Thursday, October 15, 2020

An 18th Century Autumn and Harvest

I have written about autumn during the colonial era  (and Victorian)  plenty of times over the years. But this one is a little bit different,  for what I have here is a collection of the historic information from all of those other posts gathered together in one spot to make a concise article.
I hope you enjoy it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I do not believe there is another season of the year,  except maybe Christmas,  that evokes the past as does the season of autumn.  It's the one time of year when today's modern 21st century people tend to find themselves heading out to the rural and rustic cider mills and apple orchards to carry on that ancient ritual of picking apples and drinking cider as did our ancestors of America past.  Oftentimes our modern cider millers may also stop at the local farmer's markets or roadside vegetable stands along the country roads to purchase produce directly from the farm rather than a supermarket.
Children also enjoy walking through a blizzard of falling leaves,  collecting the largest,  most colorful of them all to press between pages of a book,  and maybe even taking part in a corn maze.
Folks travel in droves from far and wide to visit the New England states as well as the Upper Midwest region  (including Michigan,  Wisconsin,  northern Ohio,  northern Indiana...)  to enjoy the fall colors,   go on hay rides,  and take in God's splendor.
Yes,  for all intents and purposes - and whether we fully realize it or not - we are still celebrating the fall harvest,  even in the 21st century.
It's  a very wooden feel,  this season of autumn;  what I have tried to do for this posting is attempt to create a bit of an autumnal time-travel atmosphere based in and around a farming home built in circa 1750 - the house of Samuel and Anna Daggett.  To keep the information herein from being like a boring old school textbook or lecture,  I sort of wrote it out in a 1st person manner to hopefully bring the past to life for the reader.
I hope you like it.
Samuel & Anna Daggett?
Naw---it's my friend,  Larissa,  and I.  We have been 
presenting historic farm life for a number 
of years now,  and it's something we enjoy greatly,  for,  in the living history world,  it is not presented very often.
So,  in that spirit,  welcome to our 18th century farm!

A farmer's work is never done;  each season,  each month,  each week,  each day - from morning until nightfall - there's no question that an 18th century farming family had little time for frivolous activities.  
Wheat...soon to become flour
The colonial farmer of the 18th century relied on his family for labor.  Aside from his crops of wheat,  corn,  squash,  cucumbers,  and other produce,  he also raised cotton,  hemp,  and flax,  cobbled his own shoes,  and constructed his own furniture.  He may even have built his own house and various outbuildings,  including one for blacksmithing,  leather,  and woodworking.  His wife was not only the head cook,  but she had to make her food from scratch,  understand how to control hearth cooking temperatures,  sew & mend,  and be the family doctor.  And the kitchen garden was her grocery store and pharmacy.
But it could be argued that of  the four seasons that make up the year,  fall just may have been the most laborious of all,  for there was not too large a window of opportunity to ensure the fruits of the spring and summer labor would all be harvested.  Gathering the yield is what life centered on during the months of September,  October,  and November.
This on top of  all other chores.
For the farmer,  it was a family affair.  If one didn't put their time in,  they,  and possibly others,  didn't eat.  The family - husband,  wife,  children - worked like a well-oiled machine;  one clog in the cog and it all went down.  Each job was every bit as important as the next - all would have been considered  "essential workers,"  and the continuation of work in the fields seemed non-stop.
But it was the successful harvest that gave 18th century citizens the satisfaction for a job well done.  It was knowing they would survive yet another winter.  It was also important for business owners and tradesmen,  for without a successful crop from the farming community,  they,  too,  may not eat.
Through all of my research I found a deeper appreciation for our ancestors and the environment in which they lived.  In fact,  as a genealogist,  I learned that my colonial Quaker ancestors were farmers,  of which I am honored to be descended.
~One note to please remember while reading today's post:
although I may have certain farming activities listed under a particular month,  it does not mean that it is cut and dry for that month only.  There are always gray areas and over-lapping of weeks and months. 
So when you see something listed under any one month,  please understand that this is a generalization.
Now let us go back in time and look into life during a colonial autumn and harvest...

                                           ~ ~

Now,  as a historian,  I am in a constant state of researching and learning,  and bits of historic information can sometimes be found in the most unsuspecting places.  It was as I combed through a Farmer's Almanac a few autumns ago that I learned about something that most people of today are not aware of - Lammas Day.  In times gone by it was on August 1 that many farmers in the colonies,  as well as in the British Isles,  celebrated this holiday  (or holyday,  as these special days of celebration or worshiping were called),  which marked the first major harvest and the unofficial beginning of the fall season,  for even though it was still summer,  August was also considered one of the months of harvest time.  As such,  Lammas Day was a sort of Thanksgiving,  and so it remained for many 18th century families until a national  Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed toward the end of the century.  On Lammas Day,  the farming family attended church,  and the head of the household brought with him the first loaf of bread to be blessed.  That loaf was used as the center of their Thanksgiving feast.
Friends & family gather to prepare and celebrate Lammas day
On August 3,  Noah Blake wrote:
"Very warm.  The harvest fly was two days late."
The  'harvest fly'  is what we call the cicada.  It's supposed to make its first appearance on Lammas Day,  but the year of Blake's diary,  1805,  it decided to come a bit later,  it seems.
I,  myself,  hear the loud evening buzzing of the harvest fly/cicada every August  (though many years  it actually arrives in late July around my Michigan area).
So---with August 1st/Lammas Day passed,  we enter into the late summer and fall period of the year,  where we begin to see the shadows becoming slightly longer and lean northward as the sun begins its journey to the southern hemisphere.

