But there's a bright side?! to this farming frenzy. Things break. Which means you have to get parts. Which entails a trip to Washington County where the equipment dealerships are located. I was heading down Rt. 40 on just such a trip, thinking it was silly to waste all this time and gas on a flat tire (or was it a dead battery? a blown hydraulic hose? - all the minor disasters begin to blur over time). Why not have a little fun by exploring two of the churches that had been on the tour itinerary? Without an expert guide on their history I focused mostly on features of their natural setting - "God's Architecture" of another sort. Here's a little of what I found.
In an interesting coincidence, both buildings sit almost directly on top of the Taconic Frontal Thrust, where slates and mudstones from the east were pushed on top of continental shelf rocks some 450 million years ago. A little bit of that old continental shelf lies beneath the North Meetinghouse. It's part of a limestone/dolostone "sliver", five or six miles long, that is exposed from just north of Bald Mountain, down thru Middle Falls to the vicinity of the North Meetinghouse. It was broken off by the overthrusting rocks during the Taconic Orogeny. This has long been, and still is extensively quarried. It's also one of the best places in Washington County to see fossils. Look towards the north end of the roadside ledge near the meetinghouse (across from the large pull-off) to see the impressions of small brachiopods that lived in a tropical sea some 500 million years ago.
About 13,000 years ago the North Meetinghouse would have been water front property. A cold, muddy post-glacial lake with chunks of ice floating in it lapped the shore. Eventually the lake drained but the highest strand line was right at the meetinghouse's doorstep.
Flately BrookLimestone often makes for lush plant growth by sweetening the soil and freeing up nutrients. The North Meetinghouse sits amongst a woods of mostly sugar maples. There are a few oaks here as well and some tall, deeply furrowed trees that weren't leaved out when I stopped so I'm not sure what they are. A Northern Hardwood Forest would be the expected ecological community but with over 400 years of human activity - logging, pasturing, etc. - intact natural ecosystems are hard to find. This being the "banana belt" of Washington County, one expects to see more southerly trees like oaks and hickories. In a short walk I didn't see as many wildflowers as I'd hoped for. Ubiquitous garlic mustard (an invasive) along with clumps of Mayapple and some violets were about it.
It's a scenic five mile drive south on Rt. 40 from the North Meetinghouse to Easton where you take a left on Grove Road to Meetinghouse Road. Enjoy the historic and interesting architecture of Easton and Barkers Grove before heading up the hill to the South Meetinghouse. This white clapboard structure is a little more imposing, although still quite plain compared to many churches. Along side it is the Easton Rural Cemetery and a striking grove of spruce trees.
I hope you enjoyed this short visit to the Easton Meetinghouses. It's inspiring to see people and nature working together to create such lovely spots. Nature has been working on my hay fields too and it's about time I got out there and did my part. Enough blogging, back to work.
Easton Friends Meeting information.
Easton Library page on Quakers.
Washington County Historical Society site.