A 19th Century Autumn Harvest Festival

October 20, 2008

On Saturday, my family and I went to an Autumn Harvest Festival at Meadow Farm Park. Meadow Farm is a historical park centered around an 1860 living historical farm and museum in Richmond, Virginia.

The corn going into the sheller.

The corn going into the sheller.

Because of the historical nature of the park, a lot the activities during the festival are actual chores that would have been done on the farm during the 19th century and all new things to a 21st century family.

First my kids got to try out a corn shelling machine.  They each got to put in an ear of corn, then turn the wheel to shell the corn.  I’m not quite sure they understood what they were doing or why, but they sure had fun turning that wheel.  The man working the machine offered to let them keep their shelled ear of corn, but they just looked at it like what am I suppose to do with this.  I told them it was okay to throw it away.

The sorham press

The sorham press

Next door was the Sorghum Press.  With a little help the costumed interpreter, the twins pressed sorghum actually grown on the property. Normally their part is done by a horse, but today the kids turned the press.  They even got to try some molasses made from sorghum.  My son declined with a polite “no, thanks.”  However, my daughter was finally coaxed into sampling some.  But one taste and she was spitting out the cracker.  Daddy had to eat the rest of their sample.

We also got to see the Tobacco barn, sheep out to pasture, a blacksmithing demonstration and some woodworking before we found another hands out demonstration.

The Blacksmith

The Blacksmith

My daughter got to turn a piece of flax into a bracelet.  For some reason my son didn’t feel the need for a bracelet, so he watched.  First she had to break the flax.  It’s rough and looks a bit like straw.  Then she had to soften it on scutching board with a wooden knife.  Then she put the flax through the hackle to take off the rough parts before it was put on the flax wheel and spun into linen.  Then the lady there helped her tie into a bracelet.  Afterwards we saw where the ladies would take then linen and dye it.

We also got to see a bee keeper demonstration.  He didn’t have any real bees with him, but there were plenty out there visiting the festival.

The Flax Wheel.

The Flax Wheel.

Next the kids got to see samples of a cobbler’s shoe making skills.  Then they got to test out their own leathering skills by adding an imprint to a piece of leather and then stringing it into a necklace.  My daughter added a butterfly to her piece of leather.  My son enjoyed adding a worm to his leather piece, but didn’t care for a necklace.  So Mommy wore it.

After that, the kids moved on to rope making.  They each picked out a color of yarn – my daughter purple and my son yellow.  Then Daddy and the costumed interpreter helped them make it into a piece of rope.  My daughter used her piece of rope as a bracelet.  My son gave his to Mommy to use tie on my purse as a souvenir.

The apple press

The apple press

Then it was time for Apple Stringing.  What’s that, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like, you string pieces of apples. My daughter was stringing her applies faster than I could get them out of the bowl and my son and husband teamed up to make nice long apples string.  But what do you do with it now, I asked?  You hang them in the kitchen until they dry out and then it acts as potpourri.

The kids were starting to get a little hungry so we just watched the cornhusk doll and scarecrow making before heading over to the apple cider press for a sample.  Mmmmm, nothing better than fresh apple cider.  My only complaint, given the nip in the air that day, is that the cider wasn’t hot.

We stopped for Daddy’s favorite snack – kettle corn.  The whole family munched down on it while we waited in line for pony rides.  My daughter couldn’t wait to get on a horse again.  She’s been trying to coax us into riding lessons all summer – she’s three. She rode Oreo around like a champ while my husband and son cheered her on from the sidelines.

For anyone of you that think I’m brave running around with three-year-old twins, I had nothing on the lady in front of us in line.  She had one older daughter (12-14ish), triplet girls about three and infant boy/girl twins!

The Natural Dye Demonstration

The Natural Dye Demonstration

Anyway, next up for us was a little decorating.  First the kids decorated faces on mini pumpkins.  Then my daughter got her own face painted like a cat.  She had been asking since we got to the festival – before any of us even knew there was face painting – if she could get her face painted like a cat.

Later, we got to try something I’d never done – candle dipping.  Each of the kids got a stick with a piece of string on it.  Then we made a line.  We went up one side dipping our string in the big kettle full of wax over an open flame and then came back on the other side for another dip.  After about four dips, the twins had had enough.  So Daddy took them to see the sheep while Mommy finished the candles.

Finally, with our hands full of hand-made goodies, our bellies full of kettle corn and apple cider and two tired kids in tow, we headed back to the car.

I love festivals where we get to do lots of hands off crafts and I would say the twins did too.  And it doesn’t hurt that the festival and most of the activities were free.

