Citizen Scientists Discover Effects of Hurricane Irene on Local River Ecology

As You’d Expect, Hurricane Irene Drastically Altered Local River Ecology

Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes:

The past Wednesday afternoon, Biocitizen teamed up with Hilltown Families to do our annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River downstream of the Route 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. Thank you volunteer citizen scientists!

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Before we began, our hosts Sienna, Jim and Persephone described how scarily high the river rose during Hurricane Irene. Not only did beautiful farmland across the river crumble—old barn and antique garbage dump included—into the torrent; but they also heard giant boulders rolling, bumping, crashing below the surface. In fact, they could feel the vibrations of the boulders in the foundation of their house (Face it amigos; we’re all on jello.).

A first view revealed just how drastic the re-ordering of the river, and riparian corridor, was. Tree branches high on the bank held fist-sized clumps of leaves and debris, proof the flood crested around 15 feet above its present level, which is itself abnormally high. Down at the river, Persephone (9yo)—and Rowan (9yo), Owen (8yo) and Cyril (8y0)—showed me where her fort used to be (on a sedimentary sand bank). Then we saw all the flotsam she’s collecting to build a new one, on higher ground. I was relieved to see our sampling area was basically intact, and marveled with grim fascination at the look of the whole river course, which appears to have been bulldozed.

We did 6 invertebrate collections, 2 each at 3 sites that are within 20-30 feet of each other. Our first sampling shocked us, because we couldn’t find a single invertebrate; last year, each sample teemed with writhing, boisterous bugs. Below are RBA data sheets for 2011 and 2010 for your comparison. Look at the top row of each to get the basic idea: we didn’t find any large stoneflies this year, only tiny ones. (“The meek shall inherit the earth”…?) As we might expect, we found plenty of worms that build cases and glue themselves to large stones.

So: it was a “bad’ year, if we consider “good” to be finding lots of big juicy stoneflies. But for the purposes of cold-hearted science, the drastic alteration of the riverbed and reduction of the number of bugs is “great” because the bug population will definitely rebound (“no empty places in nature”). The biotic resurgence will be cyclical, though, and might take a year or more. The benthic invertebrates we collect live their short adult life next spring and summer (some live under water for more than one year); the reproductive cycle takes at least a year. There will probably be a lot of hungry trout next summer and perhaps less osprey 2 years from now, as a result.

We look forward to next year’s RBA with anticipation—it will show us how the river is a superorganism whose health changes in response to climatic influences.

And we are pleased to report that, notwithstanding the trauma it has endured, the Westfield @ Rt 143 is a river of “excellent quality” water!

Women’s Weekly Trail Run at the Chesterfield Gorge

Trail Run at Chesterfield Gorge

Trail along Westfield River beginning at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA is a great place for running, walking, biking and hiking. And in the winter it's good for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing too! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Leslie Charles of Chesterfield, MA writes:

Last year, a few of us started running at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA on Sundays at 8am. We would like to extend the invitation to all women at all levels to join us!

Meet at the Chesterfield Gorge parking area at 8am on Sundays now until the late fall (directions). Around an hour or less (or more, depending on your distance)

We run on River Road–the dirt road that’s next to the beautiful Westfield River. We all start together on a slow trot for almost a half mile then we stretch (and chat). It’s an out and back so you can go as far/long as you want. After the stretch we go at different paces and different distances. A favorite distance is to the gate and back, which is almost 3 miles (when my daughter joins us, we go a mile out then back). Once people start feeling comfortable with that, they go longer. One can go up to 9 miles out (18 miles round-trip).

OPEN TO ALL LEVELS: It can be very intimidating to start running (or start back up after a long haitus-especially when you used to think of yourself as a runner but now can’t even run around the figurative hilltown block). I assure you that many women who have shown up felt that way initially but then realized what a no-pressure run it is. You’ve already succeeded by just showing up! You can walk/run/ take a dip in the Westfield River (I tend to do a combination of that). AND…if you’ve never been to the Chesterfield Gorge–it’s really worth just checking it out. AND…it’s great to run in the woods knowing a bunch of other women are around.

We try to leave right at 8am, so if you think you’re going to be late and want us to wait, you can either call me or shoot me an email before 7:30am in the morning so we can wait for you.

So, pass this around to all your lady friends.

Leslie Charles 413-296-4753

Win an Entry: Gorge aprés Gorge 5K!

