posts tagged with 'outing'
I've been enjoying not driving much the last couple weeks, but abandoning the car has meant less in the way of outings for me and the boys. Our local woods just haven't been that inspiring. But it doesn't need to be that way! Besides the tiny lot-sized swamp across the street, where the boys had a great time playing in the rain the other day, we have the Hartwell Town Forest near by and two or three other town woods within easy cycling range. On Wednesday we finally got organized for a quick afternoon trip and had a great time of it.
Our main motivation was actually making a run to Chip-In to get some more milk, but while we were out I thought we might do a little more adventuring. Sure enough, after a fun and fast ride through the woods to the store we were all ready to push keep going, so we rode another quarter-mile to the trail complex in the Mary Putnam Webber Wildlife Preserve where we walked and ran a tiny loop (and climbed some trees!). Then it was back to Chip-In, where we discovered that their Covid-19 hours meant they closed at 4:00... and it was 4:08. Oops. The boys were understanding, and we had a pleasant (if slower) ride home. The whole outing—which burned many calories and left us feeling like we did something worthwhile—didn't take much longer than an hour. So more ambitious trips are within reach when the weather gets a little better!
And the milk? Well, we did have to push oatmeal one day later on the breakfast menu, but we made another trip out to the farm yesterday and got there a full 20 minutes before closing time. No worries at all!
Nine days ago we took advantage of Saturday's empty schedule to go on our first family outing of the pandemic time. I guess that's what we do now, because this past Saturday had us hitting the road again. This time we went to a beach.
It was Duxbury Beach, on the South Shore: it's not our usual direction, but the trip was also motivated by the need to pick up up a cache of whole wheat flour from Leah's cousin—which is a whole other story—so we got to see somewhere new. The beach is on a long spit of land stretching out into Duxbury Bay, and so visitors have their choice of the waters of the Atlantic (well, Cape Cod Bay anyhow) or the much calmer Duxbury Bay. Naturally, we headed for the waves first thing, but when we crossed to dunes to face the chill breeze on the ocean side we quickly turned back to have our picnic lunch back on the other side where it was a little warmer. It's still March, after all.
There was plenty to explore on that side among the mud flats and salt marsh; after we exhausted the possibilities of that corner we took a walk maybe a half mile down on the bay side before crossing over and coming back on the ocean side, the boys and I naturally picking up special rocks and shells (and in their case bottlecaps and bits of brick and glass) all the while. There were lots of people out and about, but on the beach it's easy to find enough room for social distancing. Naturally, we were the only ones to do any wading. It was a bit of a ways—we were in the car for just about as long as we were actually at the beach. But that's fine, because once again the boys hadn't been in the car for a week. And it's nice, every once and a while, to get a change of scenery!
Especially when the scenery has salt water in it.
When Harvey was small we went to Drumlin Farm all the time. Really, he was there at least once a week. Zion too, but he didn't have as many years to totally appreciate it, because when Harvey was about six he got bored of everything the farm had to offer, and our visits slowed to a trickle. Or maybe even stopped entirely, because in advance of our visit earlier this week Lijah had no memories of the place at all. Even the other boys' recollections were hazy, but as we pulled into the parking lot it all came rushing back to them. "I remember that hill! I remember that path! I remember that rusty old plow!" And it was all just as fun as they recalled.
The main reason we were there was to see the young lambs and kids, and they didn't disappoint. We stopped by the lambs first, and we were in time to watch all the sheep get let out of the barn for the morning. They were very enthusiastic, especially the slightly older lambs. "Gamboling" is the word, I think. Everyone there felt the need to video their enthusiasm for life and the great outdoors.
At the next barn the kids were even more enthusiastic, but our own kids were over the baby animal thing and ready to move on to places where they could play. So we did the horse barn, and the egg sorting in the chicken house, and the old tractor climbing structure. I enjoyed visiting the greenhouse (I'm jealous). By this time it was the middle of the day and we had the place about to ourselves as all the families with preschoolers headed home to lunch. The friends we were there with eventually did likewise, but we were—of course!—prepared with a picnic, so we were able to dine right there on the farm, by the big rhododendron forest. Then the boys entertained themselves in the forest for the next hour or so, til I called them away to run some races on the hill and then finally head home for a well-needed rest.
