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Baby Animals On The Shaker Village (Hancock Shaker Village,Pittsfield, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 13, 2019

Location: Hancock Shaker Village, 1843 West Housatonic St, Pittsfield MA

Cost: Adults    $20 ($18 for Seniors, AAA members, MTA cardholders, and active and retired U.S. Military)
Youth     $8 (ages 13-17)
Children (12 and under) are free

Hours:

Hours mid-April through late-June 10am-4pm

Summer and fall hours July through October 10am-5pm

Parking: There is one average sized parking lot with additional lots for overflow parking

Handicapped Accessible: The Visitor Center, restrooms, galleries, store, cafe, and all meeting spaces are wheelchair accessible. Compact-dirt pathways and boardwalks throughout the Village provide access to the gardens and grounds, as well as the mile-long Farm & Forest Trail, which also features interpretive signage. Some buildings in the historic Village are wheelchair accessible via ramp, including the Round Stone Barn and the Trustees’ Office & Store. Keep in mind, however, that most buildings in the historic Village are NOT wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available free of charge with advance reservation

Pet Friendly: No, but service animals are allowed.

Website: Hancock Shaker Village

Highlights: historic homes, animals, educational tours, demonstrations

Summary: The baby animals have arrived at Hancock Shaker Village.  In addition to the baby animals, there are tours of the historic homes and educational opportunities for visitors at the village.

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Spring in New England can only mean one thing: baby animals at Shaker Village!

Each year, dozens of animals arrive at the museum for the new season. The animals are housed in the appropriately named Round Stone Barn.  The barn, which was built around 1839, was burned to the ground December 1, 1864.  One hundred tons of hay, ten bushels (roughly 93 gallons) of provender and two adjoining sheds went ablaze during this fire.  It was rebuilt during the mid 1870s.

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Sheep, goats, pigs, chicken and other animals were present during my visit.  People were encouraged to go into the pens with the animals and pet them or take photos.

But, there weren’t just babies at the village.  Older animals, in some cases the mom and dad of the babies, were also at the museum.

Being located so close to the mountains and countryside of New York (we actually drove through New York for a brief period of time), the views from the farm were beautiful.

The farm also includes historic homes.  The self guided tour has signs with information about each house with background about each place.

One of my favorite buildings is the Blacksmith’s shop.  The Shakers made all of the metalwork used for their buildings.  In the Blacksmith’s shop, which was built in 1874, a blacksmith conducts demonstrations of how they make the hardware they use.  He was the third generation blacksmith in his family and the last.  No one else in his family wanted to continue the blacksmith trade.

There is also a room with tanning vats, a cider press and a turbine.

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But my favorite buildings from that era were the homes, offices and stores.  The Trustees Office and store and family living quarters housed the souvenirs people would buy during their visits.  It was also the place where people on business trips could place orders for goods.

The buildings and sheds on the farm give the premises a very old time feel.

There was also a play area for children where they could play with toys from that era and play with other toys.  There was also face painting, horse rides and a balloon shaping artist.

The only really difficult part of the photography session, besides the animals moving when I took their photos, was photographing the blacksmith.  It had all of the elements of a challenging photo shoot: low light, motion when he used the tools to make the hardware and the fire which was in stark contrast to the low light in the room.  I wanted to show the flame on the stove and the light on the tool he was using.  So, I didn’t want to boost the ISO or aperture too much.  So, what did I do?

The hard part for me is when there is motion and low light.  You want to use a fast shutter speed to photograph motion (500 or higher).  But, when there’s not a lot of light you need to use a slower shutter speed.  I didn’t have my tripod with me (and the museum doesn’t allow tripods on their property).  So, I used a fast shutter speed (500) and lowered my aperture to the lowest setting (3.5).  To make up for the lack of light I boosted my ISO to 2000 which is pretty high.  I knew that I could add noise reduction to address the noise or grainy photo from the high ISO in the editing process (which isn’t without its drawback that I will address in a future post).

