Monday, October 28, 2019

An 1860s Harvest in Armada, Michigan 2019

Light for dinner
(photo by Ian Kushnir)
I remember that it was in the fall of 2013 while at the Wolcott Mill Civil War reenactment that I initially had the thought of  putting on a harvest presentation.  For years I went to the Fall Harvest Weekends at Greenfield Village,  all the while wishing I could take part in such historic doings.  So while I was presenting to the visiting public in that October of 2013,  I began speaking about what folks of the 1860s did to prepare for winter:  harvesting crops,  making candles,  salting,  pickling,  spinning,  banking the house,  canning,  visiting the gristmill,  a thresherman's dinner...and they responded quite favorably.  That's when the idea of putting on a full-fledged fall harvest hit me.  But I was not able to put anything together so late in the year with the reenacting season over until the following spring.  So I planned it all in my head,  then wrote out my own thoughts and details,  and,  perhaps most important,  spoke with my co-21st Michigan member,  Larissa,  who had years of experience working at the harvest at Greenfield Village,  about putting a presentation together for our group.  We both came up with ideas and called a unit meeting for all who were interested.  Oh!  The walls were swelling with excitement at this meeting!  From there we put everything into place,  and by the following October  (2014)  we,  the civilians of the 21st Michigan,  held our very first fall harvest presentation.
And it was a rousing success on all accounts!
So here we are,  now,  five years later...Wolcott Mill is no longer,  but we have continued presenting Harvest Home every year since,  though in different locations,  including Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne.  However,  this year,  the Village of Armada,  a beautiful quaint small-town American village at its best,  located in northern Macomb County,  was celebrating the sesquicentennial  (150th)  anniversary of its founding.
And we,  the civilians of the 21st Michigan,  were asked to take part.
For whatever reasons we did not have as many from our unit show up this year.  But that's okay,  for those of us who did participate had a splendid time indeed,  and showed hundreds of visitors a bit about harvest life from 150 years earlier.
So - - are you interested in how it all went?
Here you go - - :
Our little set up in a park just north of the quaint Village.
It was perfect for what we were doing.

And it just felt like fall!

My wife was there on Saturday and was a huge hit with her spinning wheel. 
She let a few of the youngsters try carding the wool with her carding paddles.

Jackie spoke of canning and pickling and other forms of food 
preservation,  as well as a bit about yarn and spinning when my 
wife was away.

Here is my candle presentation.  I also had my farming
tools there as well.  It is unfortunate that I was not
able to procure a few heirloom apples,  but the cost was
a bit beyond my means this year  (they're not cheap).

Kristen had a selection of herbs that were available and harvested in Michigan kitchen gardens of the time of the mid 19th century.  This includes dill,  white oak bark,  and mint.  She used a mortar and pestle to grind the herbs down and made tonics with them.
They can be used for anything,  from helping stomach aches to curing kidney disease.  While not a recommended primary care source today,  some of these herbs do have medicinal properties.
 She also had a 19th century copy of  The Farmer's Almanac,  which published recipes with herbs to help livestock as well.

Although we put on a historic presentation,  we also made sure there was time for visiting with each other,  for we all are very good friends:
Mrs.  Alto and my son,  Robbie.

I was paid a visit by the Armada Queen and her Court!
(Photo by Kevin Grande)

My son,  Robbie,  and his significant other,  Heather.
Heather,  who also reenacts the period of the Revolutionary
War,  has given the American Civil War era a try this
year,  and seems to be enjoying it as well.

Some of our ladies:
Jennifer,  Larissa,  and Jackie.

Carrie and Ian Kusnir,  with their little one,  Nadia,
also came out and spent the day with us as well.

Though some thought otherwise,  the weather was fine indeed.  
Yes,  a little on the nippy side,  but it's October in Michigan!
Yes,  fine indeed,  indeed!

The Woodruffs always celebrate the harvest in such a great way.
Their set up is second to none.

They even bring their chickens out!

The people of Armada certainly welcomed us,  and many from the 
village came to visit with great interest and questions.
We did have some good and consistent crowds come through.
(Bottom photo courtesy of Kevin Grande)

Of course,  the kids  (and Kristen)  always seem to
enjoy shelling corn.

