Logo Design: Rockingstone Farm

Rockingstone Farm in Barre, Mass. has just the kind of story I love - old local farmland being reenergized by a new generation. Lindsay Higgins first got into contact with me in the spring, looking to create a logo for the farm she and her family had been developing over the last year.

This effort has been particularly exciting for Lindsay because it is a new chapter in her family's history: the land was originally her grandfather's. The farmhouse was built in 1776, and now Lindsay and her husband Liam were working to create a farm and home of their own on the 100 acre property, and raise their two children there. They'd already been bottling and selling maple syrup from 350 trees, and opened a farm stand on Route 122.

The name Rockingstone Farm is after a natural landmark in Barre, just minutes down the road from the farm. Two boulders are balanced on top of the other in a seemingly impossible way; a teetering monument in the woods. The spot has been visited by generations in Lindsay's family; she sent me this photo of her mother at the rocking stones in the '70s, and also one of her children playing there today. 

For this reason, it was important to Lindsay that the rocks be incorporated in the logo, and the unique namesake was immediately where I wanted to go with the project. It proved to be no easy task though - rocks aren't always the easiest subjects to draw. After pages and pages of doodling and countless attempts from every angle employing several mediums, a few renderings were finally starting to do the rocking stones and all their natural wonder some justice. 

Here's the final logo we agreed would be the face of Rockingstone Farm:

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The detailed ink drawing of the stones went beyond my typical style and comfort zone, but definitely described the rocks best. Maple leaves fall around the the rocks, speaking to the farm's current focus on maple syrup production. The traditional serif font nods towards the rich heritage and history behind the farm, but a clean, sharp layout keeps things modern as the next generation builds a future. I think this will be the start of a strong brand for the farm, representing all it has been and all it's going to be. 

I came up with a wide variety of options for this logo, playing with the best ways to describe and incorporate the rocks, and suggesting some different directions all together. Both Lindsay and I liked the concept that incorporated the old red barn on Route 122, but agreed the rocks should be given priority. Hoping we can still use the barn illustration in some future pieces!

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I'm very excited with the concept Lindsay chose, and can't wait to see how she uses it to brand her farm. 

Photos courtesy of Lindsay Higgins

Summer Playlist

Deep July is upon us and we are due for a Summer Jamz playlist:

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The Carters and Big Red Machine are the clear stand-outs, but there's so much good new hot weather music lately. 

We're making our annual pilgrimage to Umpachene Falls this weekend, and are looking forward to trying Cantina 229's tacos. If that isn't summer I don't know what is. 

Hope this playlist finds you on a summer adventure this weekend, enjoy!

The Farm in 35mm: Spring

A few days post-solstice, I'm looking back on spring at the farm via a fresh envelope of 35mm prints. It all began with our magnolia tree bursting into bloom and concluded with bowlfuls of strawberries, the days in between flaunting all shades of pinks and greens.

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That last one is my favorite, my little meerkat Jesse in his jungle. 

36 exposures later summer came right on cue, muggy days giving way to dramatic afternoon storms. I'm trying my best to slow the days down and enjoy tomatoes, fireflies, trail rides, and swimming holes to the fullest. Capturing what I can on a roll of film certainly helps.

 

Logo Design: Cedar View Polo Club

It's always nice to reconnect with old friends. I was so happy when Debi Gale got in touch a few weeks ago - my sister and I rode horses with her for years when we were growing up, and leased a wonderful quarter horse named Kramer from her for a while. She and her family had since built their own gorgeous farm in Somers, CT, and her son Drew is in the process of establishing a polo club there. Games would be starting soon and they were in need of a logo. 

I came out to their property on a sunny afternoon, a quiet haven among towering cedar trees. I was so impressed to see the polo field they had been grooming for the last five years - it sat finally ready to see games this season. Debi and Drew showed me around as we caught up, and described the logo they were after - something classy and fun and built around the iconic pines that would become the symbol for the team: Cedar View Polo Club.

This was one of those logos where the inspiration and creativity just flowed, especially after I was just off of a trip to Lexington, KY for my full time job, where life revolves around horses. I was excited to draw some polo ponies and bring in elegant fonts that would be the core elements for this brand.

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I was so pleased with the design they chose - a crest logo that gestures towards traditional, preppy branding for the sport of kings, but is softened with retro, fun touches. The focus remains on the horse and cedar trees, and I think the whole logo will remain very versatile for all sorts of contexts - particularly for team shirts and hats, which I am eager to see!

I was excited about some of the other concepts too, but definitely felt like they went with the strongest design. Here are some of the alternates:

Still kinda in love with the one in the middle though. Hoping to pull elements from it for something else someday, we'll see.

