Wednesday, May 24, 2023

1773 Gardening at Waterloo Farm

Do you think you could live  "back then"?  
Lots of people believe they could,  but I know for a fact it would be extremely difficult for most modern persons to attempt to survive in the past.
Here are photos and commentary on the 18th century gardening that my wife Patty and I did at the cabin located at Waterloo Farm.


For this we have a sort of  "part 2"  of  the posting immediately previous to this one  (click HERE if that will help),  for you will see us at the frontier cabin doing spring chores,  including planting.  Unfortunately,  we don't really live at the cabin and therefore are not there daily to ensure all the work that needs doing gets done!  So here we are a week later,  my wife Patty & I,  back at the Waterloo cabin,  completing what was not able to get completed the previous week!
This posting fits in with ancient farming,  for pretty much the same tools and techniques are being utilized.
Back to 1773 we go - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
My hay rake  (which I also use in the garden)  and my regular
wood rake,  which does a very good job in clearing & cleaning
up the garden bed.

Here's Patty and I doing a sort of imitation of American Gothic.
Yes,  we plan to dress in our period clothing anytime we go out to work in this garden.
  For the first time,  I am wearing and working in my new farmer's linen work smock
I purchased from Townsends.
But,  to me it just keeps the whole thing period authentic.
Yes,  I suppose I am a bit off center!  lol

The wood bucket and the water jug are ready to go.

Patty & Charlotte did a fine job planting the week before.
But there was a couple patches they were not able to get to.

The work smock I am wearing is an oversized heavy natural linen outer shirt often worn by the 18th century workmen,  farmers,  hunters,  etc.,  as an outer garment to cover and protect clothing from being soiled while working.
Friends,  I gotta tell you,  I have back problems,  including  (but not limited to)  sciatica. 
It isn't fun.
In fact,  it is extremely painful.
Unfortunately,  I could not do nearly as much work as I would've liked to. 
I did,  however,  surprise myself at what I was able to accomplish.
I did prepare about a third of the garden patch in total,  including
raking and hoeing,  and then I did some sowing  (beans!) as I continued
getting rid of  hiding clumps of rooted grass and weeds as I dropped
the seeds into the holes.
Not bad for being in pain,  eh?

When Patty and I first began to date,  way back in 1982,  we spoke on gardening, 
on farming,  on how people lived in the old days,  and how we would had loved to live 
"back then."  Well,  in a way,  this is that dream come true - with 
(hopefully)  more to come.

Meanwhile,  Patty sowed a variety of items,  adding to what was
already planted there the week before.

Besides the beans,  we have beets,  onions,  squash,  beans, 
cucumbers,  turnips,  carrots,  and even a few pumpkins.

Patty using the replicated 18th century watering jug for watering the seeds.  They've
been using this watering jug for years at the Daggett House at Greenfield Village. 
I then saw one very similar to what I have here being used on one of the British-made
farm documentaries - either Tudor Farm or Tales From the Green Valley  (1620)  farm. 
So...I had to have one as well! 
God willing,  we shall have a fine harvest in 70 to 90 or so days.
And there are a few that will be ready come fall.

You'll note my  "broken in"  smock.
Kneeling in the dirt to sow.
My wife's apron,  which was also worn,  in part,  to keep her skirt clean,
has seen cleaner days as well.
Patty & I plan to try to come out two to three times a month on our own to
weed and to make sure all is well.  My wife has been getting into gardening
big time this year and can't seem to get enough. 
She certainly does have a green thumb!