7th Annual Gorge aprés Gorge
Sunday, November 28th, 2010
Chesterfield Gorge, West Chesterfield

Leslie Charles of Chesterfield, MA writes: "Join us for the 7th annual Gorge aprés Gorge. We decided to add a run to it this year, so join the run and then hang around for the family fun run/walk. For both, we start at the Chesterfield Gorge and run the rough fire road out for 1.5 miles then back, following the beautiful Westfield River. If you have never been, this event is a must! The road can be muddy/icy and a bit rocky. (But easy enough for bikes and jogging strollers). After: complimentary hot chocolate/tea/coffee. Bring some treats and join the fun!" (Photo credit: Leslie Charles)

For the past seven year, families have gathered at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield on the Sunday following Thanksgiving for the annual Gorge aprés Gorge, a FREE community walk/run. New this year is a 5K run to benefit the Trustees of Reservation, and Hilltown Families has two entries and two mugs to giveaway to one lucky reader! Deadline to enter to win is Wednesday, 11/24/10 @ 7pm (EST). More details below.


Hilltown mother Leslie Charles of Chesterfield, MA has organized the event for the past seven years, a tradition she brought with her from the West Coast when she moved to Western MA with her family. The inaugural Gorge aprés Gorge was in 2004, and in the years that followed was supported by the Chesterfield Cultural Council. Join by organizer Tanya Rapinchuck of Worthington, MA this community walk/run and grown from a small group of participating families living in the Hilltowns to a community-wide event with families from the Pioneer Valley and Berkshires joining in the fun. Children who have participated since they were babies look forward to the Gorge aprés Gorge as it has become part of their yearly celebration of life in the Hilltowns.

New this year is an exciting 5K run ($10) to raise funds for the Trustees of Reservation, starting at 9am. This is timed race with unique top finisher awards (you won’t want to miss these awards!).

The free family fun walk/run begins at 10am.  Please leave the dogs at home and bring your own mug.


Your chance to win two entries and two mugs for the Gorge aprés Gorge 5k on Sunday, November 28th (9am) at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. POST A COMMENT BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 11/25/10 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win you should still go!  Pre-register for the 5K at, or contact Tanya Rapinchuk: 238-5595  The commumity walk/run is free and open to all.  No need to pre-register.  Just pack up the family and join in the fun at 10am!

Families as Biocitizens on the Westfield River

Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes:

Identifying a sample of benthic macro invertebrates (water bugs) taken from the Westfield River in West Chesterfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

How many times have you looked at a river thinking, how beautiful—and pulled out your camera to capture the swells of whitewater, a striking blue heron, or blazing maple tree in the autumn overhanging its banks?

A river is not just beautiful, though; it’s alive, and those who witness this life, this bios, never look at or appreciate a river the same way again. Based out of Westhampton, MA, the Biocitizen School has been training volunteers to see and understand the bios that a river is, by teaching them how to do Rapid Bioassessments. We net the benthic macro invertebrates (underwater bugs) and, by inventorying them, we can quickly assess how alive the river is.

Kurt helps kids sort through a sample that included stonefly nymphs. Stoneflies give an abundance of food to trout, feeding the Bald Eagles on the river. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Stonefly nymphs are a bug we want to catch. They are a primary food source for brook trout and, like trout, require clear, clean, cold oxygen-rich water. If there is too much nitrogen or potassium (from fertilizer run off) in the water, algae will bloom and suck the oxygen out of the river. You won’t find many stonefly nymphs—and therefore trout.

By doing a Rapid Bioassessment, you can monitor a river that is dear to you, year after year, to ensure that it’s healthy—and stays that way. Once you have been trained (this year), you can conduct the assessment yourself (next year); Biocitizen collects and sends your bug inventory to DEP, where it is checked and logged, becoming part of the public historical record. Such records are invaluable for scientific research and land-use decision-making.

Families inventoried their samples, giving proof that the oxygen-rich water was of exceptional quality! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I had the pleasure of training a few families on the Westfield river this past weekend, just downstream from the RT 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. One of my favorite moments occurred at the end, after we had identified our last worm species and had the proof we needed to judge the water of “exceptional quality.” “We have bald eagles on the Westfield,” I was told; “They fly up and down the river: must have a five foot wingspans, seem almost as big as a person!” Yes. All of us lucky families have big beautiful eagles living near us. Because the water is oxygen rich, there’s an abundance of stoneflies, which gives us an abundance of trout which the eagles find yummy: enough fish so they can nest and raise their families here too!

