Learning Ahead: Memorial Day

Memorial Day: Gathering Together & Honoring The Past

For some, Memorial Day is a deeply personal holiday, a day for remembering those who have served the people of our country. Participating in these Memorial Day celebrations and ceremonies can also be a form of placemaking, strengthening ties to community spaces and encouraging social interaction between generations. These events also offer a chance to personally thank local veterans and recognize them for their bravery and service.

Memorial Day honors those veterans who died serving our country in the armed forces.  Many of the ceremonies take place in outdoor, common spaces, such as Main Streets, town commons, and downtown sidewalks.  Community members gather together, in the spirit of kindness and compassion, to show gratitude for those who dedicated their lives to serving our democracy.  During these parades and outdoor ceremonies, folks bring bouquets of flowers, fresh baked bread, and other small tokens of kindness to share with veterans still living, in appreciation for their service, and that of their fellow soldiers who lost their lives.

Memorial Day parades are an opportunity for place-making and intergenerational dialogue.  Community members of all ages come out for the day’s ceremony and parade, while many of the activities take place in the gathering spaces of a town. It provides a space for neighbors, families, and friends to spend time together in a communal place.  Many Western Massachusetts’ towns ask their historical societies to organize events around Memorial Day to help us learn about local history and about those who served our country in the distant past. It is a day of remembrance from both a contemporary perspective and a historical perspective.  In the past, the following towns have hosted Memorial Day parades: Amherst, Agawam, Athol, Chicopee, Easthampton, Florence, Great Barrington, Greenfield, Hadley, Holyoke, Housatonic, Plainfield, Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Westfield  and Williamsburg, among other towns in the region.

Each parade and event may include local school marching bands, community picnics, community dinners, bike rides, gun salutes, and guest speakers.  Memorial Day parades connect communities to their local history and past while celebrating, and being grateful for, the chance to spend time together in town. Read the rest of this entry »

Sense of Place: Memorial Day

Think about this:

  • How does Walt Whitman’s poem “Ashes of Soldiers” attempt to honor those fallen soldiers who may no longer be remembered? Why did Whitman write this poem for them?
  • Does your town have a Memorial Day parade? When did it get started? Who started it? Check out your local history society or library for more information!
  • What Memorial Day traditions does your family celebrate?

Learning Ahead: Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Markets: Engaging Community through Food

With the spring comes a resurgence of farmers’ markets. Local farmers have been planning and growing and are now ready to bring their seasonal produce to town commons, squares, and gathering places across the region to enjoy with our families and neighbors. The experience of going to a farmers’ market exceeds the basic transaction of purchasing fresh vegetables. Farmers’ markets are places that bring a community together, affording the opportunity to support local agriculture, make healthy food choices,  share stories, and connect with neighbors and farmers.  Farmers’ markets are community builders, the American version of the European plaza, and are intrinsically a part of our New England culture and traditions.

In Western Massachusetts, many farmers’ markets have expanded to not only include agricultural products but to also provide a space for local artists, crafters, performers, and teachers to make their services, knowledge, and products directly available to the community.  This type of collaborative consumption allows community members to support small businesses and individuals that directly affect the health of a small town’s economy, promoting sustainability and resilience at a local level.  Additionally, some farmers’ markets host spaces for instructors to lead workshops on topics related to homesteading, nutrition, and cooking.  The opportunity to learn at farmers’ markets through intergenerational skill-sharing makes them an important community-based educational resource that brings people together via shared interests.  Read the rest of this entry »

Farmers’ Market & Meals: Explore, Gather, Share

Farmers’ Market & Meals: Explore, Gather, Share

Create a meal with friends from start to finish! Learn where your food comes from, meet the farmers, and prepare a meal together. On the day of a farmers’ market, get together with friends or your family and peruse the market to see what produce is available. Based on the seasonal produce you find at the market, be inspired to create a meal together. Cooking seasonally with ingredients found at a farmers’ market help to connect to the seasons and the history of New England by understanding when and how local produce impact our meals and food traditions.

