Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Visit to Old Sturbridge Village on March 9th

Sheep pens and textile shop exhibit at Old Sturbridge Farm

The old farm 

Jacob and I enjoyed a fun outing to Old Sturbridge Village, an 1830's living history museum just across the Connecticut border in Massachusetts.  We both had a good time exploring all the working shops, homes, farms, mills, churches, and other buildings with all their furnishings of the time period.  The Village has over 40 buildings, a farm, and many manufacturing craftsmen.  There are actors in many of the exhibits doing the work that would have been done such as a shoemaker, a barrel maker, blacksmith, potter, women in the farm house making bread over a fireplace, and others.  There are livestock which pull wagons, provide milk for cheese making demos, and wool which is carded and spun into yarn.  There was plenty to see and do as you were transported back in time.

1796 Friends Meeting house moved to the Village in the 1950s.

Going to School
Draft horses pull a wagon for visitors to enjoy.

It's lambing season.  
An unusual breed of small, horned sheep

Me in front of a large water wheel,
everything was froze up for the winter

a Shoemaker's bench
One of my favorite things of Sturbridge Village were the working shops: shoe shop, pottery shop, tinsmith, blacksmith, wooden barrel shop.  I liked seeing the actors doing the jobs just as they would have in the 1800s with out electricity and with lots of specialized tools.  The actors were knowledge about about their crafts and explained to the audience what they were doing, and what a day or even year for that person in 1830 would have been like.  You could see how much work and craftsmanship, time and ingenuity went into then things people made.  I was impressed by the simple machines used to make jobs easier without electricity for example a treadle wheel to turn a potter's wheel, and a pulley attached to a rock to close the door behind you.  It would be hard to relearn all the knowledge of those past craftsmen and women if we suddenly lost our electricity.

Look at those leather belts and gears!

Ice has stopped the mill work for now

an old grinding stone

The potter's kiln, Let's fire some clay!
Pottery was a source of cheap, everyday dishes  
 On the day we were there, there was a special maple sap collecting demonstration.  The farmers have different jobs in the winter and one of those jobs is making sugar from the sap.  The actors had tapped several trees and were boiling off the water to get the concentrated sugars in giant cauldrons.  I learned that in the 1830's, they would have boiled all the water off to make sugar because syrup has to be refrigerated. The sugar can be stored and used throughout the year.  It was pretty chilly on our visit and the sap really hadn't started dripping, but we got the basics.

We enjoyed seeing all the artifacts and had a fun learning about the past.

Wooden log bowl and hollowed twig used for collecting maple sap.

Native American Method of collecting sap

Birch bark bowl and a v slash into the bark.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Little Silly's Big Adventure!

Over the last few months, I've been working on an idea that has been bubbling around in my brain for a few years.  I wrote and illustrated a children's picture book, called Little Silly's Big Adventure!  After painting over twenty illustrations and many edits, I sent the manuscript out to some publishers.  Publishers receive so many stories that it can take several months before you hear back, and then only if they are interested.  I know the chances of hearing back are low, but I'm happy to have completed this fun project.  I have enjoyed sharing the story with several classes at the elementary school where I substitute teach.  It was great to hear the kids exclaim that Silly was very cute, laugh at the 'right' parts, and show concern when Silly gets into trouble.  The kids and teachers all enjoyed my Silly story. 

Now, I want to share the story with you.  Unfortunately, I can not share the entire story and illustrations on this blog because there's no good way to protect it from internet thieves.  But here is a excerpt and if you wish to read the entire story please contact me directly by email at  I would love to get your feedback, and to continue improving the story.  Little Silly's Big Adventure does not have an obvious nature theme, which is strange for me, instead it focuses on having a imagination and being curious.  I am thinking of writing more Silly stories, perhaps the future stories will use Silly's character to explore nature related themes.  I hope you enjoy the excerpts and illustrations.  Let me know what you think!

"Little Silly had never been out of the yard alone before, and she felt brave.  She was able to go where she liked, and stop at each new smell.  -sniff, sniff, sniff-She soon lost the butterfly, but found a new friend as a lizard scampered across dry leaves.  -rustle, rustle, rustle-The game went deeper into the woods."

Many Pages Later...

"Once the jar was off, Silly realized that she was no longer a Space Dog, but a jungle explorer … so she set off on an expedition searching for the lost City of Doggie Biscuits.  She crept through vines, around large boulders, and between tall reedy plants to reach the edge of a nearby pond.  Silly heard jungle birds squawking, skraw, skraw, skraw; frogs escaping into the pond, kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk; and large insects flying, buzz, buzz, buzz.

Silly was dreaming of all the biscuits she would eat upon finding the Lost City, when suddenly she froze!  She spotted an Alligator with its black, scaly head floating at the water’s edge.  Silly crouched, ready to leap onto the alligator…
  she barked a loud warning…
    Ruff! Rufff! Rruufffff!
      and sprang!"