Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Year on a Colonial Farm: Living By the Four Seasons

This is not, by any means, a comprehensive guide to a year in the life of an 18th century farmer. It is, rather, a quick overview...a sort of a glance through twelve months of long ago, and it gives me the opportunity to utilize the many pictures I have taken and intersperse them with the information I have garnered over time. Think of it along the lines as kind of a Reader's Digest version. And if you find any one subject that interests you, I urge you to dig deeper, for a book could be written (or already has been written) on nearly each topic covered here.
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.
Thank you.
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To be complete, one must have two parts of a whole.  For example,  a pencil drawing of a scene can be wonderful in of itself.  You get the idea of what an artist is conveying.  But seeing the etching become a full-color painting seems to make it all come to life,  doesn't it?
The same goes for history.  We can study the important facts of our founding fathers:  the names, dates,  and locations.  But what about the founding mothers?  And those who were not part of that elite group?  What of the everyday mundane lives of the common folk?
To study history in a complete  (ie: complete manner)  is to add full color detail to the pencil drawings to make it come alive.
That's what this posting is about...the lives of the common -  but oh! so important  - folk during the time of our country's founding. 
I give you the colonial American farmer:

"Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization." 
~ Daniel Webster
In the following pictures, you will see a farm house very similar to what you see here, though they are not the same. This photo is from the set of the excellent John Adams HBO mini-series. Most of the other photos were taken in and around the the 18th century Daggett Farm House at historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, as seen in the picture below.
This break-back style house was built around 1750 and is presented as the 1760s.
"To imagine farm lives three centuries ago, we must return to a time when family life and the economy blended to a degree unknown today. Farm men and boys worked in their own barnyards and fields. Artisan shops were attached to the house or stood nearby. Women and girls cooked and preserved in the house and garden. In the eighteenth century, fathers and mothers were always the bosses. They governed during the work day and at night, in the house and in the fields. Children worked at whatever tasks their parents assigned to them. 
To patriarchy was added the imperative of survival. The brute facts of farming meant that the family had to work. Everyone knew their lives depended on it. Much as children may have resented their father's heavy hand, they knew that only constant toil kept them from hunger. Reality...was on their father's side."
This notation, from the book The American Farmer in the Eighteenth Century by Richard L. Bushman, must fully encompass your mindset to help understand what you are about to read - to see the world through 18th century eyes - for there is no room for 21st century thinking in an 18th century world.
So now let's meet your farmers: on the left in the pictures below you see Larissa, and that's me on the right. We are married, but not to each other (as the old country song goes), though we have been historically presenting together as a farm couple of the past, whether in the 1770s or 1860s, since 2012. It is something we both enjoy and have often remarked to the effect of, "If we could only make a financial living doing this..."
Larissa, 
chained to the kitchen...
Photo by Jean Cook
Ken, 
chained to the plow...
Photo by Jean Cook
So, as the story goes, God called men and women to perform particular tasks or work in this life: the women were invariably called to be housewives and mothers, and men were called to specific work as farmers, carpenters, store owners, and so on.
This was the colonial thought process.
But despite the attention given to the great cabinet makers of Philadelphia or the shipping merchants of Boston, the vast bulk of the population lived on farms growing food crops. According to an article in the winter 2018 issue of Reliving History Magazine, a New England farm averaged in size between 50 and 100 acres.
Here is another snippet by author Richard Lyman Bushman: "Farm families did not farm to make a profit. They farmed to flourish as a family. On the family farm, gender relations and parent-child relationships were largely defined by work and ownership. The patriarchal father-husband owned the property and by right assigned the labor. A good husband was a good husbandman (farmer). The two roles intermingled, as did wife and housewife. The matriarchal woman's role in marriage consisted of bearing children and doing her work in the household economy. And for children it was the same. They accepted their father's right to work them for no pay. The children obeyed because he was their father. Work bonds and family ties were interwoven."
Some children went to school, but they learned the skills of husbandry and huswifery within the family; the breached boy would be out with father on the farm. Boys still under the age of ten not only knew how to expertly use firearms, but also learned how to handle an axe and keep it ready for use. The axe, aside from his rifle, is perhaps the most important tool that a man could have.
Girls would be learning to run a household like their mother, including learning cooking skills, mending, medicinal practices, and caring for a family. Girls and boys would both care for the animals, including grooming and feeding, as well as gathering eggs. They would also empty the chamber pots and trim the candles. The system, like a well-oiled machine, was highly efficient, from father and mother through children. Family, household production, and education for life were synonymous. One missing link, though, could throw a wrench into the entire operation.
Taking a short break before heading out to the fields.
It was nice to relax at the hearth on such a cool day.

It seems like every farm family seen in movies or on TV have large families, with a mess of boys and girls to help around the fields and house.
Well, this simply was not true in so many of the cases - not everyone had large families. So the story Larissa and I use as the running theme during our presentations tells of our lives as the parents of only two children, and both are female. We explain how we raised our eldest daughter to be my 'right-hand-man,' working the field and learning the ins and outs of husbandry to run our farm successfully, while our youngest was raised at her mother's side to learn more of the fine art of domestic life in order to keep a successful home.
But the heart of our presentation centers around our living by the seasons, and what we must do in each to ensure survival. And while we are speaking, we remain mostly in 1st person, where we 'become' the farmers we are representing, though we step out every-so-often to answer questions or to give further explanations as needed.
We like to begin our presentation by speaking a bit about our clothing, and in that manner the audience gets a better visual...a better understanding, and thus, a more well-rounded look at our lot in life.
No, I'm not going to show you the big red and yellow Superman "S" - (or maybe a giant "C" for colonial---lol), rather, I'm just showing my waistcoat, which is of a slightly older fashion, more suitable to the 1760s than the 1770s. But as a farmer working the fields to stay alive, I'm not necessarily going to be caring as much on up-to-date fashion as a higher-class city man might.

Larissa also spoke on her clothing, including the importance of her apron, her day cap, and the other articles she is wearing, including (hush!) her underpinnings.
She also explains that for our presentation she decided to wear her Sunday Best dress rather than her dirtier work dress.

