Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Wishes from The Rocks Estate

As the countdown to Christmas continues, The Rocks Estate would like to wish you all a very happy holiday season! We are thankful, as always, to have seen so many of you – whether new customers or old friends – during this season of busy activity and merriment at The Rocks, or to have sent some holiday cheer to you through our online shop.

For the last-minute shoppers reading this, remember The Rocks is open right through Christmas Eve! Our shops, brimming with holiday gifts and d├ęcor, will remain open daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. And if you still need a Christmas tree or wreath, we’ve got you covered! Come select one from the field to cut, or choose one from our retail lot to bring home and trim.

Whether your family has been coming to The Rocks for years or you made your first visit this season, we hope you enjoyed the fullness of the holiday spirit at the farm! And we hope to see you again next year.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Rocks teams up with Adaptive Sports Partners

ASPNC crew at Cannon Mountain
It takes a lot of elves to spread Christmas cheer, and this year at The Rocks Estate we’re getting some holiday help from Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country. ASPNC has been a fixture in our area since 2009, providing a variety of athletic and wellness activities for people with disabilities. Their friendly volunteers are on hand during busy holiday weekends at The Rocks, offering up seasonal merriment – and delicious treats, too!

Christmas tree hunting can inspire a big appetite, so the good folks from Adaptive Sports Partners are serving clam chowder, chili, hot dogs, veggie snacks, Clementine oranges, baked potatoes, and a delightful array of home-baked sweets, along with water, hot coffee and tea, and cocoa.

The proceeds from concession sales will go directly to offsetting the costs of the many exciting programs ASPNC offers to area residents through the year, from Nordic and alpine skiing to this year’s new adventure – sled hockey – in the winter, to gardening, mountain biking, hiking, and fishing in the warmer months, and year-round activities like swimming and power soccer.

With a mission of ensuring “the enrichment of the quality of life for people with disabilities through year-round opportunities for sport, recreation, and wellness,” and a goal of enhancing the personal development and self-esteem of participants, ASPNC makes sure participants are never excluded because of an inability to pay for programs. Fundraising is key to providing these programs and ensuring all who want to may participate.

So, bring your appetite when you visit The Rocks this season, and say hello to the elves from ASPNC. The food is delicious – and the holiday cheer comes at no extra cos!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

At The Rocks ~ Trees for Troops by the numbers

The Christmas tree has long been an integral symbol of the season. Somehow, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until there’s a fragrant fir tree standing inside the house, adorned with lights and colors, a centerpiece of the holiday decorations.
Fifth graders and combat vets help load trees.

(Read about the history of the Christmas tree in our Blog post on Christmas tree trivia.)

For more than a decade, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, a charitable arm of the National Christmas Tree Association, has been delivering Christmas trees and the joy they impart to members of the United States military and their families – serving both at home and abroad.

This week, as has become tradition, students from Bethlehem Elementary School came to The Rocks Estate to help load Christmas trees that will be delivered across the country and perhaps beyond. Each tree holds a note, written by the students, of thanks and good cheer.

Here, Trees for Troops by the numbers:

Year the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx
first teamed up to deliver Christmas trees
to U.S. service members and their families
Number of years The Rocks
has participated in the
Trees for Troops program
Christmas trees delivered by
Trees for Troops from the program’s
inception through 2014
Christmas trees donated through
New Hampshire and
Vermont tree farms this year
Happy 5th graders helping to
load those 450 trees into the
 FedEx truck at The Rocks December 1st
FedEx miles traveled (all donated)
to deliver Trees for Troops
Christmas trees through 2014
Farm-grown Christmas trees expected to
be donated this year by
400 tree farms in 25 states

If you’d like to help The Rocks and Trees for Troops spread holiday cheer, one tree at a time, visit the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation website, where you may learn about the history of the program, as well as make a donation to Trees for Troops. 

To see a video clip of this week's loading of the trees, check out WMUR-TV's coverage

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rocks Marketplace artisan spotlight: Joan Hannah, potter

Among the myriad locally-crafted gifts filling the shelves in the Rocks Marketplace is the artful pottery made by Joan Hannah. Joan grew up in nearby Sugar Hill, and after a 26-year hiatus to Vail, Colorado, returned to her roots to run the family’s farm, which she did aptly from 1992 until selling the property in 2001. She’s an Olympic (1960, 1964) and World Championship (1962, 1966) ski racer, a hardy Yankee farmer, and a skilled artisan.

