Monday, September 24, 2012

Dept. 56 & the Colonial Williamsburg Lighted House Collection

A few years back I discovered that Dept. 56 has been putting out ceramic lighted houses of the historical structures of Colonial Williamsburg. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the company is doing an actual historic village.
My first few Dept. 56 Williamsburg houses
Since discovering Dept. 56 back in 1989 I have become a fan - a collector - of the small lighted houses. Though my main collection is of the Dickens Village (click HERE to see my post on that from 2011), I have ventured off a bit the last few years to collect other villages such as the Sleepy Hollow series.
Most of the houses in the various collections are designed from an artist's imagination seemingly based on nostalgia, though a number of them are copies of actual structures, especially in their Snow Village series, which tends to recreate Americana from the 1940's and '50's.
And the Dickens Village is very loosely centered on old London.
V-e-r-y loosely.
Though the nostalgia thing is pretty cool, real American history was not to be found.
Until I found this cellection (which, by the way, is now out of print, from what I understand).
Finally! An actual historically accurate lighted house collection!
In 2010 Dept. 56 came out with the Colonial Williamsburg collection. How cool for a historian like me! To be honest, I can't afford the prices being asked, but searching daily (with patience) on the internet helped me to locate a few of the houses at, in many cases, half off the original asking price.
Now, just so you don't think I am blindly purchasing this set by name alone I did a bit of research on the original structures to see how closely they resembled their ceramic counterparts.
Perfectly! They matched perfectly!
So, what I have here are photos of the original buildings as they sit in Colonial Williamsburg followed by the Dept. 56 miniatures I had purchased.
You be the judge:
The home of George Wythe, built in the early 1750's. Besides being elected to the House of Burgesses in Virginia and Mayor of Williamsburg, Mr. Wythe, a "profound lawyer" (according to Benjamin Rush) was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson called Wythe "my second father, my faithful and beloved mentor in my youth and my most affectionate friend through life."

And here is the Dept. 56 ceramic version of the Wythe house.

King's Arms Tavern: This was one of the best-known taverns in Williamsburg and, during the Revolutionary War, the proprietress, Mrs. Jane Vobe, provided food and drink to the Patriots fighting the Redcoats.

Dept. 56's accurate rendition of the King's Arm Tavern

The Taliaferro-Cole House. This place was originally owned by Charles Taliaferro from the mid-18th century until he sold it to Jesse Cole in 1804. Charles was a well-known coachmaker as well as a merchant and also owned the shop next to it to sell his wares.

Here is Dept. 56's fine replication of the Taliaferro-Cole House.

Here is the original Taliaferro-Cole Shop. When Charles Taliaferro owned it in the late 18th century, he sold "an assortment of lines, shoes, saddles, bar iron, candles, nails, and brads." When Jesse Cole purchased it in 1804 it continued as a general store and a post office as well.

And here is the Dept. 56 replica of the Taliaferro-Cole Shop .

Dating from 1715, parishioners of Bruton Church sat in boxed pews, their walls providing privacy and protection from drafts. In the early years the sexes sat apart. A vestry book entry for January 9, 1716, says:
"Ordered that the Men sitt on the North side of the church, and the women on the left."
A succession of galleries was built for particular groups beneath the soaring ceiling. For example, on July 10, 1718, William and Mary students were assigned a gallery that still stands. Exterior stairs were added for access to some of these railed, overhanging rows of benches. In 1744, the building was enlarged, and in 1752 the vestry voted to make the east end as long as the west, extending the chancel 25 feet to the east. The assembly paid for the work, and it was completed in 1755.    Among the men of the Revolution who attended Bruton Parish Church were Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason.

And here is Department 56's miniature of Bruton Parish Church.

Tarpley's Store: John Tarpley began his store at this location in 1755.