Carla Woodruff brought along her
lap  (or mountain)  dulcimer.

I took a turn playing the lap/mountain dulcimer.  I do know 
how to play,  though very basically.  Here you see me playing one 
of my favorite period tunes,  "Long Long Ago,"  which was 
written in 1833.

Mrs.  Cook was out,  frying up doughnuts for everyone.

We had cider making with the press that the
21st Michigan purchased.

As you can see we use a variety of apples to give our cider a very 
special taste - - a little sweet with a bite.

The process of making apple cider:
carefully toss the apples in the hopper
turn the crank to grind the apples
the apples pieces fall into the barrel below

to be mashed down so that every bit of juice can be squeezed out 

Larissa spoke of  (and made)  sauerkraut.
Making sauerkraut

Carla was peeling apples for sauce.

Vern churns butter - he makes the best!

For our thresherman's dinner,  Ken Alto cooked
 my favorite dish - a fine turkey!

Some of the food we shall eat!
(Pic by Ian Kushnir)

And we did have quite a feast of food at hand for all of us for our thresherman's dinner.
(Image courtesy of Ian Kushnir)
A thresherman's dinner was the celebration meal in which the ladies of the house prepared a fine serving of food to the farming men,  including neighbors who helped with the harvest.  Oh!  It was a grand spectacle of a meal,  and wonderful servings of fresh vegetables and fruits abounded,  along with fowl and other meats.
And,  for the 6th year in a row,  we had one just the same!
Our own fall harvest meal,  held outdoors in the crisp,  cool air of 
autumn,  was,  simply put,  wonderful to participate in.
I was also told folks who witnessed this bit of history were very 
impressed with what they saw.
The pay of a good day's work!
My bride and I enjoying ourselves at the thresherman's dinner,  
which was also a sort of Thanksgiving dinner as well.
In previous years we would have a few members from our group just sort of show up late in the day,  maybe having a package of cookies bought at a store,  and they would come for no other reason than to join in our meal festivities.  But not this year:  I made it plain and clear that unless one participated in the day's activities,  they would not be welcome to share in our dinner.  Just like in days of old,  you worked for your food.

Then there was the Armada Sesquicentennial parade:
Our marchers were ready with their muskets and,  er,  crock.

The Michigan Wheelmen were part of the parade as well,  along 
with firetrucks,  Armada Queen,  marching band,  and...

...the proud 21st Michigan marchers!
No,  Larissa did not carry her crock,  only the parade number .

Meanwhile,  back at the Woodruff camp...
Just what are they carving?
Why...they are carving turnips!
And as you continue to read,  you will learn a little about the turnip and its connection to Hallowe'en...
The sun prepares to set in the western skies,  casting long 
shadows on this October harvest...daytime begins to wane...
Besides the ritual bonfires  (meant to ward off evil spirits)  that were lit on All Hallow's Eve,  mumming and guising  (Trick-or-treating)  were also rituals performed during Samhain.
The traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters abroad on the night was provided by turnips or mangel wurzels,  hollowed out to act as lanterns,  lit with coal or a candle,  and often carved with grotesque faces.
Turnip lanterns usually represented supernatural beings and were used to chase evil spirits.  Guisers used them to scare people,  while in some cases they were set on windowsills to guard homes against evil.
Irish immigrants brought the jack-o’-lantern custom to North America.  Here,  turnips were slowly replaced by pumpkins to make the iconic Halloween decorations,  and eventually became the plant of choice.
Turnips for Hallowe'en
In the British Isles,  it is known that churches were already celebrating All Saints on November 1st at the beginning of the 8th century to coincide with or replace the Celtic festival of Samhain.  The 19th century anthropologist Sir James Frazer suggested that November 1st  was chosen because it was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead (Samhain).  However,  English Historian Ronald Hutton points out that,  according to Óengus of Tallaght  (d. ca. 824),  the 7th/8th century church in Ireland celebrated All Saints on April 20th.  He suggests that the November 1st date was a Germanic rather than a Celtic idea.
But here in America it is all celebrated in a myriad of different ways by as many different people.  Adaptations of Washington Irving's  "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"  (1820)  often show the Headless Horseman with a pumpkin or jack-o'-lantern in place of his severed head.  In the original story,  a shattered pumpkin is discovered next to Ichabod Crane's abandoned hat on the morning after Crane's supposed encounter with the Horseman.
The application of the term to carved pumpkins in American English is first seen in 1834.

