Archives

Migrating into Spring

Hello Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. I am in fine fettle now that spring has arrived and I hope you are, too. Lots of signs of spring are all around as I am sure you’ve noticed. Daylight Savings Time means it’s light enough when I get home from the farm to see signs like the crocuses blooming and the pussy willows budding. For the last two weeks being around our house has been like being in the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. Hundreds and thousands of starlings have migrated north and I swear, all of them are perched in my trees! The racket they make is quite loud. Sometimes they taken off all at once for no apparent reason and swoop and swirl in unison like the beginning of a murmuration. It is a sight to behold!

Another migratory species, snow geese, passed over our house a number of weeks ago. In all the years I have lived there I have never been at the right place at the right time to observe them. What a sight to see. The sun was lowering in the west and the geese were so high up the late day rays made them look like twinkle lights or strands of silver beads. The honking they emitted during flight was different than the Canadian geese that had flown over earlier that day. That was why I looked up and saw them. What a beautiful thing. As they flew overhead I saw a jet leaving a contrail behind it and couldn’t help, but think “you have it easy” with powerful engines carrying you along. The bird species has its heart, wings and some mysterious directional sense to make a journey that could be thousands of miles in length. Below is some information about bird migration from allaboutbirds.org.

Geese winging their way south in wrinkled V-shaped flocks is perhaps the classic picture of migration—the annual, large-scale movement of birds between their breeding (summer) homes and their non-breeding (winter) grounds. Of the more than 650 species of North American breeding birds, more than half are migratory. Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of burgeoning insect populations, budding plants and an abundance of nesting locations. As winter approaches and the availability of insects and other food drops, the birds move south again. Escaping the cold is a motivating factor but many species, including hummingbirds, can withstand freezing temperatures as long as an adequate supply of food is available. The two primary resources being sought are food and nesting locations.

Origins of long-distance migration

While short-distance migration probably developed from a fairly simple for food, the origins of long-distant migration patterns are much more complex. They’ve evolved over thousands of years and are controlled at least partially by the genetic makeup of the birds. They also incorporate responses to weather, geography, food sources, day length, and other factors.

For birds that winter in the tropics, it seems strange to imagine leaving home and embarking on a migration north. Why make such an arduous trip north in spring?One idea is that through many generations the tropical ancestors of these birds dispersed from their tropical breeding sites northward. The seasonal abundance of insect food and greater day length allowed them to raise more young (4–6 on average) than their stay-at-home tropical relatives (2–3 on average). As their breeding zones moved north during periods of glacial retreat, the birds continued to return to their tropical homes as winter weather and declining food supplies made life more difficult. Supporting this theory is the fact that most North American vireos, flycatchers, tanagers, warblers, orioles, and swallows have evolved from forms that originated in the tropics.

Taking a journey that can stretch to a round-trip distance of several thousand miles is a dangerous and arduous undertaking. It is an effort that tests both the birds’ physical and mental capabilities. The physical stress of the trip, lack of adequate food supplies along the way, bad weather, and increased exposure to predators all add to the hazards of the journey.

Migrating birds can cover thousands of miles in their annual travels, often traveling the same course year after year with little deviation. First-year birds often make their very first migration on their own. Somehow they can find their winter home despite never having seen it before, and return the following spring to where they were born.The secrets of their amazing navigational skills aren’t fully understood, partly because birds combine several different types of senses when they navigate. Birds can get compass information from the sun, the stars, and by sensing the earth’s magnetic field. They also get information from the position of the setting sun and from landmarks seen during the day. There’s even evidence that sense of smell plays a role, at least for homing pigeons.

