2016 at Billings Farm: A Year in Pictures.

It’s been quite a year at the Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont.  In this post, we’re going to look back at some of our finest moments during 2016: from the new arrivals in the Calf Nursery, to historic base ball on the 4th of July, cooking Thanksgiving turkey in the woodstove in our 1890 Farm House kitchen, and our attendance-setting Baby Animal Day.  We’ll revisit our first real snowstorm in 2016 as well as letting our Jersey cows outside for the first time in the spring.  This year has been a good one!

We’ve had snow and rain, a brisk fall and a warm summer, misty mornings and freezing nights. To illustrate the variations of our Vermont weather, take a look at the three photos below.  The view captures our pasture, with the Ottauquechee River and village of Woodstock beyond. These images were taken only a few months apart!

We wish you a Happy New Year and hope you’ll join us for a tour of 2016 in pictures. Follow along as we explore four seasons of life behind-the-scenes at the Billings Farm. As always, we thank our members and visitors, who brought such enthusiasm and excitement to the farm and helped make this season so spectacular. 

Billings Farm is a great place to visit, so don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and check the website regularly to see what will be happening in 2017.


January-March

2016 began quietly, with mild temperatures and only an occasional dusting of snow.

Our livestock stayed inside until spring to protect them from the cold. Snug in their barns, our Southdown sheep, Jersey cows, and Holstein steers (oxen-in-training) waited out the bad weather and hunkered down. Our draft horse teams still needed exercise though, and frequently pulled the wagon or sleigh.

It wasn’t long before we were all anxious for spring and the start of a new season.

With barns of large animals, there’s always something interesting going on, no matter the season. By late February, our Southdown sheep started lambing. Our first lamb, Willow, became a social media sensation, with her pictures getting thousands of Likes and Comments from around the country. Within a few weeks, we had a flock of young lambs frolicking in the barn.

Young lambs are skinny and don’t have much fleece when they’re born, but thanks to Ann, one of our senior interpretative staff, the new arrivals were well equipped for the cold with their own hand-knitted wooly jumpers!

Meanwhile, in the cow barn, our Jerseys were hard at work too, with their morning and afternoon milkings and calving throughout the winter and early spring.

All the while, the work of the farm continued. From morning milking at 4:00 a.m., to the dozens of other chores and tasks necessary to keep the barns running and our animals healthy, our dedicated team of farm staff were hard at work – in all weather.

Spring arrived early this year and before long the weather was warming and the last clumps of snow had melted away. The trees were still barren, but blue skies and a little sunshine were enough to remind us that we wouldn’t have long to wait.

Jim, our Percheron draft horse, was the first to really appreciate the change of season and wasted no time enjoying himself.


By the end of March, the weather warmed, just in time for our annual Baby Animal Day Celebration.

With a capacity audience and our new arrivals (including the famous Willow), Baby Animal Day is a wonderful event that features the chance to meet and learn about young farm animals, while learning  why good agricultural practices are so important. This year saw our largest attendance ever and it was wonderful to see families of many generations share their first experiences of meeting these young animals for the first time.


April-August

On April 30th, we opened for our 34th season, with horse-drawn wagon rides, home-made ice cream, and more.

The season was soon off to a flying start, with many fun activities and special events. Our 1890 Farm House opened and our team of talented staff were busy using traditional recipes to prepare meals on our handsome and efficient wood-burning stove.

Finally, it was time for our Jerseys to return to pasture. As you can see below, they literally ran down the farm lane when released from their winter quarters! Until early November, they would be let out after their second milking to graze in pasture overnight. Watching them hurry down the path to the pasture was exhilerating, as you’ll see in the photos below and this video.


In early May, it was sheep shearing time and we celebrated with Sheep Shearing & Herding with Border Collies, a long-running event aimed at sharing more about Vermont’s sheep-raising heritage. A family of Vermont’s best sheep-shearers showcased a range of traditional and modern techniques as they relieved our Southdowns’ of their heavy winter coats.


If you’re interested in seeing why spring shearing is important, take a look at the before and after pictures below:

Before…

After…


As the weather warmed and the landscape turned green, we all began enjoying the brilliant greens and mild mornings of a Vermont spring. Our heifers especially seemed to appreciate lazy days spent in the pasture, moo’ing at visitors and catching up on their sleep.

Tender leaves on the trees and fresh grass in the fields transformed Billings Farm into a completely different landscape from even a few months before.

