Thursday, November 8, 2012

Town of Colrain Website

The Town of Colrain, Massachusetts launched a new website on November 6, 2012. A photo of Woodslawn Farm is featured at the top of many of the pages.

This is the view from Wilson Hill Road looking southeast toward the pasture and fields. The foreground shows the gladiolas blooming in the garden.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

West Haymow

West Haymow (click photo to display full screen)
Ray Purington took this photo in early September, 2012. He was standing in the haymow over the holding pen and looking to the west over the sawdust pen into the west haymow. This is a great shot that captures the geometry of the post and beam construction.

Herbert said this part of the barn was built in the early to mid 1920's when he was a baby/toddler. There used to be one of his small handprints cast in the concrete in the manger of the heifer stalls near this part of the barn. It may still be visible if you know where to look.

The barn was built by his grandfather, Orren Davenport Purington, and Orren's construction crew. Herbert recalls being told that the hemlock posts and beams were cut in the "North Pasture" (between Cal Coombs Road and Thompson Road) by a man named Willie Smith.

Detail of steel rail and pulley in the peak of the barn
The steel rail and pulley system in the peak of the barn was used to lift loose dry hay from a wagon parked below and then rolled to either side to drop the hay down to the mow. An online reproduction catalog showing hay unloading tools of that time period may be viewed here: 1918 Louden Hay Unloading Tools and Litter and Feed Carriers Catalogue. Someone should climb to the peak and inspect the old pulley and see if it is stamped with the Louden name. Bob Purington says the old hay hooks that were used with this pulley are still on the farm.

The peak is about 30 feet above the floor. There was a heavy rope tied to the steel track that hung nearly to the floor with a large knot on the bottom that many of us enjoyed using as a swing. When Herbert was looking at this photo he recalled that on his 50th birthday he climbed the rope hand-over-hand  to the top, not once but twice!  Dave Purington remembered seeing Herbert climb the rope and grab the steel rail and hang for a few moments before sliding back down the rope.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zip Line

Tom reminded me about the pond's zip line:
Many childhood afternoons were spent swimming, jumping off the zip line, and chasing around on old inner tubes. And nobody even came close to drowning, as I recall. But I still have scars from too-shallow dives and a first zip line ride of the season that ended badly with a broken rope
The cable was very thick---more than 1/2". I think the cable was at least 3/4", but probably not an 1". I don't know what it was used for before we repurposed it for recreational uses. I think I found it coiled near the junkpile. We used the Farmall A tractor to haul it between the trees. I remember climbing high up in the beech tree and using a ratchet wrench to tighten the cable clamps. I wanted less sag in the cable, but it was too heavy and the final effort was by hand with me up in the tree. I was probably in high school, so summer of 1968 to 1971.
 Update 8/15/12  -  Bob wrote:
I suspect that I was the last “adult” to use the zip line. All our kids, and Joyce too, were there for a lesson on zip line technique. After tugging on the line to assure its soundness, I climbed the same rickety ladder, leaned back and launched forward. The rope broke at the pulley attachment and I landed on just about everything in 18” of water. Standing ovation from the crowd and I hurt for days.
The tree is now in Ray’s living room. Do you remember the 2x4s spiked to the tree to keep the cable from growing into it? The spikes cost us a 100 bucks worth of saw teeth when Healy hit them. Gorgeous flooring, though.
Also, I think the cable was 5/8".
Update 8/15/12  -  Jim wrote:
Sounds pretty accurate and probably Dad helped a bit. Can't recall clearly what we called it but something edgy such as "ride the pulley!" 
Also there was a stable platform about 3' wide and 7' long that extended into the pond a foot or so above the water, covered with burlap.
 The "zip line" (we didn't call it a zip line back in those days) was a steel cable suspended between a beech tree on the East side of the pond and a maple tree on the West side. (Is that the maple tree that ended up as flooring in Ray's living room after it fell into the pond a few winters ago?) A  6 inch pulley and a thick rope with a knot on the end hung from the cable.

A wooden stepladder leaned against the beech tree. You would grab the rope, climb the ladder, and launch yourself from the top step for an exhilarating 3 second ride to the middle of the pond. I remember the chattering-whirring sound made by the pulley's wheel as it rolled along the cable. The first 10 feet of the ride was over land and your feet were 4 or 5 feet off the ground so you held on tightly.

The standard ride ended with a feet-first drop into the deepest part of the pond. The more adventurous riders would turn upside down before releasing, or do a flip in mid-air, similar to the dismounts you saw in the Olympic gymnastics last night. OK, maybe not quite like the Olympic dismounts, but you get the picture. (Speaking of pictures, does anybody have photos of the zip line?)

If you chose not to drop, your momentum would carry you past the middle of the pond and up the cable, stopping just before hitting the maple tree, gently swinging over a shallow, mucky corner of the pond. Then gravity would pull you slowly back down toward the vertex of the cable's parabola. You eased to a stop and had to release your grip and plunge into the water or pull yourself hand-over-hand along the slivery cable back to the ladder.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Farm Pond Revival

Aerial view of the pond from Google Maps, September 2011.
The pond at the farm was dug out of a swampy area about 50 years ago to serve as a source of water in case of fire. Fortunately it was never used for that purpose, but it was a great place to swim, fish, catch frogs, and skate for many years. As time went by the pond slowly accumulated silt and decomposing leaves making it unusable for swimming.  In recent years most of the fish also disappeared.

There had been talk for years of cleaning it out. Permits were obtained and two years ago during a dry summer the work was scheduled but never done as heavy rains returned just prior to the start date. This year's dry summer provided another opportunity and the job was done last week.

Photo taken from the end near the barn. looking north.

Photo taken from the end near the house, looking south.
The original pond was dug by Wayne Hillman, founder of W. R. Hillman & Sons. The work last week was done by Dick and Rob Hillman (the "& Sons"), current owners of the business, assisted by employees Mark Purington and Tom Hall.

Mark asked me to guess how deep I thought the pond will be after it refills. I estimated 10 feet. His measurement with the laser level showed it will be 8-1/2 feet deep when filled to the overflow pipe.

They also installed a standpipe on the south end of the pond to allow year-round access to the water by firetrucks.

Update 8/13/2012 - Runoff from the 2 1/2" rainfall on Saturday evening (8/11/12) has filled the pond to the overflow culvert. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Singing at Dawn" Collaboration

Ticket stubs

Ten tanka from The Trees Bleed Sweetness have been set to music by Alice Parker, an internationally famous composer with Western Massachusetts roots. Her suite of songs, "Singing at Dawn," was premiered as part of the Mohawk Trail Concerts Summer Festival on July 20 and 21, 2012, in Charlemont, Massachusetts. Gail Blache-Gill, mezzo-soprano, was accompanied by flautist Christopher Krueger and percussionist Sharif Mamoun.

Program cover

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Woodslawn Farm is a family farm in Colrain, Massachusetts. The primary business of the farm is the sale of milk produced by their 35 cow herd.

A 360 degree video tour of the farm.

Holding a bird's nest,
the oldest pear tree on the farm –
who can remember
how sweet its fruit
when we were young and wild