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Goats of Winterthur

This article was written in June 2017 by Natural Lands Intern Caroline Toth. Sadly, one of the goats that she portrays, Stanley, passed away at the end of August. This wonderful blog post offers not only a joyful glimpse into a little known world at Winterthur, but also timely solace to those of us saddened by the loss of a much-loved four-footed friend. Thank you, Carrie, for providing both.

As the weather warms and the meadow grasses flower, Winterthur’s herd of seven Boer goats is set to work munching areas of Brown’s Woods where invasive shrub-layer plants have taken over. Although our goats can’t discern between native versus non-native plants, the act of defoliation and damage to the non-natives suppresses the populations’ reproductive success. Plus, judging by our goats’ zealous appetites, it would seem that these greens are quite the delicacy, indeed!

Although our sweet (and sometimes spoiled) goats took some time to become accustomed to their temporary pen in the woods, they soon grew to love their home of prolific tasty treats.

 

It’s not always easy to get goats to do what you want, especially when you are introducing them to something unknown. When our livestock first saw the contraption we devised to transport them from pasture to forest, they harbored some serious reservations. Luckily for us, a mere handful of treats was compensation enough for them to voluntarily enter the cage strapped on to the trailer.  

Goats on the move!

 

The “Who’s Who” of the Small Ruminant World

All seven of our goats are purebred Boer goats. Originally from South Africa, the Boer goat was bred to be as large as possible to maximize profits in the meat market. “The bigger, the better” was the idea behind breeding Boers.

Here at Winterthur, our Boers were all given to us as donations from herd owners who loved the goat in question so much that they could not bear to send them to market – and we are so glad, because now, we can’t imagine life without them!

 

Our first goats were Franklin and Stanley. Stanley is the alpha goat – kind of the wise caretaker of the herd. Franklin came from the same herd as Stanley, but Franklin is as loud as Stanley is quiet! Franklin is determined to make his presence known to every person and animal in the visual vicinity. When he is feeling affectionate, he lets you know by way of rubbing his head on you. When he is annoyed with you, he’ll emit a high-pitched whinny of frustration before slowly clopping away.

Franklin

Stanley

 

Morgan is a former show goat. Although she was born and raised on a meat farm, her good looks saved her from going to market. When she was pregnant with her kids, however, she developed a sway back. Around that same time, the tag on her left ear became stuck in a fence, and she ripped herself free, resulting in a permanently ripped ear. Because show goats are expected to be physically perfect, Morgan’s looks weren’t enough to save her anymore. We are lucky, then, that she had her babies Minnie and Missie. When Morgan’s previous owner saw how sweet they all were together, she donated the three of them to Winterthur to spare them a life of hardship.

Morgan

 

Minnie and Missie are twins. They are now one year old – old enough to fend for themselves, in goat culture. But up until April, Morgan defended her kids with her life. She fiercely attacked any goat who came too close to her precious babies, and every human who came near was put under immediate scrutiny. Due to living such sheltered lives, Minnie and Missie developed exceptionally playful and affectionate attitudes. Although they now each fend for themselves, they still maintain the sweet and mischievous affectation they were notorious for when they were babies.

Missie

Minnie

 

Nora and Riley are half-sisters who came from the same farm. Although they had different mothers, they were born around the same time. As kids, they bonded closely when both of them were donated to Winterthur in 2016. They are each fourteen months old – only two months older than Minnie and Missie – but they didn’t have their mothers around to protect them when they were smaller. Because of this, they had to learn to fend for themselves at an early age. Even though life is much more pleasant for them now, a youth of hardship instilled in them a quiet cleverness that still manifests itself every day.

Nora

Riley

 

It’s been a privilege introducing you to Winterthur’s goats! Just one glimpse of these creatures, whether out in the fields grazing or sitting atop their jungle-gym of giant tree stumps, will likely be one of the happiest sights you will see at Winterthur!

Minnie gazes up at Franklin

 

Check out the below “Goat Gallery” for more great pictures!

9/9/2017 – Garden Architecture & Sunset from the Train Station [re-scheduled]

Due to a rescheduling, we will have two Director’s Garden Walks with Director of Garden and Estate Chris Strand this Saturday. The first one, 1:00–2:30 pm, features garden architecture and water features. The second is a sunset walk to Winterthur’s train station, which was originally cancelled due to rain. Enjoy a sunset walk over the meadows to the train station and back at 6:00 pm.

1:00 pm walk leaves from the Visitor Center patio.
6:00 pm walk leaves from the Visitor Center Parking lot.