At the end of May we honored our purebred Jerseys with the annual Cheese and Dairy Celebration. This is an ideal opportunity to showcase our herd and the dairy industry with education programs, sample delicious products made by Vermont artisan cheesemakers, and enjoy the spring sunshine. Especially popular with our visitors is the chance to “judge Jerseys with our farm staff” and select the ones they thought were the “best.”

Andrew Coon, our hardworking and talented 2016 Farm Intern, quickly became part of our farm team.

Our 2016 Cheese and Dairy Celebration was also extra-special because we launched of our newest variety of Billings Farm cheddar: Woodstock Reserve is made with 100% raw milk from our own purebred, registered Jerseys and aged a minimum of fifteen months. This is our sharpest cheddar yet and is available in our gift shop and other Woodstock locations, or buy it online


July was a productive month in the fields. The field corn we’d planted months before, which ultimately would be chopped into corn silage to feed our Jerseys throughout the winter and spring, began to thrive…

And in the fields around Woodstock, we began harvesting the first hay of the year, another crucial ingredient in the livestocks’ diets.

Weeks later, we celebrated a special birthday. Savanna, the oldest cow on the farm, turned 14 – a monumental accomplishment, considering that the average life expectancy of the nation’s dairy cows is less than half that. Savanna is still milking every day, a testimony to her superior genetics and the dedication of our farm staff.


With the arrival of Independence Day, we held our traditional Old Vermont 4th, one of our most exciting and special events, allowing you to experience how this holiday would have been enjoyed back in 1890.

…we dressed up (late 19th century-style)…

…listened to great traditional music…

…took part in historical debates…

…helped make and sample delicious homemade ice cream…

…and enjoyed our local Boy Scouts chapter’s reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Visitors also experienced a rousing game of historic Base Ball, played in the farm fields and using original rules and equipment.  

 


August-October

August began with a stunning outdoor performance of the Farm to Ballet, which highlighted three seasons on a Vermont farm through a lively reinterpretation of classical ballet. Accompanied by a string sextet playing Vivaldi, this unique experience was a crowd favorite and one that we will repeat in 2017.

The following day was our noisiest event of the season: Tractor Day! With dozens of antique tractors from Vermont and beyond, all lovingly restored and driven by their owners, this event is a favorite with every generation.

It’s always heartening to see families attending Tractor Day,  with many young petrol-heads getting their first experiences with these workhorses!


August gave way to September and gradually, fall was in the air. The leaves began to change color subtly, signaling colder weather to come…

September was a landmark month at the farm. On the 15th, we welcomed the arrival of Rosanne Royalty Reign. Little Reign is the great-great granddaughter of the one and only Billings Top Roseanne, the greatest Billings Jersey of the 20th  century. A prolific award-winner, Roseanne was named an All American Jersey two years in a row – an almost unheard of accomplishment. Little Reign has some large hooves to fill, but we believe she will.  She already has stolen our hearts!

We harvested our field corn, way over six feet tall and a vital source of food for our herd over the winter and spring. Harvesting and storing this staple is one a demanding task on our cropping calendar.


In late September we hosted our second Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival, featuring Vermont woodworkers showcasing their wares and skills. Demonstrations, brick-oven pizza, and live music made for a memorable event that we’ll repeat in 2017.


By October, the leaves were really beginning to change – vibrant colors which lingered for weeks.

Two major harvest events heralded the official foliage season: our Pumpkin & Apple Celebration (Oct 1 & 2) and Harvest Weekend (October 8 & 9). Enthusiastic visitors harvested apples from our heirloom orchard, helped press fresh cider, hand-cranked ice cream, sampled delicious cider donuts, and took a turn at challenging activities, including apples-on-a-string.


October concluded with A Family Halloween, one of our most popular family events, with (not-too-scary) ghost stories, family pumpkin carving, and horse-drawn wagon rides. This year’s anxiously-anticipated parade was one of our best yet!

Annie, a friendly Southdown ewe, led the parade, followed by…

…Jon Snow…

…several Harry Potters and Princesses…

…Frida Kahlo, Jane Austin, and many more!

Our goodnatured staff were inspired and we spied a sunflower, a cheetah…

…a wicked but beautiful queen…

…and Grease’s (and Billings Farm’s) very own Pink Ladies.

This year, even our Jerseys dressed up.


