Early Spring Gardening in the Hilltowns

April Vegetables and the Family Garden

The ground is warming up! Time to get those seeds into the ground. Below are five recommended seeds to plant now in the Hilltowns that do best in early spring!

Normally by early April we can start thinking about planting the first veggies. Even though we still have some piles of snow here in the hills the soil temperature can rise up to 50’s in just a few weeks. Choosing what to plant should be dictated by the seeds ability to germinate at low temperatures and handle frost and snow. If you tried a squash or tomato seed at this time of the year it would possibly be dormant for weeks, maybe months before germination. But even more likely it would rot while waiting for the soil temperatures to rise.

I have been planting in the Hilltown’s now for two decades. Here is my list of what I am likely to plant, in order of what is most likely to germinate fastest, into the cold and wet soil of New England in the early spring: Read the rest of this entry »

Entomology: Lessons from the Garden

Multivotines vs. Univoltines: Adapting to Climate Change

I have just returned from a horticultural conference in Boston. One of the more interesting workshops was given by Michael Raupp, Ph.D, Professor at University of Maryland on climate change and plant pests. Thankfully, at least in this area, we are no longer talking about, “is the climate changing?” But what are the implications of climate change, and how does it affect families in western Massachusetts?

For insects, climate change is much more serious than just a bad hair day. There are many environmental factors that influence insects, but the primary one is temperature. As the environment gets warmer, some are winners and others are losers. Within the realm of insect pests – a major concern for farmers and gardeners of any scale – there are clear winners and losers due to the ways in which each species reproduces. The winner in the climate change war are multivotine insects, species who are able to reproduce multiple generations each year. On the losing side are univoltines , whose reproductive cycle makes it impossible to produce more than a single generation in a year.

Multivoltines have historically been hard to control as their ability to adapt to environmental conditions and pesticides is legendary – pesky aphids are a prime example of such a species. Because they have so many generations per year, adaptation of the species happens very quickly – hence an insect with the ability to persist, even as the conditions in its environment change. Univoltines such as the gypsy moth, on the other hand, reproduce slowly and, therefore, evolve slowly as well – making populations more susceptible to climate change-related damage.


While it’s impossible to see aphid and gypsy moth populations for yourself during the winter, it’s still possible to learn about this phenomenon as a family while the ground is covered with snow. Instead of aphids and moths, think about dandelions and apple trees. During the summer, dandelions pop up everywhere and go to seed fairly quickly. The seeds, blown by the wind, grow more and more generations of dandelions before the warm weather ends. Apple trees, on the other hand, take years and years to begin producing apples. Instead of reproducing quickly, multiple generations of apple trees can take a century or more to exist. Which of these species do you think might be more easily affected by a climate in which the temperature continues to rise? The one that takes longer to reproduce, of course. And which one is generally considered to be more desirable and valuable? The slow, slow apple, of course.

Apple Blossoms in May

Challenge kids to think of other examples of species that fit this speed and adaptability vs. value to humans dichotomy – there are lots of possible choices to examine… Read the rest of this entry »

3 Easy Ways to Preserve the Fall Harvest

Putting Up the Harvest

Pickling is a great activity to get your kids involved in preserving the harvest while teaching them about the art and science of fermenting foods.

When you think of preserving food do you have an image of an old Amish woman wearing a bonnet stooped over a stove somewhere in the Midwest? Me neither, but if I did this would be a very limited way of looking at a millenniums old tradition. The reality is you need nether the bonnet or a root cellar to have loads of local fruits and vegetables to eat most, if not, all the winter long.

For my family’s consumption I preserve food in many different ways: drying, pickling, root cellaring, fermenting, moonshining, freezing, etc.… But some ways are certainly MUCH easier then other. And these I will share.

Cold room in house — most people have one of these, maybe a basement, mudroom, etc.… Many of our local fruits and vegetables keep for months just in cardboard boxes at temps around 40-50 degrees. No packing in sand, no controlling the humidity, nothing. Apples, pears, winter squash, cabbage, onions, garlic are the ones I keeping in my basement & unheated sunroom. Get your kids involved too, asking questions like, “why do root vegetables need a certain type of environment to make it through the winter.”  This can lead to fun discoveries in biology and the natural process of decomposition. Read on…

5 Plants for a Beautiful Late Fall Garden

5 Plants to a Great Late Fall Landscape

Most homeowners can create beautiful gardens or home landscapes in the summer months. The grass is green, bushes are in flower, bulbs bloom and trees are leaved out. But most families live in their house twelve months a year, so why not landscape your home gardens so they also looks good in November, December and January, while supporting winter wildlife?

In early November I took these photos of my favorite fall plants from my own home landscape. While they may not have quite the “WOW!” factor that a spring blooming dogwood may have, they look pretty darn good for the “off season.” Maybe sit down with your family this fall and think about ways to attract more wildlife to your home gardens with plants that look interesting in the winter, producing seeds for birds and flowers for bees and butterflies.

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In a home landscape I recommend trees, shrubs, ground covers, flowers and ornamental grasses… Read the rest of this entry »

Ticket Giveaway: Milkshake at MASS MoCA

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets & museum passes to see…

A Family Concert at MASS MoCA
Saturday, November 23rd

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets & museum passes to see Grammy-nominate Milkshake in concert at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, on Saturday, November 23rd at 11:30am. Deadline to enter to win: Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 11:59pm (EST).

Hilltown Families and MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) have partnered up to offer a family 4-pack of free tickets and museum passes to one very lucky family to see the Grammy-nominated band, Milkshake, live at  MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, November 23rd at 11:30amFind out how you can enter to win below:


Milkshake began in 2002 as a musical experiment on the part of vocalist Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl , longtime bandmates from Baltimore’s indie rock group Love Riot, who vowed to “grow” their music right along with their own young children. Since then, Milkshake and the band’s legion of fans have been living an exciting, real life, growing up adventure, moving from early childhood through the early elementary years, as the group toured the country and produced several multi-award-winning CDs, a DVD, and a multitude of music videos seen all over the kid-friendly networks. Along the way, as the kids grew and the music grew with them, Milkshake grew from a duo to a six-piece band.

Known for their pop-rock style that fairly crackles with energy, Milkshake indeed has a following of all ages…

Read the rest of this entry »

3 Sustainable Plant Choices for the Family Garden

Sustainable Plant Choices: Beautiful, Edible & Pollinators

There are many plants, edibles and ornamentals, that are beautiful to look at, tasty to eat, and beneficial for pollinating insects. The perfect trifecta for your gardens. When I design a garden I always think, “how can I maximize its positive environmental impacts?” I have 1000′s of possible plants to use swirling through my head during the landscape design process. But more times then not I come back to using the same five or so trees, five or so shrubs, and ten or so perennial species. Why? Because they have the “big 3″ attributes I mentioned above…

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5 Late Summer Family Garden Chores

Late Summer Family Garden Chores

September is here and the days are becoming shorter, nights are becoming cooler… These environmental changes trigger responses in plants telling them it is almost time to hibernated, or if you are an annual, go to seed and die.  Here are five suggested garden chores you can do with your family before the first freeze and the first snow fall:


  • Make pesto. Basil likes long hot days and those are looking like a thing of the past. My basil right now looks a bit yellowish and limp. Every day that goes by now without it being harvested will result in less pungency and fewer leaves. Picking and washing the leaves is a great task for kids. While basil stinks dried it is excellent frozen. Stuff a freezer bag full and enjoy all fall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Home Garden Challenges Offer Teachable Moments

Blueberries & Tomatoes: Under Siege!

This year’s tomato and potato blight are  the same blight that wiped out western Massachusetts crops in 2009. And the potato blight is the same blight that cause the Irish potato famine of the 1840′s! Use it as a teachable moment and discover the history of the Irish potato famine. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In western Massachusetts, when we think of summer we often think of locally grown foods. Even the most novice gardeners have grown, or are currently trying to grow tomatoes. If they have tried to plant fruits they probably have attempted to grow blueberries and raspberries. Part of the reason that most gardeners have tired these plants is because they are generally easy to grow and give good yields. But in the last decade or so the number of diseases and insects that have started to plague farmers’ fields and home gardens is on the rise. Part of the reason is erratic weather extremes while another reason is increased trade with countries with similar ecosystems whose insects or diseases can easily adapt to our climate while leaving behind the environmental controls of its home country. The good news is there are organic methods to control these culprits as well as teachable moments for kids…

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What Does a New Garden Need Most?

Proper Watering!

If your flower gardens, trees or perennial vegetables are “established” (been in the ground longer then a year) you can spread out the watering regiment to 2-4 weeks depending on how hot it is.

Now that your landscape or garden design project is complete, or you have finally got all your veggies in the ground, its success or failure is now dependent on whether or not you meet your plants’ water needs. Research has shown that a plant’s growth rate is affected for years by the way they were treated after transplanting. Failure to adequately water will have short- and long-term repercussions on your landscape. This task is a good one for kids if you can guide them to follow these steps:

  • When: April – October: Mornings are best, but anytime of day is okay. November – March: No need to water.
  • How Much: 1.5″ of rainfall per week or if done manually with a hose: 5 minute per tree, 1 minute per shrub and 10 seconds per perennial.
  • How Often: 1 time per week in normal temperatures. 2 times in hot weather. The soil in the root zone should not become dried out. Do this for at least the first growing season and preferably the second. Obviously if your vegetables are annuals then this does not apply.
  • How to Apply: Using a hose, apply water over the root area, not the leaves.

