What’s on Tap? Machine of the Month

By Emily Koetsier, Collections Manager

Welcome to the third installment in our year-long series, “Machine of the Month.” As winter is slowly starting to give way to spring, and Vermont is known as one of the largest producers of a certain product, we are focusing on a small piece of technology used for Maple Sugaring.

  All throughout New England, the practice of gathering sap from maple trees is well underway.  Sap can only be gathered when the nights are freezing cold and the days are warming up.   This freeze-thaw within the trees creates the necessary pressure for the sap to run.  Tapping into the tree and gaining access to the sweet, flowing liquid has evolved and changed over the years, but in many ways has remained the same.

Sap is water within the tree that has taken in the frozen starches the tree stored over winter. Maple trees with higher sugar content in their sap are ideal for sugaring; sugar maples (Acer saccharum), black maples (Acer nigrum), and red maples (Acer rubrum) are varieties that have 2-5% sugar content in their sap. 

To gain access to the sap, the trees are tapped.  Tap holes are drilled one and a half inches deep to reach the sap wood and are no more than half an inch.  Spiles are then tapped into the hole.  Spiles are the spout that will pour the sap from the tree into the gathering implement; buckets and lines are both common today. 

Over time, spiles have changed and evolved as sugaring has evolved.  Spiles began as primitive pieces of reed or concave bark.  Their basic function was to direct the flow of sap into the waiting container.  Spiles soon evolved into whittled pieces of wood that were simple in shape and had the same purpose.  As sugaring practices progressed, spiles started to be made of metal and small rings with hooks were developed to pair with them.  The hooks were added so the spile could support the gathering container; in these cases, sap buckets.  Galvanized spiles were developed with the hooks as part of their design.  In more recent times, plastic spiles are molded in shape to attach to pipelines instead of buckets.  Each evolution of the spile has allowed for a more efficient tapping processes, but has not changed the spile’s purpose: to direct sap out of the tree and into a waiting container. This important step in the sugaring process makes possible the delicious maple syrup we enjoy each spring!

In the year 2020, 36 cultural institutions from every corner of Vermont will collaborate on a suite of exhibitions and events on the theme 2020 Vision: Seeing the World Through Technology.  Billings Farm & Museum will be participating through an installment of Windows to the Past and a Machine of the Month blog posting.  Billings Farm & Museum will reopen April 10th and 11th for our Baby Farm Animal Celebration.  Check in regularly for updates and details on what we have to offer!

Sleigh Bells Ring: Are You Listening?

By Emily Koetsier, Collections Manager

Come, let us travel back 130 years or so, to the time before automobiles.  Now, imagine walking down a snowy street.  The walkways are tramped down by previous passer-by.  The road is turned and churned by horse hooves and sleigh runners.  The air is crisp and cool, holding the promise of more snow fall.  The shops are lit from within, scattered bits of conversation leaking out when doors are opened.  And tinkling chimes are heard all around; the chimes of sleigh bells.  Bells heralding the coming of a magnificent sleigh, carrying joyous folk and proud horses tacked with the ringing bells.

Bells have various uses and purposes and are as old as time; or at least as old as bronze.  An early bell shape is similar to that of cow bells you may have seen around.  They were shaped like a four-sided pyramid, or quadrangular.  They were made of two plates of iron that were bent to form a corner each and then pieced together with iron rivets and coated in bronze (Hatch 13).  There is an example of one such bell held at the National Museum of Ireland, known as the Clog-an-eadhacta Phatraic or “The Bell of the Will of St. Patrick.”  The legend of the bell is that the sound was so frightful that no snake would have remained in Ireland to listen to the racket St. Patrick would have been making with his Clog-an-eadhacta; especially if they were akin to snakes of oriental origin that were addicted to sweet sounding flute music (Hatch 14).

