Friday, April 17, 2009

Springtime at Greenfield Village

As a member of The Henry Ford, I visit Greenfield Village a few times a month. Sometimes I'll head there in the morning just to walk around for a couple hours to clear my head before heading off to work in the afternoon. I must say, I never return home without learning something new. And, because the events are broken down according to the season of the year, there are always opportunities to learn even more about life as lived. For instance, come mid-April, when the Village re-opens after being closed for the winter, one can enter the season of springtime of long ago. It's this time of year when the visitor can see just how folks of the 18th and 19th centuries awakened from their 'long winter's nap' and prepared their homes and land for the coming season.
At Firestone Farm, for example, one will see that the wall hangings in the sitting room have been taken down for cleaning; the walls are wiped, and the rugs are beaten to rid them of months of dust and dirt.

From ceiling to floor, each room is torn apart and given a thorough cleaning.
The food the presenters cook in the coal burning stove is what had been in the cellar since the previous fall.

Outside on the surrounding farmland, spring plowing is at hand. Not by tractor, mind you, but by horse and man power. If you recall from the second chapter of this blog ("History is Bunk!" - What Henry Ford Really Meant, and the Beginning of Greenfield Village), harrowing the land was one of the reasons Henry Ford began his Village:
"When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the land, I discovered that the historians knew nothing about harrows. Yet our country depended more on harrows than on guns or great speeches."

(from a placard in the Soybean Experimental Laboratory)


(a weed puller in use)

For someone like me and my family who live in the city, this gives us the chance to see plowing and harrowing done first-hand in the way of our fore-fathers, as well as planting of the crops. Learning what folks in the later 19th century grew in their kitchen garden is also explained.
What's nice is that the 'planting season' is not just for a weekend, but throughout the spring months of April and May. And the men (and women) in the field explain in interesting detail what they are doing and the purpose for the equipment they use.

At the Ford Home farm the presenters perform the task of sheep-shearing. As you can see by the photographs, this was no easy task.


And while visiting the colonial era Daggett Farmhouse one can see how they sorted, washed, carded and spun the wool from the shorn sheep. The women here are experts spinners and to see them work the great (or walking) wheel is to see a craft that had faded long ago return to life.

The presenters do a great job in their explanations of the springtime chores at each of the homes mentioned above (and a few others) and are always willing to answer any questions.
For many of us, it's just not spring until we go to the spring chore season at Greenfield Village.


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