It was lovely. The next day we got a mailer from the Audobon Society, completely coincidentally, advertising a half-price membership option. I think I'll take them up on it!
For our adventure today I took the boys and a friend to Minuteman National Park. We walked a couple miles from the Concord end of the path to the Hartwell Tavern, where we had lunch and saw the historic sights, then we walked back. All three boys and I did the walk barefoot. It was nothing to them; they did all the hiking of the recent camping trip shoeless as well. My feet didn't mind the rocks on the trail, but that's the longest I've walked barefoot in a while and I felt it in my calves a little. As we got close to the tavern I told the kids how, if they'd been driving sheep or cattle to Boston Market, they would have been able to stop for refreshment there; and also that kids in those days probably would have been walking barefoot. They approved. The tavern doesn't serve refreshments any more, so we brought our own.
You'll notice shoes are on in that picture. We brought them all that way so we could go into the tavern without getting in trouble. It does feel a little funny to put shoes on to go inside, but we're used to it by now. Such is modern America; even when it's pretending to be the olden days. They probably wouldn't have a place to put sheep if we'd brought them either.
We missed out on visiting Old Frog Pond Farm last year during the month it was open, which was disappointing after how much we enjoyed it the year previous. So I was happy to be able to schedule a visit this past Friday, a day when all five of us were available to take in some art and some beautiful fall weather.
There were lots of new pieces to marvel at, but the first things we noticed were old favorites: the "porcupine egg" and the teapot, now floating in a rowboat with a chickenwire figure emerging from under its lid. Delightful! It was also delightful to pull up to the farm and see the "Open" sign flying despite the complete absence of anybody there to, say, take our money or show us where to go. I like that kind of trust in an establishment.
The boys were big fans of a very realistic late-dinosaur-slash-early-bird, maybe six feet tall and made almost entirely of natural materials, but Leah and I were very taken by an installation back in the woods called "Tales from the Fells". It was centered on a sort of mossy troll figure with giant thistle flower eyes, but there was so much going on beyond that. It was all so beautiful and natural that none of our photos of it look like anything at all, but you can trust we spent plenty of time taking it in. (You can see some photos from last year at the artist's site; but they give just a piece of the experience.)
Then there were more lighthearted interactive pieces, where we got to be the sculptures ourselves! Thanks to Harvey for the photo here.
As I said to Leah at the time, one of the best things about viewing sculpture is it makes you look at everything around you in a new light. We finished the walk ready to run home and dive into practicing some artistic creation of our own! But we needed lunch first. Luckily we're already good at that.
Old Frog Pond Farm is open for another week, if you want to check it out. I highly recommend it!
This past Monday we kicked off our social studies curriculum for the fall with a trip to Lowell. In third grade, to quote the standards: "Using local historic sites, historical societies, and museums, third graders... learn the history of their own cities and towns and about famous people and events in Massachusetts’ history." Since our farm-school co-op has third graders from Lowell and Bedford, we have two places to study. Lowell first!
This was an exploratory visit, which mixed a little bit of learning with a lot of playing (we follow the teachings of John Holt even in field trip planning). The visitor center of the National Historical Park was well provided with things to play on, including a replica trolley.
After playing with the controls, the kids were interested how they worked on the real thing, so we made inquiries. The wait was only as long as the 15-minute movie, so that was another educational opportunity (in particular, the adults received an education in how well the children can sit still in front of moving pictures). Then we ran to catch the trolley.
We would have had to pay to get in to the factory museum to see the looms in action; we'll save that for later. But the canals running all over town are free as the air, and we admired several of them. As designed, they look almost placid, so it's hard to get a sense of the power they carry... until you find the right viewing spot!
Up next in our unit, a technology connection as we try and make our own water wheels to harness the power of the hose. Coming Monday!
With the wonderfully mild weather we've been having this summer we haven't done very much swimming. But there have been hot days that demanded pond visits. And besides the pond, in mid-July we also branched out a little to enjoy the water of the Concord River.
First up was a summer camp expedition to discover the banks of the river on the north side of town. Starting out across the street from Nathan's new house we plunged into the wilderness on a tremendously varied short hike that included woods, bogs and a stream, a fire road, a real road, and a horse meadow (unoccupied).
