in Just –
spring when the world is mud –
luscious……… (E.E. Cummings)
Blossoming trees and fiddlehead ferns, Sheep Pasture 2023.
I am stuck on Spring and how beautiful Sheep Pasture is in this season. The Ames children, Elise, Olivia, Oliver Jr., and Richard, who lived in the mansion at Sheep Pasture developed an appreciation of nature there. Their nurse Matilda Golden taught them names of wildflowers. “Bunny Woods organized outdoor games and helped the children catch snakes. Coachman John Swift taught the children the names of birds as he drove them around the property in a pony cart. The cook Sophie Nelson was in charge of curing and taming injured birds.” (Quote from plaque at Sheep Pasture.) Clearly the hired help was very important in the lives of the children, influencing them greatly. The coachman’s children, Lizzie and Bertha often played with the Ames children.
Oliver Ames House, Sheep Pasture. Built 1893-4.
On the estate were stables, garages, a pony barn, kennels, three henhouses, a squash court, playhouse, barn, corncrib, and apple orchards. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who had rhododendrons brought in for what is today’s Rhododendron Trail. According to Hazel Varella and Elise A. Parker who wrote Growing up at Sheep Pasture, there were fourteen servants. Parkes the butler, the cook Sophie Nelson, an assistant cook, kitchen maid, parlor maid, girl’s maid, two chambermaids, two laundresses, lady’s maid, two footman and a choreman. To the children it seemed the help was present every day of the year. Most likely they had very little time off. The Ameses were wealthy, but these were certainly different times. The house was built in 1893-4 and the children born in 1892, 1893, 1895, and 1896. Their youngest years were at the turn of the century, prior to both World Wars, the Depression, and an increasingly ‘modern’ society.
Chickens, Sheep Pasture. April, 2023.
When Oliver Ames was at home for a day, “he would go out to the hickory tree in the front of the house, blow his whistle, and start walking.” (Growing up at Sheep Pasture) He didn’t look back but expected his children to be following him, and apparently they always were. Today the NRT continues the tradition of fostering respect for nature with night walks, educational school programs, summer camp, farm animals, the spring farm festival, and community gardens. Although I’ve been there an untold number of times, I always find something new and worthy of note. A sunny spring day is joyous- just like an Emily Dickenson poem:
The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed he had come to dwell,
And life would all be spring.
Skunk cabbage, May 2023.
Anne Wooster Druryehsnewsletter12@gmail.com
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Anne Wooster Drury