Early September
Can you see the very beginning of autumn on the leaves?
The coming of fall is in the air,  even in early September.  Hints of color begin to show on the leaves of the trees,  and the grass isn't quite as lush as it was in May.  We are in the three main months of autumn - September,  October,  and November - when the bulk of harvest time activities occur north of the Mason-Dixon.
It's also a time to prepare for other chores that many times will take place in the fall.  Here we can find a bit of late summer overlap:
Gathering black walnuts dropped by the trees or
thrown by the squirrels are gathered to be used
the following month for dyeing wool.
September morn...perfect for gathering black walnuts as well 
as plants to keep until dyeing time occurs.
Butter-making could take place throughout the year,  but during the hot weather,  when milk production is at its greatest,  butter cannot be preserved safely,  and the excess milk is turned into cheeses of varying sorts.  As the coolness of fall creeps in,  butter-churning for actual butter increases.  The idealized picture of the woman of the house sitting in a chair and plunging the dash up and down inside the wood churn is seared in the minds of nearly anyone who studies history,  and this vision is quite true,  though it may also be a child,  male for female,  in the chair rather than the mother or grandmother.  
"Butter making commenced in September,"  wrote Sarah Anna Emery in her reminisces of 18th century life,  "only two meal cheese were made,  that is,  milking of new milk and of skimmed to the cheese,  the cream of one milking going to the butter." 
The cream inside the churn goes through three stages,  according to the book,  Victoria's Home Companion.  First it begins to froth and will become essentially whipping cream.  During this process the cream expands so if the churn has been filled too much it may begin to overflow.  Next the cream will begin to break when it will resemble curdled milk.  Finally this will gather into lumps which then combines into one solid mass of butter.  The lump of butter is then removed from the thin fluid with a wooden paddle.  It is squeezed and pressed with the paddle to remove all of the remaining milk.  Milk residue remaining in the butter would cause it to go bad much quicker.  Salt is then added and the butter will set for a few hours.
The butter can then be washed in cold water and worked again to remove any remaining milk and water after which it is packed into a mold.  The mold is first dipped into cold water to prevent it from sticking.  The butter then will be turned out onto a clean linen cloth in the spring house or the buttery and let set until it becomes hard.
The milk remaining in the churn is buttermilk,  which can be drunk as is or used as a creamer for coffee or used in baking.


Mid-September
Hints of summer past and autumn future are in the air...

The kitchen garden,  so lovingly cared for throughout the growing season,  continues to give up her yield.
"The housewife's universe spiraled out from hearth and barnyard 
to tending a kitchen garden and perhaps a large vegetable garden,  
as well as assisting with the grain harvest."
The oats are ripe,  standing thick and tall and yellow.  The wheat is golden.  The beans are ripe.  And it is only be a matter of a few weeks that the pumpkins,  turnips,  carrots,  and potatoes will be ready to gather,
Of course,  cucumbers,  tomatoes,  and melons can be be eaten and preserved.
But this is only the beginning.
As noted in Reliving History Magazine,  "The preservation of food was inherently important to the colonists.  They spent large quantities of time preparing the winters stores,  repeating an endless cycle of smoking,  salting,  brining,  boiling,  drying,  and pickling."
Besides the varieties of squash,  beans,  lettuce and other 
vegetables grown to help sustain the family... 

...Anna Daggett would have also pick 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,  feverfew for headaches and  "female complaints,"  and chamomile,  which was used,  same as it is today,  to make a 
calming tea.
A real,  um,  farmacy!

With careful planning,  most of the vegetables will carry over 
the family’s needs until the new summer produce becomes 
available again.  It’s no wonder that the first early greens from the 
spring garden are so looked forward to after a winter of starchy 
root vegetables. 

Late September
And by now we see dozens of apple varieties ripened for the picking,  
as well as raspberries,  pumpkins,  plums,  broccoli,  
corn,  and all kinds of other fruits and vegetables ready for 
harvesting.
Everything was saved - nothing was wasted.  With  "pickling"  a process rather than strictly a preserved cucumber,  other vegetables and even fruits are pickled,  including watermelon rind.  And apple cores are saved for making vinegar.
Farm life offers the complete satisfaction of knowing that each
day's work has been truly productive,  a joy scarce in present times. 