Walks last about 90 minutes. Be sure to bring a flashlight for the evening walk and wear walking shoes.

The following was written by Garden & Estate Intern Emma Relei. 
~~~

Early every Saturday morning, families begin to roll up to the Brown Horticulture Learning Center at Winterthur. In front of the building, bordered by billowing catmint and a row of vintage greenhouses, over 40 garden beds lay bursting with life. Despite the early hour, young children are full of excitement as they reach their individual patch. Ripening tomatoes, developing eggplants, unruly cosmos, vibrant lettuce and coiling beans flourish in front of their eyes. Observing the growth from the previous week, shouts of giddy delight can be heard all around:  

Dad! We can cook radishes with dinner tonight!

Wow, my garden has so many weeds. It’s adorable!

It is like a forest of zinnias!

Through a child’s eyes

How is it that just a little bit of soil, sun and water are all it takes to grow a plant from an insubstantial seed? One might also ask how a little bit of soil, sun and water are enough to spark a child’s sense of awe and wonder. In the garden, so many lessons are sown and so many memories are reaped. As an intern, these bright and early Saturday mornings have become some of the fondest moments of my time here at Winterthur.

When first arriving in May for my internship, I was anxious for the privilege to learn under experienced and knowledgeable horticulturists. Plant identification, landscape design and garden cultural practices were all courses included in the intern schedule. Yet, above all, I was most eager to be involved with the Kids Grow program. The thought of helping children to plan, sow, tend and harvest their own vegetable gardens completely captivated my heart. However, while assisting with teaching, I had no idea how much I would learn in return.

Unruly cosmos

Kids Grow is a free summer course for children, ages 6 to 14, of Winterthur’s member families. This year nearly 40 children from 15 different families participated. Not only do the kids care for their own garden plots, but there are numerous educational activities, as well. From flower arranging to gourd painting, every week’s activity is slightly different from the last.

With row upon row of individual raised beds, this is a community vegetable garden of sorts. Every patch is unique. Some children have meticulous attention to detail. Others are brimming with creativity. Some painstakingly plant one seed at a time in a perfect row. Others spill the entire contents of their seed packet in a single spot (and two weeks later begrudgingly have much thinning to do). Each garden patch reflects the child who cares for it. A wonderfully made and grown personality shines through in every marigold, eggplant and tomato arrangement.

Watering station

We have all heard the saying, “You reap what you sow.” If a little hard work and effort are sown in, much can be reaped out, right? Well…garden planning does not always guarantee a bountiful harvest. Poor weather, old seed, pesky critters or encroaching weeds are a few of the many things that can cause problems for even the most skillful gardener. There is always much trial and error. Yet something is always reaped, vegetable or naught. Growth is a miracle, whether a tiny seed or a child’s knowledge. In fact, at Kids Grow we are nurturing more than just a garden. Families are raised up and inspired to garden together at home. Children are encouraged to learn and appreciate the world around them. Character and self-esteem are cultivated in down-to-earth conversations (literally). A community is grown up from the grass roots.

So…at the end of the day, if you were to ask me, “Emma, what did you learn while working with Kids Grow?” I might tell you that I learned how heat tolerant carrots are not really a thing, despite what the seed packet may say. More likely, I would report that sowing seeds in good soil reaps countless blessings. This summer I learned to keep a sense of childlike wonder—where weeds are adorable and zinnias grow into flower forests. I learned that growth, whether of plants or knowledge or relationships, develops confidence. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that gardening is more than a horticultural science. It is an act of patience and love.

Families gardening in their plots

It has been a learning experience for which I am eternally grateful. This summer we sowed beans, sunflowers and radishes. Little did we know that family memories, cherished moments of discovery and sweet friendships would also be reaped along with all our veggies. I can joyfully say that our harvest is plentiful this year. While our gardens provided abundant crops, our hearts are no less than overflowing.

 

See below for more photos from this year’s Kids Grow program!  

The Wonders of Nature

Unless you have totally unplugged from the world (which is doubtful if you are reading this blog!) we all either witnessed with our own (protected) eyes or saw images through the media of our recent phenomenon of the total—or in our case partial—eclipse. It occurred on Monday, which is a day that we are closed to the public so it gave staff a little more leeway to come outside and revel in the spectacle. All of the usual contraptions were in place: approved viewing glasses, homemade boxes and cameras to capture some of the images that resulted from the eclipse paired with a lot of chatter and excitement to be witnessing such an event.

Leaves from trees showing the crescent shape of the sun.