Skip using a water sprinkler to water your gardens. Fifty percent of the water is lost through evaporation and the other 50% can lead to excessively high moisture levels on the foliage, resulting in water-born fungi. Sprinklers were meant for lawns, and for cooling off the kids! Two essential gadgets can help families with their watering goals:

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Easy Composting Tips for Your Family Garden

Environmentally sound garden practices for the family garden

Most people know about composting, but as a busy parent this can feel like a lot of work.  Try these five tips on how to add organic matter to your family garden and discover an easier way to “compost.”

One of the major keys to a successful garden is the incorporation of organic matter into the soil every year. I remember taking a soil class at UMass 15 or so years back and hearing my professor say, “the answer to almost any question I ask this semester will likely be to add organic matter to the soil. If the problem is nutrition, drainage, pH, disease & insect problems, etc… the solution often can be solved with the addition of organic matter.”

Soil needs organic matter for a host of reasons, including moisture retention, aeration, microbial life, a slow release fertilizer… but maybe you’re wondering how to increase the organic matter in your soil…  Most people know about composting (see my post, The Dirt on Dirt) but as a busy parent this can be too much work for too little return. Here are five tips on how to add organic matter to your soil that my family often does, many of which you might not find in the pages of Better Homes and Garden:

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Growing Raspberries this Summer in Your Family Garden

5 Simple Steps for Pruning Raspberries

Stop by one of the many plant sales happening over the next few weekends around Western MA and pick up raspberries dug fresh out of someone’s garden to take home and grown in your own!

Picking ripe raspberries straight off of their canes and popping them into your mouth is a summer delight that kids can carry with them into adulthood as fond memories from their childhood! But perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in Western MA  gardens mystify their owners as do raspberries. And there is no shortage of information out there on how to prune these thorny canes!

As a professional and homeowner I can tell you I am often perplexed on how to prune them after reading one of the numerous tomes written on the subject. To make it easier for families to grow the berries in their home gardens for their children to enjoy, I’ve demystified their care here with 5 simple steps.  These steps assume that you have “summer bearing raspberries ” as opposed to “fall bearing raspberries.” Even if this is not the case, this system of care will work fine:

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Fresh Berries from the Garden!

Pruning Blueberry Bushes

Here you can see a blueberry bush that has not been pruned for 5 years! It has dozens of branches that are too old to produce much in the way of quality fruit. The interior is cluttered with deadwood and the canopy is filled with branches rubbing against one another.

April is a great month to get the family outdoors and getting their landscape ready for the spring. Families can rake the leaves missed in October, pick up fallen branches, cut perennials back… But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a spring chore. While many varieties of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year, our native blueberries will thrive with regular pruning. Pruning is one of those subjects that often can cause a state of paralysis to even the most seasoned gardener. But when it comes to blueberries, fear not. It is so simple that even your child can do it (providing you tell her that her goat can stay near by)…

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Late Winter Family Gardening Tips

5 Gardening Tips for Late Winter

Starting seeds in early March is an excellent way to get the whole family excited about the arrival of spring.

Spring is just around the corner and planning your garden with your kids while there’s still snow on the ground can be both fun and educational.  There’s no shortage of garden prep that you can be doing right now. Here are five things you can do to plan and prepare for your gardens this summer:

SEED CATALOGS: Gather your kids around and peruse thorough seed catalogs. Not only do some make for good reading (Fedco Seeds is my favorite), but it will give you the opportunity to learn a bit more about the culture of growing specific favorite plants.  Let your kids pick out veggies and flowers they’d like to grow in the garden and get them involved in this late winter tradition.

START SEEDS: This is a great thing to do with kids!  You have not capitulated on getting them that Golden Retriever they have been asking for, but what about giving them that…eggplant they have been asking for?! Ok, they never asked for it, but think what fun for the whole family it would be to start veggie seeds indoors while there’s still snow on the ground? This morning my 5yo daughter Priya was scooping the soil into planting cell for our garden veggies, while my 8yo son Forrest labeled all the plant tags and I sowed the seeds.  It’s a great family activity!

Read the rest of this entry »

From the Wall: Roundup of 10 Status Updates

From the Wall: A Weekly Roundup of Hilltown Families Status Updates on Facebook

If you haven’t already, join Hilltown Families on Facebook too, and be sure to add us to your interest list to receive our status updates in your Facebook newsfeed.

As part of our a communication network, every day we post status updates to the Hilltown Families Facebook page, including announcements, volunteer opportunities, conversation starters, promotions, links to archived posts, videos, podcast… To receive these daily status updates, check the wall on our Facebook page, or better yet, “Like” our page then add Hilltown Families to your interest list to receive status updates in your Facebook newsfeed.

Here’s a round up of what we shared and are talking about this past week.  Click on the links to follow through to our page and join in on discussions and find links to access more info:

CISA needs volunteers on two Saturdays, January 26 (in Springfield & Northampton) and February 2 (in Greenfield & Amherst), to help out at the farmers’ markets holding this year’s Winter Fare events. Tasks may include greeting attendees, handing out maps and taking surveys. Markets will run from about 10am-2pm. Please email volunteer@buylocalfood.org if you would like to get involved.The nomination period for the 2013 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Awards is now open! Know of a LGBTQ youth who has demonstrated courage in the face of adversity and discrimination based on gender and/or sexual orientation? Nominate them today!

Wondering how to stave off colds and flu this winter? Check out these Western MA folk remedies, compiled by Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Tony Lemos:

Mark your calendars for the 91st Annual Greenfield Winter Carnival happening February 1st-3rd… 3 days of winter play!!!

Athol Public Library writes, “Bring your gently used jeans to the Athol Public Library for our “Teens for Jeans” campaign. Jeans will be taken to Aeropostale and donated to teens in area homeless shelters. Donations will be accepted now through January 31st. A great opportunity to help out! For info please call: 978-249-9515

There will be a teacher workshop at Smith College Museum of Art on Asian Art on Wed., Feb. 6th from 10am-3pm for K-12 teachers. Explore interdisciplinary connections between Asian and “Western” art objects through exercises and presentations led by SCMA Education staff. Curator Fan Zhang will provide teachers with an overview of the Collecting Art of Asia exhibition and Anne Prescott, Director of the Five Colleges Center for East Asian Studies will outline valuable K-12 resources for teaching about Asia across the curriculum.

If you missed the broadcast of the Hilltown Family Variety Show’s South Africa Episode last May with guest DJ, Debbie Lan of Grenadilla, no worries! You can listen the podcast anytime. Gather the kids around and follow the link. Debbie features music by Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mafikozolo, Amompondo, and many others, including a few cuts off of their newest CD, “Can’t Wait,” one of our top 11 picks for 2012!

Have your kids asked yet how babies are made, or where babies come from? What did you say? If they haven’t asked yet, how might you reply when they do?

Last year we asked our readers to share their love for their pediatricians, recommending a pediatrician to families in Western Massachusetts who might be looking for a doctor for their children…

Thinking about venturing out to the Norman Rockwell Museum with the kids this winter? Check out their family guide! Designed specifically for families interested in extending art studies past a museum trip, the Norman Rockwell Family Guide is full of Rockwell’s work and includes information and questions to keep in mind while examining the images. Follow the link to check it out our write-up from last year with links and resources:

There have been lots of opportunities lately to volunteer with your families as a Citizen Scientist, assisting with bird population counts! Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and Bald Eagle Count both took place recently, but there’s another bird count that you can do any time of year! Mass Audubon offers a checklist of birds that visitors to Canoe Meadows in central Berkshire Cty. can print and take along on their excursion.

10 Ways Families Can Be Engaged in Their Community Post-Election in Western MA

Status Updates: Community Service Connections

For more community service connections, “Like” the Hilltown Families Facebook page for status updates!

Here are 10 ways families and teens can support their community and others post Hurricane Sandy and leading up to the holidays.  All of these suggestions were posted to the Hilltown Families Facebook page over the past week.  We offer daily updates and announcements on our Facebook page for families living throughout Western MA! If you haven’t already, be sure you not only “Like” our page, but that you add us to your Facebook News Feed and Interest Lists!


Is your family looking to volunteer in the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts? There is a Staten Island Relief project happening all week in the Pioneer Valley. A tractor trail is being filled with donated relief items and both donations and volunteers to load are needed. Locations include: Technique Studio of Dance (470 Newton St.) in South Hadley on Tues. (11/6) and Wed. (11/7) from 4:30-7:30pm; Nuvo Bank in Springfield (1500 Main St.) during regular business hours from 8am-5pm; and Hukelau Restaurant parking log (705 Memorial Dr.) in Chicopee on Fri. (11/9) from 9am-7pm. Suggested donation items include: water, blankets, contractor bags, clothing, shoes, boots, flashlights, batteries, cleaning supplies, baby needs (clothing, diapers), children’s toys and ready to eat food (pretzels, chips, cookies, etc.). Anything and everything is needed! – Email Darlene Sattler at TSD1997@aol.com to volunteer or to donate.

The Minerva Tag Sale Center in north Berkshire County is currently accepting donations for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Minerva Arts Center writes, “We have sent a delivery of donations down today and are planning another in 10 days. Donations are accepted everyday.”


On Saturday (11/10), bring the family and head to Springside Park, Pittsfield’s largest public park, and volunteer together with your community to clean up the park before the snow falls. Bring gloves and park at the upper playground (near the old zoo). Rain date: 11/11.


Saturday night (11/10) join the families from the Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington for a community pasta supper with locally made sauce from Ooma Tesoro & bread from Bread Euphoria Bakery & Cafe. There will even be gluten free pasta for those who can’t have wheat. Two seatings. Follow the link for details:


Looking for a place to donate your child(ren)’s used toys? Alison Webster asks, “Does anyone know where I could donate used, very good condition toys and they would go directly to kids/families?” Check out what our readers recommended and share your own ideas:


The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield is now accepting turkey donations for their 21st Annual Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov 15th at the Club for youth members and their families, free of charge! With over 200 people expected, volunteers are needed too to help serve and clean If your family is interested in volunteering please contact Kellie or at 413-562-2301 or lerryn@comcast.net.