With the visuals aligned, we can now spend a year on a farm in about the year 1770. Please note the use of the mid-18th century Daggett Breakback House (known in our modern times as a saltbox house) as our seasonal focal point...one month at a time, beginning with the month of March.
March?
Why are we beginning our year in March and not January?
As it stands right now, according to our calendars (which is calculated astronomically), winter begins right around December 21st, and summer usually begins around June 21st. And then the spring and fall around March 21st and September 21 respectively.
However, the meteorologist calculations, in my mind, make much more sense, for then the seasons begin on the first day of the months that include the equinoxes and solstices. For instance,
Spring runs from March 1 to May 31;
Summer runs from June 1 to August 31;
Fall (autumn) runs from September 1 to November 30; and
Winter runs from December 1 to February 28 (February 29 in a leap year).
When you think about it, that's pretty much the way most of us think of our seasons, wouldn't you say?
And the solstices and equinoxes can still be celebrated, for they will remain the same as they are.

Going back in time around 250 years we'll find that February's last days are like the 21st century's New Year's of January 1st. Accounts and diaries are closed and inventories are made. There is talk of spring and the new farm year. The old farm calendars and diaries, almanacs and agricultural manuals, begin appropriately with March.
"The new year is at our door," says a diary entry of the period, "spring is with us in March when we are yet sitting by the fireside..."
So, then, let us begin with the month of
March 
This photograph was taken in late March - very early in the spring, and we can still see the last remnants of the winter snow melting. This would be the time of year when the colonial farmer might be repairing his farm tools to work his fields for plowing and planting
New Year's Day had been celebrated on March 25 under the Julian calendar in Great Britain and its colonies, but with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, New Year's Day was now observed on January 1. When New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25th, March 24 of one year was followed by March 25 of the following year. When the Gregorian calendar reform changed New Year's Day from March 25 to January 1, the year of George Washington's birth, because it took place in February, changed from 1731 to 1732. In the Julian Calendar his birthdate is Feb 11, 1731 and in the Gregorian Calendar it is Feb 22, 1732. Double dating was used in Great Britain and its colonies including America to clarify dates occurring between January 1st and March 24th on the years between 1582, the date of the original introduction of the Gregorian calendar, and 1752, when Great Britain adopted the calendar.

From the actual diary of Noah Blake (from 1805)):
"March 26, 1805
A light snow fell which father believes will be the last of the winter. We fell'd a fine oak and rolled it upon rails for Spring seasoning. Mother is joyous at the thought of a good wood floor.
March 27, 1805
...it snowed again today. We kept within the house, sharpening and making ready tools for the year's farming."
For the sustainability of a farm, fences are considered a prime necessity. Almanac after almanac starts the month of March with "Look to your fences." March is the ideal season for storing up firewood and splitting fence-rails while its winds dry out the winter-cut logs in the woods, making them easier to haul in.
"The differences in saving between green and dry wood," says the 1821 farmer's Almanac, "will pay the expense of sledding, besides the extra trouble of kindling fires."
The amount of wood needed for fuel and a variety of other uses was impressive:
 A large family recorded in a journal that they burned forty four cords of wood within a one year period in a house with seven fireplaces, a bake oven, and two chimney’s. Another family documented burning “twenty seven cords, two feet of wood” between May 3, 1826 and May 4, 1827.  One impoverished woman mentioned that she endured a Boston winter on twelve cords of wood “as we kept but one fire except on extraordinary occasions.”  Abigail Adams burned forty to fifty cords a year “as we are obliged to keep six fires constantly & occasionally more.”
The March chore of laying up new fuel wood also heralds the end of winter, the season of the hearth. Besides heating and cooking equipment, there are always a few pieces of wood present, being seasoned by the winter fire. Special wood for ax handles and other farm tools is laboriously dried at the fireplace, and even lightly charred for strength. Special pieces are often left near the fireplace for as long as a year, to render them properly seasoned.

No American season is more definite than sugaring time. The right time is usually between late February/early March through early April when the sap is flowing properly. The nights are still cold enough to freeze sharply and the days warm enough to thaw freely. The thermometer must not rise above forty degrees by day, nor sink below 24 degrees at night. It is this magic see-sawing between winter and spring that decides the sugaring season.
From Noah Blake's diary:
"Robert Adams came by in his father's sleigh to take me to the Adams place. I shall help them for the week with maple sugaring."
To collect the sap, holes are bored in the maple tree, followed by the hammering in of a wooden tube called a spile. Under the spile a wooden bucket, made by the local cooper, is placed to catch the clear watery sap. Each day the buckets of sap are emptied into one large barrel, which is hauled back to the boiling area. There, three iron kettles made by the local blacksmith hang over fires.
Maple Sugaring at Old Sturbridge Village - photo courtesy of Vicki Stevens
In the first kettle, the watery tasteless sap is vigorously boiled over a roaring fire. The water will gradually evaporate, leaving behind a thicker, sweeter liquid. This is then ladled into the second kettle where it is gently boiled to thicken more. Constant stirring keeps it from burning.
This thick, sweet syrup can then be poured into crocks to be used on porridge or cakes. Or, it can be ladled into the third kettle. If this is done, the liquid will then, over a smaller fire, be carefully stirred until it turns into sugar. The sugar will be packed into wooden boxes and tubs to be used in the coming year.
Again, from the diary of Noah Blake: "Palm Sunday. Went to Meeting with the Adams and returned home with Mother and father. I earned a tub of sweetening for my week's work. It is good to be home again."
From what I have read, it was the Native Americans in the northeast who first collected the sap and boiled it into syrup to sweeten their food. When European colonists arrived, they learned how to process the sap from the Natives to also be used as a sweetener, which was cheaper than the expensive cane sugar, and could be used in a variety of foods including oatmeal, waffles, sausage, and baked goods.

Near the top of this post, artisan shops were mentioned as being a part of farm property. An interesting notation from Noah Blake's diary shows this:
"The snow has gone and seasonable weather for Spring business has arrived. I finished the winter's lot of nail-making and put the forge to rights."

