Lambing Season

Birth of a Lamb

Kristin Nicholas recently posted on her blog a wonderful video of the birth of a lamb recently at their farm.  Her blog, Getting Stitched on the Farm,  shares her love for wool crafts and life on a sheep farm here in Western Mass.  She’s done a lovely job sharing this lambing experience.  Click here to check out the video.  Your kids might enjoying viewing it too.

Thanks to Diane Roeder for sharing the link!

Finding A Home for Hunter

Deb Chandler of Hatfield writes:

A friend has passed away and leaves behind his beloved dog, Hunter, in Florence. She is a 10 year old beautiful husky/chow mix (we think) and is still full of love and energy. Up to date on shots and very healthy except for an ear infection that is being treated.

Hunter loves other dogs, kids, cats and all people. She will need patience and encouragement with her house training. She wants to please, but her daddy was so sick for so long he just didn’t get her out the door often enough and bad habits followed. But she so wants to try and please!

Hunter is all alone at her daddy’s house in Florence, sadly awaiting a loving home. Do you have room in your heart and home for her? She has a very thick coat, and would probably be great as a semi-outdoor dog. Maybe she would be happy on a farm, or with a fenced-in yard with a doggie door.

I can send you photos of Hunter upon request, and can arrange a meeting as soon as you are able. A vet reference and proof that dogs are allowed on your property would be requested.

Thanks, and if you know of a foster situation for Hunter, or other ideas, PLEASE let me know. She is a special dog with an unfortunate situation, and the shelters are SO full of younger dogs…

Please call Deb at (413) 247-9239, or email

Video: Snake Eating an Egg

Wildlife Watch

The National Wildlife Federation website offers “Wildlife Watch” for families interested in observing and sharing their seasonal nature experiences. Click here to access the “Wildlife Watch” page. Once on this page, select your state and a map of your state will pop up along with a list of wildlife (animals, insects, plants) to look for according to what time of the year it is.

Right now (mid summer) in Massachusetts the list includes:

  • Chimney Swifts
  • Common Lilacs
  • American Goldfinches
  • Flowering Dogwoods
  • Luna Moths
  • Northern Water Snakes

Families can also record their observations and share stories and photos.

Family members as an accessory?!

Victoria Worth of Ashfield, MA writes:

Dear Hilltown Families,

You couldn’t imagine adopting a child for an hour or two a day, yet some people are actually hoping this will be a reality for other creatures whom we also consider part of our families. Legislation was recently passed in Boston to keep a dog-rental company, FlexPetz, from opening its doors there this summer. FlexPetz has made a business out of offering dogs for rent to people who are willing to pay hefty annual, monthly, and per-visit fees.

Anyone who’s ever had a dog knows how hard it is on dogs when their human companions are separated from them for even one day. Dogs thrive on routine. They need to have their own territory and must be able to bond with a “pack” in order to feel secure and happy. FlexPetz makes money at the expense of the psychological well-being of animals. FlexPetz caters to human convenience and sends the wrong message—that it is acceptable to trade dogs as if they were video games.

Legislation that will address this issue for the entire state of Massachusetts—House Bill (HB) 4753, An Act Prohibiting the Renting of Pets—has been introduced. If it becomes law, HB 4753 would make it illegal to engage in the business of leasing or renting dogs and cats.

The Massachusetts legislative session adjourns this month. If HB 4753 is not passed by the end of the session, FlexPetz will be allowed to begin the irresponsible practice of renting animals as soon as August in areas outside of Boston. Your help is needed now. Time is of the essence, so today, please politely urge both your House Representative and your Senator to support House Bill 4753, An Act Prohibiting the Renting of Pets. Be sure to identify yourself as his or her constituent, and include your name and address. The animals in Massachusetts are counting on you!

Family Fun at the Farm Sanctuary

Yee-haw! It’s a Hoe Down at the Farm Sanctuary.

The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY is having a good old-fashioned Country Hoe Down with a weekend of animal-friendly activities on August 2nd & 3rd. The Hoe Down is one of the best ways to experience the Farm Sanctuary. Besides the usual farm tours to meet the amazing animals, there will also be speakers, food, yoga, hayrides, bonfires and camping. Click here for more information on the Hoe Down

The Vegan Bus in Northampton, MA is traveling to the Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down on August 1st through August 3rd, leaving from Northampton, MA and traveling along Rt 90 (MA Turnpike turning into NY Thruway) all the way past Syracuse, NY and then down Rt 14 along Seneca Lake and can possibly pick up folks along their route. Click here for more information on the Vegan Bus. is another great resource to find other families who may be interested in carpooling to the hoe down.

