Washington Park at Tulip Time - Color as Far as the Eye Can See

Thursday, April 28, 2016
There's probably not a more colorful place in springtime than Albany's Washington Park just before Tulipfest.  We had a chance to check out the colors today, a week before the big festivities and already the park was bursting with color.

yellow tulips

Almost everyone who lives in these parts is familiar with Tulipfest, but I wonder how many know of it's history.  I know I didn't - at least until I did a little research today.  According to the Tulip Festival's official website, on May 2, 1948 Charles Mooney wrote an editorial in the Knickerbocker Newspaper, "Albany has a soft spot in it's heart for tulips.  Following that editorial, Mayor Erastus Corning got a city ordinance passed declaring the tulip Albany's official flower.  That was in July of 1948.  He didn't stop there, he sent a letter to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands requesting a tulip variety be named as Albany's official tulip.  The Queen accepted his request and named the 'Orange Wonder' the tulip of Albany.  Mayor Corning then named a committee to create a festival celebrating Albany, America's oldest Dutch settlement, with tulips.   And this is how the story goes......

To quote their website: " May 14, 1949, Mayor Corning read the Tulip Festival  Proclamation to announce the premiere of our tradition. Opening ceremonies continued on State Street where members of the community scrubbed the street. This is a continuation of a tradition in the Netherlands wherein the streets are scrubbed prior to celebration. A King and Queen reigned over this first celebration and danced the night away at the Tulip Festival Ball, first held at the Washington Avenue Armory. Tulips could be seen in every small park in the city with the most colorful and vast array on display in Washington Park.  The tradition that exists in our festival is as rich as the tradition that exists in our Dutch heritage. The festival has evolved over the past 58 years, but still holds its roots in history. Pinksterfest was added to the venue in 1950 featuring crafts, food and entertainment that excited the involvement of the entire community. The tradition of the "Scrubbing of State Street" to open the festival, and the crowning of Albany's Tulip Queen still remain today."

Now that you know how it began, here's the real star of the tulip show - the beautiful tulips, already showing off a week before their big event!

red and yellow tulips

Don't forget to click on individual photos for a better look!

fringed peach tulips

wide view of Washington Park

Moses in Washington Park

Yellow Frittelarias

red and yellow tulips

Red fringed tulips

Yellow and pink tulips

masses of tulips

tulips everywhere

Tulip Festival officially happens on May 7th and 8th, but if you can't wait, or aren't interested in fighting the crowds, there's a lot to enjoy right now in Washington Park.   Just another example of the great stuff happening right here in our state capital.

Thanks for reading and please come back soon to Life As I See It where you never know where you'll find me, but you can be assured I'll have my camera in hand just waiting to collect life's precious moments!

A Happy Place to Live & Grow - Wing & A Prayer Farm

Monday, April 25, 2016
In a little corner of Southern Vermont, there exists a happy place, a place where storybook tales are made.  It's a place filled with creatures, large and small, of fur and feather with whimsical names like Padme and Kalinka, Blossom and Peter Pan, Lilac and Paisley, Malcolm and McDuff, Poppy and Polka Dot.  It's a place where everyone feels loved and even the smallest, or weakest is treasured and nurtured.  Although happiness and joy abound, some days are filled with sadness and heartache - because at Wing and A Prayer Farm, every living thing is celebrated and when one of their own passes through the Pearly Gates, their loss is mourned.  Death is not taken for granted, not just something to be expected.  This is no ordinary farm, in fact, it is so special that I've struggled for days to find the words to satisfactorily tell this story.  Even now, I'm not sure I have, but let me try.
Wing and a Prayer Farm

For the past few months, I've been following the Instagram, Facebook and blog of a beautiful farm in Shaftsbury, Vt -  where farm animals are referred to by name, where creatures great and small seem to live an idyllic life in a place you might find described in a James Herriot novel.  When I reached out to Tammy White - the 'Mom' of every living creature at Wing & A Prayer Farm - this past January, she suggested I visit in Spring during lambing season.  I knew from reading Tammy's blog and seeing photos on Instagram that we were right in the middle of it now, so when I contacted Tammy last week and she had some time to show us around.....you can imagine my excitement!

