Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkins for All: Part 2

By: Marieanne Coursen, Agricultural Interpreter

In part one I showed the three varieties of pumpkins we grew this year at the Lippitt Farmstead. In addition to making a wonderful pie ingredient, pumpkin is also a great food for our farm animals. To make it easier for them to eat, it is first chopped into bite-sized pieces. 

I offered the freshly chopped pumpkins to several of our animals at Lippitt Farmstead and got mixed results. The pigs of course ate them, but then, they will eat anything!

The turkeys were skeptical...
...the geese gave it a try...
...but in the end they were not interested.

The chickens, however, loved it!

Ollie, our Southdown sheep, remembered eating pumpkin in the past and dug right in.

The rest of the sheep were not impressed, but I have been feeding them pumpkin sprinkled with grain for several days and now they eat it right up. Animals tend to be neophobic and often hesitate to try new foods, but once they sample it with no bad results they are happy to add it to the menu.

Last but not least, Seraphina is a huge fan of pumpkin.
Of course this is only appropriate since you may recall from an earlier blog post, her namesake was also fond of pumpkin!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkins for All: Part 1

By: Marieanne Coursen, Agricultural Interpreter

We grew three varieties of pumpkins on the Lippitt Farmstead this past summer. The New England Pie Pumpkin is an adorable small pumpkin, generally between five and eight pounds. This pumpkin is my personal favorite. 

It has a wonderful sweet flesh that is excellent for pies.

The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is a larger, buff-colored pumpkin also excellent for pies. 
Although it has a pale outer skin, the flesh inside is a deep orange color. 

This pumpkin has a wonderful aroma when we cut it open. Shari, interpreter in the More House, made these beautiful pies with it, and I can attest that they were delicious!

This recipe is from The Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Francis Child, published in 1830.

These pumpkins will keep in a cool place for a few months but not necessarily until late winter or early spring, so some of the pumpkin is dehydrated for future use. One way to do that is to slice the flesh and hang the slices in the kitchen where they will dry from the warmth of the fire. Another way is to stew the pumpkin, then spread it on a pan and leave the pan in a warm oven until the pumpkin becomes leathery and can be lifted off the pan in one piece. Pat, our interpreter in the Lippitt Farmhouse, has been preparing much of our pumpkin this way.

The third pumpkin we grew was the Connecticut Field Pumpkin.
This is the type of pumpkin typically grown nowadays for Halloween. It is a large, nicely-shaped pumpkin, perfect for a jack-o-lantern. While it can be used for cooking, it is rather plain tasting and somewhat watery.

Its real claim to fame is as an animal feed. In part two of this blog post, I'll report the result of my farm animal survey regarding the eating of pumpkin.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shall We Have Christmas?

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Manager of Public Programs

We're introducing a new program at the museum this year. Some of you may have come to our Holiday Lantern Tours in previous years. This year we've moved from the tours to focus even more on the experience of the winter holidays in the nineteenth century. If you're looking for a chance to visit The Farmers' Museum and experience a quieter and more historic atmosphere than Candlelight Evening, I hope that you'll come to the museum on Saturday, December 3, between 4-8pm. (And the week after that, please come and see the entire village aglow for Candlelight Evening.)

Our new program is called Shall We Have Christmas? During the nineteenth century, Christmas was not the major holiday that it is today. It was celebrated in similar, smaller-scale ways, though. Shall We Have Christmas won't be as large of an event as Candlelight Evening, but activities will be taking place in many of the buildings: holiday gift-making in the More House, singing and socializing in the tavern, wagon rides, holiday foods in the Lippitt House, greeting card printing in the printing office, remedies for winter ailments in the pharmacy, and decorations in the church. 

In addition to the staff who'll be talking about the holidays in each building, you'll be able to hear more about the holidays from quotes by people who wrote about their experience of the holidays in the mid-nineteenth century. Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of James Fenimore Cooper and also an author, shared many holiday observations in her book, Rural Hours:
The festival is very generally remembered now in this country, though more of a social than a religious holiday, by all those who are opposed to such observances on principle. In large towns it is almost universally kept. In the villages, however, but few shops are closed, and only one or two of the half dozen places of worship are opened for service. Still, everybody recollects that it is Christmas; presents are made in all families; the children go from house to house wishing Merry Christmas; and probably few who call themselves Christians allow the day to pass without giving a thought to the sacred event it commemorates, as they wish their friends a “Merry Christmas.”
Gwen Miner, our Supervisor of Domestic Arts, has also found quotes from historic diaries from the region that related to each of the buildings that will be open.

We hope to see you for at least one of our holiday events in December!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seeing the Details, Part 2

By: Christina Ely, Registrar for Plowline: Images of Rural New York

After writing my last blog post titled "Seeing the Details" about a 19th-century photograph in the Plowline: Images of Rural New York Collection, I received an email from Steve Kellogg, Supervisor at the Field Blacksmith Shop at The Farmers' Museum. The email was very enlightening and conveyed some great information regarding pressed hay in the 19th century that I thought I would share with you.

