Some stars as seen from my backyard (photo Ashleigh Longtine)

Some stars as seen from my backyard (photo Ashleigh Longtine)

It was very clear one night last week, and so I decided to go outside and look at the stars.  No matter how many times I’ve seen them, looking up at the stars makes me feel like a child again—small, and full of awe and wonder.  We used to have a telescope that we would look through and see the planets, and sometimes, if we were lucky, galaxies.  I enjoyed those nights, and while I had no telescope last week, I decided to head outside anyway and just look up.

I went out around at around ten forty, shutting off all the lights around the house.  I had my heart set on finding the constellations that are currently visible in our night sky, and writing about them.  I even downloaded Stellarium to my laptop in the hopes that it would make finding the constellations easier.  But between Marysville to the west, Delaware to the east, and Columbus in the south, each lighting up the horizon with an ambient glow, it was difficult to see stars that weren’t as bright.  I was determined to not let that bother me, and kept trying to find the constellations when I realized that I had another problem.  I was familiar with the summer sky, and this was the autumn sky.  The constellations were all in different places.

Still determined to find something in the sky, I sought out the few constellations I knew.  I found Cassiopeia first, and then Ursa Major (the big dipper) and Ursa Minor (the little dipper).  I thought I saw Orion, but I wasn’t sure.


This was another good shot my sister got of the stars. (Photo Ashleigh Longtine)

The big dipper, the tail of Ursa Major, or the big bear, was always the easiest thing for me to find in the sky since I was a kid.  And as I looked up at it, I remembered the Greek mythology behind it that I learned a few semesters ago.  Her name is Callisto.  She used to be a human in goddess of the hunt Artemis’ fan club.  Artemis had set up a few rules about being a member of the club, and Zeus tricked Callisto into breaking one of those rules.  So Artemis turned Callisto into a bear.  Now Callisto had a son, Arcas, who grew to become a king and hunter.  He went hunting one day and saw a bear, and decided to kill it.

Now of course this happened to be his mother, Callisto, but he didn’t know any better.  Zeus, seeing the problem, couldn’t just let Arcas kill his mother, since it was his fault Callisto was a bear anyway.  So Zeus turned Arcas into a smaller bear—Ursa Minor—and put them both among the stars.

None of it is true, but it’s an interesting story.  And each constellation carries a different one, told years upon years ago.  For some reason, we remember stories for a long time.  They cross generational divides and become a sort of collective knowledge.  And here, the stars, infinite in size and number, are infinite in yet another dimension.  Within the constellations, stars hold the stories that we put there.

With school starting back up and the general pressures of life, I’ll confess, I’ve been pretty stressed out.  But looking out at the universe, the stars and planets, was calming.  It doesn’t get too chilly at night yet, so I’d suggest you go out and check out those stars sometime soon.  Maybe take the kids out and look for constellations, or make your own and put your own stories inside of them.



The Story Behind Leeds Farm

Owner Christy Leeds tells me about the farm.  (Photo Katie Longtine

Owner Christy Leeds tells me about the farm. (Photo Katie Longtine

Autumn is coming, which means it’s almost time for colorful falling leaves, apple cider, and pumpkins.  It also means it’s almost time for Leeds Farm to open to the public.  Located on Route 36 near Ostrander, Leeds offers fun activities for the family for affordable prices (pricing info here).  My family has made wonderful, fun memories there, but I never knew much about the farm itself, so I spoke with owner Christy Leeds to learn more.

14-9-12 Leed's Farm 012

View of the activities from atop the mountain slides. The farm looks so different when it’s busy! (photo Katie Longtine

Christy and Rob Leeds first started growing pumpkins on Rob’s farm when they married.  In 1994, they decided to open to sell pumpkins, so they bought their property on Route 36 and started a business.  Over time, people began asking if they could go in the barn and see the animals, so the Leeds started adding new activities.  Twenty years later, they feature a variety of activities, from the exciting big zip to the combine slide—the only of its kind in the Midwest.

(photo Katie Longtine

(photo Katie Longtine

Leeds Farm offers a chance for kids to be active, Christy says.  They purposefully choose active adventure activities to engage the kids.  With activities as creative as the combine slide and tube time, I had to wonder how they thought of them!  Christy told me they attend an annual conference, which consists mostly of people with farms much like Leeds.  The community shares ideas which can be adapted to fit other farms.