Chicken Coop Tour 2008

Local Chicken Coop Tour 08

Backyard Chickens - (c) Sienna Wildfield

Backyard Chickens - (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

(Editor note: The 2009 coop tour will be happening April 19th, 2009.  Click HERE for details.)

Has your family been thinking about getting chickens but you’re not sure how to house them? There is a chicken coop tour scheduled on Sunday, July 13th, from 11am-4:30pm to discover how other families in Hatfield, Northampton and Florence are housing their flocks. Organized by the The Pioneer Valley Backyard Chicken Association. [All Ages] (Free)


  1. 11 – 11:30 am
    Sarah & Tom Rossmassler
    100 Main Street, Hatfield
    # of years you have kept chickens: <1
    # of chickens you currently have: 7
    Breeds: Mix (2); Barred Rock (1); Rhode Island Red (4)
    Description of coop/run or chicken tractor: We have a 3′ x 6′ interior coop area which is mostly insulated and has four windows and a mesh floor. Also a fenced in run which is also covered by a roof with a door to exterior. The whole thing lifts like a wheelbarrow and can be moved.
    Why you have a backyard flock: To help us out with an overall goal of being self-sufficient; education for us and our kids; curiosity and interest in farming; and mostly, because it’s fun!
    Favorite chicken resource: Story’s How to Raise Chickens Read the rest of this entry »

Sadie the Library Cat

Saying Good-Bye to a Sweet Friend

Rochelle, my daughter and a picture of Sadie from the memorialThe Meekins Library in Williamsburg has always been a favorite place for us to visit. Not necessarily because of the kids section, which is great btw, but because of Sadie, the library cat. Every time we’d arrive my daughter would make a beeline downstairs to hang out with Sadie, and it would always take a lot of coaxing to pry her away when it was time to go.

Yesterday we stopped by the Meekins Library after school, and as usual, my daughter rushed ahead of me and downstairs to visit with Sadie. Rochelle, the librarian and nicest person you’d ever want to meet (pictured here), quietly came over to let me know that Sadie had passed away the day before. My heart sank as I descended downstairs to find my daughter stalking the stacks looking for her friend. I wasn’t sure how to tell her or what her reaction would be. So I took her upstairs where the library staff had put together a little memorial of photos and a memory books for patrons to jot down their memories and kind words about Sadie. With a lump in my throat I read to her what the staff had written:

“Yesterday our sweet companion of 13 years died. Sadie, the library cat, was a quiet but friendly cat who was dearly loved by the children of the town and much visited by children and adults alike who brought her treats and made special trips downstairs to see her each library visit. Her passing leaves library staff, Margo, Bobbin, Rochelle, and Lisa as well as the library’s many volunteers very sad.”

My daughter’s chin started to tremble and I could see a well of tears starting to brim the edges of her eyes. I continued to read:

“A small memorial display with a memory book holding a page for each of her many friends and acquaintances to draw a picture, leave a wish, a remembrance, a special memory or one good thing about her will be out on the table near the circulation desk with pens and crayons.

“For twelve of her thirteen years she lived in the Meekins Library, originally coming to stay to help discourage mice that had moved into the old Meekins cellar. Sadie was immortalized in the 2004 Ann Turner book Pumpkin Cat, that story of a stray cat that comes to live in a small town library with two librarians named Rochelle and Lisa.”

I really thank the staff for putting this memorial up. It gave my daughter the opportunity to see pictures of Sadie with her other friends and a place for her to draw what she was feeling. She drew a heart and a picture of her with Sadie. We then snuggled up in the chair and read the story.

The staff shared a few other experiences Sadie had that I read to her: Read the rest of this entry »

Mass Audubon Oriole Counting Project

oriole and crab appleWelcome to Oriole Season 2008!

For this fourth full year of oriole counting, we hope the hundreds of oriole watchers who have helped us in past years will tell us if “their” orioles have returned – as well as looking for new nest sites. And for those of you who have yet to join the fun, please help us with our quest to learn more about the Baltimore Oriole population in Massachusetts. You can send us your reports online or download a datacard*.