April
Plowing, harrowing, and planting may be on Sam Daggett's agenda at this time, especially later in the month such as the time when this image was captured.
Caring for the pregnant farm animals was also a top priority, for this would ensure continued generations of cattle, pigs, sheep, horses...all necessary to run a farm. 
In a lot of ways spring is the perfect time for (baby animals) to be born. Mother mammals usually need better, richer food to produce quality milk for their babies to nurse. For grazing animals like cattle, sheep, and horses, the fresh green grass and other plants on pasture in spring and early summer are rich in nutrients. These plants can have a higher percentage of protein and ‘total digestible nutrients’. This can lead to better milk production for the babies. Most calves are born between January and May because of this reason. 
Spring is also a good time for babies to be born because the days become longer and temperatures rise. With the warmer weather it is easier for the baby to survive. And because spring is such a good time of year for babies, many animals evolved to accommodate these natural cycles.
(From THIS page) 

From mending fences and tools to tapping the trees for syrup, the next big job a farmer has is hauling manure from the manure pile in the barnyard to the field where he will later plow and plant. The gutters behind the cows are cleaned daily and the mixture of straw and manure becomes an ever-growing pile in the barnyard. No matter how much one may love cows and horses, I can almost guarantee they will simply despise having to shovel manure onto a horse-drawn cart or into a wheelbarrow and then haul it back to the manure pile.  And then, once spring planting preparations begin, the farmer again will have to haul the pile, load after load, out to the planting field. This is a back-breaking ordeal, for carrying a heavy load of manure through the crevice-filled field is no easy task.
Then comes the duty of spreading...I would venture to guess this was probably the worst job in a farmer's year.
It was in April where a diary entry reads... "The three horses carting manure from the yard to Field Number 2 and covering it with the drill plough, Seven workers, including one woman, were spreading the manure..."

Late April and early May is the time to plan and prepare the kitchen garden.
May is also when you would plant tomatoes and peppers and beans and corn and squash and pumpkin and melon and cucumbers and whatever else your little heart desires to put into the ground.
Mid-April - the kitchen garden being prepared. 
Spring and early summer were the leanest times of the year, with supplies running short. With March and April signaling the end of the winter season, the colonial family would most likely be using up things in the root cellar; by the time springtime arrived, people were nearing the end of their winter storage of the food from last fall's harvest and were looking forward to the season of growing.
However, some of the winter vegetables have begun to rot, and the apples are getting soft. Mushy potatoes will be made into starch, and the winter's accumulation of fat needs to be made into soap before it turns rancid.
For vegetables, there are the last of the potatoes, winter squash, carrots, onions, and dried beans, though it would not be long before some fresh greens will hopefully be sprouting.
Pickled items of all sorts would be on the pantry shelves as well.
For fruit you would have jellies, jams, and the last of the cellar apples.
Growing hops for fall beer brewing.
Shearing sheep is usually done only once a year so that the sheep are free of their heavy wool coats for the hot summer months. You would not want to shear the animals too early in the spring, however, for fear of not-so-fair weather for the animals. Going from a full thick winter wool coat to almost no coat can be a bit stressful, and more so if the weather is cold. But, since lambing occurs in the late spring or early summer, shearing often takes place in April - late April - especially if one lives in the middle colonies. Most farmers prefer to have their sheep sheared before lambing commences - usually about a month before. The ewes are still a few weeks away from full pregnancy so the process is little easier on them. A sheep without her fleece is pretty naked looking! This annual ritual also has the benefit of producing salable wool or, if you're like my wife, spinning it on her spinning wheel to make yarn.


May
'Tis the month of May, and the ground is mostly prepared for planting. 
The process of plowing is an unbroken link to the past, one of which is carried on today, though with much greater ease than in days of old.  The plow, of course, breaks up and turns over the soil to make it smoother for planting. It is one of the oldest farm tools.
The most popular plow in the 18th century was the wooden mold-board, just as what you see here from around 1775. 
The mold-board is the part that lifts and turns the dirt. 
Back and forth, walking literally mile after mile. Arms, as use to plowing as they are, will still ache nightly, and they ache even worse come the next morning when the farmer, once again, will find himself behind the two plow horses in the cool of the morning, digging the mould-board tool into the ground to turn up the soil that had laid dormant and frozen all the long winter.
Colonial plowing
Harrowing in colonial times
(Photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg)
It was after plowing that the farmer would use the harrow, which was comprised of a wooden frame with iron or wooden pegs. The purpose of a harrow was used to break up the ground after plowing or to mix soil and newly sown seed together, making for better planting and growth. Back across the field the farmer would go, and when he finished in one direction, he would harrow (or drag) the field crosswise to smooth it further. It was a repetitive process: fields were plowed, then harrowed, plowed again and then harrowed again. Sometimes a farmer would harrow three or for times to break up the earth.
Planting the crop was a critical step with no room for error. For hundreds of years, farmers sowed grain by hand; shouldering a bag of seed, the farmer walked up and down the tilled field, fingering the seeds from side to side. And the workman who sowed the seed had special skills in this operation.
"On spring-plowed fields it was heavy traveling for the man who carried grain and sowed by hand. Of course, it was heavy work, even traveling over fall-plowed ground, with the grain hung over the shoulders, and the steady swing of the right arm throwing the grain as the right foot advanced, and dipping the hand into the bag for another cast of grain as the left foot advanced."
His special skill resulted in the seed being sown evenly leaving no bare areas. Missing a section of a field could cause a huge problem: no seed in the ground, no crop.
But the sowing process and outcome was frustrating at best. There is an old proverb that I recall hearing in my youth from my own farming grandfather that best describes the planting of seeds:
One for the mouse,
one for the crow,
one to rot,
and one to grow.

Ian Anderson, founding member of the 
group Jethro Tull, performs at the grave 
of the original Jethro Tull.
Did you know that our first President, George Washington, was a fan of Jethro Tull?
It's true!
Though it wasn't until the late 18th century and into the 19th century that it's popularity grew, it was Jethro Tull, an English agriculturalist, who is credited with inventing the first practical seed drill back in 1701, allowing farmers to plant their crop much easier and more uniform. George Washington owned a book called "Horse-Hoeing Husbandry" written by Tull, and he became a practitioner of his ideas.
I think it would be kind of funny for me, as one from the 21st century,  to see and hear George Washington having a conversation about Jethro Tull!

"Rog. Sunday. After meeting, we all walked our boundaries," wrote Noah Blake in his diary on May 19, 1805.
Now here is something I was not familiar with until recently. "Rog. Sunday," as Noah wrote, is actually Rogation Sunday, which was the day when farmers looked to their land and crops and prayed for a bountiful harvest. It was on this day when the clergy and his flock walked through the village and out into the fields to bless the planted ground. In the evening of Rogation Sunday, farmers and their families walked the boundaries of their own property; it was both inventory and a time for giving thanks for their land.

And the plowing & planting even continues into the month of...