And here is the copy

Next up we have a building that is not located in Colonial Williamsburg but in Philadelphia. I am including it in my Williamsburg collection for two reasons: 1) because it fits the colonial look of Williamsburg since the original buildings were made around the same period. And 2) because there is no other historical collection from Dept. 56. So, what else was I supposed to do?
Don't worry, I do let folks know about it when they see my set up, just as I am doing now.
 ~No...not in Colonial Williamsburg, but Pennsylvania~
Construction of the Pennsylvania State House, which came to be known as Independence Hall, began in 1732. At the time it was the most ambitious public building in the thirteen colonies. It wasn't until 1753, 21 years after the groundbreaking, before it was completed. Independence Hall is, by every estimate, the birthplace of the United States. It was within its walls that the Declaration of Independence was adopted. It was here that the Constitution of the United States was debated, drafted and signed. That document is the oldest federal constitution in existence and was framed by a convention of delegates from 12 of the original 13 colonies.

And here is the wonderful miniature from Dept. 56.

And here are some "scenic shots" of my historical village:
My Colonial Williamsburg collection (with a little bit of Philadelphia!)...
Being that this is a pretty historical collection, I keep it up year 'round!

The accessories make it seemingly come to life

Yes, you see Paul Revere riding his horse on the right. Now, what's Paul Revere doing in Colonial Williamsburg? Well...where else am I going to put him?

A farmer's market and candle dipping - - perfect for fall.

And my own personal Daggett House with windmill (which you shall read about momentarily) with a spinning wheel, butter churning, and pressing apples into cider. The last two figurines are better suited to the 19th century, but again, they fit in better here.
So? Pretty neat, huh?
I got nearly every piece available, plus some, so I am pretty happy with my year-round display.

By the way, it must be noted here that the photographs of the original buildings of Williamsburg are not mine; I took them from books that I own.

~ ~ ~

I wish Dept. 56 would team up with Greenfield Village and do replicas of the buildings there. I would love to have a ceramic lighted house of the Daggett Farm, Firestone Farm, Noah Webster's Home, The Wright Brothers and the Ford homes...

Update:  - - - - what to my surprise - - - ?? Read on...

One of my most favorite houses inside the open-air museum of Greenfield Village is the Daggett Farnhouse.
What's a Daggett Farmhouse you ask?
Why, THIS is a Daggett Farmhouse:
The 1750 Daggett Farm
It is a structure built around 1750 in the popular-at-the-time saltbox-style. It was painstakingly dismantled from its original location in Connecticut and relocated to the historic Greenfield Village open air museum in Dearborn, Michigan in 1977, opening to the public by the following year.
There are now presenters who work here while wearing 1760's period farm clothing. They cook and do chores from the colonial era to give a wonderful impression of what life was originally like in this home during that early time in our country's history.

Right next to the Daggett house is the Cape Cod Farris Windmill, built in 1633.
Farris Windmill
 This windmill, once the oldest windmill on Cape Cod, stood at the road to West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. It now stands at the southeast end of Greenfield Village, next to the Daggett house, a gift to Henry Ford from his Ford dealership employees nationwide in 1936.

A friend of mine and his fiance were at a local collectables store recently and made sure they stopped by to tell me that they had seen a lighted ceramic Dept. 56 Daggett-style house for sale there. Of course, I went to the place myself to see it.
Yep - there it was! And it was beautiful. In fact, there were four of these houses sitting on the shelf, but they were considered used  (they're out of print from maker Dept. 56) and had no box or packaging of any kind.
Unfortunately, they were also rather pricey, so I had to pass on purchasing one.
I thought about how cool the lighted house looked every-so-often. I really wanted to get it, but money was tight.
However, after some time (and some money I acquired by selling a few books I didn't want), I decided to see what I could find on Ebay.
There it was! It was listed under the title "Home Sweet Home."
And guess what? With it, in the same box, was a windmill. A windmill that looked suspiciously like the Farris Windmill.
It wasn't being sold that way at the store - - - hmmm...something's amiss here...
No matter, the price for both - the house and the windmill - in the original packaging was less than half the price of just the house itself from that collectables store.
I bought it off Ebay. (That collectables store I went to was kind of a rip off, wouldn't you say? In more ways than one.)

