VVH Campfires

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VVH Campfires

I have loved “story” since I was a small child ensconced in the children’s room at the Portsmouth Library.  I loved to read – about faraway places and different cultures, of fables and legends, of saints and sinners, of plants and planets.  There was a whole world out there to know.

My professional career has been as a counselor, where I have had the privilege of hearing others’ stories and encouraged them to give voice to and share their hopes and fears, their successes and failures, their paths.

The “paths” of these two worlds came together eleven weeks ago.  COVID19 had locked us in our homes and we all struggled to give voice to and share this new reality.  Renee Hobbs, through the Media Education Lab, launched Virtually Viral Hangouts, and yet another world was born.  A group of educators began coming together, sharing – life in isolation, life on a screen, the beauty of life, the uncertainty of life, life away from a classroom, life without shoes, life within four walls. We laughed.  We cried.  We screamed. We danced.  And then as all educators do, we all began teaching and learning.  Each day brought nuggets…little stories that had to be told.  Storytelling Friday was born.

For me, storytelling was a way to get us out of our heads and into our hearts.  It was a way to capture the simplicity and commonality of what we were all living: a world of slippers and bare feet, of filled gas tanks and empty cupboards, of fear and concern for our students, of grief with no outlet, of silent neighborhoods and barred doors.  We walked in each other’s shoes and shared our homes and our cultures. We shared family recipes through an online recipe book and realized that we all have a little saint and sinner in us.  We have formed bonds that will continue to grow.  As we move back to our respective worlds, I think what we have learned will ripple out to our communities.  These communities will be richer for the time we have had together. For the stories we have shared and how we have learned to ask others to tell their stories.

And, when that world gets too cold and crazy, remember to come back to the VVH campfire and tell us some stories.  We will be waiting!

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Description automatically generated   Kathleen

Real Love Stories Never Have Endings


The first Leap assignment for EDC 534 is to critically analyze a mentor text. I happened upon a wonderful YouTube video entitled, Almy-Thurston Farm. It is the story of Christmas tree farmer in the town where I was raised, Portsmouth, RI.

The Author

“Almy-Thurston Farm,” is the story of George Thurston, owner of a thirty-acre Christmas tree farm in Portsmouth, RI. I was so busy focusing on George’s story that I never saw the logo for the Aquidneck Land Trust, the author. The purpose of the video is to tell George’s story and encourage others to appreciate and support the Land Trust.


The video immediately captures the viewer’s attention as it introduces you to octogenarian, George Thurston, a beloved fixture in the town. The videographer sets the stage by walking the viewer through the house and grounds of the farm. The farmhouse takes one back in time to old rooms and old books, to black and white photos and an old piano. Country music plays in the background as George tells his story. The footage of the outside of the farm is breathtaking as George plods through the snow with his dog, retracing steps that he has taken for the past eighty years. The video makes the viewer long for family, home, blueberry pie (you can pick blueberries there in the summer), and a time gone by. It pulls at one’s heartstrings and evokes a feeling of sentimentality. As one learns of George’s love for the farm, one also learns that he has decided to sell his beloved land to the Aquidneck Island Land Trust.

Lifestyle and Value

Lifestyle and Values

George tells his story of a time when Portsmouth was all farm land, and there were “more cows than people.” He talks about how much “open land” there used to be; “how he always enjoyed trees,” and wanted to preserve the farm as he know it as a child.” George’s story is our country’s story. It moves us from an agrarian lifestyle, to post World War II, when “people left the cities and moved to the country.” He talks about how “widows sold their land to developers who had a very different set of values than the farmer.” One could stop with the image of George as a sweet, older man, but there is substance and determination there. Life hasn’t been easy, evidenced by the modesty of his home and the bumper sticker on the truck, “Crime does not pay and neither does farming.”

Points of View

One does not have to read too far between the lines to know that George does not like the developers. They ruined the land. They don’t like the messiness of farming. They want more pristine and bucolic settings for their homes. After a lifetime of farming, George is hellbent on not selling to those developers. He has heard of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust. “They will pay you some money to tie the land up into perpetuity.” George wants the farm to stay in the family, but also wants to ensure that it is never developed. The agreement he makes with the AILT is that his daughter, Laura, will run the farm. He is not sure if she knows how hard the work will be. She wants to honor his wishes, at the same time, wanting to make her own mark on the farm. The video ends with two poignant quotes form George. “You lead by example.” Then he tells his daughter, “the land will always be there for you.”


I am sure that there are those who might feel that the video is a bit contrived and is a little sappy and sentimental. I am equally sure that the developers would tell you that his partnership with the Land Trust is a waste, and how much revenue could be brought into the town by the development of the land. You can almost hear them say, “Those old farms bring down the property value of the town”. Some might label George as a curmudgeon or a crusty old Yankee.


There are certainly things that are not in the video. There is no mention of the business transaction. How much did the AILT give the Thurston’s for the property? What exactly does the contract look like? What are the Thurston’s rights and restrictions in terms of maintaining and living on the farm? There is also no mention of the soul searching and tensions that might have arisen in deciding to sell to the Land Trust.


Still, this video is a love story…a story of a man’s love for his land, his town, and his family. It is a love story that has no endings.


American Library Association (2014). Storycorps at Your Library. Programming Librarian.

Aquidneck Land Trust (2017). Almy Thurston Farm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiC-o0z7X4Q.

Borg, Linda (2016, June 18). Portsmouth Christmas tree farmer, 81, vows to keep it in the family. Providence Journal.

Hobbs, Renee (2017). Create to Learn. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.