Stop by different market booths and meet the farmers that grow your food. Introduce yourself! Perhaps mention what you plan to make that evening. Ask them for tips on how to prepare their seasonal produce and swap recipes with others. Purchasing food directly from a local farm is part of a storytelling experience. From their land and hands to your hands and kitchen, it all becomes woven together into a tale of sustainability and local community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Recipe Collections & Storytelling

Recipe Collections & Storytelling

Food is an integral part of our human story. The act of cooking calls upon centuries of cooking methods, ingredients, spices, and flavors that have shaped our distinct cultures and traditions. Within our families, recipes are passed down and certain dishes are often considered an important part of our unique family gatherings and holiday celebrations. For example, when someone says, “No one makes apple pie like my grandmother,” that reflects how food shapes our memories and connects us to those we have spent time with and who are an important part of our personal history.

The art of recipe collecting and writing is something that allows the generations to share their family’s culture through the legacy of food. Cooking manuscripts from the 18th and 19th centuries permit us to see what early Americans in New England were preparing, giving us insight into how some of those food recipes have informed our current meals. In their own way, recipe cards and collections tell stories of who we are and how we connect with each other. Read the rest of this entry »

Literary Musings on Farming and Food

Literary Musings on Farming and Food

The act of growing food, the experience of living on a farm, and the process of cooking have all inspired writers to ponder how the cultivation of land has influenced the stories we tell and the moments we remember. Farming is a rich part of the Western Massachusetts New England tradition. The rich soil of the Connecticut River Valley is a community asset and important to preserve as farmland. Both the pastoral and wild landscapes of Western Massachusetts are an important piece of our New England history, identity, and sustainability. These are the landscapes that inspired poets like William Cullen Bryant and painters like Thomas Cole to champion the American landscape as being different and separate from Europe’s established cities and their developed environment. Our land is a part of our story and history. Agriculture connects us to the land. It is how we define our relationship between our everyday lives and the soil.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sense of Place: Season of Farmers’ Markets

Think about this:

  • How do recipes unfold the stories of our ancestors? What do they say about our agricultural practices and the places from which our families came?
  • What if you were to do a 10-mile diet like Vicki Robin in her book Blessing the Hands that Feed Us? Where would you find your produce? What farms would provide you with your food? Imagine the extended community you would become familiar with!
  • How can the purchasing of food locally help build a stronger and more resilient community?
    Have you ever thought of growing your own food? Container gardening is a great way to get started!

Learning Ahead: Mother’s Day

Traditions & Cultural Celebrations: Mother’s Day

Although Mother’s Day has officially been a holiday in the United States since 1914, the celebration of motherhood dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who celebrated mothers and their roles in society through festivals that honored the goddesses Rhea and Cybele. Rhea, daughter of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus, was considered the mother of gods and Cybele was known as the “great mother.”

Throughout the world, there are many cultural traditions that celebrate motherhood. For example, in Thailand, Mother’s Day is observed in August, in honor of Queen Sirikit. There are ceremonies and parades as well as the gift of jasmine to mothers.

In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day is celebrated during the end of the autumn rainy season as a part of the Antrosht festival. During this 3-day festival, daughters give vegetables, butter, spices, and cheese to mothers while sons give meats. Read the rest of this entry »

Small Town Explorations on Mother’s Day

Small Town Explorations on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day festivities here in New England are simple and sweet. They usually include a shared meal with family and meaningful time spent together. Now that the weather is warm, consider a picnic or outdoor explorations as a way to celebrate the mothers in your life while connecting to special places in Western Massachusetts

The Bridge of Flowers (Shelburne, MA)
Once a trolley bridge, The Bridge of Flowers spans the Deerfield River, connecting the Town of Buckland with the village of Shelburne Falls. Nearly 100 years old, the gardens on the bridge feature a variety of flowers in bloom not only in May but all season long. A shared walk across the bridge followed by perusing local art galleries and shops offers a flavor of the creativity and culture that support the micro-economies sustaining our small towns. From April 1 through October 30, visitors to the bridge can expect to see well-marked bulbs, perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees in bloom during different times of the season, supporting an interest in plant studies and reuse of industrial spaces. Visit the website to find out what flowers are in bloom before you go, and see how many you can find in bloom.

Pulaski Park (Northampton, MA)
A sweet little park in the center of downtown Northampton, MA, this newly (2016) renovated park is adorned with market lights and has cozy seating areas. This park provides a space for families and neighbors to gather in conversation and enjoyment during the day or evening. In the warmer days of May, ice cream from a nearby vendor enjoyed in the park before taking in a play or concert at the Academy of Music Theatre would be a lovely way to enjoy downtown Northampton and an evening on the town with your favorite mother figure.

