Baby Bunnies

Hello, Folks. Aunt Eunice here.
Though the weather has been too cold for my old bones and definitely too cold for Spring, signs of the changing season are all around us. Robins and other spring birds have arrived  and pussy willows are blooming. The farm has Spring Clean Up Day on Saturday April 6 and we will be grateful for any helping hands. Call before you come if it’s rainy.

As I walked through the farm early this morning there was a definite feeling of expectation, as if Spring were poised on its tippy toes ready to take the plunge. I am sure in just a few weeks we will find it hard to believe we were wearing our winter coats such a short while ago. Another sure sign of Spring on the farm is the birth of animals. One of our mother bunnies had her babies. We knew it would be soon since she made a nest out of hay and lined it with fur she carefully pulled from her own neck/chest area. While the babies are this tiny we won’t see hide nor hair of them. The only reason you know they are here is that the fur in the nest moves around a little. At this point we can’t tell how many there are. A baby rabbit is called a kit, which is short for kitten. A male rabbit is called a buck, and a female is called a doe. Rabbits have a gestation period of around 31 days. The female can have up to 12-13 kits, and as small a litter as one. Some people have rabbits as pets. though they are also raised for their meat. Ever hear of Hasenpfeffer? It is a traditional German stew made from marinated rabbit, cut into stewing-meat sized pieces and braised with onions and a marinade made from wine and vinegar.

Since April is almost here in about two weeks the school children will be running around the farm learning about the 1800s and how things were done back in the old days. The homeschool children who participate in the tour program are very excited about helping out and playing roles as members of the farm “family”. They have had their training day and have been assigned their areas. Duchess, our barn cat, will be so happy to have all of the children around again since they will stop for a minute and pet her.  It will be good to have all those youngins’ dashing about! It keeps Aunt Eunice on her toes!

One more sign of the season is the Quiet Valley hens are laying lots of eggs. I am eating deviled eggs (my favorite), hard boiled eggs, fried eggs, egg salad sandwiches, pickled eggs and baking up a storm. I am soon going to turn into an egg, but since I am already shaped that way I guess it doesn’t matter. I have a pretty tough shell, too. I will save some eggs to dye in onion skins for Easter and have a traditional egg tree in front of the house.

Well, that’s the latest news I have for you, but I’ll be in touch again.

Take care and hope to see you soon. Aunt Eunice

Spring is Here!

Good Day Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. By the end of the day, spring will officially have sprung though it is a bit nippy at Quiet Valley. March 20, 2019 marks the spring equinox, the first official day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This day is unique in that the length of day and night are close to equal, NASA explains. Spring equinox doesn’t always fall on March 20, but it still marks a brand new season.

According to CBS News, Equinox means “equal night” in Latin. And on the autumnal and spring equinox there are equal parts day and night. The Earth’s orbit puts it in just the right place so that it’s lined up with the sun. On the equinox, which happens twice a year, both hemispheres receive the same amount of daylight. While the spring equinox occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox is occurring in the Southern Hemisphere.
The spring equinox could occur on March 19, 20 or 21, depending on the year. Six months later, the autumnal equinox will occur.

NEWS FLASH FOR ICE CREAM LOVERS – Dairy Queen’s Free Cone Day is held on the first day of spring each year. You can get free ice cream today simply by heading to a participating DQ and asking for a free cone. Specifically, Dairy Queen is giving away one free small vanilla ice cream cone per customer, no purchase required, at nearly all non-mall locations in the U.S. Here’s where to find a Dairy Queen nearby and get your free ice cream cone. Only good today so go after school, after work or after dinner! Happy Spring!

    A final winter activity, Maple Sugaring Day, took place on the farm this past Saturday and we had a nice crowd that came out to learn how to make maple syrup from tapping the tree to finished product. Aunt Eunice was there helping though sometimes it seemed I was mostly helping myself to those wonderful pancakes and syrup! It was a nice sunny day, a bit cool when the wind would blow, but it was good to be outside.