Looking forward to developing this branding further - and for games under the cedar trees this August! Thank you Debi and Drew!

Spring Farro Salad

I hosted Mother's Day at my home this year, where the policy is typically bring your own chair / bring your own steak knife, as I'm still at the point in my life where I am acquiring things like silverware sets for eight in rather tight quarters. It's a process, and it's very cozy.

With the weather nearly warm, I put together a cookout, chicken and steak tips on the grill, with Hadley asparagus and salads. My favorite dish was a farro salad I made up, which included all sorts of spring garnish. 

Farro is a staple in my pantry; in my opinion it's the superior ancient grain. I'm always throwing roasted vegetables into it, hot or cold, putting an egg on top, and calling it a meal. 

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For this Mother's Day edition farro salad, I went with chopped kale, snow peas, radish, mint, and feta. I tossed the veggies with cold farro and dressed with olive oil, lemon, sea salt, and pepper. 

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The dish came out light and refreshing, with all the earthy and nutty flavors essential to springtime. Everyone loved it, but I was glad to see there would be just enough for leftovers the next day. 

Spring Playlist

It doesn't really feel like it, but we are apparently knee deep in spring. So it's time for a playlist! 

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It looks like things may hit 60 degrees this weekend so roll down those windows and play that Sylvan Esso song real loud. Any minute now we'll be digging up the garden, shedding sweaters and socks, and packing a picnic, right? 

Also in music! Lord Huron put out their third album today, Vide Noir. It is mystical af. Love.

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." - Margaret Atwood

Branding: Kelly & Co.

Spring is the best time for a brand refresh. Last fall I worked on a new logo for Kelly & Co., a favorite local maker of linen clothing and home goods, and recently I've been working with Erin to expand the new look on to tags, packaging details, and more. I'm loving the way everything is coming together!

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First we created some small and large sew-in tags for Erin's clothing items, as well as napkins, dish towels, and linen coffee filters. Then we went a bit larger with wrappers to package up the coffee filters, and hang tags for wearable favorites like the Everyday Dress and Pinafore Apron. I love the way the flax branch drawing from the logo looks as a pattern, and we ended up carrying that look through all of the branding. The soft neutral shade works well against Erin's variety of brightly colored linens. 

I was lucky enough to receive a handmade Pinafore Apron and dish towel in the mail last week! The apron will see plenty of use in the kitchen, studio, and garden this summer. The linen Erin works with is durable and practical but so elegant and lightweight too. 

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Looking forward to developing this brand further; it's always a pleasure to work with Kelly & Co.!

Southwest Road Trip

Back in January, I learned I'd need to go out to Arizona for the full-time job and my wheels immediately started spinning. "Southwest road trip in March???" I texted Jake with a cactus emoji. He didn't hesitate, putting together three possible itineraries nearly overnight that would take us through the desert, down canyons, over mountains, and more.

Well, over the last week we put 1200 miles and a thick coat of orange dust on a rented Toyota doing just that. Starting in Scottsdale, we traveled North up Arizona to Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley, then over into Utah to see Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. 

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After Jake met me in Scottsdale, southwest sushi take-out in hand, we hit the saguaro-lined road headed North in search of red rocks. They showed up in the distance after about two hours, amidst cooler temperatures and passing rain showers. It’s a dramatic entrance into Sedona, buttes rising all around, their glowing red sediment beckoning you into Northern Arizona.  

We stayed at The Orchards Inn, which was my favorite stay of the trip – it may have been too nice, we were totally spoiled on the first night. A cozy corner fireplace, king bed with seven (!) fluffy pillows, and a back deck with just about the best view in town made us want to stay the rest of the week.

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The hiking in Sedona is so very pleasant. Jake’s itinerary included PLENTY of hiking to no one’s surprise, and Sedona’s perfectly maintained, scenic trails were just the way to warm my wimpy winter legs up. We explored the Baldwin Loop the first day, an easy two mile trek around Cathedral Rock that leads to a perfect little swimming hole, and then the Mystic Trail, Hogwash Trail and Broken Arrow Trail on day two, which totaled to six miles over and around the red rocks. The views are incredible, so there were plenty of stops to take it all in and snap photos (I brought my twin lens reflex). Even at the end when we emerged at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, I felt like I could have gone further.

But we didn’t, and instead I got a double order of avocado toast and scrambled eggs at Pump House Station, to Jake’s amusement when they brought two separate place settings all for me. I cleaned it up.

Sedona is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and the mystic vibes, vortex-seekers, UFO tours, and kitschy crystal shops only add to it. I could hardly believe it was only the beginning of our trip, and it was tough to leave such a desert haven.  

