Nature Table for March: Maple Buds and Bark

Nature Table for March

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

The surest sign of spring in western Massachusetts is the appearance of buckets and tubes on trees lining our winding rural roads. Sugar season marks the end of winter’s harshest weather, as the sap begins to flow only when daytime temperatures are above freezing. From living history to delicious meals, there is a multitude of community-based ways to engage with this sweet element of our natural and cultural history, but the naturalist’s way of learning about sugar season is not to simply observe it, but to learn to become a part of it!

The specifics of sugaring are basic enough, so long as you have sufficient trees to make the time spent worthwhile – which is where the first challenge of sugaring lies! There are thousands of species of maple trees in the world, and at least 13 of these are native to the United States. Of these native to our country, at least 7 different native maple species can be found here in western MA. When leaves are in season, it’s easy enough to distinguish sugar maples from non-sugar maples. In the absence of leaves, however, sugar maples are much more difficult to spot!  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!
Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Early Spring Food Tradition: Pancakes & Maple Syrup

Living Seasonally & Cooking Seasonally:
Pancakes & Maple Syrup

Did you know that pancakes are over 6,000 years old? Although not in the present form we know today, the predecessors to the modern pancake consisted of ground wheat cooked in a form of a pancake. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans ate a form of pancake sweetened with honey! Later in history, American colonists ate pancakes also known as Johnny Cakes.

Modern day technology and contemporary recipes have added to our cultural repertoire of recipes. Take for instance this demonstration on how to make maple cream:

Read the rest of this entry »

Hopkins Memorial Forest’s annual Maplefest in the Berkshires

Hopkins Forest to Host Annual Maplefest

Traditionally, March is the busiest time for syrup producers in New England. As the days begin to warm, sugar-rich sap starts to flow upward from its winter storage in the trees’ roots to the twigs and buds; it is this sap that has been harvested for generations to produce maple products throughout the region. Sugaring has been going on in Hopkins Forest since the mid-80s when Williams College students constructed a sugar house in an existing maple grove.

With the moderating weather, maple sugaring season has arrived just in time for Hopkins Memorial Forest’s annual Maplefest celebration on Saturday, March 14, from 11am-2pm. This annual event, which exalts the time-honored Yankee tradition of producing home grown sweeteners from local maple trees, will enable people to observe and take part in the process of producing maple syrup, from the tree to the bottle.

Participants will be able to visit a working sugar house; to observe the finishing and bottling of the final product; to try their hands at tapping a tree and gathering sap; and to taste homemade syrup on pancakes and “sugar on snow.” In addition, there will be demonstrations of old-time evaporating methods—going back to the pre-colonial era—children’s activities, videos and more.  Read the rest of this entry »

Maple Days in Western MA

Learning through the Lens of Maple Sugar Season

How sweet the end of winter is here in western Massachusetts – and not just because the snow is beginning to melt! Warmer temperatures signal the start of sap flow in sugar maples, whose frozen and sleepy roots and limbs come alive when the landscape begins to thaw. Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. Additionally, maple sugaring brings opportunities for families to engage in intergenerational community-based learning through visits to farms, community meals, living history, and experiential hands-on activities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sugar Season in Western MA

Sugar Season in Western MA

If sugaring is something that your family is particularly interested in trying and you’ve got a yard full of maples, try it out for yourself at home! With the right supplies, sugaring can be a fun and fairly easy family activity. Kids will get to practice math and science skills while selecting trees to tap – first, they’ll need to identify the proper species, and then they’ll need to determine the diameter of the tree at a specific height. Lots of careful observation, use of tools, and recording of data will need to be done! Then, while you wait for the sap to collect, kids can track the amount that fills the bucket each day. Older students might even be able to figure out the percentage by which the volume of the sap decreases after it has been boiled down into syrup!

As the winter days become warmer, plants and animals begin to prepare for springtime to come. And what’s one of the first (and possibly the most delicious) signs of spring here in western Massachusetts? Maple sugaring season, of course!

Sugaring season has been a New England tradition since practically forever. It was written about by English settlers as early as the mid-1600’s, and was a Native American harvest long before any Europeans set foot in North America. The history of this annual sap-harvesting tradition can’t really be boiled down to any specific time period or group of people, but it has nevertheless been done year after year for countless generations.

