Saturday, September 15, 2018


We are getting ready for the FLOWtilla event September 29th! We are going to decorate one of our new wooden boats as a cardinal, the Virginia state bird. If you'd like to decorate your own kayak or boat, come to the Center Saturday, September 22nd, for help and ideas!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Seed Exchange Garden

Yesterday was the first day of serious weeding in our Seed Exchange Garden, in its second year. The garden came to us through a gift of Pat Brodowski, the wonderful vegetable gardener of Monticello (her vegetables are full of wonder!). The seeds originate from the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, via Lewis and Clark scholar Clay Jenkinson, who has presented at Monticello during its Heritage Festival and who grows a garden of his own in the Dakotas. Virginia got North Dakotan seeds, and North Dakota got Monticello's seeds, and the seeds are spreading.

Pat also gave us a book to go along with the seeds: "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden," an account of Hidatsa gardening. I read it once, before the garden, and once during. Having worked with the seeds, I understood the second reading much more, but want to go back for a third. The account went over my head the first time, and for the second my head had risen a I'm curious about what level I'm at now.

We have other seeds in the garden, besides the heritage Native American seeds. Last year we let tomatoes rot on the vine, and now we have many tomato volunteers. The Native American beans have also come up without our help, though we have since planted more. I was told to thin the ones that had already emerged. So far this hasn't happened. I am letting them grow up in a big clump together. They are flowering already.

The deer fence hasn't gone up yet, and we have our first deer tracks in the garden. I planted a seedling (not sure what it was...a gift from Monticello and I can't remember the herb, I think.) in one of the tracks, which I consider a sign of optimism. Besides, we are going to put up the fence soon. Last year we worried about mammals, but it was an insect that was our enemy: the squash borer worm.

A Girl Scout troop is partnering with us on the garden this year. They came and helped sprout and then plant seeds. So far we've had an elementary school class plant seeds, the Girl Scout troop, two Master Gardners from Arkansas, and the children of two families who visited us during open public hours. The garden is more randomly planted this year than it was last year, especially with the volunteer seeds.  Volunteer people and volunteer seeds have given us some surprises. The elementary school children spread out larger than I intended with the sunflowers seeds. Sunflowers may be everywhere within a month.

This year we enlarged the garden, pulling it longer with the tractor. Here is where I made my first mistake: I decided to plant it in rows going down the hill instead of going across like we did last year. I changed the pattern to better resemble the diagram in the book. The couple from Arkansas warned me after the fact that having rows running down the hill might cause runnels. After our heavy rains, there is now a runnel in the middle of the garden. Last year we didn't have the same heavy rains or a runnel. Now I'm thinking I can try to plant some horizontal rows at the top of the hill.

The Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center is about the Rivanna River and about the Missouri, since we have three replicas of the boats that made it to the Mandan villages. Highlighting the agriculture that fed Lewis and Clark in the Mandan villages seems right, but it also leads to questions. Is planting Native American crops appropriation? Are we using it for our own gain in a negative way, or is it a way of knowledge, to understand Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara cultures? Are we imitating without full consciousness, or are we following in footsteps to understand them, or both?

The experience is derived, no matter what. We obviously do not have the same social context. Our lives are not dependent on the crops, or entwined with the crops. We are far from the original experience. But we are learning from the seeds, and from meeting their needs, and we can taste the crops, and recount the history of the seeds as we know it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Unlock History!

We've developed a new history game for the Center, with an easy and a difficult version, depending on your age and your familiarity with puzzle games. It's called Unlock History! and it will be available to the public through the summer, and to school and scouting groups by reservation the entire year. It is similar to an Escape Room game, but it does the opposite--solving the puzzles lets you in, not out!

Each of our full-size boat replicas are locked up--and you need to figure out the numbers to unlock them. The Keelboat cabin must also be unlocked with a password. Entering the cabin, there will be three boxes that will be the next challenge. Their combinations are figured out by doing three puzzles within the Center: Jefferson's Decoder Puzzle; the Trail Map and Math Puzzle, and the Compass and Language Puzzle. Each puzzle teaches you about history and leads you to learn even more.

You have an hour to complete the challenge!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Schedule

We are open Saturday, November 26th from 10 to 4! We hope to see you and your family!

We are closed Friday, November 25 for the holiday.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Boats and Butterflies Festival October 8

We're still on rain or shine! We won't be launching on the river, but we will be making model boats we can float from the shore. Inside, there will be plenty of art to be made about butterflies, and an exhibition of our heritage seed garden...that attracted plenty of butterflies this summer and fall.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 14, 2016 Public Opening

From 10 to 4 this coming Saturday, we'll be giving inside and outdoor tours and announcing our first regular public hours since the completion of the new building. From 2 to 3 we will be honoring the donors to the Meriwether Lewis Home Front Chapter library and showing the beautiful statues, "The Grand Endeavor," and "Walla Walla Woman."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Our Winter Calendar

We've set our winter calendar! Here are some of our Saturday public open times coming up...the hours are all 10 to 2.

January 30
We're having a scavenger hunt of items related to the Lewis & Clark Expedition! Teams encouraged. We will also be making wooden animal medallions (see our Facebook page for examples). 

February 13
President's Day and Valentine's Day activities

February 20
We are hoping to participate in Kid*Vention at the Key Recreation Center--details to follow
March 12
Audio Tour Hikes
The public will be invited to give input on the first "draft" of our audio tour. You'll listen to the tour as you walk inside our building and outside on the trails.

March 26
UVA volunteers will be working on site.

April 9
Model Boat Day
We will be making model wooden and paper boats, and trying them out on the river.