Now you can map your orioles on line.
The geniuses in our IT Department have installed a new mapping tool that lets you zoom in on an oriole site and then just click to record it on-line. And you can now record multiple sightings without have to sign in again for each record.

Hello, Western Mass!
There are still 70 towns from which we have no oriole reports, mainly west of the Connecticut River valley. Are orioles scarce way out there beyond Worcester, or is it just oriole-watchers that are few and far between? Check our list of the towns with no oriole records and if you live in or near one, please go find us some orioles, so we can see what’s happening to the species Commonwealth-wide.

Bird your patch
We are especially interested in oriole info from well-defined areas—think cemetery, golf course, or your favorite open space. Search the place thoroughly trying to find all the orioles present. Then note the location of each nest carefully and let us know how much area you searched. If you find no nests we want to know this as well. Negative data is just as valuable (though not quite as much fun) as actually finding orioles.

What are we learning about the status of Orioles?
A lot. To find out more, check out Is This Bird in Trouble?

Don’t forget to write
We love getting your messages sharing oriole anecdotes and notes on oriole behavior. Please keep them coming. Send pictures too. We’ll put a selection up on the website. Send your stories to our Oriole Project Coordinator.

And after the orioles have gone to bed… you can start listening for Whip-poor-wills, once-common night birds that are in serious decline. As part of our Birds to Watch program, we have started a new project to map the remaining populations of these unusual birds. You can hear the haunting call of these birds, then take a ride after dark on a fine summer night and see if there are any calling in your town.

Go to the Mass Audubon Oriole Project website and learn more, and thank you for helping us with Oriole Project 2008!

* Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader

Mass Audubon Mass Audubon
208 South Great Road
Lincoln, MA 01773
781-259-9500 / 800-AUDUBON

Be Kind to Animals Week: Writing & Art Contest for Kids

Be Kind to Animals Week

The Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society & The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art present Be Kind to Animals Week Writing and Art Contest, for kids in grades K-6th, in celebration of Be Kind to Animals Week (Week of May 4-10, 2008). Click on the above poster to read the contest rules. Entry Deadline: Friday, April 18, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.

All contestants will be honored and prizes will be awarded at the Be Kind to Animals Week Reading and Art Show Celebration on Saturday, May 10 at 3:00 pm at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Entries will be on display at the Eric Carle Museum on May 5-10, 2008.

Salamander Crossing Guards & Vernal Pools

2008 Annual Amphibian Migration
By HF Contributing Writer, Sheri Rosenblum

After a winter of indoor activities, this is a great time of year to get outside and explore the local woods, especially if you are interested in the lives of amphibians. The snow is melting and vernal pools are appearing all over the Hilltowns. Frogs and salamanders are still in the woods, thawing out from their winter spent frozen under the snow. They are waiting for the first warm, rainy night of Spring to tell them it’s time to move to their breeding habitat, the vernal pools. Unfortunately, this first activity of Spring often requires crossing roads where most drivers are completely unaware they even exist. This recipe for disaster results in millions of deaths every year, with so many of them completely preventable. To follow is a look at what vernal pools are and how your family can help participate in protecting the amphibians that migrate from the every year.


A vernal pool is body of water found in upland hardwood forests in places that were previously glaciated (Ten thousand years ago these Hilltowns were covered up to 2 miles deep in ice!). In summer and fall, vernal pools appear simply as depressions in the forest floor, some as diffrent sized puddle, others as large as a couple of acres. But in the late winter, due to snow melt, spring rains and a high water table beneath them, they fill up like ponds and maintain their water generally into summer. The key feature about their formation is that since they are not associated with any running water system and because they dry out periodically, they cannot support fish. Hence, they have become a safe habitat for a variety of wildlife species that rely on these pools for breeding. Read the rest of this entry »

Earth Awareness Program for Families in the Hilltowns

Path of the Otter Program in Ashfield

(c) Hilltown Families - Path of the Otter ProgramPath of the Otter is a newer family program in the hilltowns for children ages 5-7. This program is a playful introduction to earth awareness, nature exploration and naturalist and wilderness living skills. Kids participating will:

  • Learn to recognize, identify and follow animal signs
  • Learn to listen for and understand birds and bird language
  • Be introduced to exploration and survival skills
  • Learn to identify plants and their uses and hazards
  • To develop their senses
  • To be engaged in imaginative play
  • To listen to and tell stories

This program will be on Saturdays once a month, from 10am – 1 pm in Ashfield, MA. Dates include:

  • January 12, 2008
  • February 9, 2008
  • March 8, 2008(c) Hilltown Families - Path of the Otter Program

My daughter loved the Path of the Otter fall program. She enjoyed learning how to make a shelter with sticks and leaves, and she keeps talking about Rona’s fire making demonstration. This program is highly recommended for young, budding naturalists!