June
Picture taken on June 21st - the first day of summer, and that means summer's here and the time is right for caring for the farm crop and kitchen garden. 
Weeding? Yes, everyday.
June is the month when the sun is at its zenith, the time of year with long daylight, up to 15 hours long, so what you have planted can really take hold.
We think of strawberry season in June, but the fruit didn't really take hold in America until the end of the 18th century. Instead the colonials were anxious for their first greens to begin popping up through the ground, such as lettuce. Radishes might be peaking up as well.
June saw meat poultry coming along nicely, though they aren't quite big enough to eat yet. But the laying hens are going gang busters.
In June, the cows or goats are giving lots of milk.
And this was when duties such as milking the cows or goats and carrying the milk inside to be strained, pouring it into shallow pans to allow the cream to rise, then skimming off the cream to churn it into butter or to make cheese were as necessary as any other chore.
The yoke would have been used to carry milk to the house or water from the well to the garden and fields, for piping was almost unknown. Two buckets were easy to carry as one, because of the counterbalance of weight. Every household would have one or more neck yokes, as seen in the photograph above.
The burden of the indoor tasks fell upon the mother. But the daughters would have watched her doing one task after another, each requiring practice to be performed properly. Lambing and planting the kitchen garden in the spring would have been chores to learn and care for throughout the summer, and maybe the raising of ducks could be had to sell in the city. The types and size of wood used for cooking over the hearth was a valuable lesson to learn, as was knowing which plants were for eating, which were for medicinal, and which were for use in a variety of other ways. Mending, spinning, sewing...

From the Noah Blake diary, June 24, 1805:
"Worked in the garden today and pruned in the orchard. Found many of the apple and pear trees with insects."
Now, just how did one rid their trees of such insects without modern repellent?
Well, if we read on in the diary we can learn one way, for inside the original diary there were folded papers, including one with a recipe "to destroy Insects on Fruit trees:"
Take a shovelsfull of soot, one of Quick Lime, mixed together; take some of this and put it windward of the tree, and sprinkle some water upon it, when a great quantity of Gas will be evolved, which ascending into the Tree will destroy Insects, without injury to the Plant, as it rather helps vegetable life.


July
For the colonial farmer, later June and into July are the times for haying. 
On July 16th, Noah Blake wrote, "Good haying weather. Father and I worked in the field and we began building a rick."
The alfalfa, clover, and timothy hay mixture reaches its knee-high height about now, and just as the clover and alfalfa plants begin to flower, it's time to cut the hay. By hand with a scythe, the farmer headed to the hay field.
The hay would have been made into a rick although some of it would have gone into the loft of the stable for horses.
A hay rick, by the way, is a stack of hay used as a covering or thatching for protection from the weather. In the fall, many farmers would bank their homes with hay during the fall to help insulate it from the winter's cold.
The old saying, "Make hay while the sun shines," is very true, for there was around a three week window from start to finish to make hay. So if the day was sunny and warm, what was cut in the morning could be raked by mid-afternoon.
Then came the tedious task of "making hay." Using a pitch fork, the hay would be piled into four-foot high and wide stacks, and these bundles would be carefully constructed so they would shed rain and stand up to strong wind.
After a day or two of drying in the field, these bunches would then be hauled to the barn by hay wagon to be unloaded and stored.
It is interesting to note here how farmers used to work in what we now call darkness. Many present-day  scientists insist that the early countrymen had extraordinary eyesight, keener than the average eyesight of today. Farmers frequently did their haying well into the night, using the moon or stars for illuminations, and taking advantage of the coolness of the summer night.

Here is another entry from Noah Blake's diary - from July 17th:
"Rick is under way. Mr. Adams is going to thatch the roof for us. Carried water to Mother's garden, which is dry."
Summertime is also the time for growing. But...how does one water the garden during a dry spell when little or no rain falls?
From the well, for sure, but how to get the water from the well is the question.
Colonial farmers were known to use well sweeps.
For those who have visited the home of Samuel and Anna Daggett at historic Greenfield Village in person, have you noticed that long wooden pole coming up from the ground with rope and a bucket tied to the end that sits just outside the kitchen/buttery door? That's a well sweep. Largely used in colonial America and on the frontier, well sweeps were vital simple machines used to gather water deep in the ground in a time before the more well-known "wishing well" style wells became popular.
"The well-sweep creaked in the breeze..."
Notice the well sweep to the right.
According to Early American Life Magazine (June 2018), few survive today, so we are very lucky to have one within our midst at Greenfield Village.
From Noah Blake's diary:
"July 7, 1805,
Helped mother with her sallet (salad) garden. Planted Rosemary and saffron and lettice and gilly-flowers."
By mid-July, planting for fall continued, and the first of the summer harvests were ready, and this was almost as joyous a time for the farming family as the fall harvest, for the abundance of wheat to be stored for threshing and having fresh early-season vegetables was cause for celebration!
Besides wheat and fresh vegetables, some fruits were becoming abundant, including watermelon. To Anne Warder, who, in 1786 had not yet ever tasted watermelon, wrote that it was like "sweetened snow."
Early-planted corn is large enough to receive its last weeding by late July or early August as well.
From Noah Blake:
"July 29,
Rick is ready for Mr. Adams to thatch."
By the way...unless it's after 1776, the 4th of July was just another day.

August
Feel the heat:
June 21st may be the longest stretch of daylight, 
but the hottest days usually take place in July & August.
The heat of summer, to this 1700s generation who had no knowledge of future generations and their electric fans and air conditioning comforts, only added greatly to the discomfort of those who lived in those days of old. The cooling down opportunities were slim, aside from a jump in the pond or a nearby stream, and one was compelled to keep their doors and windows shut tight to make the attempt to keep the winged pests so prominent on hot summer days out. Those pesky flies...especially where there was fruit and food, and were attracted to the wonderful aromas wafting through the open screen-less kitchen window, seemingly giving the insects an invitation to come and eat. Covering food with cloths was a common way to keep the flies off, though once they found their way inside the home, they multiplied and swarmed throughout. Many times the youngest children made a game of waving feather-fans about the kitchen to keep the food protected.
This only made the heat of a summer night even more unbearable, therefore making sleep nearly non-existent. As you can see, besides the heat, our ancestors suffered with flies and mosquitoes with far greater difficulty than we do in our modern day. Summertime brought an invasion of the flying (and crawling) insects from which there was little defense. Garbage and human waste all highly contributed to the factor of an over-abundance of these pests, as did the large number of horses and other livestock that were so prevalent in nearly all walks of life at the time.
The extinguishing of any light from the candles proved to be necessary as well "for if you do not, you will find yourself eaten up by mosquitoes."
But, if you preferred to have some light, be prepared; Mary Almy wrote on a hot August night in 1778, "frightful dreams and broken slumbers, listening to the noise of a fly or mosquito as they hummed around a candle."

