We couldn't believe how packed the parking lot was when we pulled in...we kept our eyes peeled for a car pulling out, and found a spot amidst many New York plates. The fantastic weather seemed to have brought everyone out in droves - 85 degrees under a beautiful blue and sunny Berkshire sky.
At the entrance, we met the very pleasant Laura Wolf, Director of Marketing, who helped us find our way to the Behind the Scenes tour in progress (my daughter brought along two of her friends).
I think this post will be different than some of my past ones, because we have 186 photos!!! So, I think I'll put lots of photos with some words, instead of the other way around. To get an expanded view of anything, just click on a photo.
Here, my daughter learns how to milk a real cow (as opposed to the fake one she "milked" when she was younger, in the Shaker Discovery Room)! The very funny and knowledgeable Bill Mangiardi skillfully oversees the whole operation...he named this cow Luna because she was born under a lunar eclipse. All the girls tried it, and even I was able to get the milk to squirt out. Imagine having the job of milking the cows before modern milk machines came about?
The girls have handfulls of a corn and molasses mixture that Bill gave them to feed to the sheep. Feeling little sheep lips nibbling against your palm is quite a sensation - pleasant, actually. And, not to worry - no teeth, no biting - just gentle nuzzling. These sheep had recently been shorn. You can see an adorable little lamb on the right - they don't eat the grain mixture yet...too little. We also got to hold a soft lamb...it was like holding a baby. (For all mom readers... afterwards, all hands were cleaned and sanitized with supplies handily provided by fellow tour guide Todd Burdick.)
The charming Rachel shows us Ash, the baby ox she has been raising and training (love her jaunty cap!). The calf is named Ash after the type of wood used frequently at HSV, and it's partner is named Stone, for the stone used in the round barn. The ox begins its training at birth, and the trainer herself feeds the calf from a bottle. The bond between the two must be quite close for a successful working relationship. If I remember correctly, Ash is about 500 lbs. here, but will grow to be about 2,500 lbs!
My daughter and her friends say Rachel is a schoolmate - quite impressive animal husbandry skills for one so young.
The girls hold the softest sweetest baby chick, while Bill is holding it's mother...a Peking Duck, which was also beautiful and very soft. The mom was a gorgeous downy yellow color with a long slick orange bill...right out of a Beatrix Potter book. The chick wasn't the least bit worried, and actually seemed to nod off to sleep in the girl's hands. A little bit later, we saw LOTS of adorable chicks in the Discovery Room incubator.
Peeking into one of the many sliding doors in the chicken house for eggs. Sadly, there were none in any of them at the moment. Bill told us that if we found one, we could reach in and take it home. He told us that they are quite tasty and have a much more yellow yolk than a store-bought egg.
Lots of little (and big) piggies! The girls actually held one of the
little oinkers, and we discovered that the hair on their bodies is quite bristly to the touch. The sows were covered with a pretty tannish color hair; they weigh about 250 pounds!
Tip: if you ever take part in a pig-catching contest, here is the key to winning...grab the pig by the hind leg. If you grab around the middle like most people do, the pig will wriggle out like a sausage, but if you grab the hind leg, it can't get away, yet it won't hurt it.
The girls help each other try on the Shaker girl outfits in the Discovery Room. It's nice that there are so many sizes available, so all ages can have a go at this. Love the pretty wooden hangers with string hooks, that hang on wooden pegs...just like the Shakers would have used. Their immediate impression was wondering how Shaker girls could work, or even live, in these clothes, because they were hot and the long sleeves were confining.
The girls thought that the Shaker boy clothes looked much more fun to wear, and liked trying on various tunics, vests and hat styles. They wondered if men wore pants under the knee-length tunics, as there weren't any pants in sight. The girls think they didn't. I think they probably did!
Todd teaches one of the girls to use the foot pedal on the hand lathe (Todd - my apologies if I'm giving this cool tool the wrong name!). It is a replica of a Shaker original...the user sits on the seat, puts the item to be shaped under the clamp, presses a foot pedal, and the item is clamped in tight. Then, a pretty hand planer (even the most mundande and utilitarian Shaker tool is pretty) is pulled across the item until it is the desired shape. Todd has worked at HSV for 25 years or more, and has lots of knowledge to share about the Shakers. We all agreed that if we lived here, we would hope that the woodworking house was our assigned task...it just smells so good, and has a cozy well-worn feel.