Because of my ache-r  (back)  I did go inside the cabin for
a short while to get off my feet to let the nerves in my back relax.
I've often wondered:  had I actually been living as a farmer back in 1773,  and being the age I am now  (retirement age - you  guess what that is!),  would I had still been active in the garden and in the fields?  My grandpa,  born in 1895,  was a farmer - he was an extremely strong man - and he maintained large gardens  (yes,  plural) - some which were larger than our pretty big Waterloo patch until the day he died at age 76.  He was able to get on his hands and knees,  digging and planting with his hands.  He was able to till the soil on his own with a shovel and rake.  And he weeded daily.
He also reaped the harvest,  and as his grandson,  so did I...when I was younger...
But now?
Back problems.
When I was a school custodian back in the day,  I did a lot of moving,  lifting,  shifting,  carrying,  and all other custodial matters,  sometimes on a daily basis!  I'm sure that was where the root of my back issues began.  Yes,  I go to physical therapy.  Yes,  I've been to back doctors  (no thanks - no surgery for me!).  I've even gone to chiropractors  (it's so hard to find a good and trusting one).  And,  yes,  I do the exercises given to me.  I'm managing the best I can. 
As far as gardening goes,  not much has changed from those B.C. and early A.D. eras to the 1770s.  Oh,  things had certainly improved,  but the basics were still the same.  However,  something that I,  as an 18th century farmer/planter should look into:  the seed drill invented by none other than Jethro Tull!  Though it wasn't until the late 18th century and into the 19th century that it's popularity grew,  it was Jethro Tull,  an English agriculturalist,  who is credited with inventing the first practical seed drill back in 1701,  allowing farmers to plant their crop much easier,  more uniform,  and in tighter rows.  
So Mr.  Tull did more than sit on a park bench,  eh?  lol
It wasn't until the later part of the 19th century,  after the industrial revolution showed its might,  that the real noticeable changes in farming came about.  For instance,  the reaper:  for several centuries,  small grains were harvested by hand.  But with improvements on the reaper it increased food production as well as made harvesting easier.  Farmers could now process more wheat much quicker and with less labor force.
That was then---this is now~
Me in my 1860s clothing with my flail / hand thresher.
I have no idea of the age of the threshing machine 
behind me...and neither did the guy 
who was running it.  Definitely new.
But my hand-thresher - yeah...that's the old way.
Thresher.  At one time,  in order to remove kernels from the straw,  grain had to be spread out on a threshing floor where it was beaten by hand.  In some cases,  animals trampled on the grain to separate it.  The invention of the threshing machine made this process much easier.
However,  not everyone enjoyed its benefits,  for some thought of the threshing machine as  "a lazy man's way to thresh.  Haste makes waste,  but a lazy man'd rather get his work done fast than do it himself.  That machine chews up the straw till it's not fit to feed stock,  and it scatters grain around and wastes it.  All's it saves is time,  and what good is time with nothing to do?"
(From Laura Ingalls Wilder book,  Farmer Boy)
Steam Engine.  The introduction of steam engines improved productivity and technology greatly.
Combine.  Reaping,  threshing,  winnowing – combining all three operations into one led to the invention of the combine harvester,  simply known as the combine.  Considered one of the most important inventions in agriculture,  the combine significantly reduced manpower and sped up the harvesting process.
Tractor.  The general-purpose tractor proved to be an excellent replacement for the horse in plowing, soil preparation, planting, and cultivating tasks for a wide variety of field crops. In addition, the tractor was fully capable of providing power for mowing hay and for harvesting of wheat and other small grains.
Hydraulics - moving water through pipes and channels,  especially as a source of mechanical force or control..  Hydraulic systems made agricultural production faster and more efficient,  while reducing labor costs. 

