posts tagged with 'outing'

our six-hour pond visit

Even though it got us all sick our outing a week ago was pretty fantastic, so I wanted to note some its positive aspects. Because there's not much better than boating with friends!

the view from our canoe to our friends' kayak on Walden Pond

delightful

Even though there was no forward planning—I just thought of the outing that morning and invited our friends at around 7:00—we were able to throw things together in time to meet at the pond at 8:30 (we had to make sure to get in before it closed!). We took a leisurely paddle across, and all around, the pond, then set up camp at a nice spot to swim. Of course, when there are boats pulled up on the shore they exert a powerful pull, and before too long the swimming was well-mixed with boating. Left on shore without a boat I could only hope they would come back! (Of course they would: I had the lunches!)

kids and boats out in the pond

can you spot them all?

As the morning wore on our beachy spot got a little crowded, so we re-loaded the boats and headed to another cove which, besides being less occupied, gave us a chance to swim in the shade! It was also right by the rail line, and we were lucky enough to be by the tracks right as a train went by. I should have shot a video!

Zion and Lijah holding their ears as a train roars by ten feet away

whoooooosh

Soon afterwards our friends needed to head home. We saw them off, stopped by the bathroom, then re-embarked to find a quiet spot to have lunch. People definitely spread out more at Walden now than they did pre-Covid, so it took us a while to find a private space—we never would have managed it without a boat! After lunch I tried to nap while the boys swam, then I joined them for some water play. Then finally it was time to leave—not to go home, but to visit the Farmers Market in Lexington. What a full day!

Lijah sleeping in his car seat

zzz

more

stress, relief

It remains hot here, so we want to be swimming. But there's also this virus thing that makes it a little more complicated and stressful. Our favorite swimming hole is Walden Pond, but even when we're not in the midst of a pandemic going there can be complicated, because there's a limit to how many people they let in before they close the gates until the crowd thins out. In ordinary years it's to keep the beach and trails from eroding too badly; now, obviously, it's to help us all socially distance. And of course the capacity is smaller that usual. That's all to set the scene for Saturday morning, when we planned on getting an early start, bringing the canoe and a lunch to the pond, and spending some hours there. Only "early" is relative, because when I checked at quarter past eight I found that it had already closed. At 7:36.

That was a blow, but we didn't despair: almost certainly it would reopen before lunchtime. So we started packing up, in between all the other work of the morning. Laundry and things. I was only checking Twitter—where the closings and openings are posted by @waldenpondstate—every fifteen minutes or so, so it wasn't until 10:20 that I saw that they'd reopened all the way back at 10:07! Luckily we've gotten somewhat better at getting out the door since back in June, and we were on our way in moments. We made it to the boat launch parking lot at 10:39, and were able to squeeze into what I was sure was the last parking spot available (no: one more family, better still at squeezing, came in after us). There was still lots to do before we could jump in the water—getting the boat off the car, changing into swimsuits, getting lifejackets and picnic supplies together—but we could take our time on all that. The stress and hurry was over!

It may seem silly to endure so much stress in search of relaxation, but I think it's worth it. After all, it's not like there's anywhere else we could go that would be much easier. Certainly nowhere closer! And once we were there, our stress—mine, anyways—just melted away. I enjoyed a leisurely conversation with the actual last family into the lot, who reported a very similar morning to ours; we paddled slowly across the pond and our boat didn't leak at all (unlike last time); we swam and floated and ate a peaceful lunch. I got to do some quiet reading, and even read aloud a little from our chapter book to the boys as they sat in the shallows (a first, for sure!). Harvey and Zion even piloted the canoe back across when it was time to go home, while I loafed in the bottom not even looking where we were going. It was a good time. We may even do it again one day.

Zion eating a sandwich sitting in the canoe

boat lunch

more

celebrating midsummer

Since Harvey's birthday took up the solstice proper, we've had to celebrate midsummer across some other days too. Thursday was beautifully summery. We took a family woods outing.

Harvey and Zion eating lunch by a stream

real summer lunch

With a goal of finding a place with water, not too many people, and a relaxed policy on off-leash dogs, we header to the Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord (or Fairlyland Pond forest, as we call it!). It was a good choice—because it meets all those criteria and because it was beautifully cool and shady on a hot day.

Harvey walking up a woods path, Elijah and the dogs a bit ahead

deep cool woods

Well, most of it was cool and shady. We also explored a section that had been cleared or burned, and was a little meadow and a lot of quickly recovering forest. Concord folks had adorned the trails there with Thoreau quotes about new-grown woods on pieces of stone stuck into the ground, and a charming granite monument to Dr Seuss's The Lorax.

Lijah sitting on a Lorax monument, the dogs looking up at him

remembering the Lorax

Fairyland Pond itself is easily accessible from the main trailhead, but we took the long way around so we would get to it and lunch time, and properly hot and tired. Many of us were happy to take to the water.

Harvey and Zion out in the pond with Blue, Scout watching from the shore

pond days

Not Scout, though! You'll notice there that he isn't sure about water yet, which lets Blue tease him unmercifully by running back and forth along the shore just deep enough to be out of reach. For his part, Blue went all the way underwater for the first time—and then the second, third, and a great many more. He was the most enthusiastic about the pond and stream by a little bit; Zion probably came in second.

Zion splashing more than waist deep in the pond

splash!

It was wonderfully summery. And then in the evening we topped off the day with a socially distant ice cream social with friends. For them it was a celebration of the last day of school; that doesn't apply to us, but summer by itself is plenty to celebrate!

Elijah licking a chocolate ice cream cone

yum.

more

outing again

Last week, as I mentioned the other day, the boys and I took a little outing. It wasn't really much: we needed to drop off some plants at our friends' house, and on the way we stopped at Great Brook Farm for a picnic.

Lijah eating a sandwich by the pond at Great Brook

out and about!

Besides eating lunch in a shady spot by the pond, the boys splashed in the water and caught some tadpoles. Then after 30 or 40 minutes we got back in the car. That was it. In former days, that would have been supremely disappointing as an adventure; or at least not worth mentioning. But over the past few months our standards have slipped! So we were all utterly charmed by the outing.

Harvey and Zion wading in the pond looking for tadpoles

here fishy

It helps that we left baking hot weather at home and found it cool and comfortable at the farm. There were almost no other people around, so we were able to take our masks off (the boys had been wondering how we would manage a picnic while masked!). And the water was full of fish, tadpoles, and frogs. We wondered if they were all feeling pretty relaxed, having seen so few people all spring; certainly they were quite comfortable hanging around by the shore (and the fish at least were hungry for bread crusts).

a big frog on a lily pad (one among many)

doing what frogs do

Nobody caught any fish though—they were much too fast and too jumpy. No frogs either, ditto. But the tadpoles were easy enough, even with only sandwich tupperwares as nets. We could even have brought some home if we wanted to, but we didn't. Because, you know, social distancing.

more

quick trip to the store woods

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.

Lijah sitting on a sloping fallen tree above Zion's head

up a downed tree

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!

more

this week's Saturday outing

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.

the boys running from the waves at a beach in Duxbury

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.

Lijah on the beach in wintery clothes

winter beach-wear

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!

Zion wading in the calm waters at the end of the beach

new horizons

Especially when the scenery has salt water in it.

more

revisting the farm

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.

Zion and Lijah watching lambs in the barn

lamb barn

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.

lambs playing in the field

yay! sun! grass!

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!

more

historical walk

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.

the boys eating lunch in front of Hartwell Tavern

living the history

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.

more

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!

more

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!

more