Find out more about Biocitizens and how your family can get involved with Rapid Bioassessment, visit

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

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:

Thanks for your help!

6th Annual Community Walk/Run in the Hilltowns

Gorge aprés Gorge
Community Walk/Run in West Chesterfield, MA
Sunday, November 29, 2009, 10AM

The Sunday morning following your Thanksgiving dinner gorge, rise and shine to join friends and neighbors for the 6th annual Gorge aprés Gorge run/walk at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA. Community members are invited to embrace winter by being outside with friends and neighbors in a three mile out and back run/walk/bike/snowshoe/ski along the beautiful Westfield River. It’s a free event and all are welcomed! It’s a family affair.

Complimentary warm drinks will be served (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cider). Please help reduce waste and cost by bringing your own mug. Food to share is always welcome. Event will happen regardless the weather. For more information or to volunteer, email Leslie Charles Organizers ask that families kindly leave their lovely dogs at home this day.

West Chesterfield Post Office

Jim Maraniss & Gigi Kaeser of West Chesterfield, MA write:

West Chesterfield Post Office

West Chesterfield Post Office

The West Chesterfield Post Office (zip code 01084), which was recently repainted at some expense, is now in danger of being closed. This office has 45 boxes, and it also serves 23 families on a delivery route. The service there is enough to bolster one’s faith in government although in fact it’s only a satellite, not truly a federal operation-maintained by the town and funded by the U.S.Postal Service at $9000 per year. The federal funding is no longer enough to keep the office open, thanks to a hike in the wage (minimum wage) now to be paid to the two women who keep the office open.

From the angle of a citizen of West Chesterfield, it’s not hard to reason the need, which is not a matter of mere convenience. The post office is the nearest thing we have to a community center, where neighbors meet each other, where practical information is exchanged (Who will brush-hog your field? Did Sam’s mother really have a mountain lion on her roof?).   It is, for some of the town’s citizens, and especially for people who are alone, who don’t drive, or are just coming home from work, the most tangible benefit of small-town life. It would be terrible to have it disappear, and a loss to future generations.

When we first moved to West Chesterfield, we found two hand-written signs taped to the post office door. Their messages tell what we don’t want to lose: “Turn off the lights.” and “Don’t lock this door.”

Send Hilltown Families your letters.

Community Walk/Run in West Chesterfield

Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge

This is the time of year families are cooking and traveling and getting ready for their big Thanksgiving feast (= gorge #1). Following a Thanksgiving gorge, this is the time of the year area families are getting ready for the 5th Annual Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield (= gorge #2)! The GaG is a 3 mile walk/run (out & back) morning event for families to come together for exercise and a fun time, held on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Go as long or as little as you want.


  • Sunday, Nov. 30 @ 10am
    Chesterfield Gorge parking lot
    West Chesterfield, MA
    All are welcomed! It’s a family affair


  • It’s FREE.
  • If there is snow, bring your skies, snow shoes, or sleds. Or you can run and walk to make the 1.5 mile trek out to the first gate on a dirt fire road.
  • If there is sun, come run, bike, and/or walk.
  • Water will be available about 3/4 miles out.
  • Hot drinks will be served back at the parking lot, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider (bring mugs, if you want).

The Gorge aprés Gorge is organized by local resident (and mother of two) Leslie Charles and is supported by a Cultural Council Grant issued by the Chesterfield Cultural Council. Email:
(Poster design by LAC Design,

House Concert Series: Fingerstyle Guitarist, Michael Young!

Hilltown Families House Concert Series Presents …

Fingerstyle Guitarist, Michael Young

Michael Young

  • Saturday, April 12th, 2008
  • 6:30pm Social; 7:30pm Performance
  • House Concert in West Chesterfield, MA
  • $10 each. All proceeds go to the artist. Seating is limited.