Something I was not familiar with is that October’s Full Moon is known as the Hunter’s Moon.  Hunter's moon is mentioned in several sources as the Anglo-Saxon name for the Full Moon of October.  This is the month when the game is fattened,  and it is time to start preparing for the coming winter.  Traditionally,  this included hunting,  slaughtering and preserving meats for use in the coming winter months.
Just so I could learn the difference between the harvest moon,  the full moon,  and the hunter's moon,  the Full Moon closest to the September equinox is called the Harvest Moon, and it is either in September or October.  Most years,  the Harvest Moon is in September,  but around every three years,  it is in October.  And,  as mentioned,  Hunter's moon is October's full moon.
Since we had the Harvest Moon already this year  (September),  
this full moon for mid-October is the Hunter's Moon,  just in time 
for our harvest presentation---perfect!
Harvest Moon is the most famous of all the Full Moon names.  Some sources claim the name originates from ancient Native American tradition.  Others point out that Harvest month was recorded as early as in the 700s in both Anglo-Saxon and Old High German languages.
Simply put,  both the Harvest moon and Hunter's moon are full moons with names and dates attached.

And there you have another successful harvest with a few of the 21st Michigan civilians.
If you are a longtime reader of Passion for the Past,  then you know how much of an autumn person I am.  It is just such a wooden...natural time of year.
I want to personally thank the members of the 21st Michigan who participated in our harvest.  I am so very thankful to the following  (yes,  their names deserve to be listed):
Jackie Alto
Ken Alto
Heather Bradley
Candy Cary
Jim Cary
Jean Cook
Larissa Fleishman
Miles Giorlando
Patty Giorlando
Robbie Giorlando
Carrie Kushnir
Ian Kushnir
Nadia Kushnir
Jennifer Long
Kristem Mrozek
Jackie Schubert
Carl Woodruff
Carla Woodruff
Marianne Woodruff
Vern Woodruff
Verny Woodruff

Now, what I did for today's posting was combine the two days of our harvest into one,  to try and create a more cohesive story.  The parade actually took place on Sunday while nearly everything else you see here occurred on Saturday.
But I must say,  our harvest home event just might be one of my most favorite of all,  for it truly brings the fall and harvest and all the glories of America past
And,  yes,  we will be back harvesting again in 2020.  Will we return to Armada?  That awaits to be seen.  If they have us,  then I would say we most likely will.
Harvest Home everyone!

Until next time,  see you in time.
Thank you,  Armada!

~   ~   ~

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Revolutionary War at Vermillion Creek 2019

To many reenactors,  the end of summer signifies the end of the reenacting season.  However,  this wonderful fall month of October found me at another new reenactment,  Vermillion Creek.
Well,  it's not necessarily a new reenactment per se',  rather,  it's a replacement of an older event - Uncle John's Mill.  Due to a series of circumstances beyond anyone's control,  the Uncle John's Mill reenactment is no longer.  However,  as good as that one was - and it was an excellent reenactment - methinks Vermillion Creek was just as good,  and,  considering the rustic atmosphere of this new location,  may be even better.  The fact that it is located off the beaten path,  smack in the middle of rural Michigan,  at a place called Peacock Road Family Farm,  already makes it desirable.  Granted,  there were not as many visitors as the cider mill,  but we did have quite a few come through,  and I believe that the potential for growth here is high as more and more people find out about it.
It always takes a bit of time for an event to grow.
I had my stealth camera with me and took quite a few pictures,  and,  as I have been doing,  I will allow the photographs to tell most of the story whilst I comment historically,  snarkily,  and candidly beneath each.
Scott Mann,  the host and founder of this event,  truly outdid himself.  He did us all proud,  but mostly he can be proud of himself,  for all of his hard work paid off.
Now,  onto the photographs from Muster at Vermillion Creek!
Here you see me,  as Paul Revere,  and my friend,  Susan,  flanking General Washington.  Notice my new coat;  I purchased it off of the Facebook page  Civilian Closet: 18th Century Edition.  It is my first hand-sewn garment,  so I am pretty excited about it.