Your farming family plus the preacher.
Farming has changed far more over the last 150 to 175 years than since the beginning of agriculture revolution around 10,000 to 12,000 years before.  But it's still the same job...only there's machines doing it now.
As far as what our colonial group - Citizens of the American Colonies - are doing:  we are making as gallant an attempt to show daily life  (and to some extent,  live the life)  in the same manner as was done 250 years ago.  We work.  We get dirty.  No fancy silks or fear of stains for us,  for we are wearing work clothing.  That's why I also purchased a linen work smock - to help keep my clothing in better condition,  just as a farmer would have done back in the 18th century.  But that's why I wear work clothes when I head out to the cabin,  with no fear of getting them dirty.  And that's why I purchased work clothes for my wife.  In fact,  all of us wear our work clothes when we are at the cabin.  
A real quick aside here:
I purchased the clothing you see my wife in  (blue skirt)  during the covid break,  and she was,  like,  "okay" - with no excitement in her tone,  wondering why I spent the money in this manner,  for she was finding herself less and less enchanted with living history.  But since we've gotten into this whole period gardening/farming thing,  she has thoroughly enjoyed it and has thanked me more than once for purchasing the garments for her.
I love it!
I also love that they are historically accurate!  Thank you Samson Historical!
We're often asked where we get our historic clothing from,  and,  though many of our garments are made by those who can sew or those who can afford a seamstress or tailor,  there are a few sutlers where we can purchase what's known as  "off-the-rack"  clothes.  There are two in particular used most often from our members  (including my wife's clothes and my smock),  and they would be Samson Historical and Townsends,  both are highly recommended for purchasing your ready-made items.  Plus both have hats,  shoes,  and  "home"  accessories,  including plates,  bowls,  silverware,  lighting accessories, and so on.
Now,  if you prefer to sew your own attire,  check out Wm.  Booth Draper,  as well as Smoke & Fire.
...last week.
I can recommend each of the four listed here highly.

This week and...
It is our plan,  Patty & I,  to head out to the cabin and the garden two to three times per month,  mostly for weeding.  We live quite the distance away and it is a 90 minute drive one way,  so we are unable to get out much more than that.  If things work right,  we should have a decent summer harvest in late July or early August - perhaps in time for Lammas Day!

Until next time,  see you in time!

To read more about farming and tools,  click HERE
To read more about A Year on a Colonial Farm,  click HERE
To read more about our own living history 19th century harvest,  click HERE
To read more about our own living history 18th century harvest,  click HERE 
To read more about the Time-Life books I mentioned,  click HERE
To read an interesting and biblical take on history,  please read Discoveries and Inventions: A Biblical History of Man's Developments from Ancient Times

Period Clothing and accessories:
Samson Historical 

                                                                                                                 ~   ~
~   ~   ~

Monday, May 15, 2023

Experiencing Our Research - Spring Cabin 1773: Rogation Sunday

We portray a frontier farm family,  so therefore we deal a lot with planting crops.
Unfortunately,  we don't have the space  (nor the time)  to run a farm,  though that would be about as wonderful as it could get.  But the patch of ground given to us to plant whatever we like is such a gift.  
Even though we all live quite a ways away from Waterloo,  Patty and I hope to make numerous treks out there to weed and water as best we can.
In period clothing.
Remember:  as soon as you start to think of the past as happening  (as opposed to it having happened),  a new way of conceiving history becomes possible.
Here we conceive spring 1773~
.     .     .