Internships Needed for Local Youths! The North Quabbin Community Coalitionis looking to fill paid and unpaid internship positions for local youth from both Athol High School and Ralph C. Mahar Regional Schools. These positions would offer the youth an opportunity to explore possible career opportunities and exploration, give them experience in a certain field and offer them the opportunity to learn. Some benefits to local businesses who are willing to hire youth can range from enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, creativity and adaptability. Youth thrive with change and are open to it, and most importantly they are consumers. If you are interested in hosting a youth internship, please contact Jennifer Desjardins at the North Quabbin Community Coalition at 978-249-3703 or Jennifer@nqcc.org.


The Emily Williston Library will offer its popular “Food for Fines” program the first three weeks of November to benefit the Easthampton Community Center Food Pantry. Patrons with outstanding fines for overdue materials may have their fines erased by donating canned food items, diapers, and toiletries. Follow the link to find out more:


Child Care of the Berkshires, Inc.‘s Family Resource Center in North Adams is in need of donations of children’s winter coats for their clothing exchange. Sizes ranging from infant through size 10 are needed. FRC will have donation boxes at their Play and Learn Groups and inside the door at Haskins Center in North Adams. Questions? Give them a call at 413-664-4821.


Moments House is looking for teens interested in being on their Jr. Board of Directors. If you know a teen who would be interested in becoming involved in any way with their mission to ensure no one faces a cancer diagnosis alone, call 413-443-6800. Moments House is a non-profit organization based out of South Lee, working to open a homelike gathering place where all Berkshire County families impacted by a cancer diagnosis can come together to gather information, and comfort and support one another. www.momentshouse.org

Q&A: Tennis Lessons for Kids


Hilltown tennis lesson sign ups are happening this summer in Chesterfield on their newly restored courts!

Recommend a place for kids to take summer tennis lessons in and around the Pioneer Valley.

Share your recommendation too in the comment field below!

Are your kids interested physics too? Whether they are or not, this video on the physics of tennis is pretty cool:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Yung]

Victorian Lawn Games & Intro to Classical Music in Holyoke

Wistariahurst Museum Hosts Victorian Game Day & Beethoven’s Wig

Marjorie Latham of the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA writes:

Are you and your kids looking for some great ways to have fun this coming weekend? We would love to see you!  Wistariahurst Museum is hosting two free youth events this Saturday and Sunday, June 2nd & 3rd!

Victorian Game Day on the Lawn at Wistariahurst: On Saturday, June 2, from 1 to 3pm, Wistariahurst is hosting an afternoon of old-fashioned outdoor games on the lawn. Visitors of all ages are welcome to play a rousing game of croquet, volley the birdie with an invigorating match of badminton, let kites soar as high as they’ll go, or keep their elegance intact with the Victorian favorite, “Graces.”

Richard Perlmutter as “Beethoven’s Wig” in Concert: On Sunday, June 3 at 2pm, we’ll keep up the exciting pace with an energetic concert for kids! As you may know, Wistariahurst has a proud musical history. The Italianate music room that Miss Belle Skinner had built in 1914 housed a rare collection of instruments and welcomed guests to enjoy both their beauty and sound. On that musical note, we welcome Richard Perlmutter into Belle’s Music Room. His 4-time Grammy nominated “Beethoven’s Wig” is a fabulous introduction to classical music for children of all ages. Perlmutter was inspired by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and the rhythmic phrase “Beethoven’s Wig is very big.” He has continued creating silly lyrics and has many an album’s worth of classical songs with added humorous lyrics. Bring your family, your friends and have a great time on the lawn and in the Music Room this coming weekend at Wistariahurst Museum.

Saturday’s Victorian Game Day and Sunday’s Beethoven’s Wig Concert are FREE! Wistariahurst Museum is located at 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke, MA.  For more information call 413-322-5660 or visit online at www.wistariahurst.org.

[Image courtesy Wistariahurst Museum via BBC Primary History.]

Great Line Up Planned for the 6th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival in Cummington!

Local & Regional Musical Favorites will Perform at the
6th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival
on May 12th, 2012 at the Cummington Fairgrounds!

Hilltown CDC has a fabulous lineup of local and regional musical favorites to perform at the Hilltown Spring Festival on May 12, 2012 at the Cummington Fairgrounds.  The music begins at 11am and continues until 5pm on two stages, followed by an all-ages contra-dance from 5 to 7pm.

MISTER G (Family Concert at 11:15am)

Mister G is Ben Gundersheimer, who was awarded the first songwriting scholarship in the history of Berklee College of Music. Mister G has performed concerts and led workshops throughout the U.S., Euroope and Latin America. Thanks to his infectious songs and a dynamic live show, Mister G is one of the rising stars of the kids’ music world. Bill Childs of WRSI says, “Mister G’s music is insanely catchy, totally engaging, and a lot of fun for parents. He’s got that rare quality where kids are simply and fully connected.” – Mister G’s most recent CD, Bugs, was chosen by Parents’ Magazine as one of the top CDs of 2011. People Magazine called it “irresistible” and selected it as one of the “hottest and coolest” albums for children. – www.mistergsongs.com


Since they formed in 2009, The Boxcar Lilies have been wowing audiences with their standout marriage of superb songwriting and spine‐tingling, innovative harmonies. In a short time, they’ve garnered an exceptional amount of attention for their music and energetic stage presence, finding themselves playing renowned venues like The Iron Horse Music Hall and Philadelphia’s Tin Angel, or opening for legendary songwriters like Bill Staines and Lucy Kaplansky. – Sheryl Hunter of The Recorder wrote, in 2011, “There is nothing like great three part harmonies to send a shiver up your spine and create goose bumps on your skin. It is one of the loveliest musical sounds you can hear. The Boxcar Lilies has an appealing, rootsy take on music. But even more than their musicianship or strong songwriting, it’s the band’s stunning harmonies that are at the heart of its appeal.” – www.boxcarlilies.com


At 3pm, singer and teacher Lui Collins will also lead a Family Music Jam! We'll sing together, play instruments, do a bit of movement, maybe even dance! All ages are welcome, from grownups down to babes in arms.

Folksinger/songwriter Lui Collins has been performing, writing and recording since the 1970′s, earning international recognition for her music and releasing several highly-acclaimed recordings on Philo, Green Linnet, her own Molly Gamblin Music, and Waterbug. After touring nationally for several decades, she founded the educational branch of her work, now called Lui Collins’ Upside-Up Music, in 2003. Collins now divides her time between concerts, teaching, and early elementary music curriculum development. – The Boston Globe has described Lui as “one of New England’s first and brightest stars,” and Sing Out! Magazine calls her “incomparable.” Renowned guitarist Dave van Ronk called her “one of the best guitarist-arrangers I have heard in years.” Michael Devlin of Music Matters Review wrote: “…there are relatively few artists who are bringing a traditional sensibility to modern songwriting, and in the process creating new traditional music. Lui Collins is among the barefoot royalty of this group…” – www.luicollins.com

RANI ARBO & DAISY MAYHEM (Family Concert at 2pm)

At 4PM, in a hands-on workshop, we’ll make a wooden “harmonica” and a wacky, found-object drum set with percussionist Scott Kessel from the band Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Along with cans, bottles, cardboard boxes, pencils, and rubber bands, we’ll recycle rhythms from around the world into beats of our own — and then we’ll strike up the whole, recycled band!

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem will play from their award-winning family CD, Ranky Tanky!  The Boston Herald hails them as “One of America’s most inventive string bands,” and they deliver here with a rollicking ride through American musical history, from 200-year-old Georgia Sea Island tunes to Texas swing, Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, and the Funky Meters. Armed with voices, hands, boxes and tin cans, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem prove that people have never needed fancy instruments to make music — and that when we do it all together, it’s magic. With bass, fiddle, guitar, ukulele, banjo and the 100% recycled “Drumship Enterprise,” this fun-loving band will have you & your kids dancing, shaking, clapping — and making more music than you knew was in your bones!  Ranky Tanky won a  Parents’ Choice Award in 2010. The citation said, “Forget the kids, you’ll want this album for yourself. The fact that your children will absolutely love it will be the icing on an already delicious cake.” - www.raniarbo.com


By day, Gina Coleman works in the admissions office and as the coach of the women’s rugby team at Williams College. But at night, she goes into a phone booth, changes her outfit, and comes out as a blues singer in the tradition of classic blues divas like Big Mama Thornton, Dinah Washington, and Georgia White. For the last three years, Coleman has been the lead singer of Misty Blues. Coleman is an expressive vocalist with a big low end and colorful upper register. Working with Coleman are some of the Berkshires’ finest musicians, including guitarist/vocalist Jason Webster, bassist/vocalist Bill Patriquin, drummer Mike Basiliere, harmonica player Matthew Swanson and guitarist Jeff Dudziak. – www.mistyblues.org


The Primate Fiasco uses the instrumentation of a New Orleans street band (sousaphone, banjo, brass, woodwinds, drums) but plays music that you wouldn’t expect. They can keep a dance party pumpin’ on a sidewalk or from a stage. From their Grammy nominated kids album to their cult following of hippies and hipsters to their indie and folk following, the Fiasco scene is open to all demographics. You may see them on stage or you may see them parading through a festival campground. Either way, you’ll be smiling and moving your feet.  Jeff Giles of Dadnabit writes, “Trust me: you’re a Primate Fiasco fan. You just don’t know it yet.” - www.primatefiasco.com


At 2pm, percussionist Tony Vacca will also lead a hands-on session. Learn to play a "World Music" percussion composition by listening and playing back what you hear. All ages and skill levels are welcome. The instruments usually include djembe drum, balafon, tuned bells, shekere, talking drum, gongs and drum set. Instruments will be provided, and you are welcome to bring your own as well.

