Wander: Meg Curtis of Stonewall Farm


We’re kicking off a new Innkeeper Q&A Series today with Meg Curtis, Innkeeper Extraordinaire of Stonewall Farm Bed and Breakfast in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. I am fortunate enough to be friends with the Curtis family (a perk of marriage), and luckier still to have been a guest several times at this comfortable, welcoming, historic home (complete with barn, sheep, chickens, and lots of good campfire stories).

Many people talk about heading to the country and opening a B&B, but you and your husband, Skip, actually did it. What events led you to make this dream a reality? Skip and I had been casually looking for B&B properties for 15 years during weekend travels up and down Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. In 1996, with our three kids launched, we moved from Massachusetts to our summer home in New Hampshire.  We realized we needed something a little bigger, and again started looking. We were drawn to antique homes, but had put the idea of a B&B on the back burner.

That was until our real estate agent took us to look at an old farm house that had been established as a two room B&B. As we drove around the corner, I spotted a beautiful 1785, hip roofed farmhouse located on a slight knoll at the bend of the country road. I said, “Oh my, is this it?”  It was love at first sight. We walked through the carriage house, a hobby room (that would eventually become our family room and living quarters) and into the dining room. It was a cold, damp, November day. There was no fire in the fireplace. However, the room wrapped me in warmth, and I told my husband that this was the house. He exclaimed, “Don’t you even want to see the bedrooms?” Actually, no, but I continued with the tour of the five bedrooms, all with great possibilities. Yes, this was it.

Can you offer a brief history of Stonewall Farm? It was built in 1785 by David Goodall and resold in 1835 to a newly married couple, James and Elizabeth Bickford. There are too many stories to tell, but I am fortunate enough to have pictures of them and lots of memorabilia from their lives. It remained in their family until the 1920s or 30s. It was a home that had a lot of activity for the 1800s.

What are changes and additions that your family has made to enrich this place? New granite counters, cupboards, and appliances. After all, the country kitchen with the Glenwood stove is indeed the heart of the house. A parking lot needed to be established, a new and expanded outdoor deck and more bathrooms installed, so that each room would have their own private bath. My passion is wingback chairs and I have bought them at auction and had them reupholstered to provide a warm and comfortable setting in all areas, as well as the guest rooms. Our son has tackled a lot of the landscaping projects, and last year the barn renovation. When you own a historic home, the work and projects will never be done…that is a given.

I love the breakfasts and local goat milk soaps. What other amenities do guests appreciate? Yes, everyone seems to enjoy the full, homemade breakfast. We have our own supply on this property of apples, peaches, pears, raspberries, blueberries and grapes (for homemade grape juice). We also have a large herb garden beside the kitchen, and we grow all of our own vegetables in the summer. Nothing is ever sprayed here. We have now ventured into raising our own chickens, so we have farm fresh eggs too. We purchase New Hampshire made maple syrup and also offer it for sale, along with the goat milk soaps. I don’t know if you would consider it an amenity, but the star gazing that we have in the evening is a real gift. There is also a fire pit where the guests can enjoy a bonfire in the evening.

 What have been some of the biggest surprises about becoming an innkeeper? Being an innkeeper is a surprise each and every day. You never know who you will be hosting on any given day, and all rooms have to be ready to go at a moments notice. On laundry: it generally takes at least eight hours to wash, dry and fold all room laundry after a full house. Of course, I love the smell of sheets dried out on the line, and that takes a little extra time in the good weather. We also found that earlier rising to prepare breakfast did not mean we would go to bed early. We would often stay up late for someone arriving from a long trip. This is not a job for folks that think they can “retire”. You have to love people and love what you do to continue a business like this.

 Do you have return guests that seem more like friends now? In general, we love our guests and we remain in contact with a great many of them. As I say: there is never a stranger in our home. We have had guests from all over the world, and every guest brings something new to this B&B. It is always a learning opportunity, and after 15 years in the business, I don’t intend to stop any time soon. As long as I am physically able I will continue meeting, greeting and making sure everyone has the best B&B experience possible!

Visit Meg and Stonewall Farm; 235 Windsor Road; Hillsborough, New Hampshire; 603.478.1947; stonewallfarm@gmail.com


Ps&Qs:Renew the Social Contract

At a party one night, I was chatting with a woman about one of the larger ideas behind GHG, the belief that we’re all guests here, so we should strive to be more thoughtful and respectful everywhere, be it someone’s home or on the subway.  It resonated with her, because she thinks that we’re losing sight of our social contract––the basic rules of courtesy, conduct and human interaction. The woman’s brother and his girlfriend, who both work at a coffee shop, jumped in and added that many people have just flat out forgotten their manners.