Now for spinning:  the great  (or walking)  spinning wheels are some of the earliest forms of this simple machine,  and are equivalent to a hand spindle on its side rotated by the wheel.  The fiber is spun by turning the wheel with the right hand and drafting the fibers with the left hand.  The spike is used both to twist the fibers and to accumulate the spun yarn.  A very high quality yarn can be prepared in this way.
Washing the flax and wool,  cleaning wool,  spinning flax,  wool,  and cotton.  Sometimes neighbors would join in the spinning,  and the favor would be returned.
The large walking  (or great)  wheel is used to spin,  and it's 
quite a sight to see the dirty raw wool as it is carded by carding 
paddles before actually being spun into yarn.  But there was still 
the dyeing of wool before the spinning process itself.
Our forebears were quite amazing people.

Outside in the yard a large vat of water is boiled over a fire pit.  This is part of the operation of having the spun wool dyed to a variety of colors.  As we saw in the September photographs,  the women of the family would hunt through fields and woods or even in their own garden for flowers,  leaves,  and bark to dye their wool,  crushing walnut shells for brown,  goldenrod blossoms for yellow,  and roots of the madder plant for red.
All of the wool yarn you see here was spun and then dyed naturally.
Other natural resources used are hollyhock,  tansy,  black walnut,  brazilwood,  long soaking indigo,  golden marguerite,  sanderswood,  osage orange...all are used to create the bright colors in the pictures above.

And now I shall like to give a quick - very quick - lesson on flax  (from the pamphlet  The Textile Tools of Colonial Homes By Marion & Walter Channing) - -
Flax is grown in the garden.  Just before it matures,  it is pulled from the ground,  roots and all.  The seeds are removed once the plant is dried  (called rippling).  The plant is then submerged in water in order to rot the useless part of the plant.  This is called retting.  The flax is then spread on the grass  (called dew retting).  Once the plant is dry,  the next step occurs:
A flax brake is used to start the process of separating the line 
fiber from the shives  (or core and bark).  A large bundle is 
centered at the hinge  (or wider)  end of the brake;  the upper 
meshes with the lower and comes down with a bang upon the flax 
which is struck as it gradually moves to the smaller end. 
Breaking and spinning flax
One can see this would do a rather thorough job of  breaking the useless part,  which was often used to fill the straw tick of the trundle bed.  
The flax will go through other processes before spinning - you can read about that HERE- - 
With the flax spun,  a fine linen shirt can be made.  Or,  after the wool is spun,  maybe a woolen cap,  cloak,  scarf,  socks,  or mittens to be used for winter.
Once turned into clothing,  the fabrics have to be cared for.   "I am drying and ironing my cloths til almost every brake of day,"  wrote Mary Cooper on December 24,  1768.
By the time daughters are adults,  their fingers and mind are  stocked with multiple household skills.


Early October
It was a very warm  (mid-80s)  October when this picture was 
taken,  so the grass was still summery green,  and the leaves were 
taking their time to show color.

Meanwhile,  the harvesting of our field crop takes priority:
A man and his scythe - - -
Flour,  as you should know,  is made from wheat,  and each of its 
kernels of grain is covered by an outer layer called a husk.  The 
stalks of this wheat plant are cut by hand with scythes and then 
tied into bundles. 
The use of a scythe is traditionally called mowing,  now often called scything to distinguish it from machine grass mowing.
According to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,  wheat is harvested by cutting the straw near the ground with a hooked hand  “sickle”  or  “reaphook;”  or mown with a  “cradle scythe.”  Cut wheat is gathered in bundles and tied into  “sheaves.”  Sheaves are then stacked upright into small stands called  “shocks.”  These temporary stacks will soon be transferred out of the field to larger outdoor stacks,  or housed,  if possible,  to await threshing.  Threshing,  which you will read about shortly,  generally occurs throughout the fall and winter months.
Oats can be shocked as well.


Mid-October
The harvest continues...
Fall in its full glory
Before winnowing the chaff from the wheat berries,  you need to thresh the wheat.  Threshing is basically knocking the wheat kernels off of the rest of the plant. 
That being said,  just what the heck is this next tool that I am holding?
Why...it's a flail.
This agricultural tool is used to thresh the wheat -
separating the grains from the husks
Threshing is conducted by using a  “flail”  (or stick tied to another stick)  to beat the wheat heads,  thereby separating the wheat berries from their  “chaff”  (or husk)  and supporting straw.  To flail,  one stick is held and swung,  causing the other to strike a pile of grain,  loosening the husks.  Cleaning the wheat commences with removal of the long straw. 
According to Encyclopedia Britannica,  with a flail,  one man can thresh 7 bushels of wheat,  8 of rye,  15 of barley,  18 of oats,  or 20 of buckwheat in a day.  The flail remained the principal method of threshing until the mid-19th century,  when mechanical threshers became widespread.
Now there is another method of threshing called  “treading,”  which achieves the same separation by using horses running over the sheaves laid on a circular floor.  Larger quantities of wheat can be threshed easier by treading compared to flailing,  which might yield only five to seven bushels of clean wheat per day per thresher.
I've not seen this second method,  so I will,  instead,  stick with the flail.
Here I am using the thresher to beat the wheat from the wheat heads. 



