5 Community Walks Lead Towards Seeing a Hidden Landscape in the Hilltowns

Hidden Walls, Hidden Mills: Exploring the Plainfield Landscape

Click to enlargeJoin the Plainfield Historical Society for five free walks and talks exploring and interpreting our forested historical landscape this spring and summer! Starting on Saturday, April 25, 2015, with the Plainfield Aquaduct Company, the first commonly-held utility in Plainfield history.

Sinking deeply into spring mud, as most families living in the Hilltowns are doing, reminds us of the abundance of water that once made Plainfield a center of industrial farming, a boomtown of sorts in which land speculation went hand in hand with great civic efforts to build a community. In five guided talks/walks, learn to see old Plainfield in the landscape, about the mills, springs, and wells, “read” stone foundations and walls like so many tablets, interpret trees and plants to find cellar holes, and enrich your understanding of this beautiful Hilltown.

All tours meet behind the Shaw Memorial Library (Plainfield, MA) at 1pm and are free (donations welcomed). There will first be a “show and tell” of the historical research involved in creating the walk, followed by a walk or hike.  Read the rest of this entry »

Plainfield Historical Society Offers Online Resource, Rich Hilltown History!

Plainfield Historical Society Unveils Website Full of Local History

“In 2003 the Plainfield Historical Society acquired a 1.5 acre parcel along the Mill Brook in Plainfield where there’s a story waiting to be told. The Plainfield mill site contains remnants of three mill foundations that date from the early 19th century through the first decade of the 20th century Thanks to the Historical Society’s conservation effort, the public will soon be able to visit the trio of mill site remains, which illustrate the technological innovation and basic evolution of early water-powered industry in Massachusetts.” – Source: Plainfield Massachusetts Historical Society

Bring local history to life as you plan family activities for the summer! Thanks to Plainfield resident, Lori Austion, The  Plainfield Historical Society has recently unveiled their new website (plainfieldmahistory.org).  Although a work in progress, it’s filled with a rich amount of information on local historical sites and homes, notable former community members in the Hilltowns, and self-guided historical tours that history buffs of all ages can participate in!

Studying local history can be an incredibly enriching and experience for students of all ages that nurtures a sense of place. For younger students, a look at community history provides learning opportunities where kids can physically experience the historical places that they learn about. Older students can benefit from such studies, too, as it will help them to put broad knowledge of American and world history into a local context – they will learn how larger scale changes and events affected their own community and physical surroundings.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Energy Committee Forming in the Hilltowns

Like This!

Davio Danielson of Plainfield, MA writes:

Dear Friends, especially Plainfielders,

At the recent Plainfield Town Meeting, an Energy Committee for the town was discussed. I’d like to form one. I’m even ready to put in some work if there are at least 3 others who’d like to play. Plainfield has great wind and solar sites, and we’re so teeny that it would be easy to qualify as a Green Community. There may be grant money available. Perhaps we can even revitalize some historic water-power sites…

Let’s have a cookout at Crooked Pond or Nine Mountain and kick it around. If you’re interested, even in coming to just one meeting, please send me an email. If you have an interested friend who’s not on-line please have him/her call me. Many thanks.

Davio Danielson

December Public Hearings in the Hilltowns: Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Offer your input at the Hilltown CDBG Public Hearings in December

You can help your Town compete for the Federal CDBG grants that are needed to fund local community services by attending  one of these Public Hearing in December, and/or fill out the brief Survey below:

Public Hearing Notice

Thursday, December 10, 2009 7:00 pm
Cummington Town Hall (Community House)
Main Street, Cummington

At this Public Hearing you will have the opportunity to discuss projects and services proposed for an FY10 regional CDBG funding application for the towns of Cummington, Peru, Plainfield and Worthington.

Public Hearing Notice

Monday, December 14, 2009 5:00 pm
Chesterfield Town Offices
(Davenport School Building)
422 Main Road, Chesterfield

At this public hearing you will have the opportunity to discuss projects and services proposed for an FY10 regional CDBG funding application for the towns of Chesterfield, Goshen, Westhampton and Williamsburg. The Town of Chesterfield will also review implementation of the FY08 and FY09 Northern Hilltowns regional CDBG grants that also include the towns of Cummington, Plainfield, and Worthington.

If you have questions about either of these hearings or would like special accommodations to help you participate, please contact Andrew Baker at Hilltown Community Development Corp: (413) 296-4536 ext. 18 or andrewb@hilltowncdc.org

Not able to attend? You can also help by filling out the very brief Survey below and/or forwarding this email to a friend or colleague who may need these community services. Click HERE to begin the Hilltown Program Assessment Survey. (There are 16 Yes/No statements you can respond to.)

You can also find this survey and a survey on Housing Needs at the Hilltown CDC web site: www.hilltowncdc.org

Thanks for your help!

