Vendors Ramp Up for Another Exciting Fairy House Fest!

We are delighted to have several vendors participating in the the Fairy House Festival taking place THIS weekend, September 24-25th. 

With the fairy walk and all of the other activities and excitement of the festival, it's very easy to build up an appetite. While we welcome folks to pack a picnic lunch, you may wish to save room instead for the fresh fare on offer from two special locally-based food vendors participating in the festival.

It doesn't get more local than MKT: Grafton, our hometown's star newcomer.  The modern general store, located on Grafton's Main Street, will be selling an assortment of delicious fare at the festival this year. Lunch will be served both days from 11am-3pm at their festival booth; fairy lunch boxes and an assortment of fresh salads will be on offer for purchase. Visitors will also find a wide range of fairy themed snacks, thoughtful souvenirs, and lots of local food products.

Regarding the market's enthusiasm for the festival, co-owner Ali Hartman explained, "As a big believer in magic, our store is thrilled to be serving up goodness at the Fairy House Festival! The festival weekend turns our little town into a whimsical, wonderful adventure and is one of our team's favorite events of the year!" 

Returning vendor Jamaican Jewelz Catering, based out of Rockingham, will be serving a selection of freshly prepared plates, including jerk chicken and other Jamaican cuisine favorites. Owner and chef Julian Perkins says she looks forward to the weekend because, "The festival means peace & tranquility to me and my family." She added, "It's two days we get to spend enjoying the company of others who share our beliefs in fairies and nature."

In addition to all the tasty fare that will be available at the festival, we are excited to welcome back talented body artist and face painter extraordinaire Mona Frye of Springfield, Vermont. Don't forget to stop by her tent!

Festival tickets are on sale now; take advantage of our reduced advanced tickets and save! Have questions about the fest? Check out our FAQ page. 

The Nature Museum and our vendors can't wait to welcome you to the fest! See you soon!

A Fairy House Sneak Peek!

Grafton locals Mary Ann & Bill Kearns and Claire & Jeff Martell gathered this past weekend to construct their creation for the Fairy Fest taking place this weekend. As you can see, a lot of work goes into designing, planning, and building these structures. We can't wait to see the finished product!

Curious about the guidelines our builders' creations share? They are as follows:

  1. Please use natural materials – feathers, dry grasses, leaves, sticks, pebbles, shells, bark from a fallen tree, milkweed, moss, nuts, pods, acorns, berries, gourds, miniature pumpkins, pinecones.
  2. All fairy houses must appear to be made entirely of natural components. Hot glue, acrylic spray, natural twine and other man-made items can be used but should be concealed by natural elements.
  3. Platforms or man-made support materials can be used for easier delivery and transport, but must be concealed with natural materials when installed on-site. There are a limited number of tree cookies available to builders from The Nature Museum. Please inquire about getting one to use as a foundation for your structure.
  4. Try to avoid using any reproductive materials (such as roots or seed pods) from invasive plant species that could spread the unwanted invasive plant. 
  5. Houses may be any size and the theme of the house may be anything you wish.
  6. Please do not use any items of value in the houses.
  7. Please keep in mind that edible materials (such as nuts or seeds) will attract woodland creatures other than fairies.

Mighty Acorns Kicks Off This Thursday!

In the middle of all this bustling prep for the Fairy House Festival, we are so grateful to have this Thursday mark the first meeting of the Mighty Acorns for the 2016-2017 season.

We hope to see familiar faces from last year, as well as some newbies! Mighty Acorns (for ages 3-5 + a caregiver) meets every third Thursday of the month through June from 10am-11:30am. Please note there is no meeting in December; that month is packed as it is!

Each Mighty Acorns session digs into a different topic related to the natural world. This year, our budding naturalists will be led by our new Environmental Educator Leah Kotak. Each meeting we'll pick up some new knowledge before heading outside to make our own discoveries. Often we are able to find time for something crafty as well connected to our focus for the day. 

This week we'll be taking advantage of Grafton's building fairy energy! That's right; with this year's Fairy House Festival only 10 days away, there's plenty of early magic to share. Our Mighty Acorns session will be devoted to building impromptu fairy house structures. This is a fantastic opportunity for families planning to attend the real deal on September 24th and 25th! We'll learn about natural materials and discuss what we think our woodland friends may seek out in a fairy haven before heading outdoors. As always, open free play in nature is at the heart of this program; creativity comes naturally! 

Our Mighty Acorns always bring their special perspective to every activity; and during a busy week like this is bound to be, it's a wonderful reminder of what truly makes our Fairy House Festival Weekend special. And it reminds us to slow down and to savor. Thanks kids!

See you Thursday! Drop-ins welcome, as our participants who reserve their spot in advance!

Radio Times: Fairy Fest Spotlighted On WKVT

Our very own board president Laurie Danforth made a guest appearance on WKVT radio's Green Mountain Mornings show last week to spread the word about our 8th Annual Fairy House Festival being held on September 24-25th. Thanks for having us WKVT!

We are gearing up and are still looking for volunteers

Will you be in attendance? Online tickets are available now!

It’s not just about the weekend because people all year long have a relationship with the natural world that they’ve never had before because they’re searching on the beach for the right shells or searching the woods for the right mushroom or moss or bark. It’s really a unique venue for connecting people to the natural world.
— Laurie Danforth
It’s a beautiful venue. It’s an amazing event. It’s fun, it’s full of life, everybody’s excited. I love the fairy festival. We’ve had such a great time there over the past couple of years. Even when my kids outgrow fairies I will still be there.
— Natalie Knowles, WKVT Host

How Sunflowers Worship the Sun

By Bob Engel
Marlboro College Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Science

One of the icons of the fall season is the abundance of blooming members of the Asteraceae.  Things like asters, goldenrods, black-eyed susans, and ragweeds are everywhere.  And so are the sunflowers you planted last spring.  Plate-sized flowers (it’s more complicated than this) full of seeds (also more complicated) standing tall and proud.  The spring is owned by violets, the fall by asters and allies.  Why this is so is a bit obscure, but that didn’t stop me from asking that very question of numerous graduating seniors in biology (most of the plants use the fall winds for dispersal; increasingly uncommon birds need not apply).  

