Ask your local candidate a question.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Blair Volunteers Help Clean Up Ramsaysburg Homestead

Blair Springs Eternal: Volunteer cleanup at Ramsaysburg

The Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead isn’t small or self-cleaning. The 12-acre historic 1795 property has one publicly used and restored barn and a large house that has not yet entered the rehab stage.

The Friends of Ramsaysburg, a group of volunteers, loyally sweep and clean before and after each event. However, just ask the resident squirrels, mice, bees and bugs about their ease of access through cracks and crevices. Not to mention the sweeping pollen and river debris.

With a little help from our friends

The Blair Academy Students volunteers wash down green-algae-stained columns and walls on the front porch of the main house at Historic Ramsaysburg.  Photo by L. Ward
Blair Academy student volunteers wash down green algae-stained columns and walls on the front porch of the main house at Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead. Photo by L. Ward.
Friends of Ramsaysburg volunteer and former Blair Art Teacher, Rita Baragona in full cleaning gear.  Photo by L. Ward
Friends of Ramsaysburg volunteer and former Blair art teacher Rita Baragona in full cleaning gear. Photo by L. Ward.

In comes the rescue team – strong, smart and alacritous young volunteers from Blair Academy. With a continued connection to retired Blair art teacher Rita Baragona, the students come out for a yearly deep dive cleaning rehab every May.

The list of chores for the day requires tools such as gloves, buckets, brushes and brooms, oh my.

One tough job on the long list involves invasive plant removal. Students are first instructed on which plants are considered invasive. Ramsaysburg is loyal to native plants and pollinators.

If isn’t native, they pull it, with the knowledge that invasive plants, albeit sometimes pretty, upset the food chain

Blair Student volunteer, and Friends of Ramsaysburg volunteers: Michelle St. Andre and Rick Clarkson, pulling invasive plants in the meadow behind the Barn.  Photo by L. Ward
Blair student volunteer and Friends of Ramsaysburg volunteers: Michelle St. Andre and Rick Clarkson, pulling invasive plants in the meadow behind the barn. Photo by L. Ward.

Michelle St. Andre, Blairstown resident and Friends of Ramsaysburg volunteer, explains to the group of Blair students who have volunteered to pull weeds, “Baby birds cannot survive on bird seed. They need caterpillars. They need the protein. Without that protein, they die. If they die, the species becomes extinct. We have lost 30 species of birds in New Jersey because there are no caterpillars for their food. Now, a caterpillar is very specific about native plants. They won’t feed on something they don’t know. They’ll feed on a spicebush, which is native, so that’s the cycle. If we have all invasives, there’s no food for your caterpillars; there’s no food for your baby birds.”

Beyond weed control, the students work hard, scrubbing the antique porches, vacuuming and shaking out carpets, and washing windows and exterior walls.

In about four hours, a sparkly miracle occurred, and the kind cleaning crew loaded the bus to return to their campus in Blairstown. The Blair students learned a lot and helped preserve a historic homestead, while, even more importantly, helping to save the baby birds’ food source.

Restoration and Preservation of Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead, Knowlton Township Historical Commission, Warren County, NJ, site plans tacked to an interior wall in the main house.  Photo by L. Ward
Restoration and Preservation of Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead, Knowlton Township Historical Commission, Warren County, New Jersey, site plans tacked to an interior wall in the main house. Photo by L. Ward.
Laura Ward with long pink earrings on
Laura Ward, Contributing Writer

Laura Ward is a gallerist at Infloressense in Belvidere, NJ, whose motto is "poetic synthesis of all the cultural arts." Born in West Orange, NJ, Ward had a unique childhood growing up in a three-story, three-generation, 1895 Victorian where she learned gardening with her great-grandfather, theater with her grandmother, and typing with her mom. Ward spent the last two decades in the architectural design industry, followed by her present pursuit into the entrepreneurial world of art and event planning. Ward lives in the esoteric Delaware Village Historic District and volunteers at Ramsaysburg Historic Homestead. Ward spent 11 years in Florida where she graduated with an English B.A. from FAU and later The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an art history minor.