All the way from Minneapolis, fingerstyle guitarist Michael Young ( plays both the six and twelve-string guitar with driving rhythm and groove and will be performing a house concert in West Chesterfield, MA, on Saturday, April 12th starting at 7:30pm. This concert is part of the Hilltown Families House Concert Guitar Series and is open to adults and children with audience skills. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds go to the artist. Seating is limited. RSVP email

Minnesota-bred Young is a world-class picker who shines on 6 and 12-string guitar. There’s something of the Leo Kottke style in Young’s playing, but he also has his own sound, which draws from folk, rock, blues, country and classical. Young knows his way around the guitar classics but also has a bag full of originals that jump. Listen for songs such as Plinko and Indio.” – San Antonio Express News

While in his mid-twenties, Michael has an ageless stage presence, and he displays his technically proficient fretwork by carrying his bouncy and energetic groove from powerful and compelling compositions to soulful ballads. Moving from daunting and alarming to lighthearted and idiosyncratic instrumentals, Michael takes advantage of the guitar’s possibilities by combining standard and alternate tunings with a mix of slide guitar into his playing. He has impressed audiences all over the country including appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the legendary CBGB 313 Gallery in New York City, and the illustrious Knitting Factory also in New York City. While primarily an instrumentalist, Michael also incorporates his warm singing voice into his sets.

Michael’s dexterity, depth and tone will fool you into thinking you’re hearing an entire string section instead of just one dude with a 12 string. He channels real emotion and range in his songs, evoking dozens of moods and sounds out of his instrument.” – Arizona Daily Sun

Impressive . . . fascinating stage presence.” – The Observer (NJ)

Learn more about Michael Young at his official website:


Here is a video from Michael’s performance in West Chesterfield:

He sounds great doesn’t he?!

Classical Guitar in the Hilltowns

House Concert in the Hilltowns
with Classical Guitarist, Steve Lin

Steve Lin

Saturday, February 23rd at 6:30pm, award winning classical guitarist Steve Lin will be performing at a house concert in West Chesterfield, MA, sponsored by Hilltown Families. This intimate performance has limited seating and is open to adults and families with older children. This concert is part of the HFHC Guitar Series, with classical guitar in February and finger-picking style in April with Michael West.

Tickets are $10 per person. In traditional house concert style, all proceeds go to the artist. Space is limited and RSVP is requested.

Steve Lin ( has performed for audiences throughout the United States, Taiwan, Mexico, and Italy in solo and ensemble engagements. His extensive repertoire spans from the Renaissance to Latin American, and he is also an advocate of contemporary music, active in
commissioning new works for the guitar.
He was the first prize winner at the Boston GuitarFest Solo Competition (’06) and the East Carolina University Guitar Competition (’01), and has appeared at festivals such as Yale Guitar Extravaganza, L’Accademia Musicale Chigiana, ChitarraImperia Festival, and Stetson Guitar Workshop. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorge Aprés Gorge: A Local Family Tradition

Gorge aprés Gorge Walk/Run: A Family Event
At the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield

Gorge Apres GorgeThis is the time of year families are cooking and traveling and getting ready for their big Thanksgiving feast (= gorge #1). Following a Thanksgiving gorge, this is the time of the year area families are getting ready for the 4th Annual Gorge aprés Gorge at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield
(= gorge #2)! The GaG is a 3 mile walk/run (out & back) morning event for families to come together for exercise and a fun time, held on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Go as long or as little as you want.


  • Sunday, Nov. 25 @ 10am
    Chesterfield Gorge parking lot
    West Chesterfield, MA
    All are welcomed! It’s a family affair


  •  If there is snow, bring your skies, snow shoes, or sleds. Or you can run and walk to make the 1.5 mile trek out to the first gate on a dirt fire road.
  • Photo from 2006 Gorge Apre Gorge
  • If there is sun, come run, bike, and/or walk.

  • Water will be available about 3/4 miles out.
  • Hot drinks will be served back at the parking lot, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider (bring mugs, if you want).
  • Refreshments from Bread Euphoria and Tanya Rapinchuck (and participants who would like to bring a refreshment to share.

The Gorge aprés Gorge is organized by local resident (and mother of two) Leslie Charles and is supported by a Cultural Council Grant. Email:
(Photo (c) 2006 Leslie Charles)

Hilltown Halloween Attraction


In West Chesterfield there is a Halloween tradition that started over thirty years ago with a few local kids and a few pumpkins, and has grown into a local tradition that visitors come from miles away to see.

In years past, when the Chesterfield General Store sat just over the bridge that crosses the Westfield River, at the corner of Route 143 and Ireland Street in West Chesterfield, a few neighborhood kids would gather up the leftover pumpkins the store didn’t sell, carve them into jack-o-lanterns, set them all aglow by putting candles inside them, and place them on the rocks in the River.