Tony Vacca is an innovative American percussionist. Over the course of his career, he has made a habit of pushing the already adventurous conventions of World Music into new territory, both as a soloist and as the leader of his World Rhythms Ensemble. His solo performances are a nearly non-stop athletic spectacle of percussion music and spoken word, incorporating a world of percussion traditions that includes African, Caribbean, Asian and Middle-Eastern influences. He has recorded and/or performed with a wide range of musicians. These include pop icon Sting, Senegalese Afro-pop star Baaba Maal, jazz trumpeter and World Music legend Don Cherry, poet Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, Senegalese hip-hop stars Gokh-bi System, and Massamba Diop, Senegalese master of the tama or talking drum. – www.tonyvacca.com

Other musical acts include the Northampton-based band AstroBeast (4pm) and the Amherst-based band Who’da Funkit (2pm). – See you there!!!

Rally for the Highland Communities in Ashfield

Rally for the Highland Communities:
A Call to Action with Tom Wessels in Ashfield

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Mark Wamsley of the Highland Communities Initiative writes:

Generations of residents have shaped the Highlands– stone by stone, farm by farm, and trail by trail. What role can you and your family play in its future? The Highland Communities Initiative invites you to rally for our region at the Bullitt Reservation (332 Bullitt Rd.) in Ashfield on Saturday, September 17th from 9AM to 2PM. Come and celebrate the towns we call home, deepen your community connections, learn new ways of protecting the special places that you care about…and have fun doing it!

We’re calling the rally  “a really fun conference, or a country fair with an important purpose.”  We’ll kick things off with a keynote speech by ecologist Tom Wessels.  Already noted for his keen eye on New England’s rural past, this time Tom will offer insights on the road ahead, illuminating lessons the natural world holds for creating resilient communities and economies.

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Afterward, those looking to lend a hand can connect with the many local groups showcasing their work at the rally (including Hilltown Families), hear inspiring stories of communities uniting together, or learn more about the positive steps you can take on their own property.  Free consultations with home energy or land conservation experts will be available, but sign up early!  If you’re just looking to revel in the sun on a beautiful (hopefully!) fall day, fun, family-friendly activities and demonstrations will abound as you explore the vibrant farm landscape at the Bullitt Reservation.

Activities perfect for families include:

  • 10:30-12:30—Planting For Fall in the Demonstration Kitchen Garden (Kid Friendly)
    Join School Sprouts, an educational gardening organization in harvesting the Bullitt garden’s crops and preparing the beds for fall.  We’ll harvest our heritage wheat grains, build a hoop house, plant frost-tolerant plants, and mulch the beds for the winter.
  • 10:45 and 11:30—Find the Invader!  (Kid Friendly)
    This fun treasure hunt will teach kids how to identify troublesome plant and insect invader in their local landscapes.
  • (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Anytime—Pebble Discovery Hike (Kid Friendly)
    Take a moderate, ¾ mile hike to the giant  “Pebble.”  Sit on the bench at the top of the field and enjoy the view of Mount Owen.  Or, take the self-guided Discovery Hike and find signs of ancient glaciers and recent wildlife.

  • For the complete rally schedule, click HERE.

Guests may bring their own lunches or purchase one at the rally offered by Elmer’s General Store, Pre-registration is encouraged and some consultations have limited space. For more information and to pre-register call 413-628-4485 or email mwamsley@ttor.org. We hope to see you there!

- Mark Wamsley, Program & Outreach Coordinator, Highland Communities Initiative, The Trustees of Reservations

Saturday, September 17, 2011 | 9AM-2PM | TTOR Members and Children under 12: FREE. Nonmembers: Adult $5. Bullitt Reservation, 332 Bullitt Rd. Ashfield, MA 413-628-4485

Western MA Folk Remedies for Wellness

Miscellaneous Remedies


"I use Chicken Soup for everything, it is soul food. Using herbs and spices like Pepper, Paprika, and Cayenne help to warm the body and clear the sinuses." - Diane Todrin

“I use Chicken Soup for everything, it is soul food. Using herbs and spices like Pepper, Paprika, and Cayenne help to warm the body and clear the sinuses:

Chicken Soup

  • small fryer chicken
  • 4 or 5 ribs of celery
  • 4 or 5 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 4 or 5 onions cut in quarters
  • ginger sliced into 10 quarter size pieces
  • 1/8 cup whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 Tbs. Thyme
  • salt to taste

Honor the chicken and give thanks.

Fill large pot with cold water and add chicken. Stove should be on high. When the water comes to a boil, lower the flame to medium low. The chicken will release a tan scum as it begins to boil. Scoop this out. When pot has been cleared of scum, add all other ingredients simmer for 4 hours. Strain, chill and then remove fat that accumulates on top. Heat and eat.” —  Diane Todrin

“My unabashed plug for the health benefits of my personal lifestyle: After years of thinking about it and procrastinating, I finally embraced a way of eating that has proven so beneficial to my health that I am still discovering new positive effects. And while I think it’s important to have a working repertoire of remedies for what ails us, I think it’s even more important to know how to live without dis-ease!

“This is what works for me: no refined carbohydrates and no forms of refined or concentrated sugar (except what naturally occurs in fruit, eaten whole). This means eating only whole-grain products, and avoiding all forms of sugar, including fruit concentrates, honey, raw sugar, politically correct sugar, anything ending in -ose, and artificial sweeteners.

“The refined carbohydrates (white flour, organic wheat flour, white pasta, rice noodles, and anything that does not have the word “whole” in the ingredient list) turn into sugar in our bodies, and have the same effect metabolically speaking. I also do some very simple food combining: I eat fruits by themselves, protein/fats meals without starchy carbohydrates, and carbohydrates meals without fat/protein. I believe this results in more complete metabolizing. It certainly improves digestion and makes “gas” and “fullness” a thing of the past.

“The benefits for me have been amazing: my energy level is on an even keel all day; I lost the extra weight that I’ve been dragging around for 10 years; a recent trip to the dental hygenist was pain-free, blood-free, and tartar-free; my knee and “arthritis” pains have disappeared; my life-long allergic reactions to mosquito and bee bites don’t happen any more; junk food cravings have disappeared. In general, I feel more energetic, more positive, and sleep like a rock. I have come to believe that sugar and refined carbohydrates (the bulk of the modern American diet, and even the modern vegetarian diet) in combination with a sedentary lifestyle are responsible for most of what ails us, be it physical or emotional. I am also amazed that decades after the expose of the “empty calories” of white bread, that our supermarket shelves contain nothing but.  Worse yet, we now have a plethora of products, both in supermarkets and in so-called health food stores, which use deceptive labeling practices to dupe the public into thinking they’re getting whole grain products.

“Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.” —  Grace Edwards

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Injuries


“Five Flower Formula is the remedy for emergency! This flower essence formula is used for all aspects of emergencies, containing the Clematis for being fully grounded, Cherry Plum for letting go, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for transcendence and Star of Bethlehem for peace.” – Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA

“Joanna Campe of Northampton learned this from her teacher, Eva Graf of Great Barrington and uses it all the time with great success – including in the jungle of Columbia and on a glass cut wound: with a mortar and pestle mix Goldenseal* powder and Slippery Elm* powder with water to make a thick paste. Apply to wound thickly as an antibiotic covering and cover with bandage. After wound is beyond getting infected you may rub banana into it to keep it from scarring. I have used Cayenne powder directly on a cut to stop the bleeding and to avoid infection and was amazed that it did not sting until three hours later.” - Lauren Mills (Williamsburg, MA)

* Editors Note: Goldenseal and Slippery Elm are on the United Plant Savers (UpS) At Risk List, therefore only cultivated plants should used. 

“When I have an injury, like a backache or a sprain or anything of that nature, I go out and buy as many Epsom salts as I can afford and take a hot, hot, hot bath. I remain in it as long as I can then I get out and drink as much water as I possibly can … it helps, and it will help you too!” - Star Drooker, Raine Arrow Drooker, Jesse Salmon Boy Drooker who is eternal, Fire & Water Cafe (Northampton, MA)

“A wormwood pack for your bruises: Use 1 heaping tablespoon of dried Wormwood herb per 1 cup water. Make an infusion. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain. Dip cloth in tea, ring out. Place some of the wet, strained Wormwood into the cloth. Fold over to make a large compress. Apply to bruise and secure with plastic wrap.” - Kathleen Duffy

“Hey, don’t leave home without your rescue remedy… RESCUE REMEDY is a Bach Flower Remedy Composite made up of 5 Flower Essences that is used for all aspects of emergency: Accidents, Physical Ailments, Emotional Upsets, Stress, etc. Dr. Edward Bach, who developed this remedy over 60 years ago, attributed it with saving many lives. The negative patterns or conditions that Rescue Remedy works with are virtually limitless. They include everything from near fatal accidents to emotional upsets to minor cuts and bruises. Rescue Remedy can be used both internally and externally.

  • It can be applied to burns and lacerations.
  • It can be dropped in the eyes, or the ears, or on the head in cases of headache.
  • It can be rubbed on the skin to releive stiff, sore muscles or sprains.
  • It is helpful on insect bites or stings.
  • It revives dying plants.
  • It helps in any recuperative process for people, plants and animals
  • It can be used for sunstroke.
  • It revives the spirits.
  • It is very helpful in cases of colds or fevers.
  • It helps one to cope with extreme pain and shock.
  • It can be used in recovering from addictions, in hysteria and in pregnancy.

