Discovering Local History: Educational Tours, Colonial Living and New Exhibit

Local History Learning this Weekend with
Plainfield Schools, Pioneer Valley Philanthropy & Wilder Homestead

Colonial Living in the Hilltowns this weekend at the Wilder Homestead in Buckland, MA. (Courtesy photo)

Colonial Living at Wilder Homestead

Spend the afternoon at the Wilder Homestead in Buckland on Sunday, October 9th to get a taste of what Colonial living was like! There will be demonstrations, performances, and activities to try, including open hearth cooking, quilting, basket making, weaving, cider pressing, music from the 1700’s, and morris dancers! A visit to the homestead is a way to learn about local history, as well! The event is presented by the Buckland Historical Society, and the homestead is located on Route 112 between Buckland Center and Mohawk Trail High School.

History of Plainfield’s School

The Plainfield Historical Society’s series of educational tours, “Hidden Walls, Hidden Mills: Exploring the Hilltown Landscape,” continues this weekend on Sunday, October 9th at 1pm with an event entitled, “Surveying the School Lot.”  The event will take place at the School Lot, home to the building that once housed the town’s first permanent school and which now houses the Shaw Memorial Library and the town offices.  Attendees with learn all about the history of Plainfield’s schools, and will also learn about the art of surveying (the way that it was done in 1925).  This is a great event for families– the surveying will be a hands-on activity where everyone can participate and learn!  Bring a compass and sense of adventure to tromp through tall grass and around site. For more information, contact bouric@post.harvard.edu.

Pioneer Valley Philanthropy

The Springfield Museums have a new exhibit!  In the Wood Museum of Springfield History, visitors can now explore and learn from an exhibit on notable philanthropists from the Pioneer Valley and the things that we have today that their dedication and generosity provided.  The exhibit includes people like Smith College’s namesake Sophia Smith, and Everett Barney, who donated the land that is now Forest Park to the city of Springfield.  Visitors to the exhibit will learn about local history and the development of many important valley landmarks, and will gain a greater understanding of how their community was developed.  For more information on this exhibit, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

Other local history learning opportunities this week: Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Days at Red Gate Farm

Farmyard Tails: Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer
By Jennifer Bennett, HF Contributing Writer

Photo submitted by Jennifer Bennett

Ah, the lazy days of summer… WHAT? Did I miss the boat on that one? Summer seems to be the busiest time of the year. Here in the hilltowns at Red Gate Farm, we have so much going on. Are gardens are in full swing, which means lots of weeding, harvesting, canning and cooking.  Our animals are out on the pasture so, while we get a break from throwing hay bales, we pick up extra hours moving fencing and animals, not to mention gathering up escaped animals once in a while. All this, and all of our camps, field trips, and events keep us going all summer long.

The amazing amount of rain that we have seen this summer has failed to dampen the spirits of any of our campers, farmers, or animals. Our garden seems to have pulled through the soggy days, and we have already harvested many meals from the ground. Oh sure, we’ve had our challenges, but what year doesn’t? That’s the beauty of farming – there is never a dull moment!

Photo submitted by Jennifer Bennett

Photo submitted by Jennifer Bennett

Our summer camps were a blast this year. All of our weeks were either filled or just about filled to capacity. We had a great time with all of our ‘young farmers’. We learned about the honeybees, trained oxen, harvested from the garden, tended to all of the animals, and explored the woods and pond. It amazes me how patient our oxen are with the young teamsters, and how brave the kids are when working with the oxen who outweigh them by about 2,000 lbs!

This summer we added a new event to every week of camp. The young farmers hosted a “Family Picnic” every Friday afternoon. They worked hard all day to harvest vegetables and herbs from the garden for the meal that they would prepare. Our menu changed week to week, but some popular dishes were Quiche with Swiss Chard, Onions, and Parsley, Roasted Roots, and Honey Cake (from our bees on the farm!). The kids served their families the light meal and then took them on guided tours all around the farm and into the woods.

A highlight for me this summer was sharing the farm a group of kids visiting from Springfield, MA. Many of the kids haven’t had any experience with farms. We met the animals, harvested garlic, and nibbled in the garden. We nibbled on the last of the Sugar Snap Peas. Most of the kids had never eaten one before. The peas got mixed reviews, but every kid tried at least a bite. As we were nibbling, I thought to myself, ‘this is the life, being able to grow and share something so precious as fresh, good food with people who I like’.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer BennettJen is the Program Coordinator at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. She lives in the woods with her husband, two teenage daughters, a trusty dog and a frisky cat. A gardener for much of her life, Jen enjoys cooking with her harvest, canning and preserving foods. She sees nature as her home and can be found outside during all manner of weather. A graduate of Goddard College (BA with an emphasis in Ecological Education), she is at her happiest when she is able to share her love of farming and nature with children and adults alike. Her column, Farmyard Tails, shares events and explorations that happen on the farm while educating children about farm life.

What Does a Trebuchet Have to Do with a Farm?

Farmyard Tails: Feche la Vache!
By Jennifer Bennett, HF Contributing Writer

New spring lambs at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA.

Little lambs at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As I sit at my desk, I find myself looking outside at all of the beautiful flowers and buds. I can hear the birds singing and the peepers peeping. And yet, I am still having a hard time realizing that all of the snow is really gone. I know it is crazy, but it is true!

