Friday, November 16, 2018

A Visit to the Gristmill: The Loranger and The Atlas - Two Historic Mills You Can Still See

Oftentimes during these autumn months of October and November, I write about the fall harvest, and each time I mention the task of taking the grain to the gristmill.
However, I recently realized there are those who may not know much about this process nor of its importance. What was once a common occurrence is now rare. Maybe it's because I intently study the everyday lives of those who lived in the past that I think of gristmills much in the same way I think of auto repair shops in our present time: a necessary part of life...even now.
So for today's posting I thought I would give my readers a bit of an insight to this milling business that every town seemed to have back in the 18th and 19th centuries, and we'll do this by visiting two historic mills: The Loranger Gristmill now relocated in Greenfield Village (Dearborn, Mi), and the Atlas Mill, relocated in Crossroads Village (Flint, Mi)..
First off, just what is a gristmill?
That's the Loranger gristmill in the center.
It is a fairly large building in which grain would be ground into flour used for baking bread and cakes and the like. Now, a gristmill was a mill used exclusively for grinding grain for local consumption. A merchant mill was a mill in which flour was ground and packed for sale.
From colonial times and into the first half of the nineteenth century, gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities: grinding the farmers' grain into flour with large, circular stones. Of course, a toll, usually in kind, would be paid for the service. There are records of gristmills dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, though not all people used them. Even with the availability of gristmills, there were many farmers who would take to the grinding of grain into flour by hand by using a hand quern, which would have been used when no other means of grinding wheat into flour was available. The quern, a tool from the iron age, was like a mini-gristmill and might be used when one moved into a rare 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.
So if one settled near a gristmill, it was a welcome sight.
As described by David Larkin in the book, Mill:
(The miller) knew the intricacies of the mill and carried repairs when needed, if necessary remaking parts himself; he was a good judge of  the density and content of the grain, which varied with a wet or dry harvest and the skill used in threshing and winnowing, and had many opportunities for sharp practice. He would run through a sample with his finger and thumb, calculate its value, and made his wealth that way.

Shortly we will get into the inner workings of the mill, but before that...without preparing the wheat, there would be no reason to even visit:
What do you see?
I see bread, cakes, pie crusts...

In the colonial times, cutting down the wheat was done by hand with a scythe:
The use of a scythe is traditionally called mowing, but now it is often called 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.” The 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 is the way to knock the wheat kernels off of the rest of the plant...
Threshing with a flail in colonial times.
This agricultural tool was used to thresh the wheat -
separating the grains from the husks
Threshing was conducted by beating 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. This process could occur throughout the fall and winter months.
But the times they would soon be a-changing, for by the mid-19th century there were threshing machines.
A 'modern' late 19th-century threshing machine

~Winnowing Basket~
To catch the grain.
Once the wheat was threshed, the 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
Fortunately, most settlements had a gristmill not too distant away.
It was the water-powered gristmills housed in great two or three story structures situated near a stream that tended to be the most popular means of making flour from your wheat. And it's the water-wheel mill that this post concentrates on.
Folks would haul their yield miles to go to the nearest water wheel mill, sometimes taking a day or more for travel time.
My horse and cart hold the bags of grain as I move up to the 
Loranger Gristmill to work out the cost of having my wheat ground.
Henry Ford purchased the 1832 Loranger Gristmill, located on Sunny Creek near Monroe, Michigan, in January of 1928. It was one of the few structures moved to historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan without prior disassembly.
This particular mill was originally constructed by Edward Loranger, a brick mason from Quebec, who originally came down to help erect a church. Loranger stayed on in the new country, feeling the new settlement needed a grist and saw mill. He himself hewed oak timbers for beams, cut with a broad axe the whitewood siding of the building, and cut logs for a dam in the river to impound the water for power to turn the wheels.
The Loranger mill uses an undershot wheel, which could easily turn in shallow water. It needed the running stream to make it move. Undershot wheel mills were more common in the earlier days of mills when a dam could be built to release some much-needed power.
After Greenfield Village opened to the general public in 1933, the interest and activity around the Loranger Gristmill grew as the sights and sounds of the spinning, grinding wheels gave the public a first-hand glimpse of an earlier age. The turning wheels could grind one barrel of flour (whole wheat or buckwheat) or corn meal an hour. Some of the milled grain was used locally while the rest was packaged in three pound sacks and sold to the public.
The restored 1832 Loranger Gristmill as it sits inside Greenfield Village.
The mill sits now as a museum piece: the grinding wheels are there, but they no longer grind; the water wheel spins, but just for show; the store no longer sells flour or corn meal.
But, we can at least help the reader feel as Loranger is still a working mill through words and photographs.
Going to let the miller know I am here.

