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Groundhogs – Not a Farmer’s Best Friend

Hello Folks,
  Aunt Eunice here today with some information on groundhogs, otherwise known as woodchucks. With Groundhog Day just around the corner I want to share some facts about the largest member of the ground squirrel family.
It may surprise you to know that a groundhog can grow to 24 inches and weigh up to 13lbs. Like other squirrels, groundhogs have long tails that grow around 7 inches long. According to the National Wildlife Federation, during the warm months, a groundhog’s incisors grow about a sixteenth of an inch each week to keep up with their frenzied eating schedule. Also, according to the NWF groundhogs are found only in North America, from Canada down to the southern United States. They like woodland areas that bump up against more open areas. They dig burrows that can be 6 feet deep, and 20 feet wide. These underground homes can have two to a dozen entrances. All those entrances are why the groundhog is not a farmer’s best friend. The holes can break farm equipment, twist a leg and the groundhogs have a hefty appetite in the summer and fall as they load up for a winter of hibernation. A farmer’s garden and crops make a tasty meal. They can eat about a pound of food per sitting. While hibernating, the groundhog’s heartbeat slows from 80 beats per minute to 5 beat per minute; their respiration reduces from 16 breaths per minute to as few as 2 breaths per minute; and their body temperature drops from about 99 degrees Fahrenheit to as low as 37 degrees.
The NFW says groundhogs are solitary creatures, living about six to eight years. They eat vegetables and fruits, whistle when they’re frightened or looking for a mate (they’re sometimes called whistle pigs) and can climb trees and swim. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate (not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation for good in March.
In Quiet Valley’s one room school “students” are required to do tongue twisters as part of their school day. One of them is, How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood? According to Cornell University it would be about 700 lbs.

Actually, the name woodchuck has nothing to do with wood, or chucking it, according to the Animal Diversity Web. The word woodchuck comes from a Native American word, wuchak, which roughly translates as “digger.”

Nevertheless, according to Cornell, a wildlife biologist sought to answer the tongue-twister’s question. He measured the volume of a woodchuck burrow and estimated that if the hole were filled with wood rather than dirt, the woodchuck would have chucked about 700 lbs. (Woodchucks, however, typically do not chew wood.)

First Groundhog Day

 According to History.com – On February 2, 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, was celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its burrow, predicting six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.

In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.

That’s all for now. Thanks for checking in and here’s hoping the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow! My old bones would appreciate an early spring. Take care. Aunt Eunice

A Breathe of Fresh Air

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. Our final fundraising event of the year, Old Time Christmas is over and it was as heartwarming as ever. Here at Quiet Valley we are in the midst of the only truly quiet time we have on the farm. At least for two or three weeks. During this brief interlude we have time to reflect on the past year and what we accomplished as a business, what might need tweaking, what we might want to add or let go in our programming. We have a new member to the farm staff who became our Director of Education on January 1st. Having a new staff member can be like a breathe of fresh air as they usually come onboard with lots of energy and new ideas. The seasoned staff will provide continuity and experience from which the young director will benefit. We welcome Rachel to her new position.

We just hung up a 2020 National Day calendar in the office. Not surprisingly January 1st was National Hangover Day! Today is January 3rd and it is oddly enough “drinking straw day”. My thoughts on this particular day is to encourage everyone to use paper straws or no straw at all. Glass or stainless steel straws are reusable so make a good alternate choice. What plastic water bottles and plastic straws are doing to our oceans is no joke. Jokes will be told on National Tell a Joke Day on August 16th though please let our jokes be about anything other than the sad state of our oceans.

Old Rock Day is on Tuesday January 7th and I challenge our readers and Facebook fans to share pictures of their favorite or oddest old rock. Is it the diamond on your finger, the coal you got in your stocking or something more unusual?

Saturday January 11th is Milk Day and a historic farm such as Quiet Valley does know something about milk. Milk is counted among the most essential staple foods, is an important part of a balanced diet and contains, among other vital nutrients, a high percentage of calcium. In 2019, worldwide milk production amounted to about 513.22 million metric tons. Among the major producers, the United States was ranked second with a milk production amounting to over 98.8 million metric tons in 2018.
Pennsylvania was the 5th ranked state in the US. from 2014 – 2018 in milk production based on number of dairy cows. 505 thousand milking cows were in Pennsylvania in 2018. California is the top milk producing state with 1.8 million dairy cows. The European Union is the largest milk producer in the world.

