Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Trip to the Cider Mill: Michigan Apples, Cider, and Raspberries

~Updated September 23, 2018~
Our Mill of choice - no frills...just tradition.
We went to the cider mill recently. Here in Michigan, visiting the cider mill in September and October is a strong tradition and ritual not seen in most other states.  We enjoy going to a cider mill that doesn't have the thrills, frills, and chills that virtually most others have.  You know the kind I mean:  over-commercialized with singing skeletons, mechanical hillbilly bear band,  $10 per kid play area,  $3 hot dogs...yeah,  you know what I'm talking about.  That's not the type I enjoy going to.  We've been to that kind in previous years and don't plan on going back.  They are way too crowded, way over-priced, and wa-a-ay over-commercialized for our taste.
But I am glad they are there for those who like 'em.
We would rather go to pick apples, drink cider, and eat doughnuts.
Maybe have a haystack to climb.
And not return home broke.
It took some searching but we found one right smack dab in the middle of  "cider mill country" - Romeo, Michigan. Within just a few miles of Romeo Village are at least five cider mills, and all but one are of the suburbanite's dream, varying from extreme commercialization  (did I mention the haunted barn?)  down  (or up)  to the good old-fashioned mill.
We chose Stony Creek Orchard - the most basic of them all.
It was like we were meant to pick these apples...
In speaking with one of the owners, she told me that there are some customers who have complained because there was nothing to do except, well, pick apples, drink fresh cider made right there, and eat fresh doughnuts.
On the other hand, there were many more who, like me, have thanked them for having nothing else but apple  (and raspberry)  picking, cider drinking, and doughnut eating.
Okay, they have a small hay climbing area for the kids.  And it doesn't cost anything for them to do so.
And a tractor hayride out to the apple orchards.
I can handle that.
And so can my kids.  The fun, besides picking apples off the trees, is eating warm fresh doughnuts and drinking freshly pressed cider.
The fun is our family outing, from grandma  (when she was still alive)  to grandkids.
The fun is the apple picking

Oh yeah - - -

The perfect apple - - -

The fun is in the raspberry picking.

The raspberries taste as good as they look!
These apples will be baked in a pie very soon!

And so will these...and apple sauce!

This is an older picture and it includes my mother, who passed away in 2017.
It was she who taught me how to begin family traditions.
Stony Creek Orchards caters to folks like us who do not want the over-priced highly commercialized  pay-an-extra-nickel-for-a-cup-for-your-cider  cider mills.
It was a very enjoyable way to spend an autumn day.

~ By the way, my hat is off to Yates Cider Mill in Rochester, Michigan.  They may not have apple picking, but it is another low-frills mill to go to.  Their big plus is a country pathway for visitors to walk alongside the Clinton River, which is very beautiful this time of year. ~

~   ~   ~

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Millrace Village

~Loaded up on the wagon and ready to time-travel ~
Patty prefers to sit in the back...sitting directly behind the horses always makes her a little nervous.

I love discovering something new - especially when it relates to history.
In a previous post I wrote about the opportunities we here in southern Michigan have to visit the past. Well, this weekend I discovered another local open-air museum only around a 45 minute drive from my home known as Millrace Village.

~A stop at the tavern is always a must after such a journey~

It was unfortunate that very few reenactors chose to stay away from this event because it has the makings of something very special. There are several Victorian homes within this park, along with a tavern, general store, blacksmith shop, church, and a school - all from the 19th century. As I have said many times before, there is nothing like doing living history when you are surrounded by history itself. And, as with a few other events, the kind folks here actually allow us to set ourselves up inside the old buildings to use as our own.
Yep, bringing history to life before your very eyes.


Friends and family stroll the town's lane
Again I ask, why do reenactors - especially military - constantly complain about being bored doing the same old reenactments but yet stay away from these wonderful new ones? We were hoping to have a skirmish take place, utilizing this park as a battle town. Unfortunately, we had one - count 'em, 1 - Union soldier show up, with nary a Confederate in sight.
How sad.
And disappointing.
Seven of us civilians attended to help bring the "town" alive: we had a woman in mourning, a couple young ladies, two children, my wife spun on her spinning wheel, and I as the postmaster.
And the visitors were so appreciative of us! Can you imagine just how authentic it could have been with a few more civilians plus a hundred or so soldiers to give the folks a good showing of a battle town?

