop) in the other half of the building.
12.  What’s your favorite hardware store?
I have been a customer at Herrington’s in Hillsdale since it was a tiny store and Ed was there on Saturdays working the counter, too. Tell Oz or Michelle I sent you.
Rural Intelligence Issues13. Where do you shop for clothes? Do you have a favorite salesperson?
I shop in my one very small and very overstuffed closet, mostly, but when I want something new it inevitably comes from the Arcadian Shop. Ask for Alan.
14.  What three things do you always do with out of town guests?
Get them to help weed. Take them to John Andrew’s (in repayment). Suggest they get a massage with Stephen Marshall at Body and Soul in Great Barrington as part of their weekend escape (also helps with after-effects of weeding).
15. What’s your favorite theatre?
Again, I don’t stay up that late, but I love being inside the Mahaiwe.
Rural Intelligence Issues 16. Where’s your favorite place for breakfast?
My thing is egg and cheese sandwiches; it’s like I’m on a hunt for the kind that were available on every corner at every Greek diner in New York City. Sigh. I have eaten a lot of the basic kind (on toast) at Mom’s in South Egremont, and a lot of pressed ones at Rubi’s in Great Barrington.
17.  What newspapers, blogs or websites do you read every day?
You mean besides Rural Intelligence? (Tee hee.) I am not much of a consistent reader of anything, truthfully; I graze around different spots depending on the day.
Rural Intelligence Issues18. How many Facebook friends and Twitter followers do you have? How many of them have you actually met?
There are maybe 400 on Facebook, and another 1500ish on Twitter. I probably know half the Facebook ones and one-tenth the Twitterers.
19. Who are your local heroes?
Nobody you’d know; the people who have proven to be the truest neighbors through many years of both good and bad times, the postmaster who comes to work everyday despite the sometimes-impossible weather, the friend who plows my driveway.
Rural Intelligence Issues20. What five things are you most looking forward to doing this summer?
I don’t have summer passes or season tickets to anything, which might seem strange in such a culturally rich spot. What I really look forward to is just being outside more, shopping at farmstands, picking blueberries…and inviting a small group of people over to eat what I cook with all of it (or going to their place for the same). Canning and freezing, making pickles, whirring up a batch of pesto, baking a clafoutis with fresh peaches and berries. Life is good, as it is year-round here.

Where to find Margaret:

Photograph by Kit Latham

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