Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Thanksgiving Weekend 2018: Present is Past - Past is Present

Everything but Black Friday - - that's what my Thanksgiving Weekend is all about. For me, this entry weekend to the Christmas Season is all about family & friends and spending time with long-held traditions. And these traditions all have their roots firmly planted in the past, and not just necessarily my past. Enjoying all that the season has to offer, rather than spend an over-abundance of money on things soon forgotten than things remembered, is what we try to concentrate on.
Making memories...

In my family, traditions run deep. My wife and I are very traditional folk and we enjoy blending the old with the new, sometimes (as you shall soon see) in tongue & cheek manners, and other times in ways that have been in our families for generations. 
Everything you see in this Sicilian treat
was made from scratch, including the shells.
For instance, to the left, here, you see a plate of cannoli. It would not be Thanksgiving or Christmas in our household without this wonderful treat.
In case you are unaware, cannoli are an Italian pastry dessert that originated in Messina and Palermo on the southern Italian island of Sicily. The treat dates back to the time when the area was under the jurisdiction of Muslim Moors who first invaded the island nearly 1500 years ago. But it was in 1061 when the first Norman liberators took Messina, and by 1071, Palermo and its fortress were retaken, firmly establishing Roman Catholicism in its place.
And sometime in the midst of all of this, the cannola was invented.  There are legends that tell us the supposed origin of cannoli, and they agree on one thing: women are behind their creation, which took place in, or around, the town of Caltanissetta.
One tale brings us into an Arab prince’s harem, during the Arabic domination of the island. It seems that here, the emir’s many concubines spent their time creating luscious meals and dishes for their lover: among them, a cylinder-shape pastry case filled with ricotta, almonds and honey.
Supporting the Arab origin of cannoli is the fact that the city of Caltanissetta is historically tied to the presence of the Moors in Sicily, as attested by its very name, which derives from “kalt el nissa,” an Arabic locution meaning “women’s castle.” Interesting, considering the legend is set in a castle and the invention of cannoli, according to it, lies in the skillful hands of women.
You never knew cannoli had such a history, did you?
My grandfather, born in Alcamo, near Palermo, in 1895, brought his family's recipe with him when he came over to America in 1912. And this is pretty much the same recipe we use to make ours today. No, don't ask for it. We do not let it out of the family. But I can tell you they are every bit as good as they look - so much better than what you can buy at the bakery (yes, I am bragging)!
Ahhh...a bit of delicious family history to begin today's post...
So, it is Thanksgiving morning, and we need a bird to cook. Being that the grocery stores are closed, I sent my son out a-fowling so we would have something to eat:
Luckily, we live in the middle of suburban Detroit,
and there were plenty of wild turkeys a-flying
overhead. And he got us a good 'un!
(No, he really did not shoot a wild turkey, nor did he even fire the gun.
I am learning that I must put in disclaimers because this is the 21st century
and we need to be extra careful with nearly everything we write these days)

Emptying the chamber pots every morning is usually 
the job of the youngest member of the family.
So, guess what my daughter enjoys doing?

Heather, Robbie's girlfriend, is finding
that our family is a bit more traditional
than she may have bargained for.

Ah, my daughter once again, and this
time she is making butter whilst
speaking with her friends on her cell.

There's my lovely wife, mop cap and all,
preparing the wild turkey Robbie shot.
Yes, that is a traditional roaster.

Me? Well besides taking pictures of the
activities, I also lit the candles to add to
the ambiance of the day. I find that a Bic
lighter does a great job. 

Okay----enough of the silliness, though we had a bit of fun posing for the pictures on Thanksgiving Day. It's funny how there are some people who believe I sometimes actually live in the past, so why not sort of appease them, right?
However.....I truly do make an attempt to bring the past into the present, especially on certain holidays.
Candles add an ambiance like nothing else. And each candle burning here we made in our yard during the candle making parties I've had. It makes it even more special.

You can see a hint of my granddaughter there, in between the candle globes. Our Thanksgiving dinner is eaten by candle light, just as you see in this picture.  