The Colonial Crew are at it again - 
this time we're in Spring 1773!
Since this wonderful historic cabin experience began back in the fall of 2020  (1770 for us),  we have enjoyed twelve 18th century outings,  including this one I am writing about today.  That's twelve times we've been blessed to have such time-travel experiences - each one different but historically accurate - at least,  as much as we are able to.  No,  we do not do first person,  though we do our best to be immersive.  In other words,  we try not to bring up modern talk or issues such as social matters,  current politics,  or pretty much any technology beyond what we would have had before 1800.  We don't  "act 18th century"  necessarily,  for that would  and we'd probably come off as too dramatic.  Too Hollywood.  No,  we're not that at all - we are simply ourselves.  
And our conversations reflect that,  for we do speak of  current events as we know them to be in the early 1770s,  oftentimes eking up to the coming war.  For instance,  Jackie,  ever the woman to keep her ear to the ground,  brought up The Tea Act,  passed by Parliament on May 10,  1773, which granted the British East India Company Tea a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies.
Now,  being that we were at the cabin on May 13,  the chances of us even being aware of such an act was pretty much nil,  but for discussion's sake with many of the patrons  (and historical purposes),  it was brought up.  We had concerns of what such an act might do - the anger it might stir up in Boston - and were thankful we moved out to the frontier.  We even brought up the future for a few visitors and mentioned the Boston Tea Party that would occur in the coming December.
This was done for a historical timeframe more than anything else.
But mostly we kept our conversations centered on the day and our activities and sharing our knowledge of the period with each other and with the visiting public.
The patrons truly seemed to be excited to be among the founding generation. 
We do look a bit like frontier colonials,  don't we?
We are not fancy,  silk wearing folk,  only simple farmers.
We may not be perfect in what we do,  but we do our very best,  and we share information with each other...I mean,  each of us has a historical library in our heads,  though oftentimes different chapters of the same book,  and therefore we are able to share and teach of the different bits of knowledge we have.  And we so enjoy it.
So on this fine mid-May day,  planting crops was first and foremost on our minds.
Charlotte made her way first to where the garden will be with a pot of ash to spread. 
Wood ash contains nutrients that can be beneficial for plant growth,  for using wood ash in gardens can increase soil fertility.  In fact,  North America exported wood ash to Britain in the 18th century as a fertilizer.
Our ancestors were right-smart people!

The wonderful people at Waterloo tilled the soil for us.

Patty & Charlotte spent a chunk of the day planting in our garden.
Yes,  as you may know,  the wonderfully kind folks at Waterloo allow us a plot of land to plant upon,  which we do.  We've planted flax in previous years.  This year we had seeds for onions,  squash,  beans,  cucumbers,  turnips,  and even a few pumpkins.
We hope to enjoy a nice bountiful harvest come fall.

Spreading the ashes...

Patty & Charlotte did most of the planting.
But Patty & I have a few items we plan to plant as well - a few
more crops on our own that did not get done on this day.
But the ladies here did a marvelous job.

A young volunteer brings the water by way of yoke and wood buckets.

Always keep your eyes and ears to the ground,  for you may never know what you might miss:
Fresh Asparagus!!
Asparagus growing in the brush.
Asparagus growing in the rocks!

Being that this was Jackson County's  "Free Museum" Day"  where folks can visit any museum countywide for free admission,  we had a good crowd throughout the day,  such as these three ladies,  two of which came all the way from Africa!  They were very interested in the agriculture of the past,  which just happens to be Larissa's specialty,  since she's worked at 1880s Firestone Farm and 1760s Daggett Farm  (both located at Greenfield Village)  for nearly 30 years!
On Free Museum Day,  not everyone who comes out is a history person.  There are those who come because their other  (better?)  half drags them,  maybe kicking and screaming,  for it only costs a little gas and perhaps a donation.  But these non-history people are sometimes my favorite because I consider gaining their interest to be a challenge.  I do believe that what they saw here  (and I'm sure in the 1850s farm house right next to us)  won many over,  at least,  to some extent.

Inside the cabin was a busy place with the ladies preparing our dinner meal.
Jackie brought along her table-top butter churn.  It was perfect for this day,  for we did not need the scads of butter made with the more popular floor churns often seen.  We would have had way too much butter for what we were using it for.  However,  it would be great to use the larger one sometime and actually make cheese as well as butter!
Visitors loved giving the churn a turn,  and Jackie very much encouraged them to give it a try.  I look at it this way:  how often to most people today ever get a chance to churn butter?  What I wouldn't have done back in the day for such an opportunity.

My wife,  Patty,  also helped in the butter department.

Is it butter yet?

Washing your butter:
Yes,  you read this correctly!
To finish the butter,  rinse it under cool water,  gently moving it around the sieve with a mixing spoon.  You're rinsing off the residual buttermilk,  and this is important because the more thoroughly you rinse,  the longer your butter will last.

