Monday, October 10, 2011

Harvest Days

 In the past few years I've taken my camera to fewer and fewer places. I'm not exactly sure why. One of the reasons may be that my boys don't really prefer to have their photo taken and when I do take some shots of them, them tend to look glum. It hasn't made for the most enjoyable photography so I guess I just stopped trying. Of course, then we need pictures for something and can't find any recent ones. So, I'm trying to be more thoughtful about these teenage years.

Yesterday we went to Landis Valley Harvest Days. Landis Valley is a wonderful hands on history museum that is less than 5 miles from our house. The boys pass by every day on the school bus but I think we've only been there one other time. They do have a children's museum called Hands on House which we frequented many, many times when the boys were young. It was a gorgeous, sunny, fall day and Mike and I were determined to get outside as a family. Harvest Days seems a perfect opportunity.
The shoe maker stand was unmanned when we stopped by. I wish we could have learned about this trade. You can see a few of the tools and the start of some shoes in this photo. There were lots of little tools that we had questions about. 
 This was one of my favorite exhibits: dying. The brown scarf was dyed using different types of mushrooms and the blue was dyed with indigo. Apparently, to dye with indigo one thing that has to happen is for the oxygen to be taken out of the dye bath. They told me the chemical they use to do that (which I can't remember). I asked how this was done originally and was told "little boys urine." I'm not joking! We had a good time wondering how they determined this method. When the yarn or fabric comes out of the dye bath it is actually green. It turns blue when it re-oxidizes. Pretty wild, huh?
 Here she is stirring the pot of red that had some wool yarn being dyed. It takes only a few minutes in the dye bath. She informed us that it is better to dye something several times to get a darker color than to leave it in too long.
 I was really surprised at how vibrant the colors were. I didn't realize how brightly things would dye using these methods. Goes to show you how little I know!
 Of course, the amount of time that it takes to make the dye and to get the colors you want is unbelievable. We take so much for granted.
 The boys had wandered off during my extended visit with the dye ladies. I guess I can't blame them. They are standing next to the spring house, A.K.A. old fashioned refrigerator.
 Here was another amazing craftsman. He was making hickory brooms. They are made from one log. To make a large broom takes about 80 hours. I asked who would have made these and he said it was often the job of the children. Making brooms isn't difficult once you know how to handle a knife and it was a job that was preferred to being out in the fields because it wasn't nearly as labor intensive.
 Here is Nolan checking out the finished products. I'm not sure I'd like a round broom myself but it was fascinating to hear about how they were made.
 Nolan checks out the PA Dutch kitchen. I didn't think to take a photo of the outdoor bake oven and the bread and cookies that we tasted. The museum has summer and winter institutes where you can learn more about the arts like hearth baking and fraktur painting. I think I may check into taking one of the classes.
 Nathan agrees to pose for a shot in front of the hearth.
 This man was showing us the labor intensive method of making linen thread out of flax. Here is the second step, breaking apart the flax stems (?) to get at the fibers inside. The first step was getting all of the seed pods off the flax. These pods were opened to reveal the flax seeds. The seeds were used to replant the next years harvest, for linseed oil and for eating.
 Here he's showing the fibers within the flax.
 There were several more steps that included some really medieval looking tools! There were many steps to getting the fibers out of the flax. After that they would be spun into thread which could then be woven into linen to make a shirt. It required quite a huge field of flax to make a shirt. No wonder old houses have such little or non existent closets. If it took that long to make the fabric, who would want a lot of clothes!
 This was a plant in one of the gardens we walked through. I don't know what it is called but I like the way it looks. It was interesting to note that the gardens were all raised beds. Even back then they knew that it was better to grow things in soil that isn't compacted.
 Of course I had to include a shot of the quilt in the frame. There were women quilting in another area but they weren't very friendly. One of the women was making beautiful cathedral window blocks, though.
 Here was another garden we walked through. Landis Valley has a heirloom seed project that I wanted to find more about. I'd like to use heirloom varieties in my garden next year if I can.
 The blacksmith is always fun to watch. We weren't clear about what he was making.
And finally at the end of the day we found the musicians. This man with the waxed mustache was playing all my favorite songs. I wanted to jump in and sing along.

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