As a Goddard College student in the late 90’s during the waning years of the resident undergraduate program, I took a group study titled “Earth Household Arts”, which was instructed by Charles Woodard and Rob Tarule. Charles (who sadly passed away in 2010) spent more than 30 years as both student and teacher of sustainable agriculture and natural history at Goddard. Rob, a medieval historian, writer, expert 17th century furniture maker, and former head of Mechanick Arts at Plymouth Plantation, was returning to teach again at Goddard.
In this remarkable group study we explored a wide variety of student-determined interests grounded in “the ways of the past”, visiting Vermont craftspeople engaged in these skills and practices, and learning how to practice some of the skills ourselves. In a final weekend group trip to New Alchemy Institute and Plymouth Plantation, we spent the evening reading our semester papers out loud to one another in the hall of a closed down summer camp. What I explored in this group study inspired me, and a few others, further into the “Earth Household Arts” and pre-industrial technology.
I was instantly enamored with the old tools after Rob demonstrated the use of a froe in the classroom, spread out some tools on a table, and talked about a pole lathe and a shaving horse. He passed around some Oak pins pulled from joinery and bearing evidence of the “draw bore”. Rob in his patient and thoughtful manner guided a small number of us through numerous and increasingly complex green wood and timber framing projects over the course of several years until the residential program was shuttered.
All of this is prelude to share the great joy we had in being able to host Rob for a visit and coffee and a bowl of soup this March at our place in Roxbury, after not having seen him in about 16 years.
Rob brought along his fantastic spoon collection: