Rocking Our World

William Updike, Vice President of Natural and Cultural Resources

Shaker Village has over 25 miles of historic rock fence along its boundary and within its 3,000 acre property. This fence was originally constructed, primarily, in the 1840s. The Shakers of Pleasant Hill paid a rate of $1,000 per mile to non-Shaker masons who built over 40 miles of rock fence. Standing without the assistance of mortar or other bonding agents, well-built dry-stacked rock fences can last hundreds of years!

Dry-stacked rock fence along Old Highway 68 at Shaker Village.

Even though these fences are built to last, fence failures or “breaks” can still be caused by many factors. Sometimes trees fall across them, tree roots up-heave the fences from below, heavy rains can soften the earth and wash-out sections, livestock or other animals rub against the fences and in winter the freezing and thawing of the earth cause movement in the stone.

Our team is constantly at work repairing these rock walls. This year alone, we have repaired 20 sections, measuring 136 feet of wall! In the last five years we repaired 245 sections measuring over 2000 feet!

Our efforts have focused on the most highly visible fences around the Village. We recognize that with so many miles of fence there are sections we haven’t gotten to yet, and with all the rain we have had over the last couple years it seems like there are new breaks occurring regularly!

Wondering how can you help? This fall we are partnering with the Dry Stone Conservancy to hold a workshop on repairing and maintaining rock fence. The workshop will be held October 19 and 20 here at Shaker Village!

Want to take part in the workshop, or learn about the Dry Stone Conservancy?Click here for more information!

We are also happy to accept donations toward maintaining these important features of our landscape!

Going Batty!

Ben Leffew, Preserve Manager
Laura Baird, Assistant Preserve Manager

Bats are an integral, but often overlooked and always misunderstood, part of our ecosystem. These small flying mammals eat their body weight in insects every night, making them great at controlling pests and reducing the spread of pathogens like West Nile and Zika. The big brown bat, the largest species caught in The Preserve, eats up to 4,000 mosquitoes each night!

A Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis)

In early July, a private contractor surveyed The Preserve’s bat population by setting up 30 foot tall nets across various parts of our trails and creeks. We set up three nets every night, checking each of them every ten minutes between sunset and 2:00 a.m. In five days of netting we caught over 50 individuals representing five different species:

  1. Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) – one of the largest and most common species in Kentucky, associated with man-made structures.
  2. Red bat (Lasiurus borealis) – a common, forest-dwelling species, roosting in trees instead of caves.
  3. Gray bat (Myotis grisescens) – listed as a threatened species in Kentucky and an endangered species federally, this cave-dwelling species migrates between breeding caves in the summer and hibernation caves in the winter.
  4. Small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) – a tiny, state threatened species, associated with cliffs.
  5. Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis) – listed as a species of ‘special concern’ in Kentucky, primarily roosting in trees.

Interestingly, our most endangered species was the most commonly caught – over 40% of our caught bats were gray bats!

A Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) who found its way into our “bat net!”

Up next for the Preserve Team is migration songbird banding. This helps us determine which bird species utilize our habitat as a refueling station for their trip south of the border for winter. To ensure the health of the birds, this event is not open to the public. Don’t worry, we take lots of pictures to share!

In Remembrance

Pleasant Hill bears witness to the Civil War

Jacob Glover, PhD, Program Manager

“Such a day as this has never been witnessed on Pleasant Hill before and God grant that it never may again.”

Written by the East Family Deaconness on October 11, 1862, this single line of text reveals much about the Shakers’ complicated relationship with the Civil War, and the events at Pleasant Hill during the campaigns that led to the Battle of Perryville.

Battle of Perryville, as depicted by Harper’s Weekly.

As a pacifist sect, the Pleasant Hill Shakers were extremely distressed by the reports of skirmishes and battles that continued to filter into their community throughout 1861 and 1862, as the Civil War intensified. By October 1862, then, the Shakers would have been well-accustomed to reading about the horrors of war. Seeing it in their front yard, however, was something entirely different:

“Strange events! Whoever would have thought that this secluded and sacred spot of truly Pleasant Hill, would ever have been surrounded by the embattled legions within hearing distance in almost every direction….How awful to think of a wicked and bloody battle occurring in the midst of Zion on earth!”

This “invasion” of the Shaker utopia, by both the Union and Confederate armies for several weeks in the fall of 1862, quite obviously, struck at the community’s religious foundations and caused a great deal of consternation among the population. The scenes described by the East Family Deaconness bordered on the apocalyptic, and, at times, the Shakers wrote as if the soldiers who “surrounded our wells like the locusts of Egypt” and “thronged our kitchen doors and windows begging for bread like hungry wolves” would overwhelm them.

The Company Muster Roll of Confederate Soldier William Outlaw, who was ill and treated by the Pleasant Hill Shakers prior to the Battle of Perryville. Outlaw never recovered, and was buried in the Shaker graveyard.
Courtesy of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site.

And yet, despite their absolute rejection of the validity of warfare, the Shakers could not turn a blind eye to the very real human suffering present at Pleasant Hill. “We nearly emptied our kitchens of their contents,” the Shakers commented, “…and then when our stores were exhausted, we were obliged to drive them from our doors while they were begging for food. Heart rending scene!”

The generosity of the Shakers must have been noteworthy and appreciated by the hungry soldiers, as the Shakers reported that none of their possessions or property had been confiscated by either army.

Both before and after the Battle of Perryville, the Shakers supported ailing and wounded soldiers by treating them at Pleasant Hill and sending medical supplies to nearby Harrodsburg. By early November 1862, there were still 600 to 700 soldiers in the town who were too sick or injured to rejoin their units.