Drying some of the summer plants
The importance of caring for your garden in the pre-electric era cannot be overstated. It was their lifeblood, and the farmers & their families would risk life and limb to save what they could, for otherwise loss of property and starvation could become a reality. Jean Fritz describes this situation very adequately in the young teen book about life in the 1780's, The Cabin Faced West:
All at once the sky itself seemed to drop down on Hamilton Hill. The rain came in one great sheet and lashed the hill first from one side, then another. In the cornfield, people and cornstalks both bent low.
Mr. Hamilton tried to shout orders, and when he couldn’t be heard he ran from one to another. He sent Mrs. Hamilton and Ann home. He and the boys stayed to finish the corn and take it to the barn.
Ann and her mother fought their way step by step against the rain. When they reached the door of the cabin, Ann turned to look at her vegetable garden. There were her poor peas tossing back and forth, crumpling with each new sweep of the rain! The straight little rows were being dashed to the ground.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Ann said to her mother, and started off for the garden.
“It’s too late,” her mother called. “We’ll rescue what we can later.”
Ann dropped to her hands and knees in the mud beside the tattered pea vines. She picked what she could find and filled her soaking apron. Each time her apron was filled, Ann went to the cabin and emptied the peas inside. Each time, in spite of her mother’s urgings, she went back to the vegetable garden. The neat little garden lay tattered and broken, but Ann worked on.
Then the wind started. It blew the rain right off the hill and set to work on the trees. Branches snapped and crackled, and Ann picked up her last apron-load and went to the cabin.
As she opened the door, her mother and Mr. McPhale stood ready to bar it quickly behind her. She dropped the last apronful of peas on top of the others she had brought in.
Finally the wind stopped. The three Hamilton men burst into the cabin.
"Tell us," Mrs. Hamilton said, "what is left on the hill?"
"We have much to be thankful for," Mr. Hamilton said. "We were able to save a good part of the corn. The late crop we have, of course, lost. There will be much work to do over again in the south field. I see Ann has saved many of the peas. Some potatoes and pumpkins may yet be rescued..."
An apt description of the importance of saving your crop under the worst conditions.

Every year, on August 1, many colonial farmers celebrated a holiday (or holyday, as these special days of celebration or worshiping were called) known as Lammas Day, which marked the first major harvest of the beginning fall season. As such, it became a sort of Thanksgiving, and so it remained for many colonial families until a national Thanksgiving Day came 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.
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 this year of 2018 it actually arrived in late July around my Michigan area).
The continuation of work in the fields seemed non-stop, from harvesting the early crops to watering those not yet ready.


With Lammas Day passed, we enter into the late summer and autumn period of the year:
Early September
The hint of autumn can be seen 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. And it is 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:
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.

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

The kitchen garden, so lovingly cared for throughout the growing season, is ready 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."
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 harvested to help sustain the family... 
...Anna Daggett would have also picked 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.
A, um, farmacy!

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

Late September
And by now we see dozens of apple varieties ripe for the picking, as well as raspberries, pumpkins, plums, broccoli, corn, and all kinds of other fruits and vegetables ready for harvesting.

And picking the right vegetation for medicinal purposes as well.

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 were cut by hand with scythes and then tied into bundles. 
The use of a scythe is traditionally called mowing, now often scything to distinguish it from machine mowing.
According to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, wheat was harvested by cutting the straw near the ground with a hooked hand “sickle” or “reaphook;” or mown with a “cradle scythe.” Cut wheat was gathered in bundles and tied into “sheaves”. Sheaves were then stacked upright into small stands called “shocks.” These temporary stacks were soon transferred out of the field to larger outdoor stacks, or housed if possible, to await threshing. Threshing, which you will read about shortly, could occur throughout the fall and winter months.


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 was used to thresh the wheat -
separating the grains from the husks
Threshing was 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 commenced with removal of the long straw. 
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, with a flail, one man could 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 was another method of threshing called “treading,” which achieved the same separation by using horses running over the sheaves laid on a circular floor. Larger quantities of wheat could be threshed easier by treading compared to flailing which might yield only five 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 was threshed, remaining wheat, chaff and dust mix were put into a basket and tossed up into the air where the wind would catch the husks and blow them away, leaving cleaned grain behind to fall back into the basket. This was known as winnowing.   
The winnowing process also separated weevils or other pests stored in the grain. The cleaned wheat was stored in a granary and then taken to a local mill
Or, as some farmers did, ground 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 would have been used when no other means of grinding was available. The quern, a tool from the iron age, was like a mini-gristmill and might be used when one moved into a new settlement where no gristmill had been built yet. Of course, the manner of using a quern was not only a tedious task, but it took an excessive amount of time to get enough flour worth baking.
Fortunately, most settlements had a gristmill not too distant away.
However, it was the water-powered gristmills housed in great two or three story structures situated near a stream that were the most popular means of making flour from your wheat. Folks would haul their 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, you 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.
That's the gristmill in the center.
With the harvest in, it was time to prepare the land for the next growing season, and one way to prep was by sowing cover crops (crops that are grown to enrich the soil for the next growing season). And just like in the spring, there was also plowing, harrowing and then planting your root crops in the early fall for a spring harvest.
The colonial farmer would have planted and cared for a variety of root vegetables such as turnips, potatoes, beets and other similar varieties, then, come fall, would have stored them in stone-lined pits that would have prevented hard freezing.


Late October
Three pictures for October?
Why, yes! The change from early fall to late fall is most obvious this during month in Michigan.
By the way, this is, perhaps, my favorite period of any month. 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 would 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 last before the ground freezes.
All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray...
but there was warmth and cheer in the kitchen.
It was in the kitchen that the most activity tended to take place.
Running a kitchen really did require a staggering range of skills, including chopping kindling, keeping a fire burning indefinitely, knowing which wood was 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 would have to begin their work by "building a good-sized fire on the hearth, but once the logs had burned to coals, the embers were moved around, and carefully selected pieces of wood would be added to produce different kinds of heat, often having several small fires going at once. Piles of live embers on the hearth were 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 were 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 changed with the seasons. Spring and early summer were the leanest times of the year, with supplies running short. Garden produce was much more plentiful in later summer & fall

The great (or walking or wool 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 from a roving, and the great wheel was still used for making warp yarns after the foot powered wheels had been superseded by mechanized spinning.
Carding paddles - - part of the spinning process.
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 was 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 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.
Once turned into clothing, the fabrics had 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 were adults, their fingers and mind were stocked with multiple household skills.