~Winnowing Basket~
To catch the grain.
Once the wheat is threshed,  remaining wheat,  chaff and dust mix,  are put into a basket and tossed up into the air where the wind will catch the husks and blow them away,  leaving the clean grain behind to fall back into the basket.  This is known as winnowing.
The winnowing process also separates weevils or other pests stored in the grain.  The cleaned wheat is stored in a granary to be taken to a local mill.   Or,  as some farmers do,  grind the wheat into flour themselves.  But to do this next step,  the farmer must have either a mill of his own  (unlikely)  or use a hand quern,  which can be used when no other means of grinding is available.  The quern,  a tool from the iron age,  is like a mini-gristmill and might be used when one moves into a new settlement where no gristmill has been built yet.  Of course,  the manner of using a quern is not only a tedious task,  but can take an excessive amount of time to get enough flour worth baking.
Fortunately,  most settlements have a gristmill not too distant away.
From colonial times and into the first half of the nineteenth century,  gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities:  grinding the farmers' grain into flour with large,  circular stones,  and levying a toll,  usually in kind,  for the service.
That's the gristmill in the center.
Gristmills flourish in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities by grinding the farmer's grain into flour.  The sights and sounds of the spinning,  grinding wheels can give the modern public a first-hand glimpse of an earlier age...of the time of our ancestors.  The sluice is like a water trough on the side of the building,  which holds the water taken from the mill pond until the lever inside the building is pulled to open the sluice gates,  allowing the water to push through with a strong current to turn the large stone wheels used for grinding.
The hopper,  from which the grain slides down into from the
chute and then to the grindstones.

The turning wheels can grind one barrel of flour  (whole wheat
or buckwheat)  or corn meal an hour.
Each granite stone weighs 1800 pounds.

Newly ground flour pours into the box,  ready to be put inside
the sack for the customer.


Another gristmill is one that most don't think of as a mill in its definition:  the Windmill:
The power of the wind would turn the sails of the mill,  which would
turn the millstones inside,  much like the water would turn the wheel
in the more common mills. 
This windmill,  built in 1633,  is said to be the oldest of its kind in the United States,  and once stood at the road to West Yarmouth,  Massachusetts.
It now stands proudly inside Greenfield Village,  right next to the Daggett House.
However,  it is the water-powered gristmills housed in great two or three story structures situated near a stream that are the most popular means of making flour from your wheat.  We in the colonies will haul our yield miles to go to the nearest water wheel mill,  sometimes taking a day or more for travel time.
Now,  after all of these steps,  one can have flour  (which is not nearly as fine as the flour you purchase in a 21st century store,  by the way)  and are ready to prepare to make and bake bread.
Time to hitch up the horse and cart,  for my time at the gristmill is completed.

The oats,  the wheat,  the vegetables,  the apples and maybe pears;  the harvest that began in August does not really end until later in October...and even into November in many cases.  From morning candle to evening candle,  the entire family will take part.  This ensures survival for the coming bitter winter months.
So,  with most of the harvest in,  it is time to prepare the land for the next growing season,  and one way to prep is by sowing cover crops  (crops that are grown to enrich the soil for the next growing season).  And just like in the spring,  we must also plow,  harrow,  and then plant our root crops in the early fall for a spring harvest.
The colonial farmer would plant and care for a variety of root vegetables,  such as turnips,  potatoes,  beets,  and other similar varieties,  then,  come fall,  will have them stored in stone-lined pits that will prevent hard freezing.


Late October
The change from early fall to late fall is most obvious In October.  It's when the leaves show the biggest variety of color:  green,  gold,  red,  orange,  and even some brown,  and there's a nip in the air - cold enough to rid us of bugs and allow us to sleep comfortably.
The garden season is finally starting to wind down,  though there might still be beans and late ripening squash,  but pretty much everything else is put up for the winter.  Any peaches had from summer have been dried or made into jam already.  The pumpkins are finishing up,  as is the squash.  The late corn is already picked and the potatoes are ready to dig up…we need to hurry and do this before the ground freezes.
All the leaves are brown,  and the sky is gray...
but there was warmth and cheer in the kitchen.
It is now in the kitchen that the most activity tends to take place.
Running an 18th century kitchen really does require a staggering range of skills,  including chopping kindling,  keeping a fire burning indefinitely,  knowing which wood is best for baking or frying,  plucking feathers from fowl,  butchering animals large and small,  cosseting  (caring for)  bread yeast,  brewing beer,  making cheese,  grinding corn,  fermenting vinegar,  pulverizing sugar,  drying damp flour,  recycling stale bread,  adjusting  'burners'  of coals on a hearth and gauging the temperature of a bake oven.  In fact,  the colonial cook begins their work by building a good-sized fire on the hearth,  though once the logs are burned to coals,  the embers are moved around,  and carefully selected pieces of wood will be added to produce different kinds of heat,  and she will often have several small fires going at once.  Piles of live embers on the hearth are like burners on a stove;  a gridiron set over a pile of coals could be used for broiling;   a pan set over coals on a trivet could be used for frying;  and coals could be piled over and under a Dutch oven for baking.   (From the book America's Kitchens by Nancy Carlisle and Melinda Talbot Nasardinov).
'Twas a fine harvest,  allowing for a good serving of vegetables 
before preservation was to begin.  And over the Daggett hearth 
are more 18th century delectable delights,  including Essence of 
Ham,  Apple Tansy,  Windsor Beans,  Dressed Parsnips,  
Crookneck or Winter Squash Pudding,  Applesauce,  Apricot 
Chips,  Hasty Fritters,  Common Peas Soup,  and Brandied 
Peaches & Cheesecake for dessert.
Without refrigeration,  food supplies and routines change with the seasons.  Spring and early summer are the leanest times of the year,  with supplies running short.  Garden produce is much more plentiful in later summer & fall

