Benefits of Beavers & Bloedel – Field Farm

Benefits of Beavers & Bloedel – Field Farm

Where We Went : Field Farm, Williamstown

 

When We Went : Mid- November

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1 Boot

Trail Length : 4 Miles of Trails

How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

Overview : This former land of the Mohican and Mohawk tribes is tucked away in a valley between the Greylock and Taconic Ranges in southern Williamstown. Subsequently a farm bought by Williams College Librarian Lawrence Bloedel and his wife Eleanor in 1948. Much like the property’s beaver cohabitants, the Bloedel’s forever altered the landscape at Field Farm. Working with architects Edwin Goodell (Main house – 1949) and Ulrich Franzen (the Folly – 1966) the couple built houses on their new property that reflected their interest in modern American Art, which they collected extensively.

A beavers’ reshaping of their environment positively impacts wildlife, increasing habitats for a variety of birds, plants and insects. Again drawing parallels, the Bloedel’s influence shaped a variety of artistic and local cultural institutions, providing necessary support needed to sustain them. Upon Lawrence Bloedel’s death in 1976, a significant part of the couple’s art collection was donated to Williams College Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. The property was bequeathed to the

Thanks to the generosity of the Bloedel’s, visitors to Field Farm can enjoy 4-miles of widely varying trails. Broad fields offer stunning views of Mount Greylock. Woodland trails meander through mature oak and hidden caves. Manicured gardens feature 13 modernist sculptures. And the wetland trail is home to an active beaver colony and their own diverse population of wildlife benefactors.

What We Dug : It was cold. There was snow. And inside, it was warm. But it was also Saturday and the kids were a mess – fighting and yelling and bored and hungry and about to watch their 4th (5th?) hour of TV… A terrific opportunity for an unpopular idea…HIKE TIME!

After spending an eternity donning our layers, (and then undressing and redressing because of course you have to use the bathroom NOW) we were off.

I’m always emphasizing the importance of low/no expectations when hiking with your kids (honestly it’s probably a good rule of thumb anywhere avec kids, sooo be sure to remind me when you see me yelling at mine in the grocery store…) and this trip was a perfect example of the no expectation jackpot. Things were already the pits before we even left. We resigned ourselves to a bad day and more or less threw ourselves to the mercy of the outdoors. And just like any good mother, nature took over and made it all right.

Beavers guys, the blessed beavers.

As you could guess, these beavers were in fact…busy. Their winter survival depends on this legendary work ethic. We watched this guy make trip after endless trip to their “cache” or underwater winter food supply.

The beavers go afield to fell branches of poplar, willow, alder and sugar maple. They carry the branches to the pond and haul them through the water to the cache spot, nearby their lodge. Diving down deep, they push the end of the branches into the mud at the bottom of the pond and weave additional layers of branches into them.

In order to feed a colony of beavers for the winter, the cache needs to consist of at least 1,500 to 2,500 pounds of edible bark, twigs and leaves! A beaver typically eats 2.2 lbs of food a day in the winter months. During our walk around the pond, the kids had a ball finding evidence of our new friend’s handiwork, searching every nook for freshly-chewed stumps and beaver trails.

The diligent beaver soon grew wary of our close observations and communicated his unrest with some powerful tail slaps. Impressed, we surrendered his space, and made our way to the hay field for a

Circling back to the parking area by way of the pond, we said farewell to our beaver pal (he was still at it!) and his impressive lodge. An architectural marvel matched closely by the Folly behind it, both designs masterfully manipulate perspectives. Where the Folly gives the illusion of being smaller on the outside than it reveals on the inside, so does the beaver’s lodge, boasting multiple entrances and a cozy den. In fact, under a blanket of snow, you could accidentally walk right over the top! Keep and eye out for steam escaping from a snow covered hill, chances are it’s occupied.

What We Could Do Without : It’s winter in the Berkshires, so yea, it was cold. As tempting as hibernating inside until the thermometer spikes above freezing can be, you really miss out on this totally transformed environment and all it’s curiosities. Cover is sparse and critters that are still active in the “off season” can be easier to spot. A lot is going on in preparation for the big Spring reveal, you just have to know where to look for it. Check out the links under Resources for some great ideas. Throw your thermals on and get out there! Just make sure there’s a hot cuppa waiting for you on the other side.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: BEAVER, 13 man-made sculptures, white-tail deer, coyote, porcupine, bobcat, turtles, snakes,salamanders, red-winged blackbirds, woodpecker, kingfishers, great blue heron, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, mature oaks, cherry tree, trillium, narcissus, ferns, limestone, marble, schist, natural caves

Must Know Before You Go’s : The

Directions : 554 Sloan Road Williamstown, MA 01267

From Williamstown Center, follow Rt. 7 South towards South Williamstown. At intersection with Rt. 43, take Rt. 43 West and immediately take a right onto Sloan Rd. Proceed 1 mi. to entrance on right. GPS: 42.6646 -73.2617

Website :

Resources :

Winter Nature Study Ideas

Scroll through for more pictures of our Field Farm adventure!