The United States is one of the leading dairy producing countries in the world, and American cows are among the most productive cows on the planet. The average cow in the U.S. produces about 21,000 lbs. of milk per year, that’s nearly 2,500 gallons! On a daily basis, most cows average about 70 lbs. of milk per day, or about 8 gallons. 8 gallons is about 128 glasses of milk each day.

Early settlers would have been thrilled when they were established enough to have a milking cow. Goats and sheep also produce milk that is used for human consumption. Colicky babies tend to do better if they drink goat milk as the fat particles are smaller than what is in cow milk so it is easier to digest. My favorite cheese, Manchego, is made from sheep’s milk. Milk could be used for all sorts of cooking, in cereal or porridge, in custards, in pies and puddings, in soups, but in my opinion its best use was after ice cream was invented. Though that is a story for another day.

Read some more on the history of milk cows in the U.S.  the-story-of-milk

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to post your favorite old rock pictures on the 7th.

Take Care. Aunt Eunice

 

Photo – Making Ice Cream the Old Fashioned Way!

Old Time Christmas

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. My favorite event of the Quiet Valley year has begun. If you missed the opening weekend of our Old Time Christmas, fear not, as there is one more weekend. This Saturday December 14 and Sunday December 15 are the final two days. This fundraiser showcases Christmas in the 1800s. Guides take groups by lantern light to the various stops on the farm. Visitors will see things like a “Victorian” family preparing for an 1890s holiday, the live Nativity in the barnyard complete with farm animals, a visit from the Belschnikel and more. The experience will take about an hour and a half and believe me when I say, this event will get you into the true spirit of Christmas. Low key, heartfelt and entertaining Old Time Christmas gives visitors a glimpse into the 19th century customs, pastimes and preparations  that occurred during the holiday season. Between 3pm and 7pm groups go out every fifteen minutes. I hope you come see our old fashioned Christmas celebration. You’re going to love it.

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

November – A Time of Reflection and Thanks

Hello, Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. Halfway through November means Thanksgiving is on the horizon. As I make plans for the holiday I can help, but take some time to think back over the past year. I look at the good, the bad and the ugly and then focus on the good. Some years, as you all know, that can be harder than we’d like it to be. Health, wealth, family, a home, a job are some things that top the list. Being in a comfortable place spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically is quite a blessing. Thanksgiving is of course a time we give thanks for them, blessings that is.

Thanksgiving has been a traditional holiday in the U.S. for a while now. Check here for a timeline. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. Since this date, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States. In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law establishing the day of Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November.

A good deal of my joy in Thanksgiving stems from the fact that so many family members and friends are all under one roof. There is also all the delicious and traditional foods. Our dinner’s food selections have changed since my childhood. Turkey and mashed potatoes with giblet gravy, baked sweet potatoes with oranges, oyster stuffing (a must for my father) and my mother’s homemade cranberry relish. Some years there might also be Gwaltney ham served and always home baked biscuits and pies. As we children got old enough to demand some changes, my cousin Paula’s cheese-ball became a regular appetizer. It of course became know as the Paula Ball. My Aunt Nell began bringing a yummy jello salad that we christened Nello salad. Obvious choice! I asked my mother to make stuffing without those yucky oysters and I began making cornbread with pepper-jack cheese in it. We also introduced green bean casserole to the menu. Old or new, nothing could beat my mother’s pecan pie, a favorite of most! Perfectly gooey with a flaky crust made with lard and a nice layer of whole pecans on top. Probably 500 calories in one small slice. Oh, well.

Now a days new food choices have been added and they have become standards. Mashed turnips in addition to mashed potatoes are served at our house as that is traditional for my daughter-in-law and her brother. We also make a sweet potato casserole using a recipe from the mother-in-law of my oldest daughter which has become everyone’s favorite. We have a turkey that is brined, though not everyone is a fan. Green bean casserole is still retaining its place on the table. Some adjustments have been made to accommodate a number of food allergies and other dietary issues. Four lactose intolerant, three organic only, two gluten free , one diabetic, and a grandson allergic to non-tree nuts! Sound like a song? Hmmm.

The new foods joining into the holiday dinner mimic the blending of new with old taking place in the family tree. Parents, aunts, uncles moving on to that great feast in Heaven, children get married, grandchildren are being born, things changing  is sometimes the only thing that stays the same. At least my mother’s pecan pie is still present on the Thanksgiving sideboard!