It was important to capture the motion without seeing any blur and I wanted to make sure the fire looked as realistic and was an accurate display of what I saw, so I went with a high ISO.  Even if I did have my tripod with me it wouldn’t have been very useful as I needed a fast shutter speed rather than a slow shutter speed to capture the motion of the blacksmith.  You can always adjust the image by using noise reduction and using a higher or lower contrast and exposure setting when you edit in LightRoom or PhotoShop, although you do want to get the best photo as possible in the camera to avoid having to edit it too much.  I did end up using a low exposure in LightRoom to show how dark the room was when I took the photographs and to highlight the light from the fire.

Below are some of the photos of the blacksmith which show how I had to adjust the settings to capture his motion and the light from the fire.  As you can see from the photo, the high ISO (2000) allowed me to capture both the motion of the blacksmith as he used the pulley to add oxygen to the fire to keep it going and you can see the sparks clearly from the fire.  The noise reduction tool unfortunately can take away some of the details.  But it was a give and take.  I used the noise reduction to get rid some of the grain from the high ISO knowing that some of the features (like the background) may be a little dull.

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2000 ISO, 18 mm, 3.5 aperture, 1/500 shutter speed.

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2000 ISO 18 mm 3.5 aperture 1/500 shutter speed

I had to use a fast shutter speed (500) to capture the motion of the tool he was using without getting any blur and I sacrificed my ISO (technically I probably could have used a lower ISO, and I do have some photos of the blacksmith with an ISO of 1250).  I think I was playing it a little too safe with the high ISO

I ran into the same situation photographing the animals.  The barn was not well lit and the animals move around a lot.  I just had to use a high shutter speed (500 or 1000) and a low aperture (3.5 for most shots) and I was able to keep the ISO relatively low (around 400 for most shots) .  Again, I was able to use the settings in LightRoom to add color and bring out some contrast in the photos.

Shooting outside was not too hard, especially since I had some cloud cover which prevented sun glare and other issues you can run into when the sun is bright.  However, I have to fess up that I did have a 640 ISO (I should have bumped it down to 100 or so) because I forgot to adjust it after photographing the animals i the barn.  So, always check your settings when you’re changing locations at a photo shoot!

 


Buttonwood Farm (Griswold, CT)

 

Date Of Visit: July 22, 2017

Location: 473 Shetucket Turnpike, Griswold, CT

Cost: Free

Hours:

March 1 – October 30

Current Hours
Mon – Fri
 12pm–9pm
Sat – Sun 11:30am–9pm

Parking: There are about 50 parking spots in the parking lot.  When they are busy, you can park on the side of the busy street (as I had to)

Handicapped Accessible:

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: ice cream shoppe, sunflowers (seasonally), family friendly, cows

Website: Buttonwood Farm

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Once the site of a dairy farm, Buttonwood Farm is so much more now.  Not only do they have a sunflower garden with a maze and a famous ice cream shoppe, they also are the site of one of the more popular charity events each year.

Funny thing is I didn’t find one button the entire time I was there.

During my visit, the sunflowers were in bloom and Buttonwood Farm was holding a fundraiser for their Sunflowers For Wishes charity.

 

 

The dirt trails in the sunflower maze are easy to navigate.  The path is only about half a mile long.  Due to the showy outer ray petals of the sunflowers, bees and other insects, like this beetle, are attracted to the nectar and pollen.

 

 

In addition to the sunflowers, people (big and small) could ride their cow train or tractor tour.  All proceeds, of course, went to the charity.

 

 

At the end of the sunflower maze, there is a hill on a short incline where you can view the sunflowers.

 

There were also some performers at the top off the hill.  A man was playing music and there was a local painter, Jacqueline Jones, who was preparing to paint the sunflower garden.

 

Since it was a charity event, there were charitable organizations like the “Make A Wish” foundation.  They had my dream car there!

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The cows at Buttonwood are so docile and beautiful.

 

Sunflowers aren’t just for people.  Dogs also like to walk along the sunflower maze.

 

Tunken (on the left) is an 8 year old Chocolate Lab mix and Duncan (On the right) is a 3 legged Harrier, fox and hound mix

 

Alie is a 12 year old Mini Pinscher.

 

Ian is a 5 month old Golden Retriever who is in training to be a service guide dog.

Below is a video of the maze at the sunflower garden.  What struck me is, despite the large crowd that was there, how peaceful and quiet the place seemed.  It seems like a wonderful place to go and just have some peace and quiet.

