WARWICK – Anne Holst remembers growing up at Clouds Hill Farm, in the Cowesett area in a Victorian home – passed down through generations of women – as a place where goats roamed, hay was cut and her mother, the legendary Nancy Allen Holst, kept a donkey which she rode to the neighbor’s each morning for coffee.
Now a stunning public museum, Clouds Hill was bordered by Anne’s great-aunt’s dairy farm with “apple orchards and cornfields all over Love Lane.” What was a full working farm became prime real estate containing large, comfortable Colonial homes in a highly desirable neighborhood linking Warwick and East Greenwich.
For the past five years, Holst has recreated that simpler time, throwing open the grounds on Columbus Day for “A Day in the Country: Introducing Today’s Children to Old-Time Farming.”
This year’s event will be held from 1-5 p.m. Monday.
With help from friends who are experts in a number of nearly-lost art-forms, she brings out antique farming implements from her collection – soon to be another separate public entity at Clouds Hill, joining the home and carriage museums – and shows how they once were used to supply daily needs.
“We have a cider mill, corn sheller, silage chopper for chickens and a barley-separating machine” as well as a horse-drawn harrow and plow for tilling the fields that will be demonstrated.
Among artisans and the skills they will demonstrate are Helen Essex and Bertie Ducker who will put up jam; Jim Cherenzia and his Percherons will perform field work; Lloyd Essex will operate the corn sheller; Tom Greene will press cider; and Debbie Lake will be the costumed docent greeting visitors to the carriage museum where the Rhode Island Bicentennial covered wagon, the King Stanley Gypsy wagon and other conveyances are displayed.
There will also be a calligraphy presentation with observers receiving quill pens provided by the flock of wild turkeys who live on the property and a printed brochure on the history of farming will be offered.
It will be a hands-on event: Visitors can help feed apples into the 1800s cider mill and turn the crank to press out the juice; assist with butter-churning and sample their handiwork on corn muffins; take a carriage ride and interact with animals in a petting zoo. This year’s stars are Dunkan and Domenic, mini-donkeys owned by Erin Soscia.
Perhaps the most fun is reserved for children under 8 who will experience being a “Farmer for a Day.”
“They will throw the pig some corn,” explains Holst who notes, “It’s a fake pig and fake corn.” They’ll also collect Easter eggs from beneath plastic chickens, pick apples hanging on the low branches of a tree, harvest potatoes that have been buried just for the event, rope a fake calf and get close and personal with a faux horse.
“Kids seem to enjoy it a lot,” says Holst, who puts a lot of thought into each year’s activities. “At the end we ask them to draw their favorite thing. Last year we had 20 kids who drew 20 different favorite things. They liked the beekeeper, the rides, the goats and the cider-making” among other features.
Admission for “A Day in the Country” is $5, free for children 12 and under. Additional fees will be charged for some activities. The entrance to Clouds Hill Farm is marked by a red-and-gold sign on Post Road, south of Cowesett Road.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is a freelance writer for SRIN.