As this special holiday arrives, even if you are struggling to find something for which to be thankful, know you are being wished the very best. Happy Thanksgiving, folks!!

Take care, Aunt Eunice

November – a Time of Transition

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. November has arrived and I am planning many birthday parties for my family as six of us were born in that wonderful month. November is an interesting month. Technically it is part of the autumn season, but most of the colorful leaves are gone by then and many time the weather seems like early spring or winter. It can be warm, hot, cool or really cold! It seems like a month that can’t make up its mind.

As a child growing up in Monroe County it was the norm to have some snow in November and by December it was here to stay with layers just getting thicker and deeper. Flexible Flyer sleds were the favorite way to travel downhill and rides kept getting faster as the snow was packed down into a smooth, firm surface. By the time I had children the snow was concentrated in the months of January, February and March. There was rarely enough snow to pack down for the runners on sleds to ride on. Saucers, toboggans, and later on inflatable sleds that resembled pool floats, became the best way to ride on the lighter snows we were now getting.

November at Quiet Valley means a transition from the historic farm tours to winter programming. In the house and cabin many items are packed away and will spend the winter in the attic. Tools and equipment needed for outreach programs will be readied and the Education Center is prepped for school children coming to enjoy a Molly the Sheep program, and yes, the sheep will actually be there for the children to meet. The Farmhand Adventure is also popular and teaches the students about wheat, bread and butter making. They make their own small loaf of whole wheat to take home. Hands on History classes like Christmas in the Colonies and Just for Nice are available for groups, too. Many of these programs can be presented at schools, senior centers, libraries, etc.

In the past November was also a time of transition for the farmers. Time to move from the harvesting of crops to putting the gardens and fields to bed. Winter wheat was planted, it was time to cull the herds and plan for butchering, take care of repairing tools, check on the condition of buildings and farm equipment, split more firewood and later in the month the farm wives would plan for Thanksgiving and would bake for many days prior to the dinner. A traditional Pa. German favorite was black walnut cake. Black walnuts are very common in this area and are very tasty, but hard to get out of their shells, unlike English walnuts. They are worth the time it takes though. Watch out for small pieces of shell that can get mixed in with the walnut meat.

I am including a recipe for a black walnut cake. Make one to try yourself before you serve one to your company. That’s what my mother always taught me to do. Walnut cake recipe.

Since November is here my thoughts and energies at work will turn toward our final event of 2019, our annual Old Time Christmas. It is a lovely event. Stay tuned for details or visit the calendar of events page for more info. Thanks for checking in. Take care. Aunt Eunice

45th Festival and Beyond

Hello Folks,

Aunt Eunice here. Our 45th Harvest Festival is over and what a wonderful event it turned out to be!! The weather was perfect and the visitors plentiful. Guests were able to try samples of cracklings, scrapple and sausage at the Butchering demo, freshly made farmer’s cheese at cheese making or stuffed pig’s stomach at the Dutch oven demo. They could help with tasks such as stirring the apple butter, stomping the sauerkraut, doing a bit of bobbin lace making and churning butter. Children ran around in the fresh air and were able to have fun with pastimes like tug-of-war, sack races and throwing the corn dart. They also had “chores” to do and the favorites were washing the laundry and cracking the corn. There were so many things to do and see that you could spend the better part of the day and never get bored. If you missed attending put it on your calendar for next year, October 10 and 11, 2020. I want to say thank you to all who came and supported the non-profit farm museum and to all the wonderful volunteers who made the festival possible.
The Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited attended Harvest Festival and taught our visitors about fly tying, casting with a fly rod and the history of the sport in our area. Don Baylor is the founder of the local chapter. Here is an excerpt from a description of his 2017 presentation found on the groups’ website.  Pennsylvania is steeped in trout fishing tradition and evidence exists that the Poconos was the birthplace of fly fishing in America. Through Don’s extensive research he will explore and explain the rich trout fishing literature, legends, and lore of the sport in the Poconos and the many celebrities, presidents, and writers who have fished its storied waters and lodged in its grand hotels and hostelries- including the almost mythic Henryville House among others.
   Just some of the names from the 1800’s and early 1900’s who graced these waters reads like a Who’s Who of historical characters: presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Calvin Coolidge, General Phillip Sheridan, governor Gifford Pinchot, boxing greats John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain, …..Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley – and many others of note.
   A bit of local history I really didn’t know much about. How about you? Learning and having fun are two things Quiet Valley is good at combining.
A bonus for Festival goers was the birth of the baby piglets in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Guests were able to tiptoe in and get a peek at the nine tiny piglets. Too cute!
Farm school trips have begun again and students are experiencing life on an 1800s farm for a few hours. Making memories as well. Many visitors to Festival mentioned that they came to the farm on field trips when they were young and still have fond memories about it. I hope you come out soon and make some fond memories of your own. How about at our next event, Spooky Days on the Farm, October 25, 26 and 27? Family friendly in the day and a bit spookier after dark. There is a very well done murder mystery Friday and Saturday evenings between 5pm and 8pm, last group goes at 8:00. Dare I say you will have a Spook-tacular time?!
Then there is always my favorite event, Old Time Christmas, which will be here before we know it. Hands down the best way to get into the true spirit of the season. December 7, 8, 14 and 15.

