October 13, 2010

Once More to the Farm

Social Networking Site: A group of boys from St. Christopher School in Nashua catch up on life at Robert Frost Farm.
Fourth-graders from Nashua pay a visit to the Frost Farm, 
as folks there turn their thoughts to another New England winter. 

Union Leader Correspondent
nother season has come and gone, and Bill Gleed prepares to lock up one last time. But not before a group of fourth-graders get to squeeze one more day of discovery from the old
 Frost Farm.
“We officially closed yesterday,” said Gleed, going through some paperwork and trying to remember where he left his seasonal “wish list,” which the Rotary Club graciously fulfills each year, to help ease the state park budget.
“They mow my field — hey, that’s a big deal, a great big expense we’d otherwise have to take
 care of,” said Gleed. 
From left, Livia Hussey, Madeleine Fechke
 and Leah Stutzman, fourth-graders from St.
Christopher School in Nashua, enjoy a
picnic lunch in the field behind Frost Farm yesterday.
Mikayla Breslin, left, and Elizabeth Croke gather up
their gear and head back to the bus after a
 tour of Robert Frost’s historic homestead.
Yesterday’s guided tour, the last of the year, was for a group of St. Christopher School fourth-graders, who made the trip from Nashua with their teacher, Clare Ternan. 
Getting an off-season tour is a little easier when your teacher is also the chairman of the board of trustees for the Frost Farm. 
“I used to be manager here,” said Ternan, who teaches science at the Nashua school. 
“We haven’t had a field trip here in a while, but you really get a feel for Robert Frost here, especially in the woods,” said Ternan. 
Her students have been studying the poetry of Frost, and the trip gave them a chance to see where and how he lived, and glimpse the natural beauty that inspired him. 
“We walked out through the woods and sat on the original mending wall, and we got to see the last two original apple trees — that’s all that’s left now,” said Ternan. “I try to get some science stuff in, but mostly, it’s a chance for them to take it all in.” 
A group of boys who’d finished their bagged lunches early were hunkered down in a houseless tree house, their arms and legs wrapped around the gnarled branches as they talked about kid life. 
Three girls were slurping the last of their juice boxes, impromptu picnic style, on a blanket of green grass, enjoying the fullness of the noonday sun. “I loved it,” said Leah Stutzman, of the tour through Frost’s former homestead, just before collapsing the juice pouch with one last slurp on the straw. Gleed usually offers a biographical sketch before leading groups through the mud room and into the restored kitchen, then up the creaky steps to where Frost would read to his children nightly, and gaze at the stars with them before tucking them in. 
“We learned a lot,” said fellow picnicker Olivia Hussey. 
“It’s nice here.” 
Another bunch of girls decided to see how many fourth-graders would fit into the arms of an old apple tree, and so they climbed up onto the lowest branch, shimmying together to make room for the next girl. When it became clear that there was no way six would squeeze comfortably onto a branch built for four, they hoisted Sara Schmitt into the air and tried to make it work anyway. 
Then they dissolved into a pile of giggles and started over again. 
“I memorized ‘The Pasture.’ It’s one of the shortest poems by Robert Frost, but I love it,” said Hannah Swabowicz, climbing down from her apple tree perch.. ‘I’m going out to clean the pasture spring,’ — that’s how it starts,” she said. 
“What that means, is that he’s going out to the stream to clean up,” said Emily Moloney, offering to interpret the eightline poem, which also involves fetching a calf, and not lingering too long in the woods. 

Thanks to Gleed’s artful and entertaining narrative during the 40 or so annual school tours, kids like Grace Lambert also pick up a bit of little-known Frost lore while exploring the place where the beloved poet once lived. 
“I learned one thing I didn’t know — it’s not that big of a fact — but I learned that Robert Frost was kind of a lazy farmer,” said Grace, with a knowing smile. 
Gleed said his off-the-cuff guided tours generally stick to the facts, but over the years as park manager he’s been able to incorporate all kinds of entertaining tidbits that seem to tickle the imaginations of tourists, young and old alike. 
“By the time Robert Frost got here, he was pretty much preparing to be Robert Frost the poet we all know. I have often thought that someone needs to make a movie about Robert Frost, the early years,” said Gleed. “I think it would be best done by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks — they could probably capture who Frost was, before the farm. A lot of funny stuff happened to Frost on his way to the farm — he was just a young man who struggled, like everyone, with life, and who it was he wanted to be.” 

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