7 Winter Solstice Rituals (+ Free Printable)

 

 

 

 

During the busy holiday months it’s so easy to get caught up in the rush and bustle, swept into the commercial cyclone and miss out on moments to reflect, connect, and renew.

 

 

 

Celebrating the Winter solstice can be the perfect time to remind ourselves that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Connected, yet always changing, constantly renewing.

 

 

 

So what exactly is the solstice?

 

 

 

The word “Solstice” comes from the Latin words: sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “to stand still” as it appeared the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. The Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year.

 

 

 

Through the pages of history, ancient Egyptians, Celts, Hopi, and many others, used the solstice as a time for ritual, reflection, and renewal. For example, in Iran, families often kept fires burning all night to assist in the battle between light and dark forces. 

Creating your own meaningful traditions and celebrations of Winter solstice helps us to cultivate deeper connections – connections to nature, to family and friends, to all the things that matter most to us. It can become a time to feed our spirits and nurture our souls, a much needed break from the frantic preparations we take on during this time of year.

Simple rituals help bring personal meaning and create touchstones. These in turn remind us to open up, to receive and to practice gratitude. Much needed reminders to carry with us into the holiday season.

 

1. Watch The Sun Rise or Set

Brave the outdoors or watch together from a warm window as the sun rises or sets. Share a moment of quiet. Give thanks for both the darkness and the light.

 

 

2. Go on an Evergreen Walk 

Evergreens symbolize the continuity of life, protection, and prosperity. Take a walk and see how many conifers you can identify. Collect some sprigs to take home as a reminder of things yet to come.

Check out the link below for a FREE printable to take with you on your walk!

  

3. Build a Circle of Candlelight

 Each participant takes a candle and sits together in the darkness for a moment, offering gratitude. Let each person share their hopes for themselves, the world, or family and friends, and light their candle. Sit in quiet for a moment before blowing out together. You may also choose to light a larger candle in the middle to symbolize your unity in the coming year.

  

4. Walk Under The Moon

Winter nights can be so exciting to take a walk. The moon has a calming energy but a nighttime adventure is thrilling at any age. Let your senses adjust to the darkness and moonlight. Smell and feel the cold air, listen for noisy quiet, test your night vision. The world gets dark early in winter, especially on the solstice, so even young children can participate, make memories, and not miss bedtime by too much.

 What better night to venture out than the longest night of the year?

  

5. Decorate an Outdoor Edible Yule Tree

 Share a ritual founded on love, respect, and caring for nature. Making a modern-day yule tree is simple, just decorate a living tree outside with food for the animals. Bestow some blessings on the critters sharing this chilly winter with us. Check out these great ideas for edible ornaments at Wilder Child.

  

6. Make a List of Things to Let Go

Ask yourself: What am I ready to let go of and leave in the dark? Then grab a piece of paper and write down anything that comes to mind. Every hurt, injustice, judgment against yourself or another, no matter how big or small. Keep writing until you feel lighter.

Take a moment to honor these messages that the darkness shares with you, and allow this awareness to shed light upon the darkest parts of yourself. If you feel comfortable, throw the paper into a (safely lit) fire, and let the flames transform your darkness into light.

  

7. Set Some Solstice Intentions 

You don’t have to wait til January 1st! Instead of a resolution, focus on your intentions. An intention is a thing, idea, habit, etc., that you would like to bring into your life.Whether you want to spend more time listening, watching, or being present, choosing intentions is a wonderful way to honor the slower, quieter rhythm of the season, just in time too!

 

One of my personal rituals is to read some poetry or a passage from a favorite author.

This one, from Hal Borland, brings the magic of the solstice to light. 

 

“As far back as the race memories and ancient legends of mankind run, the Winter solstice has been a time of questioning and wonder, followed by rediscovery of basic certainties. To see the daylight steadily shorten and the nights lengthen and deepen with cold, was to feel the approach of doom. To see the sun stand still and then swing north once more was and still is, to know that the cold gray of Winter must pass, that hope and belief are neither futile nor foolish. Hope is easy and belief is simple in a warm, green, world. Winter is the time when man most needs the securities of unshaken certainty, whether it is the Winter of the soul or the harsh Winter of the year. And as surely as the Winter solstice brings some understanding of his universe, the spiritual solstice brings to man some understanding of himself. He seeks securities, and the more he seeks the more he must know that there are no new securities anywhere, but only the old ones rediscovered. 

So comes the time of rediscovery. For though I may define security in a dozen different ways, the ultimate definition leads to the inner man, to myself. There must lie that certainty which gives life its meaning ; and there also lies doubt, the depth of cold and darkness. I must know Winter if I am to know Spring and Summer. And here is Winter, with its own wondering and its quiet and its own discoveries, its solstice and its turn.”

Happy Winter Solstice!