Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Curious George Cottage Goes Green

The Curious George Cottage in Waterville Valley, NH is the former summer home of Curious George authors, Margret and H.A. Rey. The Reys built their cottage in 1958 and spent many summers enjoying all that Waterville Valley has to offer. The lives of Margret and H.A. Rey were filled with continued learning and community service. The Reys were active in writing and illustration; astronomy; natural history; photography; environmental action (including calls for renewable energy); concern for animals; the simple joys of gardening, walking and bicycle riding; and, of course, children's experiential learning. These life pursuits of the Reys form the basis of Margret and H.A. Rey Center programs, a nonprofit organization formed to honor the Reys’ spirit of curiosity and discovery by helping people of all ages to learn about and experience art, science and nature. This mixture of art and science, the physical and intellectual, young and old, and ever-present curiosity is the foundation for the Rey Center, a multigenerational center for learning and exploration.

After having enjoyed their summer home for over 30 years, Margret Rey sold their cottage in 1992 as she approached the age of 90; Hans had passed away in 1977 at the age of 79. The new owners, Joe and Dottie Highland, in cooperation with Margret, donated the cottage to the Town of Waterville Valley. At that time, the cottage was moved across town to its location adjacent to the Waterville Valley Recreation Department and Elementary School and became known as the Curious George Cottage. Today, the Margret and H.A. Rey Center manages the cottage in partnership with the Town of Waterville Valley. The Rey Center hosts a variety of programs for youth and adults at the Curious George Cottage as well as holds open hours where families can come visit the place where the Reys worked on several of their Curious George stories.

The Cottage being placed on the insulated concrete form
foundation in 2010.
To honor the Reys’ passion for environmental action and renewable energy, the Rey Center and Town of Waterville Valley have been working to make the cottage more environmentally friendly. In 2010, the Curious George Cottage was relocated and renovated to help transform the cottage from a summer building to an efficient, year-round facility. Renovations and updates completed include an insulated concrete form foundation, new energy efficient windows, the addition of exterior wall and attic insulation, new high efficiency heating system, dual flush toilet, energy star appliances, insulating blinds for living room windows, and perennial gardens designed to attract pollinators and reduce the high maintenance of a lawn. These renovations, which significantly reduced the energy demands of the cottage, were made possible with funding from the Town of Waterville Valley and with additional support from ABODE Homebuilders, Pella Windows, Rod Ladman Window Designs, Gary and Cheryl Moak, the NH Conservation License Plate Program and Wayside Farms.

Once the energy usage of the cottage was reduced through the 2010 renovations, the Rey Center could look to renewable energy as the next step in greening the cottage. In the spring of 2013, with funding from the New Hampshire Electric Coop Foundation and support from the Town of Waterville Valley, Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative, and Ted Hammond Construction, two solar photovoltaic panels were added to the roof of the Curious George Cottage. The solar panels are calculated to produce approximately 590 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or about half of the cottage’s current annual electricity demands. The solar panel system installed at the cottage, two SolarWorld Sunmodule panels with Enphase Microinverters, is designed so that additional panels can easily be added at a later date to increase the energy production capacity of the Curious George Cottage.

In 2012, the Rey Center partnered with Plymouth State University’s Sustainable Structures class to
The Garden Shed built by students in Plymouth State
University's Sustainable Structures Class.
build a garden shed for the Mary Bierbrier Community Gardens located next to the Curious George Cottage. The community gardens provide local community members with the opportunity to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers; an opportunity that many Waterville Valley residents don’t have since they reside in condominiums. The garden shed, designed and built by the students with the guidance of their instructors Bryan Felice and Steve Whitman, is a showcase of sustainable building techniques. The shed uses locally sourced wood and materials and features several different external finishes including board and batten siding, live edge siding, a cord wood wall, and wattle (a woven lattice of wooden strips or branches) under the eaves. The building is timber frame construction featuring mortise and tenon joints with all locally sourced wood. Not only is the shed a wonderful educational tool demonstrating sustainable building techniques, but it is also a work of art. Stop by the Mary Bierbrier Community Gardens to have a look!

The Rey Center has plans to continue greening the Curious George Cottage campus through measures such as LED lighting, rain barrel water catchment systems and edible landscaping. Interested in learning more? Stop by the Curious George Cottage this summer on Thursday mornings between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. or Saturday afternoons from 2:00-4:00 p.m. and we will give you the grand tour!