Alas, we have digressed from the topic of this post; sleigh bells.  Sleigh bells have a different origin, and little has changed from the first.  What we call a sleigh bell was first known as a Crotal.  Spherical in shape with small holes and a ball inside.  The ball was once made of stone but is more commonly metal today (Hatch 15).  Eric Hatch, in his book The Little Book of Bells, notes the longevity and purity of the Crotal bell:

“The Crotal is a true bell form and is the most ancient of all forms.  The marked resemblance between the ancient and modern Crotal is extraordinary.  I cannot think of any other object that was created thousands of years ago in a form so perfect that no one since has been able to find a way of improving it.” (15)

Sleigh bells have had many uses in the past and in modern times.  They became a symbol of status and wealth; decorations on horse harnesses ad tack to display the wealth of the owner.  They were also viewed as good luck charms and wards against evil, disease, and injury.  They also served as a warning to pedestrians and other travelers.  The bells gave an obvious and early warning that there was an oncoming sleigh, giving time for people to get out of the sleigh’s path.  This was important because sleighs were not able to stop quickly, so listening for the bells was a matter of safety.  Vendors using horse drawn conveyances also used bells to signal they were in the area, much like a modern ice cream truck.

Songs such as Jingle Bells and Sleigh Ride use sleigh bells for lyrics as well as instruments for the song.  James Lord Pierpont compose One Horse open Sleigh, more commonly known as Jingle Bells, in 1857.  The chorus of the song an example of onomatopoeia, “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” is one show case of sleigh bells and their sound.  Jingle Bells is making use of the bell sounds to demonstrate the joy and cheer that the sound brings in the wintertime.  Sleigh Ride also uses sleigh bell sounds in the lyrics, “Ring tingle tingling too.”  Sleigh Ride is using the sound of the bells to keep a couple ensconced on their sleigh ride, alone but for each other.  Another classic winter song with sleigh bells is, Winter Wonderland.  Here the lyrics prompt for walkers to listen for the sound of the bells.  This first line, “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” sets the scene and mood for the walkers, prompting happiness; but it is also a nod to listen for the warning of an oncoming sleigh.

In the year 2020, 36 cultural institutions from every corner of Vermont will collaborate on a suite of exhibitions and events on the theme 2020 Vision: Seeing the World Through Technology.  Billings Farm & Museum will be participating through an installment of Windows to the Past and a Machine of the Month blog posting.  Check in regularly for updates and details on what we have to offer!

Works Cited

Hatch, Eric. The Little Book of Bells. First ed., Duell, Sloan, & Pearce, 1964.

https://www.horsenation.com/2015/12/16/everything-you-never-knew-you-never-knew-about-sleigh-bells/

 

July Story Activity Time for Preschoolers

Story Activity Time for Preschoolers will be offered Wednesday mornings in July, from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.  Each program will feature a story, special visit to the farm, hands-on activity, and a snack.  The cost is $3.00 per person for Billings Farm & Museum members, and $5.00 per person for non-members (includes admission to the Farm & Museum).

July 3: The Night Before the Fourth of July.  “Twas the night before July 4th and all across the USA, Americans were gearing up for Independence Day.” Share in the excitement of this celebration as we read the story, play games, paint our own fireworks and share a snack of watermelon and blueberries.

July 10: Piney the Goat Nanny. Piney, a rescued pig, wants a job of his own. He tries to help with many jobs on the farm, but he can’t find something that he is good at. Find out what job Piney learns is the most important job of all. We will meet the goats, make a goat craft and enjoy a snack together.

July 17: The Ice Cream King. What is better on a warm summer day in July than ice cream? Teddy loves ice cream and dreams of a magical world filled with this yummy treat and all the toppings! Visit our cows and calves and learn how they help to make this treat, then share some ice cream with friends.

July 24: Mowing. Nora and her grandfather use horses and a mower to mow the fields of grass. What do they find while out in the field? Meet our draft horses and watch them get harnessed before setting out on a wagon ride. We will make horse finger puppets and snack on apples and milk.

July 31: Farmer’s Garden. “Corn, Corn, how do you grow?” This rhyming book will take us on a tour of the gardens. We will harvest a healthy snack of vegetables from the gardens and make a bunny craft to take home.

To register for Story Activity Time, please call 802/457-2355, weekdays, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Each program has limited enrollment, and advance registration is required.

We are a Blue Star Museum

Billings Farm & Museum announces its participation in the Blue Star Museums program, a collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Armed Forces Day (May 18) through Labor Day (September 2), 2019.

As a Blue Star Museum, free admission is offered to active-duty military and their immediate family members (military ID holder and five immediate family members.)  Active duty military include:  Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Active Duty and Reservists, National Guardsman (regardless of status), U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps, and up to five family members.