Apple harvesting could 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 wrote:
"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."
Filling the apple crate...
The chief beverage for our colonial ancestors was not water or milk, for water wasn't always good to drink, and the warm milk from cows or goats wasn't a high preference. It was cider that was commonly served at meals, and the importance of cider in the history of our country cannot be overstated. If a farm had a large enough apple orchard they might also have had a cider mill or press as well, for most of the apples would have been made into cider rather than to have been eaten off the tree - a farmer planted apple trees more for drinking than for eating. A typical farmstead might have had a dozen different apple varieties, and the taste of many of these ancient 'brands' were different than the sweet edible fruit that we know them to be today, and cellars would have been 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 permeated the dirt cellars of farmsteads throughout this country. Each variety had a different characteristic, flavor, and were ultimately used in different ways, either for sale or for the family's own use. With such a large amount of apples, there was a need for storage, and those not packed carefully away in sawdust or hay were 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 have been made into apple butter, apple sauce, pies, dowdies, dumplings, fritters, and, of course (and perhaps most importantly) cider. And, according to one source, it was the one who awakened last whose job it was to draw the day's cider from the hogshead (a large cask or barrel).
Apples...not for eating, but for drinking.
Though the whole family might help out in picking apples off the trees, it was the younger of the brood that would enjoy it most, for, being the tree-climbers, they could easily reach the ripest at the tree-tops without the use of a ladder.

And as we make our way into November, the process of butchering some of the livestock will take place. The colonists did not waste any part of the animal.  They cut steaks from beef. They made spare ribs and backbones. They smoked ham and used the fatty sections of the pig for bacon. The small and large intestines were used as casings for sausage, and they made sausage from the leftover scraps of meat, as well as from liver and lungs. Fat made good lard for baking.. The meat from the heads and feet of pigs  was chopped very fine to make head cheese.
All of this, along with the vegetables, would have helped to sustain the family over the coming winter and spring seasons.

Mid-November
And now we find ourselves at the end of our growing season
The corn has now been cut and shocked, grain has been thrashed, all the hay is stacked, and the labors of summer are over.
The harvest, for the most part, is ended, and only a few vegetables await. Cabbages, brussels sprouts, lettuce, and a few late carrots are all that's left to pick.
Though New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating thanksgivings to thank God for blessings, it wasn't 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...
The piece I am holding is a brown bess smooth bore fowler, 
used mostly for hunting fowl, hence the name.
Men devoted 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.
Thanksgiving dinner
Usually the birds were killed before being mounted on the stakes. If a man hit the bird, it was 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 became more densely settled and the good farmland all locked up, its residents started heading west, and they took their social traditions with them, including their annual Thanksgiving holiday.

And yet there is still another harvest chore that must be done for the colonial farm family:
candle making.
Artificial light in the 18th century was truly a luxury. People were used to working by daylight while indoors, so lighting a candle when the sun was up was rare. It was customary for folks to move from room to room to get the most out of the day's light. Generally, candles were lit only during the nighttime hours, and sparingly so, due to the lengthy candle-making procedure.
Most 18th century homes were as self-sufficient as they could be and those who lived in them did their best to produce as many things needful to life as they could, and this did include candles. As part of their domestic work, colonial women usually were the ones who carried the entire candle making process from start to finish, though many times the children, and even the men at times, would help out as well.
Though it could be done any time of year (as long as there were supplies), the usual period for making candles was in early-to-mid November. It had to be just cold enough for quick hardening, and followed shortly after fall hunting, where the collected waist fat from the butchered animals was used to make tallow for dipping. Tallow candles were very popular in the 18th century, and due to the idea that rendered lard was many times easier to obtain than beeswax, it was very common, especially out on the farm (city folk could 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 would 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 had more of a sweet smell.
Either way, both types were popular in the 18th century.

Then there is soap making. Early spring and late fall on the farm were the times for soap-making. But since soap was made mostly from the same grease and fat used to make candles, November's butchering-time made autumn the more popular season for the chore.


Late November
Living in darkness...and cold...
Immersed in 18th century darkness
With darkness king of the 24 hour day, it dictated daily activities. Along with the bitter cold, being buried in the dark shadows of nighttime reduced the once family-sized home into a single room in many cases, for many families closed off the parlors to decrease the amount of warming space.  With a dim glow, life centered around the hearth or stove for warmth and possibly a candle or oil lamp to give little enhancement any of the limited activities of which they may have partaken. This low level of lighting known as the candle created only pockets of brightness, leaving most of the room in darkness.  Forget about the Hollywood movies showing people enjoying a pleasant winter's eve reading by candlelight - I've tried 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, there was reading, writing, sewing, mending, and other necessities done as best as one could by such low light, but on these long winter nights there was also socializing, singing, storytelling, bible recitations, games, family history lore, and other ways to pass the time. The glow of the hearth was sufficient enough for any of these activities, thus saving on candles and fuel.
Emily Barnes tells 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 we know it to mean today.)
It would also be in late November or early December when the farmer would bank his house, when the north sides of houses were 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.

By the way, contrary to current popular belief, many colonists - much more than modern folks care to admit - did indeed celebrate Christmas. For more on that subject, please click the link: A Colonial Christmas.

Next up...the month of - - - - - -
January
This picture was taken soon after a mid-January snowstorm.
One can just imagine Samuel & Anna Daggett with their children inside, warming themselves near the hearth. Of course, the men would have plenty of wood chopped and stored while the women cooked the meals - both ways of keeping warm as well.

A Saxony spinning wheel with a 
cage distaff with flax ready for
spinning.


Traditionally, the first Monday after Epiphany (or 12th Night), usually around the 5th, 6th or 7th of January, was called Plough Monday because it was the day when men returned to their plough, or daily work, following the Christmas Holiday. It was customary at this time for farm laborers to draw a plough through the village, soliciting money for a "plough light," which was kept burning in the parish church all year.
Sometimes falling on the same day as Plough Monday (if it was the day after Epiphany), was Distaff Day (January 7). This was when women were expected to return to their spinning following the Christmas tide. A distaff is the staff that women used for holding the flax or wool in spinning. Hence, the term "distaff" refers to women's work or the maternal side of the family.

This traditional verse captures the spirit of both long-forgotten special January days:
Yule is come and Yule is gone
and we have feasted well;
so Jack must to his flail again
and jenny to her wheel.