Click to enlarge the drawing,
which points out the parts of a mill.
There are no quick starts or stops in an old mill. In starting the mill, usually with a wooden lever, water would be released gradually until the wheel, which runs the entire mill, was running at the desired speed.  In doing this, the entire building would shudder for each part of the mechanism would begin to do its job, including the spiked wooden wheels inside the mill, which were made of oak mesh and the spiked teeth made of apple or hickory wood, which controlled the rest of the mechanism.
The sacks of grain to be ground had to be taken up to the third floor of the mill where it will be emptied into the grain storage bin. On the second floor is where the miller will ensure the grain is sliding down the chute to the hopper, which has a funnel-like appearance. Its flow is controlled by an angled wooden shoe and by the action of the dansil, most often called the damsel, a device attached atop the spindle that taps the shoe and will shake an even amount into the millstones at every revolution. On the first floor, the hopper disperses the grain to two large burr stones assembled from hard granite. The capstone, which is movable, revolves barely above the lower stone, which remains stationary. It is this lower stone which has furrows carefully carved into it to help guide the flour to the waiting bins ready to be sacked for the customer.
You can easily see the furrows in the Loranger grindstones.

The Loranger "hopper," from which the grain slides down into from the chute, has a funnel-like appearance. The hopper disperses the grain to the stones to be ground and emptied out into the flour bin, ready to be sacked for the customer.

Gristmills flourished in America by meeting the important local need in agricultural communities by grinding the farmer's grain into flour, and in some cases, towns were built around the gristmill.
The Atlas Gristmill, originally built in 1836, was one of the very first buildings erected in the town of Atlas, Michigan, and it remained in operation until 1943, when, due in part to WWII, replacement parts for repairs were no longer available. 
Soon, a wool carding mill was built in Atlas, followed by a blacksmith shop, a mercantile, a doctor's office and a tavern. All by 1840. And a millwright, carpenter, shoe maker, furniture maker, and other businesses and townsfolk soon followed.
A town built around a mill...

In 1976, the Atlas mill was dismantled and moved to historic Crossroads Village located in Flint, Michigan. In 1977 it was renovated and restored to its former glory, and now the sights and sounds of the spinning, grinding wheels give the public a first-hand glimpse of an earlier age...of the time of our ancestors. The turning wheels could grind one barrel of flour (whole wheat or buckwheat) or corn meal an hour.
To visit the Atlas Mill is almost like an early portrayal of living history, with the specks of ground flour whirling through the air almost as a fine dry mist, turning the brown wood white. So real does one feel while inside the mill as it is running that one can just imagine local farmers, with their pack horse, ox cart, or on foot, waiting outside after coming traveling from miles around, with their grain ready to be ground into flour.
The stone-ground flour it still produces is sold in the Crossroads Village store.

