Friday, October 19, 2018

If I Could Save Time In A Bottle: Celebrating Autumn 2018 at Historic Greenfield Village

Spending autumn days in my very favorite place in history - - it just doesn't get any better.
I visited the harvest twice - once in modern clothes and a second time in period colonial clothing. 
The pictures herein are a mix of the two visits.

My wife and I:
our love can span decades...generations...centuries...
If I could save time in a bottle the first thing that I'd like to do
is to save every day 'til eternity passes away
just to spend them with you.
But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do
once you find them.
I've looked around enough to know that you're the one I want to go
through time with.
~ Gotta love Jim Croce ~
My wife, who is a bonafide Daughter of the American Revolution, joined me on this time-travel excursion to the Fall Harvest at Greenfield Village, so if I am in the picture, she could quite possibly have taken it. Or maybe it was our friend, Ian, who snapped it.
Oftentimes Patty will join me when I dress period and create my own personal historical experience, for she enjoys the Village almost as much as I do. Sometimes she dresses period as well, while other times, such as on this day, she might decide to dress more modern. 
Either way, I always enjoy when she comes along with me. Yes, even after 33 years of wedded bliss, for she truly is one I want to go through time with.
(Okay...call me sappy...I don't care...)

V ~V

Some of the text that you are about to read here comes directly from the book, "Time and Again" by Jack Finney (with slight modification from me to keep it centered on my own personal objective):

Presently, Albert Einstein said that our ideas about time are largely mistaken. And I don't doubt for an instant that he was right once more. Because one of his final contributions not too long before he died was to prove that all of his theories are unified. They're not separate but inter-connected.
One of his ideas was that we're mistaken in our conception of what the past, present, and future really are. 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. It's only natural. He said we're 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.
There it is...my bridge to the past...
You know the year, the day, and the month for literally millions of reasons: because the blanket you woke up under this morning may have been at least partly synthetic; because there is probably a box in your apartment with a switch; turn that switch, and the faces of living human beings will appear on a glass screen in the face of that box and speak nonsense to you. Because red and green lights signaled when you might cross a street on your way here this morning; because teenage children you saw were dressed as they were, because the front page of the local newspaper looked precisely as it did this morning and as it never will again or ever has before.
Stepping through time...and I made sure to wear my colonial farming clothes, 
for I plan to spend most of my visit to the past on a farm.
You can see yesterday; most of it is left. There are fragments of still earlier days. Single buildings. Sometimes several together. Those places are fragments still remaining, of days which once lay out there as real as the day lying out there now, still surviving fragments of a clear April morning of 1933, a winter's evening of 1885, a gray afternoon of 1765...and that some survived, in my opinion, is close to being a kind of miracle.
The Daggett House, built around 1750 and depicted in the 1760s.
Picture one of those ancient houses, and let's say it's a breakback (or, more commonly known as a 'saltbox' house), standing empty for two months in the fall of 1765, which very well could have happened.
It's been a while since I've seen my friends, Samuel and Anna, so I looked forward to my visit with them, as well as with their three children, Asenath, Tabitha, and Isiah.
Photo taken by Mary Marshall

Asenath greeted me at the door.
Photograph by Mary Marshall

And we both posed for a "quick sketch".
Picture the arrangement to sublet that very home for those identical months for the coming autumn. If Albert Einstein is right - as he is - then hard as it may be to comprehend, the fall of 1765 still exists.
And then inside the Daggett house we went.
That silent empty "saltbox house" exists back in that autumn precisely as it exists in the autumn that is coming. Unaltered and unchanged, identical in each, and existing in each. I believe it may be possible, you understand, for a man to walk out of that unchanged home and into that other autumn.
Inside the house was the picture of colonial life...
Photo taken by Loretta Tester
But, the uncountable millions of invisible threads that exist in here would bind him to this coming autumn, no matter how unaltered the house around him. However, it occurred to me that just possibly there is a way to dissolve those threads...
And Anna, with daughter Tabitha nearby, was at the hearth, preparing a fall meal
Suppose you were to stand at a window of one of the ancient homes and looked out onto the scene unfolding before your eyes; all around you is a building unchanged from the day it was built, including the room you stand in and very possibly even the glass pain you look through. Everything you see outside the window is also unchanged.
A scene from a time before the birth of our nation.
above picture taken by Mary Marshall
And then...you see yourself...
...as part of that same scene from over 250 years ago.
And this particular scene involves making ale.
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
Now, the silly introduction that the all-knowing History Channel's "Founding Fathers" series from a few years back makes a point to state something along the lines that it was a wonder the founders and others of their generation could stand up with all the beer they drank. Hey! Guess what? Although there were those who drank to get drunk, most drank because it was healthier than water. Even kids drank beer.
I've also chastised a fellow reenactor (reenactress?) when she said, during a presentation, that while the women were working inside the homes, their husbands were out getting drunk. I stood up right in the middle of her speech and snapped rather loudly, "That's not true!" and she retracted her comment and said that she was exaggerating. 
Yeah, maybe it was rude of me to do such a thing, but it was also rude and wrong of her to knowingly pass on false information. Too much of this sort of thing is being passed along as truth and occurs way too frequently.
Although there were those who drank to get drunk (just like in our modern 21st century), most in the colonial times drank beer because it was healthier than water. They did not necessarily drink to get inebriated.
Just trying to correct another myth...
With that being said...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.
You would think they would be drunk, according to our modern manner of thought, but it was another beverage for health's sake. Alas, they were quite sober.
Ben Franklin’s favorite type of beer could have been similar in gravity and strength to the modern version of an Old Ale (1.060 to 1.086). Franklin’s own writings refer to,“the type of strong, harvest-time ale, or October ale.” Yet, his regular drink couldn’t have been excessively strong because he was known to have intellectual discussions in Taverns while, “lifting a few pints of ale,” and Franklin felt (along with many of the time) that ale was a healthful tonic if consumed in moderation.

