Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Our New Neighborhood: Putnam Park

Turns out there is a pretty cool park, it's very much like Bunker Hill or Gettysburg. The kids and I had no idea what we were getting into and were quite pleasantly surprised.

The first visit to the park was with the girls I watch on Monday and Wednesday. We stayed, due to the driveway being first, on the non-military side of the park. We just walked around, what appeared to be a normal park. We ended up finding the memorial, statue of General Putnam, and the bullfrog pond (as we call it) at the end of that long hike.

So, then, I was intrigued and brought all the kids back another time...but, again we didn't make it past the bullfrog pond and the memorial (which Elena calls the "Memorial Day").

The last time I took just my kids and we were finally able to really explore the park, read the signs and take it all in...turns out that Putnam Park was the winter encampment of 8000-10,000 revolutionary soldiers. It was called Putnam's Valley Forge. There is not much left...some mounds that were the chimney stacks of all the company housing, some clearings and some graves. The signs are helpful in explaining what archeological digs have uncovered since 1779.

It's funny that a lot of the reconstructed buildings, which were built in 1860, are completed wrong. They have since been proven to have served completely different purposes than originally thought. For example, there is a little cabin at the far end of the site that was labeled as "Officer's Quarters", but later proven to be the fort magazine!

Here's a quote from "Connecticut - Off the Beaten Path" by David and Deborah Ritchie,'s history lesson:

"When Washington's Northern Army went into winter quarters at the end of November 1778, it was disposed in an arc from New Jersey to Connecticut, so as to ring the British garrison in New York. Three of the army's brigades had their winter encampment at Redding, when they could move east to defend the Hudson Heights or west to defend the Connecticut coast from British raiders. Their commander was Major General Israel ("Old Put") Putnam.

That winter was relatively mild, but the harvest had been poor, and supplies were scarce. The men, many of whom had been through the hell of Valley Forge the previous year, began to mutter about a similar privation winter in Connecticut. Then in December the state experienced one of the worst winter storms in New England history. Two days after it ended, the men of one brigade mutinied and prepared to march on the State Assembly in Hartford to demand overdue supplies and wages. Putnam was able to break up the affair only with the greatest of difficulty. Thus the winter encampment at Redding that came to be known as "Connecticut's Valley Forge."

The original encampment in now the site of Putnam Memorial State Park at the junction of Routes 58 and 107 in West Redding. The twelve-man huts are now just piles of stone where their chimneys stood, and the old magazine is only a stone-lined pit; but the officers' barracks has been rebuilt, and there is a museum on site containing exhibits dealing with the Redding encampment. There's also a great statue by the front gate showing Old Put riding his horse down a flight of stairs to escape capture during a British raid in February of 1779."

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Death of Chickens

So, a rather unfortunate series of events happened today. First, we went to the library to pick out books and picked out not one, not two, but three books with chicken protagonists. We spent the whole ride to my mom's house in Ridgefield talking about the Adventurous Chicken, Louise (who both my children call Muh-weeze for no apparent reason). Anyhow, I digress.

On the way home from school, back to our house, we passed the farm we like to visit. The kids asked if they could go visit the chickies and I said sure. Why not? Not much else planned. Another side note, I have found that if you say "yes" to your kids, enthusiastically and excitedly to their requests a few times a day, the result is MUCH better behavior. Example, Them: "Mommy, can I have a popsicle?" Me: "Sure! Why not? What flavor did you want" Them: stunned and silent and happy for at least two hours.

Anyhow, back to it. We went to the farm. We had visited last week and seen the chicks. Liam absolutely adores hanging in the chicken coop for the young chicks. He picks them up and chases them around. As they get older and more adept at dodging his advances, he does more chasing. Today, I don't think he caught a single one. Last week, however, he caught several. And, as he almost choked the life out them in his little grip, Lenny-style, he noticed a dead chick on the ground. Many, many questions ensued about what happened to the little guy, how did he die? I told him I didn't really know, but it looked as if he was trampled or stepped on. I had to reassure him that the chick was not stepped on by him as it was already dead and squished there when we arrived. He was quite fascinated and had trouble letting the subject go.

I, for one, was glad to see that the carcass had been removed from the coop on this week's visit. Liam, however, immediately noted its absence. "Mommy, where is the dead bird? Where did that dead chick go?" I told him it went to be with God, but he knows better..."Yes, but where did its BODY go?" I told him the farmer probably took it away. He was perplexed and disturbed, but eventually let it go and romped with the baby chicks and visited the rest of the chickens with Elena and me.

At the end of our visit to the farm, we got back into the car. I tried to hurry them along..."Come on now, get into your seats, we have to go home so I can cook dinner. I have a big chicken to put in the oven." As soon as the words had left my mouth I regretted saying them...then Elena said to Liam in an excited voice, "Liam, chicken nuggets for dinner!! WHOO HOO!" That's when it happened. It was almost as if a visible light bulb popped above each child's head. Elena said, "Chicken nuggets! Yay!...Wait...chicken....hmmm...chicken." And then I walked around from securing Liam's seat praying the conversation would be ended by the time I got to the driver's seat. It was not.

Oh shit, it was escalating. Liam was at the helm and he held my heart in his hands. "Mommy," he said almost quivering, "Does the chicken in my nuggets come from the chickens on the farm???" "Is the chicken inside the nuggets from real chickens?"


Next question: "Wait Mom....REAL chickens die so I can eat them?"

"Awwwww Mommy! I don't want chickens to die!"

Laney, God bless her, was in the back seat trying hard to assuage his fears: "No Liam, not THOSE chickens. Not THOSE ones."

Liam: "But how do they die? Who kills the chicken? Does that man? That farmer we met?"

Laney: "No, not THAT farmer! Another person whose job it is to kill chickens."

Oh help.