With the increase of families coming to the area, a school was started in 1837. One can just imagine this small mid-19th century town, how it looked in the early days. Probably very similar to what Crossroads Village open air museum looks like today.
The Sluice is like a trough on the side of the building, which takes its water from the mill pond and stores it until the lever to begin the milling procedure is pulled. 
The Atlas Mill is operated by water-driven turbine beneath the water surface so the mill can operate in winter if the surface of the water is frozen. 
The entire building shook as the water power from the sluice turned the large stone wheels used for grinding.
The Atlas hopper, from which the grain slides down into from the chute and then to the grindstones.
Each granite stone, which were made around 1835 in North Carolina, weighs 1800 pounds.
Now, after all of these steps, you have flour and are ready to prepare to make and bake bread.
You better eat everything on your plate!
Now you know why.
Crossroads Village sells flour made right here inside the Atlas Mill, in case you were interested. This flour makes excellent flapjacks!
Tasting history...

By the way, a friend of mine, Scott, told me he is a descendant of one who owned a gristmill in Laingsburg, Michigan, and sent me a couple photos for this post:
Here is the exterior of the "Piatt and Son" mill, once located in Laingsburg, Michigan (near Lansing).
This photo has an excellent view of horse and carts lined up with sacks of grain ready to be ground.
A true picture of the past!
Thank you, Scott, for these two pictures!
Seymour Piatt (Scott's great-grandfather), and his son (Scott's great uncle) Lloyd Piatt in the mill office. As you can see, the oh-so-important cat got into the picture as well. 
I did attempt to find more information about the men and their mill but, unfortunately, there is little out there to be found. At least, on the internet.

Before we close I would like to speak just a little on the windmill.
I want to see a raise of hands to the following question:
How many of you ever thought of windmills as being a gristmill?
Yeah...a couple of you, but not many.
I will admit, as a youngster I never gave the windmill much of a thought other than they were popular in Holland and in early America. And it never even crossed my mind that they would grind grain into flour. It wasn't until I began researching gristmills a number of years back that I fully learned of their usage.
And where did I learn this information?
Why, at Greenfield Village's Farris Windmill.
Named after the Farris family, who ran this mill
for three generations, this windmill, 
built in 1633,
is said to be the oldest of its kind in the United States,  
and stood at the road to West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
It now stands at the southeast end of Greenfield Village,
right next to the 1750 Daggett House.
The power of the wind would turn the sails of the mill, which would turn the millstones inside, much like the water would turn the wheel in the more common mills. Young men were induced to become millers by being exempted from taxes and military duty. Winds off the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay turned the mammoth fifty four foot sails, grinding corn into meal in ten minutes or in three hours, depending on the wind force. The long lever between the roof and the ground is used to turn both the roof and the sails in the most favorable positions.
As the Daggett House and Farris Windmill are situated inside Greenfield Village, as seen in the above picture, they give a strong resemblance to the East Hampton, NY historic landmark home of John Howard Payne, composer of 'Home Sweet Home' (as seen in the photo below).
Isn't history wonderful?
The Farris mill was built like those the early pilgrim
settlers had seen during their exile in Holland. 
The Farris mill was moved several times, that being easier than finding a millwright to build a new one. The initials "T.G." and "1782" were carved in one of the beams during a move.
The interior has a winding stairway which leads upward three stories from the ground level to the revolving roof area.
A sneak peak at the stairs going up.
Unfortunately, I was not able to do anymore than look
inside when the door was opened.
I wonder if the grindstones are still there...?
Well, I hope you enjoyed our little adventure to the once very common gristmill. You see, as I walk among the very modern cities of our day and age, noticing gas stations, collisions shops, party stores, malls, restaurants, banks, cell phone stores, and numerous other shops, my mind always seems to slip back in time, for most of the buildings from a hundred years or more in my suburban metro-Detroit city have been long torn down; the once familiar sight of a livery, general store, blacksmith shop, cooper, printer, and the gristmill are now shadows of what has been.
I'm an old soul living in a new time...though I can still see the past.
Until next time, see you in time.

