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The Rural We: Ralph Gardner

For many years, Ralph Gardner wrote a column, “The Urban Gardner,” for the Wall Street Journal. At times, it might have been called “The Rural Gardner,” because he also wrote about his life at his country home in Ghent, NY. “I have a sort of Seinfeldian type of attitude towards life,” he says. “I can get worked up about Mallomars.” The column he wrote in 2010 about the hazards of driving on the Taconic State Parkway still draws a response from readers. Here, Gardner talks about life in Columbia County.

My grandparents bought our place in 1948, so I’ve been coming up since the ‘50s. Rumor has it that a farmer built it for his two daughters, because there appears to be two symmetrical halves of the house. The property also serves as the graveyard for my mother’s dogs — all Boston terriers, all named Skippy. Each tombstone is more elaborate than the one before.

Now that our children are basically grown up, we’re up here four or five days a week. It’s neat to write about our place and nature. One of the things I wrote about was a Sycamore tree buried in the woods. It’s huge, about 18 feet around. New York State has a Big Tree Register and we had the Department of Environmental Conservation come out and see if it was a champion. It wasn’t, but it was close. I’ve also written about birds. The first thing I do when I get up to the country is to fill the birdfeeders. It’s an extreme pleasure, that connection with nature.

On Saturday mornings, my wife, Debbie, and I go for a bike ride and pick up grass-fed burgers and eggs at Kinderhook Farm, and now we can get fresh bread at Little Ghent Farm. Our daughters head for Hudson. They completely love hanging out there; it’s passed the hipster test.

But mostly I’m content to just hang out at the house. We’ve got a pond and a pool, our own little Shangri La. On the other hand, our social life is more active in Columbia County. It’s astonishing how many people we know here, both permanent residents and weekenders. The great thing about the area is you can be as social as you want. It’s the perfect balance between privacy and sociability.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/15/16 at 10:59 AM •