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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Get Lost for Some Fall Fun

October 9, 2008

It seems like just yesterday we were playing around in the pool in the hot sun.  But alas, the dog days of summer are behind us, school has started and fall is here.

But just because the days are getting shorter and temperatures are starting to drop doesn’t mean that the outdoor fun has to stop.

One great way to enjoy the autumn weather and expend some energy is to get lost.

What? 

I’m not suggesting you wander aimlessly.  Instead take in a maze.  You can find them everywhere if you know where to look.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

My twins taking on a hay maze.

My twins taking on a hay maze.

Hay Mazes

 

My kids started as toddlers playing in a hay maze the vegetable stand near our house puts up every fall.  You can also find hay mazes at festivals and neighborhood events.

I went through the maze with the twins the first couple of times.  But it wasn’t long before they were taking on the maze solo.

Hay mazes are great for younger kids for several reasons.  They are usually small enough that the children don’t get discouraged trying to find the exit.

The hay is also often stacked short enough that as a parent you can look over the top of it and feel comfortable letting your child go through alone, but still tall enough for it to be a challenge for the kids.

But what I like most about hay mazes is when the kids come to a crossroads in the path, watching them make a decision about which path to take.  Can’t you just hear Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” being recited in the background?

What’s even more interesting is watching their reaction when they come to a dead end.  How do they react?  Do they retrace their steps?  Can they find the right path?  I’m always amazed to watch their reasoning skills in action.

Corn Mazes

An aerial view of Cherry Crest Farm the year I went through it.

An aerial view of Cherry Crest Farm the year I went through it.

But if you and your family are looking for more of a challenger, I recommend trying a corn maze.

My first experience with a corn maze was at Cherry Crest Farm in Pennsylvania.  To truly appreciate this maze you have to see an aerial view.  But the real fun is when you try to manipulate your way through the stalks.

We also frequent the maze at the Chesterfield Berry Farm in Virginia.  Among the corn your challenge doubles.  You must not only find your way out, but you must also find certain checkpoints along the way (and they aren’t necessarily on the direct exit route) and get your ticket punched.  If you get your card punched at every station you get a prize at the end.

And for those of you more adventuresome, hit the maze after dark (where allowed) and try your luck among the stalks by flashlight.  My twins very first maze experience when they were still in carriers was at the West Nursery at night with only a flashlight to guide us.  At this maze, to help us along the way, at critical intersections were trivia questions about the area’s history.  It’s very help if you know your history.

Other Mazes

But the maze fun doesn’t have to end with Halloween.  A maze of lights is the perfect addition to your Christmas light tour.  Lewis Botanical Gardens in Virginia adds two light mazes (of varying levels) to their Garden of Lights.  And let me tell you that the lights add a degree of difficulty I didn’t expect.

But like the hay mazes, light mazes are usually low enough for parents to allow children to test out their skills solo.

You can find local corn mazes by going to www.cornmazedir.com, www.americanmaze.com or www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org.  Be on the lookout for hay and other mazes at local festivals and fairs.

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get lost.


Richmond Carniball Offers A Safari Adventure

February 6, 2008

On Saturday night, we took the twins out for an adventure — a safari adventure.

The Children’s Museum of Richmond was holding its annual fundraiser — the Carniball. This year’s theme was African Safari.

I might never be able to take my children on an African Safari, but I think they had a great experience at the Carniball. In fact, we had such a good time I wanted to share the fun with you. And what better way to share than with pictures.

Carniball goers were greeted with this living statue of the witch doctor.

Witchdoctor 

Local vendors donated a large spread of food, including a buffet of Ethiopian fare. This cake by Cakes by Graham was a hit with my kids.

Safari Cake

The children were amazed by the stilt walking safari adventurer.

Stiltwalker 

Looks like the witch doctor caught up with this very tall safari hunter
Hunter

The museum was filled with wild animals like this lion, tiger and zebra . . . oh my

 Cats

The tiki hut was an oasis of beverages for weary parents.

Tiki hut

The arts room offered several safari crafts including beads, binoculars and masks.

 Crafts

There was also plenty of authentic entertainment.

Drummer

These drummers kept a steady beat throughout the night.

Drums

A local African dance troupe provided entertainment.

Dancers 1

The children were so enthralled with the dancers that many were up on their feet imitating them.

Dancer 2

My children sat still for two minutes before they were up dancing themselves.

Dancer 3

To help raise money there was also a silent auction and a raffle. I didn’t win anything. 😦

All of the museum’s regular exhibits were open for the children to play at. At the end of the night, the kids each got a box with fliers from the sponsors, a souvenir cup and a animal hat.

It was definitely money well spent.