They still aren’t quite old enough to understand why they were doing some of these activities, but that’s okay, we’ll be back next year.

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A Letterboxing Adventure

October 17, 2008

Yesterday, the kids and I tried something new, an activities that I had never heard of before – letterboxing.

We had signed up for a Discovery Hunt, a free event offered for preschoolers by the local parks and recreation department at the historical Walkerton Tavern

First the kids got a little history about the tavern and a tour. 

“Built by John Walker between 1824 and 1825, Walkerton Tavern is located at 2892 Mountain Road in Glen Allen. In the course of its history, the structure has served as a tavern, store, post office, voting precinct, and possibly a field hospital for wounded Union Cavalrymen in 1864.”

Then they went on a scavenger hunt to find animals (like lion-head handles on a chest, horses painted on a plate and chicken on a piece of embroidery) and other objects in the tavern.

Each child was given their own clipboard and pencil with a piece of paper with pictures of objects (or parts of objects) hidden in plain sight around the tavern.  The tavern had two floors of room and each room had three or four objects.

My children had a ball.  They didn’t get what they were supposes to do at first and they had a little trouble finding the pictures that were portions of an object (like a spindle from the back of a chair).  So I would find the object, show it to them and they would have to find the picture that matched it on their sheet.  By the end, they had the hang of it.

Next our tour guide, Bob, talked to the kids about the different animals that live on or around the tavern grounds.  He showed them different evidence of the animals – a feather from a bird, a cocoon, a piece of wood a beaver had gnawed on, and a skull from a possum – and let the kids guess which animal it belong to.

Next we went outside for another type of scavenger hunt known as letterboxing.  I’d never done this type of hunt before but the kids really got into it the most.  And I had a good time too.

This is how it works:  The parents got a clue sheet.  We’d read the clue to our child and then the child would follow the clue to find a hidden stamp.

Since our theme was about the animals that lived at Walkertown Tavern, our clues led us to where they lived or were spotted.  At each location, the kids would search for a container that had a stamp for the animal for that clue and an ink pad.  The kids would add the stamp on the appropriate page in the little book that Tour Guide Bob gave them.

The twins absolutely loved it.  They were searching for the box before I even finished reading the clue.  They were finding the boxes with little or no help from me.  And they couldn’t wait to get their stamp!  They were even good about putting the box back in its hiding place for the next person.

This event was the first time I’d ever heard about letterboxing, but Bob explained that it was a hobby that a lot of adults participate in. 

I know the kids had a blast and so did I.  I’m going to have to look for more of these letterboxing activities.  I might even have to create a hunt of my own for the kids.

Have any of you every tried letterboxing?  What new activities have you tried lately?


Preserving Oral History

June 17, 2007

I’m a big fan of oral history and preserving it.  I’m also a big fan of recording all those great recipes my grandmother has.  Here’s a site that combines the two.  http://www.whatscookinggrandma.net/


Celebrate Your Scottish Heritage with Tartan Day

April 6, 2007

The Irish have St. Patrick’s Day.  The Scottish have Tartan Day.  Instead of green beer, enjoy two fingers of oak-aged scotch while watching Braveheart or Rob Roy.  However, you choose to celebrate honor your Scottish heritage and the Scottish-American influence on this country on April 6, National Tartan Day.

Davidson TartanNational Tartan Day was established unanimously in 1998 by the 105th Congress to honor the contributions of Scottish heritage on the development of this country.  April 6th is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath — the Scottish Declaration of Independence — signed on April 6, 1320.  On this date, Scots declared

“. . . we fight not for our glory, not riches, nor honours, but only and alone we fight for freedom, which no good man surrenders, but with his life.”

A declaration not so different from our own Declaration of Independence.  Woodrow Wilson once said,

“Every line of strength in American history is a line coloured with Scottish blood.” 

Our 28th president, Wilson was born in Virginia as the grandson of a Scottish Presbyterian minister.  In fact many of our founding fathers were of Scottish descent — Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Hamilton.  They had a great passion for freedom.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery?  Forbid it Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take, but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!”

These words were uttered by another Scottish descendant, a great orator whose words started a revolution.  At the Hanover County Courthouse, Patrick Henry ignited the American Revolution in the Parson’s Case in December 1763.  And on March 23, 1776, Henry left his plantation home, Scotchtown, to ride to St. John’s Church in Richmond to deliver these famous words at the Second Virginia Convention.  Henry eventually became Virginia’s first elected governor.

So this year on April 6th, I’m going to put on my tartan, sit back with a glass of scotch and appreciate the freedoms I enjoy not only as an American, but as a Scottish descendant.

Scottish Heritage, American Pride