And now let's speak a little on the brewing process...
Photo courtesy of Loretta Tester

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
Brewers in colonial times took the mash they had created, which has the consistency of oatmeal, and dumped 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." 
This translated to a mash temperature of  approximately 154F. This mash temperature is supported by both Noonan’s recipe for an 1850 Scottish ale and Daniels’ recommendation for an Old Ale. 
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. 
In researching the era, it is believed that due to the high cost of imported hops and the documented hop shortages in Colonial America, the hopping rates would have been appreciably less than that of Old Ale and more comparable to a Strong Scotch Ale.
Ready for the hops?
He added hops, 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.
Thank you.

See the video below with more beer brewing information.


The degree of change as each day passes is usually too slight to perceive much difference. Yet those tiny daily changes have brought us from a time when what you'd have seen was farmland, treetops, streams, cows at pasture, men in tri-cornered hats, and horse-drawn carriages kicking up dust along tree-shaded rutted lanes instead of the stop lights, oblivious folks walking with cell phones in their hands, loud traffic, screaming fire engines, and the over-bearing sound of a jet plane overhead.
It was out there once. 
Can you see it?
Can you hear it?
I'm not here just to stuff you with facts about the period. You get along in modern times without knowing everything about it. And I don't think you necessarily have to know all about the 1760s either. But you do have to feel them to become a part.
Listening to the women of Daggett speak about the different plants in the kitchen garden is such an enlightening experience. The ladies of the 18th century can be proud of their past, for their historical place in the family hierarchy was of top-notch importance, as was their husband's - - for they worked as a team; without one, the other would not have survived nearly as well, if at all. The need for family team work - kids included - was a priority.

As you may know, I try to be as accurate in my presentation
as I can, for I believe if one is depicting the past, then one
should do their utmost to do it right.
It took me a while but I was finally able to put together
a set of farming clothes.
Mind! There are numerous farm fashions, including long
pants, but I choose to wear what you see here.

A Loretta Tester photo

This is what's left of the Lavender plant~
Lavender had numerous uses - - - .
Picture taken by Loretta Tester
One use was to strew (scatter or sprinkle over a surface) lavender and other herbs to be walked upon and release the scent. This goes with lavender blossoms being dried and used in sachets and potpourri to freshen clothes, linens, rooms, as well as to repel insects.  It was essential in English lavender water, and the recipes found their way to colonial America, as did the plants.  

The colonial woman’s dooryard garden, along with her larger vegetable gardens, was expected to provide many of the foods, flavorings, medicines and chemicals necessary for a largely self-sufficient household with little cash. Plants such as madder and woad were used to dye cloth, southernwood, pennyroyal, and the aforementioned lavender served as insect repellents, basil and sage improved and sometimes masked the flavors of food.
Since most households were isolated from medical care, herbs such as yarrow, angelica, feverfew and valerian were used to treat common ailments.
The colonial kitchen garden was planted outside the back door, so these vital herbs were at the ready.
In addition to using the herbs fresh, many plants were bound together
in bunches and hung upside down to dry from the kitchen rafters. 

As you can see, the various herbs were hung throughout
the kitchen, and I can tell you first-hand these drying
plants aided in the scent of this important colonial room!

And I must say I do many times enjoy visiting on
dank and dreary days, for that's when the candle
lanterns are it, giving off an even deeper fall feeling.

I continued to turn it back into a rural scene, imagining a man down there with buckles on his shoes and wearing knee breeches, walking along a dusty country road called the broad way. And it worked...for that man was me!
This would not be the home of an 18th century farmer,
for it is more suitable (and actually was) a home for a
more prosperous family of the city.
However, I suppose I could be making a delivery...

Picture taken by Loretta Tester

And inside we find the lady of the house a-waiting her guests to arrive for the afternoon autumn tea she is having.