Tammy and her husband, Jim, bought the property in 1989.  Like most passions do, things evolved and today the 20-acre farm is home to 6 alpacas, 50+ sheep, 12 angora goats, 50 chickens, ducks, a peacock, two miniature donkeys, 7 cats, 3 dogs, an American Guinea Hog and a Lionhead bunny and honeybees.  In addition, two horses and a Shetland pony also call the farm home.  Tammy and Jim happen to also have three 'human' kids who were lucky enough to grow up barefoot on the farm.  I say lucky... first because I quoted Tammy and second because it's plain to see that any living thing would be lucky to spend it's life on this farm.  It takes only minutes to witness how much love Tammy has for each and every animal and seconds to see how much love they have for her.
Wing and A Prayer Farm in Vermont
Tammy and two members of the family.
The Whites raise a few varieties of sheep - Shetland, Cormo, Cotswold and Merino.  And no.....I can't tell you which is which.  They also raise Angora Goats, who Tammy lovingly refers to as the Muppets.

Wing and a Prayer Farm

When we visited, 10 lambs had already joined the farm this lambing season.  We were able to quietly visit some, so as not to upset the Mama's.  Cute doesn't come close to adequately describing these little bleating creatures (and you thought toddlers were noisy!).  Makes sense now why Mary had a little lamb.  Lucky Mary!

Wing and a Prayer Farm

Wing and A Prayer Farm

Yes, every animal is tagged, but not for Tammy's benefit.  She knows every animal by its name.  The tags are to assist helpers, veterinarians and the like in the event Tammy is not available.

Shaftsbury Vermont Wing and A Prayer Farm

The chickens are oblivious to the cats on the farm.....it's pretty obvious cats know their place in the pecking order because there were no antics between the two, at least not during our visit.   In fact, going by this posture, I'd say the chickens might have the upper hand.

One of the more showy creatures at Wing and A Prayer is the peacock named Mario.
Wing and a Prayer Farm

For perspective on size....he's taller than Elena who is 5 1/2.

Wing and a Prayer Farm in Shaftsbury VT

Wing and a Prayer Farm

By now you probably assume Wing and A Prayer is simply a farm for the loves of Tammy's life - and that is quite true, but Wing and A Prayer is a fiber farm and Tammy's other passion is YARN.  The animals provide fiber which Tammy uses to create beautiful yarns in all sorts of colors and textures. When not caring for the farm, Tammy might be found working in her 'dye' garden which she uses to create natural dyes for her fiber.  After spending a couple hours on the farm, I left wondering exactly when Tammy might find time to close her eyes and rest her tired body, but judging from her warm and welcoming hospitality, it seems she does manage.
Tammy at Wing and a Prayer Farm
Appa, the bunny with Elena & Tammy
What struck me the most during our visit, aside from the calm and friendly animals, was Tammy's nurturing personality.  In her soft-spoken voice and loving demeanor, Tammy is a genuinely kind and caring human being.  She loves every living thing, values every living thing and passionately shares her knowledge and love for her farm in a way that draws visitors into her calm and placid world, almost entranced.  I'm sure that comes in handy when handling animals, especially those in labor.  I know this to be true because last evening I watched a video of Paisley delivering two beautiful lambs while Tammy looked on, lovingly encouraging and complimenting Paisley's progress and her     adjustment to being a first-time mom.  What might have struck me most was Tammy's tearful joy at the birth - a birth probably in a long line of births before it over the years.  Yet still, today's was celebrated, and cheered and that right there is an indication of the love and affection that is so evident on Wing and a Prayer Farm.  To watch this video....use this link:  I promise you will see what I mean and you too will be cheering Paisley on!  https://katch.me/wingandaprayerf/v/0cd84430-7453-358c-b6f6-2be8c1abd364
Be sure to turn your sound up, as Tammy speaks in a very soft, soothing voice during delivery.  And stick with it - the video is about 30 min. long and the first lamb doesn't come for about 15 min. in. All new moms and every child should be lucky enough to have such support and love!

Recently Charlotte Lyons visited Wing & A Prayer and lettered this beautiful board - the perfect storyboard explaining Wing & A Prayer Farm to visitors.  To read her blog post about her visit to the farm, use this link: http://housewrenstudio.typepad.com/charlotte/2016/03/spring-at-the-barn.html

Even with the photos, I don't feel like I did justice to what we saw and felt, but hopefully you get the idea.   What I learned from our visit was this.....Tammy raises a lot of animals, some for fiber, some for eggs but at the end of the day, the love given to each and every living being has nothing to do with it's contribution to the farm.  I've learned that when an animal dies or a lamb is stillborn,  Tammy feels the pain and loss as much as you or I would mourn the passing of a cherished family pet.  She writes about it with honesty and emotion in her blog.  Her farm is more than business, it's family......from each little lamb to each barn cat.  Any animal who is lucky enough to call Wing & A Prayer home is lucky enough.