At the risk of sounding prissy (and old), I agree. The couple went through a list of behavior that they observe every day at their job: customers yapping on their phone while ordering; nary a please or thank you; and blatant-I’m-more-important-than-you line jumping, to name a few. Part of the problem is that in our increasingly electronic, virtual, blinking-screen world we tend to treat humans as just another automated service too. I admit, I’ve been guilty of the phone thing. In a reflex reaction I took a call while standing on line at the pharmacy, and I still wasn’t off the call when I reached the counter. I felt like a complete jerk.

It doesn’t take much to renew this social contract either.  A courteous hello, thank you or even a smile––you know, the basics. So, until we are all replaced by robots, put your call on hold, take a minute to acknowledge the human on the other side of the counter, in the toll booth at the ticket counter and be grateful that we are man and not machine (yet).


Gift: In Bloom

I’ve lived most of my life in the Midwest, a place where spring teases and retreats. Some years it felt as if the season hardly got out of bed. I can’t blame it, what with Lake Michigan in a frozen expression of shock and the ground practically set-cement hard for months on end. I’ve watched snow fall on my birthday in April.

I now find myself in the mid-Atlantic region, a land of milder winters and an actual season of budding and bursting forth prior to June. Currently the daffodils are awake, and this past week soared with summer-like temperatures. Because of that, I’m inspired today by gifts that will bring on the blooms.

Haul your bounty from the garden, the farmer’s market or the corner store in this sunny canvas tote from Chewing the Cud.

A bouquet that will last forever on the classic poppy Marimekko Unikko teapot.

Get growing with Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply seed tins.

See Spark Living about these mugs by Paul Timman of Sunset Strip Tattoo featuring chrysanthemums and lotus flowers otherwise inked by Paul on someone’s body.

The Celia Birtwell watering can from Sprout Home is as practical as it is pretty.


Create: Jar Muffins…or Cookies…or Bread

I realize that this is one of several posts involving a Mason jar, but they are so darn useful. Perhaps ‘put it in a Mason jar’ is to Brooklyn what ‘put a bird on it’ is to Portland. Either way, here’s yet another treat to put in a Mason jar––jar muffins…or cookies…or bread.

This simple gift is one I’ve assembled for the sweetest twins around and my niece. It’s fun for kids who are interested in baking, and my brother-in-law claims it was a delicious activity for my niece.

Start with any simple recipe for cookies, muffins or a savory bread. Layer the dry ingredients in the jar, and package any extras like raisins or chocolate chips separately. I leave out any wet ingredients like eggs, butter and vanilla which most people have on hand. Then I include a hand written recipe card that they can file away. Package it all up in a brown paper lunch sack and you have the perfect birthday/Valentine’s/rainy day gift.


Ps&Qs: Guest Chef?

Today’s very good question comes from a very funny comedian friend of mine. I’m sure he smoothed over this situation with lots of humor, but I’ve added a few ideas too per his request.

Q: My old friends P & T live in upstate New York in a big house in the Catskills. They gave me and my fiance an open invitation to visit anytime to get a break from the city.  My good friends G & D had also been wanting to leave the city, so I asked P if we could bring them along.

It was a great trip and we all got along––but there was a small hiccup. On Saturday afternoon G (who has restaurant experience as a sous chef) insisted upon handling the shopping and cooking dinner on Saturday night as a thank you to P & T.  While well intentioned, I could sense that P didn’t like being strong armed by G and essentially booted out of her own kitchen.  She relented graciously and let her guest cook. Thoughts? Advice for the next time this happens?  Good ways to handle this?

A: I try to tread lightly when first navigating in someone else’s kitchen. For some this territory is more personal than the bedroom. You know the type: they bristle as you search their drawers, tense up at your technique and can be absolutely pushed over the brink when the dishwasher is loaded the “wrong” way. For as generous as my mom is, she was the “everyone out of my kitchen” type cook. With three kids underfoot I can’t blame her for staking claim to at least one area of the house, and because of this I have sympathy for P.

However, I also applaud G’s efforts to make a big show of appreciation for P’s generosity. Perhaps next time G could still cook, but make a meal that is less the main event than dinner. Ease in with breakfast, brunch or a generous cocktail hour spread (complete with  cocktails that only a bartender with a vest and waxed moustache seems to build). For very low-impact kitchen use, offer to pack a creative picnic lunch (and gift a multipurpose market basket like the one shown above) for a group hike or day trip.

Or, avoid your host’s kitchen entirely by showing up with a few things you made at home. A coffee cake, nuts, granola or some other treat that can be enjoyed during the weekend by everyone. It’s a guaranteed way to impress without the mess or power struggle.