It contains Clematis for being fully grounded, Cherry Plum for letting go, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for transcendence and Star of Bethlehem for peace. It is the remedy of emergency. The standard dose is 4 drops as often as needed. The Flower Essence Society makes “Five Flower Formula” which is an analogue for Rescue Remedy.” - Tony(a) Lemos

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Stress


“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing in a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: 'I’ll go take a hot bath.' I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot that you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower your self inch by inch, till the water is up to your neck. - I remember the ceiling over every bath tub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs too, the antique griffin legged tubs and the modern coffin shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking the indoor lily pond and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders . . . I never feel so much myself as when I am in a hot bath.” - Excerpt from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“Staying healthy to me means staying happy with myself. If I’m feeling sad, lonely or stressed (which can lead to lower immune functioning and dis-ease of all sorts) I call over a group of friends and we have a meal, play games, dance, laugh and/or create art together. I think this is the best household remedy of all! Life is full of dis-ease, if I keep myself at-ease within community and friends my mind stays happy and healthy a day at a time. Good health is not always curing the symptoms – to me it is rejuvenating my spirit.” - Ricki Carroll, New England Cheese Makers Supplies, Ashfield

“When I’m feeling down, blue, or all-around crappy, it’s usually because my own world feels too small. So anything I can do to break out of my own world perception is especially helpful. I definitely make plans with friends with whom I laugh a lot or I go see some sort of entertainment that is a far cry from my own life – an anatomically incorrect rock musical for example. Anything that helps me to see, understand, and embrace the infinite possibilities of this world. Of course, spending my day wandering around trying to get the babies of strangers to laugh or smile is also very satisfying as well.”- Kelsey Flynn, Available for lunch, Northampton

“A tincture with St. Johnswort, Lemon Balm and Motherwort (along with self-heal and mullein flower essences) has been really helpful for a couple of friends. One was suffering from panic attacks and my other friend was feeling very depressed.” - Cathy Whitely

“Hot milk and honey and put your worries in a sack under your bed. They will be there in the morning.” - Eileen Latshang

“Maude knew. . . . “It’s oat straw tea. You’ve never had oat straw tea, have you?” “No.” “Well then.” She smiled and picked up the kettle. Do you remember this scene from the 1971 movie Harold and Maude written by Colin Higgins? -  Oats (Avena sativa) are in fact one of the best remedies for ‘feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. They’re a specific treatment for nervous debility and exhaustion, particularly when associated with depression. Oats act quite slowly but can be of real long-term benefit in any weakness of the nervous system. Oats are one of the classic plants which form a bridge between food and medicine (see oatmeal recipe under winter blues). Whenever I am feeling frazzled, rushed, overworked and that there is not enough time in the day, I brew myself a pot of oatstraw tea.” – Tony(a) Lemos, Ashfield

“I use passion flower and valerian tincture for anxiety and sleeplessness.” - Becky Loveland, Northampton

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Ticket Giveaway: Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell at MASS MoCA

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets to see…

Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell
A Family Concert at MASS MoCA
Saturday June 11th @ 2pm

"True children's music, but executed with such sweet (and un-gooey!) humor, casual multiculturalism and shambling groove that you can call it your own," says The New York Times about the music of Dan Zanes. - Enter to win tickets below. Deadline to enter is Wed., June 8th @ 7pm (EST).

Hilltown Families and MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) have partnered up to offer a family 4-pack of free tickets to one very lucky family to see Grammy Award-winner Dan Zanes, and critically acclaimed children’s folk musician, Elizabeth Mitchell, live at  MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, June 11th at 2pmFind out how you can enter to win below:


Dan Zanes is the former lead singer of the Del Fuegos, a garage pop band that was named “best new band” in 1984 by Rolling Stone Magazine. The birth of his daughter, Anna, in 1995, lead Zanes to start playing children’s music due to a dearth of intelligent musical options on the market at that time. Since 2000, Zanes has released 9 albums for children and was nominated for a Grammy in 2003 for the album House Party. His 2007 album, Catch That Train! won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children in 2003… among many other noteworthy awards and honors. www.danzanes.com


Elizabeth Mitchell has been recording music for children since 1998 and will offer a solo performance this month at MASS MoCA. She has release 4 children’s music albums, including the gospel-folk-reggae album, You Are My Sunshine.

Hilltown Families contributing writer Amber Bobnar reviewed Elizabeth’s newest album, Sunny Day in her column, Must-Hear Music Monday. She writes: “Elizabeth sings many traditional folk songs from around the world, but combines them in her seamless style. Her voice and arrangements are soft and safe; you can’t help but feel comfortable and comforted while listening to her music. It’s perfect music for after-school-wind-down time, for snuggling, or for just feeling happy and at home.” www.youaremyflower.org


Your chance to win a family 4-pack of free tickets to see Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell live at the MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, June 11th at 2pm is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:
  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting “Like” below
  • TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES CONNECTS YOUR FAMILY WITH LOCAL MUSEUMS  below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline to enter to win: Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 at 7pm (EST).

Tickets for Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell in concert at MASS MoCA are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.  Mueseum members are eligible for a 10% discount.  Tixs are available through their Box Office (Marshall St., North Adams, MA) or can be charged by phone by calling 413-662-2111 during Box Office hours, or online at www.massmoca.org any time.

Western MA Folk Remedies for Stomach Ailments

Stomach Ailments

" I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger..."

“How I Found my Plant Ally in Marrakesh: My battle with motion sickness all started on a seemingly endless bus ride through the mountains of Morocco. The hairpin turns were countless. I was not the only one throwing up into the plastic bag provided- so were the locals. This was the only bus ride I’ve even been on that had a hired hand to mop the aisles and between the seats. To make things worse, those who were lucky enough to not loose their already eaten tagine* held a cloth saturated with very cheap perfume close to their nose in an attempt to keep it down, or keep the sour smell out. That wretched smell left me with a vivid memory, a memory that goes straight to my stomach the moment I start moving . . . cars, trains, planes, boats, ferris wheels. You name it, I get sick.

“Morocco is the place I found my plant ally. I finally arrived in Marrakesh. I could still smell that cheap perfume everywhere and I felt sick! I had two weeks left. I needed relief. I walked the streets, the narrow foot paths that led to the market place, filled with jewelry, lamps, rugs and scarves, and people who wanted to decorate my white skin with a deep red henna, monkeys that danced, snakes that hissed. It was a mosaic of color and new finds. When the night air blew in new people came to light. In Marakesh the day time does not hold a space for the herbalist, they come out at night, with their promises to enlarge this and increase that. I met many an herbalist in the darkness of Marakash. One particular man sticks in my mind.

“Laid out in front of him was a square blanket, on it every remedy you could possibly imagine. Like all great herbalists his glass jars of every size were filled with unknown powers, flowers, and potions. Everything from dried lizard head to amber resin. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic. So I looked him in the eye, stuck out my tongue and held my tummy. He smiled and searched for something. He found it and held it to my nose. I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger, plain old, buy at the grocery store powered ginger. I bought a small packet and went to my hotel.

From that day on it’s been the first thing that goes in my carry-on bag. I do get strange looks went I ask the flight attendant “can I please have room temperature water” then I reach into my bag and pour a spoon full of powered ginger powder in. I would put in more but the taste is a bit extreme for my tongue. I mix this up before I even start moving and any time during the trip. It really works. I have not thrown up in a long time. I do get nauseous and ginger clears it right up in a matter of minutes. It’s easy, safe and cheap. A true ally to any nauseous traveler.” — D’Arcy Alyse Gebert (Shutesbury, MA)

*Editor’s note: for a great Tagine, check out Amanouz Cafe on Main Street in Northampton, MA. It makes a good warming winter’s meal.
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Western MA Women Share Folk Remedies for PMS

PMS (Menstrual Discomforts)

"I’ve been told by people who’ve tried it that Evening Primrose Oil can clear up all symptoms of premenstrual moodiness, anxiety and breast tenderness." - Cathy Whitely (community herbalist)

“The dark moon is upon us once again, the dark part of any cycle is the transition between death of old and birth of new. I sit here in circle with my sisters as I bleed. It is day one of my cycle. Tonight we share stories of our first blood. We laugh, we gasp, we cry, we empathize. I feel blessed, I know I am blessed. The word “blessing” originates from “bloedswean” an Old English word meaning to bleed. When was the blessing taken away from us, I wonder. . . sometimes I see myself as a pirate determined to plunder and smuggle back all which has been taken from us and reversed.” - Tony(a) Lemos, community herbalist (Ashfield, MA)

“For many many years I have been growing a beautiful plant called Chaste Tree. Vitex agnus-castus is the latin name. It is a beautiful plant that doesn’t do real well up here unless you put it in a very sunny spot. It has beautiful purple flowers and in the third and fourth year it starts to have berries. You can harvest the berries and make a tea or a tincture out of them. I recommend making tincture as the tea tastes god awful. It has been used for centuries as an aid for women from puberty through menopause. It’s great for PMS, mood swings, terrible cramping, or really poor periods. In treating symptoms of menopause it can be used to ease night sweats, hot flashes, or emotional mood swings. You need to take a dropperful twice a day. It is safe to use long term, you will know within two months whether it is the herb for you. It feels pretty amazing.” - Carol Joyce, White Buffallo Herbs (Warrick, MA)

“Lady Moon Tea: A female tonic to be used especially before and during the moon time. Steep at least 20 minutes, make 3 cups for the day and keep it warm in a thermos.
1 part Nettles
1 part Rasberry Leaf
3/4 part Chocolate Mint (or Peppermint)
1/2 part Oatstraw
1/2 part Horsetail
1/4 part Hibiscus
1/8 part Cinnamon
1/8 part Ginger Root
1/8 part Licorice Root
Can add small amount of the following to add up to 1/2 part mixture of: Crampbark (for cramps), Valerian (for nerves), Yellow Dock (for iron), Vitex and Wild Yam (for hormonal balancing), and Rose Petals (for mood lifting).”
- Lauren Mills, Illustrator of children’s books (Faery Wings, The Rag Coat) and founder of Woodkin Hollow, a small herbal business. (Williamsburg, MA) (Editors note: though Yellow Dock itself contains no iron it aids the absorption of iron.)