It took only a few days til my package arrived - and here they are together:
I put some of my Colonial Williamsburg figurines around it to give it a more "3-dimensional" look - to sort of bring it too life.

And this is how the two structures look together as they sit inside Greenfield Village:

Compare the two photos - - - - pretty cool, huh?

These two Dept. 56 ceramics were introduced in 1988 and were discontinued in 1991.
The original Daggett House was reconstructed in Greenfield Village in 1977 and opened to the public in 1978, while the Farris Cape Cod Windmill was reconstructed in the Village in 1936.
They are v-e-r-y close in comparison, especially considering they came in the same box.
It's almost as you think...? Dept. 56's website says that the house is "Inspired by the East Hampton, NY historic landmark home of John Howard Payne, composer of 'Home Sweet Home'."
Is there a windmill near his house?
Let's look and see:
The home of John Howard Payne
Wow! Now this is really pretty awesome!

So now I sort of have my own personal corner of Greenfield Village as well as the landmark historical home of the "Home Sweet Home" composer John Howard Payne all in one on my shelf.
I think it's kinda neat.

Until next time, see you in time...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Zap! You Are Suddenly Thrust Back in Time, and it's Autumn - What Now?

For a final update with more information and numerous video clips - in other words, a much better post about Autumn past! - please click HERE

This post is a celebration of my favorite season - Autumn - and how this time of year was celebrated in days gone by. This is the 4th year in a row that I have revised it from my original back in '09, each time adding something new to give a more well-rounded scenario of the fall season. Since I have included some of our more contemporary Autumn traditions in previous posts, such as going to get cider and donuts, this year's post I will, instead, concentrate strictly on the past.
It's rather long but it's here where you will find how the autumn was celebrated in colonial times and then in Victorian times. If you don't want to read it off of your computer, just print it out and cozy up next to your fireplace, candle, or oil lamp and allow yourself to journey into autumn past.
I hope you enjoy it.

Harvest Home! Now Is the Autumn Time of Year

A fall farm scene

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!
The gristmill

Our modern calendar states that fall begins September 22 in this year of 2012, 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!
It's a wonderful history lesson and I hope it gets you into an autumn mood:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The three main months of autumn - September, October, and November - is when the fall harvest time takes place. In times gone by, autumn was a period of hard work. What I hope to show here is not only the labor of these hard-working people, but of the satisfaction our ancestors received for a job well done. The fruits of their labor ensured their survival, and there was no time for "sick days," nor did they have a "sick bank" to enter if they felt 'stressed out' and needed time off to 'get their head together.'
If one didn't put their time in, they, and possibly others, didn't eat.
I am also hoping that the reader will find a deeper appreciation for the way our ancestors lived and maybe even be enticed to grow their own kitchen garden by way of non-gmo heirloom seeds. 

So close your eyes...clear your mind...before you know it...

ZAP! You Have Just Stepped Back in Time to 1760, and it's Autumn - What Now?? 

The circa 1750 Daggett Saltbox House

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!

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

The Daggett kitchen during the fall
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 (more on this later), 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

Enjoying the fruits of their labor

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 flower peddles, 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.

Dye preparation

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

The Walking (or Great) Wheel at Daggett farm.

In New England (where the Dagget farm was originally located), the use of great wheels slowed down greatly, in the 1830s when the technology of the textiles mills had advanced in their ability to process wool. That's not to say they were no longer in use anywhere. One's access to the goods produced by textile mills was influenced greatly by one's location.

And the Saxony wheel

Idle hands are the devil's workshop. There are no idle hands here in the Daggett house!