Find out more at The Cornell Lab

What an amazing thing for birds to accomplish. Migration. Well, I am happy to be migrating into spring, my favorite time of year. I seem to awaken in spring like a bear coming out of hibernation. Watch for the subtle greening of the brush and the grass and the trees. It’s lovely to see the various shades of green develop as the next two to three months progress.
That’s all for now. Stay safe. Take care and talk to you soon. Aunt Eunice

The Sweetest Time

Hello Folks,

  Aunt Eunice here! I hope you are all doing well. The coldest harvest is now over and the ice house is full to the rafters with nice big blocks of ice. We should have plenty for our needs which is mostly for making homemade ice cream and for keeping the birch beer kegs cold. Now we are preparing for the sweetest job on the farm, maple sugaring. The farmer started tapping the maple trees about ten days ago and has been storing the sap for Maple Sugaring Day. Quiet Valley members are invited to attend and will get to sample buttermilk or buckwheat pancakes with our 2020 syrup on it. They can learn all about the process as it was done in the 19th century. It always amazes me that it takes 40 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup! No wonder it is so pricey in the stores. If you keep cooking it past the syrup stage you can eventually get maple sugar. What a wonderfully tasting sweetener. My husband uses the syrup in place of corn syrup when making sticky buns. What a treat that is!! I learned a couple years ago that the first sap collected has the highest sugar content. Not sure how big a difference there is between the first and the last collected. I also found out that you can make syrup from the sap of other types of tree. Their sap doesn’t have the sugar content of the sugar maple so I imagine it takes more sap and more cooking down to get the sweetness I crave. This is the time of year this particular job has to be done as the sap is rising. Night temperatures need to be below freezing and daytime temperatures above forty. If you miss this window it will be a whole year until your next chance.

Quiet Valley’s sap will be cooked down in large kettles over fires. The ladies volunteering will hard boil eggs in the sap and will also bake potatoes in Dutch ovens using hot coals from the fire. Along with the pancakes it makes a pretty fine breakfast. If you are used to using the syrup you get from bottles shaped like a lady take my advice and try the real thing. The are lots of recipes out there now a days that use this special sweetener so be adventurous and try it in a dessert or a savory dish like butternut squash soup.

Though it may not seem it given the temperatures we’ve been having Spring is just around the corner. Soon we will be cleaning up the detritus from winter, starting our vegetable gardens and mowing lawns. I think we are all looking forward to the longer hours of sunlight daylight savings will bring. Well, that’s all for now. Stay safe, take care and talk to you soon. Aunt Eunice

 

Ice Harvest is Happening

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. I have been enjoying this snowy weather we’ve been having, but I do wish it would learn to snow everywhere except on the roads and walkways! That sure is a lot of plowing and shoveling! It is so pretty though and looks much closer to the winters of my youth.

We are happy to say this weekend Quiet Valley is holding a traditional Ice Harvest which is a special event for our membership. We will be using the horses and sleds to bring the ice blocks in from the pond to be stacked in the ice house. There each layer will be covered with saw dust. Folks new to the process are always surprised that there is no electric refrigeration involved. Our ice house is a wooden building with a vent ridge along the top. As a layer of blocks are put down a layer of saw dust is put over them. My best explanation is to tell visitors to think about an Igloo cooler. It is an insulated box that can keep things cold if you add ice to it. The ice blocks are the ice packs or ice cubes and the insulation is the saw dust. If the ice is not used up we will still have it to use at our October Harvest Festival to keep the birch beer kegs cold. My father, who was born in 1911, told me a story about hitching a ride on the ice wagon. At that time people still used ice boxes as we do our modern refrigerator. They were wooden and lined with zinc or tin. The ice man would come by and deliver a block which would be put into a compartment of the ice box and it would keep your food cold. The older boys in town would steal rides on the ice wagon all the time, but my father was only five and really too young for this adventure. The boys helped him up into the wagon. Now they all knew to jump off the wagon before it went over the bridge between the two towns. My father didn’t know it and besides he was having a good time. He got a very long ride and the iceman got a surprise at the end of his route. He kindly took my father back. I am sure by then my grandparents were starting to worry. The ice box was originally referred to as a refrigerator until the electric refrigerator came into being. Then the less used term ice box became the new expression. Since Quiet Valley’s ice is from a pond it isn’t something I would want to put into a glass of ice tea! It is useful in wash tubs to chill bottles of water or to use in a hand crank ice cream machine.