What started decades ago with maybe fifteen pumpkins, has today grown into a tradition that brings local friends and families together to carve over seventy pumpkins that end up either lining the bridge when the waters are high, or are put on the rocks when the river is low, and glow with ghoulish grins and designs.

This past Sunday evening, families from the hilltowns gathered and carved over seventy pumpkins. Our family walked down this evening to take a look and we were very impressed with the different designs. It’s a neat local tradition that is a true attraction, especially when the waters are low!

Carrot Arms & Winking Girls @ the T-Shirt Review

Hilltown Families Hosts in a First of It’s Kind

HFVS 1st Annual T-Shirt Review Mini-Fest & Ice Cream Social

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This past Saturday (09/23/07) in West Chesterfield, family members of the Hilltown Families listserv were invited to participate in the first ever review of t-shirts submitted by renowned kids music bands from all over the country.

The Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) hosted a T-Shirt Review Mini-Fest & Ice Cream Social, sponsored by Hilltown Families and co-sponsored by Silver Screen Design of Deerfield, MA. HFVS is a family radio show that can be heard live on WXOJ 103.3FM every Tuesday at 7pm, or anytime on the HFVS podcast.

(c) Hilltown FamiliesI like the community spirit Hilltown Families has offered through this event. Not institutional, but not exclusive either,” commented Hilltown Families parent member David Rosenmiller.

In addition to Hilltown kids participating as “official reviewers,” many members of Hilltown Families volunteered during the event: Tony(a) Lemos of the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, led participants in a t-shirt design project; freelance artist Seth Gregory designed the T-Shirt Review T-Shirt; Lauren Abend led a tie dye t-shirt project; and Jane dazzled the kids with her amazing face painting!

When Abend’s five year old son was asked what he liked about being an “official reviewer,” he echoed a response heard from many of the kid reviewers, “I like being a judge…

One of the ideas behind the event is to give kids a sense of authority by letting them know that their opinions counted and would be heard,” said organizer Sienna Wildfield, producer of HFVS.

Encouraging their kids to think critically, parents armed with a list that corresponded with 47 displayed t-shirts from 35 artists noted their children’s comments and observations.

I like how his limbs look like carrots,” comment one 5th grader on the t-shirt design by the band ScribbleMonster. And one kindergartner said of Princess Katie & Racer Steve’s t-shirt design, “I like it because there’s a girl winking.

Results from the review will be tallied an post sometime in the next few weeks. Bands submitted promo CD’s along with their t-shirts. The CD’s and corresponding t-shirts of each band will be offered as give-aways on HFVS each week over the course of a year. To find out the results and to discover how to participate in this year long promo, subscribe to our eNewsletter for the most recent updates to Hilltown Families.

Pop Rockets Blast Off!

HFVS Tips its Hat to the Pop Rockets

Pop Rockets at Cup & Top - (c) 2007 Hilltown Families

This week’s episode of the HFVS was an encore presentation of the episode, King of the Insects. It was a big hit with all our budding entomologist so we thought we’d play it again … But mostly because we needed a little R&R following the HFVS 1st Annual T-Shirt Review Mini-Fest & Ice Cream Social that happened this weekend in West Chesterfield, MA.

The review/fest/social was a big success and as far as I could tell everyone had a blast. I’ll be posting more updates and photos from the review, but first I wanted to thank the Pop Rockets for their “Blast Off” performances during the event. They were a big hit!


I first saw the Pop Rockets at Cup & Top in Florence this past spring. This four-piece band rocked the house. The place was packed. Moms and dads got jazzed up on fresh cups of joe, as the music pulled kids off laps and onto the dance floor. They had their waist high audience jumping up and down, twirling in circles like spinning tops. (OH!!! I get it … Cup & Top … duh!) I recall one parent referring to their performance as “a rock concert for kids.” That it was!

This summer we saw them perform again in Deerfield and were very excited to learn they had a new CD coming out. So we invited them to be our featured band during the HFVS’s 1st Annual T-Shirt Review Mini-Fest & Ice Cream Social. And once again they rocked the house, er, lawn. More on that to come.