And into the butter holder it goes,  ready to be spread.
Next up,  our main meal.
Well,  actually,  aside from making butter,  the ladies were also preparing the main meal,  beginning with:
ooooooo-------pork roast!

Pork roast prepared on a reflector oven/tin kitchen!
Ready for the hearth - - - - 

A reflector oven  (sometimes known in older cooking literature as a tin kitchen,  according to the Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook),   is a polished metal container,  often made of tin.  It is designed to enclose an article of food on all but one side,  to cause it to bake by capturing radiant heat from an open fire,  and reflecting the heat towards the food,  avoiding smoke flavoring the food.  In its simplest form,  a reflector oven is simply a box or collar that partially surrounds the food,  with an open side that faces the hearth fire.  In Colonial America this method of baking meat,  fowl,  quick bread,  or pastries,  was a very popular method for hearth cooking.
In our case:  a pork roast!

The pork roast did not take very long to cook with the tin kitchen. 
Quicker than anticipated,  in fact.

Larissa,  Jackie,  Patty,  and Charlotte~
All contributed to our day and meal in some form or another.
Jackie shows off her  "Egg Pye,"  another 18th century dish.
I asked Jackie how she came up with such an addition to our meal.  She responded with,  "I was reading a post on an Historic Cooking site.  They were talking about making a Hearty Quiche at an event.  I love quiche & wanted to make it at our event.  I mentioned this & someone,  maybe Larissa,  said it wasn’t a thing.  So I started looking up recipes for Colonial quiche.  Egg Pye kept coming up.  I watched some videos & searched egg pie.  You ate the result.  I used Townsends recipe,  using eggs,  cream,  salt,  paprika,  mushrooms,  bacon,  green onions,  and pie crust.  The ratio of cream to eggs is definitely more than scrambled eggs.  I used all of you as my Guinea pigs as usual.  It turned out pretty well  ("Yes it did,"  agrees Ken).  It gave me an opportunity to discuss the whole idea of using seasonal food items and lots of egg dishes at this time of year.  Still wish I could have made a quiche. Quiche actually goes back to the 1500’s in Germany.  (But)  it wasn’t popular here till the 1800’s."
I love being a Guinea pig!  lolol
The visitors who came through,  and there were many,  not only got a basic,  general history lesson of colonial life from me,  but a food history lesson from the ladies.  And  they enjoyed the enticing odors coming from the hearth - quite a few commented on how wonderful the smell was inside our cabin!

And even when there was an opportunity to sit for a few moments,  there were still
other jobs to be done,  including preparing yarn for knitting.

An expected guest knocked upon our door...
the Reverend Gerring.

One of the best images captured this day
grace before our bountiful spring meal.

And just look at what we ate:
(from upper left):  egg pye,  cheese,  asparagus,  beets 
(not quite in season,  but we love beets!),  pork roast, 
a pickle  (more of a process of food preservation rather
than eating them in the manner we know them to be today), 
and bread with fresh churned butter.  

Our  "Family"  picture - - along with our minister.
Now,  I mentioned that our minister came by expectedly.
Well,  there was a reason for that:
it's Rogation Sunday.
You see,  our springtime in 1773 at the cabin took place on Saturday May 13.  The following day was Sunday May 14 - Rogation Sunday.
In the 18th and into the 19th centuries,  this was the day when farmers looked to their land and crops and prayed for a bountiful harvest.  On this day the clergyman and his flock walked through the village and out into the farm fields to bless the planted ground.
Blessing our crops~
We did not walk through what could be considered a makeshift village there on the Waterloo grounds,  for they had a blacksmith on hand,  a general/souvenir store,  and all kinds of crafters of fiber arts.
Perhaps next year we'll all follow the pastor though the area,  announcing the day.
Rogation is an ancient church festival to seek blessing for a community and its sustenance.  The word rogation comes from the Latin verb rogare,  meaning  "to ask",  which reflects the beseeching of God for protection from calamities.
Pastor Gerring found a prayer for this day and even read it in the old King James language.
This is the blessing that was read~