National Museum of American History says the natural ice harvesting industry in America began to take off in the early 1800s. The process of ice harvesting looked somewhat similar to crop harvesting, with horses pulling plow-like ice cutters across frozen lakes and ponds. Before ice could be cut, snow had to be cleared from the surface. The ice was also measured to ensure that it was thick enough—anything less than eight inches would melt too quickly during transportation to far-flung locations. By the end of the 1800s, many American households stored their perishable food in an insulated “icebox” that was usually made of wood and lined with tin or zinc. A large block of ice was stored inside to keep these early refrigerators chilly. By this point, cold had become the clear choice among food preservation methods, proving less labor-intensive and more effective at preventing spoilage.

When members come out to Ice Harvest on Saturday they are welcome to bring ice skates along. According to  Wikipedia  ice skating has been around a very long time though the exact time and process by which humans first learned to ice skate is unknown. Primitive animal bone ice skates have been found in Scandinavia and Russia, some dating back to about 3000 BC.

The earliest clear, written mention of ice skating is found in a book written in the 12th century by William Fitzstephen, a monk in Canterbury. In the work, centered on Thomas Becket, he describes a scene taking place below the northern city walls of Canterbury during the winter:

…if the moors in Finsbury and Moorfield freeze over, children from London play. Some of the children have attached bones to their ankles, and carry well-worn sticks. They fly across the ice like birds, or well-fired arrows. Suddenly, two children will run at each other, sticks held high in the air. They then attack each other until one falls down. Often, the children injure their heads or break their arms or legs…

Well, Aunt Eunice won’t be ice skating this weekend, but I may take a sleigh ride down that nice long hill in the pasture. If you want to come out this Saturday February 13 call the office at 570-992-6161 and join as a member. There are a lot of other benefits to being  part of Quiet Valley than attending the Ice Harvest. Hope to see you at the farm. Thanks for checking in and take care. Aunt Eunice

A Winter Harvest?

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. I hope you are all healthy as a farm’s work horse and doing well. Here on the farm we are busy with workshops, planning for spring, and preparing for Preschool registration which is always a hectic few days. The farmer was very excited as his vegetables seeds came in the mail last week. He and the retired farm manager can’t wait to get in the garden to plant them. I swear, every gardeners favorite times are planting and harvesting! Not much to harvest on a farm this time of year, right? Well, there are a couple of things around here you can only harvest in the winter. That would be ice and maple sap.

The farmer has been checking the thickness of the pond’s ice and we are about halfway to a safe number of inches (9 to 11″) that will allow us to go out on it and start cutting blocks. It’s a fun day on the farm and one of Quiet Valley’s member benefits. Members can come out and learn about the process. They can also lend a hand cutting the blocks with an ice saw, pulling the blocks into shore with a pike or carrying them to the horse-drawn sled with a pair of ice tongs. The pond is out a ways from the farm so try to hitch a ride on the sled as the horses pull it back out. If you want you can grab a ride back in, but then you will be sitting on a block of ice for a seat! The cutters will surround the opening they made in the ice with some of the blocks to make a “fence” around the open water. This a precaution for the unwary or younger set who are welcome to go skating on the other half of the pond. If there is enough snow on the ground folks bring their sleds along and ride down the hill behind the gift shop. It’s a nice long ride. Just remember it’s a nice long walk back up the hill. That winter activity is meant for younger legs than Aunt Eunice’s! Too bad, as I always loved sleigh riding and was the last one to come inside, not until I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes anymore!! I hope we can have our Ice Harvest this weekend. With the warmer climate we have been having the last decade or so there isn’t always an ice harvest. At one time ice was a sizeable industry in the Poconos. After the train came through in the 1850s blocks of ice were shipped to eastern cities like New York and Philadelphia to use for refrigeration.
I am keeping my fingers crossed. It is a cold, but fun day and everyone gets a cup of homemade soup and bread along with a hot beverage and cookies.  If you want to get notice of whether we are holding it or not and aren’t a member join Quiet Valley in the next day or two and ask to be put on the email list.