Well, I’ve gone on enough for now. You all take care and I hope we see you on the farm soon. Thanks for checking in.  Aunt Eunice

 

Ah, October!

Hi Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. I have been off on vacation to beaches in New England. I managed to visit a few historic places there that are even older than Quiet Valley. Now I am back and am in high gear preparing for our wonderful Harvest Festival which is on October 12th and 13th. It’s a lovely time to hold an outdoor event. October has become THE month for visiting the Pocono Mountains. It is also one of the most popular months for having a wedding. The beautiful foliage, the comfortable daytime temperatures make walks or bike rides a pleasure. The cool, crisp evening air allows for a marvelous nights sleep. It’s a good time for a cup of hot cider and sitting around a fire in the evening. There are usually still a few summer-like days mixed in, enough to give us a brief reminder of August. October makes me think of caramel apples, butternut bisque soup and shushing through the dry leaves. I have always loved that sound as you shuffle your feet through a pile of yellow, orange and red leaves, shussh, shhhush, shussh, shhhush! Makes me feel like a kid again.
Just watch out for hidden walnuts under the leaves! They can catch you unawares and cause a tumble onto the ground. Here on the farm we are diligently raking up the leaves and walnuts and butternuts. We will continue doing this right up to Harvest Festival so visitors can have a clear path as they check out all the demonstrations and activities. At the traditional dying area you can see walnut hulls used to dye wool yarn a nice dark brown color. It was also useful in making a stain in the past. The nut meats were a good source of protein and quite tasty. The walnuts on the farm are black walnuts which are not as easy to open as the English walnuts you buy at the grocery store. You always have to be careful of biting down on small pieces of shell.
I encourage visitors and local community members to come out and support Quiet Valley’s largest fundraiser of the year. For small non-profits like ours this event is very important. Your reward will be to learn some interesting things while having a good time and helping a great organization. Ah, October! Enjoy this month, it’s one of my favorites.
That’s all for now. Take care and talk to you soon. Aunt Eunice

September’s on the Horizon

Hello Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. I feel as frisky as a young goat thanks to this lovely cool weather with which we’ve been blessed. It makes me think of fall and that’s alright, though I’m not quite ready to let go of summer. We have three and a half weeks before summer officially ends and I plan on enjoying every day of them. This past weekend the Pocono State Craft Festival was held here on the farm and it was a lovely event. Lots of folks came to visit, check out the fine art and crafts that were for sale, and have a look at the farm museum. Next on the calendar is our Covered Bridge Farm to Table Dinner for which tickets are all sold out. Good food, lovely setting and good company.
Summer tours season ends on Monday September 2nd (Labor Day) so you can still get a visit to the farm in. We are open for Fall tours, which technically take place during the summer according to the calendar, on Saturdays September 7 and 14 from 10am to 4pm. That’s your last chance for the regular historic tour in 2019.
The biggest adventure of our year is on the horizon. Our 45th Harvest Festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday October 12th and 13th. This year’s theme is “Farms – Center of the Community”. There are far too many demonstrations and activities to list, but you can read more about it under the Calendar of Events section. I always pray we can have smooth sailing for Festival as it is our largest fundraiser of the year. Good weather, large crowds, plenty of volunteers are all needed to bring about success. When September arrives it will be full speed ahead on preparations for this event. I hope you will consider coming out to support us and our Harvest Festival. You are sure to have a marvelous time so come and enjoy yourselves!
That’s all for now. Have fun during these last few weeks of summer. Take care.
Aunt Eunice