The young ladies of town enjoy a moment's respite from their chores

Yeah, I am complaining again - sorry about that! - I suppose I just expect more from my fellow reenactors. Michigan is ripe for living history and I feel one should grab the opportunity while we can.
Then again, maybe there was a football game on television...

~Yes, a stream cuts through Millrace Village~

I'd much rather be here...wouldn't you?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Harvest Home! Now Is the Autumn Time of Year

(To read an update of this posting with more information and more photos, please click HERE)

~This post is a celebration of the Fall time of the year. It's rather long but it's here where you will find not only my own fall festivities but how the autumn was celebrated in colonial and Victorian times. I hope you enjoy it~

The trees say they're tired,
they bore too much fruit,
Charmed all the wayside,
there's no dispute,
Now shedding leaves,
they don't give a hoot!
La-de-da, de-da-de-dum,
'tis Autumn! 
Our modern calendar states that fall begins September 23 in this year of 2011, though the Celtic calendar of old says that we are already into fall. Either way, we can all agree that the season of fulfillment and a time of rejoicing is here, for harvest time has begun!
Because I am excited about this time of year I thought I would take the opportunity to offer, in part, what I wrote in previous years about the numerous ways autumn is celebrated past and present.
It's a wonderful history lesson with some modern traditions thrown in, and I hope it gets you into an autumn mood:

The corn is all ripe and the reapings begin.
The fruits of the earth, o we gather them in;
At morning so early the reaphooks we grind,
And away to the fields for to reap and to bind.
The foreman goes first in the hot summer glow,
And sings with a laugh, my lads, all of a row!
Then all of a row, Then all of a row,
And tonight we will sing, boys, all of a row.

The three main months of autumn, September, October, and November, is when harvest time takes place. In times gone by, autumn was a period of hard work. The harvesting of the crops that our ancestors cared for over the spring and summer was, perhaps, the most important and arduous job one could have. One of the most laborious of these tasks was to thresh the grain. Up until the the later part of the 18th century and well into the 19th century for most, threshing grain was done by way of flails and winnowing baskets. By the mid-19th century there were threshing machines and by the late 19th century many farmers began to use steam powered threshing machines.
But the back-breaking labor of stooping to pick the fruits of your gardening labor also took its toll.

Here is a monthly run-down of a typical Michigan harvest:

September: This is when you kick yourself for planting a large garden. EVERYTHING is coming in. You put things down cellar and dehydrate a lot of things in the sun, and if you know how and have the jars you put things up in those fancy new mason jars, which requires HOURS of boiling for some things. (Modern note…if you want to try canning do NOT water bath can anything but fruit and tomatoes-botulism still exists.)
Apples are starting to ripen and so are the peaches. Lots of pie right about now.
October: The garden season is finally starting to wind down. You still have beans and late ripening squash, but pretty much everything else is put up for the winter. Apple harvest is in full swing although you probably have all the peaches dried or made into jam already. The pumpkins are finishing up as is the squash. Your late corn is ready to pick and your potatoes are ready to dig up…hurry and do this last before the ground freezes. You have fresh apples and dried apples and apple cider. (Or hard cider if that's your preference.)
November: Butchering time is usually around the third week of the month. Those cute little piglets from spring are nasty tempered ugly hogs and you are glad to see the last of them; although processing one pig takes three days if you have lots of help in the kitchen. You also butcher your beef at this time, and the deer hunters go out to get some venison.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Your hay it is mow’d and your corn it is reap’d.
Your barns will be full and your hovels heap’d
Come, boys, come.
And merrily roar out our harvest home.

Most outdoor museums tend to celebrate this all important season by offering demonstrations of how our ancestors reaped what they sowed. Greenfield Village is no different. I believe that it's in the Autumn time of year that the Village truly shines, for that's when the traditions we hold so dear come to the forefront. In fact, they take the fall harvest nearly to the historical limit; most of the structures throughout the Village are open during the fall season. Although a number of the historical structures have harvest cooking and the like, the main presentations center on the two farms, Firestone (19th century), and Daggett (18th century), as they prepare for the winter months ahead. And, believe me when I say that the presenters at these two farms do it right! The docents can be found harvesting the crops from the fields as well as the kitchen gardens. A kitchen garden is self-explanatory in that what is grown in this plot of land is what the women of the house will use for cooking and canning in the kitchen.
Visitors can also witness seasonal cooking crafts, such as traditional fall baking treats and apple butter making.