Today’s featured website is Jacqueline Jones’ Paintings From The Open Air.  Jackie was painting a portrait of the sunflower garden during my visit.  You can find her painting of the sunflower garden on her website.

Based out of New Haven, CT, Jackie specializes in painting the nature of the New England area.  She also enjoys painting in other areas outside of New England such as the Colorado and New York areas.  Jackie has also won a variety of awards and has studied with some of the accomplished artists in the New England area.

 


Pomeroy’s Maple Sugar House (Westfield, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 25, 2017

Location Pomeroy’s Sugar House, 491 Russelville Rd, Westfield, MA (about 2 hours west of Boston, MA, 20 minutes west of Springfield, MA)

Hours: Fri – Sun, 7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Cost: Free tour of the maple sugar making house

Handicapped Accessible: The farm is but the restaurant might not be

Highlights: Maple sugar making, breakfast and bruch., cows and calfs

Website: Pomeroy’s Sugar House

 

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It’s March and that can only mean one thing.  Well two things.  Your March Madness bracket sheets are probably as marked up as a fifth grader’s book report  and it’s maple sugar house season. Since this is the peak of maple sugar season, we decided to take a trip to Pomeroy’s Sugar House.  Pomeroy’s Sugar House is a third-generation restaurant and maple sugar making house in Westfield, MA.

Because of the weather conditions during this time of the year, March is considered “Maple Sugar Making Month” in Massachusetts and many of the other states in New England.  The best conditions for collecting and producing maple sugar syrup is when the temperatures are cold at night (below freezing) and mild during the day (in the 40’s and warmer typically).  The season is supposed to last about 5 weeks.

The process begins usually during the beginning of the month of March when the temperatures begin to warm during the days.  The freeze and thaw process alters the pressure in the trees and gets the sap flowing so it can be collected.  Holes are cut into the maple trees with drills and spigots jut out from the trees.  Buckets are then propped up against the trees to collect the sugar   During their growing season, the maple trees create starch.  As the temperature increases, enzymes in the tree transform the starch into sugar during the Spring thaw.  The trees then absorb water through their roots which mixes with the sap and voila you have the makings of a tasty treat that is  considered a emblematic of New England.

Some of the more modernized maple sugar plants use tubing rather buckets to collect the sap.  But,many of the sugar houses still use buckets.  It gives it a more traditional look and it also shows visitors just how the process works step by step.  Each tree can usually yield between 10 to 14 gallons of sap per bucket with some trees having 2 or 3 buckets attached to them.

Even after the sap is collected the process is not complete yet.  Not even close.  Sap is 97.5 % water and only 2.5% sugar.  So it needs to be boiled down to get to the tasty goodness to makw syrup.  Through a long and somewhat arduous process, the sap is processed and turned into syrup with the help of these machines.

The truck below is one of the trucks Pomeroy’s uses to transport their sap from trees at other locations.

Fun fact (unless you’re one of those making the maple sugar): it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

Fun fact number two: the Native Americans introduced the process of making maple syrup to the European settlers.  It was all downhill from there.

The demand for these sugary treats is high.  In fact, the restaurant ran out of maple syrup during our visit.  But, the friendly staff at the sugar house were busy preparing more for later that day.  If you get the chance to go today, the staff at Pomeroy’s said they would have more by 5 p.m.  Or, stop by another day!

There is also a farm in back of Pomeroy’s Sugar House.  The cows were in their pens.

A baby calf was hiding in his or her hut but the calf eventually got out to say hi.

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Weir River Farm (Hingham, MA)

Last week, I posted about my visit to Whitney And Thayer Woods.  I wanted to break the post into two parts because it would have been too big to do as one post and there were quite a few photos I wanted to share.  So, without further ado, Weir River Farm…

As you emerge from the dense Whitney and Thayer Woods, you see a welcome scene: open space and scenic views.

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One of the more endearing features of Weir River Farm are the trees

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There was also a fancy rock formation.

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On a clear day, like the one from the day I visited, you can see Boston and other surrounding areas

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Holy Cow!  Weir River Farm had their cows grazing when I stopped by.

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I saw Hudson, a 6 year old Newfoundland at Weir River Farm

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and this cutie

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