To learn more about other types of mills, please click HERE
To learn of harvest time, please click HERE
To learn more about life on a farm, please click HERE

Mill by David Larkin
Mill by David Macaulay
The Gristmill by Bobbie Kalman
And from Greenfield and Crossroads Historic Villages.
Also the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

~   ~   ~

Monday, November 5, 2018

Remembering Guy Fawkes Day - In England and in the American Colonies

~The Fifth of November~
    Remember, remember! 
    The fifth of November, 
    The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 
    Should ever be forgot! 
    Guy Fawkes and his companions 
    Did the scheme contrive, 
    To blow the King and Parliament 
    All up alive. 
    Threescore barrels, laid below, 
    To prove old England's overthrow. 
    But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
    A stick and a stake 
    For King James's sake! 
    If you won't give me one, 
    I'll take two, 
    The better for me, 
    And the worse for you. 
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
    A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
    A pint of beer to wash it down, 
    And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
    Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Guy Fawkes Day is 'remembered' all over Facebook by way of memes and articles throughout the day every November 5th. And I must admit to posting about it as well. But many people have no idea what all of this Guy Fawkes stuff is all about, so I took it upon my self to gather information from a variety of sources - all of which is linked below - to put together a cohesive history of this day and why it means so much and remembered in England.
However, in the United States, it is mostly forgotten.
So here is, unabashedly taken word for word in most instances from the mentioned sources, is the history of Guy Fawkes Day in England and, yes, even in America.

Remember, remember...
King James and Guy Fawkes
Every 5 November we remember the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 - a thwarted act of terror in which a cabal of Catholic conspirators planned to blow up the House of Lords to rid England of King James I. The plot is commemorated every autumn with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the plot's mastermind, an oddly pagan act of gloating sanitized by the addition of fireworks, sparklers and toffee apples.
But how did all of this come about?
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant than Elizabeth.
Under the leadership of Robert Catesby, a number of young men, 13 to be exact (including Guy Fawkes), decided that violent action was the answer to the anti-Catholicism of England. Catesby felt that violent action was warranted. Indeed, the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Fawkes, during the 80 Years War, (where he fought on the side of Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch), developed an intimate knowledge of gunpowder and explosives—which were crucial to the plot.
The conspirators rented a basement storeroom in the Palace of Westminster, to which 36 barrels of gunpowder were transported.
So, with thirteen others as part of the plot, why is Guy Fawkes the most famous conspirator, for he was by no means the one who conceived the plan.
This is, perhaps, one of the most infamous etchings of the plot.
The Gunpowder Plot was discovered after a Catholic Lord received a warning letter, which he then passed on to the Protestant King's chief minister. A search party found Fawkes skulking in his cellar around midnight on November 4, with matches in his pocket and 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked next to him. For Fawkes, the plot’s failure could be blamed on “the devil and not God.” He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured upon the special order of King James. Soon after, his co-conspirators were likewise arrested, except for four, including Catesby, who later died in a shootout with English troops.
A 19th century painting of the 
capture of Guy Fawkes
Fawkes and his surviving co-conspirators were all found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death in January 1606 by hanging, drawing and quartering. A Jesuit priest was also executed a few months later for his alleged involvement.
Of the conspirators it is Guy Fawkes who became the most notorious, for he was the one caught red-handed, and so it is he who has had, for four centuries, the name-recognition modern-day celebrities and politicians would die for.
After the plot was revealed, Londoners began lighting celebratory bonfires, and in January 1606 an act of Parliament designated November 5 as a day of thanksgiving. Soon, people began placing effigies onto bonfires, and fireworks were added to the celebrations. Effigies of Guy Fawkes, and sometimes those of the Pope, graced the pyres.
Guy Fawkes Day festivities soon spread as far as the American colonies, where they became known as Pope Day:
In fact, here is a first-hand account of a Guy Fawkes celebration in New England:
A great bonfire was established on the lower end of the main street… Soon after dark, a rude stage … placed on wheels and drawn by horses, made its appearance, on which was seated … an effigy of the pope, hideously painted, and behind him stood another representing the Devil. Two men with masks on their faces and fantastically attired, attended the grotesque figures … the whole [group] was surrounded with lanterns, and a crowd of men and boys sung the following:

From Rome! From Rome the Pope has come,
All in 10,000 fears,
With fiery serpents all around
His head, nose, eyes and ears.