November-December

As November dawned and 2016 continued winding down, the colors of fall faded and temperatures dropped. As the days shortened, the evening air was filled with woodsmoke and frost. It wasn’t long before we had our first early snow, which soon melted.

With the weather getting colder every day, the time had come to move our animals inside for the winter. Our Jersey cows were more than a little excited to get back to the barn full time, causing quite a commotion when we opened the barn door…


We looked forward to Thanksgiving, a meaningful holiday and one of the most important during the 19th century. Our visitors learned how the holiday was observed in 1890 Woodstock, including preparations, dinner menu, and entertainment. “History of Thanksgiving” programs were presented in the farmhouse parlor and the kitchen was a hive of activity for days.

Pumpkin and mincemeat pies were baked…

…a turkey and duck roasted in the oven…

And then a full Thanksgiving feast was presented!


We offered one last weekend of horse-drawn wagon rides, then it was time to seriously prepare for winter. December was fast-paced and fun:

We got our first accumlating snow of the year…

…took part in the Annual Woodstock Wassail Celebration parade with Percheron, Jim,

Accompanied by our farm team and a special guest…

… celebrated Christmas in the authentically-decorated 1890 Farm House…

…shared holiday ornament-making with our visitors.

Christmas vacation week was celebrated with horse-drawn sleigh-rides, which ended on New Year’s Day. As we watched Lynne and Sue pull the farm sleigh, bells jangling and breath showing faintly in the air as the shape of Mount Peg rose in the distance, one could almost imagine Vermont in the 1890s…


2016 in pictures. A full year at the Billings Farm, from the first day in January 2016 to New Year’s Eve – today!  Because there’s always so much going on, we discovered that we omitted some additional news. Before we go, it’s important to mention that…

…we were featured on television a number of times…

…offered an intensive series of education programs throughout the year, with scores of schools from around Vermont and further afield, taking part. Our superb education department offers a range of programs for all grade levels, making Billings Farm an ideal place for a field trip...

…hosted several memorable weddings in conjunction with our friends at the Woodstock Inn

…watched our newborns develop into feisty heifers…

… and was acknowledged by tourism giant TripAdvisor with a Certificate of Excellence!

As you can see, it was a wonderful year at the farm. We hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of 2016 in pictures. On behalf of the entire Billings Farm & Museum team, we look forward to seeing you soon at the Billings Farm in wonderful Woodstock, Vermont.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

8 thoughts on “2016 at Billings Farm: A Year in Pictures.

  1. Wow! What an amazing place we have so close by! This is a beautiful recap of an excellent year at Billings 🙂 I can’t wait to join in on the fun activities and events in 2017!

  2. Thank you for sharing the beautiful and peaceful pictures, I so enjoyed them. It was such a treat for me to scroll through them on this first day of 2017. I have been following your farm on Facebook and I have listed a trip to see you on my bucket list. I respect that you treat the animals with care and dignity. I grew up on a small dairy farm and I miss all that a farm has to offer. I am looking forward to a trip to your farm this year. Thank you and have a peaceful New Year. Linda

  3. I so enjoyed your Year in Pictures. Those Jersey cows are the cutest. Now that I want to make the trip to see your farm, I don’t know the best time to come. Looks like spring, summer and fall are wonderful times to visit. Thank you for sharing all that you do on your farm and look forward to coming for a visit.

  4. I grew up on a farm not a big one like you have just a small one mainly grew vegetables….one cow, one horse, and one gander, 2 dogs one cat! But lots of vegetables and fruits. One thing for sure our kitchen had the same coal range for cooking and heating at night…mother banked it down for the evening. My father even baked homemade white bread in that coal range oven, delicious!!! Good memories and your farm is awesome! Love your Jerseys they are sure impressive..love to visit! Happy 2017 to you all!

  5. Thank you for sharing the wonderful photographs and story of your farm. I did not grow up on a farm, my family all worked in the leather mills, but everywhere around our small town was farmland and farms. Every Sunday we went for family rides with just the females of the families, while my grandmother talked from when she grew up on a farm.. It is on my list for places to visit for 2017, thanks for bringing up my memories by sharing this.. Hope to be there soon.

  6. What an excellent reminder that the year 2016 was beautiful as well as terrible! The only missing element was one of my favorite annual events, the Quilt Exhibition. I’m happy I get to experience all the seasons at the Farm. You are getting better every year.

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