Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Saw Old Autumn in the Morn (A Fall Visit to Greenfield Village)

Autumn aglow
You know, some people complain an awful lot when cooler weather strikes. They now have to wear jackets, the leaves need to be raked, winter is right around the corner... And yet, these same complainers also tend to be very active this time of year: they head out to cider mills, go on hay rides, take part in Hallowe'en activities, enjoy nature walks, high school football games...
Me? I am a Fall person (in case you hadn't noticed), and I so look forward to this time of year more than any other season. I've been this way a lifetime - there's no changing me now.
Away from the metro-Detroit area, Michigan is mostly a rural state, and fall color tours are in great abundance and demand. But, to me, nothing emits an Autumn flavor like historic Greenfield Village. No, it's not necessarily rural, for it represents a Village from days of old, showing houses and buildings from the 1600s through the early 1900s in a more, shall we say, period urban setting. But there are wonderful examples of ruralness such as Firestone Farm and Daggett Farm. So there is a little bit of everything for the fan of fall AND the fan of history. To top it off, the trees throughout Greenfield Village give off exuberant colors, and with the historic homes in the background, it is the perfect storm of autumn.

With that being said...as the title of this posting states, I did visit the Village on a couple of October mornings...
...are you ready to go back?

The birthplace of Henry Ford: the automobile magnet was born inside this house 
in July 1863, just a few weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, at which one of his uncles was wounded. It was the last house Ford personally moved to his Village before he died. It was also the first preservation he had done, years before when it was still in its original location.

From the kitchen doorway of the Ford home peaking out toward the kitchen garden. It is fall and the fruits of the labor of growing a sustainable garden are looked forward to and enjoyed.

See the school?
See the steeple?
One teaches students,
the other teaches all people.

Though the Mattox House was originally built around 1880 in Georgia, it now gives a fine representation of the lives of a poorer southern black family eking out a life in the earlier part of the 20th century.
I love the scenario created here with the inclusion of an old Model T sitting in the front yard. 

For the past few years I have been studying farm life of the 18th and 19th centuries, and I have to say I find it fascinating. To think all of what our ancestors had to do to survive! And it took the entire family to make it work, for each member was just as necessary as the other to ensure success.
Each season of farm life has its own chores and jobs, but none were as rewarding as harvest time in the fall. But these cooler months weren't only about food - it was also about winter preparation.
Corn shocks at Firestone Farm:
Firestone Farm pre-dates the era of the silo, when corn stalks were chopped up and made into a slightly fermented feed known as silage. So instead, the corn stalks were chopped and fed as fodder to the animals.
Gathering the stalks into shocks had an important purpose. The inside stalks, sheltered from the elements, retained their nutritional value for quite some time and the actual shock made a handy manageable portion for the farmer to haul from the field for his cattle. The corn was either picked before shocking, or at the time the shock was pulled from the field.

To most folks a scene like this would probably be boring to watch for more than a couple minutes, but I sat for quite a long time watching the farmers at Firestone Farm load the wheat straw onto the horse-drawn wagon. Just the sight of this chore drew me into their world of the 1880s.
The straw here has no nutritional value, so it could be used for a variety of things, including banking the house against the winter wind, bedding for animals in pens and stalls, or even stuffing a mattress.

I followed the wagon with the loaded straw back to the farm. Again, this is something that may be a bore to many but, in all honesty, watching the 1880s in action (so to speak) gave me sort of a sense of peace. I don't know...seeing a slower (albeit harder) pace tends to keep me grounded.

From the side of the Firestone barn, one can see the wagon a-waiting to be emptied, as well as the heirloom apple tree orchard beyond...in the distance.
Firestone Farm is a real historical working farm, and those who work here actually grow the fruits and vegetables they will eat - and they do eat seasonally here - as well as butcher their hogs and salt & dry the meat, usually after the Christmas season. This is what you see the 'family' eating during the open season from April through November.

Meat to last the year.
Isn't this picture cool? It came from the Firestone Farm coloring book. I'm not sure if it's still available, but I bought multiple copies so each of my kids could have one.
To some this may be gross, and some readers may say, "Ken! Must you post this?" but let's face it - in pre-WWII America this was common place. In fact, in the 1960s and 70s my father was a meat cutter/butcher and he was quite busy during the fall/hunting season, and it helped me to understand at a very young age where my food came from.

Hey - - there the Daggett Saltbox House, sitting amidst God's beauty!
I took this photo of the Daggett House a few years back, and it's got to be one of my favorite fall-depicting images. 