30th Annual Hilltown Junior Olympics in Plainfield

Hilltown Junior Olympics

The 30th Annual Hilltown Junior Olympics happens at the Plainfield Town Park on North Central Street in Plainfield, MA on Saturday, September 26th, 2009.


Janet Laroche of Chesterfield, MA writes: The Hilltown Junior Olympics is a six-town event that has been taking place for the past 30 years. Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, Windsor and Worthington take turns hosting the event where children between the ages of 5 and 14 participate in 4 individual events. The events range from the bean bag toss and horse shoe toss for the younger children to the 70 yard dash, shot put and basketball shoot for the older children. There are 5 divisions and a child’s age will determine which division they will participate in and which events they will take part in.

The day begins with a parade of the six towns and their teams. There’s a master of ceremonies who introduces the towns, introduces the person who will do the invocation, leads the group in the pledge of allegiance, introduces the singer of the national anthem and the runners who come into the stage area with the lighted Olympic torch.

As well as individual events, there are 3 exciting town events that also take place. One boy and one girl from each division are randomly chosen each year to participate in the tug of war, relay race and obstacle course. Each town has a team consisting of 10 children. The town events are competitive and very fun to watch.

There are sophisticated scoring rules in place fore every event and volunteers in the tally table have the responsibility for tallying up each individual event as well as the town events. The town with the most points at the end of the day wins the event. Trophies are handed out for first, second and third place. Children who did well in their individual events receive medals for first, second and third place and are called up to the podium.

Every child receives a participation medal for being there that day and contributing to their town’s team.

It takes many volunteers, close to 100, to make the day go smoothly. Volunteers assist with leading divisions to their respective events, handing out equipment for each event, parking cars, cooking food, raking sand pits, coaching town event teams, as well as many other positions.

The Hilltown Junior Olympics was the idea of Stanley Svoboda, a Cummington resident who wanted children to have a chance to participate in an event that was something like the Olympics. Thirty years later, the event is still something children in these six towns look forward to each year.

Janet Laroche can be reached at jalaroche@verizon.net.

Good News For Hampshire County Hilltown Families!

Northern Hilltowns Awarded $1.073 Million in Federal Block Grants

On August 13, 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) awarded $1,073,340 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to support affordable housing, social services, and community facilities projects in five Hampshire County hilltown communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Take Charge! – Hilltowns Raffle to Be Drawn July 4th, 2009

Take Charge!
Hilltowns Raffle to Be Drawn July 4th, 2009

Take Charge! (April 25th, 2009)

The community wide campaign Take Charge! by Cummington, Worthington, Plainfield, Williamsburg and Chesterfield wraps up on July 4! To take the pledge, fill out a Take Charge! brochure and pledge to take 1 or all 5 home energy savings steps, such as scheduling a home energy audit, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, turning down your water heater, and using a clothesline. Everyone who drops off a pledge form will be entered into a raffle for one of 19 prizes donated by Hilltown businesses. Winners will be announced on July 4. For more information, contact Tomasin Whitaker at 413-586-7350 ext. 25.

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 »

DIY: Halloween Paper-Maché Piñatas

In the studio with Hilltown Families Guest Artist, Kara Kitchen

Halloween Pinata (c) Hilltown Families

Halloween Pinata (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The history of piñatas is rich, with historical traditions found in China, Europe, and Mexico, and are made out of a variety of materials, including clay pots, tissue paper, ribbons and paper-maché. In Mexico, piñatas were originally clay pots filled with sweets and treasures, later transformed into a seven-point star with religious symbolism. In today’s modern world, piñatas come in a menagerie of traditional and commercial characters and icons.

Families from the Hilltown Families Listserv gathered two Sunday afternoons in a row to make paper-maché piñatas with balloons for Halloween (click here to see more photos). In this two-day workshop kids made paper-maché piñatas the shape of traditional Halloween icons, including a carved pumpkin, a skull and cross-bones, and a black bat. And one child made a kangaroo piñata to use at her birthday next summer.


Making a paper-mache pinata. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Making a paper-maché piñata is a two-step process. The first is to create a hollow paper-maché animal or shape and then allow it to dry. The second is to glue, paint and tie it all together.


Gather your supplies. You’ll need:

  • White flour and water (wheatpaste)
  • Large plastic bowl
  • Newspaper strips
  • Balloon
  • Large drinking glass
  • Tape
  • String

  1. First make your wheatpaste. The recipe is simple: Combine one part white flour with two parts water in a large plastic container, adjusting amounts to get the right paste-like consistency. Mix well until all the lumps of flour are gone. If you store the paste, add a few tablespoons of salt. We discovered later, after the lid blew-off, that wheatpaste doesn’t keep for a week otherwise.
  2. Prepare newspaper strips by folding a newspaper in half and tear into strips. Then, unfold the strips and tear in half. Make enough strips to cover the surface of your balloon twice, at least.
  3. Blow up a large balloon. Place the tied end into the opening of a large drinking glass to hold it up-right while adding paper-maché strips.
  4. To add paper-maché strips of newspaper to your balloon, dip strips into the paste and then squeeze off the excess with your fingers. Add enough layers of paper-maché strips so the color of the balloon is not visible through the newspaper.
  5. Tie string to the top of the balloon and hang until completely dry.