Shaftsbury VT Wing and A Prayer Farm

If you want to experience more of Wing & A Prayer Farm, you're in luck.  On Mother's Day, May 8th from 12:00-3:00pm, you can visit during the Open Farm event.  Tammy promises to have her famous pies for sale, fresh eggs and visits with all God's creatures who live on the farm.  Thanks for reading. To learn more, watch lots of videos and see more beautiful photos....follow Wing & A Prayer on Facebook, their blog or Instagram, using the links included below.  See you back here soon at Life As I See It.

The 24th Annual Washington County Fiber Tour - An Event for All Ages

Friday, April 15, 2016

It's back....Spring, that is!  I don't know about you, but when the sun is out and the temperature is above 50 degrees, my attention is drawn outside where I can take a deep breath and feel the warm sun on my face.  Who wants to be inside on a day like today?  In case you're anything like me, today's post will hopefully inspire you to get outdoors next weekend to enjoy the 24th Annual Washington County Fiber Tour (April 23 and 24th)!  Having done this the past two years, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful countryside, beautiful farms, beautiful animals and great people.  I think there's something in that list for just about everybody!
What is a Fiber Tour, you ask.  Well, the fiber tour is a tour of several farms all over Washington County that raise animals for the purpose of harvesting fiber!  To be more specific, let me take a quote from their brochure where their mission statement says, "The Washington County Fiber Tour is dedicated to educating the general public and the craft community about the amazing variety of fiber producing animals being raised in the area. The participants demonstrate the animal husbandry and the processes involved in converting these fibers into the textiles used in our everyday lives."  On the tour you'll have the opportunity to visit 13 farms in addition to the Battenkill Carding and Spinning Mill.  What does that mean?  It means you get to visit the farms that raise the animals - sheep, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, and goats - and see how the animals are sheared and the fiber turned into beautiful yarn, and every step along that process.  Not only will you see shearing demonstrations, you can watch the fiber as it is carded, and spun.  You'll even get an up-close and personal visit with the animals - an experience sure to thrill the kids as well as the young-at-heart.  If you're a spinner, knitter or do felting, this event is for you.  As for me....I go for the animals.

Elihu Farm in Easton, NY
Even though we've done the tour twice, we still haven't seen every farm on the tour.  You really need two days to accomplish that.  I have some favorites on the tour that I highly recommend (although I'm sure they're all wonderful).  Farthest away, but well worth the drive, is Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville.  If you follow my blog you're quite familiar with this one, if not there'll be links to each farm listed in this post, as well as links to the Fiber Tour Brochure.  At Dancing Ewe Farm, Jody & Luisa Somers raise sheep for fiber and cheese production.  Once you visit for the fiber tour, you'll want to make reservations for dinner on the farm where Jody prepares authentic Italian cuisine.  My post on dinners on the farm is my most popular post and it's no wonder as this is a unique and unforgettable event.

Another favorite stop on the tour is September Morning Alpacas.  Home to some of the sweetest alpacas around, September Morning Farm is located in Buskirk where the only thing more special than the animals and their owners is the view.  Dominick & Maryann Giglio will be your tour hosts and will provide fun and educational activities for the kids.

You can't miss St. Mary's on-the-Hill of Cashmere where cashmere goats are raised by the Anglican/Episcopalian Sisters of St. Mary at their convent in Easton/Greenwich.  

Alpacas of Breezy Hill Ranch is also a favorite of ours.  Great owners and lots of beautiful alpacas, activities for the kids, demonstrations, a great gift shop and more!

Some of the alpacas of Breezy Hill Ranch

With enough farms to keep you busy both days, this is a wonderful and educational experience for everyone.  And it's free!!!!  Now all we need is some weather like today and we'll be all set.  For more information and to read more about this year's tour, use the links below.

Alpacas of Haven Hill - another great stop!

For a peek at Crazy Legs Farm - home of purebred Romney Sheep and a brand new crop of over 20 babies just waiting to meet you, check out their Facebook page at:
This one is definitely on our list for this year!  OMG.....those babies are just too darn cute!  

I can't think of a better way to enjoy this weather, can you?   Mark your calendar and plan to visit one or several of these beautiful farms next weekend, April 23rd and 24th, at the Washington County Fiber Tour.  Bring the kids, bring a friend, bring your camera!  And come back soon to Life As I See It!  Don't forget to share this post with a friend - on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or by email using the links below!  Have a great weekend! 
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