Flagstaff

We climbed the mountains along the Oak Creek Canyon, spiraling up towards Flagstaff. Towering evergreens begin to line the landscape, snow-capped Mount Humphrey looms into view, and you begin to wonder if you’re in the same state. Arizona is incredibly diverse, a range of elevations bringing on wildly different climates that make for a packing challenge (so many layers). We were shivering when we got out of the car at The Weatherford Hotel.

This historic hotel had that old New England creepiness that I feel at home in; no doubt that place was riddled with ghosts. Our room was charming. The bathroom was a Wes Anderson moment, offering an emerald claw foot tub complete with a hand-held shower head. Not our first choice after a long day of hiking, but it was awfully cute and did the job.  

The real destination in Flagstaff was Pizzicletta, an infamous local pizza joint. I’d been once before last summer, on another work trip, and had talked it up to Jake ever since. The tiny establishment serves up beautiful wood-fired pies, and we enjoyed arugula-laden slices at a long family-style table, dough flying around behind us. We talked late into the night and watched locals filter in and out.

Grand Canyon

After an early breakfast at Tourist Home Café, where we loaded up on eggs, root veggies, and more avocado toast anticipating the hike ahead (and the lack of decent restaurants to come), we hit the road toward the Grand Canyon. The South Rim is only about an hour and a half away.

We started at the East end, at the Desert Watch Tower. You’ve never seen something so big in your life as the first time you lay eyes on the Grand Canyon in all its glory. Tourist-ridden though it may be, that big hole in the earth is worth seeing again and again and again.

We made stops along the rim, and ventured down into the canyon at the South Kaibab Trail. It’s a very popular hiking spot, and for that reason, a bit intimidating; heading down the initial switchback you witness some people in way over their heads coming back up the steep trail, red in the face, huffing and puffing. The further down we wandered, the better the view got, but the more nervous I became about climbing back up as glassy eyed tourists trudged on by.

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We ventured just a mile in to Ooh Aah Point, which certainly lives up to its name. To my delight a caravan of beautiful mules clopped by, surefooted along the steep trail. My fellow bipedal tourists were not so thrilled; farm girl though I am, I have to say the inevitable manure is POTENT and in high concentration, adding quite a bit of funk to the hike. One guy couldn’t handle it, gagging his way down the trail. We chuckled.

The hike back up was not as bad as it looked, and I felt good emerging to the endless view once again. Although, I personally can’t imagine hiking down to the Colorado river and back up. Maybe someday, but not today!

We hit the Visitor Center gift shop on the way out, investing in an irresistible Grand Canyon edition Pendleton blanket. This in turn made us members of the Grand Canyon Association, for which we also received a stuffed bighorn sheep we named Rammy.

Rammy on the dashboard, it was back in the car, another two hours to go until Monument Valley. We covered a lot of ground that day. 

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A key decision we made was to stop at the Whole Foods in Flagstaff, and stock up on snacks and peanut butter sandwich supplies. Food gets pretty scarce at this point in the journey, and there really isn't even much at Grand Canyon - it's all sort of bland looking and overpriced. Monument Valley, in all its awe and beauty, is not exactly a place to go eat. Bring your own supplies. 

It was a race against sunset; we sped down the endless, lonely highway to catch those glowing buttes as the sun creeped nearer the horizon line. We arrived at The View Hotel just in time, photographers making a nightly pilgrimage to capture the three iconic mittens entering twilight. We burned rubber, Jake practically exiting the moving vehicle in a tuck-and-roll, clutching his DSLR. So worth it though. This was possibly the most beautiful, picture perfect sunset I have ever seen. 

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The hotel itself was great, living up to it's name 100%. Waking up to those three mittens peeking outside the sliding glass door was just surreal.

Riding in Monument Valley was the highlight of the trip for me. We took a rental-smashing drive down the treacherous Valley Drive Road to find Dineh Trail Rides, where we met up with our Navajo guide Jerome and the three mustangs that would carry us through the reservation. 

Seeing the valley through the ears of my mount, Geronimo, was one of the best experiences of my life. We trotted across the desert, Jerome pointing out the passing buttes named for their curious shapes, and the settlements of Navajo families, illustrating the history of his people's connection with the land they were placed on. "They sent us here to die," he explained. "But we are resilient. We survived, we're still here today, and we have embraced the land we live on and our way of life."

Patting our horses in gratitude for an unforgettable ride, and thanking Jerome who bid us "hágoónee", we loaded back into the dusty rental, destined for Bryce Canyon. We made a quick stop in Page for excellent Mexican food and a quick view of the Instagram-favorite Horseshoe Bend. We made it to Bryce Canyon just before nightfall, exhausted as we tucked into a sort of weird spaghetti dinner at a cowboy buffet.