This is the treacherous dog that did contrive
To burn our King and Parliament alive;
God by his grace did this prevent,
And saved the King and Parliament.

From Boston, which seemed to be the main center of American activity, to Newport to Salem, revelers took to the streets to commemorate the thwarting of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot.
Showing Boston's commemoration of Guy Fawkes Day
(taken from the video of Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Lies docu-drama)

1768 colonial American commemoration 
of November 5th, 1605
While Pope Day had been celebrated in New England as early as the 1720s by way of parades and dramatic performances mocking the Catholic Pope, it became much more commonplace in the 1760s after the French and Indian War ended. The struggle with the Catholic French and their Catholic Indian allies had sparked a wave of anti-Catholicism throughout the colonies. Additional measures against Catholics were enacted in New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania and Pope Day ceremonies became more elaborate affairs. In Boston, rival gangs would each have their own popes and would battle each other through the night. Before the evening was over, the gangs would go to the homes of the wealthy and ring their bells asking for donations. If the owners refused to contribute, the revelers would drive a pole through their front window and proceed to the next home.   The evening concluded with mobs throwing their effigies into the bonfire to great cheering from the spectators.   Occasionally the merrymakers would get out of control and people would get injured. Indeed, in 1764 one boy in Boston was killed during the festivities.
By 1776, the colonists had been fighting for their independence for a year, having battled the English at Lexington, and Concord, and Bunker Hill. Commanding the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts, George Washington learned that his troops were planning to celebrate Pope Day that November 5. From his headquarters he issued a stern warning about “that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope—He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step … at a time when we are soliciting, and have really obtain’d the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada.”
General George Washington
Washington’s statement worked. No soldiers dared celebrate Pope Day that year, and in the years following, the event died out in New England and the rest of the colonies. As the colonists sought help first from Canada and later from France, their attitudes towards Catholics rapidly shifted.
At the Revolution’s end, Catholics found themselves in a much better position than they had been in just a decade earlier.
On several occasions during the 19th century it's been reported that the tradition was in decline, being "of late years almost forgotten." The traditional denunciations of Catholicism had been in decline since the early 18th century, and were thought by many, including Queen Victoria, to be outdated, but the pope's restoration in 1850 of the English Catholic hierarchy gave renewed significance to November 5th, as demonstrated by the burnings of effigies of the new Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Nicholas Wiseman, and the pope.
With little resistance in Parliament, the thanksgiving prayer enacted in 1606 in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was abolished, and in March 1859 the Anniversary Days Observance Act repealed the Observance of the 5th of November Act. As the authorities dealt with the worst excesses, public decorum was gradually restored. The sale of fireworks was restricted, and the effigies were neutralized in 1865.
And here in America, after Washington's complaint, the colonists stopped observing Pope Day, although according to The Bostonian Society some citizens of Boston celebrated it on one final occasion, in 1776.
The tradition continued in Salem as late as 1817, and was still observed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1892. In the late 18th century, effigies of prominent figures such as two Prime Ministers of Great Britain, the Earl of Bute and Lord North, and the American traitor General Benedict Arnold, were also burnt. In the 1880s bonfires were still being lit in some New England coastal towns, although no longer to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. In the area around New York City, stacks of barrels were burnt on election day eve, which after 1845 was a Tuesday early in November.
But...another sort of Guy Fawkes-ish tradition remains to this day:
Celebrating with an effigy to the American Guy Fawkes
Residents of the coastal Connecticut city of New London annually burn an effigy of the United States' best-known turncoat: Benedict Arnold. It was back in 1781 that the former Colonial officer ordered the burning of New London.
 As the man who helps to put this 'American Guy Fawkes' parade on stated in an interview with radio station WBUR:
"Arnold initially was born in Norwich, which is basically one town to the north of New London. And when he turned coat, one of the first things the British did was send him back to New London, because he knew all the fortifications, he knew the codes and knew the weaknesses to burn it to the ground, because at that time, New London really was one of the hubs of our Navy, and a lot of privateers through the Shaws were raiding different British ships and they had a license to do that from John Hancock and the other members of the Continental Congress. Basically he was sent here to burn [the Shaw Mansion, a Navy headquarters], burn the ships and wreak revenge on the people of New London. And he did.
From the Library of Congress
"The citizens of New London, my understanding, did it first in 1782, the year after Arnold burnt the town. They built the effigy (of Benedict Arnold) with two faces because of the double nature of his crimes. He's traditionally followed by a devil, sometimes in one of his hands there's a mirror, because they said he was very vain and used to like to look at himself.
What that did is that created this festival that caught on and spread throughout the newly formed Americas. In many ways, what our forefathers were wanting to do was still celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. But they couldn't, because they were no longer English, because we had won the war. ... Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot in England, who attempted to blow up Parliament ... still to this day they celebrate Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day, which is the 5th of November. And that's what they still wanted to celebrate, but not being English, they couldn't. So they looked around for a convenient, unique American traitor, and they found one in our Norwich neighbor, Benedict Arnold."

