July 2017 archive

Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins

By Kristina

The last time I came to the Woodstock, Vermont area was to run the 2010 Covered Bridges Half Marathon. My husband Ethan has also run this race several times (before it started to sell out within minutes), making it a racecation with a big group from Cambridge Running Club (CRC). Seven years later, we both came back with a big CRC group. But instead of chasing half marathon PR’s, we all chased our kids around Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins in nearby Hartland, Vermont.

The CRC connection continues: Fat Sheep Farm was founded by Todd, one of our oldest CRC friends, and his fiancee Suzy. Both of them live there with their 3-month old daughter. Todd and Suzy both changed careers to follow their passions for food, farming, and travel. Over the past few years, they found the site, set up the pastures and fields, added infrastructure such as solar panels, began growing crops, added animals, and built five rental cabins. They currently have three Nigerian dwarf goats (Billy, Brady, and Gronk), three ewes (Brie, Blue, and Feta), two rams (Mr. Socks and Manchego), one rooster, and sixteen chickens. They sell fruits, vegetables, and eggs at local farmer’s markets. Suzy makes cheese at nearby Cobb Hill Farm.

The cabins that are perfect for a weekend getaway (whether you are going as a couple, friend group, or family). All of the spacious, fully-stocked cabins overlook fields and mountains. The smallest cabin size (Sunrise or Sunset) worked well for one CRC couple and their 3-month-old. When our son Parker is older, we’d appreciate the biggest cabins (Lull Brook or Four Corners), which have one bedroom and a loft. Our other friends’ 8-year-old twins loved going up the spiral staircase and sleeping in the loft.

We stayed in Ascutney, which was perfect for two parents + one 2-year-old. Parker had ample space to play with toys in the living room, and there was just enough space for us to place his pack and play at the foot of our bed in the bedroom. Since our home baby monitor is not wifi-enabled, we bought an Amcrest wifi camera to use as a travel baby monitor. We connected it to the cabin wifi and placed it on one of the small kitchen stools so that we could view him on our phones.

We enjoyed cooking in the kitchen, and especially appreciated the eggs and homemade bread that Suzy and Todd left for us (to make a triple-local breakfast sandwich, add Cobb Hill cheese).

We had planned to stop at Hannaford on the way up to stock up on groceries, but ended up skipping that because a traffic jam added about an hour to our trip. This actually turned out fine because we went out for two meals. We made coffee, eggs, toast with peanut butter or butter, and a green chili stew with beans and rice for the other meals. We packed a bunch of HappyTot pouches, Kirkland applesauce pouches, Harvest Crisp snap peas, Ella’s Kitchen nibblers, and Kirkland cheddar ducks as backup toddler food. Parker sat at the small kitchen table to eat his meals and we ate at the kitchen island (which was also perfect for doing a jigsaw puzzle–tall enough to keep little prying hands away).

Each morning, Suzy and Todd invite guests to take part in feeding and herding the animals. The older kids loved walking the sheep down to the pasture, putting hay in the goats’ cage, giving the goats and chickens grain, and collecting eggs from the chicken coops. Parker liked saying hello to the sheep in the barn and saying “bye bye goats!” as they ran to their pen, but he was bit skittish about feeding them or walking into the pasture. Later in the day, he warmed up to feeding the chickens some overgrown lettuce from the fields after watching the other kids do it.

Suzy and Todd also give tours of the fields and explain what crops they are planting. This week, we saw zinnias, potatoes, decorative corn, lettuce, and much more on Parker’s second “CRC visit to Farmer Todd’s fields.” Back in April 2015, Ethan and I (and Parker, in utero) went with two other CRC friends to Todd’s urban farm in Lowell to help him sift compost and take it out to the fields with wheelbarrows. It was a fun contrast to see fully grown crops (with a fully grown baby running around them). One of our friends got truly into the farm-to-table experience by helping Todd weed the potato fields and making dinner using farm vegetables.

During the day, cornhole, ladder toss, and horseshoes are all available for lawn festivities. Parker learned how to play cornhole from Todd and liked “helping” us play against each other. He loved kicking his soccer ball around the lawn, examining every single rock he could find, and inspecting Todd’s truck.

Lots of activities are just a short drive away, such as picking blueberries at Clay Hill Corners. We had a great time going as a group, and came back with 5.8 pounds of blueberries!

Cobb Hill Farm is also close by. We did a short hike and bought some delicious cheese.At night, we loved sitting around the fire pit in Adirondack chairs. We recommend bringing s’mores fixings and bug spray. We can’t wait to go back for another Vermont farm getaway!