Passing away an afternoon in the fall of 1760...
~ ~~~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~

 Wife make thine owne candle,
Spare pennie to handle.
Provide for thy tallow, ere frost cometh in.
And make thine owne candle, ere winter begin
(Thomas Tusser - 16th century English poet)

Dipping was the usual procedure for making candles in most families, and it's in this way that a large amount can be made at one time - hopefully enough to cover, at minimum, the rest of the winter season.
Candle-making season was usually in early-to-mid November. It had to be just cold enough for quick hardening, and followed shortly after fall hunting, where the waist fat from the animals was used to make tallow candles. The animal fat was cut into pieces and rendered (melted). The fat was boiled, caked, pressed, sieved, and purified several times. Wicks were made from cotton or, less often. from milkweed. The wicks were dipped repeatedly into a tub of tallow, and with each dip the candles became larger and larger until the desired length and width was had.
It's here that we can quote Susan Blunt, a woman from the early 19th century, who remembered her 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."

Ms. Blunt continues, "In the morning she would commence her day's work. (She would) dip each one in the hot tallow and straighten out the wicks so the candles would be straight when they were finished. By raising the candles (out of the kettle) at just the right speed and working on a day with a moderate temperature, the fine quality of the candles would be assured. The candles would be cooled overnight and the bottom ends cut off nearly. The finished candles were packed away in a mouse-proof container for safe storage."
Some scented candles, such as bayberry candles (made during the late autumn when the berries were ripest), burned slowly and gave off a fine incense, particularly when the candle was snuffed out.
Each morning it was the hired girl or one of the children's jobs to clean and fit the candlesticks with new candles long enough to last an evening and then stored in the kitchen, where they would be easy to find when darkness fell.

~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~

Wait - - - - what is happening? Everything is becoming hazy...a dizzying effect has overcome you...

ZAP! You Have Just Moved Forward in Time to the mid-19th Century, and it's still Autumn - what now??

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.

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.

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.

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. Similar to what was written under the colonial part of this post about threshing peas, another of the most laborious of the harvest tasks was to thresh the grain. As discussed earlier, up through the the later part of the 18th century and well into the 19th century for many, threshing grain was done by way of flails. As the thresher swung the handle, the flail whipped down and pounded the wheat heads, shaking the seeds (or kernels) free. Soon the kernels and husks (or chaff) lay in heaps on the floor. Now the wheat (kernels) needed to be separated from the chaff (the useless part) by way of winnowing. To remind you what winnowing is, this is where the farmer and his family and hired helpers would use winnowing baskets or trays onto which they would shovel the mixture of kernels and chaff. The filled tray or basket would then be shook up and down and side to side and the light chaff was lifted by the wind and blown away, leaving the grain.
At the end of the day everyone in the barn was choking on dust but the farmer now had clean grain to take to the gristmill.

By the mid-19th century there were threshing machines and by the late 19th century many farmers began to use steam powered threshing machines.

A 'modern' turn-of-the-century threshing machine

A wonderful description of what it was like during threshing time comes from Alice Grey Emory Wilmer, telling of threshing during her youth in the early 1870's: 
 "The enormous ungainly machine clanked up the lane, pulled into the field by a team of six mules. The steam engine was fired up with a clatter you could hear all of the way up at the big house and seemed to shake the shingles on its roof. Men were feeding the sheaves into its hungry maw, while more men were filling bags with the stream of kernels it disgorged, tying them, loading the wagons and driving them, heavy, to the granary, where still another crew was waiting to unload and stack the bulging sacks.
Harriet recruited women to help her in the kitchen. An enormous breakfast and an equally large noontime dinner had to be produced. I rolled up my sleeves to do my share. The kitchen and summer kitchen throbbed with heat from the cook stoves. Dishes clattered. Hurrying bodies bumped into one another as we carried platters to and fro. By evening every muscle was screaming ‘no-no-more,’ aware the ordeal would have to begin again at dawn the following day.
And then it was over. The threshing crew moved on to the next farm, the extra hands paid off. There was quiet and satisfaction of knowing we had made a good crop."
But the back-breaking labor of stooping to pick the fruits of your gardening labor also took its toll.

A visit to the gristmill was necessary to turn wheat kernels into flour, done so by grinding them into meal (a coarse unsifted powder), then sifting the meal to separate the fine white flour from the coarse brown hard shell of the kernel called 'shorts.' The grain that is good enough to be ground into flour is called grist. (For more on the grist and other mills, please click HERE)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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.