As I stepped out of the kitchen buttery door, what you see here in this picture is exactly what I saw upon looking to my right. 
I wonder what Samuel and Anna Daggett would think about so many of us loving the home he built and the presenters remembering them over 250 years later? Would they be proud or embarrassed?
Confused maybe?
A scene right out of America's colonial past...that could be Samuel right there!

Now, these next few photographs are based around the birthplace of famed horticulturalist Luther Burbank (think the Burbank Potato - - yep, that's him!). It's truly unfortunate that Greenfield Village does not utilize this wonderful example of early 19th century Americana in a more proper way. Instead of "dressing it up" in the era of when Burbank lived here - or even during the time it was built...1800 - it is used mainly, it seems, for arts & crafts projects for visitors. It's almost treated as if its in the way for them - they just don't seem to know what to do with it.
Well, I say bring it back to its original glory and allow visitors to enjoy it for the historical home it is.
The 1800 home of Luther Burbank is set in picturesque surroundings and really shines when flanked by the beautiful fall colors.

Luther Burbank was born in this house, originally located in Lancaster, Massachusetts, in 1849. He was the son of a farmer and maker of brick and pottery.
According to his own account, his reading of Charles Darwin's Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication in 1868 proved the turning point in his career, causing him to take the production of new species and varieties of plants as his life's work.
He died in 1926.

Re-discovered in 1936, Henry Ford's architect, Ed Cutler, and about 50 boys from the famed Wayside Inn schools dismantled Burbank's birthplace during that fall and winter. Interestingly, a later owner of the house split the frame structure in half and constructed a brick building in the middle. Ford bought only the two original wings. By early summer of 1937, the Burbank House, now put back together as it once was, had found a new home in Greenfield Village.

The next few pictures center on the Eagle Tavern, built in 1831 in Clinton, Michigan.
When Henry Ford was planning out his Village, he wanted to have a village green similar to those he had seen in New England, and bordering this green would be a church, a town hall, a general store, and a tavern.

I'm not sure why the outdoor lamps encircling the green were on, but I'm glad they were, for they did add to the whole ambiance of recreating the past.

And so did the horses and omnibuses. But...if you look closely you can see four lit lamps in this picture, almost giving the feeling of evening rather than late morning.

I have commented numerous times before that the Eagle Tavern, though built in 1831, could easily pass for a tavern built years earlier, during America's Revolutionary War era. And here is my proof: The Raleigh Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, with its latest restoration addition - a porch - and directly below we have a picture of the Eagle Tavern
Above photo of the Raleigh Tavern courtesy of Susan McCall
Below photo of the Eagle Tavern by me
The Eagle Tavern beautifully restored...

One of my favorite scenes occurs when I step into the 1831 Ackley Covered Bridge, for what awaits the visitor on the other side is pure autumn magic...

On a particular warm fall day, a ride in a surrey was a welcome respite from all the walking. And then seeing the corn shocks at Susquehanna as the horses clip-clopped around the bend gave me the same sight and sound experience of times long past.
The same scene from a different angle not too long after my ride.
Americana history abounds in this picture, with the white picket fence and the homes of Robert Frost and Noah Webster shining in the back ground.
The wondrous season of autumn in itself has a tendency to make everything look old...wooden...and, dare I say, traditional. Many houses in my neighborhood have fireplaces, and on these cooler days one can see smoke billowing out of the chimneys. 
"So why do you go to Greenfield Village to enjoy the fall then, Ken?" you ask.
I really can't tell you why for certain, except that I immerse myself into it because it is history and, thus, historical. I do the same whether I am practicing the craft of living history, reading a history book, or watching a quality period movie or TV series. Seeing the Daggett Home, Firestone Farm, McGuffey Cabin, or any number of the historic structures relocated here engulfed in the reds, golds, orange, browns, and even a touch of left over green leaves brings out the best of autumn...of old autumn...and I can almost see what our ancestors did.
Because it's Greenfield Village, that's why!
Again, that's the way I am and the way I've always been.
And I'm not going to change.
Need I say more?

Until next time, see you in time.
Crossing the bridge through time...