The other item we harvest in winter is maple sap once it starts running which can be anywhere from late February into March. The nights need to be below freezing and the days above forty degrees. This is the beginning of the process to get maple syrup. But that’s a story for another day. Maple Syrup Day is also a Quiet Valley member benefit and you will learn the process and get to try homemade pancakes with last year’s syrup just for a start.

That’s all for now. Take care of yourselves and each other. Talk to you soon. Aunt Eunice

Ah, the Possibilities

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. The first week of a new year is over and I can’t help but think of a year of possibilities stretching out before me in the remaining 51 weeks. They could be good, they could be mediocre or they could be not so good. Probably a mix. I am putting out wishes and prayers for good ones for all of us!

In keeping with a year that may still restrict our events and programming due to COVID we have yet again developed safe additional activities for both children and adults. There is a nice series of heritage craft and 19th century life skills classes taking place once a month for ages 15 and up. For the younger set there is the Heritage Homeschool Program where they can sign up to learn a variety of craft and farm-related skills. There is also the Cabin Fever Workshop in March with five different classes from which you can choose. Sign up early for any of these classes as they fill up fast. Check out our website for details and other options.

The Calendar of Events is updated with our major fundraisers and smaller summer events so feel free to plan a visit for a summer tour or to enjoy our entertaining and educational festivals. The farmers have already ordered their seeds and Gary, our retired farm manger, will start some in his greenhouse and have the plants ready to sell in May at our Farm Animal Frolic. He’ll have a nice variety of healthy, well grown seedlings. Last May I purchased four kinds of tomato plants which all preformed beautifully. One of my favorites is the Golden Jubilee. Eating yellow tomatoes causes me fewer digestive issues as there is less acid in them than the orange or red tomatoes. Gary is teaching a class called Preparing for Spring Gardening on March 13 for interested folks. More workshop info. Spaces will fill up fast! The Charmant cabbage plants that I bought at the sale last year gave me delicious cabbage that was easy to raise. Charmant is an early variety that produces uniform, solid, medium-sized round heads with blue-green color, a tight internal structure and a short core. It has one of the best holding ability of all early varieties. I usually buy Quiet Valley’s sauerkraut, but I used some of my cabbages to make my own. I freeze mine, but some folks prefer to can it. We enjoyed some on New Year’s Day as part of a traditional Pennsylvania German meal of pork and sauerkraut, which is believed to bring good fortune in the coming year. Eating pork of any style on New Year’s Day is said to inspire progress throughout the year to come. According to German legend, pork is eaten on New Year’s Day because pigs look forward when they root for food, rather than chickens and turkeys, which scratch backward. Many cultures have food superstitions about what to eat on New Year’s Day to bring prosperity in the new year. In the South it is Black Eyed Peas, Greens and Cornbread. Read more here.

It’s encouraging to think about Spring and growing vegetables, herbs or flowers. Finding new ways to use veggies and the herbs in recipes or planting flowers in new spots or as companion plants in the vegetable garden. If you don’t grow the plants for yourself, remember you can visit your local CSA or Farmer’s Market. There will always be a nice selection of produce there and it will be locally sourced! Better for us and for our community growers.

That’s all for now, but thanks for checking in. Take care of yourselves and each other. I will be thinking of you. Aunt Eunice

 

Tick, Tick, Ticking

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. Well, you may have noticed the year is winding down. Winding down implies a slowing of movement such as in an old fashioned clock. A clock tick, tick, ticking the seconds down until it hits midnight on New Year’s Eve. Does the clock get wound up again at that point? There are millions of seconds in one year so why does the year seem to go by faster with each month? They all tick away, the same way, second by second.  I am full of questions this time of year. I don’t do personal resolutions for the New Year, but I really like to get answers to my questions, even inconsequential ones.