April is almost here so May can’t be far behind. Farm Animal Frolic is Quiet Valley’s first major event of the year always taking place Memorial weekend and the weekend before. It’s my job to organize it I have already started contacting volunteers. I am also planning the various activities that will take place. Lots of great things will be happening besides meeting our adorable baby animals.
New to Frolic this year is the U.S. Detachment of Engineers Civil War re-enactors who will be encamped on the farm from Saturday May 18 to Sunday May 19. They will be happy to explain about their group and the map making they do. Also new this year is the PA WoodMobile coming on Saturday May 25 to show us what trees grow in our state and what can be done with them.
On Saturday May 18 the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center will be coming again and bringing some local wildlife out with two presentations, one at 12:30 and one at 2:00. On Saturday May 25 Margaret Quinn will shear our sheep with manual shears, a very interesting demonstration. The spinners and weavers will also be in attendance doing a sheep to shawl demonstration. Wool freshly sheared from a sheep will be spun and then woven the same day into a shawl. The shawl will be raffled off at our Christmas event in December.

Now that spring has sprung it won’t be long until we are open to the public. I invite you to come out to our wonderful farm museum and see what we do here. I would love to meet you.

Thanks for checking in and hope to see you soon. Aunt Eunice

Spring is in the Air

Hello, Everyone,

Aunt Eunice is here to say, we’ll be having a Maple Sugaring Day! That sounds like the beginning of a poem. Saturday March 16 if all goes well and the weather forecast holds true we will be gathering at the sugar shack. Buttermilk pancakes, potatoes roasted in the coals and eggs boiled in the maple sap. Sounds yummy and I should know. I’ve eaten my fair share of those pancakes with that delectable maple syrup on them. I hope to see a good number of folks come out. It usually runs between the hours of 9:00am and 2:00pm.
  

After Maple Sugaring next on the agenda is Spring Clean Up Day down on the farm on April 6th, weather allowing. Dare I say the weather is warming up?! I think Winter is losing its grip and Spring is just about ready pop out at us. The tops of bloodroot, daffodils and crocuses are starting to poke up through last year’s leaves and mulch. Shortly we will prepare the kitchen garden for the many things we plant in it, like peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes and carrots. It’s so good to be outdoors digging in the earth and enjoying the fresh air. These nice crisp, cool mornings wake you up so you’re able to appreciate the warmer temperatures of the afternoons as well as the lovely sunshine. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to have warm sunlight falling across your shoulders as you cultivate the garden and how nice it is to lift your face to the sun and savor that gentle heat. I hope all of you have been able to spend some time this week in the sun. Of course now-a-days they would say, don’t forget the sunscreen, but in the old days of Quiet Valley a nice rye straw hat on your head and a kerchief around your neck would do the same thing for you.

What a wonderful time of year with such a great feeling of anticipation. My advice folks is to get out and enjoy a few minutes of sun on these nice days and don’t forget the sunscreen, or rye straw hat!

Thanks for checking in and hope to see you soon.
Aunt Eunice

More on Maple Sugaring

Hello Folks, Aunt Eunice here!
At this point it looks like Maple Sugaring Day will be on Saturday March 16th as long as the weather cooperates. Fingers crossed. Quiet Valley members particularly enjoy this event even when it’s cold as you can gather near the fires that are burning beneath the kettles of maple sap. Sometimes you catch the faint smell of maple wafting up in the steam that is the water being boiled out of the sap. As you may know you have to boil down 40 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup. If you keep cooking past the syrup stage you can get to the maple sugar point!

The wood stove will be manned by one of the staff or an experienced volunteer. They will be cooking up both buttermilk and buckwheat pancakes for members to eat with some of last year’s maple syrup. The  last of the potatoes will be cooked in the coals and the first of the eggs from the chickens will be boiled in the sap. Demonstrations of tapping a tree and making a spile (which is like a wooden spigot) will take place throughout the day. If your not a Quiet Valley member consider joining as this is a member only event. We would love to have you join in the fun.