Another idea would be perhaps to have the blessing as part of the schedule of events
so others can see and learn another part of our history.
I thank Mr.  Gerring for his portrayal as an 18th century minister.  He is a Christian man who has the ministry in his soul,  and one could never tell he was not the  "real deal." 
To us it was real - his portrayal is that good.
In the evening of Rogation Sunday,  farmers and their families walked the boundaries of their property;  it was both inventory and time for giving thanks for their land.  Again,  maybe next year we can do this.
You know,  back in February we celebrated Candlemas,  the day when the blessing of the year’s supply of candles would take place,  and now we celebrated Rogation Sunday on this day at Waterloo  (even though it was Saturday),  where our clergyman blessed our crop.
Sometimes it's these little things - daily life - that can bring the past to life in stronger ways than what we often see.  That's what research can do.

My dear wife and I.
I'm glad she enjoys being a colonial with me.
"Experiencing our research" - I am proud that I came up with that sort of aphorism.  It happened this past winter while Larissa & I were having a discussion about living history,  memories,  and nostalgia while dipping candles at the frontier cabin.  I was attempting to give  "deep thoughts"  on what we -  Larissa,  Charlotte,  and I  (Jackie couldn't make it on that February day)  - were doing out there on our own,  with no modern visitors in attendance  (though we did have a few other living historians visit us that day).  While most in this hobby will only dress for bonafide reenactments,  more often than not,  we four  (and sometimes a couple more)  do this whole cabin scene for ourselves without the public;  in this way we are,  instead,  experiencing our research.  We are such history geeks that this is what we enjoy doing as our hobby and,  sometimes,  as a lifestyle.  And by experiencing our research,  this can only help us to improve our impressions when we do speak to the modern visitors at actual reenactments.  
As far back as I can remember,  the past has enthralled me - I've always wanted to experience life in the colonies  (or in some parts of  the past in general);  I wanted to be there  and explore this foreign time,  with all  five senses,  and the lives of those who lived  "back then."
So,  as far as bringing the past to life,  only by way of living history can one remotely experience a touch of the world of long ago in that manner.  And I have never,  in all my years in this hobby,  truly experienced life in the past as I have at our frontier cabin excursions. 
And when you have such co-living historians as Larissa,  Charlotte,  and Jackie along for the ride  (and more & more Patty), does not get any better!
Or any more real...
I am so very proud of what we accomplish - on how we experience our research.
This is living history.
So from all of us to all of you,  may you enjoy God's blessings and bounty.
Until next time,  see you in time.

To visit the Waterloo web site,  click HERE

If you are interested in our other cabin excursions,  please click the links below:
To read about our 2020 autumn excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 wintertime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 springtime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 summertime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 summer harvesting of the flax at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 autumn excursion making candles at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2022 winter excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE
To read about our 2022 spring excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE
To read about our 2022 summer excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE
To read about our 2022 autumn excursion at the cabin  (Pioneer Day),  please click HERE
To read about our 2023 winter excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE

The cabin we use as our colonial frontier home was originally built in a different Michigan location in 1840 and was brought to Waterloo about 50 years ago.  I say this because we let the visitors know we were not from the 1840s but from the 1770s,  and that cabins,  in general,  had not changed very much at all from the 18th century to the 19th century.  In fact,  the President of the Waterloo Historical Society,  Brian Dewey,  reenacts the 17th century.  He recently wrote me:
"(I)  hosted a 1680s event here,  (and)  all the guys do LaSalle time  (RenĂ©-Robert Cavelier,  Sieur de La Salle).  And since LaSalle camped on the grounds,  this is our holy spot!" 

Looks like they had a great time. 
Gotta love living history!

Thanks must go out to all who took the pictures herein:
Patty,  Larissa,  Brian Dewey  (the 1680 pictures),  Norman Gerring,  and even I took a few!

~   ~   ~