While in the back kitchen, the servant is preparing quite a delectable delight per her mistress' request. 
Both the Giddings House and the Daggett House were built around the same time, in the mid-18th century. But whereas the Daggett shows farm life, Giddings shows city life. It is interesting to compare and to note the differences in the two. It would be nice for Giddings to have a fashionable male to add to the overall picture of the period represented.

And then I visited the 1780 cabin once belonging to the McGuffey family, which Henry Ford had disassembled from its original West Finley Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania location in 1932, and then re-erected it in Greenfield Village two years later.
William Holmes McGuffey was born in this cabin in 1800. He is known for his infamous McGuffey Readers, which educated generations of Victorian school children, including Henry and Clara Ford.

The cabin, as you can see by the photos, is filled with the atmosphere of the later 18th century through the time when McGuffey was born.
The presenters inside this cabin do a wonderful job in their presentation of how the McGuffey family lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Another fine example of when a presentation is done right!

Since the McGuffey Cabin does not normally have a presenter, aside from special events, I always enjoy visiting when they do for I get to hear the wonderful stories of not only the McGuffey family, but of pioneer cabin life as well.
Jennifer Monarch Mailley took this picture

Presenter Kelly and I pose for a quick sketch here in the cabin doorway.

Off to another scenic adventure, this time to see the Loranger Gristmill.
From colonial times and into the nineteenth century, gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities: grinding the farmers' grain into flour using large, circular stones. Of course, the miller would levy a toll, usually in kind, for the service.

Even though this particular mill was built in the 1830s, 
it still is very reminiscent of those built in the 1700s.
Now, how long until I can get my flour?

The farm field of Firestone, with the corn shocks lining the fence.

And there 'tis - Firestone Farm, where tire magnet Harvey Firestone was born.
When I visit Greenfield Village while in period clothing, I do not enter a historic house so far away from the time I am presenting, for I feel that just would not be right to mix two different time periods.

And the same goers for this next house, which is being presented as Depression-era 1932. I did step into the yard only to say hello to Mama Jean, one of the finest presenters at the Village.
We spoke briefly then it was off to cook in the back kitchen.

I took this photo of Mama Jean a couple
years ago. She is such a beautiful lady
who can cook wonderful southern recipes
of the 1930s like no one else can!

Not far from the Mattox house, as it sits in Greenfield Village, is the Susquehanna Plantation house.
Originally, it was thought the house was built around 1650, but, after deep research, it was found that it was, instead, built sometime in the 1830s.
And in the 1830s, women did many jobs that we
consider to be men's work, such as chopping wood
for the hearth.

And, during the autumn harvest season, the presenters can be seen fixing and cooking up a fine meal fit for folks who lived in 1860s Maryland.

Alas, it was time for us to leave...and as we made our way out, it seemed that the periods of time eked its way to the present...
But I would like to leave you with a few thoughts:
the people of the 18th and 19th centuries weren't ghosts. They were living beings, and they would never have worn such ragged and faded clothing as what we may see in museum originals.
Streets and street lamps, motor car companies, pavement...
all signs of things to come...
If you look at old original clothing from a century...two centuries...even three centuries ago, they can look like drab drooping heavy dark material, hanging motionless on the dummy. People walk through museums, look at things like this, and think this is how people dressed. But it's not. Look at the color, if you can still call it a color. The old dyes don't hold up. For centuries there is clothing that has been fading, altering; some into no color at all. And the cloth: shriveled, and shrunken in places. All the life has gone out of the threads.
It's up to us - those who wear the replicated period clothing of times gone by - to bring these "ghosts of the past" to life...as living beings.
Because...
...back in the bends and curves behind us, the past is still there...

~   ~   ~

One more thing: I would like to end this posting with a few pictures of the autumn leaves at the entrance/exit of the Village before they start to drift by the windows:
Whether you are entering or leaving the Village, 
the decorations - natural or man-made - certainly 
allows the fall feeling to engulf the visitor

The colors of the trees just seem to jump out at you.

And God's beauty in the autumn leaves creates a scene of past, present, and even future, with the water fountain's last gasps adding to the splendor before winter's song shuts it down. 
Thank you for visiting with me.
You know, 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. And it was to the folks who lived 250 years ago, as it still is to our 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 back roads 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 with all this, I feel Greenfield Village - that wonderful open-air museum located in Dearborn, Michigan - does it best of all.

Until next time, see you in time.


To read more about life on a colonial farm, click HERE
To read more about a colonial harvest, click HERE
To read more about cooking on the hearth, click HERE
To read more about everyday colonial life, click HERE
To read more about a colonial Thanksgiving, click HERE
To read more about a colonial Christmas, click HERE


Some of the information about beer brewing came from THIS Benjamin Franklin site.
And THIS SITE as well.
However, much of the brewing information also came from the master brewer at the Daggett Farm in Greenfield Village, Mr. Roy Mayer.
Other bits came from THIS SITE.




















~   V   ~