Pancakes are a typical choice for an American breakfast and maple syrup is a very popular topping. I read somewhere that George Washington ate pancakes at breakfast that were literally drowning in maple syrup since he loved it so much. Sounds like my kind of fellow! There’s nothing like a hot, fluffy buttermilk pancake, slightly crisp on the edge, with butter melting over the top and real maple syrup rolling down the side to form a small lake on your plate. Mmmmm!

On the World Food History website they say “The first colonial settlers were taught by local Native Americans to make griddlecakes from Rhode Island Narragansett maize. These griddlecakes soon became a staple, known among the settlers as johnnycakes”.    www.world-foodhistory.com/2011/07/history-of-pancakes.html

During the 1700s, the Dutch popularized the buckwheat cake. In the mid-1750s, the hoe cake became popular. There is a debate over why it was called hoe cake. Some say a pan that was called a hoe was used to cook them on and others claim they were actually baked on a large hoe. Either way they are tasty.

Today, pancakes are also called hotcakes or flapjacks. The usual ingredients are baking powder, flour, buttermilk and eggs. They are oft times cover with syrup of some kind before eating. Pancakes are not limited to America. There are versions in Europe, Africa, Asia and in a variety of countries. Wherever you go, there’s going to be a pancake of some kind.

Here is our farm recipe for buttermilk pancakes. Make up a batch and enjoy them with your favorite topping. You already know Aunt Eunice’s favorite!!

Hope to see you soon and thanks for checking in. Aunt Eunice

QUIET VALLEY’S BUTTERMILK PANCAKES

1 cup                    White Flour
2 teaspoons        Baking Powder
½ teaspoon         Salt
½ teaspoon         Baking Soda
Mix above ingredients and keep separate

Add ingredients below just before making pancakes
3 tablespoons     Oil
1 cup                    Buttermilk
1                            Egg – beaten
Cook on a greased cast iron griddle or frying pan. They are ready to flip when bubbles form in the batter.

Hurrah for Maple Sugaring Season

Good Morning, World!

What a great day here in northeast Pennsylvania. Last Saturday our Clydesdale draft horses broke out of their corral and went off on an adventure down the road. While we don’t know what spooked them in the first place we do know where they ended up. They decided to cross a lake that was mostly frozen over. Unfortunately the ice out in the center was not thick enough to hold up 3000 pounds, the combined weight of Gunther and Wilhelm. Thanks to the neighbors who spotted them and called 911, the volunteers, several emergency rescue groups and the farm staff we were able to effect a rescue. Both horses are doing well and seem to have put the whole misadventure behind them. We offer our sincerest thanks to everyone involved in helping the boys, to all the well-wishers and those making donations to help defray the cost incurred.

On another note, we have started tapping the maple trees! Aunt Eunice just loves this part of our yearly schedule. I am a huge maple syrup fan and not just for pancakes and waffles. My husband is a marvelous baker (you may have met him at the farm’s outdoor bake oven) and he makes me sticky buns using homemade maple syrup instead of corn syrup. Yummy!  After the staff  is done tapping the trees we will schedule Maple Sugaring Day which is a Quiet Valley member event. Please consider joining this wonderful organization if you would like to come learn about the process and try some samples.

Speaking of baking, we will be holding a bread making working this summer on July 13th. It will be held at the farm’s outdoor brick bake oven and will be presented by Lou DiPasquale. Attendees will learn how to make bread, how to use the bake oven, will enjoy a lunch they help make in the oven and go home with a loaf of bread. There is a limit to the numbers who can attend so call the office if you want to participate in this great class.