So, now you know a bit more of why November 5th is remembered, even after over 400 years.
Until next time, see you in time.

Crisis Magazine
Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night
The Daily Mail
History Today
And the book Holidays & Celebrations in Colonial America by Russell Roberts

~   ~   ~

Friday, November 2, 2018

Do People Still Celebrate the Harvest in the 21st Century?

This is a light-hearted look at autumn present from a light-hearted guy.
I hope you enjoy it - - - - people still celebrate the 
harvest in the 21st century?
Let me look into the future...
I love the fall. That should be no secret to anyone who knows me or reads Passion for the Past. And I get to celebrate this wonderful season of the year in three different periods in time:
~in the colonial era of the 1760s where I spend time at an actual 18th century house (or three!) and even help to make colonial ale...and learn a bit about a 1760s kitchen garden...
~in the 1860s, where the Civil War group I belong to puts on a fall Harvest Home presentation, doing our best to replicate some of the fall activities the folks of 150 years ago would have done...
~~and here in our modern time of 2018 by taking part in family traditions of a corn roast, heading to the cider mill for apple picking, cider & doughnuts, and I also have a candle dipping party.
Since I've already posted about my time in the 1760s HERE, as well as my time in the 1860s HERE, how about I elaborate more on how I celebrate the fall in the 21st century.

Let's begin with a long-held family tradition of our corn roast.
My father began this Labor Day Weekend event back in, I believe, 1973. I'm not quite sure why - - maybe because his father, who was a farmer for many years, taught him the value of the harvest time of year.
Maybe it was a way to gather friends and family together for one last summer blast.
Or maybe because he simply wanted to.
No matter the reason, for we have been carrying on the tradition ever since; it was passed onto my brother after my father passed away, and now my brother's kids have taken it over since my brother passed away a few years back. But we all join in, my other siblings and I, and still enjoy this last blast of summer over Labor Day Weekend, even though the weather might already have a nip in the air.
If you look closely, you can see three rather large plastic kiddie swimming pools filled with corn soaking in water. Yeah...25 dozen ear of corn right here, and they are soaked over night and all the following day, for that brings out the juiciness of the corn like little else.

This is my brother's son-in-law, who has taken his
father-in-law's corn roasting technique to heart.

The first batch is almost ready.

