Thursday, June 30, 2011

Barn Guests - The Barn Swallows

Carolyn Stearns Storyteller hosts some Barn Guests,  The Barn Swallows

The Barn Swallows arrive each spring, they come with the warm breeze and the first bugs.  Swallows are voracious bug eaters sweeping over the pastures for the  unlucky flies and mosquitoes. For this reason they were a welcome guest the first year they arrived. We had lived here for a number of years without swallows, then one day they found the little horse barn with a steady supply of juicy meals flying about.

The day the babies take their first flight is amazing. Like our own children one minute they are tiny and the next minute they are gone!  I could hear the parent Barn Swallows giving instructions as the babies took to soaring along the horse pasture. Don't get so close...Slow down it's your first flight...who taught you to fly like that...don't leave the home before dark...remember your manners! Then they were off and away somewhere between green earth and blue sky.  In the barn four more nests await the day of flight. We have several generations living with us now and five nests at the same time is a new record. It makes walking down the barn aisle a little like flying a kite on a runway at Chicago's O'Hare airport. There is a lot of traffic, "stall cleaner 1 to air traffic control are we cleared to take the wheelbarrow out the door?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Simple Summer Fun

Simple Summer Fun

When was the last time you did tie -dye shirts?

There is a little magic in taking the rubber bands off and discovering what the pattern comes out like! The items tie-dyed are as individual as the makers and a great way to spend a summer afternoon.

Items needed:
Cotton shirts or other items ( pillow cases are fun)
RIT DYE available in departement and grocery stores in liqued and powder
plastic buckets
elastic bands
Squirt bottles
plastic gloves

Follow direction provided with dye product. Cover shirt with tightly bound elastics, dip in color - the longer you leave it the darker the color.
WORD OF WARNNG! Can stain clothing and skin! Wash seperate from
your laundry the first few times!

Top  off the day with a tasty snack and you have all the makings of a memorable summer day!

To finish the day how about a story?
You might like:
Carolyn Stearns Storyteller

Ivan and the Chestnut Horse
(filmed at a 4-H Horse Club meeting)


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Civil War General Edward W. Whitaker CT. Hero

   Through storytelling, lecture, web promotion and sharing in conversation I am slowly spreading the word about the brave farm boy from Ashford and his heroic record in the Civil War.  His story like so many thousands of Civil War era stories is about a farm boy turned soldier, many of whom did not go home after the war. Edward Whitaker was indeed one of the lucky ones. His story is not his alone to share though. His is a family story, of how this family raised their children and the deep sense of duty and honor in them all.  Four Whitaker brothers enlisted  Edward and Daniel here in Hartford,Ct. for  three months as privates in the Infantry( Edward was 19 at the time). Older brother William was  in New Hampshire when President Lincoln's call for troops went out, he enlisted in the Infantry in New Hampshire. George, another brother was in California and served his time in the Civil War between California and New Mexico.
After the three month tour was over the Whitaker brothers knew the war was to last a very long time, they re-enlisted to see it through. Edward and Daniel decided they were not going to walk the rest of this war, they enlisted in the CT. Cavalry and their unit was attached to the Union, Harris Light Cavalry of New York.  The unit fought in most of the major conflicts all the way to  the end at Appomattox Court House. In telling the story of a hometown hero to school students and historical groups I paint a vivid picture of Edward riding  through the enemy lines with a small unit to capture the renowned Confederate spy Harry Gilmore. You would wince to hear the telling of his horse being shot out from under him as he charged and leaped over the Confederate lines at the battle of Five Forks.
    There is no way you can escape the pain of hearing how he escorted his brother Daniel's body home for burial after he was shot and died in the battle at Aldie, Virginia. How hard it must have been to return to battle without that brother at his side. How hard to be brave and know the toll it would take on his mother back in Ashford if he should lose his life in this seemingly eternal war.
    Four sisters were as heroic as the men of the Whitaker family. Four sisters who packed bags right at the end of the war. Four sisters who went beyond what was so recently enemy lines to open schools for freed slaves. The Civil War is rich with the tales of heroism and sacrifice, courage and resolve.  Sharing a family story of all these noble traits is a not a gift, it is what we owe!
     150 years since the Civil War ripped this nation into bloodied halves and 150 years for healing the gaping wound. Sharing the stories is the best way to insure we never never take these advantages, passions, courage and freedom for granted. General Edward Whitaker rode out onto the field at Appomattox with allguns aimed, galloped across under the white flag of surrender carried by a single Confederate soldier. Edward, the once farm boy of Ashford CT., accepted the unconditional surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia from General Longstreet and went  on to be forgotten by history.
    Please visit our page on FACEBOOK  "Family Tree of General Edward Whitaker". We will be adding more info and items and looking for descnedents of any of the Whitaker family lines. Edward was one of 16 children raised here in Ashford. Descended from the Whitakers of Rhode Island and his mother's family, the Colegrove's whose family line goes back to Roger Williams founder of Rhode Island. This is a family of Old New England as I researched the geneology I even found members of the Allen family which are also my ancestors. All the more reason to honor the memory of these family members thrust onto the field of battle from a humble begining along Horse Hill in Ashford, CT.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

There's No Place Like Home

The other day as I parked the car at home I lingered to listen to the end of a chapter of an audio book. I saw a little Chick-A-Dee right outside my car. The little bird hopped about my garden and the white picket fence along the edge of the yard. Then I realized there were two. A pair, although in the quick flits from post to tree there was no way of discerning who was the Mr. and which the Mrs.