Firestone Farm truly takes the visitor back to the 1880's as its sights and smells surround you in a sort of immersion experience. As you step down the rocky dirt road toward the farm all signs of the 21st century melt away and the 19th century comes forth and overtakes your senses.It's here where the fall harvest is in full swing as well. I will present here the words of Senior Manager of Creative Programs Jim Johnson, as he has written a fine description of an 1880's fall harvest (this comes from The Henry Ford blog

The Firestones would have used many similar techniques (as their colonial counterparts, the Daggetts - more on them in a few minutes!) to insure their vegetable needs for the winter. Pits and root cellars still played an important role. Sauerkraut from cabbage was an important fall job at the Firestone Farm. A well-made crock of kraut could last the family well into the spring. Simply a combination of salt and shredded cabbage, sauerkraut was a winter staple for many German-American families.

Storage for the winter months in the cellar of Firestone Farm

By the 1850s, the “fruit” canning jar with sealable lids had been perfected and by the period of the 1880s, the Firestones would have made full use of this technology and would have put up a dazzling array of pickles, jellies, jams, sauces, etc.
The Firestone orchard is filled with a number of 19th-century and earlier apple varieties, and visitors will be able to see a wide selection of red, green, brown, yellow, and speckled apples on the trees. Names like Rambo, Baldwin, Belmont, Roxbury Russet, and Hubbardston Nonesuch can be found there. They all have different characteristics, flavors, and ultimately were used in different ways, either for sale, or for the family’s own use. Those not carefully packed away will be made into apple butter, apple sauce, pies, dowdies, dumplings, fritters, and cider. Both the Firestone and (colonial era) Daggett kitchens will overflow with apples in the fall.
Both the Firestones and Daggetts made cider. The sweet cider we all seek out in the fall was actually only available for a short time when the apples were plentiful. Cider actually refers to the fermented slightly alcoholic drink stored in barrels for use throughout the winter. Cider vinegar, and apple jack brandy was also made from the juice of the crushed apples. The Firestone staff demonstrates the use of a small “home” cider press. We do know that Samuel Daggett pressed cider with a larger animal powered machine, and sold cider to the surrounding community.
Other fruits that were commonly grown and used in a variety of ways were pears (fermented pear juice is known as “perry”), peaches, cherries, quince, and grapes. Wine making from grapes was commonly done, especially among German communities. Though not actually a fruit, hops are grown in the Daggett garden, and brewing of small beer was also a fall activity.
The harvest of the field crops at Firestone Farm has been underway since July as the wheat ripened. The fall is when the field corn was harvested and by the end of September or early October, the corn at Firestone Farm will be standing in neat shocks. Firestone Farm pre-dates the era of the silo, when corn stalks were chopped up and made into a slightly fermented feed known as silage. So instead, corn stalks were chopped and fed as fodder.
Gathering the stalks into shocks had an important purpose. The inside stalks, sheltered from the elements, and retained their nutritional value for quite some time and the actual shock made a handy manageable portion for the farmer to haul from the field for his cattle. The corn was either picked before shocking, or at the time the shock was pulled from the field. Corn then had to be husked, and then thrown into the corn crib for further drying. Firestone barn has an enormous corn crib running the entire side of the barn shed. Once dry it could be shelled, then either fed as shelled corn, or ground into feed or meal. The variety we grow at Firestone Farm is called “Reid’s Yellow Dent” and was primarily grown as a feed corn. Hard “flint” corns were best for meal, and the softer “gourd seed” type of corn was also used for animal feed, or for making hominy and grits. Corn harvest related work will take place throughout the ladder part of September at Firestone Farm.

Inside the house, the cozy warmth of the fireplace roars as the women of the farm prepare the dinnertime (afternoon) meal, and I can tell you first hand just how wonderful the smells of the Firestone farm kitchen can be!

It's not only at Firestone Farm where one can see the fall. The visitor can feel a nip in the air and witness smoke pouring out of the chimneys of the farms and homes as they stroll under the trees with leaves of red, orange, yellow, and even brown and green - colors that one may not find in their own neighborhoods that seem to add that fall flavor.