Today, a popular sugar season tradition for families in western Massachusetts is visiting a nearby sugar shack. There are sugar shacks to visit all over the region , and a great many of these can pair the experience of watching fresh maple sap be boiled down into a thick syrup with a homemade stack of maple syrup-covered pancakes. Many sugarhouses offer informative tours of their facilities, demonstrating their process of tapping, collecting, boiling, and bottling their syrup. In addition to learning about the sugaring process, a visit to a sugar shack can also be a lesson in local history and community resilience – many local sugar houses have been owned and operated by the same families for a few generations, making sugaring an important part of the local economy as well as a strong link between local families and their physical surroundings…

Read the rest of this entry »

Maple Syrup Time: Eight Featured Sugar Shacks in Western MA

Maple Syrup Season

The moment that we have been waiting for all winter is here: Maple Syrup Time!  The ground is thawing and the sap is running… maple sugaring is everywhere, giving great reason to get out with your family to learn about the maple sugaring process while enjoying the first harvest of the year!

Below, I have listed several sugar shacks where there is a restaurant and the sap run is a sweet and joyful event.  However, do not disregard the people around the corner or the trees in your own back yard! A directory of sugar shacks in Massachusetts is available at www.massmaple.org. Check to see if there is someone making syrup in your neighborhood that you do not know.  Call ahead to see if they are boiling and if you bring your kids to come watch the process.

Sugar Shacks with Breakfast

If you want a list with highlights, this is the list for you:

  1. Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield serves breakfast weekdays 8am-1pm, and weekends 8am-3pm, through April 13th. Their menu includes pancakes, Belgian waffles, and maple frosted donuts.
  2. North Hadley Sugar Shack is open weekdays 7am-1pm, and weekends from 7am-3pm. They are known for their great pancakes.
  3. South Face Sugar Shack in Ashfield is open 8:30am- 3pm, weekends only, through March 30th. They have homemade pancakes, waffles, corn fritters, maple milkshakes and many other special maple goodies.
  4. High Hopes Farm Sugar House in Worthington serves weekends from 7am- 2pm. They are the home of the exclusive “All You Can Eat” Sugar House Buffet.
  5. Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington is open 8am-2pm on Saturdays and 8am-3pm on Sundays through mid-April. on weekends.  They have a lot of wonderful variations on the pancake, including carrot cake and zucchini bread pancakes.
  6. Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse in Shelburne is open on weekends.  Call to find out the particular hours. They have candy, cream, fudge and syrup in addition to a full breakfast.
  7. Pomeroy Sugar House & Restaurant in Westfield is open Fri-Sun 7:30am-1pm through the first of April. In addition to breakfast, there are farm animals to meet and pet.
  8. Hanging Mountain Farms & The Strawbale Cafe in Westhampton is open Fri- Sat 7am-1pm, and Sun. 8am-1pm. They have a full menu, including buttermilk, multigrain and gluten-free pancakes & french toast! Yum.

For a quick, complete, and unannotated list, with hours, dates and directions, check out the Mass Maple Sugar House with Restaurant directory.  And while there is a definite joy in celebrating the harvest with comrades and pancakes, have you considered tapping a tree or two yourself?  Here is a quick guide from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association to get you started: Make Your Own Maple Syrup.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

HFVS Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

SHEEP SHEARING & MAPLE SYRUP EPISODE

Sheep Shearing

Shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. Click on photo to see more images. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfie

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
March 9th & 10th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

  • Lunch Money – “Wake Up, World” – Dizzy 
  • Pete Seeger – “Maple Syrup Time” – Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger
  • Kitty Donohoe  – “Maple Syrup” – Bunyan and Banjoes
  • Phil Rosenthal – “Buffalo Gals” – This Land is Your Land
  • Nashville Bluegrass Band & Kid Pan Alley – “Extra Hand” – Kid Pan Alley
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket [www.harmonicapocket.com]
  • Carla Sciaky – “Sheep Shearing” – Spin the Weaver’s Song
  • Justin Roberts – “Field Trip” – Pop Fly
  • The Hipwaders – “Field Trip” – Goodie Bag 
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks [www.steveweeksmusic.com]
  • L. Frank Baum – The Story of Baa-Baa Black Sheep
  • Teresa Doyle – “The Shearing” – If Fish Could Sing … and Sheep Could Dance
  • Matt Nathanson – “Starfish and Coffee” – For the Kids Too
  • Moxy Fruvous – “Maple Syrup Time” – If I Had a Song: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2
  • The Hipwaders – “Things You Want” – Goodie Bag 