Now that our final fundraiser of the year, Old Time Christmas, is over we enter Quiet Valley’s only truly quiet phase. The end of December and the month of January are the staff’s time to reflect, to evaluate the past year and to look ahead. This is when assessment on the programming and events of 2020 will take place. What worked, what didn’t? Are there programs that just don’t serve a purpose anymore, can they be tweaked or is it best to set them aside. Are there holes in the programs and activities we offer? This kind of review is what brought about offerings such as our Preschool program which takes place each spring and fall. It brought about the Farm to Table Experience which eventually morphed into the Farm to Table Dinner. Small summer events came about more than a decade ago due to this process. The one in June focuses on something we do very well here at Quiet Valley and has been of growing interest to the public for a number of years, Gardening. Raising your own food is a very rewarding and tasty hobby and for the early homesteaders it was a necessity. In July we added a day to focus on the traditional music of the 1800s. Families of that time period had someone able to play a fiddle or dulcimer and making music was just a natural part of their lives. Children learned at a young age that singing a repetitive song made chores go a little bit faster and it didn’t seem like such drudgery. In August we started to hold a day dedicated to the heritage crafts and folk art of the 19th century. Demonstrators share their specialties and there are some chances to try the process out for yourself. Quiet Valley exists to not only preserve the life skills and history of rural farm life of the 1800s, but even more importantly to teach it to others.

As I look back at 2020 it is like looking at a picture of yourself that is underwater. It’s somewhat familiar and yet not quite what we would normally expect to see. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted our programming and events into something different, something new and yet at the same time a bit familiar. It was a confusing process, frustrating at times and a challenge.  I am proud to say the Quiet Valley staff, board of directors and volunteers were up to the challenge. We had some great ideas on new ways to present activities and events. What we offered may have been different, but it stayed true to our mission. We shared what life was like on a small family farm in the 19th century. We taught visitors how it would have been for those early settlers who were willing to face hard times to own their own land and to be free to make their own choices. We helped the public make the connection from the past to the present and offered lessons on how  this knowledge can be relevant in their lives today.

As the year winds down second by second I am glad to have this time to reflect and review and to plan and to assess, but to also rest in the knowledge that we “did good”! As January arrives though we will hit the ground running as we will be eager to face the upcoming challenges with hopefully at least some of the courage our forefathers had. What new thing needs to be added, what else can we share with our visitors, what would you like to learn?! I can’t wait to get started.

See you in 2021! Best Wishes for the New Year and take care. Aunt Eunice

November is About Transitions

Hello Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. November has not only arrived, but is half over already. This month more than all the rest of them makes me feel like I am running to catch up! Perhaps it is a combination of the workload here at the farm as we prepare for our Old Time Christmas event and my home-life that make the difference. My family has quite a few birthday this month including mine. Throw Thanksgiving into the mix with six birthday parties and you have a very full month.  I feel like this is a month of transition as we move from fall into winter, as the leaves finish falling off the trees, the last of the lawn mowing takes place. Day Light Savings time is over so of course it gets dark earlier. The colder temperatures at night might have us inching up the thermostat. By the time I get home at night it is quite dark and instead of going for a walk I now curl up with a book. It makes me anxious for December 21st to arrive as then I know every day starts to get a little longer. The good news is it won’t be long until the seed catalogs start arriving!

Let’s not forget Veteran’s Day is in November, an important day of recognition of our military service members and all they have given to our country.  According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs – World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Thanksgiving will soon becoming up and the traditional foods as well as some that are simply our family favorites will be enjoyed at Aunt Eunice’s Thanksgiving. It will be smaller than usual as we are being careful and social distancing. It is the smart thing to do. The original colonists on the Mayflower would have understood. History.com says – In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth. Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore and were taught and helped by the Native Americans. Our meal is bound to be different than the original harvest meal shared in Plymouth. Though no record tells us the exact menu the meal most likely consisted of items such as deer, corn, shellfish, and roasted meat.

Whatever dishes may be on our Thanksgiving sideboard we will be grateful and we will be praying for our family, friends and neighbors. That’s all for now.