Detail, 19th Century Farm Scene, 1880-1890, by W.H. Bell, F0003.2011.  Plowline: Image of Rural New York.  The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York.
As it turns out the two "sleds" that I noted in the foreground (seen in the detail above) are the "bobs" to a farm bobsled. Steve notes in his email that the bobsleds were used in winter for farm hauling and, in this case, were probably used to haul pressed hay.

Most notable from his email is the following information, which really sheds some light on why farmers in the image were pressing hay in the winter months: 
"The hay was cut in mid-summer and had been in the barn for months. Why are they baling it when it clearly was already stored in the haymow loose? Judging by the A-frame, chain, and hay hook the baled hay is very hard to move by hand."
Detail, 19th Century Farm Scene. F0003.2011.

Steve also notes the following about how the pressed hay was used:
"You pressed the hay to ship it by Canal or Train to NYC. Rectangular bales fit efficiently into a rail car. New York City had a lot of livestock, and a voracious appetite for good hay in midwinter. You would make more money selling it in winter than you could selling it in the summer. Therefore pressed hay was an excellent crop to sell in midwinter. The photo not only documents the farm family using expensive equipment, but also producing a high-value export at the same time."
I found this information very helpful in explaining why this type of work would be done in winter as opposed to summer, and I hope you find it an interesting comment on hay pressing and sales in the late 19th century as well.

Many thanks to Steve Kellogg - who also has a blog - for the follow-up email and information!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seeing the Details

By: Christina Ely, Registrar for Plowline: Images of Rural New York

19th Century Farm Scene, 1880-1890, by W.H. Bell, F0003.2011.  Plowline: Image of Rural New York.  The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York.

Recently, I used the photograph above with a group of students to discuss looking at agricultural photographs. It proved to be a fruitful and valuable discussion, better than I could have hoped for. Before the session I had spent quite some time looking at this photograph, discovering the details and thinking about the purpose and background of this 19th century image. Here I will discuss a little bit about what I discovered through looking closely at the details and a little research.

When we added this image to the Plowline: Images of Rural New York Collection last January, I thought I had created a fairly comprehensive description.  It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago, that I found there was a lot more to learn about this photograph.  Let’s take a look!

What do you notice first when you look at the photograph? I noticed the barn, five men, the stack of loose hay, the hay on the wagon that the two men stand on, the team of horses and the sleigh. Those seem to be the main features of the photograph for me. When looking a little closer, I noticed there are two sleds turned upside down in the foreground; bales of hay and of course, snow. Here’s what I didn’t notice or think too much about until I was preparing for the class last month. 

As I was thinking about this photo one night at home, I thought “wait, how did they make those hay bales in the photo?” That thought led me to wonder when the hay baler was invented.

Detail, 19th Century Farm Scene. F0003.2011.
I came into work the next morning and immediately took out the photo. I looked closely at the “wagon” of loose hay the two men are standing on and realized that THAT was how they made those hay bales.

Detail, 19th Century Farm Scene. F0003.2011.
It wasn’t a wagon at all. I immediately started researching when the hay baler was invented, and found that the predecessor to the baler (a term coined in the 1920s or 1930s) was a “hay press” and it was invented around 1870. That was a fairly new machine the men were using. There were different types –horse powered and another type that was invented in 1881 which was controlled by a pressure gauge. I am still not sure which type this is as it is difficult to discern what is in the faded recess behind the hay press, horses and men. It could be the pressure gauge press, but there are also clues that this may be a horse powered press.

This led me to thinking more about something else I had researched when the photo came to us - that prominent sleigh so nicely placed in the foreground.  It looks like a very nice sleigh and with a little research; I discovered it’s a VERY nice sleigh.  The sleigh is an “Albany Cutter.” Not only is it an Albany Cutter, but it’s a four seat Cutter! This was the primo sleigh of the time period. It was the “Cadillac” of the day. Upon further research, I learned that just as cars are updated from year to year, so was the cutter. Paint features upon it let people would know approximately when a person purchased the sleigh. This was a very nice thing to own.

Detail, 19th Century Farm Scene. F0003.2011.

These two objects led me to question: why there was such a nice sleigh and hay press with loose hay upon it (not to mention all the other hay and bales we see) outside in the winter? What was the purpose of this photo? The more I looked at the photo and thought about these details the more I realized that this was not a photograph taken by a photographer who just happened by this nice farm scene during a leisurely drive in the county. This was a photo to show prominence, ownership, success. The nice sleigh, the newly-invented hay press, all that hay suggesting a fair amount of land was owned, the strong team of horses - all these show that the farmers were doing pretty well for themselves at the time and they wanted to have a record to show it. Of course, with all these things discovered – I still have a multitude of questions about what I don’t see in the photo or have knowledge of. What type of farm was this- gentleman or dairy, perhaps otherwise? What did the house look like? Who ARE all these men in the photograph? Where exactly was this farm in Cortland County, New York? When was that barn built? How much land was part of the farm? Did they lumber, sugar, ice harvest in the winter and spring months (maybe that’s what they are alluding to with those two small upside-down sledges)?

When we look closely and think about the details in a photograph, the purpose of the photograph, the photographer’s and subject’s intent, and what we DON’T see in the photo we can learn a lot more than we initially might from a simple quick glance. It can be quite a rewarding experience.
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