To read about Fall Flavors Weekend at Greenfield Village, click HERE
To experience a time-line journey through autumn at Greenfield Village, click HERE
To learn about autumn harvest in Colonial times, click HERE
For a general overview about harvest time in the 18th & 19th centuries, click HERE




















Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Colonial Ken: Spending Another Fall Day in Colonial Times

I sure do include historic Greenfield Village in my postings quite a bit, eh?
Especially in the fall.
Well, that's mainly because this open-air museum is the only place locally that has any sort of authentic colonial structures where a recreation of America's 18th century past can occur with the clothing I wear. Between the Daggett House and the Giddings House, both built around 1750, I feel like I can sort of become a part of another era - the era of the founding generation.
That being said, here is my latest. Yes, it's similar to previous posts, but I try a bit of a different twist each time.
And the many photos come from two different fall weekends in October: one at the beginning of the month, and the other at the end.
Hope you like it~~~~~~~

I suppose what I do can be, in a way, called time-travel...or maybe mind-travel...I'm not totally sure...
But what I am certain of is I sometimes feel more alive and spirited when I put on my replicated clothing of a bygone era than I do in my bland modern clothes. Add 18th and 19th century backgrounds and homes to the scene and, well, let's just say that the past is present:
Looking out the Daggett window...
We think the past is gone, the future hasn't happened, and that only the present exists because the present is all we can see. Albert Einstein once said time is like people in a boat without oars drifting along a winding river. Around us we see only the present. We can't see the past, back in the bends and curves behind us. But it's there. (From "Time and Again" by Jack Finney)
I don't know...I seem to be constantly paddling against the current, trying to get back to those bends and curves of the past...
Let's continue these thoughts on time and space by utilizing another idea Mr. Finney wrote about, and we'll include my interjections:
suppose you were to stand at a window inside the 1750 Daggett House, now located at historic Greenfield Village, and look outside; it is early on with no visitors as of yet. All around you is a building unchanged from when it was built, including the room you are standing in and very possibly even the glass pane you look through.
Can you, for that moment, be transported back into the fall of 1770?
And would that be - or could that be - a form of time travel?
Ah, there 'tis! My favorite home inside Greenfield Village - the Daggett Farm House. Built around 1750, it's presented as a household may have been in the 1760s, and it's during the season of autumn when this beautiful remnant of our colonial past comes most alive.
Do you see the smoke a-rising from the fire? It must be beer-brewing time!

The small vignettes such as what you see in these two connected photos can go a long way in adding to the visual experience.
I'm not sure how it is where you live, but autumn in Michigan is cause for a celebration, and something as simple as a couple of pumpkins, dried plants, and a wooden rake & bucket can stir that fall-is-in-the-air sentiment like little else can.

It was quite the busy time at the Daggett saltbox home, for it was beer making season, and the historic interpreters certainly know the importance of this beverage in America's history, and it is brewed here in the traditional colonial way.
(Don't ask me what that glowing whirly thing is at the bottom of the picture. 
Maybe it is some left over time-travel quantum energy or something) 

I certainly do enjoy taking part in activities with the presenters as they replicate a colonial family life (not necessarily the Daggetts), for not only does it make for good photo opps, but it allows me to feel as a part of an 18th century scene with this beautiful historical saltbox house as our 'set,' and for that I am filled with appreciation.
I like to view this as one of those moments where you think, "Am I really there?" - for it did have a touch of that in between past and present feeling, though because these good people are historic presenters our feet were firmly planted in the present. And, of course, as soon as visitors came upon the scene, I stepped back to allow the interpreters to do their job.

But for me, the feeling of the past was there.

By the way, note the colors in our clothing. Yes, the 18th century was not nearly as dull and bland as the old history books hint.
Behind the house is the garden. Part for the kitchen and part medicinal, it gives the visitor a very good overview of rural colonial plants used for a variety of things.
Besides the varieties of squash, beans, lettuce and other vegetables used to help sustain the family, Samuel Daggett's wife, Anna, would have also grown plants for medical purposes as well, including wormwood, which was a purgative for stomach issues or worms, tansy was used to stop bleeding and bruising, and chamomile, which was used, same as it is today, to make a calming tea.

Take a close look at the watering "can" that Gigi is using, for it is not a can at all. Instead, it is a red ware pottery jar with a spout opening small enough for an adult thumb to cover. Once the thumb is removed, water comes showering out of the holes in the bottom.
 

Most of the presenters at the Daggett Farm are women, and they do such a wonderful job in recreating their role as females of the 1760s. Fortunately, there are a couple of men included in the mix to give a more well-rounded feel. Chuck, pictured here, and Roy (in the pictures above) do chores more suitable to men during the 18th century, including repairs and wood chopping:

"Well, my dear, Mr. Giddings is asking for wood for his kitchen hearth. He asked if we might not spare his kitchen maid a few pieces." 