Celebrate the State’s Sweetest Season this Weekend 2013

Celebrate MapleFest to Maple Harvest Day, from the Berkshires to the Pioneer Valley

Dennis Picard, Storrowton Village Museum director, demonstrates the art of open kettle evaporation to boil sap from a nearby maple tree into sugar during last year’s Maple Harvest Day.

It’s maple season in Western MA for certain!  Taps, buckets, and sap-carrying tubes have been put up in the woods all over the area, the weather is just right, and sap is running.  This weekend, celebrate the return of the state’s sweetest season at MapleFest, Hopkins State Forest’s annual celebration of the tradition of maple sugaring in Williamstown.  Taking place on Saturday, March 9th from 11am-2pm, the event offers families a chance to learn about the modern processes used to produce syrup, as well as a delicious opportunity to sample local syrup atop pancakes or poured over snow.

The forest is home to a working sugar shack, where families can duck into the small, steamy building to see the heated vat evaporating water out of the freshly collected sap.  Once you’ve learned conventional ways maple syrup is made, watch a demonstration of the syrup-making techniques of yesterday!  Families can learn about methods that date as far back as pre-Colonial times.  And, for those interested in lending a hand, helping out with the harvest is always welcome!  Haul a bucket or two, or schlep a crate of freshly sealed jugs – being part of the process is the best way to learn!

For a maple-related adventure down in the Pioneer Valley, look no further than West Springfield’s Storrowton Village!  The historic village, filled with buildings from all over New England, will host Maple Harvest Day on Sunday, March 10th from 11am-3pm.

Families visiting Storrowton will learn about maple sugaring in early New England, and can see museum workers in period costume participate in the 19th-century version of the tasks necessary to make maple syrup.

Inside the homes in the village there will be demonstrations of basic homesteading skills such as open hearth cooking, spinning and weaving, and more.  Enjoy a day in old New England, and learn about rural culture throughout American history!

Both events are free!  Hopkins State Forest is located at the corner of Blakely Street and Northwest Hill Road in Williamstown.  Storrowton Village is located at 1305 Memorial Drive in West Springfield, and can be reached at 413-205-5051.  Enjoy!

Maple Sugar Season Events for 2012

Suggested Events 03/26/11-04/01/11

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

SUGGEST AN EVENT

New opportunity to support local farms in the Hilltowns while feeding your family locally grown food: The Williamsburg Farmers' Market is coming to Williamsburg every Thursday afternoon starting in May, on the Meekins river side lawn! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

SPONSORSHIP: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Hilltown Families has been serving & supporting our local community for over 5 years! Help us continue to serve our community by supporting the work we do! Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to support Hilltown Families through sponsorship and enhanced publicity. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

BEST BETS

On Saturday, March 26th from 10am-4pmMELTDOWN: 3rd Annual Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash happens at JFK Middle School. Now in its third year, the Meltdown has become a tradition for families in the Valley and beyond, featuring music on three stages, readings from nationally-known children’s book authors, crafts, bouncing, local food, and much more! 100 Bridge St. Florence, MA (FREE)

In the evening on Saturday, March 26th at 5pm – KIDS’ DANCE PARTY: Join Radio Free Earth and Maureen Shea of Grasshoppa for music and dance at the Cummington Community House. For all ages! 33 Main St. Cummington, MA (>$)

On Sunday, March 27th from 10am-4pm – MINERAL/GEM SHOW: The Connecticut Valley Mineral Club host the Western Mass Mineral, Jewelry and Fossil Show at the Holiday Inn, Ingleside.  Young geologists and their families can explore mineral arts from around the world, see examples of fossils and crystals. 245 Whiting Farms Rd. Holyoke, MA (KIDS FREE, ADULTS >$)

Midweek on Wednesday, March 30th at 6:30pm – PARENT WORKSHOP: Hilltown Families presents … Do I Have To?: How Chores Empower Families, aN interactive and fun presentation for adults with author Susan Tordella at Cup & Top Cafe. Learn how cleaning toilets, washing dishes and raking leaves empower families. 1 North Main St. Florence, MA (FREE)