“We’ve seen the tremendous impact the Blue Star Museums program brings to our military families, and we’re thrilled to be celebrating a decade of support,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, chief executive officer of Blue Star Families. “Not only are museums fun to explore but are also great for making memories and strengthening military families as a whole.”

Military personnel and military family members who have questions about the program may contact Blue Star Families at arts.gov/bluestarmuseums.

 

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.

 

About Blue Star Families

Blue Star Families builds communities that support military families by connecting research and data to programs and solutions, including career development tools, local community events for families, and caregiver support. Since its inception in 2009, Blue Star Families has engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and serves more than 1.5 million military family members. With Blue Star Families, military families can find answers to their challenges anywhere they are. For more information, visit bluestarfam.org.

Junior Farmer Camp

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a farmer? Junior Farmer Camp, is designed to help kids discover for themselves by stepping into a farmer’s shoes for a week.

Campers will have the opportunity to be up close and personal with the farm’s cows, horses, pigs, chickens, and sheep while learning the work that goes into the food that they eat. In addition to daily chores and activities, each day we will explore a different farming topic like dairy, gardening, tractors, and draft animals. On Friday, campers will prepare an animal of their choice for a show and presentation to their families.

Other exciting activities include:

• Tie-dying shirts with plant-based dyes

• Taking a hay ride through the farm fields

• Milking a cow by hand and machine

• Participating in scavenger hunts around the farm

• Building scarecrows for our gardens

• Making delicious dairy treats like ice cream & butter

And much more!

Join us for a week of fun-filled farm festivities!

Designed for ages 8-12.

2020 Dates
Session 1: June 22-26
Session 2: July 13-17
Session 3: July 27-31
Session 4: August 10-14

Time: 9 am – 4 pm; Drop off between 8:45am and 9am. Pick up promptly at 4pm. Pickups later than 4:15pm is subject to an additional $20 fee.

Registration will open soon! Call 802-457-2355 for information.

Thirty-Eight: The Hurricane that Transformed New England

A hurricane will never surprise us again. But that’s what happened to the people of New England on September 21, 1938. Without any warning, the most destructive weather event ever to hit the Northeast pummeled the coast and blasted its way to Vermont and New Hampshire with torrential rain, flooding, and sustained winds of 100 miles per hour.

In his book, ThirtyEight: The Hurricane that Transformed New England, Stephen Long tells the story of New England’s Katrina. A journalist and co-founder of Northern Woodlands magazine, Long focuses on the devastation to the region’s forests and the daunting challenge facing New Englanders still in the throes of the Great Depression. His presentation is richly illustrated with archival photos of storm damage and the unprecedented recovery operation.

Refreshments served. Stephen’s book is available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

Sponsored by Ottauquechee Natural Resources Conservation District.

Programs for Preschoolers in September

Programs for Preschoolers will be offered Wednesday mornings in September, from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.  Each program will feature a story, visit to the farm, hands-on activity, and snack.  The cost is $3.00 per person for Billings Farm & Museum members, and $5.00 per person for non-members (includes admission to the Farm & Museum).

 Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.   Wednesday, September 5.  In the fall, the trees put on a spectacular art show for us! We’ll read Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, then  travel across the road to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and look for signs of fall. We will make crowns with colored leaves and enjoy maple cookies for a snack.

The Boy and His Quilt.  Wednesday, September 12. Making a quilt may be easy, or at least fun; sometimes though it might seem like a chore. Collecting scraps, cutting patches—and that’s just the beginning!  Discover the steps a young boy goes through in making his very own quilt as we read The Boy and His Quilt.  We’ll visit the quilt hall to see this year’s quilts, enjoy a snack with friends, and make your own paper quilt pattern.

Ten Red Apples.   Wednesday, September 19.  Ten red apples hang on the tree. Horse, cow, pig and the other farm animals each eat an apple, will there be enough for everyone? Join us for a trip to our orchard to see if there are any red apples on the trees. Enjoy an apple for a snack with friends. An apple tree craft will complete your visit.