The chief beverage for 18th century folk is not water or milk,  for water isn't always good to drink,  and the warm milk from cows or goats isn't a high preference.  It is apple cider that we commonly serve at meals,  and the importance of cider in the history of our country cannot be overstated.  Because most apples ripen after summer's end,  fall is the season for cider-making.  
The mildly alcoholic beverage produced by natural fermentation of apple juice is a staple of the New England diet and is one method of preserving the fruit harvest.
Apples...not for eating,  but for drinking and baking.
Filling the apple crate
Cider is made by shoveling the ripe apples into a round trough,  where they are crushed by a horse-drawn roller.  Then the pulp is carried to a press where the juice is extracted.  
In early winter this  "amber juice of autumn"  will be hissing and bubbling in the cellar in the most active stage of fermentation,  a process which is described as the  'singing of the cider.'
Apple harvesting can take place anytime from summer,  with such pre-fall varieties as the Hightop Sweet apples,  through late autumn.  In his diary from November,  Noah Blake writes:
"November 10
Sunday.  Robert Adams will come over tomorrow to help with the apples.
November 11
Spent the day gathering apples.  Robert stayed over.
November 12
More work in the orchard.
November 13
Gathered cyder apples.  Will drive them to the village tomorrow and deliver Robert to his home."

If a farm has a large enough apple orchard they might also have a cider mill or press as well,  for most of the apples will be made into cider rather than to be eaten off the tree - a farmer plants apple trees more for drinking than for eating.  A typical farmstead might have a dozen different apple varieties,  and the taste of many of these ancient  'brands'  are different than the sweet edible fruit that is popular in the 21st century,  and 18th century cellars are filled with the Rambo  (from 1640),  Baldwin  (1740),  Grimes Golden & Belmont  (late 18th century),  Roxbury Russet  (from early 1600s),  and the still popular McIntosh  (late 18th century)  varieties,  waiting to be mashed and smashed into liquid;  the intense smell of cider permeates the dirt cellars of farmsteads throughout this country.
Barrels soon to be filled with cider...
From the account book of Samuel Daggett,  we can see the importance of apple cider:
1763 - he made 21 barrels of cider
1764 - 7 barrels
1765 - 16 barrels
1766 - 8 barrels
1767 - 10 barrels
1768 - 20 barrels
1769 - 19 barrels
Each variety has a different characteristic,  flavor,  and are ultimately used in different ways,  either for sale or for the family's own use.  With such a large amount of apples,  there is a need for storage,  and those not packed carefully away in sawdust or hay will be dried for a long-lasting affect,  such as what Mary Cooper wrote in her diary on October 14,  1772,  "We are very busie cutting appels to dry."  Or they could be made into apple butter,  apple sauce,  pies,  dowdies,  dumplings,  fritters,  and,  of course  (and perhaps most importantly),  cider.  And,  according to one source,  it is the one who awakens last whose job it is to draw the day's cider from the hogshead  (a large cask or barrel).
Though the whole family might help out in picking apples off the trees,  it's the younger of the brood that enjoys it most,  for,  being the tree-climbers,  they could easily reach the ripest at the tree-tops without the use of a ladder.
However,  not all farmers have cider presses.  Oftentimes they are shared with neighbors,  with work being done communally.
But we drink more than apple cider;  this particular scene involves making ale:
Harvesting hops...
(we will step out of 1st person while we speak on this next subject)
During the formative colonial years most of the brewing and drinking was done in the home.  Although the young villages would soon witness the establishment of commercial breweries,  it was in the home where most beer was produced.
Yes,  it's true.  Beer was brewed quite frequently in colonial times.
Photo taken by Loretta Tester
Along with apple cider,  ale and beer were major dietary staples in the colonies.  Literally everyone partook.  It was the common item which spanned generations,  from cradle to grave;  everyone drank beer or cider:  farmers,  laborers,  merchants,  lawyers,  and craftsman.
But contrary to popular belief,  our founding generation were not falling down drunk with all the beer  (and fermented cider)  they drank.  Although there were those who drank to get drunk,  most drank because it was healthier than water.  Even kids drank beer.
In the 18th century,  brewers took malted barley and cracked it by hand.  They would then steep  (or soak)  the grains  (including corn)  in boiling water.  They called the process mashing. 
They would then take the mash they had created,  which has the consistency of oatmeal,  and dump it into a sawed-off whiskey barrel.  The modified tub acted as a sieve,  filtering the sugary liquid from the grain.

