Kids’ Almanac (May 2-9)

Woodsmen’s Festival at Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith

What if Aristotle is right with his suggestion, “If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development”? As parents and grandparents, what can we do to help raise and prepare children for life in a different time? I’m with Aristotle: Let’s get to know our roots. Let’s explore history together – especially local history – and here’s one event worth considering: On Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Hanford Mills Museum presents the Woodsmen’s Festival: Showcasing Logging, Sawing and Woodworking History.

“The festival features demonstrations of lumberjack skills by the SUNY-Cobleskill Woodsmen’s Team, a variety of woodworking exhibitors, tree walks, kids’ activities, food and more.” I heard that the team will even do some competitive axe-throwing!

Hanford Mills has been an operating mill site since 1846, and is one of the last 19th-century mills to survive intact, placing it on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Visiting the Hanford Mills Museum is a unique chance to see a waterwheel in action, powering the sawmill for cutting wood the way it has for generations, providing planks for building houses and more. Historic cooking demonstrations and information about living in the 1920s will be available in the John Hanford Farmhouse, and guided walks will feature tree identification and discussing invasive pests that threaten them.


Admission to the Festival is included in the museum entrance fee: $8.50 for adults and teens, $6.50 for seniors and free for children aged 12 years and under. The Hanford Mills Museum is located at 51 County Highway 12 in East Meredith. For more information, call (607) 278-5744 or visit


Spring Plow at Saunderskill Farm in Accord

Until I read Kristin Kimball’s book about her shift from city to farm living, The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love, I honestly had no idea how hard plowing with a team of horses really is. It doesn’t look that hard, but with Kimball’s stories in my memory, I have a whole new appreciation of this skill when I see this work being done.

The Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association Spring Plow is a chance to witness living history, a time before the era of tractor engines. Watching people drive their teams down straight rows in the field is one more way to connect with our past, a path to understanding our Now by learning about where we’ve come from, just as Aristotle pointed out – like exploring the origins of the term “horsepower.”

Spring Plow takes place on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes field plowing with horses, mules and oxen, wagon rides, children’s games, crafts, vendors, food and live music. Spring Plow breaks ground at Saunderskill Farm at 5100 Route 209 in Accord. For more information, call (845) 657-2032 or check out the videos at by searching for “spring plow at Saunderskill.” To learn more about the farm, visit


Martha Washington Tea at Old Dutch Church in Kingston

Here’s another delightful history-themed event: a Martha Washington Tea at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston. The Tea features sweets and savories, music of Martha Washington’s era by the Salmagundi Consort and a talk by Dr. Susan Ingalls-Lewis, “Abigail Adams: First American Feminist?”

The Tea takes place on Saturday, May 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and seating is limited. The Old Dutch Church is located at 272 Wall Street in Kingston and is handicapped-accessible. For reservations or more information, call (845) 338-6759 or visit


Poison dart frog lecture at Elting Library in New Paltz

I have a few favorite takeaways from my conversation with poison dart frog expert Eric Cline. One: Dart frogs aren’t poisonous in captivity, because their diet is different from in the wild, where they ingest poisonous insects to create their own toxins. In captivity, they eat harmless fruit flies.

Two: Dart frog owners culture their own wingless fruit flies. The frogs don’t eat crickets or mealworms that you have to pick up at the pet store every week, like for other reptiles and amphibians. It sounds like a point of pride, actually. I hadn’t ever considered my seasonal fruit-fly infestations as successful scientific experiments before, so I may have to rethink that.

Three: Poison dart frogs don’t get their name from launching poisonous darts out of their mouths or anything. Their name comes from their role in helping the native people of Colombia kill prey. The hunters would rub their darts or arrows on the back of the poisonous frog, and the toxins would kill the target animal upon impact. Cooking the animal rendered the toxins harmless.

Cline, a sixth-grade art teacher at Arlington Middle School in Poughkeepsie, has been raising dart frogs for years, but started out with fish: “When my wife and I moved here from New York, we had room for some pets. We started with a fish tank, and my wife suggested we add a frog. I had always wanted a dart frog, but I heard they were impossible to raise in captivity. We got a Firebelly Toad, and that started me on the journey into amphibians.”

After years of raising and breeding tropical fish, Cline heard that dart frogs were possible to raise as pets after all: “I got my first poison dart frogs in 2007. That was when I started phasing out the fish tanks, and now I focus entirely on the frogs.” For Cline, designing the terrariums is part of the joy of raising dart frogs: “As an artist, I’m busy with a full-time job, we’re raising our kids, and I realized that making terrariums is a great artistic outlet for me – it’s ‘living art.’”

Cline described what he enjoys about raising dart frogs: “I love the colors. They’re like these little jewels from the rainforest.” And caring for them is easy: “I culture my own wingless fruit flies every ten days or so, and that’s what they eat. I don’t have to run to the pet store for mealworms every week. You just spritz and feed them every couple of days. Plus, my kids love it: They create their own terrariums and help take care of them.”

I also learned that dart frogs can live up to 20 years in captivity, and that they’re diurnal, meaning that they’re active during the day – which keeps it interesting, especially for new, young pet owners. Wow!

I asked about any possible down sides for prospective frog-owners: “They can’t be handled; they stay in the terrarium. You can’t pick them up and play with them, because it could stress them out, they could dry out or they could get hurt in the process.”

Have I piqued your interest? Want to learn more? You’re in luck! Cline is doing a presentation on poison dart frogs this weekend in New Paltz. He will give an overview about the frogs, show some of his own live dart frogs in a sample terrarium and do a demo using a blow dart. Cline breeds and sells dart frogs, and in 2010, he started the business Hudson Valley Terrariums, creating custom terrariums and vivariums (a terrarium with a water feature). He will be at the Hudson Valley Reptile Expo at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center the following day.

Cline’s show takes place at the Elting Memorial Library on Saturday, May 4 at 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The presentation is geared for all ages, and is intended to educate and inspire people’s interest in dart frogs. The Elting Library is located at 93 Main Street in New Paltz. For more information, call (845) 467-2209 or visit To learn more about the Expo, visit