Joan began making pottery during high school, studied the art at Bennington College, Mills College, and the California College of Arts and Crafts and later at the Kansas City Art Institute. Her mother was an accomplished sculptor, and both parents were skilled ski racers, both talents Joan has carried on. She is likely the only artisan we work with at The Rocks who has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, which she did in February 1962, the year she won a bronze medal in the World Championship giant slalom. She’s also a member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Joan spends much of her fall and winter working with clay in her Sugar Hill studio, just down the road from the farm where she grew up, creating her signature bowls, mugs, casserole dishes and other beautiful pieces. Here, she explains a little bit about what goes into her pottery…

How did you get started making pottery?
I took sculpture and pottery in college and had the same teacher as Mother. I chose pottery because I can make things that are functional, and it’s something I can sell. I enjoy working with clay, and through many years of study and practice in making pottery, I continue to enjoy the challenge of creating interesting, useful pieces. It’s fulfilling to start with a block of clay, envision a piece, and work to create the finished product that someone will use in his or her home.

Your pottery is also beautiful, though, beyond being practical.
My ceramics are very classical in shape. The shape is the art. It’s not just a palate to paint on.

How have you balanced making pottery with your other work? You were a ski instructor at Vail for 26 years, and when you came home you were running the farm and caring for your mother.
When I first went to Vail in 1968 I rented a space in a studio. Then I set up my own kiln and worked with other potters. When I lived there, I made pottery in the summer. When I came back to the farm, I kept making pottery to keep myself busy when I wasn’t farming. Now I don’t make pottery in the summer. I play golf and have my own gardens with too many vegetables. In the winter I teach skiing two days a week at Loon and ski Saturdays at Cannon with the masters racing program. I make pottery in between.

What does the process entail, from start to finish?
Well, I start by buying a ton of clay. That gets me through a winter season. I have to knead it before I throw it on the pottery wheel. Then it has to dry for a day, and I trim it and dry it more over the furnace. It gets fired first in the electric kiln. I make all my own glazes and stencils. After a piece is glazed, it gets fired for 12 hours in the big propane-fired kiln. I have a 1,000-gallon propane tank, which I need because the kiln burns a million BTUs an hour when all the burners are lit. The temperature gets up to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a long process. The mugs I made yesterday will be done by January, maybe December if I’m lucky.

For shoppers at The Rocks Marketplace, there's no need to wait for the next batch of Joan's fabulous wares our shelves are stocked with her beautiful pottery, from mugs and bowls to casserole dishes and syrup pitchers, along with a wonderful array of gifts from artisans down the road and throughout the New England region!

Shops at The Rocks are open daily (closed Thanksgiving Day) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Christmas Tree Time at The Rocks!

Frasers and Balsams and Canaans – oh, my! Looking for a fetching fir to trim for the holidays? Well, it’s Christmas tree time at The Rocks Estate! That’s right: the farm opens for the Christmas tree season Saturday, November 21st, and will stay open right through Christmas Eve. (Closed Thanksgiving Day.)

With row upon row of perfect Christmas trees, two gift shops brimming with unique finds, and all the holiday trimmings even Mrs. Claus could want, The Rocks is ready for the season! You’ll find wreaths and ornaments, skillfully crafted gifts from a myriad of local artisans, and fragrant firs perfect for any room.

On weekends, there are horse-drawn wagon rides through the historic estate. The Rocks’ own Green Father Christmas visits Saturday afternoons through December 12th. There will be marshmallows for roasting at the fire pit, and Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country will be serving up hot beverages and other treats for hungry shoppers and tree seekers.

For more information about The Rocks and the holiday season at the farm, visit TheRocks’ online calendar

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Tree Grows in Bethlehem: Rocks Estate featured in Yankee magazine

If you’ve picked up the most recent issue of Yankee magazine, you may notice a familiar scene: the fields of The Rocks Estate! The Rocks is thrilled to be featured in New England’s favorite magazine, and the experience of working with the Yankee staff to bring The Rocks’ story to the page was wonderful.