Stirring the Mash:
Eighteenth century texts say to,  “Bring your water to a boil and put it into the mash tun.  When it has cooled enough that the steam has cleared and you can see your reflection in the water,  add your malt to the tun." 
Mashing allowed the brewer to extract the sugars from the barley.
As I stirred the mash,  I noticed it smelled just like the modern  'Malto-Meal.'
Seriously...it did!
Water is added to the mash,  creating a steam-effect.

The colonial brewer returned the strained liquid to the boil kettle,  
or the copper,  as it was called,  for a 2-hour boiling. 

Ready for the hops?
The brewer added hops he may have grown in the kitchen garden,  chilled the brew,  sprinkled it with yeast,  and drained the final product into wooden kegs.  The brewer then placed those kegs in a cellar for three weeks to a month.
Yeast is added,  which helps turn the sugar from the malt into alcohol.
Richard Pillatt,  social historian from Camden,  New Jersey,  tells us a story of beer's importance in our history:
"After we announced  (that we were doing a historic beer-brewing demonstration)  this summer,  I was in a nearby restaurant eavesdropping on some people who were discussing our publicity,  and one of them asked the other,  'what does BEER really have to do with history?'  Well,  in terms of daily life in 18th-century Camden County,  one word easily answers that question:  'Everything,'  I said.  Beer played a central role in the social,  economic and political life of almost all our regional ancestors.  It provided daily nutritional sustenance,  it was made from the crops that they grew and bought and sold in huge quantities,  and it was the key lubricant in the networks of  local taverns that were the culture's primary social and political venues."
Many thanks to the kind Daggett folk who allowed me to participate in the process of brewing beer the way it was done in colonial times.  I am always grateful when they allow someone like me to take part in such a historic tradition as colonial brewing.  Along with my plowing behind a team of horses a few years back,  brewing beer the colonial way is another one of those rare opportunities that does not come around very often,  and to do it at a historic 18th century home while wearing the clothing of the time makes it all the more historically gratifying.
From my heart I thank you.


As we continue on in late October...
Gourd Lanterns
The telling of ghost stories on Hallowe'en derives from both the Druids'  belief that the ancestral dead arise on this night and the Christian directive to honor the souls of the departed at Hallowmas. 
It is only natural,  then,  at our early American harvest time get-togethers when our communities gather for such harvest time activities as corn-husking parties,  apple paring parties,  sugar and sorghum making days,  and even at thresherman dinner parties,  that ghost stories are an integral part of these autumn celebrations.  Many American ghost stories evolved from actual superstitions and rituals practiced by those who lived in the British Isles.  These tales of the ancestral dead continue to be told and retold by the elders to a spellbound crowd,  late at night,  after all of the activities were done,  when the moon has fully risen and the trees outside shake with the autumn wind.  That's when people gather around a fire and tell one another tales of the silenced dead lying in graves nearby.
Besides the ritual bonfires  (meant to ward off evil spirits)  that are lit on All Hallow's Eve,  mumming and guising  (Trick-or-treating)  are also rituals performed during Samhain.
The traditional illumination for guisers  (a person in disguise) or pranksters abroad on the night is provided by turnips,  gourds,  or mangel wurzels,  hollowed out to act as lanterns,  lit with coal or a candle,  and often carved with grotesque faces,  representing supernatural beings and are used to chase evil spirits.  Guisers use them to scare people,  while in some cases they might be set upon windowsills to guard homes against evil.
Irish immigrants brought the jack-o’-lantern custom to North America.  Here,  turnips or small gourds were slowly replaced by pumpkins to make the iconic Halloween decorations,  and eventually became the plant of choice.
Goblins,  imps,  fairies,  and trolls were thought to do a lot of mischief on Hallowe'en;  it was the night spirits were out,  and farmers bolted their doors and avoided walking alone at night.  This was the night when doors were blocked with carts,  or attacked with a fusillade of turnips.  Plows and carts were carried off and hidden.  Gates were taken off their hinges and thrown into a neighboring ditch or pond.  Horses were led from the stables and left in the fields a few miles away...