February
And here is a bright sunny February day to let us know that, as assuredly 
as the sun will rise in the morning, springtime is nigh, though we are also 
assured that it is still wintertime, so all winter duties will still occur.
The planning of planting the fields may take place.
The dried apples from last October certainly taste good!
Candlemas:
In the 20th and 21st centuries, we celebrate February 2nd as Groundhog Day. But Groundhog Day actually started out as a Roman festival and then morphed into a Christian holiday before it turned into an homage to a woodchuck. That being said, Candlemas was always about two thing before it was about the groundhog: candles and the weather, and in the 18th century a special mass was held on Candlemas or the following Sunday. In the Catholic church, candles would be lit and held during parts of the church service, then brought them home. It was believed the lit candles protected the home during storms, warded off evil and comforted the sick. In some of the Protestant churches candles would be blessed to be used in religious ceremonies for the rest of the year.
Writing in The Standard in 1901, during the Colonial Revival Movement where "the modern craze for reviving old fashions" took hold, Sophie Bronson Titterington described Candlemas as "the old time tradition. It is a day of religious observance, but more especially a day remarkable from unknown times for its significance in weather prognostications:"

As far as the sun shines in on Candlemas Day
So far will the snow blow in by the first of May.

Or this:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will take another flight;
If Candlemas Day be foul and rain,
Winter is gone and won't come again.

Another saying was viewed as binding by early New Englanders:
The farmer should have on Candlemas Day,
Half his wood and half his hay.

Those predictions heralded Punxsatawny Phil, whose shadow on a sunny day foretells six more weeks of winter.
A colonial winter...
In late December 2017, I once again visited historic Greenfield Village while wearing my clothing from the 1770s. Besides two period shirts, a waistcoat, coat, breeches, stockings, mittens, scarf and hat (and shoes), I also wore my woolen cloak, which worked very well. The temperature on this night was in the single digits and the wind blew harshly, but my upper chest area was warm, thankfully, due to my cloak, though my lower half was quite cold. Entering the historic homes and warming myself at the hearth truly did give me an understanding of how our ancestors must have felt, for the warmth of the fire upon my person at that moment felt better than any other warming device could. My toes in the leather buckle shoes were biting - they ached like I never felt them ache before - and it took a while for the "thaw" to take place, but they, too, came back to life, though were still pain-filled.
I could feel the warmth of the fire engulf me as I stood in front of the hearth 
inside the colonial-era Daggett saltbox house - not too close, mind you! - and I appreciated it on this extreme bitter night like I never had done before.
Being out in the single digit temps and harsh winds for over four hours in period clothing certainly gave me more of an understanding, appreciation, and a deeper respect for our ancestors and the way they survived.

Anne Eliza Clark thanked her mother for the yarn mitts, which were of “great service to me when I sweep my chamber and make my bed.” Mittens were commonly worn inside as well as outside because, in many cases, there was little difference in the temperature.
Oh! To be the cook on such a bitter cold eve.
Winter-wear for men is shown in this photo below. On top of my clothing I am wearing colonial-era wool cloak and mittens.
My mittens, I am proud to say, were made from raw wool my wife cleaned and carded, spun on her wheel, dyed, then knitted. My cloak of wool is from Jas. Townsend, and my hat was hand-made by hatter George Franks III.
I was warm wearing this clothing in the winter weather.
Well...except for below my knees, especially my feet.
They were cold.

You would not want to bring cakes of snow into the house
Many would cover their front doors with blankets or by pulling a curtain across to keep out the cold, but for those with an upper floor bed chamber, there seemed to be little difference from the outside; in 1793, Abner Spanger spent time clearing his attic bed chambers of snow!
Sleeping with another person was a way to generate warmth in the bed chamber. From earliest childhood, our ancestors had slept together – infants with their parents, then with their siblings, cousins, or even friends, and then with apprentices, or domestic help of the same sex. So used to sleeping with others that sleeping partners were often sought out.
Of course, sleeping with a marriage partner was the most desirable way; in January of 1775 Esther Burr wrote, "Pray what do you think everybody marrys in, or about Winter for? 'Tis quite merry, isn't it? I really believe 'tis for fear of laying cold, and for the want of a bedfellow. Well, my advice to such is the same with the apostles, LET THEM MARRY --- and you know the reason given by Him, as well as I do --- TIS BETTER TO MARRY THAN TO ______."
"The ink froze in my pen in lifting it to the paper from an ink-horn, placed within the fender in front of a good fire." - James Stuart  
William Davis recalled that “fires in chambers were, in my day, far from being universal, (and I) never slept in a heated chamber, except when sick, until sixteen years of age.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe remembered her Aunt Lois setting a candle in their room and “admiring the forest of glittering frost-work which had been made by our breath freezing upon the threads of the blanket.”
Using a long-handled brass warming pan filled with the hot coals from the hearth was one way to warm a bed before slipping in. It would be placed between the sheets and rubbed along the length of the bed quickly and steadily, as to not spill the burning coals. In this manner the bed would become sufficiently warm enough to climb in.
But not everyone had this sort of warming luxury, for Mrs. Stowe recalled a family taking their leave to "bed-chambers that never knew a fire, where the very sheets and blankets seemed so full of stinging cold air that they made one's fingers tingle; and where, after getting into bed, there was a prolonged shiver, until one's own internal heat-giving economy had warmed through the whole icy mass."

To colonial America, January 1st - New Year's Day - was a major holiday, and a popular way to celebrate the passing of one year into the next was to hold open houses and go visiting. City and country, houses were open, and guests would break off a piece of "sharing cake" near the front door.
Then we have Plow Monday, which was observed by most colonial farmers. Plow Monday was the first Monday following January 6, Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas Holiday, and it was a signal to get back to work.
February 2nd, known in England as Candlemass Day and here in America as Groundhog's Day, in colonial times, that date was considered the halfway mark of winter, when farmers did their mid-winter inventory. Farmers with more than half their firewood or food gone at this point had to make the necessary provisions for survival, for February is often considered the worst month with its dreary bitter days still ahead. A February spring ain't worth a thing, as the old saying goes.

But following February is March, and the new year for the farmer begins once again, for, as was so eloquently written by Eric Sloane, "The round of seasons has ended, and the American farmer had finished another year of living his creed--that there is a proper time for everything on earth, and that all the earth has to offer appears in its appointed time. Such were the seasons of everyday life in America's past."