Connect with Fat Sheep Farm:
Website | Instagram | Facebook | TripAdvisor

Book on AirBnB:
Sunset
Sunrise
Ascutney
Lull Brook
Four Corners

summer reflection: on habits and the teaching-family connection

By Kristina

The 2016-2017 school year is finally over (as of June 28), and I’m now in the Brandeis teacher leadership program summer component for most of July. This year has been incredibly rewarding in terms of growth as a teacher and as a leader, but I haven’t quite figured out how to reflect on that growth or figure out how to just sit down and write!

Changing habits is an interesting beast. The “run at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays” habit finally gelled for me this year, when I tricked myself into running before work so that I could hang out with my husband and son after work. That habit wasn’t as difficult to start as some others because I’ve been running since 1995, so I had some subconscious muscle memory going there. This year I finally wrote my first DonorsChoose project proposals after years of thinking “no one will fund that” or “I don’t have time to write that.” Turns out that encouraging words from a few colleagues and promising one that I’d pay him $5 if I didn’t post by the end of the day finally got me to do it. So, it’s time to trick myself into blogging and tweeting regularly (likely by telling friends “I’ll give you $5 if I don’t write this blog post”). I often store ideas in Evernote and say “I’ll blog about that” but then abandon it in favor of lesson planning or teacher leadership work, so here goes!

On September 7, 2016 (the first day of school), my dad wrote to me:
“We are confident that you are a good teacher like your late grandfather Romulo. I remember him walking miles to reach his assigned elementary schools and people always addressed him “Maestro”. Teaching is a noble profession and it is rewarding to see the learning eyes of the young. There used to be a poem titled the “ Clay of Youth” which enunciates how the youth is molded. It is a beautiful poem, see attached.”

I took a piece of plastic clay, And idly fashioned it one day, And as my
fingers pressed it, still it bent and yielded to my will.

I came again when days were past, The bit of clay was hard at last, Its
early impress still it bore, But I could change the form no more.

I took a piece of Living clay, And gently formed it day by day, And molded
with my power and art, A boy’s soft and yielding heart.

I came again when years were gone, It was a man I looked upon, My early
impress still he bore, And I could change him nevermore.

Two days later, this daycare newsletter picture of my son “teaching” his younger infant friends about the sun, clouds, and a heart made me smile. My dad commented “It is so nice to see Parker acting as a teacher! It is in his blood.”

That made me wonder more about our family history of teaching. Per my dad, both my grandparents were “educated by American teachers known as “Thomasites” sent by the United States in 1901. The Thomasites taught, English, agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts (sewing, crocheting and cooking), manual trading, mechanical drawing, freehand drawing and athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis and others). This was the curriculum in 1902 – 1935.” My grandfather completed secondary education and became a teacher. My grandmother completed elementary school and then went on to raise seven children. I’d assumed she had been a teacher too because of her reputation as the town matriarch, but it turns out that she was the OG “mom-preneur” back in the day. She sent my dad’s two oldest sisters to Catholic school in a neighboring gown by managing my grandfather’s salary and earning extra income. According to my dad, “on occasion, she had to mortgage our rice lands if she was short of cash for school fees. She was very good in raising supplemental income by raising live stocks, like pigs, chickens, turkey, ducks, goats, cows and grow exotic orchids and beautiful potted roses for a good price to the wealthy folks in our town. She was able to own and operate a small convenient store which provided additional income to her family. Because we were barely making a good threshold of standard of living, our birthday celebration was to plant a fruit tree to commemorate the occasion. If we are not around, she will plant the fruit tree for us. The land is filled with fruit bearing trees which provide income from the sale of fruits.”

We don’t have any pictures of my grandfather Romulo teaching, but my dad sent this 1982 picture of my aunt Betty (one of his six siblings) who became a teacher.

Parker’s been to my 106-year-old school (as an infant during my 2015 maternity leave), so he’s used to visiting historical school buildings. I hope that one day he could also see the schools in which his great-aunt and great-grandfather taught (if they still exist), and to see the fruit trees from long ago.

One of my Brandeis classmates told me “we can’t turn our kids into what we want. They already have personalities and temperaments. We can get to know *who* they are.” Parker is still in the “moldable” clay stage and I look forward to learning what kind of learner he will be. As I head into the second week of my teacher leadership program, I hope to retain some of that moldable quality and keep an open mind for my tenth year of teaching.