“I’d been asking Yankee to do a story on The Rocks for probably 12 years,” said longtime Rock Estate manager Nigel Manley. Last spring he finally got the call he’d been waiting for, from Yankee editor Mel Allen, who was interested in featuring The Rocks in its holiday issue.

Photographer Matt Kalinowski takes a shot of Manley and dog Keswick.
“It’s the magazine’s 80th anniversary year, and they were looking for New England places that have been around for a long time. The Rocks fit that bill,” Manley said. “The editors were really great about scheduling, both for photographs and interviews, making sure the weather was right and no one felt rushed. I’m really impressed with how much effort they put into it to make sure the end result was really good.”

Allen and contributing editor Annie Graves spent an entire day with Manley at the farm last spring, talking with him about his nearly 30 years at The Rocks, the process of growing Christmas trees, the estate’s long and storied history, and the enduring spirit of the holidays that permeates The Rocks year-round.

Once the snow fell in December, art director Lori Pedrick and photographer Matt Kalinowski spent another day at the farm, traipsing through freshly fallen snow and weaving through neat rows of Christmas trees. They took countless photographs – of Manley in the fields, the Rocks’ wreath-makers hard at work, the volunteers on the horse-drawn wagon rides, staff members in the shop, and customers at the farm.

“I’ve always loved to read Yankee, and my family gets our Christmas tree at The Rocks every year, so it wasn’t really much of a stretch to spend a morning wandering the fields, playing in the snow, and checking out the trees,” said Meghan McPhaul of Franconia, whose family was recruited for the photo shoot. “We’d already picked out our tree the weekend before, but it was great to have a bonus day at The Rocks – and we got to visit the horses and take one more wagon ride, which the kids always love.”

The story, titled “A Tree Grows in Bethlehem,” is featured in Yankee’s “Finding Christmas in New England” issue, published this month.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Local artisans at The Rocks: Hillary McMahon of Wild Oaks Farm

We’re proud to offer a plethora of locally-made items in the Rocks Marketplace, and we make it a point to seek out artisans and their wares from surrounding towns and throughout the New England region. One of these is Hillary McMahon of Wild Oaks Farm, not far down the road from The Rocks Estate in Landaff, New Hampshire.

Winter Hike soap in festive shapes
Hillary makes goat milk soap in a variety of scents, from traditional Tea Tree and Cedar Wood to seasonal offerings like Santa’s Tree, Winter Hike, and Snow Day. She manages her 10-acre farm between shifts at her day job, working for her family’s painting business. She also moonlights this time of year as a wreath decorator at The Rocks.

We asked Hillary to give us some insight into Wild Oaks Farm and her fabulous soaps – and Hardy Hand Salve. Here’s what she told us…

Are you the sole Wild Oaks proprietor?
Yes I am. The farmer, the grain and hay hauler, hoof trimmer, milker and the soaper! But I get a lot of support from my family and friends, who have been great about lending a helping hand when I need it.

How many goats do you have at the farm, and what breed are they?
We have up to 20 goats in summer, with all the kids. Right now I have two breeding bucks and seven does. They’re Oberhasli goats, a Swiss breed known to be very friendly and docile. In the peak of milking season our girls average 8-10.5 pounds of milk daily. Excess milk is either used in our household or fed to our pigs – they love it! Beyond the goats, we have two pigs (seasonal), one mini horse, 24 laying hens, and two ducks at the farm.

How did you get started with goats – and making soap from goat milk?
About 10 years ago, we had a couple of Oberhasli goats as companions for our aging horses. I wanted a way to nurture my love for animals and also have an income from that love – hence the farm and goat milk soap business. I began creating the formulas for my products in the spring of 2013 and selling them that fall. I love creating, testing and marketing new products! Last year I came out with Hardy Hand Salve. As a farmer and working in the store, my hands are constantly cracking to the point of bleeding. I knew I needed to make a product that penetrated, healed and protected my skin without being too oily so I was unable to carry on with day-to-day tasks. I now have happy hands!