We have something hot off the presses (Science, v. 353, 5 August) about sunflowers, and because they’re blooming now, I decided to pass on a bit the story.

Like a lot of plants, the young, flowering stems of sunflowers track the sun — they are heliotropic.     

The young stems start out the day facing east, then track the sun across the sky where they end up facing west.  And then, by dawn, they’re peering east again.  Nice trick.  I have friends whose solar arrays do the same things.  It's a win for both: the panels and the plants collect more sunlight by tracking, with the moving plants growing faster than experimentally tethered controls that can’t move.  Fine, but how do plants move at all?  

There are only two possible ways.  The first is mediated by a hormone (Auxin) that causes the plant cells on the shady side of the stem to elongate, thus pushing the plant toward the sun. So, early in the day, the west side of the stem causes the movement, but later, the east side is in the shade and keeps the process going.  A second possible mechanism for movement is driven by pumping ions, creating an osmotic gradient that water eventually follows.  Here, it’s a hydraulic pumping mechanism that effects the movement.  Both are pretty neat (the slamming shut of a Venus fly trap is hydraulic), but it’s the hormone-mediated response that is involved in sunflower heliotropism.

So does the stem get back east?  It happens at night and is driven by a typical biological rhythm that provides the cue for the auxin instead of the sun..  At night, the auxin is slowly relocated to the west side of the stem, slowly turning the stem, and, BINGO, it’s all ready to go again the next morning.  We know it’s a rhythm, because like almost all other examples, the cycle persists for a while in constant low light and because it’s screwed up if the plants are placed in an artificial 30-hour day (a kind of jet-lag).  The scientists also noticed that the amount of auxin in the stems fluctuates on a rhythmic 24-hour cycle.

The final question has to do with why the mature flowers all point east (check it out).  Too heavy to move?  Maybe, but they also heat up quickly that way and get more pollinator visitation than flowers experimentally oriented toward the west.  And, it doesn’t hurt that the sensitivity of the whole system is more east-directed than west-directed. 

By the way, the two complications mentioned at the start of these ramblings have to do with the aster family.  It used to be called the Compositae because most of its members have two types of flowers that compose what we call the flower.  In the case of the sunflower, the yellow “petals” are actually sterile flowers that help attract pollinators, with the small, almost black fertile flowers doing the reproducing in the center.  The other complication?  They’re fruits, not seeds, because the real seed that we and a lot of other animals eat resides in that dry husk. Chickadees have to peck through this — at or near your feeder — to get at that very energy-dense seed.  The fruit is called an achene.  So think maybe 200 flowers, some that look like petals, the rest that do the deed, all in a dense head.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the “petals” on a aster.  Sometimes you can see a small, sterile filament, the remnant of the female style in a typical flower.

Twigs & Stems // September 2016

Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 

Hooray for Summers Spent Outside and In the Library

With school starting for many area students tomorrow, we wanted to wish all of our community's children a school year fueled by curiosity and wonder! 

In that vein, thank you to those who came out to one of our kid-focused programs this summer, including those held at local libraries in Walpole, Springfield, and Chester. Our summer library visits play an important role in enabling us to spread the magic of the natural world with more families. 

The lineup of topics and offerings differed slightly by library; each were free to the public and led by our Nature Educator Rachel Brown. The programs were geared to kids and included "Incredible Insects", "Benefits of Bats", and "Slithery and Scaly". Each session began with a presentation by Brown, followed by an opportunity for discussion and handling of specimens, before ending with a craft inspired by the session's star creature.

We were thrilled to offer 9 visits to these three aforementioned libraries this summer. We are very grateful to the generous support of TransCanada, who sponsored this invaluable community outreach program.

Thank you again to TransCanada and everyone who welcomed us to their neck of the woods!

Wildly Popular Workshop with The Mushroom Forager Is Another Success

We had a wonderful time teaching two sold out workshops at The Nature Museum at Grafton today. We found a gorgeous patch of these yellow foot chanterelles, as well as black trumpets, golden chanterelles, cinnabar red chanterelles, hedgehogs, lobsters, chaga, reishi, bicolor boletes and chrome-footed boletes. So grateful for everyone’s energy and enthusiasm!
— The Mushroom Forager

Summer rains, wild food workshops and amazing people make good things grow. Thanks to the Mushroom Forager, Ari Rockland-Miller, and all of our Wild World of Mushroom participants for a fantastic day Saturday for our adult workshop and guided walk, The "Wild World of Mushrooms".

Yellow foot chanterelles
Courtesy of the Mushroom Forager

To all of you for whom Saturday's workshop was your first event with us, thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again soon! Of course, it was a special day as well because so many of the museum's longtime friends were in attendance as well. Thank you so much for sharing your time and positive energy with us.  

It was a fantastic day for the mycology crowd who gathered at the Nature Museum. The rain two nights ago gave the woods the perfect amount of moisture that it needed to set the fungi popping today. There were 38 people in attendance total for the two walks (a morning and an afternoon walk were offered) ranging in experience from beginner to very experienced. The participants loved getting a taste of the fruits of the forest that we harvested. Ari's infectious excitement and his depth of knowledge sparked a lot of conversations and questions among the participants.

Were you there? We love to receive audience feedback on your experience, so please fill out our feedback form. Thanks to everyone who turned out today. Hope to see you again at one of our programs or events down the road.