November
All Saints Day  (originally called All Hallow's Day)  is November 1st,  the day following Hallowe'en.  All Saint’s  Day is a Christian festival celebrated on November 1st in honor of all the saints,  known and unknown.  Anglicans view All Souls' Day,  November 2nd,  as an extension of the observance of All Saints' Day and it serves to  "remember those who have died,"  in connection with the doctrines of the resurrection of the body and the Communion of Saints.  Beliefs and practices associated with All Souls' Day vary widely among Christian churches and denominations.
Then there is Guy Fawkes Day and Pope Day,  both popular  'celebrations'  in 18th century New England.  However,  there are details too numerous to inject into today's posting,  so I ask that you click HERE to read more about this long-forgotten holiday.
Remember,  remember! 
    The fifth of November, 
    The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 
    Should ever be forgot! 
    Guy Fawkes and his companions 
    Did the scheme contrive, 
    To blow the King and Parliament 
    All up alive...

~

As we make our way into November,  the process of butchering some of the livestock will begin to take place.  Colonists do not waste any part of the animal.   They cut steaks from beef.  They make spare ribs and backbones.  They smoke ham and use the fatty sections of the pig for bacon.  The small and large intestines are used as casings for sausage,  and sausage is made from the leftover scraps of meat,  as well as from liver and lungs.  Fat makes good lard for baking.  The meat from the heads and feet of pigs will be chopped very fine to make head cheese.
All of this,  along with the vegetables,  will help to sustain the family over the coming winter and spring seasons.  The cellar now has its  "winter smell of apples and preserves." 
The end of our growing season is nigh ~ ~ ~

The corn has now been cut and shocked,  grain has been thrashed,  all the hay is stacked,  and the labors of summer are nearly over.
Picking the last of the harvest...
The harvest,  for the most part,  is ended,  and only a few 
very late vegetables await.  Maybe some cabbages,  brussels 
sprouts,  lettuce,  beets,  potatoes,  and possibly a few late carrots 
are all that's left to pick.

In addition to using the herbs fresh from the kitchen garden,  
many plants were bound together in bunches and hung upside 
down to dry from the kitchen rafters. 

New England colonists are very much accustomed to regularly celebrating a thanksgivings to thank God for His blessings.  However,  it would not be until later in the 1700s that individual colonies would periodically designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of a military victory,  an adoption of a state constitution,  or an exceptionally bountiful crop.
Time to go a-fowling...for Thanksgiving dinner.
And a fine feast we shall have...
Favorable events,  such as the sudden ending of a drought or pestilence,  among other things,  might inspire a thanksgiving proclamation.  It is like having an extra Sabbath during the week,  for fasts and thanksgivings never fall on a Sunday.  They are also usually localized.
Thanksgiving Dinner
But,  as the century wears on,  this more solemn holy day  (holiday)  of giving thanks to God will gradually turn into a more festive celebration.  Men will devote Thanksgiving morning to go hunting or participate in turkey shoots,  like the one in 1783 in Warren,  New Hampshire,  where hens and turkeys were tied to stakes and men paid four and a half pence to shoot a hen at a distance of eight rods,  or nine pence to shoot a turkey from ten rods.
Usually the birds are killed before being mounted on the stakes.  If a man hit the bird,  it is his to take home.
The celebration of  Thanksgiving over the course of the 18th century evolved into a holiday celebrated around the dinner table.  As New England becomes more densely settled and the good farmland all locked up,  its citizens will begin to head west,  and they will take their social traditions with them,  including their annual Thanksgiving holiday.


And yet,  in this late in the season there is still another harvest chore that must be done for the colonial farm family:
candle making.
Artificial light in the 18th century is truly a luxury.  People are used to working by daylight while indoors,  so lighting a candle when the sun is up is rare and,  to be honest,  thought to be very wasteful.  It is customary for folks to move from room to room to get the most out of the day's light.  Generally,  candles are lit only during the nighttime hours,  and sparingly so,  due to the lengthy candle-making procedure.
As we have seen,  most 18th century homes are as self-sufficient as they can be,  and those who live in them do their best to produce as many things needful to life as they can,  and this includes artificial light:  candles.  As part of the domestic work,  colonial women usually are the ones who carry the entire candle making process from start to finish,  though quite often the children and other family members,  including men,  will help out as well.
Though it can be done any time of year  (as long as there are supplies),  the usual period for making candles is in early-to-mid November.  It has to be just cold enough for quick hardening,  and follow shortly after fall hunting,  where the collected waste fat from the butchered animals is used to make tallow for dipping.  Tallow candles are very popular here in the 18th century,  and due to the idea that rendered lard is many times easier to obtain than beeswax,  it is very common,  especially out on the farm  (city folk can purchase their candles from the chandler).
It's here that we can quote Susan Blunt,  a woman from the early 19th century,  who remembered her 18th century mother candle dipping:
"Mother used to dip candles in the fall,  enough to last all winter.  When a beef was killed in the fall,  she would use all the tallow for candles.  On the evening before,  we would help her prepare the wicks.  The boys would cut a lot of rods and she would cut the wicks the length of a candle and then string them on the rods.
"...in the morning she would commence her day's work..."
Of course,  farms might also have bee hives on their property and,  thus,  be able to obtain the wax from the hive,  as well as the honey for a sweetener.  Where tallow had a pungent odor,  beeswax has more of a sweet smell.
Either way,  both types are popular in the 18th century.
Then there is soap making.  Early spring and late fall on the farm are the times for soap-making.  But since soap is made mostly from the same grease and fat used to make candles,  November's butchering-time makes autumn the more popular season for the chore.


