Lambing Season On The Farm

Michael Moore, Farm Manager

One of the most exciting times of the year is upon us and it’s shaping up to be a big one (or little one) – lambing season. Winter is usually considered a slow time for a farm, but for a farmer it’s just a busy as any other time. A lot of planning and forward thinking occurs during the winter months. We’re thinking about what to plant and the schedules involved for a successful season, and lambing is no exception.

Every year we breed our ewes in the fall, sheep only have a gestation period of five months, so we expect lambs to arrive beginning in late February through the end of March. But, before the new lambs arrive there are some key things we must accomplish to ensure a successful lambing season.

Lambing Season Prep Checklist:

  • Ensure all of our areas are clean and ready for lambs and moms.
  • During the last six weeks we increase the mothers nutrition intake to assure she is healthy and ready to take on the new lambs (Yes, lambs! Sheep usually have twins).
  • Crutching the ewes, which is the process of shearing the tail end of the ewe, to ensure that she stays nice and clean through the birthing process.
  • We make sure all of our supplies are in order, such as milk replacers, baby bottles, vaccinations and heat lamps in case the new lamb or mom has any issues.
  • Most importantly, we are on a vigilant watch. Lambing can occur at any moment and any time of day. Long days and even nights are part of the process so that we can be there to help mom through every step if required.

This year we have 25 ewes expecting lambs and this flock can birth as much as 150% or more of their current numbers, so we are expecting upwards of 35 to 40 new lambs. We can’t wait to introduce each of them to you this spring!

The Saving of Seeds

Brandi Duff, Farm Assistant

For more than two centuries, seeds have been saved from the vegetable gardens at Pleasant Hill for use in subsequent years. For the Shakers, there were many reasons to save seeds from the bountiful gardens they grew. By saving the seeds they knew produced well, the Shakers ensured they had what they wanted for the following year. This was a sustainable and cost-effective use of resources.

A Market Industry

Though seed saving was a common practice in early agrarian America, the Shakers quickly turned it into a market industry. Credited with being the first to sell seeds in small pre-packaged envelopes, the Shakers at New Lebanon, NY perfected this process as early as the 1790s.

They kept detailed records and divided the process into four areas: the field, the barn, the shop, and the world.

Seed saving became profitable for most Shaker communities, and we see evidence of this industry at Pleasant Hill in the early 1800s. According to Pleasant Hill records, seeds were saved throughout the growing season and were sent to consignment shops in September and October, remaining there through February or March.

Okra seeds are commonly saved at Pleasant Hill to be planted in the next growing season.

Seed packets evolved throughout the years, beginning as small envelopes in tan or orange colors. Print shops at each location printed the intricately designed border adding planting instructions on the packaging later in the process. The Shaker name on seeds soon became synonymous with “quality.” This allowed them to thrive in the industry.

After the civil war, the Shakers began to see stronger competition in the seed market. The combination of superior printing technology using brighter colors, better growing locations, and the fact that many Shaker communities were in decline, led to the Shaker seed market eventually closing.

Seed Saving Today

Today at Pleasant Hill, we still proudly grow and save heirloom varieties of plants. Our seeds are open-pollinated, which means that they either self-pollinate or are pollinated by the same plants. This ensures the reliability to produce the same plants as the parent plant.

We proudly offer many of the same varieties in our shops that the Shakers grew. Learn more about seed saving by attending one of our educational tours or a farm workshop.

To purchase heirloom seeds from the Shops at Shaker Village, come on out for a visit, or visit our online store!

Today in Pleasant Hill History

Jacob Glover, PhD, Director of Public Programs and Education

On January 24, 1871, Pleasant Hill took the step of expelling a family of seven from their ranks. Interestingly enough, this newsworthy note is intermingled amongst more practical concerns in a Shaker journal:

Trip – El. H. L. Eades started for South Union via Lebanon. See 13th inst

Expelled – The Morrison family from the Society. Minerva the mother & Henry from the West Lot, & Hiram, Jacob, Leah, Belle & Ginny from the Center Family. See March 7, l870.

Trip – H. Daily went to Lexington with two wagons, & returned the following day.

LTR: James Shelton, John Pilkington, Henry Daily, Francis P., Napoleaon Brown. Girls unknown.

As the entry reveals, this expulsion had evidently been in the works for a rather long time! Going back to review that entry from March 1870:

“Mon. 7 Sent Away – The Widow Morrison family – who came some time since from the Mouth of Salt River viz. the Mother Manerva Ann & children William J. Morrison, Jacob T. Leah Ann, Sarah Isabel, Mary Jane & Henry William Morrison.  the Mother & youngest from the West Lot.  The rest from Centre all went on board the Boat for Louisville thence to their home.”

That’s all the Shakers wrote. It makes one wonder exactly what they had done to be “sent away” and “expelled” during a time of general population decline at Pleasant Hill.

Local Economies, Global Impacts

Billy Rankin, VP of Public Programming and Marketing

Have you visited Shaker Village in the last few years? If so, the fact that we’ve made BIG changes in how we interpret the history of the Pleasant Hill Shakers is no surprise. For those who need a recap, this article is a good primer!