What else goes into your soaps?
I take pride that goat milk is the first ingredient on my label! I believe if you are purchasing goat milk soap you should get the most milk per bar possible. Along with goat milk our bars are created with a blend of oils and cocoa butter. All oils and butters lend their own special qualities to soap. Wild Oaks Farm does make different varieties of soap - we have a Bug-OFF bar that is popular in the spring through summer months, an All Four Paws bar that is formulated to be a very conditioning bar for all animals, three different scented shave soaps, and a kitchen scrub bar that removes everything from garlic and onion to gas and oil smells. We offer our bar soaps unscented, unscented with oats (for extra nourishment), scented with essential oils and over 30 varieties scented with fragrances.

You’ll find soaps from Wild Oaks Farm and myriad other fantastic, locally-crafted items in the shops at The Rocks this season!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Rocks' shops OPEN November 2nd!

We are so excited for the holiday season to start that we’re opening both our wonderful gift shops at The Rocks Estate NEXT WEEK! That’s right, both the Rocks Marketplace and the Rocks Gift Shop will be offering up holiday gifts, decorations, and good cheer daily, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., from November 2nd right through Christmas Eve.

(Please note The Rocks will be closed Thanksgiving Day.)

Each year The Rocks staff searches throughout our region to bring wonderful new items to our Gift Shop and Marketplace shelves, and we’re proud to offer myriad locally- and regionally-crafted goods, from pottery and preserves to handmade soaps and candies to festive ornaments and intricately decorated wreaths. And because variety is the spice of successful holiday shopping, we make sure to have something for everyone on your gift list: kids and grandparents, friends and neighbors, even your pets!

This season at the Rocks Marketplace, shoppers will find an array of offerings from local artisans. These include beautifully made, hand-painted pottery from Joan Hannah, a retired farmer and former Olympic skier from Sugar Hill; hand-made goat milk soap from Hillary Tuite McMahon of Wild Oaks Farm in Landaff; outdoors-inspired jewelry from Emily Mouchon of Hunt Fish Maine; old-fashion candy from Country Cupboard Candy of New Hampshire, and countless other regional items.

For that hard-to-find gift for the guy (or gal) who has everything, check out the Pocket Monkey, a 12-in-1 tool that fits in a wallet and can open a bottle or a letter, fix your eyeglasses, peel an orange and more. To add a little ambiance to someone’s home, pick up a Bottle Wick, which can turn an empty wine or ale bottle into a classic oil lamp – and is made in Hancock, N.H. For family fun, the Cider Time Press, skillfully made by Maine craftsmen, is a compact cider press for home use.

Holiday shoppers will find ornaments, Rocks Estate maple syrup, and a beautiful selection of holiday wreaths, in the Rocks Gift Shop. And remember, The Rocks opens for Christmas tree sales, including Cut-Your-Own, November 21st.

Can’t make it to The Rocks this holiday season? Don’t fret… we’ll deliver the holidays right to your doorstep! Our online shop offers fantastic gifts, fresh-cut trees, wreaths, ornaments, and all the accessories you need to make your holiday happy and bright!

However you shop, The Rocks is ready to help you bring home the holidays!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Giving is Easy at The Rocks Online Shop

As the winter holidays approach, the giving is easy at The Rocks Estate. That’s especially true with this year’s new Gift Giving Made Easy offerings on our online shop.

Our Gift Giving Made Easy goal is to allow our customers to sit back, relax, and choose from our New England-centric gift packages, all from the comfort of home. As always in our online shop, shipping is free. If you live locally, we’ll even deliver your order of five or more gifts directly to your home or office!

There’s nothing more New England than maple syrup, and our online shop has several maple offerings, including the new Maple Sap Bucket package: two varieties of pancake mix from White Mountains Canning Company of Lancaster, New Hampshire, paired with two grades of The Rocks’ own maple syrup, all assembled in a real sap bucket!

Coffee connoisseurs will love the gift of locally-roasted coffee wrapped up with two moose mugs, handmade and painted by local potter Joan Hannah of Sugar Hill. For the popcorn lovers on your list, the trio of kettle corn flavors – plain, On Fire (jalepeno), and Maple – is an easy gift choice, and made in Vermont by Kingdom Kernel Kettle Corn. And the sweetest sweet tooth will be happily satisfied with our assortment of confections from Country Cupboard Candies.