“For menstrual cramps, I heat a home made relaxation bag (made with flax seeds, dried lavender flowers & lavender essential oil) and place on my lower belly until the bag cools and then I do a warm & loving belly massage!” - Rachel Tartaglia NP

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Chest Congestions and Allergies

Chest Congestion

Natural allergy relief: common stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. (Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos)

Onion Cough Syrup: 2 lbs. onion, peeled and cut. Use enough raw honey to cover onions (1 1/2 – 2 lbs.) in a double boiler or crockpot. Heat to simmer. Add 1/2 oz each; Anise seed, Wild Cherry bark, cut Licorice root, Horehound. Cook for 2 hours. Strain by squeezing mixture through cheesecloth and into clean glass container. Store in refrigerator. — Kathleen Duffy

For bronchitis and coughs I’ve done different things, but what I usually stick with and love is an infusion of thyme, coltsfoot and mullein. I also dose up on echinacea. I know some people feel it’s overused or works better before you actually get sick, but when I’ve waited too long, refusing to believe that I really need to slow down, I’ve taken a dropper-full every two hours for a couple of days and it’s worked. Of course, if I start taking it when I should, my cough doesn’t turn into bronchitis in the first place. — Cathy Whitely

To treat lung and cold congestion a home made poultice made of mustard seeds and water, rub onto chest and cover with warm cloths, go to bed; wake
up dead or alive! — Mindy’s paternal great grandmother

the truth is . . . i was raised a christian scientist, the only medicine in the medicine cabinet was a box of bandaids and some vicks vaporub. everything was dealt with through prayer and practitioners (and denial). oh yeah, we got ginger ale if we were feeling crummy . . . but otherwise, we had to “work it out” with god, prayer, reading, scripture etc. — Lois Brown (Artist, Shutesbury, MA)

Collect the leaves of sage and thyme from your garden or potted window herb box, loosely fill a pint jar, and cover with olive oil. Let it sit for a moon cycle, shaking whenever you remember. Strain. — In a double boiler (saucepan is fine on low heat if you do not have a double boiler) melt 2 oz of beeswax. Once this is melted add 1 oz of your infused sage and thyme oil. Turn off the heat and add up to 3-4 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil and up to 6 drops more of any combination of the following Essential Oils: Clove, Ravensare, Pine or Peppermint. Pour the hot liquid into your containers, and let harden. If the salve is too hard melt down and add more of the sage infused oil, if it is too soft melt down and add more beeswax. — In the Valley Essential Oils can be purchased from Cornucopia, Joia and the Greenfield Coop. They should not be used directly on the skin without first diluting in either water or oil and they should never be used internally. — Tony(a) Lemos

My other grandmother administered this remedy if we had the kind of deep, uncontrollable coughing that accompanies bronchitis. She would beat an egg white until frothy, and add fresh lemon juice and honey, beat it up a bit more and have us drink this odd foamy mixture. We weren’t crazy about drinking grandma’s potion, but it sure stopped the coughing! — Grace Edwards (Sunderland, MA)

Bone Soup to Cure Lung (what Tibetans say is too much wind energy, the feeling in the lung area that makes you spacey, anxious, restless, nervous.) Put cold water in a soup pot, add beef bones, knee bones are best! Swish to extract any juices into the water, bring up to boil then simmer for an hour adding salt, bay leaves, star anise, sechuanne peppers and sliced ginger and some cut up beef. Grounding will be insured as well as a great night’s sleep. — Eileen Latshang


allergies? what allergies? i am not allergic to anything. i don’t want to label myself or trap myself into a box. my body believes what i tell her and when i say i don’t have allergies, it is true. oh, that terrible sneezing spell i have every fall? with swollen sinuses and constant pressure, a tickle in my throat, and itchy itchy eyes. that’s just my annual adjustment period. and every year it is smoother and less painful with the help of a couple herbs and my attitude. people say, wow your allergies are really bad. i say, i don’t have allergies. i can breathe deeply all of the air around me, smell the difference in the breeze. i deserve to live and breathe and be.

you know the days when your sinuses are draining uncontrollably for the seventh day in a row and if it doesn’t stop you’re going freak out and rip your eyeballs out of your head so you can scratch the back of them? well, those are the days that you need to say . . . HEY! i can breathe freely! i can breathe deeply! i can handle anything that comes my way! i want to live and breathe and be! it can be very hard to love and encourage myself that much. i need to treat myself compassionately. i can heal myself! i don’t need to sneeze at every speck of dust or pollen or mildew in the air, i can breathe it all in, and my body is strong enough to deal with it! i am sensitive and sassy! i am free!

i say these mantras to myself while i sip a large glass of nourishing nettles leaf (urtica dioica) infusion. nettles, my dear friend and healing helper, gives me long term support for my entire being to live allergy free. you can drink as much as you want, as much as you can. nettles is like a cooked green vegetable. you can’t overdo it with the infusion, capsules on the other hand may be dangerous, and certainly not as delicious. my favorite herb to stop a sneezing attack is osha root (ligusticum porteri) infusion. you can infuse the osha root over and over again. this infusion is taken in small sips. you can feel how strong and potent it is. i take a few sips as needed each day during my freak out period of autumn, but i wouldn’t use it every day of the year. that’s what nettles is for.

while i am making, drinking, sipping my infusions i say to myself . . . i deserve to live and i deserve to breathe deeply. i deserve to live and breathe in freedom. i can do anything i want to do, and i want to live and to breathe and to be. —  emily millspaugh, wise woman herbalist, shutesbury

Previous Posts:


Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offering alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. — A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

Western MA Folk Remedies for Sore Throats

Sore Throats

I use honey and lemon juice in hot water to soothe a sore throat..." — Becky Loveland (Northampton, MA)

“I’ve learned that when I have stuff in my lungs, its best to get it out, or expectorate  it. Licorice tea works very well, but more recently I tried coffee with cream and sugar (what I drink when I’m not sick). The caffeine cheered me up, the coffee or cream made me cough up phlegm, and the defiance of drinking something so wrong, so chi-depleting, and so pitta felt like it gave my immune system a jolt of righteous anger.” — Dar Williams

“Being a singer I am always looking for potions to cure a hoarse voice. Here are all the cures I use:

• “Voice rest — there is absolutely no better cure for laryngitis than silence, patience, and time.
• “Hot water with honey and lemon. I usually use just hot water and honey to avoid the acid in the lemon, but that’s because I have reflux and have to avoid all citrus.
• “Cider vinegar bath.
• “Avoid menthol — it’s drying.
• “Avoid dairy — it’s mucous producing.
•”Have a cool mist humidifier going in whatever room you are in — especially when you are sleeping.
• “I also have a personal humidifier that is warm steam. I use that just before I have to sing and just before bed.

“I have a friend who swears by ginger tea. Just boil water with a bunch of ginger root in it. Let it steep all day. I find it too spicy, but he swears it works.” — Katryna Nields

“My grandfather was a doctor and attended medical school on the cusp of homeopathy and allopathy (in fact, he went to Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, the home of homeopathy). So I vaguely remember being given homeopathic style remedies when we were very young. He also, according to my grandmother, formulated his own medicinals and enlisted her help in the mixing and measuring process. She would give us a chunk of “licorice stick” for a sore throat. This was no ordinary piece of licorice, but something very intense and hard. We would suck on it and it always helped. By the way, grandpa firmly believed that there was an herbal cure for every disease. — We would also eat a bowl of cooked greens laced with hot red peppers. The hot peppers were supposed to “cauterize” the sore throat, and the greens (escarole, kale, dandelions, or broccoli rabe) were a “tonic”. This was delicious and effective. My modern day version of this is to go to the nearest Chinese, Indian, Mexican or Thai restaurant and order any really hot dish.” — Grace Edwards

“To treat a sore throat: 1 teaspoon of sugar with turpentine drops.  Gag and try not to throw up or you would have to swallow another one!” — Mindy’s maternal great grandmother (Submitted by Kristol St. Claire, Mindy’s mom)

“A cure for a sore throat that burns, aches, feels scratchy, or for swollen glands, or a dry cough is to steep 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried Rosemary & 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried Sage in an 8 ounce cup of water for at least 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then gargle and swallow. This remedy is best when able to steep over night and then stored in the fridge for continued use.” — Alison Kleppinger (Easthampton, MA)

“For an uncontrollable bad cough I go to the Coffee Gallery on King Street in Northampton and ask for the saltiest Dutch Salt Licorice. It’s the best cough drop I’ve ever had. It completely soothes a painful scratchy throat and stops a cough. I use honey and lemon juice in hot water to soothe a sore throat if I don’t have the licorice. Most effective of all: you can just avoid having a lover and you won’t get sick.” — Becky Loveland (Northampton, MA)

“For sore throat and the beginnings of a cold make an infusion of thyme, marshmallow root and mullein leaf. It will soothe the throat, protect the lungs and the thyme acts as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Don’t forget to rest and eat chicken soup or miso with chopped garlic.” — Carrie Desmarais, Affinity Herbals (Northampton, MA)

“For sore throats or strep throat I’ve used sage gargles and drunk thyme tea, but what’s worked best for me is combining usnea and echinacea in tincture form (infusions would also be great). I used to get strep throat all the time as a kid and decided to try this combo a couple of years ago and it was gone in a couple of days.” — Cathy Whitely (Florence, MA)