Shaker Village staff and consultants planning new exhibitions.

The history of the Pleasant Hill Shakers is layered, diverse, and oftentimes surprising. We want our interpretation to share those qualities!

To achieve that goal we use exhibits, workshops, multimedia content, demonstrations, tours…well, LOTS of methods. Every visitor comes with their own perspectives and learning styles. We build experiences to connect to each of them.

Something New is in the Works

This summer a new experience is coming to Shaker Village. We thought it would be neat to give you a monthly glimpse behind the scenes as we develop this exhibition on…economics!

Okay. I know. Economics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, right?

But that’s where our incredible interpretive team comes in. You see, it is actually really interesting to consider how a communal society that didn’t believe in personal possessions got so darn good at making and selling things to the public.

And there are many more layers to this story that need peeling back.

For example: How did gender equality in Shaker society play into their business operations? Did the Pleasant Hill Shakers have any connection to enslaved labor? What happened when their population dwindled and more non-Shakers were making some “Shaker” products than Shakers themselves?

The 1845 East Family Brethren’s Shop as the village office.
c. early 1900s

And perhaps the most important question of all: What can we, who live in an ultra-modern order everything online “I don’t care where it comes from as long as it’s convenient” global marketplace, possibly learn from the economy of a small, agrarian village?

These questions and more will be addressed when Local Economies, Global Impacts opens this summer!

Developing a New Exhibit

Local Economies, Global Impacts is funded in part through a Museums for America matching grant, administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

The 1845 East Family Brethren’s Shop and the 1855 East Family Sisters’ Shop will host the new exhibition. Each were important workshops, and offered other unique contributions to the economy of the village.

Pleasant Hill’s textile industry will be highlighted
in the new exhibit.

With the support of this grant Shaker Village has been able to conduct valuable new research about the economics of the Pleasant Hill Shakers that will come alive as part of the exhibit.

Guests will learn about the village trustees, trading deacons and office sisters. The exhibit will open a new window into the operation of mills, the management of natural resources, the work that happened in Shaker workshops, the routes travelled by trading deacons along roads and waterways, and the stories of the men and women who put their hands to work to sustain their community’s economy.

Local Economies, Global Impacts is currently in an early design phase, where we draft narrative flow within each building, and plan methods for sharing each portion of the content. Artifact displays, tactile interactives, murals, multimedia content and other methods are being fit together in the plan like an integrated puzzle.

Floor plans like this, from an early phase of design, are used to discuss the flow of content in each exhibit space.

Over the next two months we will finalize our designs, write the final content and produce graphics. Then we begin fabrication, followed by installation.

We hope you’ll come along for the ride with us each month as we update our progress. This summer, when you visit the exhibit, you’ll feel like you were there to help create it!

The End of the Beginning

Laura Webb, Program Specialist

That’s a wrap, folks! My time officially working on the NEH grant project has come to an end, and so does this blog series. While I’ve been the primary public “voice” of the project over the last six months, this has truly been a team effort, and so I wanted to leave you with a more holistic view of what this work has entailed. In their own words, let me introduce just some of the many other people who have had a role in this project over the last six months.

  • Billy Rankin, Vice President of Public Programming & Organizational Strategy, “took an executive lead with this project, supporting the efforts of our management and collections team.
  • Jacob Glover, Director of Public Programs and Education, “fulfilled the oversight role after the reorganization of our department’s leadership positions.
  • Maggie McAdams, Education and Engagement Manager, “lent additional guidance to how to effectively use this content once updated.
  • Becky Soules, Curator of Collections, was“hired in November of 2020 as the new Curator of Collections, and had the unique experience of joining the project after it was well underway.
  • Melissa Donahoo, Development Coordinator, “wrote the original grant narrative for the request (with input from the Grant Team) and put together the application for submission.” She also “ensured we stayed on track and on budget; this included submitting an interim grant report and accounting reports and requests.
  • Shelby Jones, Director of Communications, “posted and promoted the blog submissions drafted by Laura Webb on the Shaker Village website and social media platforms.
Shaker artifacts housed in the Village’s Collections Facility.

Earlier this week, I interviewed the lovely folks above about different aspects of this grant project. In terms of what their favorite aspects were, there was a wide variety of responses! Not to toot my own horn, but Jacob, Becky, and Shelby all mentioned really enjoying reading this very blog series. But on a more important note, getting in-depth looks into the collection were valuable for folks, too!

  • We have so much incredible content and so many resources that are not currently available to the public. This project helps us to better fulfill our mission as an organization.” – Billy
  • My favorite aspect of the project has been the opportunity to take a deep dive into the collection and uncover the stories about many artifacts that I had heretofore not had the chance to research or look into.” – Jacob
  • I remember one day looking up an object that I had looked up many times before, and suddenly seeing so much more useful information. I was so pleased with how organized the data was and, of course, how much information I had access to once the object record was updated.” – Maggie
  • The most exciting part of this project has been to serve as a jumping-off point for further collections work. A number of new projects that we’ve started in 2021 are only possible because of the work already completed as part of the CARES grant.” – Becky

Not to be too self-indulgent, but I also asked the team what their favorite blog posts in this series were. The overwhelming winner was “A Benign Spit-Shine,” with four votes!