Following the well-marked trail we eventually made our way to Two Brothers Rocks, the spot where John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley placed the border to divide the immense plots of land each of them had been granted the King of England (isn't land ownership interesting?!). The rocks are notable as the earliest historical site in Bedford, but we were mostly concerned with their potential for climbing and eating on.
A couple days later the boys and I headed out to Walden Pond, only to find that it had closed for overcapacity minutes before we got there. So we went back through Concord to the North Bridge instead, thinking that we could at least wade in the water there and enjoy a picnic and cooling breeze. We did.
Of course, with the swimsuits ready and available and the water beckoning, it wasn't long before wading turned into something a little more immersive, as pictured here. There were plenty of other people around, but nobody else was swimming... I wonder why? Well, I stayed out too; but for my lovely boys water is is water, and we're sure glad to live so close to this river.
Next we need to get a canoe!
Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!
(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)
After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.
Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?
As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.
Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.
Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.
(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)
Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.
Last week someone posted a notice to our church's "random" email list, which is open to anyone. "Care about making Massachusetts safe for immigrants? Are you a young person or want to support youth?" it asked. "Youth (of any age and supportive adults) will gather at the State House to advocate for passage of the Safe Communities Act. Join them!" I probably would have let it pass unremarked, but for a followup email that came through about an hour later. "Are we supposed to be posting controversial political topics on the Vineyard Church Random list?" wrote one Bryant Jones. "I would kindly ask for clarification on this as this event is highly left wing and offensive to some of us who love God and our nation." Wow! Well now I had to go!
We haven't done any protesting in a while and the boys are always up for an outing that includes a train ride, so after lunch on Tuesday we hopped in the car and drove to Arlington, then walked in to the train station (with a small detour to look at swans). The train ride was fine, though Lijah found it a little noisy and covered his ears the whole way. We got downtown with enough time to take in the sights before the rally was due to start.
Unlike our first protest, when it was icy cold, the day was blazing hot. While we weren't tempted by that fountain—it was a little icky-looking—we definitely would have waded in the Frog Pond had signs not forbidden doing just that. Harvey pointed out that the sign didn't say no swimming—clever boy—but we weren't really dressed for it. Plus, I wanted to get to the rally in time. As it turned out nobody else shared that priority, so we were able to snag the only shady spot available while we waited for the organizers to arrive.
They were only a few minutes late, and they jumped into action. We signed petitions and made silkscreened logos—we got to take some home—before the chanting and speaking part of the program started. I talked to one of the adult helpers and learned that the group was from a class offered by Somerville Parts and Crafts, a big homeschool coop. They'd started an activism program back in October to protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline; this was their final project. Who knew back in the fall that this would be such a good year for protesting?
The rally was written up on Wicked Local Somerville. Lijah and I are even in one of the photos on the article, though only barely; I think we deserved better since as far as I could tell we were the only unaffiliated family there. Which is strange; I don't know how everyone else managed to resist that email message!
(The train ride home was much quieter, Lijah would have me report, and the boys were delighted to have to stand nearly the whole way thanks to the rush hour crowd. They may have sung "Surfin USA" at one point. Then we finished the day with a lovely dinner with our East Arlington friends, which was just what I needed to recover myself from my protest-inflicted heatstroke. A good afternoon.)
We've been enjoying the first rainy spring in what feels like quite a while. Everything is beautifully green and the season feels like it's just taking it's time in getting to summer. We're especially excited to see the ponds and streams fill back up after last year's drought. We've spent some good time at ponds, but hadn't had a chance to visit the Concord River in a while; today, on the way home from the feed store, we remedied that.
As expected, the water was high. The boys delightedly pointed out that our picnic spot last time was under at least two feet of water, and marveled at how many trees were awash.
The air was chilly and the water downright frigid, so no one was tempted to wade. But not to worry, we found plenty of other entertainments.
But of course the most interesting thing was the water—or, really, the intersection between water and land. The boys explored the marshy field where a tongue of the river had invaded, and we squished along damp paths that ended abruptly in lapping water (along the way we got a lot of practice identifying the baby leaves of just-awakening poison ivy). Nobody got wet, nobody froze to death, nobody fell too hard from the tree, and I got shot about four thousand times by three minutemen with rapid-fire repeating muskets. It was a lovely outing.