“To treat a sore throat. Put 3 drops of Ravensara essential oil in 2 quarts of hot water from the tap. Stir. Soak cloth in mixture, ring out, wrap around neck. Secure with plastic wrap.” — Kathleen Duffy

“I do not remember who gave me this recipe, but as a singer and voice teacher it is the one I give out the most. It has rescued me many a time from sore throats and laryngitis, as well as keeping me warm from the inside out all through the winter. As I understand it, ginger is a tonic for the throat and for the digestion, as well as having the ability to keep you warm at the core. Grate 6 tsp (or more) of fresh ginger. Put it in a two quart saucepan and fill the saucepan to the top with boiling water. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain out the ginger for each cup you drink, making sure you add a bit of honey to aid in digestion. I return the ginger to the original pot and let sit, making the remainder tea stronger over time. You can cut it with more water if the original preparation becomes too strong.” — Justina Golden, The Profound Sound Voice Studio (Florence, MA)

“I use the tincture of collinsonia as centerpiece for a throat formula I call Performer’s Throat. Its fairly miraculous for bringing a voice back that’s been rocked by overuse. Even as close to a performance as an hour. The only time it doesn’t seem to work is when the person actually has laryngitis. It brings circulation to that area, widening out tightened cords. Also, interestingly, it does similar things for the colon, so is also good for hemorrhoids, and for prolapse of any kind. My Performer’s Throat formula changes a bit from here to there, but always contains at least collinsonia, calamus, spilanthes, propolis. I’ll add glycerin for taste, maybe a touch of ginger, sometimes elder, sometimes yerba mansa.” — Chris Marano

Previous Posts:

Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offerring alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

Photo credit: (ccl) boo lee

Giveaway: 5 Gift Baskets from 5 Local Food Businesses in Western Mass

Hilltown Families turned five at the turn of the year … and we are celebrating all year long!  This month we are offering 5 Gift Baskets from 5 Local Food Businesses, celebrating local food and businesses with a sample of products from Dean’s Beans, Tea Guys, Bart’s Ice Cream, Dufresne’s Sugar House, and Appalachian Naturals.

Deadline to enter to win is Friday, February 4th.  Five winners will be randomly selected and announced during the opening reception for Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA at Cup & Top Café in Florence on February 5th and must be present to win. All of the businesses included in the giveaway have products that are used or sold at the cafe. Details below.

One thing you can say about families in Western Mass is we are committed to creating healthy communities for our children to grow and thrive in.  One avenue that brings many of us together is food… more specifically, locally grown and produced food. Families and communities have come together to advocate for healthy locally grown foods to be served in our schools with programs like Fresh Wednesdays, and to celebrate these foods in our school cafeteria’s during the Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week.

Together we support family farms by choosing to purchase our food as local as possible, and shop all year round at both summer and winter farmers’ markets.  We like to discuss ways to prepare our garden surplus for the dinner table, where to pick local fruits, and organize ways we can share our bounty with neighbors.  In the fall, community harvest dinners bring together families to celebrate with events like the annual Free Harvest Supper of Local Food, and Western Mass restaurants often prepare their menus with locally grown produce. —  Our community is strong with the voice of many activists too and has rallied behind opportunities like creating a community farm, forming a perennial food growing group,  and supporting free workshops on food security. — We have a lot to be proud of living here in Western Mass, and our local food culture is one of the many reasons why!

Here on Hilltown Families we give a visual glimpse into our local food culture with photographic images taken at the multitude of family farms, community events and farmers’ markets happening in our region. Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA debuts this February in Florence with an opening reception on Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup and Top Café in Florence, MA (1 North Main St. 585-0445).  As the show travels to different local businesses and institutes, the images will change, showcasing images relative to the season and the host town. The debut show at Cup and Top Café will include images from the Ashfield Farmers’ Market, Northampton Tuesday Market, Summit Farm (Plainfield), Florence Farmers’ Market, Clarksdale Farm (Deerfield), Free Harvest Supper (Greenfield), Red Gate Farm (Buckland), among others.

Both Hilltown Families and Cup and Top Café are celebrating their 5th birthdays and the café has been a proud sponsor of Hilltown Families for the past couple of years. Helen Kahn, owner of the café writes, “Over the last five years the café has literally grown up alongside Hilltown Families, and during that time we have developed a sort of symbiotic relationship. The café provides a physical space that compliments what Hilltown Families has created online for families.”

“The café is a great family friendly destination,” shares Sienna Wildfield, Founder of Hilltown Families. “Helen’s commitment to supporting local farms, local artists and local businesses can be seen on her menu and on her walls.  The café is the perfect spot to debut Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA.”

On the evening of the opening reception, Hilltown Families will announce the winners of each of the 5 gift baskets from 5 local food businesses. These business are featured below and have been selected for the giveaway because all of them have products that are used or sold at the Cup and Top Café. Find out how to enter to win below (it’s super easy), and make plans to come to the opening reception on Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup & Top Café (1 North Main St. 585-0445). Must be present to win! Come show your support of Hilltown Families and maybe even walk home with a fabulous gift basket to add spark to your kitchen!

Dean’s Beans (Orange, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Dean’s Beans Gift Box includes a 12oz. bag of Moka Sumatra, a 12oz. bag of Peruvian French Roast Decaf, a Putumayo CD with music from the coffeelands, Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee written by Dean Cycon, Dean’s Bean Travel Mug, a Large Dean’s Beans T-Shirt, a 12 oz. bag of Organic Hot Cocoa Mix, a 12 oz. bag of Organic Baking Cocoa, a 24 oz. bag of Organic Sugar, and a pound of Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. (Value: $85)

Social activism, ecological responsibility, and great coffee meet at Dean’s Beans, a family-owned certified organic, fair trade coffee roaster. Offering fair priced, great tasting products that support peaceful social change, Dean’s Beans is characterized by an unyielding commitment to ethical business practices, people-centered development, and sound ecological practices. The quality of their products is a reflection of the quality of life of our farm partners. The health and strength of their communities are integral to our success. We design and fund grassroots development projects in the villages where we buy our beans. To read about these projects please visit our website at www.deansbeans.com.

Appalachian Naturals (Goshen, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Sundried Tomato Horserdish Dip (12 oz): Rustic blend of freshly grated horseradish roots, farm fresh buttermilk, & a touch of sundried tomatoes. Chipotle Bleu Cheese Dip (12 oz): Spicy southwest sauce with fresh buttermilk, bleu cheese & smoky chipotle peppers. Chipotle Honey Mustard (10 oz): Sweet & spicy mustard with honey from Warm Colors Apiary. Cape Cod Caviar (10 oz): Organic cranberry sauce sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar, loaded with Cape Cod cranberries. (Value: $45)

Since 2004 Appalachian Naturals has been committed to bridging the gap between local agriculture and the grocery aisle, with a slogan “Local Agriculture Is Everyone’s Business.” Located 20 miles east of the Berkshire region of the Appalachian Mountains in the Hilltowns of Western  Mass, their dressings, dips, organic salsas, and barbecue sauces are made locally using ingredients from local farms & artisans; such as: Mapleline Farm, Warm Colors Apiary, Atlas Farm, South River Miso, Red Fire Farm, and Holiday Brook Farm. Appalachian Naturals can be purchased at local markets and co-ops, or at seasonal farmers’ markets and farm stands. Favorites include Sundried Tomato Horseradish, Organic Salsa Veracruz, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, and Applewood Smoked Barbecue Sauce. www.AppalachianNaturals.com

Dufresne’s Sugar House (Williamsburg, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Dufresne’s Sugar House is offering a gift basket containing a pint each of Light Amber Maple Syrup and Dark Amber Maple Syrup and five packets of maple candy made from the finest early-season light amber maple syrup. (Value: $38)

Located in the beautiful hilltowns of Western Mass, Dufresne’s Sugar House has been making award-winning maple syrup for four generations. That’s over 100 years of sugaring experience!  The Dufresne family works for the maple sugaring season all year round, practicing sustainable forest management, and harvesting  their syrup with a smoke-free, wood-burning evaporator.  They offer three grades of 100% pure and natural maple syrup, along with maple candy, maple cream, maple sugar block and Indian sugar.  Their maple candy make great table/party favors and all maple products are available for both home and commercial use, shipping out daily to customers from MA to California. Find out more about Dufresne’s Sugar House at www.berkshiremaple.com.