The changing colors of the leaves are all around, pumpkins seemingly sprout around every corner, and the seasonal food served at the Eagle Tavern let's one know exactly what time of year it is!

Let's step back in time another hundred years before the Firestones, back to the 1760's colonial period with the Daggett family - - - -

When the farmer has fallowed and tilled all the land,
And scattered the grain with a bountiful hand
And the team that had labored with harrow and plough,
Has conveyed the rich produce safe home to the mow.
Then what shall we do? what shall we do?
What shall we do? what shall we do?
Sing, Harvest Home! Harvest Home!
And shout with full voices our Harvest home!

Once again I would like to quote from Senior Manager of Creative Programs Jim Johnson, as I feel I cannot explain any better than what Mr. Johnson has written
(all photos, by the way, were taken by me):

The Daggetts would have stored away a variety of root vegetables in stone-lined pits that would have prevented hard freezing for turnips, potatoes, beets and other similar vegetables. The earth is a great insulator, especially a small hillside. These outside “root cellars,” dug deep enough and lined with stone, provided the protection needed. The stone lining not only insulates, but keeps the items stored away cleaner. The wooden cover/door with added straw insulation made access throughout the winter possible. A heavy layer of snow would further help to keep the storage area from freezing. This would normally be in addition to the cellar of the house, also used for food storage.
Cabbages would have been pulled roots and all and also stored in similar ways. Pumpkins and other winter squash would have been kept in house cellars or possibly garrets (attics), to prevent freezing, allowing them to be used well into the winter months. Several other root vegetables like parsnips and salsify would have just been kept in the frozen ground of the garden and dug out as needed.
By this time of year, beans and peas would have been dried and stored away in sacks in cool dry locations. Dried peas and beans used in soups, stews, and baked bean dishes were simply left to fully mature on their vines or stalks in the field. Once completely dry, they were pulled by the roots and loaded into a cart or wagon and hauled back to the barn. In some cases, the partially dried plants were attached to long poles set-up in the field, once fully dried, the “bean” poles were hauled back to the barn to await further processing. This allowed a nice compact way to store them.
Much like threshing grain, beans and peas were laid out on a flat surface, usually on a tarp, and hit with a wooden flail (two lengths of wood connected by a leather lace). The wooden flail would break apart the pods and loosen up the dried beans or peas. Once loose from pods, the beans and peas were carefully scooped up and then cleaned by a process called winnowing. Using the breeze, the bean and peas were flipped up and down in a large shallow basket. The dust and lighter debris would blow away leaving the beans or peas behind. Once clean, they would be stored away in barrels or clean sacks.Dried green beans were re-constituted and added to soups or stews in the winter and early spring when nothing green was available.
With careful planning, all these sorts of 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 garden were so looked forward to after a winter of starchy root vegetables. As you visit the Daggett farm throughout the fall, you will see the staff harvesting and storing away a variety of garden produce.
Drying plants for winter use hang over the kitchen fireplace
Fruit, especially apples, was another important food item carefully preserved for the winter. The Daggetts had very limited technology when it came to “canning” as we know it today. Fruit jams or preserves were kept in small crocks or glass jars and sealed with bees wax, spirit soaked parchment, or animal bladders that when tightly drawn over the jar opening, would dry and seal off the jar (they were reusable). Lots of fruit was dried by slicing and lying out in baskets or on wooden racks. Fresh fruit was carefully packed in barrels whole to keep in a cool spot.

 Of course, the wood pile for winter warmth was of utmost importance!

Upon my own visitation to the Daggett farm I have also witnessed the spinning of wool into yarn as well as the usage of roots and berries for the colorful dyeing process.
The large walking (or great) wheel was used in the spinning process, and it's here where one can watch as the un-carded wool is carded by use of carding paddles before actually being spun into yarn. As this process is done, the presenter explains every step.
Outside in the yard a large vat of water is boiled over a fire pit. This is part of the process of having spun wool dyed to a variety of colors. 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.

Plants, roots, and nuts crushed to make dye

 Here is a run-down of what the folks at Daggett use for their presentation (from a Daggett Farm presenter):
Brown~black walnuts. The walnuts have to be allowed to rot, the longer they rot the darker brown you will get.