Bits and Bobs

Hello Folks,
Aunt Eunice here. August has arrived and I am now wondering what plans I have time to make before summer ends. Visits to family, a weekend away, a few days at home to catch up on chores? I know for sure I will be on the farm tomorrow August 10th for our 13th annual Heritage Craft Day. I will be the one demonstrating basket making.
Most times I am working in Quiet Valley’s office, but I treasure the times I can work on the farm. Yes, the air conditioning in the Ed Center is nice on hot and humid days. The farm is so lovely though and I love interacting with our guests. I do a bit of this and that for Quiet Valley. Marketing, advertising, PR, being webmaster, creating special events both small and large, administrative assistant, a tour guide occasionally, teach workshops and am even a demonstrator. When needed I help put up tents and tables, set up areas for events, wash dishes, cook, sweep floors and more. No moss grows under a staff person’s feet here on the homestead!
Working for this small non-profit means wearing many different hats, not just your Quiet Valley bonnet! The staff works very hard to cover their many roles, to keep business thriving, visitors educated and entertained, to keep the buildings and grounds in good repair, to develop new events and programming, take care of raising crops and farm animals and so much more. Each time I am on the farm a tiny little mission of mine is to pick up the odd bits and bobs of litter that can be found. I have an issue with litter. Women in the early 1800s on the farm wore outfits without modern day pockets. They used a pouch type of pocket that tied around their waist and was worn under their apron.
I put the litter debris plus interesting things I find on the ground (unless it is something that makes me say “Eww!!”) in my pocket until I get near a waste can. Sometimes it is surprising what I collect. Last week I dumped my pocket out and was amused at what I found. It was like a cross between a child’s keepsake box and Mary Poppin’s carpet bag! It is astounding how much you can fit in your pocket. There was a pretty dried half of a walnut. When I turn it one way it reminds me of a pig snout and the other way of an owl’s face. I also had thirty six cents, empty candy wrappers, a broken pen, the corner of a credit card, a rack card, a gray plastic guitar pic, a Popsicle stick, a nice turkey feather, a turquoise hair band, an earring back and a partridge in a pear tree! No, actually I am kidding about the partridge. I would never put one in my pocket!
Bit and bobs, odds and ends, the little things that escape our possession or ones some of us set free on purpose. Some day I may make a collage using these type of found items. Wouldn’t that be an interesting project? Making art from the detritus of life.
I hope you make it out to Heritage Craft Day tomorrow. If you do come stop by the basket making area and introduce yourself. I would love to meet you.

That’s all for now. Take care. Aunt Eunice

August

Hello Folks,
Aunt Eunice here.  Last Saturday we held the second summer member’s picnic here at the farm. After a delicious potluck dinner everyone divided into teams and participated in a scavenger type of Treasure Hunt. Each team had to solve 9 riddles which took them to different parts of the farm. When finished they received the missing piece to their treasure map and a final riddle. Once solved it led them to their buried treasure. It was a lovely  evening to be on the farm and a good time was had by all. Consider joining Quiet Valley as a member and then attend the next picnic on August 15.

In a few days the month of August will be upon us. At one time it would have been called the month of Sextilis. According to Wikipedia August is the eighth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and the fifth of seven months to have a length of 31 days. It was originally named Sextilis in Latin because it was the sixth month in the original ten-month Roman calendar under Romulus in 753 BC, and March was the first month of the year. In 8 BC, it was renamed in honor of Augustus.

August is a good time to sit in an open area and watch the night sky for the Perseids, a major meteor shower, which typically takes place between July 17 and August 24, with the days of the peak time varying yearly.

Other August activities on a non-cosmic scale are Quiet Valley’s Heritage Craft Day on the 10th and the Pocono State Craft Festival on the 24th and 25th. They are both worth your time with the Heritage Craft Day being a bit more family friendly. The PSCF is perfect for serious shopper or folks who admire fine arts and crafts. We are having a special highlight the week of the 12th – 17th with the first time loading of our new lime kiln. The date of the actual firing has yet to be announced. Not something you can see every day.

The last day for the summer tours is Labor Day which is September 2nd this year. Fall tours will take place September 7 and 14. Don’t miss out as these will be the last tours for 2019.

I hope we see you at the farm before summer ends. Thanks for checking in. Aunt Eunice