So off to the outbuildings I did go to gather what Giddings had asked for.
(Before anyone gets all up in arms about what I am doing here, I held a piece of wood for the initial picture, then photo-shopped the rest. I am not looking to get myself or anyone else in trouble with the powers-that-be at Greenfield Village so I have been very careful in what I do. Sometimes one has to do their own photo-shop to create a photo-opp!)

To the home of John Giddings we went where we were greeted by Mehetable. 
(Again, notice who is carrying the wood. Even though I am sort of portraying a country farmer, I do not work for the Village, therefore, even though I am a gentleman, 'tis not I carrying the wood for the hearth).

No, Mehetable is not Gigi's mistress, but she helps her adjustments nonetheless.

Carrots from the garden!

The Giddings House is plexi-glassed off most of the year and is only fully opened to the public during the Fall Flavors Weekends and Holiday Nights, so I always try to take advantage in my period clothing during those times we can wander through much of the structure.

Then it was back to the Daggetts, for the women were preparing to dye wool.
Now, I am not going to get deep into the wool dyeing process - I covered that HERE - but I would like to show you some of the basics of this ancient craft
Preparation for the dyeing of wool.
This is an annual presentation that the Village has every fall and, like the beer making from a couple weeks back, I try not to miss it.

The process of wool dyeing actually began about six weeks earlier when the presenters began collecting nature to use as the dye.
I followed the historical interpreter around for a bit as we spoke of the different naturals dyes available all around us and the colors they make.
On this day she was collecting walnuts for a deep brown. There was a squirrel up in one of the trees who wasn't very pleased, for it kept on tossing them down upon us, but luckily missing with each. I would hate to get knocked on the head by one of these buggers!


For only being out searching for a short while, she didn't do too bad.

And now, toward the end of October, they are ready for the dyeing process!

But brown was not the only color being made this day. To make red, cochineal beetles are used (yes, beetles!), while orange comes from the madder root plant as well as annato seeds (which could be imported from Brazil).

And there's indigo for blue (although, due to the clouds, it looks more black than deep blue).

In the basket you can see previously dyed wool - just see how vibrant the colors are. In all honesty, I have to laugh when I hear of people using Kool Aid or something along those lines to dye their wool. Especially if the wool was cleaned and carded by hand.

Click to watch my video about the wool dyeing process


As the day was waning, I decided to go off and see a few of the other sights of this wondrous historical place. Since I sometimes portray a farmer, and since the Daggett area has only a kitchen garden and little else for farming, I decided to head over to Firestone Farm.
Now, Firestone is representing the 1880s, and the process of farming as compared to the 1760s had not changed dramatically (aside from the threshing machine and the seed planter), I thought it could serve as a pseudo-18th century backdrop.
The corn is looking good this year.
There shall be plenty to eat in a variety of ways, such as on the cob, corn meal, corn bread, muffins, chowder, and even food for cattle, for months to come. 

Walking with the horses back to the barn...
(again - - no, I did not touch the horses. My son lined up the camera to hide the 1880s Firestone farmer as to not take way from the impression)

Barns from the 18th century, especially the interior, were not dramatically different from those a hundred years later. 

Look closely...and you can make out yours truly, heading back to the future.
As I mentioned earlier, here in the lower east side of Michigan we have virtually no original 18th century structures, so in order for me to get an authentic look for my images I have to utilize whatever I can to do so, and Greenfield Village is the place - the only place - where this can happen for me.
Please understand, when I visit this beautiful museum dedicated to Americana, I do not take part or interject in any way in the presenter's presentations to the public, nor do I pretend that I work there. I just enjoy the atmosphere and can feel the history and the spirit of the past so much more when I can visit while I am dressed period.
It's a little hard to explain, but I know there are a few of you who will understand.
Until next time, see you in time.


~If I am in the photograph, then my son Robbie took the picture. He is an aspiring photographer and, though he has all of his own fancy camera equipment, he did a fine job with my simple point-and-shoot camera, don't you think?


If you are interested in learning more about a colonial Harvest, please click HERE
To study in greater detail the workings of the Daggetts and their home, please click HERE 
To study in greater detail the workings of the Giddings and their home, click HERE
To learn more about Taverns and Travel in the 18th century, please click HERE.
To learn more about food and cooking in colonial times, please click HERE
Autumn food preparations of (mostly) the 19th century HERE
Days of Autumn Past in Photos HERE
For an overview of everyday life during colonial times, please click HERE
Celebrating Patriot's Day - the New England Holiday - at Greenfield Village: HERE 
And to learn about celebrating Christmas in colonial times, please click HERE 
Happy Thanksgiving...in the colonial times - please click HERE










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