Blue~the best dye for this is Indigo. There is a plant called woad that could be used but it is highly invasive.

Yellow~ The inner bark from the osage orange tree works, but the easiest to find is calendula petals. Some people call the flower a pot marigold as well.

Green~ the best way to get green is an over dye of blue and yellow. Dye the yarn yellow first and then dip it in the blue.

Red~The cochineal beetle gives the best reds. With these a little goes a long way.

Pink~Pokeberry (it's nice that these can be used for something as the seeds of this plant are toxic) Daggett has one of these plants in the garden.

Orange~Madder root. The madder plant needs to be taken out and the root actually broken open (it will appear bright orange) I believe there is also a madder plant at Daggett.

Purple~ Logwood

Black~This is an over dye of logwood and black walnut.

Before dyeing any wool yarn it needs to soak in a mordant; Alum is the one that is used at Daggett.
As with washing the wool one has to use the same temperature water and not stir or agitate it or it will felt.

Also these items get tied up in cheesecloth so that nothing sticks to the yarn.

The ingredients were boiled in water until the liquid becomes the desired shade, then skeins of yarn were simmered in the vat of dye.

The Walking (or Great) Wheel at Daggett farm

The finished product, ready to be made into socks, hat, scarf, or some other cold weather item

Inside the house, in the great hall of the Daggett house, sits a loom, an exact replica of one built in the 18th century. The very talented presenters often demonstrate the process of using this fly-shuttle loom where around a foot of fabric an hour can be produced.
Another immersion experience of sight, sound, smell, and touch for the visitor...

Elsewhere in the Village a farmer's market is set up where one can purchase local grains and baking mixes, produce, honey, apples, and much more. Also, new last year and continuing this year (2011), they are going to be presenting their Fall Flavor Weekends where, in their own words: The focus is food for three ”tasty” weekends in Greenfield Village Celebrate the glories of American food with us. For three weekends, food will be everywhere you look in Greenfield Village; daily cooking demonstrations, an authentic farmers market, harvest dinners, wine and beer tastings, Look around and you’ll find dozens of opportunities to share in Michigan’s abundant and varied harvest.
Presenters in our historic homes will be hard at work preparing recipes lifted from the pages of history.
  • At Firestone Farm, men press cider from heirloom apples as ladies cook buttermilk bread, custard pies and apple butter.
  • At Mattox House, Scuppernong grapes are prepped for wine making, grape jelly is put up and okra gumbo is simmering.
  • At Daggett Farmhouse, beer is brewing and the table is laden with a harvest feast of a pupton of apples, grateful pudding and boiled cod.
  • Edison Homestead’s fall menu including squash soup and sweet sugar beet comes from Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cookbook.
  • The ladies at the Ford Home cook up Concord grape jelly and sweet apple pudding dishes from Della Lutes’ Home Grown.
  • At Susquehanna Plantation, the open hearth is fired up for Baltimore oyster pie and stuffed squash.
  • Check out the bubble and squeak and pork and apple pie at Adams House.

This is a great improvement over what the Village has presented in more recent years where next to nothing occured this time of year (sans Daggett and Firestone farms). It used to be that one could find a number of different activities throughout the village, including corn shucking, threshing, the process of winnowing, as well as live old-time music, hayrides, and hot cider & doughnuts. A real old-time shindig!
So the Fall Flavors Weekend is a step in the right direction.
Maybe, if this presentation is a success, we will one day soon see a full fall-harvest weekend, with a combination of all of the many different fall activities together. How cool would that be?

In the 1990's Greenfield Village had musicians performing old-time music during the Fall Harvest Weekend.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Come all you lads and lasses, together let us go
Into some pleasant cornfield our courage for to show;
With the reaphook and the sickle so well we clear the land,
The farmer says, “Well done, my lads, here’s liquor at your command.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When you think about it, fall is the most traditional/old time part of the year. This is when city folks, who might normally go to the mall, spend time in front of their TV (watching football!), or sitting at their computer, head out to the the country to the cider mills for apple and pumpkin picking, cider & donuts, haystack climbing, and crisp cool walks through country paths. I suppose this tradition stems from the harvest celebrations in days of old and has just carried on into the 21st century.