Please take care and talk to you soon. Aunt Eunice

Fall Has Flitted Away

Hi Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. I must apologize for abandoning my post as far as the blog goes. August and September raced along in a blur and now here we are approaching the end of October. As they say tempus fugit, which Wikipedia describes as such, Tempus fugit is a Latin phrase, usually translated into English as “time flies“. The expression comes from line 284 of book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics,[1] where it appears as fugit inreparabile tempus: “it escapes, irretrievable time”. The phrase is used in both its Latin and English forms as a proverb that “time’s a-wasting”.  Well, time may have flown this fall for Quiet Valley, but we certainly didn’t waste it. With two Saturday tour days and five weekends of events there were plenty of chances for people to come visit the farm. While here they could enjoy the beauty of autumn in the Poconos and this year there was plenty of lovely foliage to view. Opportunities to learn abounded as many heritage craft and seasonal farm skills were demonstrated. Spooky Days on the Farm took place this past weekend and many “detectives” visited the farm to help us solve a “Murder Mystery”.  I hope you had time to see some of our mini-events as they flew by. I think that perhaps time is actually stationary  and humans are the ones rushing headlong into the future. Whatever the case may be we need to look forward so we don’t trip in our haste to get wherever it is we are going!

With Halloween taking place this weekend it brings back memories of the Mischief Nights of my youth with pranks like soaping car windows, throwing field corn kernels at house windows and toilet papering trees. Nothing that was truly harmful. College students have been pulling tricks at Halloween for longer than I’ve been around, even back in Victorian times. I thought I’d share this 1887 New York Times article as it concerns naughty college students at a college in nearby Easton, PA. It is actually my brother’s alma mater though I am sure he never pulled such pranks! Right, David? I don’t think the young sophomores in this story got any sleep on this mischief night!!

https://kbowenmysteries.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/hallo2.jpg

https://kbowenmysteries.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/hallo3.jpg

To be honest my favorite part of Halloween is the treats not the tricks. When I went out as a child with all the kids in my neighborhood we     always planned our route so that midway we would be knocking on the door of the Peterson house. They had a small farm which was now   surrounded by suburbia, complete with a few dairy cows and apple trees.  Mrs. Peterson would offer you a cup of their own cider and her   homemade, still warm, sugar donuts! Now that is a treat!! Full size candy bars were the norm from the other neighbors though there were   occasionally apples as well. At the end of the evening my friends and I would dump our bags out on the living room floor and start the trading process. M&Ms, Rolos and Milky Ways were always my favorites. I also always had fun making costumes from scratch for myself and later for my family. That’s been a popular pastime for many generations.

The next big happening at Quiet Valley will be our annual Old Time Christmas event. Not surprisingly there will be social distancing measures in place. Tickets will go on sale soon so keep an eye on our website.

That’s all for now. Thanks for checking in and take care. Aunt Eunice

August Arrives Auspiciously

Hello Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. Well, in my last message I said August would be as busy as July and so far I am right on the money! Besides the historic tour last week we have had bake oven highlights, a pottery highlight, a visit from the bee keeper with some of his bees and Saturday was Heritage Craft Day. Heritage Craft Day is a summer event that offers a close up look at a number of the traditional craft and trade skills of the 19th century. As part of our farm museum’s mission we are tasked with preserving this kind of knowledge. There were rye straw basket and hat makers here, spinning and weaving was demonstrated, and the bobbin lace and tatting ladies shared their versions of lace making. The potter was at her wheel, there was quilling which is a paper craft and quilting as well. There was puppet making for the children, the men folk were making rope and the bake oven was busy turning out loaves of whole wheat bread. Aunt Eunice even had a chance to sit a spell and do some whittling. All in all a lovely day both entertainment and weather-wise.

I was in a discussion with a visitor and we were commiserating about the hot temperatures we had experienced in July. He said we hadn’t even gotten to August yet and the “dog days of summer”. While I didn’t correct him it caused me to double check my facts on this phrase. Some of you may already know it doesn’t refer to the weather. Here is what the good Old Farmer’s Almanac says – a well used resource for farm families in the 1800s.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the unofficial authority on all things folklore and weather-related, the phrase “dog days” refers to the hottest time of the year, which is the 40 days that span from July 3 through August 11. The Almanac explains:

August 11 coincides with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile’s flooding, so they used the star as a “watchdog” for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time: “Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain.”