"When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead
The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead
Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying
Come to witness spring's new hope, born of leaves decaying
As new life will come from death, love will come at leisure
Love of love, love of life and giving without measure
Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen
Live hand-in-hand and together we'll stand on the threshold of a dream."
(A poem called "The Dream" written by Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues
from their On The Threshold of a Dream album)

~ ~ ~

As you can see, the colonial farmer of the 18th century relied on his large family for labor. He raised cotton, hemp, and flax, cobbled his own shoes, and constructed his own furniture. He may even have built his own house. His wife was not only the head cook, but she had to make everything 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.
My friend, Larissa, and I 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.
As historic reenactors, we have the whole world of the past opened up to us. We can present as any person or at any class level through time immemorial. So, why did we choose to represent the American farmer?
Well, when I read Daniel Webster's quote at the top of this post for the first time decades ago, it struck a chord in me in the realization of the important role the farmer played in humankind - something not frequently thought of or necessarily taught in schools. Let's be honest, it was the farmer who also played a large role in the formation of our country.
In fact, here is a wonderfully patriotic look at colonial farmers, taken from the book "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the "Little House" series) as the Wilder family celebrated the 4th of July in the 1870s:
BOOM! The cannons leaped backward, the air was full of flying grass and weeds. Everybody was exclaiming about what a loud noise they had made.
"That's the noise that made the Redcoats run!" Mr. Paddock said to Father.
"Maybe," Father said, tugging his beard. "But it was muskets that won the Revolution. And don't forget it was axes and plows that made this country."
"That's so, come to think of it," Mr. Paddock said.
That night when they were going to the house with milk, Almanzo asked Father: "Father, how was it axes and plows that made this country? Didn't we fight England for it?"
"We fought for Independence, son," Father said. "It was farmers that took that country and made it America."
"How?" Almanzo asked.
"Spaniards were soldiers that only wanted gold. The French were fur traders, wanting to make quick money. And England was busy fighting wars. But we were farmers, son; we wanted the land. It was farmers that went over the mountains, and cleared the land, and settled it, and farmed it, and hung on to their farms. It's the biggest country in the world, and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America. Don't you ever forget that."
Let's add the fact that George Washington (and every member of his First Congress), John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, for some examples, were all proud farmers. And it is unfortunate that farmers are almost an after thought by too many so-called historians and history books.
So, it is my hope that this overview of a year in the life of a colonial farmer will give the reader an idea, no matter how slight, on the everyday seasonal lives of those who were of the same generation as our founding fathers. Heck, even the earliest silk-hatted and powdered-wigged American had gnarled hands that knew the plow. And maybe it will instill a greater pride when researching our ancestors, for nothing could be further from the truth in the statement that they were "just farmers."
They were so much more.

~~~Now, before we leave, there is a sort of epilogue...an ending to our little history lesson here~~~

On the living history side of life - -
As I was packing my van up for a recent presentation on colonial farm life, I noted the items as they were put inside:
a scythe
a sickle
a flail
a wooden rake
a wooden hay fork
a yoke for people carrying milk in buckets
a tin candle mold (with candles)
a lantern
a betty lamp
a butter paddle
a butter churn
a hog scraper
sheep shearers
and two spinning wheels (Saxony and walking)

Is this everything a colonial farmer would have?
Of course not. But it's a nice collection of accessories that our audience enjoys seeing as we speak of farm life in the past.
And I'm always on the look out for new/old additions.
Oh, it's true that most of it is reproduction of items not greatly sought after, but, still, these are things I used to see at historic Greenfield Village or in period movies, so it's kind of neat that we've become a sort of traveling museum.
So what's in your garage...?

Now, before you sign off, I ask you: did you notice that for each month listed in today's post that I use the same angled photograph of the Daggett farmhouse, built originally in 1750?
I took a series of these pictures each month of the year, except for December and February, and it took nearly two years to get them all. So, I put a bunch of them all together here, though we will begin with January this time, allowing us to take a closer look at the Daggett farmhouse throughout the calendar year:

January
This first picture was taken soon after a mid-January snowstorm.

February
This picture is slightly off angle from the others. Just slightly.
February is not known for its sunlight in the northern states, 

so I was lucky to have caught such a day in that gray month.

March
March - snow is a-melting
Greenfield Village is closed during the winter, which makes it much more difficult to get a picture. I was very lucky to get the January, February, and March pictures you see here.
I have my ways...

April
This photo was taken on April 22, only a few days after Greenfield Village opened up for the season.

May
'Tis mid-May in this photograph.

June
1st Day of Summer.

July
July 15

August
August 16

September
September 9

October
October 22

November
November 11
The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold...
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
(English lyrics by Johnny Mercer)

I have no daytime December pictures of the Daggett house, but I do have a late November photo that, I would bet, looks very similar to December, with the trees bare:
November 24
If I am able, I will try to get a December picture this year. If that's the case, I will then add it to this series.

Anyhow, I did this little twelve month seasonal observation once before with the another historic home situated inside Greenfield Village - the Firestone Farm (click HERE to see The Four Seasons of Michigan).

As Eric Sloane wrote:
"Farm life offers the complete satisfaction of knowing that each day's work has been truly productive, a joy scarce in present times. In the old days, whether you were a blacksmith, a butcher, a carpenter, a politician, or a banker, you were also a farmer. Before setting out for the day, there were chores to be done that often took as much time as a complete day's work for the average man of today."
To me, what our ancestors were able to do to survive is simply amazing. Folks like the families of Noah Blake and Samuel & Anna Daggett, for instance, were every bit as smart as people today, they just lived in a different time.

Until next time, see you in time.

For a more in depth look at each of the four seasons and of how our ancestors lived in each, please check out the following postings:
1880s Firestone Farm through each season of the year in pictures, click HERE
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
Colonial Harvest
Also, you might enjoy these postings as well:
Lighting in Colonial Times
In the Good Old Colony Days
Cooking on the Hearth
And as far as the house this is based around, please read my posting on the Daggett Farm House
To read more about Ian Anderson's visit to the grave of Jethro Tull, click HERE

The above meteorological info came from THIS site
Other sources include:
Seasons of America Past by Eric Sloane
Holidays and Celebrations in Colonial America by Russell Roberts
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)
Diary of an Early American Boy by Eric Sloane
Diary of Mary Cooper
Some information came from my presenter friends at Historic Greenfield Village as well as Colonial Williamsburg 

I do not hide the fact that much of what you have read came, word for word in some cases, from the above sources.

























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