The Spring has been quite a whirlwind of activity here on the farm. Our little lambs are growing fast. All of the animals are out on the pasture, and they just can’t seem to get enough of the good stuff. Our first set of chicks who arrived all fluffy and tiny on April 13 have more than doubled their size and grown nearly all of their true feathers!

All this and a summer camp to plan! This year summer camp sessions here at Red Gate Farm are almost all full! It looks to be a wonderfully fun summer of camp.

And, let us not forget the garden! All of the potatoes and brassicas (brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage and broccoli) are in the ground. There are some greens coming right along as well. The beloved tomatoes are looking wonderful and vigorous in the greenhouse along with their buddies – peppers, eggplant, and basil! We could not have done it without our wonderfully hard working volunteers and the great kids from our Sprouts program and the Tree of Life.

All winter and into the spring, we have welcomed many children during our day programs. The Farm Leaders, a group that I now teach, comes once a week. They are a great group of kids with wild imaginations. We have taken on some very cool projects, as well as some very useful ones. One recent activity consisted of learning about levers and catapults and building a model trebuchet.

‘Fire in the hole!’ was heard echoing through Apple Valley here in Buckland, MA, as students tested out their trebuchet that they named (in the historical tradition) ‘The Tre-Bu-Z.’ The whole group worked hard over the weeks days to learn about the physics of trebuchets, they ultimately modeled their design after an old French plan they learned about from the television series Nova.

The trebuchet worked beautifully and was able to throw objects such as a golf ball, matchbox car, and, of course, a ‘diseased’ toy pony ala 12th century castle siege! To all you Monty Python fans, I say, “feche la vache!”

One parent asked me, “What exactly does a trebuchet have to do with a farm?” Great question! In learning about the physics of catapults and trebuchets, we also learned about the different types of levers. This knowledge helps us understand how the big barn was built and assists us when we have jobs to do around the farm, such as repairing rock walls, moving big logs, and other challenges that may arise. Farm Leaders will be ready for the challenge!

Every day is full of pleasant surprises here on the farm. The other day, on a hike with a group of students, one energetic and animated boy got to the top of the hill well ahead of the group. When we arrived he was quietly gazing out over Apple Valley. We all tumbled into the clearing and he exclaimed, “Oh, you ruined it!”. Unbeknownst to us, this boy, who is normally always on the go, had been basking in the silent beauty of the place. It seems that everyone who spends any time here, can find themselves a special little bit of peace and tranquility.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer BennettJen is the Program Coordinator at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. She lives in the woods with her husband, two teenage daughters, a trusty dog and a frisky cat. A gardener for much of her life, Jen enjoys cooking with her harvest, canning and preserving foods. She sees nature as her home and can be found outside during all manner of weather. A graduate of Goddard College (BA with an emphasis in Ecological Education), she is at her happiest when she is able to share her love of farming and nature with children and adults alike. Her column, Farmyard Tails, shares events and explorations that happen on the farm while educating children about farm life.

Saving Seeds in the Hilltowns

Seed Saving

The world’s largest seed bank opened on February 26th 2008 in an attempt to gather and preserve the world’s agricultural biodiversity in one facility-a sort of “insurance policy” for global agriculture. The new facility, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, will hold a maximum of 4.5 million different seed samples below freezing temperatures in a remote region of northern Norway.

Today, an estimated 1,000 plant species become extinct each year, with one in eight surviving plants at risk of becoming extinct. A large number of these plants have been used primarily for food production, but are currently less favored for production or are not widely available. As climate change alters growing conditions, the genetic diversity represented by these nearly-extinct varieties may prove valuable. Oftentimes, local, heritage, and heirloom varieties are at highest risk of being lost. Seed banks are formed in response to this and other looming problems facing the future of agriculture.

SAVING SEEDS IN THE HILLTOWNS

Farmers have practiced the art of seed saving throughout the history of agriculture, but in recent times, many farmers have stopped collecting seed for a variety of reasons, including the increasing availability of cheap seed from commercial suppliers and rising popularity of hybrid and cloned plants. Despite this widespread trend, there are some local farms that are choosing to preserve their seeds for future plantings, some of which contribute to local seed banks. Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA, has a small seed bank with fourteen varieties available for purchase this season. The goals of the Red Gate Farm Seed Bank is:

  • To provide community access to quality, local seeds.
  • To preserve local, heritage and heirloom seed varieties.
  • To promote seed saving.
  • To develop and distribute seeds that are optimum for our unique New England soils and climate.
  • To collect the social histories of our local seeds.

For information about how to save seeds from your garden, visit the International Seed Saving Institute.

Photo (ccl)

Sister Village Ceremony in Shelburne Falls

SISTER VILLAGE IN CHINA

Join the residents of Buckland and Shelburne Falls, MA, on June 4th – 6th, 2007, in a ceremony with a Chinese Delegation to formally establish the Sister Village relationship between Shelburne Falls, MA, and Mutianyu.

Residents of Buckland and Shelburne and interested members of the general public are invited to attend the official ceremony establishing the sister village relationship between Shelburne Falls and Mutianyu. The ceremony will be held on Monday, June 4, from 12:00-12:45pm at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, located at the corner of Main and Church Streets, Shelburne Falls. Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day ’07

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