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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 advise 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!

 

 

 

Building Partnerships

It is always important in business to build partnerships with other businesses.  This is particularly true with ones that share similar goals or products as your own such as carpenters working closely with electricians; as well as forming partnerships with dissimilar businesses as a way to expand potential customers and clientele.  This is particularly true with museums. We all struggle at times to draw in an audience and are often faced with similar challenges to overcome.  Recently, Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm has been working towards building partnerships with a couple different institutions.

East Stroudsburg Area School District has an amazing teacher in Mr. Bob Labar.  He teaches history but works on incorporating technology into the classroom.  In the spring, he reached out to Quiet Valley to see if we could build a partnership.   Quiet Valley is perfectly geared for the curriculum his students study in their history classes, colonial through the mid 1800’s. Throughout the year, as they study the students are going to be relating their lessons back to Quiet Valley.  Since they incorporate technology with their lessons, they are going to be talking about Quiet Valley on social media and producing little videos we hope to share with our visitors.  Keep an eye out on our website and social media to see them.  This is a great partnership because it introduces a new age group to Quiet Valley, helps us engage with a new promotion strategy, and even allows us to reach out to prospective volunteers.  It also allows a group of students a good case study for their history lessons that allows them to connect with the past and answer that constant question of “why should we care?” (or in teenage speech “so?”). We are really looking forward to building this partnership throughout the year.  We hope to be able to grow the program into a cyber-classroom and teach students on other continents about Quiet Valley.

The second partnership I want to update you on is with the National Museum of Industrial History down in Bethlehem. NMIH has a large collection of industrial machinery that were used for historic trades and crafts.  As a Smithsonian associated museum, big institutions like that don’t always pay attention to-or wish to partner with- us smaller ones.  For our 43rd Annual Harvest Festival our theme is “Forgotten Arts and Craft”; we reached out to NMIH to see if there is anything they wished to demonstrate.  To sweeten the deal, I spoke to them about my research on iron smelting.  If I did a presentation or two for them, would they be willing to do a presentation or two for us? The answer, a resounding yes.  NMIH will be out demonstrating a printing press and have invited an associated flint knapping group to come out as well. This past weekend a group of us gathered at NMIH and did a smelt and produced a bloom of over 16 pounds of steel.  It was the first time steel was made a Bethlehem since the furnace closed down in 1995.  Pretty cool. Make sure to stop by and say “Hi” to NMIH at our Harvest Festival in October.

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!

Stump the Interpreter: 1800s Toiletries

Some of my favorite questions as a living history interpreter are ones that deal with ordinary activities we tend to overlook in our daily lives because they are so common.  These activities happen without us thinking about it.  For example, when walking from the bright sun into the Cellar Kitchen at Quiet Valley a visitor asked”can’t you turn on the lights?” Well, in 1820 there is no electricity to turn on; we have to light lamps or candles. That really gets a visitor thinking and lead to some interesting research on toilets, toilet paper, tooth brushes, and tooth paste.  Here is what we found out:

Toilets and Toilet Paper

The Romans were rather advanced when it came to most things including toilets.  They very famously had public ones where dozens of people could go at the same time connected to a sewer system with flowing water to wash things away.  Seems rather odd to us but privacy is a very new cultural trend.  Archaeologists, such as Ann Olga Koloski-Ostraw, are discovering that Romans even had some in their private homes. The first flushing toilet was famously invented for Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1596.  She did not care for it at all.  It was noisy and if she went to the room with the toilet the courtiers would know what business she was about.  A chamber pot or a toilet stool could easily be brought to you for your necessary needs. The embarrassment of people seeing you take a trip to the toilet or to by toilet paper took a long time to overcome.

The first practical flushing toilet appeared around 1778 and was invented by Joseph Bramah.  Toilets started to catch on in popularity but there was a problem.  Unlike the Romans, there were little to no sewer systems.  Most toilets lead down into a cesspool under the house or outside the house.  Most ordinary people had an outhouse or just dumped their waste into the street. It wasn’t until 1859 that the first planned sewer systems were built in both America and England.  By the 1890s sewage treatment plants were being built to help prevent disease such as cholera and typhoid. The Victorians started many campaigns aimed at living better lives and focused on everything from cleaner water to education.

It took a rather long time for toilet paper to appear on the scene.  The earliest toilet paper seems to have been invented in China around the 6th century. The first commercially made toilet paper was Gayetty’s Medicated Paper for the Water Closet.  There were flat sheets instead of the roll to which we are all accustomed. The advent of a flushed toilet changed what was used as toilet paper.  When people used privies it didn’t really matter what was used as toilet paper since it went down a hole.  So items like corncobs, straw, water, and sticks were common. But these items couldn’t make it through the bends and turns of pipes.  Newspapers and pages from catalogs were used in outhouses to such a point early Old Farmer’s Almanac’s were printed with a hole in the corner to be easily hung on a hook.  It wasn’t until about 1930 that toilet paper was a commercial success since prior to that people were embarrassed to buy it in stores!