And this is my family in our annual Thanksgiving picture pose:
my wife and I, our four kids, our daughter-in-law, and our three grandkids.
Oh, and our dog, Paul Anka, too.
I love 'em everyone.
The day following Thanksgiving Thursday is, of course, the non-holiday known as Black Friday, a day I abhor. This day of shopping has taken people away from all that is good and right; it is a day where people spend an exorbitant amount of money (probably by way of a credit card) mostly on things that will not be cared for or soon forgotten only a day after giving thanks for what they already have. 
I prefer to make memories that'll last a lifetime - - -
(yeah, I am a bit snarky here. I'm allowed my opinion on my own blog, right?)
And it's on the dreaded black Friday when you will find me heading to historic Greenfield Village, which is my mental therapy and solace from the 21st century...a sort of catharsis for me. It gives me the dose of medicine I need to survive in this modern world in which I live.
And you shall read of my excursion to the Village in the next posting I do.
But for today's posting I wanted to concentrate on how the past can meet the present here in these strange times; how I can work the past and tradition into my present life outside of Greenfield Village or reenacting.
Such as when we cut down our Christmas Tree.
Ah! Here we are, at Western's Tree farm, located in rural Applegate, Michigan. 

In fact, tree cutting day has almost become a holiday in itself for me and all of my family as we bundle up warm, pack into the car (now multiple cars), and take the long (nearly two hour) drive into the middle of Michigan's rural thumb to the best tree cutting place around, Western's Tree Farm in the tiny town of Applegate.
Since we've been coming for so many years (I believe this was our thirty first visit!), the owners know us and have watched our family grow from just Patty and I to our four kids, and now including our three grandkids.

The horse knows the way to carry the cart to the trees of your choice, whether you choose a Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce, Scotch Pine, Fraser Fir, or numerous other traditional trees.

And we did our share of walking, for we
moved up and down the rows of trees to
find the right one.
Here you see my wife, two of our kids,
and two of our grandkids.

After having spruces for so many years,
we thought we'd try a Fraser Fir this time.
And my daughter wanted to give cutting the
tree down a try. She didn't do bad, but needs
a bit of practice.

After we cut it down, Western's trimmed off the lower unwanted branches, shook the loose needles off, wrapped it in twine, and even tied it to the roof of our vehicle.
Inside the cabin (built from the logs of the trees on the property) they sell country crafts, tree stands, skirts, hot chocolate, hot dogs, and popcorn. 
And, as you can see, Santa Claus. That's my eldest grandson on the left and my granddaughter (who's birthday is on Christmas Day) on the right.

Afterward it was off to a burger joint, a visit with a few of my more northern relatives, then home again, where we decorated the newest Christmas decoration:
For the first time ever, we did not put on
multi-colored lights; we decided to try white
lights instead. I must say, it does give it a
more Victorian look, doesn't it?
It's also much smaller than our normal
ceiling topper tree we usually get.
Yep...I do like it!
As for our decorations...
We include a variety of ornaments to make our tree that much more interesting to look at (and not give it the mall tree look).
The newest ornament we purchased just this year is - - ta da! - - a cannoli! 

Bronners (in Frankenmuth, Michigan) is a wonderland of all things Christmas
"Being now at home again, and alone, the only person in the house awake, my thoughts are drawn back, by a fascination which I do not care to resist, to my own childhood. I begin to consider, what do we all remember best upon the branches of the Christmas Tree of our own young Christmas days, by which we climbed to real life.
Straight, in the middle of the room, cramped in the freedom of its growth by no encircling walls or soon-reached ceiling, a shadowy tree arises; and, looking up into the dreamy brightness of its top-- for I observe in this tree the singular property that it appears to grow downward towards the earth--I look into my youngest Christmas recollections!"
Charles Dickens - 'A Christmas Tree'

The very next day found me heading north once again, this time to a wonderful little village called Holly (again, in Michigan) where the nation's oldest annual Holly Dickens Festival takes place.
My period vocal group, Simply Dickens, was performing there after a three year hiatus. It was at the Dickens Festival, back in the early 2000s, that Simply Dickens came about. 
It was also at the Dickens Festival, back in the later 1990s, that I got bitten by the period dress bug!
And here we are in 2018:
Simply Dickens, purveyors of Old World Christmas Carols. 

Singing on the streets of Holly during the
Dickens Festival is where we began
(albeit with mostly different members).

We also performed on the "big stage" for the visitors.
Oh, what fun we all had!
And the tunes we sang: The Boar's Head Carol, The Gloucestershire Wassail, All You That Are Good Fellows, The Wexford Carol, One Horse Open Sleigh (Jingle Bells), Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, and other period carols.
We also performed, in its original German language, Silent Night (Stille Nacht) in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the beloved carol's debut in that Austrian church way back on December 24, 1818.
~Simply Dickens~
(You'll notice that I am not in any of the
photos with my group.
I'm the man behind the camera)
I also plan to take more pictures of the Festival itself, for there are plenty of activities, skits, and Victorian characters walking the streets of this actual 19th century village.
Yes, look for a posting...