The Margret and H.A. Rey Center is located on the second level of Waterville Valley Resort’s Town Square. Learn more about Rey Center programs by visiting or calling the Rey Center at 603-236-3308. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Trout in the Classroom at WVES Update

As part of the Rey Center's school science program at Waterville Valley Elementary School, the students raised brook trout from eggs. After four months of caring for brook trout and watching them go from eggs to fry, the moment came on May 13th for the students to release the trout into the Mad River. In the words of Ray Kucharski, "432 Brook Trout graduated from the Waterville Valley Elementary School to the Mad River. About 50 of their schoolmates remain at WVES for graduate studies." The students will feed and watch the remaining 50 fish grow until the end of the school year. The pictures below capture the excitement of release day.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

In the Gallery...
Recognize this image? If you are familiar with Waterville Valley, you are familiar with our local "ruins".
The Margret and H.A. Rey Center Art Gallery opens an exciting new art exhibit on Saturday May 18, 2013.  The exhibit entitled “Impressions of the North Country” by visiting Russian Artist Boris Oskin is the product of a two-month visit by Russian artist, architect and diplomatic attaché, Boris Oskin and his wife Elena back in1992. Boris’ watercolors, sketches and personal letters and correspondences will be on display in the gallery from Saturday May 18- Saturday June 22, 2013. The collection left behind by Boris upon his return to Russia is now part of the personal collection of local Watervillian, Chris Larsen, who has generously offered to share its contents as well as his personal stories and experiences with the Oskins.  An opening reception will be held on Saturday May 25 from 6:30 -8:00 p.m. giving visitors the opportunity to see our landscape through the eyes of a Russian artist and hear the stories of his unique relationship with our own late Donald Jasinski, who was responsible for bringing Boris to the United States. Come hear stories of Boris’ antics as well as how the trip was only possible after he left the employ of the Communist Party. Rey Center Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Boris Oskin was born in Moscow in 1935, but evacuated with his family from the city during the German invasion. At the age of fifteen he started work as a metal smith at the famous “Pravda” newspaper plant in Moscow. In 1952 he graduated from school with a gold medal for his artistic abilities. While his school directors urged him to pursue a career in painting, his practical grandmother persuaded him to become an architect. As an architect, Boris designed and supervised the construction of many important buildings around the world including the Soviet Consulate in Geteburg, Sweden and the Soviet Embassy in Guyana. Boris’ free time was spent painting and sketching, completing a series of oils for the Gusevasholm Castle in Kunkbacks, Sweden. Boris enjoyed working in oils, watercolors and sketches in graphite, drawing his inspiration from the local scene, wherever in the world his work and art took him.
Boris Oskin and Donald Jasinski met in 1974 at an architectural convention. After exchanging the traditional niceties of invitations to each other’s homes, Donald and Boris went their separate ways. They kept in touch through letters for a short period of time and Donald would send Boris and his wife cosmetics and toiletries that they were not able to get in their country. At some point, Boris went to work for the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the USSR and was no longer allowed to have contact with his friend Donald, sadly telling him so in a letter. Seventeen years later, in 1991, Boris reconnected with Donald after leaving the Foreign Affairs Ministry and asked for a formal invitation from Donald to visit the United States. The rest is history painted in the watercolors on display in “Impressions of the North Country”.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dark Sky Stargazing

Each month the Margret and H.A. Rey Center holds Dark Sky Stargazing, which is FREE and open to the public thanks to our generous sponsors, the Snowy Owl Inn, Golden Eagle Lodge, and New Hampshire Astronomical Society. A knowledgeable volunteer from the New Hampshire Astronomical Society sets up a telescope and shares the wonders of the night sky with visitors. Here is what our March volunteer, Dave McDonald, had to say….

“I had the privilege to share the wonders of the night sky with 45 people at the skywatch at Curious George Cottage at Waterville Valley.

It was a clear night with some haze low in the westerly direction.  People came and went through out the evening from 6:45 - 9:00.  I would say there was consistently 15 people always there until 8:30 or so.  Some were getting cold so only a few hardy soles stayed until 9:00.  I used my 8" Orion XT with 25 and 10 mm eyepieces.

I introduced the folks to the concept of star color - which most never bothered to notice.  We viewed Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Capella to compare color.

We looked at M42, the Pleiades, Praesepe, double cluster in Perseus, Mizar.  I always love hearing the "WOW" factor.  Jupiter was certainly a favorite with all four Galilean moons showing with IO on one side and the other three on the other.  We looked at other random "empty" pieces of sky and demonstrated what can be seen with the aid of a telescope.  More "WOWs."

As our time was ending Arcturus was rising over the mountains in the east.  Sparkling as a bright jewel, the few that were there to see it were amazed at how it shimmered so many different colors.  A good time was had by all…”

You can stay for the whole two hours or just a few minutes, but you won’t be sorry you came. If the sky is clear there is always something interesting to see.

Join us for Dark Sky Stargazing. See schedule below.