Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring, farms and art

We love visiting farms in the spring. Witnessing nature's slow and gentle awakening is a great way to shake off the winter slumber and connect with the rhythms of the seasons.

I see people of all ages at the farms, from babies to grandparents, getting a glimpse at the newborn animals, taking in the scent of the freshly sprouted flowers and getting a hand on the first vegetables. It is a time for renewal and celebration.
The more farms we visit, the more I notice the arts in every corner. Farming is a cultural practice, and we humans tend to weave the arts into most of our daily life. With each festival and celebration of nature people sing, dance, tell stories, paint, and the list goes on.

We got to taste the sugary sap straight from the maple tree.

We started the season with a visit to the Natick Community Organic Farm for their Maple Magic Day. We first filled up our bellies with pancakes at the neighboring school and danced to a lovely folk band. Then, we toured the farm and learned about different sugaring techniques throughout our history.

We learned about Native American sugaring techniques. We were greeted by the beat of the drums and smoke from a branch of sage, followed by some good old story telling...

We heard an old Native American tale, about how the first people were able to get maple syrup just by snapping off a branch from a maple tree and letting the syrup drip into their mouths. People were no longer fishing in the fields, collecting berries from the forest, farming or hunting. They were all just laying there with their mouths open. Well, when Manabozho (a benevolent spirit) saw what was happening he thought it was no good. Soon all the people would be lazy and fat! So he went to the river and filled a very large basket with water. He then poured the water on top of the maple trees so that it would thin the syrup. From then on, people would have to work very hard to make syrup from the tree's sap.*

*I tried very hard to remember the tale as it was told on the day of the visit, but I had to search our handy internet to fill in the big gaps in my memory. I found a close version here.

We also learned about the techniques used during colonial times. Which were also laborious despite the introduction of cast iron.

After visiting the modern day shed for making syrup, with electricity and steel, we went home with some delicious organic maple syrup, which we have enjoyed with delicious homemade pancakes. Yum.

For those of you in Massachusetts, here is a list of farm/spring 2012 events:

March 31 - Woolapalooza From Sheep to Sweater and Everything in Between, Drumlin Farm

April 1, 7 - Easter Egg Hunt, Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary, Norton

April 27-29 - Daffodil Weekend Festival, Nantucket

May 20 - Spring Spectacular, Natick Community Organic Farm

Visit any time the Turtle Lane Maple Farm for a Free Tour, North Andover

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Eric Carle Museum

A few weeks ago, we visited the Eric Carle Museum with my little one's class. The building is spacious and modern, with Scandinavian design and wide spaces.

The wonderful bursts of color left us inspired and ready to roll our sleeves up at home.

We spent time in the art room, where the children were invited to think about art and make their own creations, and we visited the galleries with one dedicated to Eric Carle's work, and two other illustrators.

In the grand entry we admired these large paintings. I'm hoping to get a large canvas and make a collaborative painting with my girl.

In the art classroom, we were mesmerized by this simple, yet wonderful light catcher, consisting of colored water in zip lock bags , hanging in a circle and held by nylon. (Ready, set, GO! Just run and do it!)

Each child received a lovely "I am an Artist" booklet. They then picked at random an adjective and a noun to draw on each page. Here is a happy flower, with rain.

With the large windows, simplicity, space and inviting work tables and corners, the space came close to the classroom of my dreams. Sigh.

I love the way the artwork was displayed in a rainbow of colors, simply placed in filing sleeves and held together with metal rings.

To top it off, even the highchairs in the dining room were beautiful!


So, if you happen to visit Western Massachusetts, head on over to the Eric Carle Museum. If not, I hope you are inspired by the bright colors and ideas collected during our visit. 

Here are some of our favorite Eric Carle books. Please, do share yours.