Pumpkin Jack.  Wednesday, September 26.   Have you ever wondered what happens to your pumpkin after it has been carved? Follow the story of Tim and his pumpkin named “Jack” as they discover Jack’s new world. We’ll visit the pumpkin patch, make a pumpkin craft, and enjoy a pumpkin treat.

To register for Programs for Preschoolers, please call 802/457-2355, week-  days, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Each program has limited enrollment, and advance registration is required.

35th Anniversary Celebration!

Billings Farm & Museum invites you to our 35th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, June 24, 2018.

ADMISSION IS FREE for the entire day!

Join us from 10-5 for a fun day of activities and programs for all ages including a farm animal parade, live music, 1860s base ball , guest speakers, ice cream making, historic games, gourmet cheese sandwiches from the Woodstock Inn, 19th-century magic shows, and more.

Here’s the schedule of events:

10:30   Huck’s Way Home
Learn the true-life story of young oxen “Huck” who comes to Billings Farm to live, escapes on his first day, has a series of adventures throughout the town of Woodstock, and returns the following morning to settle in. Meet Huck and his partner, Finn, and hear the story as told by author and artist Kristina Rodanas.

11:00  19th Century Magic Show
Enjoy the early-19th-century magic of New England magician Richard Potter, as performed by Robert Olson.

11:00 – 1:00  Gourmet Cheese Sandwiches
Made from Billings Farm Cheese and prepared by the culinary staff of the Woodstock Inn. Yum!

11:45  Making Ice Cream
Visitors can participate in making and sampling hand-cranked ice cream.

12:00 – 3:00   Music from David Carpenter and Tom McKenzie
Enjoy the sounds of the banjo, fiddle, and dulcimer.

12:30  Huck’s Way Home
Learn the true-life story of young oxen “Huck” who comes to Billings Farm to live, escapes on his first day, has a series of adventures throughout the town of Woodstock, and returns the following morning to settle in. Meet Huck and his partner, Finn, and hear the story as told by author and artist Kristina Rodanas.

1:00  Parade of Farm Animals

1:30  Historic Base Ball in the Farm Fields
Join in or enjoy the game as spectators.

3:00  35th Anniversary Program: Remarks and Remembrances under the tent

Guest Speakers will include Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Wendy Knight, Vermont Tourism Commissioner, Vermont State Representative Charlie Kimbell, Woodstock Foundation president, David Donath and Master of Ceremonies Phil Camp of the Vermont Standard.

3:45  Milk-Off
Cheer on Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts as he is challenged to a milking competition by Billings Farm Executive Director David Simmons.

4:00  19th Century Magic Show
Enjoy the early-19th-century magic of New England magician Richard Potter, as performed by Robert Olson.

Activities Throughout the Day:

Name the Calf Contest!

Visit with our Animal Ambassadors – a new animal every hour!

Selfie Photo Opportunity with one of our award-winning Jersey cows.

Make and Take Crafts for children.

Meet the Gardeners and lend a hand weeding and watering.

Enjoy a birthday cookie and a cup of ice cold lemonade!

Tastes of our brand new Billings Farm Smoked Cheddar Cheese.

 

 

July Programs for Preschoolers

Programs for Preschoolers will be offered Wednesday mornings in July, from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.  Each program will feature a story, special visit to the farm, hands-on activity, and a snack.  The cost is $3.00 per person for Billings Farm & Museum members, and $5.00 per person for non-members (includes admission to the Farm & Museum).

     The Ice Cream Shop.  Wed., July 11. Steve really wants an ice cream cone, but he can’t figure out how to get one…until Wessley comes to his rescue. Join their silly adventure, see the ice cream parlor at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and enjoy an ice cream treat with friends.

     How to Speak Moo.  Wed., July 18Cows have a language all of their own and this is your chance to learn “how to speak moo.” After practicing our moos we will visit with the Billings Farm Jersey cows and make a “moo”velous cow craft, followed by a delicious dairy snack.

     Otis. Wed., July 25. Otis is a fun-loving tractor who loves his farm and his farmer, and he loves his new friend, a little calf. When a new tractor comes to the farm, what will happen to Otis? Visit our tractors, and our calves. Are they friends too? We will make a tractor print and enjoy a tractor-shaped snack.

To register for Programs for Preschoolers, please call 802/457-2355, weekdays, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Each program has limited enrollment, and advance registration is required.