Since we only experienced a partial eclipse, the day was still bright but with a different feel to it. At a loss of how to describe it, I can only say that it was bright with a shadowy overtone. The contrast was certainly higher when looking into sunlit areas from the shade as the shade was much darker than usual. It seemed as if the outside was vailed with a screen—and it was.

A cut-leaf outline of a tree shadow.


As I heard people talking about their experiences and saw pictures that were posted marking this event it caused me think, “what if people took time out of their day, every day, to marvel at what miracles of nature surround us all the time to which we just don’t pay any mind.” A simple example of this is that light changes every day so theoretically our perception has the potential to change every day. Nature is different now from how it was a month ago, responding to the incremental shifts that happen, slowly, with the passing of each day.

I stopped gardening at my house the other day due to a cacophony of bird song in my neighbor’s yard. It was a flock of goldfinches, working at the ripening seeds of purple coneflower, an event that would not happened just a few days earlier since the seed was not then ripe. Though this maybe a yearly event, it is still a magical moment to witness. Whether at the Winterthur Garden or in your own home garden, keep your eyes peeled and take time to notice what is happening all around you, the daily miracles of life.

This evening’s spectacular performance…

2017 Horticulture Interns

Inside the Interns’ Garden

July 26, 2017 | 11:30 am | Brown Horticulture Learning Center

Winterthur’s horticulture interns share about their behind-the-scenes experiences in the Winterthur Garden in this conversational-style presentation, one that has become an annual tradition! This year, come hear about some of the unique projects and research that the interns have been pursuing during their time at Winterthur.

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations that introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies.

Colorful Clues

Wisteria and tulips in formal flower garden at Winterthur, May 1910

In Living Color:
Winterthur’s Lost Garden Through
Autochrome Photography

July 19, 2017 | 11:30 am | Brown Horticulture Learning Center

The Winterthur Library’s collection of autochromes, the first industrially produced color photographs, provides horticulturists with a valuable glimpse into Mr. du Pont’s early design aesthetic. In particular, their portrayal between 1910 and 1921 of a lavish, formal flower garden at Winterthur is particularly priceless in that this garden no longer exists today. Join Assistant Curator of Education Erica Anderson for a sampling of historical images picturing this “lost garden,” and then go on-site to investigate the garden’s original location and see remnants from its colorful past.

Oriental poppies in formal flower garden at Winterthur, May 1912

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations that introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies.

Letterhead for Winterthur Farms

Gentleman Farmers and Estate Farm Buildings

July 12, 2017 | 11:30 am | Brown Horticulture Learning Center

H.F. du Pont was one of the most accomplished gentleman farmers of his day. In this presentation by Director of Interpretation and Estate Historian Jeff Groff, you will learn more about the history of this elite group of farmers, the state-of-the-art facilities they created, and their involvement in exclusive organizations such as the Farmers Club.

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations that introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies.

Garden Insider: What’s a Folly?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 – 11:30 am – Rotunda*

In 2018 the Winterthur Garden will be hosting its first outdoor exhibition, entitled “Follies: Architectural Whimsy in the Garden.” Not sure just what that will look like? Join Carol Long, Curator of the Garden, to find out more.

Latimeria Summerhouse at Winterthur

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations that introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. *This week’s presentation will take place in the Rotunda. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.

Garden Insider: The Art of Beekeeping—Winterthur Style!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 – 11:30 am – Brown Horticulture Learning Center

Join beekeeper Chris Biondi for a behind-the-scenes look at managing honeybees and honey production on the Winterthur Estate. Following the 30-minute presentation, guests are invited to take a hayride out to the hives to see beekeeping in action!

About the speaker: Chris Biondi is an experienced beekeeper and former Treasurer of the Chester County Beekeepers Association. He currently maintains approximately 40 colonies for honey production, in addition to running a successful queen rearing operation.

Chris Biondi among the beehives

“Garden Insider” is a new name for a longstanding Winterthur tradition (“Wednesdays at Winterthur”). Join us for this unique series of walks, talks, and demonstrations which introduce you every week to a specialist from among the staff, volunteers, and other professionals affiliated with the Winterthur Garden. Presentations explore all aspects of the Winterthur Garden and Estate – their history, design, and plants – as well as current topics of interest in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental studies. All presentations start at 11:30 am at the Brown Horticulture Learning Center. About 1 hour. Free to Members and included with admission.