Late November
Living in darkness...and cold...
Immersed in 18th century darkness
This time of the year,  with darkness king of the 24 hour day,  it dictates our daily activities.  Along with the bitter cold,  being buried in the dark shadows of nighttime often reduces the once family-sized home into a single room in many cases,  for many families may close off the parlors to decrease the amount of warming space.  With a dim glow,  life centers around the hearth or stove for warmth and possibly a candle or or even a Betty Oil Lamp to give little enhancement any of the limited activities of which we may partake.  This low level of candle light creates only pockets of brightness,  leaving most of the room in darkness.  Forget about the Hollywood movies and TV series  (or the History Channel)  showing people enjoying a pleasant winter's eve reading or writing by candlelight - I've done this and it's pretty darn difficult to do for any length of time.  As Laura Wirt wrote in 1818,   "writing by a dim firelight.  I can scarcely see."
Yes,  we read,  write,  sew,  mend,  and do other necessities as best as one can by such low light,  but on these long winter nights there is also socializing,  singing,  storytelling,  bible recitations,  games,  journaling,  family history lore,  and other ways to pass the time.  The glow of the hearth is sufficient enough for any of these activities,  thus saving on candles and fuel.
Emily Barnes writes of her grandmother telling stories,  and  "how eagerly we sought our places in the sitting room around the low-cushioned chair,  which was placed in the warmest corner,  the room all aglow with the bright,  blazing fire.  'There is no need to light the candles,'   she would say;  and we were glad to avoid the interruption occasioned by snuffing them,  especially when so unfortunate to snuff them out."
(Snuffing in the old days meant to trim the wick rather than putting out the flame as is known it to mean in the 21st century).
It is also in late November or early December when the farmer will bank his house,  when the north sides of houses are stacked with hay,  leaves,  corn stalks,  or maybe sawdust as protection from the upcoming winter's blast,  just as Noah Blake wrote on December 2:
"Banked the house with cornstalks and pompion  (pumpkin)  vines."
Yes,  a thick matting of cornstalks around the bottom of the house will keep some of the winter cold and wind out.

So,  with the harvest in,  the food stored/preserved,  and the house banked,  there may be some time to venture into the nearest town or village and visit the tavern to enjoy a much needed free-time visit with friends and neighbors.
An early snow muddies the road into town.

Taverns were the pulse of 18th century urban life,  and their importance to the local community cannot be overstated.  These  "publick houses"  (or  'ordinaries,'  as they were also known)  have played an important part in social,  political,  and even military life.  Around the fire the assembled company would discuss all manner of topics,  though politics seemed to be the main subject.
A rousing game of checkers at the local tavern...
By the 1760s and 1770s,  the ordinaries were the rendezvous for those who believed in the Patriot cause and listened to the stirring words of American rebels,  who mixed dark treason to King George with every bowl of punch they drank.  The story of our War for Independence could not be dissociated from the old taverns,  for they are a part of our national history.

~  ~   ~
 
I hope you found this posting helpful in your understanding of what the fall months meant to our ancestors.  The season of autumn,  to me,  has always been a cause for celebration.  Even as a child,  it was my favorite season of the year,  as it was to the folks who lived 250 years ago,  and still is to the modernites of today.  In fact,  I've not seen so many people celebrating any season as they do fall - even more than summer.  In my neck of the woods  (Michigan),  as soon as Labor Day hits it seems like the entire populace of our State spends their weekends at the cider mills or driving the country roads to hit the roadside vegetable vendors or traveling the interstates and highways and backroads just to look at the fall colors.  Storefront signs here and there proclaim a welcome to fall,  and stores are filled with autumn and Hallowe'en decor,  even during this crazy year of 2020.
Harvest Home everyone!

Until next time,  see you in time.


To learn more about the Daggett Home,  click HERE
For a colonial Thanksgiving,  please click HERE
For a colonial Christmas,  please click HERE  (by the way,  contrary to current popular belief,  many colonists - much more than modern folks care to admit - did indeed celebrate Christmas)
For a colonial Winter,  please click HERE
For a colonial Spring,  please click HERE
For a colonial Summer,  please click HERE
For A Year on a Colonial Farm,  click HERE



Sources:
The Age of Homespun and Good Wives:  Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650 - 1750 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Early Farm Life by Lise Gunby
The American Farmer in the 18th Century by Richard Lyman Bushman  (though not nearly as much of this book is actually about farming practices of the time as I had hoped...it is a bit of a let down)












































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