So though tomorrow is the last of the dog days for this summer I doubt we are through with the hot, humid weather! Our tomato plants seem to be loving it and we are harvesting many different varieties. One of my favorites is the Juliet, a small, plum shaped one that is firm and has a sweet flavor.
According to Bonnieplants.com – Juliet tomatoes are slightly larger than the well-known Santa grape tomato, it bears delicious, sweet fruit on indeterminate vines. Some gardeners refer to it as a mini Roma because of the shape. The wonderfully sweet fruit are crack resistant and remain in good condition on the vine longer than most cherry tomatoes. The fruit are as soft and juicy as cherry tomatoes, they hold up well in salads, even leftovers, and they have a longer shelf life so you can keep them on hand without picking every day.

Here is an old time recipe using squash and tomatoes from Quiet Valley’s bake oven cookbook. It may help you use up some of the many you will be harvesting in the month of August!

White Sauce – Ingredients & Instructions

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups half and half creamer (or whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and whisk until combined.
  • Slowly stir in 1 cup of cream (or milk) and whisk until smooth.
  • Stir in the remaining cream, salt and pepper. Whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken. This will take 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove the white sauce from the stove.

Cucumbers, squash, carrots, beets, bell peppers, kohlrabi are just some of the other vegetables that we have been harvesting. Last Thursday we pick the sweet corn. It was immediately blanched, cut off the cob and frozen. All the staff received one ear each for lunch. It was delicious and certainly couldn’t have been fresher! I hope your gardens are producing as well as our Quiet Valley kitchen garden. Otherwise remember to check out your CSA or farmer’s markets. Your local farmers will appreciate the support.

That’s all for now folks. Hopefully we will see you on the farm before summer ends. Remember to check our Calendar of Events as we are planning several moderately -sized fall events to supplement our non-profit organization’s income. Take care. Aunt Eunice

July Flying By

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. I am sorry it’s been a while since I have written to you. With July arriving I have been busier than a farmer trying to catch a litter of rowdy piglets! Speaking of piglets, our sow Sweetie Pie had a litter of sixteen last month. Whew!! That is quite a large number as she only has the spigots to feed fourteen. She is a great mother though and all of them have thrived. Now that the babies are eating on their own and have grown a good amount  the majority have found homes at another farm. Last week our new heritage breed boar arrive at the farm. He was a bit shy about exiting the trailer into his new home, but with some coaxing (and food) he decided to enter the pig barn. Our sow Bertha was there to greet him and they have become good companions. We have named the boar Max and he is a fine fellow. It has been hard to get a good picture of him as he is in love with his mud wallow so that is where you can find him most of the time. Max is a Gloucester Old Spot breed.

The new draft horses Jenny and Judy have settled in nicely as well. They did not come to us as a team, but they are working very well together. They are so similar looking that they seem like sisters. They are both Suffolk Punches. The other animals are all doing well and there are plenty of them for visitors to see. Our Corona Virus adapted tours are going well and folks can safely visit and learn about various chores and tasks done on the homestead in the 19th century. Last week was a very busy one with several extra demonstrations. There was a pottery highlight, a Spinning and Weaving Day, a Bread Baking Highlight, oats being harvested and Saturday was Music in the Valley. Several musician came out the the farm and played traditional music on dulcimers, fiddles and banjos. We appreciate the sharing of stories about music development in the United States along with their talent at playing the music. We even had a very entertaining puppet show. It was a great day.

This week will be another busy one with a Rye Straw Craft Day on Tuesday, Split Oak Basketry along with Quilting on Wednesday, Paper Crafts on Thursday and on Friday evening 7/24 a special fundraiser, an Ice Cream & Art Twilight Tour where folks can create some art work, enjoy homemade ice cream and visit two tour stops on the farm for special presentations. You can call the office for more info or to sign up, but hurry.

July has been plenty busy and August looks to be the same. I hope you will have an opportunity come visit us. We will appreciate your business and you will have fun and most likely learn something new. Nothing better than having fun while learning!

Well, that’s all for now folks. I hope you are staying healthy. Take care of each other. Thank you and see you soon. Aunt Eunice