There are probably still some cold days ahead, but try to remember spring isn’t too far away. Before you know it you’ll be able to start your vegetable gardens, plants some annuals in your window boxes, take a rejuvenating walk after work and enjoy the outdoors. The old rule of thumb used to be get your peas and onions in the ground by St. Patrick’s Day. These days that can be tough to do as March can be a cold, snowy month. Let’s hope Mother Nature cooperates.

We hope to see you soon and thanks for checking in. Aunt Eunice

Tidbits from the Farm

February 2019

Aunt Eunice had some time so she thought she would catch folks up on what’s happening here on the farm. We’ve had a couple of Wood Cutting Days to fill up the shed. As a historic farm museum we go through a lot of firewood in a year. The animals are all doing fine and the early lamb born on Christmas Eve is growing fast. I’m pretty sure she’s going to be called Noelle with a birth date like that! Groundhog Day has come and gone and can you believe that little critter didn’t see his shadow so spring is coming early!! That’s good news to Farmer Milton who hates shoveling snow and shivering in his boots. As we get closer to spring more babies will be born and Aunt Eunice will keep you up to date and share some pictures, too.

Now that February is here the farmers have already ordered and received their seeds and are planning when to plant what in the garden. Early vegetables like spinach, radishes, and peas will go in first though settlers in the old days didn’t wait for the garden to grow before they started harvesting. In early spring they went out into the fields, down by the stream and around the farm to find the first wild greens. After a long winter’s diet that lacked fresh ingredients, sweet or bitter greens were a boon to their taste buds and health. Dandelions are a perfect example of an early green enjoyed by many cultures, also wood sorrel, onion grass and chickweed. Just make sure you know what you’re picking before you eat it!

Pa will be growing lots of vegetable plant as a fundraiser for Quiet Valley and they will be on sale during Farm Animal Frolic the last two weekends in May. These will be nice, strong, healthy plants for your gardens. And if you need advice on gardening or just want to have fun come to our Summer Garden Party on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00 to 4:00, which happens to be opening day for Summer Tours. Stay tuned for more on that later.

I think everyone is getting excited by now, knowing that springtime is just a step or two away. Don’t put your long johns and mittens away yet, but keep a happy thought for the nice days ahead. Here at the farm we are still hoping to get in an Ice Harvest before the month is through. Our members enjoy coming out and helping with this unique type of harvest.

If you don’t mind the cold and want to pay us a visit Winter Walking Tours are on Tuesdays at 10:30 or 2:30 through March. It takes about an hour and a half and it’s a good idea to call before you come out.

We look forward to seeing you and thanks for checking in. Aunt Eunice

Christmas Traditions: The Belsnickel

It is often said that the past is a foreign country and when we look back at it, we will find many strange and unusual customs and traditions. This is particularly true with historic celebrations of Christmas.  Traditionally in Germany, a character called the Belsnickel would visit children alongside Saint Nicholas. Many cultures have an assistant accompany St. Nicholas/Santa Claus during his visits to punish the children who need to correct their behavior. Traditional in German, St. Nicholas’ Day is December 6th.  That is when St. Nicholas and the belsnickle would visit, for on Christmas Eve the Christ Child would bring presents.

The belsnickel is often glad in rags and patchwork, sometime he blackens his face or wears a mask to appear more fearsome. He carries candy or treats for the obedient children along with switches or rods for those who have been misbehaving.  Naughty children were also made to do a penance such as recite a Bible verse or poem for their transgressions. Generally the belsnickel was someone from the local community usually an older man, or a woman, who knew what the children had been up to during the year.  I suspect it was somewhat of a social honor to portray the belsnickel. The person had to be trustworthy and able to properly gauge the punishment for the misbehavior. As the tradition of the belsnickel continued in Pennsylvania, the man was often rewarded with food for his social function.  The person selected as the belsnickel may have been a community elder who may have needed some charity that time of year.