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

On Saturday, April 2nd at 1pm – FAMILY CONCERT: Hilltown Families and Spare the Rock presents The Expandable Brass Band at Flywheel Arts Collective. Kids are encourage to join the band at 12noon, an hour before the show, for free opportunity to learn songs with the band. Old Town Hall. 43 Main St. Easthampton, MA (FREE)

On Sunday, April 10th from 4-7pm – BIRTHDAY BENEFIT BASH: Dinner, dessert & a family concert: Hilltown Families Birthday Benefit Bash at Bread Euphoria!  A celebration to celebrate Hilltown Families 5 year anniversary. Family concert with Mister G.  Pizza and birthday cake from Bread Euphoria. Suggested donation: $10 per person and up. Haydenville, MA (FUNDRAISER)

BULLETIN BOARD

SYRUP: One Sweet Performing Arts Festival, Sat. March 26 at Memorial Hall, Shelburne Falls. Rehearsal/theatre games for ages 5-11 at 2pm who want to be in performance at 3 followed by Lui Collins. Evening for general public at 7pm: Sandglass Theater, Piti Theatre, cellist Wayne Smith, Carrie Ferguson, Court Dorsey plus doorprizes! www.ptco.org/syrup

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: ArtSpark, the annual auction and benefit for the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School, will take place on March 26th, from 7-11pm at Look Park’s Garden House in Florence, MA. This year’s theme is the 1980s, so dig out those leg warmers, dust off those Ray-Bans, start growing that mullet and get ready for some fun! Music and dancing, abundant and one-of-a-kind auction items at all price points, delicious food from Bread Euphoria, a great time for a great cause. Tickets are $15 each or $25 for a pair, available in advance at State Street Fruit Store in Northampton, Cooper’s Corner in Florence, Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, The Creamery in Cummington or at the door. For more information, please visit www.hilltowncharter.org or call 413.268.3421.

QUILT SHOW: Families are invited to Hands All Around Quilt Show this weekend at the Mullins Center in Amherst. March 26th & 27th, 10am-4pm. Over 500 quilts from Pioneer Valley & New England quilters will be on display, including two exhibits – “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak To Hope,” a special quilt exhibit that explores the impact of Alzheimer’s on patients and their caregivers, and “From Lobstah to Green Monstah: What’s Best About New England,” a special exhibit of quilts from New England Quilt Museum in Lowell. The show will feature a special kids corner where kids can work on their own fabric project. Hands Across The Valley Guilt Guild in Amherst sponsors the show, and proceeds are donated to local charitable and arts organizations.

FILM FESTIVAL: Out! For Reel LGBT Film Series & Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival co-present two inspiring films about family, identity, and acceptance on Sat., April 2nd at 8:15pm: Off and Running: With white Jewish lesbians for parents and two adopted brothers, Brooklyn teen Avery grew up in a unique, loving, mulit-racial household. Avery explores race, identity, and family when she decides to contact her African-American birth mother. (74 min); Second Guessing Grandma: A charming story of a twenty-something Jewish gay man who finally comes out to his beloved grandmother against his mother’s desire to protect her from the truth. (9 min). Both films will be screened in Wright Hall at Smith College in Northampton. (>$) www.OutForReel.org

MUSIC CLASS: New 8-Week Music Class Series with Mister G in Northampton beginning April 4th/5th: Mister G’s Community Chorus for kids 6-10: Imagine the Young at Heart Chorus for kids! Join the coolest chorus for kids singing Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Patsy Cline and Mister G’s originals. The chorus will be joining Mister G on the main stage of the WRSI Meltdown. Mister G’s Jamboree for kids 1-5: Sing, dance…you’ll even learn Spanish in the Jamboree! Mister G developed an innovative approach to early childhood music immersion while teaching at the Smith College Campus School. Just back from touring in Mexico and Guatemala, Mister G has taken the Jamboree all over the world. For class times, locations and registration visit: mistergsongs.com

Laura Porter of Williamsburg, MA writes: I’m excited to let you know about a new community development for Williamsburg, a weekly farmers market starting in May, which will run every Thursday afternoon from 2:30-7pm on the Meekins Library lawn until the end of October. Lend your support and learn more about the new Burgy farmers’ market at our Community Fundraising Supper on Tuesday, April 5th 6-8 pm at the Haydenville Congregational Church. Suggested donation: $10-25 per person You can purchase your tickets through me, or buy them at Meekins Library or Haydenville Congregational Church.