It was then that I realized they were dropping down in to the hollow top of the fence post. I assumed there were some tasty bugs in the decaying wood. I sat in my car longer and watched several times as the little bird disappeared into the post only to pop up moments later like toast from the toaster.

I finally got out and walked down the sidewalk to the kitchen door listening to a harsh scolding as I stopped and peered at the hole in the post. I pass this a million times a week and had not noticed how bad it had rotted. To my surprise there were no bugs in the hole just a long dark hole.

Down in the depth of that post somewhere not juicy bugs, but home sweet home. The next day the ambitious pair began to fix up the place more to their liking. They carried in quite a few long blond hairs from the ponies tail and mane. A few stick out the top in a frilly array like Muppet hair. The couple must be expecting eggs soon. Their novel  home not in a hollow tree but right here where I can watch but so deep in the post even the flash doesn't light up the nest. What a gift to watch the industrious pair take up housekeeping in my dooryard.
 "Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!"

another peek at life on Storybook Farm home of storyteller Carolyn Stearns
there is no place like home, and I'm so glad to share it with this young couple

Monday, June 6, 2011

Grow Your Story

"Grow Your Story", the words came leaping off the page of Doug Lipman's book, Improving Your Storytelling - Beyond the Basics For All Who Tell Stories in Work or Play. ( August House Publishers, Atlanta, 2009, pg 86)  Growing that is something I know a lot about. The concept of growing my story tickles the brain and is an easy way to see the  life of a story.

We need a climate that nurtures the growth of stories. Unlike food and flowers we can have a year round climate for stories, the climate needs careful attention and cultivation just as the soil does for the farmer. Here on the farm spring initiates our growing season as the frost lets go her grip of the earth we begin to prepare it. Layers of fertilizing manure are tilled into the soil to enrich it for the season. So it is we enrich the fabric of storytelling by adding enrichment, music, reading, theatre, conversation, travel they all feed the common ground of story growth.


Planting seeds is well under way on the dairy now that June is here. We race to get all the acres planted and begin the harvest of our hay,  before its seeds drop. The seed of a story can look and sound like many things just as the seeds of plants are as varied as the  bloom they produce. Same for the wide variety of ways we come to acquire the seeds of story. A simple phrase could ignite the imagination to develop a story, or an incident. I particularly liked Doug Lipman's tale of becoming lodged on a rock in a canoe in high water. It was a seed experience related in the book and its growth as a story chronicled. A couple of my favorite stories grew from a similar seed of experience. On a trip to the battlefield and National Park at Gettysburg,Pa. my son and I rented horses and rode the bridle path of Pickett's charge from the wood line to the base of Little Round Top. This was a sensory explosion to me as I could so easily imagine the days of the battle. Coupled with a visit to he 4th of July reenactment my stories of the Civil War era have come to life from the seeds planted on that trip.

Many times people have commented after hearing one of my horse stories about the realism and  mental image of the horses. As I tell those stories my thousands of hours spent in the care and  nurturing of horses come out.  As I tell of the sweat dripping from the arched neck, the veins bulging and quivering in the exertion, the wild white of the eye piercing the handler.  I am there in the moment on the other end of that rope. My reality  of horses is the reality brought into my stories. I know this is one of the strengths that these stories have.  I have learned from telling these stories how to nurture the fledgling tale even when it is not a first hand experience.

One evening at a tavern telling I told an old folktale of which there are many versions, in essence it is about an old man being charged for inhaling the smell of fresh bread. In my version it is set in a European valley with a castle at one end. I shared the story fleshing out the details and finished just as the waitresses brought out maple glazed hot popovers, there was never a more fitting end to a tale.  After the dinner performance ended I stopped at each table and thanked the guests for attending. An old woman grabbed my hand and squeezed. In her thick European accent she declared I had been to her home village so far away?  I smiled and replied no. She was adamant that the description of it was perfect. I told her the story was of pictures in my brain and she made them fit the pictures in hers I was glad I could take her home for a few minutes. Those pictures in my brain came from a few places. Google Images was one and  Google Earth. I also did a google search of European villages and castles. At the library I paged through several over sized picture books of Europe and castles and  medieval settings. With all these mental images as seeds I could create my conglomerate image for the story. I never imagined it would work so well!

It is almost summer I have several projects planned. A nautical epic is in seed form ready to plant and nurture to bloom. I have a few programs to prep and will immerse myself in in the days prior to the sharing. I will be telling bits of stories and trying out different wordings until I find a comfortable version, a working storyline that will grow and evolve much like the crop of corn recently planted here on the hill. Grow Your Story a wonderful way to think about the summer.