While the corn is a-roasting, games are played, such as the bean-bag toss and horse shoes.
Sometimes guitars are brought out and the great baby-boomer songs of our youth are played, such as tunes by The Beatles, Crosby-Stills-and Nash, Neil Young, and even a few newer songs that our kids want to play and hear.
This will occur while sitting around the bonfire.

The corn?
Why, the look on my daughter's face should
tell you all you want to know on how good the corn is!
You know, maybe without fully realizing it, everyone who participated in our family gathering here was celebrating the harvest!

Within two or three weeks of the corn roast, my wife & offspring & I will spend the day heading out to one of a multitude of cider mills in our general area to go apple picking. Now, I used to do this with my parents back when I was a wee lad, and then when Patty and I started dating, this is one of the things we really enjoyed doing together.
It continued after we married and had kids.
And now, our grandkids join us in this tradition!
Apples! Glorious apples!
My favorite fruit!
We go to a no frills cider mill called Ross's Stoney Creek, where we can pick our own apples right off the tree.

We get a tractor ride out to the orchard, sitting upon
the bales of hay. That's my daughter-in-law you see
holding my youngest grandchild.

The trees were saturated with apples, and you can see my oldest grandchild was able to pick his own growing on the lower branches.

But he likes to have his uncle lift him up to snatch
those growing a bit higher.

And there's my middle grandchild, and she is so proud
at picking her apple off of the tree!

Uncle Rob gave his niece a chance to grab the apples
on the higher branches like her older brother.

Here's the bushel we picked.
We usually choose the McIntosh variety (which is
actually from the late 1700s - one of the few heirloom
apple varieties to remain popular into its third century).
Many do not realize that some of the things we consider to be a fun outing was once a necessity.
For our ancestors, gathering apples for cider and drying was a necessity.
Ha! Here I am!
Now before you think I am totally off my rocker and dressed in my period clothing to pick apples, look a little closer. I brought along my 1760s waistcoat, coat, and hat and threw them on over my modern clothes after we had finished picking so I could catch a few pictures for period blog posts. A little bit of Paint Shop Pro photo program allowed me to complete the bottom half of my outfit.
Yeah...pretty sneaky of me, innit?

The orchard also grows raspberries for the picking
as well, so we stopped along that patch.

Here are a few of my family members in the raspberry patch, probably eating as many as what they are putting into the basket! 

I very much enjoy the fact that we do these things as a family,
and that our kids (and grandkids) are taking part in
our long-held traditions.

Of course, what would a visit to a cider mill and orchard be without doughnuts and cider, both freshly made right there on the premises?

Remember the bushel of apples a few photos back?
Well here are a about a dozen and a half of 'em, baking in a pie.

Well, now, onto the next fall tradition: candle making, which was another necessity of our ancestors rather than the crafty fun we make it out to be today. I've been told by the chandlers at Colonial Williamsburg that the average home during colonial times would go through 500 to 700 candles a year. Of course, larger more well-to-do homes would go through two or three times that many, while poorer folk and frontier families would go through much less.
Here's my daughter at age seven dipping candles 
at the 1760 Daggett Saltbox Farm House.
She began living history early in her life.
One of my favorite memories is of my now nearly 18 year old daughter dipping candles at Greenfield Village when she was a tiny tot. She would dip them in the late summer and then we'd let them 'cure' for a couple months, until the holidays would roll around. We would burn them during our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and that always made her feel pretty special, knowing it was her candles that were supplying us with our atmospheric light.
Unfortunately, due to as many different reasons as people you can speak to, the Village stopped this popular attraction (and it was popular, for there were lines of folk - both young and old - lined up to dip most of the day).
So...I took it upon myself to begin dipping candles at our 1860s harvest reenactments, and that drew quite a few visitors. Plus I got a whole lotta candles!
But I didn't stop there - I took it a step further and began to have candle dipping parties at my own home, and I invited *mostly* friends who had never done this before.
Now it has become a new fall family tradition, for it was in the autumn of the year that our ancestors would usually make their candles, normally from either beeswax (which is what I use) or tallow (fat from meat, which I have not done as of this writing).
Here are a few photos taken at this year's candle-making gathering, where, like in the old days, family and friends gather together to help each other with chores, all the while enjoying each other's company:
I do not have a large back yard, but it does have enough room where I can safely use my fire pit and wrought iron cookware and utensils to help give it that old-time feel, for doing such a chore over the stove inside my modern kitchen would not be nearly as fun or as fall-feeling.