On Sunday they were back at Cup & Top for their new CD Release Party, pictured above with Hilltown Families and friends. They performed all their new songs including “New Sneaker Jive,”which I now consider one of may favorite shoe songs, along with “Where’s My Shoes Blues” by AudraRox, “Shoe Bandit” by Uncle Rock (all artists that have also performed at Cup & Top with in the last year). Here’s a video from their recent Cup & Top performance:


Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families Spring Social & House Concert

Sassy Mamas & Papas Sing Out
at HF Spring Social & House Concert

Marla BB & Michael Dunning - Hilltown Families House ConcertSeeing Marla BB perform at the Iron Horse last year in Northampton was great. Having her perform in her hometown of West Chesterfield, at the base of Smith Mountain with the Westfield River rushing by … now that rocked! Performing with the talented accoustic Jazz bass player, Michael Dunning, this Blues & Jazz duo brought style and class to an intimate family community social.

Families gathered for home cooked food & dessert beforehand, cooking salmon on the grill, sampling one another’s potluck dishes and sharing organic gourmet pizza donated by Bread Euphoria.

As the music began, children snuggled up under wool blankets, joining their parents on the lawn for a sunset performance. The sky turned pink and orange as the sun set behind Smith Mountain on a cool spring evening, and Marla called out to all the “Sassy Mamas” and “Sassy Papas” to join in and sing. Click here to see video.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jazz & Blues in West Chesterfield

A Saturday Early Evening
Blues & Jazz House Concert & Potluck Social
for Hilltown Families & Friends

Hilltown Families are invited to join Blues Singer, Marla BB & acoustic Jazz Bass Player, Michael Dunning for a House Concert and potluck social in West Chesterfield on Saturday, May 5th @ 5:30pm. Come celebrate Cinco de Mayo & get to know other HF families & friends.

  • Potluck social @ 5:30pm.
  • Live music @ 7pm.
  • Coffee, tea & dessert will be offered. BYOB.
  • The hat will be passed for donations to the musicians.
  • To RSVP, email Sienna at, or call 413-296-0187 for directions.
  • Presented by Hilltown Families & eAglebird Records.

Valentine’s Day ’07

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 »

New Year’s Day Brings Hilltown Families and Friends Together

Where can a girl get some sushi around here?

(c) Hilltown Families - Sushi Social

Sushi Social in West Chesterfield

Hilltown mom’s gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, for a sushi social and Yankee Swap. Women came from miles to celebrate the season, including from Ashfield, Dalton, Cummington, East Hampton, Plainfield, Chesterfield, Worthington, Shelburne Falls, Goshen and Windsor, to have all manner of sushi in a lounge like atmosphere. Everyone gathered to reconnect with old friends while making many new connections, sharing family stories from this past year and looking ahead as a community to the year to come. Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families Discover Hanukkah

Hanukkah in the Hills

(c) Sienna Wildfield - Hilltown Families

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukah and Channukahis) is the Jewish Holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days Jewish families kindle the light of a menorah by lighting one of the eight remaining candles every evening.This past Friday evening, hilltown families of mixed spiritual/religious faiths gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, to discover this ancient (over 2,000 years old) Jewish festival. When guests were asked if they knew what other holiday was celebrated on that day, one child shouted out, “CHRISTMAS!” Actually, it’s Shabbat. Two candles were lit, apple juice was served in small cups, blessings were sang and loaves of homemade Challah were passed around for children to tear off pieces of bread.

(c) Hilltown Families

homemade latkes (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Nancy Rothensberg cooked up an endless supply of delicious, homemade latkes (potato and onion pancakes), quickly devoured by everyone with sour cream or apple sauce. For perfect potato latkes, Master Chef Levana Kirschenbaum recommends keeping your recipe dry, thick, hot, steady, lean, white and fresh. Not sure if Nancy followed these guidelines, but they were the best latkes around town!

Upstairs families learn how to play dreidel. Chocolate coins (called gelt) were passed out to all players and Marla BB explained the rules and Hebrew markings on the dreidel. The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, with each side corresponding to the following Hebrew words:

  • Nun (not) Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Gimel (gimme) The player takes the entire pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Hey (half) The player takes half of the pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Shin (put in) The player puts one piece of gelt the pot and the next player spins the dreidel.

Of course a few younger children had a hard time giving up some or all of their gelt, but the older kids were intent on learning the game and continued playing even after all the adults finished.

Dancing followed with a warm up to Hanukah Bamba from a new Hanukah CD made available from the PJ Library. Later, with Klezmer music playing, the Hora was taught to all. Participants gathered hands in a circle and learned steps to this Israeli folk dance.

Stories were shared at the end of the evening. Marla BB read The Eight Nights of Hanukah and Runaway Dreidel to an interactive crowd of families. Both books were also made available from the PJ Library.

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