Halloween Pinata (c) Hilltown Families

Making a kangaroo paper-mache pinata. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Gather your supplies. Depending on what you’re making, your supplies may vary. To make any of the designs we chose, you will need the following:

  • Paper & pencil
  • Tempera paint
  • Small sponge brushes
  • Glue gun
  • Old button down
  • Hair dryer
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Twine
  • Matte finish spray

  1. Halloween Pinata (c) Hilltown FamiliesFirst draw out your design to determine the cardboard cut-outs needed. For a kangaroo we needed to cut out legs, a tail, face and ears. The bat needed a pair of wings and the skull and cross-bones needed two bone cut-outs. The classic Halloween Jack-O-Lantern was the simplest of the four designs.
  2. Once you have your design, use the edge of your balloon to trace the curve of the balloon into your cut-out template, then cut out your pieces.
  3. Cover your surface with newspaper and warm up your hot glue gun. Glueing the card board pieces to the balloon is for adults to manage. The glue is way too hot to let the young ones use. Ask any of the adults who got hot glue on their hands during this process. Ouch!
  4. The glue dries pretty quickly, so just hold steady with your cut-out while waiting for it to adhere. Add any extra glue if needed. Note: The glue will not adhere to a wet paint surface, so make sure everything is well glued on during this step to avoid ears or wings falling off during the painting process.
  5. Halloween Pinata (c) Hilltown FamiliesNow the fun begins. Get your vats of paint ready with small sponge paint brushes for each color and put those old button-down shirts on the kids, backwards. They make great smocks. Once your child has put a base coat on, go over again to smooth out the paint and patch up and missed spots.
  6. Use the hair dryer to speed up the drying process. Paint and glue on any details. Use pipe cleaners for eyes, leaves, ears or even a pouch.


Halloween Pinata (c) Hilltown FamiliesAnother decorative option is to cover your unpainted paper-maché piñata with fringed tissue paper as illustrated in the pictures below. We used recycled tissue paper saved from last year’s holiday season. These fringed piñatas look like colorful eggs and would make great Springtime decorations.

  1. Fold strips of tissue paper in half and seal with a line of paper glue.
  2. Cut fringe just 1/2-inch shy of glue line.
  3. Place another line of glue on your strip of tissue paper.
  4. Adhere to your paper-maché piñata, repeating with another layer just above, slightly overlapping. 

[Photo credits: Sienna Wildfield]

Kara KitchenKara Kitchen is a public high school art teacher with a BFA from Mass Art and MEd from Lesley University, currently offering art workshops and individual instructions at her barn art studio. She is a mother of twins and lives with her husband in Plainfield, MA.

The Bear Missed the Train

Penny Schultz: Music Diva

Penny Schultz at the Worthington Library (c) Hilltown FamiliesIf you’ve never had the pleasure of attending one of Penny Schultz’s community sings, tomorrow (08/21/07) is your chance. She will be leading a community sing at Earthdance in Plainfield, MA, at 6:30pm.

Penny is a dynamic and energetic teacher whose love of music is infectious. I first took my daughter to one of Penny’s community sings when she was a baby back in ’04. On a couple of occassions we’ve seen her lead songs at the Hilltown Charter Cooperative School during their winter fair and recently stopped in to see her at the Worthington Library. Penny views herself as a teacher, not a performer, and this came through clearly as she led the kids through rounds and choruses of traditional songs, including “The Bear Missed The Train,” a song inspired by the Yiddish song, “Bei Mir Bist Du Shain.”

The Bear Missed The Train

The bear missed the train,
The bear missed the train,
The bear missed the train, and now he’s walking. (repeat)

He’s walking here and there,
He’s walking everywhere.
He;s walking up and down,
He’s walking through the town!

The bear missed the train,
The bear missed the train,
The bear missed the train, and now he’s walking.

For different verses, choose a different animal and a different mode of transportation, then complete the phrase: for example, the mouse missed the boat, and now she’s swimming. Check out the video for middle stanza movements.

Food For Fines

Northampton Survival CenterNext week there will be a great opprotunity for families to support their community while paying their overdue fines at the library. The Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, will be holding a Food for Fines week from Sunday, January 7th to Saturday, January 13th, 2007. During this week, families may pay any overdue fines on their account with a donation of canned goods (please check your expiration dates) or healthy non-perishable food items. All food collected will be given to The Northampton Survival Center for distribution.

The Northampton Survival Center is an emergency food pantry which provides low-income individuals and families in 16 communities in Hampshire County with free food, clothing, household goods, and referrals for emergency assistance. The center serves 16 communities, including Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, and Worthington. Read the rest of this entry »

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