SCREENINGS: Parents living in the Gateway Regional School District are offered free developmental and kindergarten screenings.  The developmental screening is for children 3-4yo who will not be entering kindergarten in 2011.  The screening is conducted to identify concerns about a child’s development- the areas examined include cognitive ability, social and emotional skills, language, and motor skills.  Kindergarten screenings are for children starting school in 2011, and are conducted to check speech skills, learning style, and recognition of letter names and sounds.  Developmental screenings will take place April 4th, and kindergarten screenings will be held on April 14th, both from 8-11am.  To schedule an appointment, contact the school district at 685-1000.

TALENT SHOW: Auditions for the Pittsfield Youth Commission’s second annual talent show will be held on 3/26 from 1-3pm at the Lichtenstein Center, and 3/29 from 2:30-3:15pm at the Pittsfield High School library. The show will take place at 7:30pm on April 15th at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.  The talent show was established by both the youth commission and the group Youth Alive as a way to suit the need for more cultural and creative outlets for area youth.  Along with the talent show will be the presentation of the S.A.Y. It Proud Awards, which recognize young people involved in “positive activities and making healthy choices.”   For more information, call 499-9348.

SATURDAY WINTER FARMERS’ MARKETS:

HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW

Hilltown Family Variety ShowTune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am.

This week on the HFVS we’re raising money for Valley Free Radio, home of HFVS.  We have many great premiums we’re giving away with any donation of $25 or more.  Tune in to see what you can get with your pledge, and call between 9-10am! 413-585-1033. Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to ValleyFreeRadio.org on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • Podcast: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!

  • WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Free Museum Passes | Playgroups & Family Centers | Movies in the Valley | Movies in the Berkshires | Listen Here

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Suggested Events 03/19/11-03/25/11

    Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

    SUGGEST AN EVENT

    There's a fundraising breakfast on Saturday at UMass for the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, a fabulous animal care center that has many animal programs, including a barn cat adoption program for cats not suited for households. Details below. (Barn cat in Cummington, MA. Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Suggest an EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

    SPONSORSHIP: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Hilltown Families has been serving & supporting our local community for over 5 years! Help us continue to serve our community by supporting the work we do! Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to support Hilltown Families through sponsorship and enhanced publicity. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

    BEST BETS

    Saturday, March 19th from9:30-11am – LEGOS: The Lenox Library hosts their fouth annual Lego Build-a-thon! Participants must bring their own Legos- the goal of the build-a-thon is for participants to build an original structure from scratch that is capable of operating a fishing line. Prizes will be given to all participants! Ages 5-14. 18 Main Street. 637-0197 Lenox, MA. (FREE)

    Carrying on through the afternoon on Saturday, March 19th from 9am-3pm – MAPLE FEST: 26th Annual Chester Hill Maple Fest. Enjoy breakfast (including pancakes with Chester Hill maple syrup!) from 9-12, a craft fair, visits with baby animals, a raffle, and live music from the Pioneer Valley Fiddlers. 335 Skyline Trail. 667-8725. Chester, MA. (FREE entrance)

    Sunday, March 20th at 12Noon – PARADE: The 60th Anniversary St. Patrick’s Day Parade leaves the K-Mart Plaza at noon. Bring the family to this iconic St. Patty’s celebration. http://www.holyokestpatricksparade.com Holyoke, MA (FREE)

    Sunday afternoon, March 20th from 3-5pm – FAMILY DANCE: Community Family Dance at First Churches (enter across from the Iron Horse). There will be live music and dances will be taught to families. All ages 3yo & up. 230-7037 Northampton, MA (>$)

    MARK YOUR CALENDAR

    Wednesday, March 30th at 6:30pm – PARENT WORKSHOP: Hilltown Families presents … Do I Have To?: How Chores Empower Families, aN interactive and fun presentation for adults with author Susan Tordella at Cup & Top Cafe. Learn how cleaning toilets, washing dishes and raking leaves empower families. 1 North Main St. Florence, MA (FREE)