Online shoppers may also order a perfect Christmas tree, cut fresh and delivered right to your door, plus hand-decorated wreaths ranging from whimsically fun to perfectly holiday festive, beautiful holiday ornaments, and decorating accessories

It’s all as simple as a few mouse clicks, and shipping is always free. Yes, the giving is easy at The Rocks online shop… Let us help you bring the holidays home!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apple Cider Celebration at The Rocks ~ Columbus Day Weekend

There’s so much to celebrate this time of year at The Rocks – Tag-Your-Own tree season, the opening of our shops, the vibrant colors of fall foliage filling the landscape at the farm and on the surrounding hills.

This year we’re adding one more thing to celebrate: apples!

The Rocks will host our first-ever Apple Cider Celebration over the three days of Columbus Day Weekend, October 10-12, and it will be a delight for the senses! The kaleidoscopic colors of autumn, the taste of freshly pressed apple cider, horse-drawn wagon rides through the farm, and a program on pruning apple trees.

Beyond the myriad rows of Christmas trees growing through the fields at The Rocks, there are nearly 200 apple trees. These are all heirloom varieties and are pruned for the benefit of the many species of wildlife who live on the farm and rely on apples as a staple of their fall diet: deer, bear, coyote, turkey, moose, porcupine and others.

Both The Rocks Marketplace and the Gift Shop – chockfull of gifts, decorations, and the works of many local artisans – will be open during the Apple Cider Celebration, which will run each day of the long weekend from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Wagon rides will be offered Sunday and Monday. The apple tree pruning presentation will be Saturday at 11 a.m. Guests are invited to explore the network of trails at The Rocks, bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the formal gardens or elsewhere on the Estate, visit the interactive New Hampshire Maple Experience museum, and even “tag” a Christmas tree in the field. (For more on The Rocks’ Tag-Your-Own tree season, check out our last Blog post!) 

For those who want to continue celebrating apple cider, we’ll also have small cider presses available for sale. Sip cider, shop for the holidays, take in the colors of fall…the Apple Cider Celebration has it all!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Foliage and Christmas Trees at The Rocks

Looking for a fun fall foliage excursion? Thinking ahead to the holiday season and want to get started on your holiday prep? You'll find all that and more at The Rocks Estate this fall!

The Rocks will be open weekends from October 3rd - October 18th for tag-your-own Christmas tree seekers, holiday shopping, and – of course – enjoying the annual autumnal burst of color.

The Rocks' Christmas tree fields and gift shops will be open Saturdays and Sundays, October 3rd -October 18th, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tree-taggers should bring their own decorations and some personal flair to “tag” their perfect tree in the field. Ornaments, ribbons, streamers: it’s all great for reserving your favorite tree until cutting time. These early birds may return once The Rocks opens for the winter season to cut and purchase tagged trees. (The Rocks will be open daily, except Thanksgiving Day, from Nov. 21-Dec. 24.)

The Rocks will again run a Facebook contest, where tree taggers are invited to post photos of their tagged trees, then vote on a favorite. The photo with the most votes will earn its taggers a free tree.  

Both The Rocks Marketplace and the Gift Shop will be open to shoppers during tag-your-own weekends. The Gift Shop shelves are loaded with Rocks maple syrup, ornaments, decorations, and tee-shirts. The Marketplace is filled with an array of locally-crafted and U.S.A-made items, from home goods and holiday decorations to hand-made soaps and loads of Christmas ornaments. New this year are a collection of crafting kits for children, created by New Hampshire company Harrisville Designs, as well as several lines of locally-crafted jewelry. Other offerings by local crafters and artisans extend from chocolates and preserves to handmade soaps and pottery.

Columbus Day Weekend (October 10-12), The Rocks will also host an Apple Cider Celebration, featuring cider-making, horse-drawn wagon rides through the farm, and an apple tree pruning program. (Check our online calendar, or stay tuned here for more details!)

Visit The Rocks this fall to take in the colors, find a perfect Christmas tree, and enjoy the holiday spirit that permeates the air year-round on Christmas Lane!