- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

DURHAM, Conn. (AP) - Tim Gastler agrees that he’s one lucky devil.

The third-generation family farmer has a home perched on a hill off of Route 147/Middlefield Road. The mid-19th century farmhouse is surrounded by acres of stunning views and beautifully landscaped backdrops that expand 360 degrees from almost anywhere on the property. The well-groomed gardens feature masterful combinations of unique and specialty plants and trees, greens of endless varieties, splashes of bright color, many textures, shapes and other natural surprises.

Gastler, the father of three adult children, supported the creation of the Kalmia Garden Chamber Music & Arts Foundation with his daughter, professional violist Leah Gastler, the foundation’s artistic director.

Luscious views surround the four-acre property where the third concert of the season’s series, ?Summer Sonatas, will take place on two dates in July.

The foundation provides a “sustainable venue for classical music and the arts in New England,” Gastler said. Currently, it is hosting world-class caliber musicians, he said.

“There are a lot of young professionals looking to perform,” said Gastler. “Many are out there waiting tables.”

Leah Gastler, who holds a master’s degree in music from Juilliard, recently auditioned for a seat with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, said her proud father. She went up against some of the most talented viola players around the globe, all competing for a single seat.

Though she didn’t win the seat, Gastler placed 12th among 850 other musicians that auditioned.

The musicians are offered “fairly compensated performance opportunities” at the retreat. This season, the farmhouse has hosted several musicians, including Farmhouse alumni Max Geissler (cello), Tim Krippner (piano) and violinists Ling Ling Huang and Natalie Lin - to practice and perform.

Today, organic vegetable, herb, flower and ornamental gardens flourish, lined by newly built brownstone walls and native wildflowers that frame walking paths throughout the farm. The arts foundation rents the property for meetings, functions, events and weddings. It includes the homestead that features a large, brand-new kitchen leading outdoors to an enormous patio, perfect for entertaining.

The Summer Sonatas concert will feature music of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, with performers? Leah Gastler on viola and pianist Tim Krippner. The first concert begins at 8 p.m. July 15.

Guests are invited to attend a 7 p.m. garden tour and the chance to toss a blanket for a garden picnic on the grounds. On July 16, the garden tour-picnic begins at 3 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. concert. Tickets are $25 and benefit the foundation, a registered nonprofit organization seeking federal 501(c)(3) status.

Going forward, Tim Gastler has bigger, tastier plans that include hosting farm-to-table dinners with music and gatherings that feature produce from the farm’s organic gardens. He imagines preparing old-fashioned dishes like new potatoes, peas and cream or succotash, consisting primarily of sweet corn with lima beans or other shell beans. The rhubarb is growing like gangbusters this year and the plan is to make rhubarb wine, Gastler said.

On the days when all the musicians are practicing music in separate areas all at once, the sounds on the farm are “pretty fabulous,” Gastler said

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Information from: The Middletown Press, http://www.middletownpress.com

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