So there you have my Thanksgiving Weekend, for the most part.
If you have not noticed, I did not mention what I did on Black Friday itself.
As mentioned, that's coming up in the next post.
Until then, see you in time...

My cannoli history information came from HERE and HERE
To check out information concerning the Holly Dickens Festival, please click HERE and HERE
Visit the internet site of Western's Tree Farm HERE

~   ~   ~

Friday, November 23, 2018

A November Song: Visiting Greenfield Village on an Autumn Day

So here we go on another trip to my favorite local open-air museum, Greenfield Village, which has three hundred acres covering 400 years of (mostly) American history.
And though I am not an employee there, it is a place that I visit quite often.
Just because.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for November eves!~

So it was the morning we returned to Standard 
Time (from DST) that I came up with this.
My wife laughed, and that's good enough for me!
November is a wonderful month to time-travel to the past, especially to the 18th century, and the only place to do so in my neck of the woods with any kind of colonial history is Greenfield Village, which is why I frequently visit that wonderful open-air museum as often as I do. The thing is, I never cease to learn something new while there, for there are those presenters who have been employed at the Village for many years (they know who they are) who have their heart and soul firmly planted in in the past and have gained a wealth of historical knowledge to share. These presenters go beyond the usual and utilize descriptive ways to tell of the past, which can verbally take the visitor - even an uninterested visitor who may have been unwillingly dragged there - to another time...a time that one can only 'visit' with - dare I say it? - years of research and experience.
Oh! We have wonderful conversations (for they respect me as well).
Yes, even an old historian like me continues to learn, as well as teach, during these visits.
So, as it goes, I was able to venture back to Greenfield Village early on in this wonderful month of November with my son and his girlfriend while all of us wore our period clothing.
We certainly had a splendid time in the past like no other, that's for certain, as you shall see.
Let us, then, begin our trek at the far-end of the Village:
The first thing we noticed was the beautiful autumn scene from the 1760s that surrounded the colonial end of the Village.
That is the Daggett House on the left, built around 1750, and the Cotwold Cottage group of buildings on the right, originally from England, and were built about 1620.

Of course, if you know me at all you know that the Daggett home, presented as it may have been like in the 1760s, is my favorite historic structure inside Greenfield Village.  

This break-back style structure just draws me to it. Since the first time I saw it in 1983, it spoke to me like few other historic houses inside the Village have. It is a must visit for me each time I am there.

Since on this day there were few visitors inside the Village, we were able to stay a little longer than we normally do, enjoying the autumn outside, while immersing ourselves inside...

The great hall:
The way this room is presented in the Daggett home is as an all-purpose area 
with a large fireplace where most of the cooking, eating, and presentations of the textile arts occur.  
In its time, though, the great hall would not had been too far removed from our modern day living room. Whereas the formal parlor was reserved for the closest of friends, the great hall would have been the room where family and friends of all kinds would congregate for visits, where textile & sewing chores such as quilting, spinning and weaving would occur, and, yes, even eating a meal as well.
As it was a cooler autumn day, the warmth from the fire in the hearth was most welcoming to us.

Heather made herself a red cloak so she could enjoy spending time reenacting in the winter months. I mean, why stop because of the weather, right? I don't believe there is a single month out of the year that I don't find myself in period clothing.

During the previous weekend, the ladies of Daggett dyed their spun wool by way of using the natural plants surrounding the farm, just as was done 250 years ago.
I always enjoy watching the actual process take place, but, unfortunately, this year 
I could not make it.

But...I did get to see the outcome!
My all-natural woolen cap.
Hollyhock, tansy, black walnut, brazilwood, long soaking indigo, golden marguerite, sanderswood, osage orange, madder root, and other plants of the period were used to create these bright colors.
I still recall that myth I heard as a young lad that most people of the 18th century dressed in drab, plain colors. But as research continues, we find just the opposite to be true. And the colors you see in the above picture shows this
My reenacting wife also spins wool into yarn by way of her Saxony spinning wheel, and she dyes it naturally. The winter woolen cap that she made for me, shown here on the right, is based upon one from the 18th century. It was made from raw wool, which she washed, skirted, and carded, then spun. Finally, it was dyed utilizing the same process the Daggett women use. In fact, since we are friends with numerous Daggett presenters, it was they who taught my wife how to do this.
The final step was to knit it for me.

