Saturday, July 3, 2010

Preserve RI calls out to local heritage societies in the area to unite

Smithfield Magazine published an interesting article in 2010 in which Suzanna Prull, staff member for Preserve Rhode Island, talks about her vision for sustainability in northern Rhode Island.  Her ideas include a bond among heritage societies.  Click on the words "Smithfield Magazine" for the full text.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lambs and Lessons Learned

From Lambing to Knitting: Recreating and Living the Life of our Original Rhode Islanders

Although a brisk wind swirls around the Job Armstrong Store, Polly Hopkins, with her husband, Kevin in the background, is enthusiastic as she lifts her presentation materials into place on the folding table during the general meeting of the Glocester Heritage Society on Monday, March 15, 2010.   Her blonde hair hangs shoulder-length and touches her light green turtleneck and pea colored down vest.
Nearby, the Chepachet River rises and makes its near flood-stage presence known, as the pump in the JAS basement pulses and whirls in five second intervals to remove the constant flow of incoming water.
“It’s a basic knowledge, a basic craft, of what all people in the colonial period knew,” offers GHS president, Edna Kent.  “She knows more about this than any of us.”
A banner recognizing the “2007 North American International Livestock Exposition” hangs below a display of hand-rolled yarns, woven blankets, and a wooden sheep.
“My great-great-grandfather bought the property in the 1800s.  He fixed up the barn.  I grew up down the road.  It was originally 180 acres, and they sold a lot to the Glocester Land Trust. I think they have 25 acres remaining,” Ms. Hopkins begins slowly but deliberately.
“We raise them mainly for show.  We have Lincolns, border Leicesters, and natural colored.  I do a lot with 4H.  I grew up in 4H and my kids grew up in 4H.  When I have time, I spin yarn. We use the mini-mill in Putnam. I’m involved in -- I don’t know how many organizations.  One is the Rhode Island Sheep Cooperative.  The 4H kids help us in June, when they bag it. It goes down to South Carolina to be washed and to Massachusetts to be woven and made into blankets, and it comes back to Warwick to have the edging put on.  My parents pick it up, and it goes out to all the cooperative farmers.  We also send the wool to spinners.. The better quality fleece which is better to spin.”
Polly points to a picture on her display board.  “This is the supreme champion at the Maryland Festival. It’s kinda like winning the Superbowl.”
“Fifty-eight lambs have been born in the last month at our farm," she continues.  "My  husband and I both work full time. Our usual normal day is to get up at 5:30-6:00, and, hopefully, if they’re going to lamb, they lamb before we leave for work.” She is matter-of-fact about her dual careers.
“We put little tags in their ears.  We have to give them shots.  We dock their tails.  They go down to the barn with the other moms and babies, and then we wean them.  At that point, we decide who’s good for show, who’s good for meat”-- the audience laughs --- “and who needs shearing.  We skirt the fleeces – taking out all the dirt --- and we get ready for the Rhody show.   We show sheep starting the last week in July.  Our daughter, who is now 28, is co-chairman of the show.  She lives in New York and is thinking about taking some sheep with her out to New York, as she misses the sheep.  Our son, who always complained about doing the sheep, volunteered yesterday to do some of the computer and website.  It all comes around.”
Polly describes the atmosphere at the livestock shows.  “They look for straight backs, good feet, and good mouths as breed characteristics.  We shear twice a year, with the border Leicesters or Lincolns, because nine months is the ideal length.  They have to have nine inches of wool to show, so we shear twice a year.  They have a real curly fleece, like the sheep in Babe or Charlotte’s Webb.  Full grown ewes may go up to 200 pounds for a show animal.”  The audience listens attentively and absorbs the new knowledge about agriculture, competition, and practicality.
“ We have about eight bottle lambs; we just had a group of triplets, and because the mom doesn’t have milk for three, we have milk replacement,” she instructs and smiles.
“We have two llamas to protect the sheep.  They have kept coyotes away so far. We weren’t really sure if they were guard animals or not."  She goes on to describe a time when these new llamas had an opportunity to contribute to their new community.  "In the field, there was nobody to be seen, and one got all those 25 ewes and babies into the barn.”  The llamas were a core part of the family from then on.
“We have Tuft’s Ambulatory that comes out from Woodstock. One girl had come from California, and she had so many clothes on in our cold, she couldn’t hardly move.  She was very good,” Polly says as the audience listens to the howl around the GHS headquarters and grimaces.
“We like to raise our own. The mothers are our own lambs.  We like to raise our own, so we know the genes,” Polly ends to a fully-felt round of applause from the audience.  The gestalt of old and new and, with it, the contradictions between the complex lives we lead in contemporary society and the favorable reminders of the lives our ancestors once had experienced were fully in view at the GHS this blustery night.
 Members of the the Hopkins Farm at the Big E in 2009.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Little Pay, Lots of Rewards: Grant Writer Wanted

Are you interested in this time of fiscal constraints to intern in a development position that will enhance your resume?  If so, please contact the Glocester Heritage Society.  We need a grant writer!  We will be happy to work alongside you to help you build your writing abilities, your persuasive argumentative skills, and your knowledge of the various components necessary to compile grant proposal.