Other parks rich in history, botanical beauty, and creativity include: Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry Explorations for Mother’s Day

Poetry Explorations for Mother’s Day

2002 Poet Laureate Billy Collins has been described as “the most popular poet in America” by the New York Times. Collins’ poetry is rich with human emotion told in a way that is quirky and whimsical. His poem “The Lanyard” is a reminder of all the gifts mothers offer to their children, friends, and families – the gifts that are often taken for granted or unrecognized, moments from infancy that are not remembered because we are too young – and yet they are some of the most important and precious gifts ever received. Read Collins’ poem on Mother’s Day; perhaps share it with someone who embodies motherhood for you and reflect on the qualities and unsung gifts you have received from them. Perhaps list them in your handmade card and include a copy of Collins poem as a reminder of gratitude and love.


Download our May/June edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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Sense of Place: Mother’s Day

Learning Ahead: Season of Sheep Shearing

The Fiber Arts & Local Farming:
Sheep Shearing & Knitting

In the 19th century, Western Massachusetts saw a huge merino sheep boom when many farms purchased Australian sheep for their incredibly soft fleece to produce wool for textiles.  The Hilltowns’ landscape provided ideal pasture for livestock grazing.

Although this craze for merino wool did not last long, and some of the farms no longer exist, there is still a rich and long tradition of fiber farms in Western Massachusetts that continue to produce fiber and yarn for hand knitters and textile artists.

The benefit of purchasing local yarn is that you are more involved in and aware of the entire process of producing your wool.  Unlike commercially produced yarn, which is often processed and shipped from overseas, local yarn speaks to the land and farmers that cared for the sheep and cultivated the land.  Often, the wool is processed locally and requires many hands to create it: from the farmer that cares for the animals to the sheep shearer, spinners and hand-dyers, locally grown yarn offer the hand knitter a deeper connection to our community’s agricultural roots.  It also supports the local economy and helps foster collaboration and sustainable consumption. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiber Festivals Begin with Shearing Season

Learning Ahead: Earth Day

Earth Day & Ecopoetry

Each year, Earth Day takes place on April 22nd. Known as the birth of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 and continues as a way to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Western Massachusetts is host to many secular celebrations and festivals that honor the commitment to sustainable and resilient living, giving the community many ways to come together to engage on Earth Day through service-based learning opportunities, eco-workshops, and local gatherings. Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for upcoming events that support sustainable living and connection to place.

Ecopoetry

Since National Poetry Month and Earth Day share the same season and month, it seems appropriate to feature Ecopoetry, a movement of poetry with a strong environmental ethic that acknowledges the relationship between humans and nature.  Poetry has the power to reveal insight and to spark curiosity and inquiry.  Ecopoetry is a way to reflect on our relationship with the Earth during Earth Day and develop a heightened awareness of how we directly interact with nature in our local Western Massachusetts communities.   Read the rest of this entry »

6 Community Resources & Annual Events for Sustainable Living

Community Resources and Annual Events for Sustainable Living

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)
CISA is a  Western Massachusetts organization that “strengthens farms and engages the community in building the local food economy.”  CISA connects community members with the farms and farmers that produce food in our region to help ensure food security and fortify the relationship between the land and our dinner tables. CISA offers many workshops and community events to provide folks with the opportunity to learn more about sustainable agriculture such as winter vegetable cultivation, homestead woodlot management, farm financing, making the most out of pasture and hayfields, maple sugaring at home and many other subjects throughout the year!  CISA’s website also connects you to nearby farms where you can source your food as well as find resources and recipes.  Consider volunteering with CISA in celebration of Earth Day and sustainable agriculture!

Local Ecological Art
Local Williamsburg artist Todd Lynch creates ecological art installations throughout Western Massachusetts communities at different natural sites to help foster a dialogue between people and the landscape.  One of his installations, the Flotsam Weirs Installation, utilized woven fences made of material found on-site to create an environmental sculpture that helped people learn about hydrology and ecology as well as how structures in the natural world decay throughout time.  The piece is a way to witness the process of nature and to understand the beauty of its ecology through an artistic lens.It is located in Williamsburg, MA.  Pictures are found at www.ecotropy.net.