Again, I will present the words of Senior Manager of Creative Programs Jim Johnson, for his fine description of a mid-19th century fall harvest:
The Firestones would have used many similar techniques as the Daggetts to insure their vegetable needs for the winter. Pits and root cellars still played an important role. 

The temperatures of cellars usually ranged from 40 degrees in the winter and upwards of 50 degrees in the summer. To keep dampness out, many cellars had fireplaces.
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 pickling season adds the final 'zest' to all of the savory smells of September and October. In our modern times the word pickle brings to mind the Vlassic variety of pickles or what one puts on their hamburger. But the word pickle over a hundred years ago was a verb that referred to the process of preservation. In the old days one pickled beets, tomatoes, corn, and an endless variety of fruits and vegetables. Even eggs.                        
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.

Picking apples was the children's chore, by the way, and they most happily took on the job, for payment was at their fingertips!
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 were grown and brewing of small beer was also a fall activity.
The harvest of the field crops at Firestone Farm have actually 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 would 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!

The fall harvest would be prominent in the local taverns.  The foods that tavern keepers offered came from local farms and grew wild in the countryside, and tavern menus varied tremendously with the seasons. Certain fresh fruits and vegetables were available beginning in the summer months, but really flourished in the late summer and into fall, with winter meals relying heavily on foods preserved by salting or drying. Since many tavern owners were also farmers, much of the food served might have come from their own farms.

As the leaves changed, so did the daily routine in the shops of town, including the wagon shop. Known where it original stood in Macon, Michigan as the Richart Wagon, Farm Implement, and Repair Shop, the father and sons team of Robert Richart (born 1792), along with his two sons, William (born 1832) and Israel (birthdate unknown) built handcrafted wagons and buggies as the chief product of this carriage shop. They also produced, as stated in its original title, farm implements, and even furniture. Bobsleds were a major product made and sold here as well.
The 1850 Richart Shop
Fall, however, saw summer wagon building and repair slowing down greatly while winter construction and repair of sleds and cutters took precedence. William and Robert would also spend many autumn hours with a file in their hands sharpening saws, as their neighbors needed to cut and store wood for the winter. Barrels of apple cider appear frequently in the books as purchases as well as payments in October and November. In fact, in the years before the Civil War broke out in 1861, most of Macon's 1500 residents rarely dealt in cash. Besides cider, payment transactions included buck wheat, lumber, beef, and other currencies.

The inside of the Richart Shop

Coopers were also especially busy at Harvest time, making barrels to store and transport grain, apples, potatoes, meal, flour, freshly pressed cider, and salted meat.

After the first frost, usually in October, the sorghum season begins. Sorghum cane raised in fields was fed into the shredding and roller-press machinery at the local sorghum mill to extract the juice through a burlap strainer and into a barrel. The juice would then be heated in pans over a fire to be made into syrup. Four gallons of juice equaled about one gallon of syrup. It is estimated that 30 to 40 gallons of syrup could be made in one day. In the time of the 18th and 19th centuries, when most knew sugar only in liquid form, there wasn't any other sweetening like it. Sorghum meant a rich dark-brown molasses, just right for corn bread and unbeatable for hotcakes.

Sorghum Mill
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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.”
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Late autumn was time for hog butchering. Alice Grey Emory Wilmer recalls that special time of the year, usually in early December:

“We hired nine or ten men, I call them mechanics, who did all the hogs down in the shed. (We) cut up with our own hands 226 pounds of sausage, while Aunt Kitty and Harriet did the lard.  Fortunately, Charlie Fisher is the expert with the sausage chopper and he turned and fed the machine himself. We sold 100 pounds and have it all packed away. After that the worst was over. Harriet still had lard to dry up. She had been wonderful to manage it all and to cook for so many extra men. We also canned rounds of sausages in glass jars over which boiling lard was poured.
Rendering lard

"The women gathered at long tables in the shed, slicing, chopping, rendering lard, which meant boiling the fat down in an enormous kettle until it became liquid.  When it cooled it became cool and white, almost as fine as the cream city ladies put on their faces at night.
Hams were rubbed with saltpeter, smoked over hickory fires several times to cure them. Encased in cloth bags, they hung from the ceiling in the smokehouse, sometimes for years, until an occasion warranted taking one down and preparing it for the table, a process that took days. Other sides of meat were salted down in barrels.