– Sienna Wildfield, Hilltown Families

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Holiday Time In Brooklyn


    This one goes out to all our transplants from Brooklyn, New York to the Hilltowns and Pioneer Valley:

    “When our friends at Heifer ( asked if I would do a holiday video, little did I know that a llama, a goat and a cow would visit my street in Brooklyn. I invited a bunch of high energy neighbors to join me for a crazy afternoon video shoot of laughing, strumming guitars, playing flutes, trumpets, saxophones, banging on drums, and dancing madly, all for the sake of helping Heifer International continue to raise money to combat world hunger.” – Dan Zanes

    Chrysanthemums: In the Garden & On the Dinner Plate

    The Queen of the Fall Garden at Smith College

    Smith College 2007 Fall Chrysanthemum Show (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Smith College 2007 Fall Chrysanthemum Show (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    On Friday my family stopped by the Fall Chrysanthemum Show at the Botanic Garden of Smith College in Northampton, MA. Cascades of chrysanthemums lined the walls in the Lyman Conservatory, creating an amazing display of “floral pyrotechnics.” Our 5yo daughter went around smelling and counting the different colors that were being displayed, while looking for petals on the ground. She gathered a pretty large collection of fallen petals, storing them in the front pocket of my coat as we strolled around the conservatory. I tried to get her to examine the wide array of petal forms that had been cultivated, but she was more interested in squirreling away the petals found on the ground.

    I recommend the show as an community based educational opportunity to supplement a botanical home/school. Explore the rich history of the chrysanthemum and examining the wide array of forms and colors that are cultivated. See if you can get your kids to pick out the different varieties of chrysanthemum forms displayed at the show. Check the show brochure for a list. Click here for printable coloring sheets of different flowering forms.

    (c) Hilltown Families - Chrysanthemum Show at Smith College

    (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    (c) Hilltown Families - Chrysanthemum Show at Smith

    (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Did you know that chrysanthemum petals are edible? Not that you’d want to eat the petals found on the ground there, like my daughter wanted to do when I told her they were edible. But potted chrysanthemums kept on the kitchen window sill, or petals gathered in the fall from your garden, would be more suitable. The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery by Leona Woodring Smith has a whole chapter on the chrysanthemum with sixteen different recipes that call for chrysanthemum petals.

    I found a recipe in Cooking with Flowers: Wherein An Age-Old Art is Revived by Zack Hanle that I’ll share here:


    • 1 dozen fresh lichee nuts (you could probably use the canned ones instead)
    • 2 mangos
    • 2 fresh peaches (and again, probably canned or frozen since peaches might not be around in the fall)
    • 2 large bananas
    • 4 tangerines
    • 1 or 2 large, yellow chrysanthemums
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (maybe more of the whipped cream instead of mayo?)

    Peel and slice mangoes, peaches, bananas and place in a salad bowl. Peel lichee nuts (or open the can) and tangerines and remove tangerine segment skins. Add to bowl. Whip cream and fold into mayo (or whip extra cream and skip the mayo). Pour mixture over the fruit. Wash chrysanthemums, drain and remove petals. Scatter over the salad and serve ice cold. Serves 4.

    Pet Week – Can Dogs Have Dog Days?

    National Pet Week (May 6th – 12th)

    (c) Hilltown Families - Lightening & the Westfield River Bend in West ChesterfieldFor over 25 year our family pets have been celebrated with a national week of observation, instituted with three goals in mind:

    1. Promote responsible pet ownership
    2. Celebrate our connections with our pets
    3. Bring awareness of veterinarian practices

    To follow are several on-line resources for families that offer lesson plans, curricula, activity sheets, information on pet health, and interactive games.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    We’re going to the zoo!

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