We in my family are no different; Patty and I have been doing cider-milling for over 20 years, and our children (even the adult children) look forward to it as well. Yes, it's true that the mills over-charge (that's an understatement) and many mills have turned the fall festivities more into Hallowe'en celebrations rather than a harvest celebration. But the traditional atmosphere in some of the older family-owned-for-generations mills can still be found, away from the hubbub of the more 'popular' mills that spend their money on expensive advertisements and silly mechanical hillbilly bears singing country songs. So, it's to the traditional mills that we head, curbing our spending greatly by sticking only to cider & donuts. Of course, with the cooler weather we in our home know the smell of apple pie can't be too far away. Yes, my wife is a master apple pie maker - she learned from my mother who was taught by her own mother - and Patty will bake one or two pies a week now through the Christmas Season. We gotta do something with the multiple bushels of apples we pick! Oh yeah...homemade apple sauce, too!

Apple picking - two bushels are never enough!

Another trip my wife and I take every year is the scenic drive north up I-75 for a couple hours to enjoy the changing leaves. Included in this trip is our frequent stops off the beaten path to local antique shops in Romeo and Holly. We never seem to leave without finding a treasure, whether small (a wrought-iron matchstick holder) or large (a corner cabinet).
What fun we have on this one day excursion all to ourselves.

Romeo has some quality antique shops, among the other smaller towns in the "thumb" of Michigan

Living in the city, bonfires are not allowed, but when we travel northward into the country, that wonderful smell of burning leaves is almost as good and satisfying as the smell of a hot apple pie...almost!

My son buried in leaves

With darkness coming earlier each evening fall is also my favorite time of year for using 'natural lighting' - this is when we burn candles and oil lamps quite often. Again, it gives off that relaxed, old-time atmosphere that the way-too-bright electric lights simply cannot give...even with a dimmer switch. Many people find the shorter days depressing - some having that "seasonal affective disorder" - and find they need to have the brighter lights on throughout the house.
I'm just the opposite. I love cloudy, dingy fall days with the darkness of twilight time coming in the late afternoon or early evening. And I am still upset that Congress (was it Congress?) has enacted the extension for daylight savings time. In fact, I wish we would get rid of DST altogether! Let's stick with one time all year 'round.

Some of my lighting apparatus used to give a glow to our evenings during the fall season

By the way...since we are living historians, there are a couple of fall reenactments that we attend, and, yes, they are among my favorites because of the time of year! More and more I am having the opportunity to continue to travel back to the 1860's via living history/reenacting as events increase later into the year.

I have made it a point to include much of what I've learned about 19th (and even 18th) century harvest and fall activities in my living history presentations.
For example, when a visitor comes to my tent and asks me a question about my post office, I do my best to answer it. While I remain in my 1st person impression, I also try to carry on conversationally as would have been done during the 1860's. This means, while at a fall event, I could ask my "customers" how their harvest is coming along, how much canning has been done, and maybe speak of the old Widow Jones down the road who still seals her cans by using animal bladders.
People love it!
Teaching in a fun and interesting way the importance of this time of year and showing how our ancestors actually celebrated the fall months should become as much a priority as wearing accurate clothing as far as I am concerned, for it was the most important time of year for human kind since the beginning of time. The Bible itself speaks of it multiple times:

Genesis 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
John 4:35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
eremiah 5:24 Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.

I certainly hope this posting helped you get into the seasonal spirit of Autumn. I do love each season - yes, even winter - but fall just seems to carry more tradition with it than the others.
And I am a traditional guy!
Don't get me wrong, by February, I am more than ready for the natural longer daylight hours and warmer temps. But, come late September, give me the fall feeling of shorter days and longer, cooler nights.
Til next time...
Now our work’s done, thus we feast,
After labor comes our rest;
Joy shall reign in every breast,
and right welcome is each guest;
After harvest merrily,
Merrily, merrily will we sing now,
After the harvest that heaps up the mow.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Pastoral Farm Symphony" is now "A Quiet and Peaceable Life"

As many of you may or may not know, the blog Pastoral Farm Symphony no longer exists because, as she puts it:
"I needed to get away from the sniping that's been going on for quite a while so the old blog is deleted."
But guess what? She has a new one!
"...and this new one will be a continuation of what was written about there. Please let people on your blog know, if I'm not
Facebook friends with them then I have no way to reach them."
Here's the link:
A Quiet and Peaceable Life
Welcome back!!
And I have a request to Mrs. G - - can you reprint the posting "Shazam! It's 1770"? I love that one! (if you still have it, that is).