This is the combine slide from the side (photo Katie Longtine

This is the combine slide from the side (photo Katie Longtine

Combine slide from the front. (Photo Katie Longtine

Combine slide from the front. (Photo Katie Longtine

On an average working day, employees come in early to get the farm ready.   Doors open at ten, and then until five there are lots of people.  There are chores, and the animals have to be cared for throughout the day, but a break is taken to feed the staff.  At five they close, and then they reopen from 6:00 to 8:30 for a private party that has rented out the farm.  There’s a bonfire for the party, and then the farm closes, the staff cleans up, and heads home.  In the spring, the farm will host events as a venue (like weddings), and in October they open for school tours.

14-9-12 Leed's Farm 006

These adorable piglets were forty-eight hours old when this photo was taken! (photo Katie Longtine

During school tours, they love to educate the kids about agriculture.  One of the reasons the Leeds started the farm was their interest in helping people understand agriculture and desire to provide people with a closer view of it.  Christy says she wishes they had more time for discussions about agriculture. However, people come to the farm to have fun with their families, so it’s difficult to strike a balance between educating them and having fun.  One of the things they’ve tried to do for the kids is design activities that help them learn about agriculture.  For example, a lot of kids have never seen and held field corn.  At Leeds Farm, there are corn boxes—like sandboxes except filled with corn—for the kids to play in!

14-9-12 Leed's Farm 007

(photo Katie Longtine

Christy says she loves the farm because it is what her family does together, even their extended family.  She’s thankful that the guests realize a lot of work goes into transforming the farm into a public space, and she’s thankful for their respect.  Leeds will be open to the public for six weekends, starting September 20 and ending October 26.  October 2 they’ll be hosting Witch’s Night Out, a girl’s night out event.  All of the ticket sales go to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides against Breast Cancer.  You can find more information about all their farm fun and special events on their website.  If you’ve never been, take your family for an afternoon of fall fun and memories you won’t forget!

About Maria: This year’s youth Chalk Fest winner

Maria's winning Chalk Fest piece

Maria’s winning Chalk Fest piece

Recently I had the joy and privilege to interview Maria Granger, the winner of the youth division of Chalk Fest, held this Independence Day.  Maria is going to be a sophomore at Buckeye Valley.  We talked a lot about her art, her hobbies, and a few other fun random things along the way.  Her Chalk Fest entry was a picture of Elsa, from Disney’s Frozen.  She told me it took her about eight hours, stopping just to eat.

Maria has been working on her art seriously since she was in middle school and decided to go into animation.  She realized that she was artistic while having a scientific and mathematical mind, and wanted to do something where she could use both.  Watching anime and playing videogames influenced her to move toward this field, where she hopes to do animation for videogames.  For kicks, I asked her what her favorite game was, to which she responded the Legend of Zelda series.

Maria works mostly digitally, which means she does most of her drawings and sketches on the computer using drawing software and a pen tablet.  However, she does like to play around with Copic markers every now and again.  She describes her style as “semi-realistic.”  When she started drawing, she had a heavy anime/manga influence, which has become more realistic as her style has developed.  She finds the hardest thing as an artist is finding ways to promote yourself.  There are plenty of fantastic artists on the internet, and it’s hard to find your niche that you can claim as your own.  She also said it’s hard to find the motivation sometimes.  Yet she manages to draw thirty minutes a day in the summer.  School really slows down her ability to draw, but she definitely doodles in her notes.

Maria (sitting right) and her friend chat as Maria breaks for food.

Maria (sitting right) and her friend chat near Maria’s work

“Draw all the time,” Maria recommends to artists just starting out.  Have a sketch book, and draw in it every day.  Maria said she tries to do gesture drawings every day, which capture motion and are important for animation. She also recommends drawing things you don’t draw much.  She told me a funny story where she went to an art camp, and was the oldest kid there.  So while all the other kids were just learning how to use the pen tablets and software, the camp leader asked her what she was good at drawing.  She said she was pretty good at drawing people.  So the camp leader responded, “Okay, now sit here and draw motorcycles.”

When she’s not drawing, Maria plays hockey very competitively.  She says she is also going to play soccer for fun this year, and she plays ukulele.  Additionally, she enjoys cosplay, which is dressing up and usually acting like a character, generally at a comic convention or an anime convention.  She said her favorite cosplay she has done is Robin, because Batman and Robin are just too cool.

I really enjoyed talking with Maria, she was super sweet.  It’s so awesome to see youth in the county pursuing goals.  I feel like kids are often discouraged from going into art.  So Maria: you go, girl! Keep following chasing your dream, and don’t give up!

If you’re interested in learning more about Maria and you’re into the tumblr thing, you can check out her tumblr blog here.