Pedal People
Local business Pedal People practice sustainability every day when it comes to trash and compost pickup!  Serving the Northampton area, this group of cyclists utilize bikes to tote away trash and compost from Northampton homes instead of driving fuel-reliant cars and trucks! http://www.pedalpeople.coop

Seed Swaps
Seed swaps are a chance for community members to meet one another, gather together and share gardening tips, ideas, and, more importantly, seeds!  Many local libraries in the Hilltowns and Pioneer Valley host seed swaps in early spring to encourage togetherness, sharing and collaborative consumption by providing the space for people to get together and share the food and plants they grow.  Check out these local libraries for nearby seed swamps. Read more about the embedded learning found in seed saving in our post, Seed Capital Provides Return for Nature-Based Education.

Amherst Sustainability Festival
Every year, the town of Amherst celebrates Earth Day with an annual Sustainability Festival. Usually, during the week of Earth Day, this festival includes performances on the town common, workshops to learn more about how to live more sustainably at home, family entertainment, and local farm animals from the 4-H club!

Earth Day at UMass
The University of Massachusetts celebrates with an Earth Day Festival every year with student groups that host booths, a farmers’ market featuring student grown produce, live music, and art activities.  Each year is different, so best to check the UMass website to see what is on the schedule for this year’s Earth Day Festival at UMass.

Learning Ahead: Spring Traditions & Celebrations

Exploring Culture through Food, History & Art:
Easter & Passover

The reemergence of flora and fauna in the outdoor world gives cause for celebration as the months turn warmer and new life abounds. For many, it is a time of celebration linked to spring’s seasonality as reflected in the types of food prepared in holiday celebrations, including Easter and PassoverRead the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: National Poetry Month

Poetry & Place: Celebrating Poetry Month Locally

Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscape. April is National Poetry Month. As nature begins to come to life in blossoms and buds, National Poetry Month is the perfect catalyst for exploring the outdoor spaces and places that inspired great writers of the past and present through some of the many local trails found in the region.

The Rivulet Trail at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead is a hiking trail accessible to the public in Cummington, MA. The path along the rivulet is the same trail that once inspired Bryant to write The Rivulet.  You can still hike this trail at The Trustees’ property and encounter the poem posted along the trail to read and reflect on this beautiful place that features old growth forest and some of the tallest stands of White Pine in the Northeast.  It’s a sacred space that may compel you to write a few verses of your own!  Read Bryant’s poem ahead of time, then read it again while hiking the trail. How does the integration of language arts and nature influence your connection to place and poetry?

The Robert Frost Trail is named after poet Robert Frost. It’s a 47-mile trail in the Pioneer Valley that passes through ten towns along the Connecticut River. Read the rest of this entry »

Carry Western MA Poets in Your Pocket During Poem in Your Pocket Day

Celebrating National Poetry Month:
Poem in Your Pocket Day

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Poem in Your Pocket Day is an annual day for people to celebrate the inspiring nature of poetry by selecting a poem and carrying it in their pocket for sharing with others throughout the day. Originally started in 2002, this annual day is a way for folks to share a common love for written word in the poetic verse.

To discover poetry by writers from the region, consider carrying a poem written by a local poet from Western Massachusetts.  Here are a few poets that inspire our region with their words:  Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: Spring Birds

Sense of Place: A Birds Eye View

Springtime is filled with sightings of all kinds of exciting natural wonders. The season’s outdoor appeal makes it a perfect time of year not only for enjoying our natural surroundings, but for learning about conservation and species preservation, too!

In particular, springtime is the season for bird sightings as Western Massachusetts becomes filled with a variety of migrating bird species in the early spring months. Species to look for in the spring include Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills, American Kestrels, Indigo Buntings, Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Carolina Wrens, American Goldfinches, Great Blue Herons, Red-winged Blackbirds, and many others! Knowing the names of the birds we share our home with and being able to identify them by their songs and behavior helps us connect to the seasons and strengthens our sense of place.  Read the rest of this entry »

Birding: Musings on Nature through Poetry & Place

Birding: Musings on Nature through Poetry & Place

The bird populations in Western Massachusetts have inspired many poets and writers to pick up their pens and compose verses dedicated to our feathered friends, celebrating nature and the land. Cummington native William Cullen Bryant, and Amherst native Emily Dickinson, both wrote poems about the bobolink. This intriguing species migrates back to New England in the late Spring (mid-late May) where it prefers large grasslands, such as hay fields, where they can build their nests on the ground. They are impressive birds, with a curious and clownish fluttering that is a joy to see in the late spring and early summer. Due to their preference to nest in hay fields often utilized by farmers, The Bobolink Project seeks to work with farmers to delay haying fields in order to protect grassland birds such as bobolinks.