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Big Fat Shotgun Wedding by "Carrie May"

I would like to thank my friend (and kind of adopted daughter) Carrie from our reenacting unit for not only participating in the scenario of which you are about to read, but for writing it in the excellent narrative style that she did.
I very rarely give space to "guest bloggers" but I very much enjoyed her description and felt it should be shared. All involved really did a wonderful job in their respective roles which, by the way, was not scripted whatsoever!
In fact, it was all thrown together within an hour or so before it took place!
Sometimes those are the ones that turn out the best!

So, let's take you back to summer 1861... 

For those of you who didn’t know, I was married on August 6th in Port Sanilac. Now before you start sending gifts, allow me to explain. I played the part of bride in a pretend shotgun wedding. The “shotgun” refers to… well, let’s say it describes a wedding that occurs out of necessity due to the couple’s, um, actions. My husband-to-be was none other than our own Robbie G. Now I had never been one to dream much about my wedding day, but I knew this was not how I envisioned it. I never imagined something made up for fun could feel so real!
When it was time to begin, I became Carrie May - a girl whose irresponsibility had disappointed and angered her very Southern father. Papa Red, along with my uncle and the town sheriff, escorted me across the green to the line of Union troops. I thought about running, but Papa seemed to read my mind and secured his grip on my arm. As I was being dragged, a large group of spectators gathered to see what the fuss was about. “Who was it?! Point him out!” Papa demanded. I singled out Robbie and quickly found myself handcuffed to him. By the way, period handcuffs are far more intimidating than modern ones. We then headed for the least logical place for young folks who give in to temptation: the church.
It was there on the church steps when things started to feel a little too real. Papa explained to the reverend why Robbie and I were in need of immediate nuptials. Prior to this moment, I don’t believe I had ever heard the word “fornicate” used so abundantly. It no longer felt like we were pretending. Although they were still physically there, the public seemed to disappear. Feelings of shame and guilt overwhelmed me. Unable to look the reverend in the eye, I admitted to having sinned.

Robbie, after much denial over his involvement, soon confessed as well. The wedding was going to happen, whether we wanted it to or not.
I found myself struggling less to escape as we entered the church. I believed the story so much that I felt deserving of what was happening! Robbie, on the other hand, was still putting up a fight. He even managed to slip his hand out of the handcuffs. But he wasn’t going anywhere, especially with a pistol pressed against his back. I turned to my impromptu maid-of-honor, Miss Kristen, for any sort of help.

No such luck. She believed I deserved this fate, too. The reverend continued the ceremony with reciting of the vows. “I do not love him!” I shouted. There was no mystery as to why this wedding was taking place. Love had nothing to do with it. I was used goods, as Papa said. Figuring that I had disappointed my Papa enough, I repeated the words that bound me to Robbie. He did the same and as he reluctantly slipped the ring onto my finger, we were as good as married.

I was Mrs. Robert G!
Luckily for me, Robbie was killed later that afternoon in battle. Fortunately, I took it quite well.
It took a few minutes after we exited the church for me to snap out of it. Though it wasn’t legal, we were married in a real church by a real pastor. It was the most realistic/fake experience I’ve had not only in reenacting but also in my modern life. For the remainder of the day, the public would approach me and offer either their congratulations or their condolences. They would feel sorry for me and say things like, “We were rooting for you!” or, “You poor girl…” Other people would simply look at me and shake their head in disapproval. But whether their reactions were positive or negative, I was very pleased with the outcome. All parties involved with the wedding did a fantastic job. Seriously, even I was convinced it was real…and I knew it was fake! I would welcome the opportunity to participate in similar activities at future events. Not only is it a blast, but it gives the public another way to view living history.
By the way, if you still wish to send gifts, please forward items and cash to my and Robbie's respective addresses. Thank you.

Mr. & Mrs. G

After the shotgun wedding had ended and the Port Sanilac reenactment continued on, the rest of us enjoyed calling Carrie "Mrs. G" for the rest of the weekend!