A number of resident’s unique hobbies were highlighted in The Newtown Bee in 2018, ranging from those that are done outdoors to ones that can be done from the comfort of home to… some a little bit in between.
Whether on two wheels or four, residents looking for a thrilling outdoor activity steered full speed ahead into adventure and began riding dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and utility task vehicles (UTVs).
Chris Symes has been living in Newtown all his life and was first introduced to riding dirt bikes when he was just a teenager. Over the last 20 years, he has ventured into riding UTVs and ATVs and now rides with his two sons, 9-year-old Mason and 7-year-old Ryder.
With no public places to ride in Connecticut, Mr Symes enjoys getting to take the family out riding in new spots beyond their 2.25-acre property and onto tracks in New York and Pennsylvania.
What can sweeten any food, drink, or occasion with friends and family? According to many Newtown residents, the answer is natural maple syrup. From local hobbyists to established companies, people all over town are branching off and making their own specially-crafted maple syrup during the cold months.
Anyone that has a maple tree on their property can begin their journey to becoming a sugarmaker.
After receiving three buckets and three styles (the inserts that go into a tree) as a gift, Newtown resident Steve Tomasiewicz decided to put them to use and begin making maple syrup for the first time.
Over on Mount Nebo, husband and wife duo Peter and Clare Harrison have been tapping the maple trees on their 33-acre property for the last four years and operate under the label of Windover Farm.
Local resident Dave Ackert’s name is synonymous with maple syrup in town. As the self-proclaimed “founder, owner, and chief bottle washer” of Maple Craft Foods, he has turned his idea of delivering a healthy sugar alternative into a full-scale operation that now provides a full line of maple-crafted syrups.
Meanwhile, the Slater Family — Ryan, Lindsay, and their four children — have made making maple syrup a hobby that is fun for the whole family and a lesson in where food comes from.
For families and individuals interested in making their own maple syrup, Mr Slater advises, “You should never boil a batch inside for longer periods; your kitchen walls and ceilings will be sticky from the sugar steam.”
More Sweet Treats
When faced with the non-literal sticky situation of finding something to pair with, say, a cream cheese appetizer, the morning’s pancakes, or an ice cream dessert, residents look no further than homemade jams and jellies.
Many people have become smitten with the sweet treats and have been creating their own batches for friends and family for years.
Hattertown resident Andrea Zimmermann began her jam journey nearly 12 years ago, when she met a town-famous jam-maker who showed her the tricks of the trade.
“I had a wonderful mentor,” Ms Zimmermann explained. “When I started work at the C.H. Booth Library, Beryl Harrison was my supervisor, and she makes wonderful jam. I was really interested, and she shared all her secrets.”
Ms Harrison started out making jam like most rookies — covered in pureed blueberry splatters. Despite her first attempt at jam-making not being the most glamorous, she was not completely discouraged.
In 1969, her mother sent her a 25-cent booklet from General Foods Kitchens, manufacturer of Sure-Jell and Certo liquid pectin, that was filled with jam recipes to try, and she has used it in the years since. The well-loved recipe book now bears Ms Harrison’s handwriting in the margins, detailing when she made the jam and how it turned out.
Combined, both hobbyists enjoyed sharing nearly 300 jars of jelly and jam to friends throughout the community this year.