    Sunday, April 10th from 4-7pm – BIRTHDAY BENEFIT BASH: Hilltown Families Birthday Benefit Bash at Bread Euphoria!  A celebration to bring the community together while supporting Hilltown Families with a birthday party!  Family concert with Mister G.  Pizza and birthday cake from Bread Euphoria. Save the date now.  More details to come! Haydenville, MA (FUNDRAISER)

    BULLETIN BOARD

    MEET THE DOULAS DAY! Sunday, March 20, 2-4 PM at Cradle, Third Floor, Thornes Marketplace, Northampton. Drop in any time to meet birth and postpartum doulas and other professionals in a relaxed atmosphere. Free refreshments, free raffle, and free 15-minute massages for pregnant mamas! Learn more at www.greenriverdoulas.org.

    MUSIC CLASS: New 8-Week Music Class Series with Mister G in Northampton beginning April 4th/5th: Mister G’s Community Chorus for kids 6-10: Imagine the Young at Heart Chorus for kids! Join the coolest chorus for kids singing Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Patsy Cline and Mister G’s originals. The chorus will be joining Mister G on the main stage of the WRSI Meltdown. Mister G’s Jamboree for kids 1-5: Sing, dance…you’ll even learn Spanish in the Jamboree! Mister G developed an innovative approach to early childhood music immersion while teaching at the Smith College Campus School. Just back from touring in Mexico and Guatemala, Mister G has taken the Jamboree all over the world. For class times, locations and registration visit: mistergsongs.com

    SLEEP WORKSHOP: Monday, March 21, 2011 at 630pmFREE Helping Your Child Sleep Workshop led by local social worker and child sleep consultant, Jen Zajac, MSW, LICSW, in the Northampton Forbes Library Community Room. Jen Zajac has over 11 years of experience working with children and families in the Pioneer Valley. She will provide a brief discussion regarding the basics of infant and toddler sleep patterns. Suggestions regarding how to keep children well rested including a basic overview of naps and night sleep will be provided. Simple strategies regarding how to respond to middle of the night awakenings will be discussed. The remaining time will be open for individual questions. Registration is required at www.HelpingYourChildSleep.com

    PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT: Save the date for ArtSpark, Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School’s annual party & auction at Look Park’s Garden House in Florence on Saturday March 26th at 7 p.m. The event features music & dancing, food by Bread Euphoria & a cash bar. A good time for a good cause, with auction items at all price points, from a carton of fresh eggs to a weekend getaway & one-of-a-kind furniture & crafts. This year’s theme is the 1980s, so dig out those legwarmers, dust off your Ray-Bans, start growing that mullet & get ready for some fun. Tickets available in advance at the school or local businesses including Bread Euphoria, State Street Fruit Store, Cooper’s Corner & The Creamery. More info, call 268.3421.

    PANCAKE BREAKFAST: Saturday, March 19th from 9am-12noon: Berkshire Trail Elementary School’s first annual pancake breakfast!  The event is a fundraiser for the school, and proceeds will go towards purchasing show shoes for the schools P.E. class and outdoor exploration during the winter months in science classes.  Most of the food will be donated by local vendors, and GLUTEN FREE pancakes will be available!  2 Main Street.  634-5327.  Cummington, MA.  (SCHOOL FUNDRAISER)

    SATURDAY WINTER FARMERS’ MARKETS:

    HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW: SPRING EQUINOX EPISODE

    Hilltown Family Variety ShowTune in every Saturday from 9-10am. Encore episodes are aired every Sunday from 7-8am.

    HFVS Guest DJ, Charity Kahn of Charity and the JAMBand, has put together a lovely spring equinox show for this weekend, featuring music by Justin Roberts, XTC, Cat Stevens, Bob Marley, along with several of her own songs.  Featured story on this weeks broadcast, The Corner by Arnold Lobel, and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.

    Families have several ways to tune in to the Hilltown Family Variety Show:

  • Streaming Audio: Surf on over to ValleyFreeRadio.org on Saturday & Sunday mornings and listen to us live via streaming audio.
  • On Your FM Dial: Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM if you live near Northampton, MA.
  • Podcast: Listen to the most recent episodes of the Hilltown Family Variety Show anytime you wish! Click here to see our current select of episodes, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast too!