Object SP82.3.3; Past Perfect records: wooden colander of basswood, made at Hancock Village, MA; museum purchase, 1982. Mechanically cleaned, cleaned with saliva, treated with wax (1996).
  • It made me think of my mom giving me a ‘spit-shine’ before we went into Church on Sunday mornings, as we regularly engaged in pick-up football games with the others kids after Sunday school and before service!” – Jacob
  • You mean it’s not ok to lick the artifacts?”– Melissa

That article also got votes from Billy and Maggie. With two votes (including one from Shelby), the runner-up was “Out of the Blue,” the post about cyanotypes. (If the math isn’t adding up for you, that’s because Maggie had it tied with “Benign Spit-Shine.” Please don’t demand a recount!) An honorable mention goes to “Prying with a Purpose,” with valuable commentary:

  • I think it’s too easy to view research libraries and archives as adjunct features of museums, used only for visiting researchers and for generating the raw content that’s disseminated to visitors through exhibits and programming. It’s a good reminder for me, moving forward, to consider other ways to shed light on the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of curatorial work and collections management so that it’s understandable and accessible to the visiting public.” – Becky
Past subject guides have been stored in this small card catalog.

The whole year of 2020 was challenging for…well, literally everyone in the world. In terms of this project, however, one challenge in particular ran as a common thread. A few months into this project, Aaron Genton, our Curator of Collections, left Pleasant Hill for a position in Montana! This meant that, until our new curator was hired in November, I worked in the archives more-or-less autonomously. In addition, our department was reorganized in the interim period. Here’s what some folks have to say about it:

  • During the course of this project I assumed additional responsibilities for the supervision of the Collections Department and the hiring of a new Curator of Collections.” – Billy
  • Coming to the project about a month before the grant funding ended, I was really mindful of the hard work and long hours that had already been put in by Laura and other staff. I really wanted to be mindful of being the ‘interloper,’ while at the same time bringing fresh eyes, enthusiasm, and new ideas to help get the project finished at the end of what has been a very difficult year.” – Becky

Another challenge was the sheer enormity of the task! (Do y’all remember how we eat an elephant?) One response mirrored my own thoughts:

  • “The biggest challenge has been reigning in my expectations! We have so much great information on the collection that I would love to be able to share with the public — but, to get to that point, it has been important to make sure we get the system set up properly and to feature the correct information. All of these things take time and care!”Jacob

In tackling these challenges, all of us learned a lot and gained many new skills. In particular, many of us learned a lot about PastPerfect, as well as about the information it currently holds!

  • I’ve learned a great deal about the PastPerfect online functions because of your knowledge and communication. I definitely want to learn more about its capabilities, but that was fun for me.” – Maggie
  • It gave me a great excuse to get in-depth with PastPerfect very early during my time at SVPH. Spending so much time in PastPerfect has given me a much better understanding of my department predecessors and has taught me a lot about the ways SVPH has collected, cataloged, and tracked its artifacts over the past 60+ years.”- Becky
  • I enjoyed learning more about the important people in the post-Shaker period who were instrumental in helping us get to where we are today. I know that there was a curated section of this information in the Pieces of Pleasant Hill exhibit, but getting the chance to take a more unfettered look at the ‘raw’ data has been something that I have enjoyed.” – Jacob

Finally, I asked my team where they hope to see this work go in the future, and how they hope to see this information used. This particular grant-funded project may have ended, but it’s only the beginning of our efforts to organize and digitize our collections content! Even while looking back at the progress we’ve made so far, all of us are still continuing to look forward.

  • This work must continue for SVPH. The digital content will be a critical mechanism for creating exhibitions and online research.” – Billy
  • I’m excited to get PastPerfect Online published and usable for the public and researchers. I would also like to annotate many of the entries with much more historical content and information.” – Jacob
  • Moving forward, the fun challenge will be how we interpret and curate this information to make it, not just accessible, but meaningful to the public.” – Maggie
  • I’m delighted that the work started under the NEH Cares grant will continue in the coming months and years as we update our records, research our collections, and make all of this information available through an online platform. Although nothing can ever replace a personal visit to SVPH, I hope our expanded digital resources can help us reach new audiences and forge new connections!” – Becky
  • I see so many different ways our collections can support our mission in a digital format. This project provided an avenue for to reach our guests in a time when fewer were visiting. I’d like to see us expand on the work you’ve completed to create curated digital experiences.” – Melissa

How about you, my lovely readers? What have you learned from this series? What was your favorite post? What are you most looking forward to about our upcoming online collections resource? Please keep in touch through our social media, or shoot me an email at – I’d love to hear from you!

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was awarded a CARES grant through The National Endowment for the Humanities in June 2020. Funding from this grant award supported two activities to enhance digital humanities initiatives at SVPH, including Laura Webb’s work to review our collection records and prepare them for publishing in a public digital database.