The belsnickel tradition was very popular during the 19th century. It even survived in places until the early 20th century but seems to have merged with Santa Claus as they years have gone on. Here at Quiet Valley, were keep the Belsnickel traditional alive during our Old Time Christmas celebration.  Visitors come down into the cellar kitchen-this was originally the whole house built around 1764-where they meet Jacky Depper.  This young boy welcomes the visitors and explains that they are now waiting for the Belsnickel who soon arrives amid much door banging and bell ringing.  He went about the room tapping naught children with his bundle of sticks and rewarding the good children with candy. It was a sight to see. Next year when you are looking for something fun to do, remember us and come see the Belsnickel.

The Quiet Valley blog is written by Kat Muller in here first year working at Quiet Valley. This blog posts represents her last, new event for the year!

 

 

 

Some Fun Facts about Christmas Cards

For many people, myself included, December marks Christmas Card season when our post boxes contain little envelops with updates from friends and family rather than bills and junk mail.  Like many of our modern Christmas traditions, Christmas cards can be traced back to the mid-1800s.

With most historical events or occurrences, historians and archaeologists can only give a estimate or a window of time when something took place. Yet with Christmas cards we have an exact year and even the people who came up with the first card.  (Though I do imagine there is some nameless person who sent a Christmas greeting with some artwork.) In 1843, Henry Cole commissioned artist J. C. Horsley to produce the first Christmas Card. Cole had revolutionized the postal system in England; thus, perhaps, these first cards-more akin to post cards-were either a great marketing strategy for his mailing system or just a time saving factor on Cole’s part. The first card was a three part picture with a family feasting in the middle and performing charitable acts on either side.

While it took a little while to catch on, Christmas cards became very popular during the late 1870s. Christmas cards were often produced by many small companies and newspapers often had fun reviewing them and proclaiming with has the nicest illustrations or sentiments.

Today, many of us would not necessarily agree with our Victorian counterparts.  Many cards produced during this time period featured anthropomorphic animals, cherub faces poking out of flowers, dead animals, and such like.  While these images and greetings seem odd to us today, they were meaningful to their intended audience.  Christopher Davis in his blog Vaults of Thought, delves into the symbolism behind two noteworthy cards picturing a dead wren and another with a dying frog as his opponent flees the scene. Some cards, such as the dead wren, hearken back to older traditions such as the Hunting of the Wren. Young boys and men in Ireland would capture a wren and then beg from door to door asking for food or money for the “wren” aka the boys.  Heather Dale, a folk singer who tells tales of older traditions, has a little song  about it.  Victorian culture was also obsessed about death. There were rules regarding proper mourning patterns that could impact a family’s lives for years after their relative was deceased.  I think some of that culture found its way into ever aspect of their lives, even Christmas cards.

Allison Meier has an article here with lots of images of those traditional cards.  Not all of them look very much like Christmas cards and picture everything from owls on bicycles to cats with parasols.  I personally was surprised with the cards containing sea shells.  I suspect they could almost be holiday advertisements, sort of a “Merry Christmas from a great place to holiday.”

Christmas cards saw a revolution in 1915 when the book style cards were printed by the company that became Hallmark.  Their cards contained an image on the front, a greeting, was folded once, with an envelop.  The soon outpaced the postcard style cards and are now standard.  Many people liked the book style cards because they could write more but not a whole letter.  Nowadays Christmas cards can be pop up cards, light up, play music, and even record personalized greetings.  Imagine Cole and Horsley’s surprise if they saw how far their little cards have gone.

The Quiet Valley Blog is written by Kat Muller during her first year at Quiet Valley as she learns about the farm, life in the 1800s, and the animals.

Christmas Superstitions

While it is only halfway through November we are starting to get things ready here on the farm for our last big event of the year: Old Time Christmas.  This candle lit lantern tour explores the historic celebrations of Christmas during the 1800s, a live nativity, visits from the Belschnickel, and more.  To help get ready for this event, I’ve been reading  Christmas in Pennsylvania by Alfred L. Shoemaker.  While a little heavy on primary sources for the casual ready, it is a great source of information exploring early celebrations in Pennsylvania by various religious groups from those who did not observe Christmas such as the Puritans and Quakers, to those who certainly did such as the Lutherans and the Moravians.  Working my way through one of the early chapters I was struck by how much folklore and superstition revolved around Christmas time and I’d thought I’d share some with you.