Fresh meat encased in cloth

"It is dirty, greasy work, but somehow there was always a holiday air about hog killing. Perhaps it was the knowledge that Christmas was not too far away or perhaps the thought that for the next few nights everyone would feast on fresh delicacies – pork chops! Brains scrambled with eggs was one of Harriet’s specialties. The colored folk were the ones supposed to favor chitt’lings, though we children loved their crisp, greasy flavor, too.
It was at hog killing that the hands (workers) received their yearly ‘lay ins.’ Which consisted of a pig, a can of lard, and bushel baskets of white and sweet potatoes. Those who worked for us regularly toted empty milk pails each morning and returned home with them full, of course, each evening.
We’d sing as we sat at the long table set up in the shed, joining our voices first in Lizzie’s sweet sad spirituals, ‘Look Down That Lonesome Road,’ followed by (the) lively ‘Frere Jaques’ which (we were) taught to sing in a round. Our hands flew, knives chopped, and the piles of meat, the flesh pink, the fat white grew.
The days following hog killing, there’d be a spell of baking – cakes, pies, and cookies – while the lard was fresh. Apple, cherry, peach all from our own trees. For Christmas, mince meat. The pies were stacked in a poe safe on the back porch and we prayed for a long spell of cold to keep them from spoiling before they were eaten up."

Once the harvesting of crops were completed, the fall work continued. The farmer would work very hard on banking up his home and farm by insulating the north sides of each structure against the coming winter, and preparing his sleigh and its runners to ensure its readiness for travel over hill and dale. Daughters would shine the jingling bells up nicely, and I can just see them glistening in the rare sunlight - or even moonlight - in the up-coming January and February where they would jingle as the lucky travelers would ride along the snow-covered roads. Many folks believe that the jingle bells are a Christmas delight because of the ever-popular song written in the mid-1850's. That is truly not the case: jingle bells were put on sleighs for safety reasons. The horse's clip-clopping usually heard along the roads during the other three seasons are muffled greatly by the snow-covered ground of wintertime, and the head gear folks wear also muffle the sound of the on-coming beasts and carriages, making the pedestrian pert-near deaf. This could be a dangerous situation except for the sounds of the jingle bells warning the pedestrian to move out of the way. Just as horns are required on the modern day motor vehicles, bells were once a must for winter travel on sleighs. "Keeping to the Right" upon hearing the jingling of a sleigh was the rule then as it is for automobiles today.
Lest you think of "Jingle Bells" as strictly a Christmas carol, this little bit of social history should give you a different perspective upon hearing this winter song.

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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.

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

One of my most favorite of our reenactments takes place in October.

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.

Most outdoor museums tend to celebrate this all important time of year by offering demonstrations of how our forefathers  and mothers reaped what they sowed. Greenfield Village is no different. I believe that it's in autumn that 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 Greenfield Village are open during the fall season. Although most demonstrate seasonal harvest cooking and the like, the main presentations center on the two farms, Daggett (18th century) and Firestone (19th 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 from 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 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. 
If you are able, please take advantage of these historic opportunities.

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Besides Jim Johnson from Greenfield Village, I also got information for this posting from Eric Sloane's Seasons of America Past
A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood
Our Own Snug Fireside by Jane C. Nylander
as well as a few bits and pieces from numerous other books in my collection.

Also, if you are interested in reading other postings that relate to this, please see:
~Early Farming Tools of Days Gone By

~In The Good Old Colony Days

~'Tis Autumn