posts tagged with 'outing'

farm culture

details on a metal and wood sculpture

art

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.

the boys running up a path at the sculpture park

excited about art

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.)

Leah looking at a forest installation, Zion cuddling

interacting with the materials

Then there were more lighthearted interactive pieces, where we got to be the sculptures ourselves! Thanks to Harvey for the photo here.

Leah, Lijah, Zion and I posing as statues

interactive

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.

the boys eating a picnic lunch at a table by the pond

picnic by Old Frog Pond

Old Frog Pond Farm is open for another week, if you want to check it out. I highly recommend it!

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first field trip of the year

Zion looking through a old-photo cutout

living history

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!

outside the Boott Cotton Mill Museum

in the shadow of the mill buildings

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.

the kids playing on a replica trolley in the museum

all aboard!

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.

the kids riding the real trolley

we made it!

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!

the boys looking down at the Swamp Locks, part of the Lowell canal complex

waterpower

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!

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down to the river

the banks of the Concord River

peaceful waters

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).

kids walking through a meadow

out of the woods

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.

Harvey and Ollie sitting on one of the Two Brothers Rocks

like brothers

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.

Harvey and Zion wading in the river by the Old North Bridge

beneath the rude bridge

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.

Lijah in his swimsuit on the river bank

who needs a beach?

Next we need to get a canoe!

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proper June outings

Lijah working on a sand castle

down at the pond

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!

Harvey and Ollie playing in the water

friends in the water as well as on land

(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.

Zion making a silly face in the Thoreau house replica

what would Henry think?

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?

Zion leaping out the window of the house

very good form

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.

the boys walking to the strawberry fields holding their baskets

field workers

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.

Zion and Lijah being silly in the strawberry field

NOT picking

(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.

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we are young people and/or want to support youth!

Lijah holding a pro-immigrant sign

making his voice heard (in a different way than usual)

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.

the boys looking at a big fountain, with tall buildings in the background

tourists

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.

the boys holding signs in the slim shadow of a wall in front of the State House

not a tremendous turnout

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?

a group of kids in red shirts chanting on the State House steps

the kids are alright

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.)

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high river

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.

Yoda-sweatshirted Lijah in the high green grass by the riverside

green at the riverside

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 river washing around the bases of birch trees

trees with wet feet

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.

Zion up in a giant compicated tree

room for a couple more

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.

the overflow from the river filling a stand of trees

river forest

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summery outing

Zion feeling the water

down to the water

Yesterday the weather turned warm and summery, so we headed out on the bikes for a summery outing to Fawn Lake. I made sure the boys packed changes of clothes.

Surprisingly, no one needed them; we had some wet feet, but nobody was inspired to take any great risks (or to straight up jump in the water). Maybe we were having too much fun hiking together and seeing what was around the next bend. Lijah can't always keep up with his brothers, but when he does manage it he's delighted.

three boys walking together around the pond

hiking together

We saw some wildlife: there were geese and swans on the pond, and I spotted four turtles basking on a log.

a pair of turtles basking on a log

the braver two

We didn't see any beavers, but there were plenty of signs of their presence. Here's one of maybe 50 downed or partially chewed-through trees we saw.

Lijah considering a large tree cut almost all the way through by beavers

impressive work, beavers

We were particularly delighted at the new outflow at the north end of the pond: it now runs through a two-foot diameter plastic pipe under a wood bridge, and the boys loved putting their hands in the icy water as it burbled out the lower side. (If you ask me the whole thing looked a little tenuous; if the pond bursts its banks next spring and washes away a segment of Springs Road just there I'm going to say I called it.)

Zion atop a rocky ledge

victory!

Besides the water, there were also other amusements. Zion was very proud of himself for climbing this rock—twice—and then we made it our pirate ship and spent 20 minutes attacking the swans. But the water was the main draw. That's what happens when it feels like summer!

the boys lying on a walkway looking down into the water

close examination

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my favorite space

I know I've mentioned it before, but since we spent some time last week playing in the Discovery Woods part of the Discovery Museum, I wanted once again to write about how much I love it.

Zion getting ready to clean up in the block area at Discovery Woods

naturally lovely

We visited on a chilly wet day, with rain and snow falling intermixed, and the main part of the museum was pretty crowded. But when we headed over to the Woods area, we found that we had it all to ourselves. Maybe the closed doors on the house building kept folks away; maybe it was the fact that, when we went inside, the cold air seeping up through the gaps in the floorboards made it just as chilly inside as out. But it was significantly drier! And I don't know how anyone could resist a place like this.

the rear view of the treehouse at Discovery Woods

I guess you could call it a treehouse...

Never mind the fact that we could see our breath, the warm materials and clever design made the space feel wonderfully welcoming. We built block towers, played hide-and-seek, and experimented with the periscopes. Then the boys cuddled under the pile of sleeping bags someone had so kindly left in a corner while I read them a story.