There are some fun facts to brighten your day.

 

The Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm blog is written by Kat Muller, as she explores and learns about the farm during her first year employed here.  This blog post is part of a series answering the questions posed by visitors and often times stump or puzzle the interpreters.

Gathering Maple Sugar

Maple sap dripping from the spile.

Each Spring, Quiet Valley makes its own maple sugar.  We all love the sweet, sticky sap that comes from these types of trees for our pancakes and for adding to all sorts of recipes, such as maple ginger salmon. This past week we started tapping the trees around the farm.  A good tap tree is about 10 to 20 inches in diameter, which makes the tree about 40 years old.  A tap is drilled into the tree and a small metal tube called a spile is inserted into the tree. The sap runs down the spile and spills into a waiting container.  In our case those are sterilized glass jars but these can be buckets or even special bags.  I was really surprised to see that the sap was clear.  (I had assumed it was going to be colored.)

The sap is clear in the bucket. Please excuse my foot in the photo; it’s keeping the bucket from falling over.

The jars are collected twice a day, but with how quickly the sap is flowing now, it might be three times a day.  Once enough maple sap is collected then we have a Maple Sugaring Event which is open to all members of Quiet Valley.  During this event the sap is heated in big vats and refined into the syrup we love.

The glass jars collecting sap.

How does this work? During the summer, the trees store sugar and nutrients in their roots. In the Spring, when the weather begins to warm, the sap begins to return to the top of the tree to help grow the leaves.  The best time to gather the sap is when it is warm during the day and cold at night.  That way the sap runs better.  You don’t have to stop at just tapping maple trees but can also tap birch trees, black walnuts, hickory and box elder. This Saturday, February 25th, we’ll be cooking down the sap and making maple sugar.

Who are you?

 

Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm primarily uses first person interpretation for its tours and programs.  That means all the interpreters, for better or worst, are in a particular time period and relate to someone  workings of the farm during that time. (In other words, they portray on original family member of the farm or one of their fictional children, cousins, siblings, hired hands, etc.) To clarify my above statement there are some things that first person interpretation does work very well and is a great way to demonstrate living history by making it engaging and dynamic. Notwithstanding,  I am currently struggling with who my character and who they are on the farm.

I fall into an age gap where I’m too young to be a direct member of the families who owned the farm Johan Simon Meyer’s family (1820s) or the Peter Marsh (1850s). But I’m too old to be any of their children. For a bit of help here is the Quiet Valley Family Tree.  To get around this, my character is going to be descended from a sister of Johan Simon Meyer named Catherine.  (That solves a couple of problems: 1. I can’t forget any of my character’s matralineal line because they will all be C/Katherines and 2. if I need to change time period between 1820s, 1850s, and 1890s, I just add/subtract C/Katherines. So I could be Katherine Zepper Meyer’s daughter, Catherine’s, daughter etc. ) 

One of the first characters I’m developing is a schoolmarm to help with spring school tours.  Again though, I come up with the problem of my age.  A woman in her mid to late 20s would traditionally be married during the 1890s.  If I was married during the late 1800s, then I legally couldn’t be a schoolmarm in the state of Pennsylvania.  That got me thinking about possibly portraying  a widow and then I’d be able to speak to more interesting social trend in my interpretation.

19.-Death-Becomes-Her-Gallery-View

A display from “Death Becomes Her” a costume display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014.

Historically people were widowed or widowers much more often then today.  During the late 1800s, there were many social conventions that dictated periods of mourning and rules for widows.  Wealthy women would often be in mourning for 2 or more years during which time they didn’t participate in society.  They were excluded from shopping or attending weddings, balls, or social functions.  For the first year they wore black often with a veil and then for the second year grays and pale purples.  By the third year they could start introducing colors again to their wardrobe.

But what about working women who couldn’t afford to buy new clothes for mourning and still needed to work?  Often these women would remarry after they were widowed, particular if their were young children.  If the children were older and she could be financial independent, the widow tended not to remarry.  This was because as a widow she was entitled to a winder participation in society then her married counterparts.  (Widows could own property and in some states and countries even could vote.)  Older women tended not to remarry either. Younger women who didn’t remarry were, at times, viewed poorly by society for not following social conventions. That maybe a detail I’ll have to work out but at least I’ve got an idea to begin.  So now I have to work on adding a little gray or black to my costume. (perhaps pictures to follow.)