Learn about bobolinks through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website and their educational videos on different bird species.

Read the rest of this entry »

Birds in your Backyard and Environment

Investigating Nature at Home:
Birds in your Backyard and Environment

Land Trust: Supporting Community & Local Wildlife

Nesting boxes for any species of bird can bring them to your backyard for observation and inspiration!

There are many local organizations in Western Massachusetts that support species habitat and nesting opportunities for birds. Kestrel Land Trust, based in Amherst, MA, offers a unique volunteer opportunity to be a Kestrel Nest Box Monitor. Nest Box Monitors visit the Kestrel nest boxes regularly to keep track of their use during the breeding season starting in late March. It’s a chance to learn more about kestrels and their nesting patterns, and to observe these beautiful birds of prey locally in Western MA.

Bird Feeders: Supporting Language Arts

What better way to learn more about birds in early spring than in your own backyard! Like poets William Cullen Bryant and Emily Dickinson, you can observe the birds that frequent your backyard feeder and later reflect on their characteristics to write interesting and poetic descriptions that utilize metaphors and similes to convey the bird’s behavior through creative language. If you don’t yet have a bird feeder, building one can be a self-initiated project that may include a variety of skills including math, architecture, woodworking and the decorative arts. You can continue to use your bird feeder throughout the winter months by keeping it stocked for those birds that don’t migrate.  This will help birds have a source of food during the year’s coldest season. As a result, you can continue to watch birds in your backyard and gain a better sense of Western Massachusetts’ bird populations and the species with whom you share your natural surroundings. Perhaps you’ll begin to feel inspired similarly to Bryant and Dickinson!  Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: Women’s History Month

Local Women & Local History:
Understanding New England Women’s Lives from the Past

Western Massachusetts Changemakers

Juanita Nelson (1923-2015) was an American social activist who made her home in Deerfield, MA.

Western Massachusetts is home to so many women changemakers who have dedicated their lives to enacting social change through the arts, critical inquiry, and learning. Still today, there are many women poets, writers, activists, artists, teachers, educators, and scientists that reside in Western Massachusetts and continue to work towards positive social change that fosters female empowerment, diversity and making women’s voices even louder in our globalized society and economy. Here, only a few women from history will be explored, however note the incredible number of talented women today in Western Massachusetts that continue to demonstrate the importance of women’s rights. March is Women’s History Month, a national observation that honors and pays tributes to those women who dedicated their lives to social justice, the environment, education, and  positive change for society. Their fortitude and perseverance as pioneers is honored during the month of March. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Women’s History via Higher Education in Western MA

Exploring Women’s History via Higher Education

Did you know that Western Massachusetts is home to the first women’s college in the United States? In 1837 a female seminary was founded by chemist and educator Mary Lyon. This seminary is now Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. The college was founded at a time when women still did not have the right to vote, yet its founder’s famous words, “Go where no one else will go, do what no one else will do,” certainly inspired young women to think beyond social boundaries in order to achieve, inspire and demonstrate the strength and dynamic voice of women.

Mt. Holyoke is the first of the seven sisters, a group of liberal arts colleges in the Northeast that were started as women’s colleges. Some of these schools are still women’s colleges today and two of them are here in Western Massachusetts: Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley) and Smith College (Northampton).  Read the rest of this entry »

Sense of Place: Women in Art History

Think about this:

  • Throughout history, women have been an integral part of the art world. As patrons, historians, innovators, critics, and creators, their contributions are widespread. Why is it that they are underrepresented in art history?
  • When art history is considered, what media come to mind? How about textile arts? Culinary arts? Decorative arts? Are these considered fine art?
  • How have gender biases influenced our art history narrative?
  • How have women generated social change  throughout history? How do they now use visual art and language art to address contemporary issues?

Khan Academy has a great discussion page that address some of these issues: A Brief History of Women in Art.