While the Civil War, and the events surrounding the Battle of Perryville, had indeed shaken the community to it’s core, the East Family Deaconness refused to concede defeat in the Shakers’ quest to establish their earthly utopia. That Pleasant Hill “should have escaped with comparatively so little damage, clearly implies…” she concluded, “there is still a spark of light, a remnant of faith, and a seed of truth, [and] ‘I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.’”

What’s that Noise?

NOTICE: PRESERVATION@WORK Geothermal drilling will commence no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and will cease no later than 6 p.m. each day Oct. 2-6. Noise and vibration are to be expected.

Work on the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House has begun! And with that comes chainlink fences, construction equipment and loud noises. Sounds lovely, right? Actually, it really is! It’s the sound of preservation@work—work that will extend the lives of these two buildings, work that will prepare them for new interpretive experiences, work that would make the Shakers proud. So, while your Shaker Village experience will be different for the next year, we ask that you embrace this project and use it as a learning opportunity. During the next 12 months, our daily adventures schedule will feature special tours and activities highlighting the work being done on both buildings. We want you to be a part of this village@work project. Come see what’s happening! Ask questions, take a tour or read more here.

First up on the to-do list is drilling wells for the geothermal heating and cooling system.

Q: What are geothermal wells?
A: Geothermal wells are wells that tap into the natural energy found beneath the Earth. These wells will be attached to water source heat pumps inside the buildings, which maintain stable indoor temperatures.

Q: How does a geothermal system work?
A: The surface of the Earth can get quite cold or hot at times. The area beneath the Earth’s crust has a relatively stable temperature and geothermal energy utilizes this heat to provide heating or cooling for structures.

Q: How many wells are we drilling?
A: 36 total—24 for the Centre Family Dwelling and 12 for the Meeting House.

Q: How deep are the wells?
A: 380-400 feet!

Q: How are the wells connected to the building?
A: Each well has “unicoil” of pipe inside the well, a “supply” and “return in the shape of a U.” Each well is inter-connected into a pipe system, known as the “loop.” The main supply and return pipes are connected to pumps inside the building. This is known as a “closed loop” system. The system is sealed so no fluid is exchanged with the environment.

Q: What’s in the pipes?
A: The pipes are filled with glycol, a fluid similar to antifreeze in your car. The fluid doesn’t freeze and can transfer heat better than ordinary water.

Q: So how does it all work?
A: In winter, the system collects the Earth’s natural heat through the loop. The fluid circulates through the loop and carries the heat to the building. There, an electrically-driven compressor and a heat exchanger concentrate the heat and release it inside the building at a higher temperature. Ductwork distributes the heat to different rooms. In summer, the process is reversed. The loop draws excess heat from the building and allows it to be absorbed by the Earth.

Q: Isn’t it expensive?
A: The short answer is yes. Creating the infrastructure of wells and piping is a cost we have chosen to incur. We also have to create duct work and piping on the building interiors to distribute the heat or air conditioning. Our design team worked tirelessly to do this in ways that are sympathetic to the buildings so the systems are mostly hidden. When we are finished, you will have to look really hard to see where we added them.

Q: Why did Shaker Village choose geothermal?
A: Part of Shaker Village’s mission is to be good stewards of our resources. Geothermal helps us do this in two ways. First, geothermal heat pump systems are more than three times as efficient as the most economical furnace. Instead of burning a combustible fuel to create heat, a ground-source system uses the earth’s energy as heat. Geothermal systems provide three to four units of energy for every one unit used to power the system’s compressor, fan and water pump. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency identify geothermal as having the lowest environmental impact of all heating systems. Secondly, geothermal systems are able to reach very high efficiencies. For example, geothermal heat pump can be up to 600 percent efficient on the coldest days of the year—a normal air source heat pump will only be 175-200 percent efficient on cool days—meaning the geothermal system is using far less electricity than a comparable heat pump, furnace or air conditioner. Thus, this installation will help us save financial resources in the long run on our purchase of electricity.

This project has been in the works for decades. The systems installed during the 1960s in the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House  should’ve lasted 25-30 years, but we extended the life of those systems 50 years. Now, it’s time to dedicate the time and resources necessary to prolong the lives of these buildings for the next generation. When we are finished, guests will have a better experience inside the buildings during hot or cold days—regulating the temperature and humidity inside the building help us preserve the buildings and allow us to display furniture and textiles that are too fragile for non-climate controlled spaces. Some big long-term wins for a few weeks of noise and dust.

Preservation work is never completed—ongoing repair, maintenance and upkeep is critical for the sustainability of this site. Thanks to your donations and site revenue, projects like this are possible.


William Updike is the vice president for natural and cultural resource management…

Save the Monarchs

GLINTstudios_2015_ShakerVillage_00140

Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States to warmer southern regions. The monarch migration is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, yet it is threatened by habitat loss. The Preserve serves as a giant Monarch Waystation, providing wildflowers and other resources necessary for monarchs to breed in the spring and summer and feed during their fall migration.

Monarch butterfly ULJ157, tagged at the Village in September 2015 traveled approximately 2,000 miles to El Rosario, Mexico where it was recaptured in March 2016. Monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico to as far north as Canada in the spring and then back south again in the fall. By tagging these amazing creatures, guests at Shaker Village contribute to international research efforts aimed at preserving this declining species. The milkweed and other plants found throughout the restored native prairie act as a giant butterfly waystation for monarchs and hundreds of other pollinators. We are thrilled that one of our tagged butterflies made it back south where the journey started all over again this spring.


This month at Shaker Village, join us for Spirit Strolls, HarvestFest, a new photography exhibit and much more! Wanna help save the butterflies? Check out our Monarch Butterfly Tagging Workshop on Sept. 17 and 18.