What does an actual grant look like for a non-profit organization like the Glocester Heritage Society?  It is a plea to a fund that is designated by corporations and philanthropists for the good of the community.  A non-profit grant has many components, including but not limited to a description of the project, the audience it will benefit, the proposed timeline, and the financial considerations --- step-by-step --- that will comprise the project from beginning to end.

If you’re interested in pursuing a new avenue in finances, or if you have existing economic skills and would like to extend your reach and altruism to the Glocester community, please contact the GHS.  It will be good for you and for the good for our community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Save the Date! Announcing the Glocester Heritage Society Gala

Wednesday April 28,  2010

Dorr Rebellion Museum Gala

Henry and Glennis Beltram:
Citizens Extraordinaire

Silent Auction
Presentation of Awards

A Great, Fun Night

Contact Person:  Rose Lavoie


Monday, January 18, 2010

Candlelight Shopping

Traffic lines up and down both sides of Route 44 in Chepachet, Rhode Island.  A sprinkling of tiny lights across window fronts contradicts the blue and red flashing lights from the Glocester Police Department as they slow cars and usher visitors to the Village into crosswalks.  Pedestrians’ footsteps are a pattern of crunching and squeaking, as snow pinches the sidewalks.  Cigar smoke wafts and dances on the 33 degree breeze that pulses off the Chepachet River.
It is a Thursday evening in December, and Chepachet is alive with the annual celebration of holiday buying sprees, called Candlelight Shopping.

White bags called luminaries are flickering with their sheltered candles before the Job Armstrong Store (JAS), the headquarters of the Glocester Heritage Society.  The two 7 x 7 paned windows that flank the JAS front door are wrapped in green roping and decorated with red ribbon.  The JAS heavy door eases open, and a crowd of about 35 people come into view.  The notes of live folk music welcome in visitors and create a pulsing, upbeat, and carefree backdrop to the conversations and laughter.  As the notes of the guitar, accordion, and hand-brushed drum grow louder, voices build, too, in a gestalt of warmth and sharing. 

There is no corporate presence, no neon glow of advertisement, no persuasive and slick slogans. A spray of silver queen, a basket of holiday dried herbs, a tabletop Christmas tree adorned with ornaments of silk threads:  these are some of the many authentic, handcrafted items for sale this candlelit evening. These are Rhode Islander artists cherishing the talents that have been handed down by generations of Rhode Islanders.

Plaid-covered tablecloths provide a backdrop to wool products from Chepachet Sheep Farms.  A woman with gray and black speckled hair knits.  Her hands are covered with black, arm-length pseudo-mittens known as wristers, which allow her fingers to peek through.  Seldom Seen Farm is here, too, as are the Crafts by Danielle that include hand-painted birdhouses and button bouquets.

Across the room, decorative bottles wrapped in tiny white lights and wound with red or white ribbons sparkle and beckon from the rear of the JAS. Tea-stained, handsewn pigs perch in their own wooden chairs while dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting best attire of crimson pantaloons. Of the many items for sale are cottony-bearded Santas, round-faced snowmen, matching cap and scarf sets, quilts, and decorative wine bottles. 

 A stern-faced portrait of Job Armstrong stares down at shoppers.  The oversized GHS flag stretches across a broad wall.  A hand-crafted pine cone wreath hangs in celebration of season.   Edna Kent, president of the Glocester Heritage Society, is dressed in a dapper red knit scarf and matching vest.  She roams the room, smiling at guests, offering a historical commentary, and remembering visitors' family members.  Roland Rivet, membership co-chair and Candlelight Shopping vendor, looks outward with hands resting on his hips and a satisfied grin on his face.  The wrought iron chandelier overhead bathes him and his antique coins in clear light.
Outside, Santa looks a bit underfed, which he ascribes to the necessity of meeting the needs of the economy.  The JAS "Open" flag waves bruskly behind him as he hands out coupons the Clementine's Closet up the way.  The sounds of life, love, and laughter surround him as a group of happy holiday shoppers moves down the sidewalk.
"Everybody get in the picture with Santa!" a woman beckons with glee.
"Santa!  Cheese!" they cry into the glistening night.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Welcome to the Glocester Heritage Society blog

With the start to a new decade of the new millenium, it seems fitting at the Glocester Heritage Society to introduce social networking to our members and community.

This blog will be a source of information, updates, announcements, opportunities, and connections. It will allow us to share ideas quickly and efficiently.

If you would like to become a follower of this blog, all you have to do is to add a comment with your e-mail address and name. We'll send you a note each time we add a new post to the blog. Stay in touch with your local friends, neighbors, and community through the Glocester Heritage Society.
And please feel free to send along any stories, events about which you'd like us to know, or ideas you have for the evolving Glocester Heritage Society.