Download our March/April edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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Local Agriculture: Spring on the Farm

Local Agriculture: Spring on the Farm

Farm life follows the path of the seasons. In March and April, it’s time to start planting leafy greens and root crops as one prepares for the warmer months ahead.  It is also a time of new life on a farm when animals are born.  At living history museums such as Old Sturbridge Village and the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA, folks can visit baby animals each spring such as newborn lambs, calves, and piglets!  Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Ahead: Early Spring is Sugar Season

March is Sugar Season

It’s March. The light is changing, the days are getting longer, and the ground slowly begins to thaw. As spring rounds the corner, March becomes the month of gathering and beginning, of re-emergence and sharing. Early in the month it might feel like winter outside, but rest assured that spring is stirring underneath blankets of snow. March is sugaring season.

While April and May showcase new life in full force, March is a transitional time of year when we are reminded strongly of New England’s cycles. As the temperatures rise during the day and cool down to freezing at night, sap begins to flow through the sapwood of the sugar maples. These native trees are tapped during this time of temperature fluctuation to capture their sap that will eventually be boiled down into delicious sweet maple syrup – ah yes, liquid gold!
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Maple Syrup: Native American Traditions & New England History

New England Traditions: Maple Sugaring & Local History

Before the arrival of European settlers, Native Americans were already tapping sugar maples and processing maple sugar in the early 1600’s. Early Native Americans would move their whole families to a location in the woods where there were plenty of sugar maples to tap. They would set up a sugar camp and create V-shaped slashes in the tree as a method to collect the sap. Since they did not yet have metal pots for boiling, the collected sap was placed in a wooden vessel and hot rocks were added to help boil away the water to create a syrupy consistency.

The Native Americans in New England used maple syrup to make grain sugar, cake sugar, and wax sugar. Grain sugar is similar to what we now refer to as brown sugar. Cake sugar was in block form, shaped by pouring the syrup into molds and allowing it to harden. This made it easier to store. Finally, wax sugar is what we know as sugar on snow. It’s the pouring of maple syrup heated to high temperatures on the snow to create a taffy-like consistency to enjoy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living History Museums During Sugar Season

Living History Museums During Sugar Season

In Western Massachusetts, living history museums celebrate local history and early American living through maple sugaring demonstrations that recall the techniques, foods, and traditions connected to the sugaring season. Families can experience what maple sugaring was like in the days of old New England at living history events where museum interpreters dressed in period clothing demonstrate life and skills from Colonial New England, including: tree tapping, sumac spile making, sap boiling over a fire, open hearth cooking, and other early American skills.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sugar Shacks & Shared Meals Support Connections & Culture

Sharing Food & Culture: Community Meals & Celebrations

Sugar Shacks

Sugar shacks are small cabins where maple sap is gathered and boiled down to syrup. Tours of sugar shacks are primary-source opportunities to learn about local history, New England culture, local economy and technology. These community resources are not only producers of maple syrup but also turn into bustling kitchens and community eating spaces for neighbors, families and friends to gather and share a pancake breakfast together in honor of the sugaring season! Eating a pancake breakfast at a local sugar shack is a true community experience! Since most sugar shacks are not year-round eating establishments, they convert their existing spaces into eateries with large communal tables. Even though you may have to wait a little bit to be seated, it’s such a fun way to meet new neighbors and learn about the sugaring process!  Read the rest of this entry »

Art & Literature of Seasonal Living: The Maple Tree

The Inspiring Maple Tree:
The Art & Literature of Seasonal Living

Robert Strong Woodward

Western Massachusetts landscape painter, Robert Strong Woodward (1885-1957) was born in Northampton, MA and settled in Buckland where he painted along with a studio in Heath where he produced many works. Woodward was a landscape painter mostly depicting the rural countryside and living that surrounded him. One of the themes he explored is the sugaring season.

You can view Woodward’s works at the website run by the nonprofit Friends of Woodward.

One painting in particular, Late Sugaring, shows maple trees with red tapping buckets along Route 112 in Buckland. Painted in 1934, this image is a typical New England scene that one can still witness driving along the same road in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. This beautiful region, largely unchanged throughout the decades, still offers that majestic New England experience that Woodward captures in this painting. An online gallery of Woodward’s sugaring paintings is also found at Friends of Woodward’s web site. Peruse the gallery before heading over to a local sugar shack this season for breakfast and arrive curious. What has changed over the years? What is the same?  Read the rest of this entry »

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