Many of the people who settled in this part of Pennsylvania came from the Palatinate region of Germany and believed very strongly in the supernatural power of the surrounding environment.  They also believed they could influence it as well. That belief found root in America too. Growing up in Chester County, Pennsylvania I remember hearing this particular story in regards to Christmas: Animals could speak on Christmas night.  Shoemaker includes a little poem found in Henry L. Fisher’s Olden Times from 1888.

I used to love and sit and watch

The cobbler’s cut and the tailor’s stitch;

To hear the learned arguments,

Between those learned disputants,

Concerning elf, and ghosts, and witch,

and whether they were black, or white,

or oxen, talked on Christmas-night.

The idea of animals speaking is a common folk belief but most of the Pennsylvania Dutch beliefs take place between 11pm and midnight.  During this time the animals talk, you can see your future husband or wife, cut dowsing rods for water or iron, or cast silver bullets to kill you enemy. Make sure to mark your calendar and be awake at that time.

Some of my favorite Christmas superstitions involved predicting what the next year will bring.  For example: many people believed that if the ground was white at Christmas it would be green at Easter. If the ground was green at Christmas it would be white at Christmas. Or if the geese waddled in mud between Christmas and New Year they will do so every single month of the following year, i.e. it will be a wet and rainy year. Perhaps the best superstition of all was that if you changed your underwear between Christmas and New Year’s you would get boils.

Quiet Valley Blog is written by Kat Muller as she explores her first year on the farm.

Historic Food: Sauerkraut and Scrapple

When I think of traditional Pennsylvania foods I tend to think of two dishes (thought not combined) sauerkraut and scrapple. Both of these dishes conjure to mind thoughts of early days in America.  I think that image comes to mind because both food items tend to preserving second choice foods.  While I grew up eating sauerkraut maybe once a year and enjoying, scrapple was something not permitted in my childhood home.  Thus I was interested to learn more about the process involved in making both of these dishes for our Harvest Festival here at Quiet Valley.

Sauerkraut

Fermented foods play such a large role in human history and prehistory.  Food manipulation and preservation has allowed us to survive in unending climate variations.  And while things that are old and moldy may not be everyone’s favorite treats, we are alive today because our ancestors figure this out.  Fermentation is used to detoxify poisonous plants and make them edible. Most of the time fermentation is the process of preserving food for a later date.

Making sauerkraut is surprisingly easy. In the garden at Quiet Valley we grown numerous heads of cabbage.  These cabbages are gathered from the garden usually 10-20 heads at a time. We have two wonderful cabbage experts who work those heads down into thin slices.  Fun fact: did you know cabbage plants will regrow heads? If you slice them early, you will get miniature heads growing back in their place.

Once the cabbages are sliced thinly they are placed in a large stoneware crock and salt is added.  The salt causes the cabbage to release water and keeps dangerous bacteria from growing.  Salt does encourage bacterial growth but it’s the kind that causes fermentation and not spoilage. The salt causes the cabbage to release water.  The cabbage is pounded down to the bottom of the crock and the salt water forms a protective seal over the top. This is allowed to ferment for at least a couple of weeks but some people do wait a couple of months.

Once it it ready, according to Gary (one of the founders of the museum and the resident sauerkraut expert) we scoop out the top and bag it up.  Here at the museum we freeze the sauerkraut for Christmas time.  But it can just as easily be canned or eaten straight way. Traditionally the Pennsylvania Germans would eat sauerkraut and pork as part of their New Year’s celebration because pigs rout forward and it will bring good luck.

The Quiet Valley Blog is written by Kat Muller as she explores the farm museum throughout the year.  Follow along with Kat and learn about the farm!