Bart’s Ice Cream (Greenfield, MA)

GIVEAWAY: Barbara and Gary are offering coupons for one pint of Bart’s Super Premium Ice Cream (redeemable in grocers in Hampshire and Franklin Counties and in the Berkshires in select stores); and one 56 oz. carton of Snow’s Premium Ice Cream (redeemable in grocers in Hampshire and Franklin Counties). They’re also offering a 9 oz jar of Bart’s Homemade Hot Fudge; and a Bart’s long sleeved t-shirt with“Think Local, Buy Bart’s” on the back (Value: $35)

Bart’s Super Premium Ice Cream and Snow’s Premium Ice Cream has been using locally sourced, high quality ingredients since the 1970’s. The Snow’s brand is a family priced premium product that sells in 1/2 gallons, while Bart’s is a super-premium, that appeals to adults who want something special and are willing to pay a bit more for it. Over the past 3 decades, owners Barbara and Gary discovered they are also passionate about giving back to their community. 1% of their gross sales is donated yearly to charities and fund raisers. They also contribute their time to community boards (CISA and River Valley Market) and are committed to supporting organizations that work toward eliminating environmental and social problems. www.bartshomemade.com

Tea Guys (Hatfield, MA)

GIVEAWAY: This Tea Guys gift box includes a selection of three tins of our unique blends: Tropical Green tea, Pomegranate Pear fruit tisane, and Toffee Chocolate Hazelnut black tea, alongside a ceramic teapot with a stainless steel strainer for brewing the perfect cup of tea. (Value: $65)

Tea Guys is a local family-owned business specializing in artisan whole leaf loose tea blends. Their culinary-inspired tea creations are blended in small batches daily and made with the finest loose tea from around the world, freshly hand-milled spices, vanilla bean, dried fruits, nuts and artisan ingredients to create unique and colorful blends that stimulate the eyes, nose, and palate – and truly taste like no other tea. www.teaguys.com


Your chance to win one of these glorious gift baskets is as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5)! To win simply:


  2. TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES HAS HELPED YOU DISCOVER WESTERN MA LOCAL FOOD CULTURE in the comment box below, and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner from those who participate and the winner will be announced during the open reception as explained below.
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL in the email field of the comment box (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! —  Deadline to enter to win is Friday, February 4th, 2011 by 7pm (EST).  Five different winners will win one of the above mentioned baskets during the opening reception of Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA on Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup and Top Café in Florence, MA (1 North Main St. 585-0445). Winners will be announced at 6:30pm and must be present to win. If you have any questions, please contact us before entering to win at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

25 Western MA Folk Remedies for Colds & Flu

Colds & Flu

"One home remedy that has really worked for my husband when he feels like he’s coming down with a cold or flu is Elderberry syrup. The trick is to take a tablespoon of the syrup as soon as you feel you’re coming down with a cold or flu and not wait until you are ill." - Blanche Cybele Derby, Northampton, MA

Dar Williams, Singer/Songwriter, writes:

“The Pioneer Valley is positively folkloric when it comes to the cure for common ills. Go to a dinner party and describe the exact nature of your cough. You’ll hear an unparalleled range of spiritual and anatomical folk wisdom.

“Perhaps this is because our prehistoric lake bottom valley left us with rich soil and contemplative scenery, well suited for agricultural and metaphysical concerns alike. Perhaps it’s the New England legacy of self-reliance in the face of hardships that no technology can conquer. Or perhaps it’s all those women.

“All I know is, my friends have literally brought gnarled roots to my doorstep and made me chew on them. Echinacea from their own gardens and burdock from their own yards. They offer tinctures made from plants they wildcrafted and prepared themselves. They have shared countless inventive suggestions for internal and external applications of garlic.

“The valley is blessed this way, and A Cure For What Ails is a compilation of all our cultural richness, not to mention the kind of advice we desperately need when we’ve got a common cold or uncommon cramps. Sure it’s a little weird to live in a place where a five year old can ask for oscillococinum, but when a friend lays a warm, neighborly hand on my shoulder and says my lymph is draining sluggishly, I know I’m home. And when she then pushes down firmly to facilitate the drainage of toxins, I know I’m loved.”

Folks Remedies: Colds & Flu

“When coming home chilled to the bones and feeling sickness coming on. Take a medicinal shower. Turning up heat as high as you can take it, getting used to it, and then slowly cranking up heat, until the room is steamy and you forgot you were ever cold and steam is rising from your skin. Then bundling up. Make and sip a strong cup of fresh ginger tea sweetened with honey. That usually does the trick.” — Chris Marano

“Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I breathe deeply into my shoulder blades, imagining the relaxing of muscles and releasing of blood from all the eddies and knots that form with stress.”— Dar Williams, Singer songwriter

“Peach pit tea is one of my favorite home remedies to strengthen the immune & lymph systems and to help to ward off colds and flu. It is totally safe and delicious, great for children too. So start to collect and dry the pits from all those locally grown juicy peaches you eat during the summer months. To prevent them from molding, wash the pit thoroughly in water before drying. — Here’s how you brew it. Pour 1 quart of water over 6 peach pits. Simmer for half to 1 hour. Strain out the pits & drink this naturally sweet tea. The pits can be reused 2-3 times before returning to the earth.”   — Submitted by Tony(a) Lemos with thanks to my friend and teacher, Kate Gilday, for this remedy. For many years Kate was a community herbalist in Wendell Ma, before moving to upstate N.Y.

“When I start to feel sick I just do the standard stuff, I take Echinacea tincture and vitamin C, drink lots of fluids and go to sleep. Sometimes I use a hot water steam to clear my sinuses. Or I make up a batch of red sauce with lots of garlic, an “Italian Chicken Soup.” — Jeff, Paradise Copies

“Illness coming on is always helped when we feel some love – maybe in the form of a massage from a friend, or simple reassurance from someone close to us that it is really okay to be out of commission for a little while, and that they will take time to make us a healthy meal and bring it to us with a smile and some healing tea. If there is a cold coming on, and that meal has cooked greens in it, the cold may very well u-turn. One thing that I always mention to people is yarrow tincture — it elevates the body temperature so that the body can efficiently do what it is already trying to do — remove waste from the body. Hemlock (from evergreen trees) tea is also warming, full of vitamin C, readily available and free. I also find that when a full blown cold takes me over, if I swerve into the skid (let myself feel deathly ill for a couple days — stay in bed, avoid commercial pharmaceuticals) that there is some lovely gem of transformation going on — some sadness that I’ve been holding onto that I have time to face and answer to in my life once I’m up and out of bed again. So, not resisting, and letting oneself enjoy being sick can be medicine in itself.” — Michelle Wilde, woman of the earth, dreamer, singer, and sacred artivist.

“When I feel myself having problems with regular nosebleeds or sore throats or something, that is the time I just check myself and figure out what is outta balance in my life – whether I am not getting enough sleep or whether I am too stressed out about work or having troubles. I try to address those problems before I do any external remedies.” — David Fisher, Conway, Natural Roots, CSA Farm

“My mother would put me under cozy warm covers and bring me hot chamomile tea. She would rub my feet, my back, hold me and she would ask with a special loving sparkle in her eyes ‘would you like any treats?’” — Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt, Child of the Valley

“In winter when I am sick (or not) my mom makes me hot chocolate. When I am sick I usually rest in bed and do quiet activities.” — Sam Robbins, Age 11

“In winter if I am sick my mom spends money on me to get me medicine. In winter if I am sick my mom gives me shelter.” — Mary Robbins, Age 9

“Whenever my son has a fever and I need it to go down, (I generally let it ride for a couple days to see if it will break on it’s own) but if he’s burning up or it’s low grade and stagnant for a while I give him either a 1/2 dropper of Elder flower tincture in warm water and have him sip it or I give him Elder flower tea 1 tsp./8oz. water. You can administer it by a teaspoon or dropper for younger children and babies. It works like a charm every time.” — Carrie Desmarais

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The Goings-On at the Old Creamery Co-Op: A History

Holy Cow! A Creamery Co-Op!

The Old Creamery in Cummington, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Old Creamery in Cummington began its long presence in the Hilltown community as The Cummington Cooperative Creamery in 1886.  At that time, a co-op of dairy farmers brought fresh cream from their farms to be churned into butter.  During the Co-op’s most active period, 145 dairies produced 20,000 pounds of butter per month. With the advent of widespread refrigeration and motor trucking in the 1940’s, the needs of the community changed and The Old Creamery began a long legacy of transforming itself to respond to those changing needs.

The Old Creamery has at times been a restaurant and at times a general store.  In 1988, the Berenson family merged these two functions when they purchased the building and business and made major renovations including the addition of the sunny café area.  Current owners, Alice Cozzolino and Amy Pulley, purchased the Old Creamery in 2000 and have worked to transform it into a vibrant community hub in the Hilltowns where people love to gather year round to sample the Old Creamery’s delicious fare, shop for groceries, visit with friends, grab a quick breakfast or cup of coffee, read the paper, or more recently surf the internet.

When Alice and Amy began to think about transitioning the Old Creamery to new ownership, they wanted to insure that it would continue as a place dedicated to the needs of the Hilltown community.  Thus began the dream to return the Old Creamery to its cooperative roots.  On January 31st this year, Alice and Amy held an open community meeting to discuss their co-op idea and gauge the response of the community.  The response was overwhelming.  Over 300 community members attended the meeting.  A steering committee was formed and began to work enthusiastically on pursuing the plan.

Throughout the spring, the steering committee made site visits to other local co-ops including Berkshire, Wild Oats, Greenfields Market, Leverett, and Putney VT.  They put together business and communications plans, analyzed the financial history of the current store, created future financial projections, and compiled estimates for purchase and start-up costs.  On July 30th, the founding member-owner drive was launched with a goal of signing up 300 founding member-owners by December 31st.  This goal was reached on October 21st, more than two months ahead of schedule!

On August 6th The Old Creamery Co-op was incorporated as a legal entity in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the steering committee became the Co-op’s first Board of Directors.  The Board of Directors is now engaged in developing a business plan and in raising equity through continuing to sign up founding member-owners — and through grants and loans to the co-op.  There are new founding member-owner goals:  350 by Dec 31, 2010 and 500 by the summer of 2011.  Currently there are 336 founding member-owners.  If you would like more information about what the Co-op is doing, please visit our website www.oldcreamery.coop or email the Co-op’s Outreach Coordinator cherylann@oldcreamery.coop Stay tuned for more exciting news to come!

Old Creamery Co-Op by Cherylann Richards

Cherylann Richards is the Outreach Coordinator for the Old Creamery Co-op and writes about the ongoing adventure of working to transition the locally beloved Old Creamery in Cummington into a community owned food cooperative. Cherylann is a past employee of The Old Creamery and completed her Masters of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School this past May.  She is in the process of becoming an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a board certified chaplain with the ultimate goal of working as a medical chaplain.  Cherylann loves Old Creamery made chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and all things outdoors; cross country skiing at Notchview, hiking or swimming with her dog Tula, camping, and bicycling.- Check out Old Creamery Co-Opevery second Wednesday of the month.

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