  • WEEKLY LIST OF SUGGESTED EVENTS

    Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Suggested Events 03/12/11-03/18/11

    Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.

    SUGGEST AN EVENT

    Suggest an Event

    It's sheep shearing season! Winterberry Farm in Leverett will host their 23rd Annual Sheep Shearing Day this Saturday in Leverett, MA. Take the kids and be a part of this New England tradition. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    If you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

    SPONSORSHIP: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Hilltown Families has been serving & supporting our local community for over 5 years! Help us continue to serve our community by supporting the work we do! Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to support Hilltown Families through sponsorship and enhanced publicity. Let us help get the word out about your event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com for more information. — Help us help you!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Maple Sugaring Showcased at Storrowton Village

    Maple Harvest Day Returns to Storrowton Village

    Dennis Picard, Storrowton Village Museum director, demonstrates the art of open kettle evaporation to boil sap from a nearby maple tree into sugar during last year’s Maple Harvest Day. - Storrowton Village Museum, an educational arm of Eastern States Exposition, presents hands-on school programs and guided tours of its historic buildings throughout the year as well as seasonal 19th century-themed events.

    Storrowton Village Museum will present its sixth annual Maple Harvest Day, Sunday, March 13th from 11am-3pm on the grounds of Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

    The history and lore of maple sugaring, a practice in Massachusetts since before the Pilgrims arrived, will be showcased through ongoing sap gathering and boiling demonstrations in the Gilbert Farmstead’s front yard with Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village Museum. Read the rest of this entry »

    Q&A: Where’s Your Favorite Sugar Shack in Western MA?

    Question and Answer

    Collecting sap in Cummington, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Sugar season is fast approaching! Where’s your favorite sugar bush or sugar shack to take the family during Maple sugar season?

    • Anita Morehouse recommends: “Growing up we always went to Gould’s in Shelburne… or was it Charlemont?”
    • Jenny Giering recommends: High Hopes Farm in South Worthington on Rt. 112! Open every Saturday & Sunday from 2/26 to Easter 7 AM – 2 PM. Awesome breakfast & great syrup!”
    • Maryellen Smith Rousseau recommends: “Love both South Face Farm in Ashfield and Steve’s Sugar Shack in Westhampton.”
    • Tish Serrani recommends: “Straw Bale Cafe at Hanging Mountain Farm in Westhampton. Try the eggbake, it’s yummy.”
    • Jill Robinson recommends: “On opening day, this Saturday Feb. 26, Steve’s Sugar Shack (Westhampton) will be donating a portion of that day’s profits to Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity. Check it out! You can find out more on Habitat’s Facebook page.”
    • Leslie A. Keller recommends: “So far…. Red Bucket… they have the best carrot-cake pancakes ever!!”
    • Karen Lucas recommends: “Love the Red Bucket! Can’t wait til this weekend when they are open!!!”
    • Sienna Wildfield recommends: “We too love going to Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington.  They serve a nice breakfast and it’s so much fun to watch them boil down the sap while waiting for a table!”
    • Patty Pike Greene recommends: “I very much miss Gray’s Sugarhouse in Ashfield… but close second is Southface Sugarhouse in Ashfield!!! Can’t wait!”
    • Shoshona King recommends: “I love the North Hadley Sugar Shack. Maple milk shakes in the summer, harvest veggies in the fall, Christmas trees & onions in the winter, and of course maple sugar as a 1st sign that spring is coming.”
    • Stephanie Gale recommends: “I like Davenport in Shelburne! But now that we moved to Easthampton, we found that we love North Hadley Sugar Shack.”
    • Shannon Soones Golden recommends: “North Hadley!”
    • Patricia Loomis recommends: “Red Bucket!”
    • Amy Meehan Higgins recommends: “I love all of them…but have a weakness for corn fritters and a beautiful drive…so South Face it is!”
    • Rebecca Dejnak recommends: “Williams Farm in Deerfield.”
    • See more recommendations.
    • Post a recommendation.

    SUGAR SHACKING

    Massachsetts map of sugarhouse distribution

    There are many area sugar shacks to bring your family to during sugar season that serve breakfast with the fresh maple syrup. Be sure to call ahead for schedules.

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