I had plenty of pure beeswax on hand - some purchased and other blocks 
given to me - to make a decent amount of candles

Watching the wax melt...

These two ladies have both dipped before, but wanted
to join in the fun again this year.

My wife did not want to dip this year, but she did prepare
one of my two candle molds...and also made lunch for everyone.
You can tell by our clothing that this was a cool fall day, perfect for our little craft.
Only the beginning...
That's my son and myself in the picture with friend Charlotte.

I believe this was Rob's second of around 25 dips.

I concentrated on the molds, for it was easier!

I had just poured the wax into the larger mold while
the wax in the smaller mold was already drying.

Jenny is a teacher at the same high school where I work.
Oh, if I only had such cool teachers when I went to school!

They are almost, but not quite, candles.

Meanwhile, the wax in my molds continue to harden in the cool
autumn air.

Yes, I even dipped as well, though the wax in the pot was too hot and actually melted the wax off my wicking rather than add layers.

As you can see, by the end of the afternoon we had dipped quite a few candles. I gave each 'dipper' one to take home for their hard work.

Some of my candles I hang on my sconces.

Others put into my tin candle box.

While others go into the wood pipe holder
that I now use as a candle holder.
And the candles from my molds?
Here they are! These are the candles made from the molds I poured the day before. To remove them from the molds, I put the entire mold into a pot of boiling water and most slid out like melted butter. Unfortunately, two did not come out (the wicking did but the candles remained in the tubes) - - but the rest turned out beautiful!
One of the questions a am frequently asked is how they got the candles out of the mold once they hardened, for the 21st century candle maker seems to prefer to use a spray, which was something not yet available back in the olden days. The secret used to pulling candles out of the mold was to dip the mold with the hardened wax into a vat of boiling water for only a few seconds, and then the candles will slide out like melted butter.
I know this to be true, because I do my own candles in this manner, and it works wonderfully.
I actually learned this from the book by author Laura Ingalls Wilder called "Farmer Boy."
Yep - - our ancestors were right-smart people!

It's been a pretty wet autumn and I have had little time to walk around taking pictures of fall trees like I really enjoy doing. But in my own backyard we have an oak tree - - 
Fall. Autumn.
The oak tree in our yard. It was pretty much a twig when
we got it on Arbor Day at Greenfield Village quite a few years 

ago, and here it sits today, where we enjoy it throughout the 
year...but especially in autumn.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor
You bet they still celebrate
the harvest, in the 21st
century, Boney Maroney!
So there you have it. 
This posting may not be historical in the strictest sense, but it does promote tradition, which, in this case, is based on history in itself. And keeping tradition is what I am all about, especially if the roots are deep.
Much of our nostalgia tends to make itself known this time of year as well, for it truly is a 'wooden' time of year, isn't it?
And if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I plan to continue on in this manner...
So, I suppose the answer to the question on whether or not folks still celebrate the harvest in the 21st century would be a resounding yes! Oh, maybe not exactly in the same way or same frame of mind as our ancestors did, but with the same spirit!

Until next time, see you in time.

To read about 18th and 19th century harvest time activities, please click HERE
To read about reenacting a Victorian harvest, please click HERE
To read about the history of apples in North America, click HERE
To read about historical lighting from the 18th and 19th centuries, please click HERE
To read about lighting in colonial times, please click HERE
To read about a year in the life on a colonial farm, please click HERE
To read about having nostalgic feelings for a time you've never lived in, please click HERE

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