Me and my son.
Robbie is a member of Michigan's 1st Pennsylvania
Regiment run by Tony Gerring.  

Another father and son team: The Church's.
They both belong to the Queen's Rangers.
There are actually four generations of this family

who now come out in period clothing!

Richard and Mike.
Richard is a member of my Citizens of
the American Colonies group,  while Mike
belongs to the Queen's Rangers.

Dr.  Franklin made an appearance as well.
Here we find him in a deep discussion with the
young lady known as Heather  (my son's girlfriend).

And,  yes,  deep discussions continued on throughout
the camp,  including one between Matthew and Horik.
Most topics tended to be historical,  which is as it

should be,  and the sharing of information is 
always welcomed. 

I learned that Citizens member  (and friend)  Joey does some blacksmithing and made his own candle holder.
I think I may commision him to make me one.

Dave Schmidt portrays a colonial-era commercial fisherman.
According to Dave's own research,  fishing was the number one 
industry in North America at that time and had been since the year 
1500.  Competition was fierce;  cod was shipped all over the globe 
to trade for commodities. 
As you can see,  his display was very well done,  and a few very 
interested folk stopped by.
That's the Ignagnis on the left.

Vermillion Creek was fine indeed,  and there was not one thing I didn't like.  But I think the one thing I enjoyed almost above all else at this event was seeing Natives here - the American Indian.  I spent a bit of time speaking with them and learned quite a bit as well.
Upon seeing a pumpkin patch with a few other plants mixed in as well,  I asked if they wouldn't mind picking a few items for photographic purposes,  and they willingly obliged.
As I spoke with them,  I learned they were Ottawa.
The Ottawa  (or otherwise Odawa or Odaawaa /oʊˈdɑːwə/),  

meaning  "traders,"  primarily inhabited land in the northern 
United States and southern Canada. 
They had long held territory that crossed the current border between the two countries,  and they are federally recognized as a Native American tribe in the United States and have numerous recognized First Nations bands in Canada.
It wasn't just Europeans who had thanksgivings:  Native American groups throughout the Americas,  including the Pueblo,  Cherokee,  Creek,  and many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances,  and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.
They are one of the Anishinaabeg,  related to but distinct from the Ojibwe and Potawatomi peoples.  After the 17th century,  the Ottawa settled in what would eventually become the states of  Michigan and Wisconsin,  as well as throughout the Midwest south of the Great Lakes.
My friends here spoke of some of the plants 
growing about and told me which were edible.

I enjoyed seeing their authentic period dress
and knowing they inhabited the general
area in which we were in.

I am not sure of the name of the yellow plants that were
out in the patch,  but they could be used in
accenting the 
fish they were cooking for their meal.

The  fish cooking over the fire in the Indian camp,  with a few sides to boot.
Chief Egushawa  (also spelled Agushawa),  who had a village at the mouth of the Maumee River on Lake Erie where Toledo later developed,  led the Odawa as an ally of the British in the American Revolutionary War.  He hoped to build on their support to exclude the European-American colonists from his territory in northwest Ohio and southern Michigan.  The defeat of the British by the United States had a far-ranging influence on British-allied  Native American/First Nations tribes,  as many were forced to cede their land to the United States.
The Adawa camp.
 I think it would be great to hear the stories of the
men and women who tend to be overlooked in the

history of the American Revolution.
So glad they were there. 

Speaking of food...
The modern visitors were greatly interested in the food that was being cooked over an open flame throughout the camps.

Dr.  Franklin spoke with many of the visitors as they strolled on 
by.  I was there as well,  as Paul Revere,  and told the true story of 
what happened on the night of April 18,  1775. 