Alas, it was time for us to make our way to the out doors. Heather, however, didn't want to leave. She, too, was drawn to this house and felt as if she belonged.
Maybe she does...

The unused dye was tossed out.

As you can see, the kitchen garden that not only had vegetables for consumption and plants for medicinal purposes, but plants for dyeing as well, has been almost totally harvested of its crop.

Robbie checks out the few cabbages that were left.
Just like Abe Woodhull in the AMC TV series "Turn."

I showed Heather the asparagus on the opposite end.
Just look at how colorful this photo is!

The next two photos belong to Brittany Frederick and her living history group Civilian Corp of Interpreters, who happened to be visiting Greenfield Village a day earlier (so we didn't get the chance to meet her).
I thank her for allowing me to post these wonderful pictures.
I always enjoy seeing children take part in living history.
They may not fully understand now, but when they get into middle school and high school, they will give their teachers a run for their money.

And before we leave Daggett for this visit, I would like to show you a made up scene...but it's a scene that 'could have been' - - - - 
Just having fun with Paint Shop Pro:
This is just a fun pictured I whipped up rather quickly; it's a composite of six different photographs in a fun attempt to make a sort of cohesive 18th century farm picture

Just down the road, as it sits inside Greenfield Village, is the Cotswold Collection, consisting of the house (or cottage), a barn, dovecoat, and forge, each seen in this photo.

The Cotswold Cottage, from Chedworth, Gloucestershire, England, was built around 1620. Henry Ford desired to show America's Ancestral European life.  This was up for sale, which Mr. Ford bought, and by September of 1930, the Cotswold Cottage was re-erected upon Michigan soil.
It is the oldest structure inside Greenfield Village.
(A Mary Marshall picture)

Here are Heather and Rob before entering this wonderfully ancient building.
Just was built the same year the pilgrim separatists crossed the ocean to found Plymouth Colony. 

As the two sat near the window, it looked like a living painting to me. I took several pictures, with this one being the most 'haunting.'

Brittany Frederick had her picture taken in the same spot the day before.
And her children enjoyed the outdoors as only children of the past could.
Me, Robbie, and Heather also explored the stone-fenced in yard of Cotswold, taking in the beauty that is autumn in Michigan.
The two pictures here, taken by Mary Marshall, almost seem to have one of those fake backgrounds, but I can assure you, what you see is what was there.
Simply beautiful.

I am descended from Quakers who came to this country from England in 1710 and settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Although I am not portraying a Quaker, I certainly feel like I look like one. I wonder how close I resemble my 5th or 6th great grandfather, Jonathan Heacock?

The Cotswold collection is, perhaps, one of the most picturesque area of the Village, no matter what time of year, for in the summertime flowers are planted - don't ask me what kind - giving it a very European feel.
But then, the Covered bridge is pretty picturesque. And so is the Edison Cottage yard. And what about the front of the Martha-Mary Chapel? So many areas of the Village...

A-walking in the cool autumn morning...
(Caught by Gary Thomas)

Another splendid autumn scene captured by Gary Thomas.
I read that autumn is to a photographer what April is to an accountant. 
I think I agree...
(Gary Thomas took this photo)

Horse and carriage rides add to the ambiance of the Village.

If it's fall it must be harvest time.
And if it's harvest time, a trip to the Gristmill, such as this one, known as the Loranger Gristmill (built in 1832), is a necessity.

If you would like to read more about gristmills, please click HERE

Take the long way home...but I will return...
Yes, I visit Greenfield Village quite a bit, but I have for nearly forty years. I have done my best to promote this wonderful place of history, through the old-fashioned word of mouth, through this blog, and even through a Facebook page (Friends of Greenfield Village).
It's only true rival would be the Smithsonian and Colonial Williamsburg in size and scope.
So you can understand why I am there so often.
Yep...I will be back.

So, until next time, see you in time.

Thanks to Brittany Frederick and her living history group Civilian Corp of Interpreters for allowing me use of a few of her pictures.

Click the following links to learn more about harvest time:
Colonial Harvest
And if you would like to know a bit more about my own colonial group, Citizens of the American Colonies, please click HERE and HERE

Finally, I should like to leave you with this little November note:
This is a perfect sonnet for November. 

~   ~   ~