Lijah looking at the array of welcoming features in the treehouse

so much to see and do

In my mental "ideas book" for our current and future home improvement projects, this space is right there on the cover. We're a little sad to hear that the management will soon be closing the original, iconic victorian house that currently holds the "Children's" part of the museum, and building a new structure to house the same sorts of exhibits; but given how perfect a job they did on Discovery Woods I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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winter walk

On Friday morning the boys and I set out on a walk to Whole Foods and the play space. The younger two asked why we weren't bicycling—easy for them to say, they don't have to do any peddling!—and I told them I wanted to be able to go slow, look around, and observe the signs of spring. The ones visible under all the snow. So we hit the road.

Lijah walking down the sidewalk, snow on either side

marching

The sidewalks were plowed (finally), but there was still plenty of lumpy ice and snow that made it tough for Lijah so, contra the evidence of the picture above, I mostly carried him. There were moments that I wished I had the backpack for him, or at least the Ergo carrier; but then I realized that we weren't actually in any hurry, and I wanted him to be able to go down whenever anything caught his interest. Because even over the mile distance to the Great Road Shopping Plaza there's lots to see—like our local storm drain retention basin

Zion and Harvey testing the ice on a little pond

you see how Zion always goes first on the ice

Or the big pile of plowed-up snow in front of Leary Auto.

Harvey and ZIon climbing up a big snow mountain

and then, Harvey is first on the climbing

Or the tree that fell across the Narrow Gauge bike path.

the boys perched on a tree fallen across the snowy bike path

gotta go over it

We stopped at those places and many others—Harvey and Zion were completing a series of challenges. It was nice to take the time. Usually when we're walking we have the dog, who—quite rightly—imposes his own priorities. Nice, but also kind of tough for me: I had to work hard not to hurry everyone along, since I'm so used to hurrying. But no, this was totally a trip on which the journey itself was the destination. Lijah (who doesn't do ice or piles or trees) could have all the time he wanted to stomp snow.

Lijah's booted feet stomping the snow

stomp stomp

Eventually we did make it to our actual destination, and had a lovely time for several hours. Then we had to walk back home, which was... less delightful. But that's another story! (spoiler alert: we made it).

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ice and ice cream

Harvey and Zion walking to a hockey goal far away across frozen Fawn Lake

ice outing

The forecast yesterday morning called for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing through the next day, but the sky outside was shining blue and the air mild. Just the weather you want for a winter cycling adventure! So after a nominal amount of schoolwork the boys and I headed out into the wide world. Our ultimate goals were to visit friends' almost-new-house (pending inspection) and buy some Bedford Farms ice cream for a celebratory almost-new-house dinner. Of course there were lots of adventurous stops on the way—and, as is our habit, a picnic lunch.

the boys eating a picnic in the woods

picnic bench

That was at Fawn Lake, our first destination, which we reached after two and a half miles of riding on the sticky-mud-over-frozen-gravel surface of the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. After lunch we explored along the shore, with Harvey and Zion mostly interested in finding a place to get out onto the ice. We don't need the news to tell us about the dangers of possible thin ice: it was plenty apparent most spots along the shore, with water spurting up from cracks if you so much as touched it. Of course, the danger there was only wet feet—still, something we wanted to avoid with miles to go before our journey was through.

With Harvey leading the charge we headed along a narrow path fringed by beaver-downed trees (all the remaining trees have collars of hardware cloth to keep them unchewed and upright). Towards the south end of the pond, in the shadow of the trees, we found an area where the ice was solid right up to the shore. There was even a hockey goal out there as a testament to the solidity of the surface. Harvey and Zion were delighted and headed right out to it; I stayed closer to shore with Lijah who, since our skating trip in December, wants nothing at all to do with ice.

Harvey and Zion walking on the ice

an essential part of any winter adventure

The bigger boys could have stayed all day, but after promising them a return trip another day I got everyone packed up to head back out on the road. Well, not the road, exactly, since the next part of our expedition was to pioneer a route through the woods in the direction of our friends' house (almost-new). There were plenty of paths, all visible on the map; the only questions were a) which one would actually get us where we wanted to go and b) which one were we currently on. Neither was ever really clear. But the exploring was delightful all by itself, with twisty singletrack up and down hills that challenged Harvey and I on both ascents and descents.

Harvey pushing his bike up some steep singletrack in the woods, brothers following

pathfinding

Our cargo bike is wonderful, but it's not the most sure-footed off-road ride; and worst of all it has terrible ground clearance. Luckily Zion and Lijah were happy to run in the woods for those segments where I had to lift it over logs every twenty feet. We had maybe a half mile of that, and then just a little more on the road til we reached the house. The boys were disappointed we couldn't go in—not even in the yard—so we had a little discussion about what it takes to close a home sale. And we sure hope the closing goes well! It's always nice to have more friends in town, and nice for friends to go from 10 miles away to 3 1/2, especially when we can do three of those miles off-road (though to be honest, where they live now we can do 9 3/4 of the ten miles off-road, thanks to fortunate siting of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway... but that's just a coincidence!).

After gazing at the house from the side of the street, we turned towards home—now riding along the not-entirely-comfortable shoulder of Rt 4. But the car noises and exhaust was bearable knowing that where the road gets into town a prize awaited!

three boys enjoying cones in front of Bedford Farms

winter's snow and ice cream

All in all it was a wonderful outing, and we were more than ready to get home, right on schedule for nap time.

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