Seeing folks engaging in traditional crafts is always a treat for the visitors.
And it's nice to see the crafts kept alive and passed on to the next generation.

Bethany knitting...

Heather repairing the sleeve on my
new jacket.

Susan spinning on her wheel.

The perfect picture of colonial women.

Tom  (also known as Dr. Bloodsworth).
He portrays a citizen's doctor as well as one who was helping 

on the battlefield as well.

Henry Trippe,  the doctor for the British Army.

When you raise a child to use tools,
you do not fear your child using tools.

Over the last two years or so,  Tony gerring has really built up his 1st Pennsylvania military.
And it continues to grow...
Looking sharp, guys!

"October 5, 1779. We rose early this morning as last night was very cold and we slept poorly. Many of us are lacking shirts and blankets and our clothes are tattered and worn. Still, we are in good spirits and committed to the Cause. And we need you to join with us to resist the enemy."

My son loves to cook over an open fire.

The 1st Pennsylvania prepares for a battle

The 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot will be fighting 
side by side with the...

...Queen's Rangers

Massachusetts Provincial Battalion.

Michigan's version of the 1st Pennsylvania & 
the Massachusetts Provincial Battalion will be fighting side by 
side this day as well.

Stacked muskets

The battle held here at Vermillion Creek were a basic overview of battles during the Revolutionary War:
The children were out harvesting vegetables when soldiers from 
both sides appeared,  seemingly out of nowhere.

The units here who do the mock battles do a fine job and 
definitely give the public their money's worth.

The smell of gun powder and the sight of smoke throughout the 
trees was pretty awesome to see.

Within the browns and tans of fall,  one could hardly see 
the men of the 1st Pennsylvania.

We see a Voyageur taking part in the fight as he runs to take cover.
From a Voyageur reenactor:
"The voyageurs were atypical soldiers,  to say the least.  Their independence made them very poor at parade ground tactics,  and they were not amenable to uniformity.  Moreover,  there were numerous infractions of discipline owing to their ceaseless pranks,  drunkenness and constant cheerfulness.  British officers charged with instilling discipline in the corps were understandably aghast when the voyageurs appeared on the parade grounds with pipes in their mouths,  unshaven for days or weeks,   and with their rations of pork and bread stuck on their bayonets.  ‘In this condition,’  wrote Ross Cox,  a contemporary observer,  ‘they presented a curious contrast to…the British soldiery with whom they occasionally did duty.’ "
Here we see a few of the British during the skirmish..

That's my son with his musket there.

October 5, 1779
 "About half past Three O'Clock today,  our Sgt and several of our Men were Dispatched to Scout for the Enemy near Vermillion Creek.  We were forced to Cross a flooded Field and finally hit upon dryer Ground after about a half Mile.  We saw the Enemy in a Pine Woods and Fired upon Them - hitting several.  After a Brief Skirmish they fell back and We Returned to our Camp.  None of our Men were Harmed but one was slightly wounded."

Marching back to camp...

...where Heather awaits with a hot stew to feed the men.

Yes,  here is my son and his other half. 
The war stories begin...

Just in case you think the flint-locks used at reenactments
are toys,  this should prove just how real they are.  This is what 

happened to a fresh pumpkin when a replicated period black 
powder musket was fired at it from 12 inches away - no bullet.
Do not ever put your hand over the barrel.

So,  now,  the major Revolutionary War reenactments are done and over for 2019,  though you will see one more from my Civil War group coming up.  But that does not mean you will not see me wearing my "short clothes" - Tony is hosting a colonial dance,  Autumn and Christmas events will be had,  and then the new year begins with more smaller events.
Of course,  stay tuned for updates for Patriot's Day coming up in April  (click HERE to see how it went last April).
The one thing I am very happy about is the fact that we continue to have these wonderful opportunities to time travel,  to share our historical knowledge,  and to entice others to study our nation's past.

Thank you to Peacock Road Family Farm for their hospitality.  Next year I would like to explore the area a bit more.

Stay tuned: our 1860s fall harvest presentation is coming up - - and so is enjoying the fall in the 18th century.

Until next time,  see you in time.

 ~   ~