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The next morning we awoke early thrown back into winter; a light snow had fallen and the thinner air was a chilly 30 degrees. Jake scraped ice off the Toyota's windshield and we headed towards the canyon.

If you want to get an idea of what it's like to live on Mars, Bryce Canyon National Park is the place to go. And what a treat to have it frosted with a little snow! The orange hoodoos rising from the steep cliffs, dotted with Ponderosa pines offers a gorgeous pallet that I wanted to live inside. 

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We hiked down from Sunrise point and over to the Queen's Garden Trail. There were so many fun nooks and crannies to explore. Lots of little doors are chiseled out of the rocks and natural windows frame picture perfect views. It was dreamlike and romantic - and sort of a difficult hike back up! Wrapped up in all the surreal beauty, you don't realize how far down you've gone.

But we made it up just in time. We watched a little blizzard sweep over the canyon, and fade the orange landscape into creamy white. We made it to the car just as the view was completely erased by falling snow.

Zion National Park

Our final destination was Zion National Park, not too far from Bryce. The drive into the park along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is sublime, the road curving around towering sandstone cliffs, sending you through a mile long tunnel carved into the center of a mountain and spilling you down an impressive switchback, into the little town of Springdale. You expect a T-Rex to come around the corner at any moment. 

We had (Jake had) hoped to attempt The Narrows, a gorge hike down the Virgin River. I was feeling very nervous about this one, water levels high as snow melt trickles in this time of year and cold currents making for numb toes. And it's not an easy hike to boot. Jake had faith in me though, and I nervously tried on neoprene socks and a dry suit in preparation for the next day.

To Jake's disappointment and my relief, the river flash flooded overnight after a downpour, and the trail was closed to hikers. I promised Jake we'd come back in warmer temperatures and a gentler current. Instead, we decided to take on the Hidden Canyon Trail; if we couldn't see the park from the bottom, might as well climb to the top.

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The most difficult hike of our trip, the initial switchback going up Hidden Canyon isn't much fun, but things get easier even as they look more scary. You become very exposed as the narrow path cuts into the side of the steep canyon, grab-chains offering a little comfort for your left hand. The views are sweeping though, and you forget to be scared. The hanging canyon that the path leads you to is serene and fun to explore, and we sat down to snack on a granola bar. 

We did two more little hikes after this, The Canyon Overlook Trail and Emerald Pools Trail which both offered easy access to incredible vistas (and waterfalls!). It was a full day and we saw the park from all sorts of interesting angles. At the end of the day, we just hopped on one of the shuttle buses to do a full loop around the park, sleepily taking it all in one last time.

We had an indulgent celebration dinner at Zion Pizza & Noodle Co., where we ordered both pizza AND noodles, and enjoyed it on the deck as sunset illuminated the mountains. It was the perfect ending, and we went to bed early in preparation for the journey home. 

I can't recommend doing this trip yourself enough - it was such a refreshing perspective on our country, offering all sorts of adventure. I'm most happy to be home, New England spring within reach, but I'll always be ready to grab my cowgirl hat and head back out West.

A Quick Escape from Winter

Winter on the farm means pulling on my heavy insulated overalls, breaking through frozen water bucket after frozen water bucket, lugging hay out to barren pastures, and a host of other frigid, less-fun chores that often leave me dreaming of a warmer escape. Luckily there is one nearby that I can always count on, offering chilled bones and runny noses some tropical humidity, lush flora, and soft white light from every direction. That's the Botanic Garden at Smith College.

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I spent the 20 degree morning on Saturday getting the horses set up for the day out in their frosted pasture (they don't mind), and arrived home chilly but game to finish a little last minute holiday shopping with Jake in downtown Northampton. The weekend before Christmas, you can imagine the chaos. Pushing through Thornes at noontime I was still pretty frozen and feeling sleepy. We made the executive decision that the only good, right place to be in that town at that moment was the Botanic Garden.

Passing through the first door to the Warm Temperate House, the first deep breath of dewy air is like a drug. How had we forgotten August so quickly? Layers are shed in the heat, attention turned to the omnipresent plant life. Every shade of green, every strange variety, blooming from the ground, creeping along walls, and cascading from the ceiling. 

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The greenhouses became a labyrinth, and we wandered along the paths from glass door to glass door. The stillness was such a relief after being caught up in a swell of panicked shoppers downtown, plants oblivious to the number of days until Christmas. 

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I felt so much better after submerging in that tropical cleanse for an hour, fingers, toes, and mood thoroughly defrosted. Green plant life, natural light, and warmth are actual medicine. (The happiest of memories are too. Jake and I went to the Botanic Garden on our first date.)

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This winter, don't forget about the Botanic Garden. Treat yourself to a little time in there and suddenly spring won't seem so far away.