Tag Archives: re-enacting

Silence is Golden

It has been quiet around here.  It can’t decide whether it is spring with fruit trees, forsythia, and daffodils blooming, leaves developing on the lilac and some of the shrubs.  Or still winter in April with a recent foot of snow.

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The chickens are confused.  The weather warms and they start laying lots of eggs, then it gets cold and they use all their energy just staying warm.  The past couple of days have been mild and delightful, tomorrow, the high will be at 1 a.m. and fall all day to 29ºf by night and there are snow flurries in the forecast on Saturday and again on Monday.

I took advantage of the nice afternoon and evening to plant 66 garlic cloves and 100 onion sets and then to keep the Houdini chickens out of the newly planted beds and the just sprouting asparagus, three 25 foot rows of plastic chicken wire were purchased and staked around those boxed beds to try and keep them out so growth can occur undisturbed.  Even when the chickens are allowed to free range all 30 acres if they are a mind to, they tunnel under the vegetable garden fence to dig in the spoiled hay and the compost.  With four more  8′ X 4′ and 3 more 4′ X 4′ beds to plant, a better solution than the plastic chicken wire is needed to keep them out.  After not having much luck with root crops and me being the only one who likes dark leafy cooking greens, a change up in the garden is due.  Potatoes, greens, salad, radishes, carrots, and turnips are all readily available locally grown at the Farmers’ Market, so I’m not even going to mess with them this year.  Tomatoes and Jalapenos are always canned or frozen and used up by the time the next growing season comes around, so they will be grown.  Green beans and peas if I can keep the bunnies out of them this year will be grown.  A block of popcorn with some kind of pumpkin or winter squash interspersed will be there.  I have planted sweet potatoes for the past few years and then many don’t get used, so I doubt I’ll waste the space on them, but Kirby cucumbers will be added so I can make lots of pickles.  They disappeared quickly last year the the cucumbers were pricey at the market.

The raspberries never did get thinned or pruned last fall and other than trying to control their spread into the other beds, it is too late to do anything about them this year.  I would like to dig them all up and replant huge buried pots of them to control their spread.  I also want to add to the blueberry garden and look at other fairly small fruit options.

One cold March day I took a fruit tree pruning class and though I can recite the rules, having an idea of what the finished pruning should look like still eludes me, but I have taken a stab at working on our small orchard.  One of the Asian pears has gotten really tall and is thin and compact, not conducive to picking fruit and I have no idea how to deal with it.  The apple trees and the other Asian pear have a better shape and I think I have a handle on the peach trees.

The early spring brought a trip to a fiber retreat and my first and hopefully last encounter with bedbugs.  That put me on antihistamines and anti itch creams and salves for two weeks.  Shortly after my return, a new travel size spinning wheel entered my life.  It is a fun little wheel that fits in an extra large Land’s End canvas bag and only weighs 8 pounds.

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Spring has brought two opportunities to spin at Historic Smithfield Plantation in costume before the season officially opened, a 5K and a fun run one weekend in March and an Easter Egg Hunt this past Saturday.  Both of those events brought dozens of visitors into the Slave cabin/Summer kitchen where I spin, so it was fun and busy.  When a child shows interest in what I’m doing, I will ask them if they would like to try.  If the parent agrees, knowing that the child will have to sit on my lap or between my legs, they get to treadle the wheel while I draft the fiber and once they have helped spin a couple of feet, I double it back on itself to ply it and cut it off to give the child as a souvenir.  The parents are always thankful and a bit surprised that I not only let the child touch the wheel, but help.

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History Day

Today was the official season opening of the Smithfield Plantation House, the historic home of William Preston in Blacksburg, Virginia. This is the site where I have been demonstrating spinning for the past year when there is a special event. For a while, I will be going in and spinning in different rooms of the house itself while I learn the history to become an interpreter and give tours.  Last November for their final event, I sat in the dining room and learned the information for the school room/office of the house and that part of the house, but there are 4 other rooms that I have only toured once and not an official tour, so that information must be learned.

Today, being opening day, spinning was in the summer kitchen.  The site excavation showed that the slave cabin was erected on the summer kitchen area and until this year, it has been the Weaver’s Cottage with old wheels, weasels, winders, and a huge Appalachian Rocker Loom.  All of that has been removed except for the loom and a small work table and set up with crocks, pots, and tools of an 18th century kitchen.

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Today, I was in this cottage/summer kitchen spinning on one of my antique wheels in full costume.  Because it was opening day, just inside the gate was a Civil War re-enactors encampment, they spent the night there last night and will again tonight.  It smelled so good with bacon cooking on their open fire when I arrived this morning.

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As you can see from the lack of leaves on the trees, we are still in early spring and today was an early spring day, very breezy and cool. The cottage is drafty and by the end of the day I was pretty chilled through.  One of the hazards of the cottage is the very low doorways to the outside and to the lean-to addition.  This is the warning on the inside of the door as you prepare to exit.  It is at the bridge of my nose.  The door opening is only about 5 feet.

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During one of the sunny periods, I was sitting on the steps in the sun to warm and two horses were lead through the property. They were lead down to the cottage to graze while the owner and her friend went to use the facilities, I got to hold and provide some attention to the two beauties during that time.

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The turnout today was not very heavy, there were lots of other activities on campus and around the area and the day was chilly and mostly overcast, but it is so enjoyable to have this opportunity to participate in teaching and demonstrating this ancient art, to spread out my Scottish spindle, hand carders, fiber in various stages of preparation and get to talk about something that I have come to love.  Each visit provides me with some education too.

Spinning and History

A couple of weeks ago, I was given the privilege to be the spinning interpreter at the local 18th century plantation house on the Virginia Tech Campus.  As summer was passing, I sold my Kromski Sonata, the folding castle style wheel that I had used the first time I was there and though a contemporary wheel, it at least looked the part.  It was replaced with the Ashford Traditional on which I had learned, a Saxony wheel that also looked the part and was used the second time I was re-enacting.  It was a nice starter wheel, though the wheel itself wobbled a bit when it spun.  It has tiny little bobbins and therefore made small skeins of yarn.  With the proceeds from selling the Kromski, I bought a used Louët, a very contemporary castle style wheel.  The Ashford was first loaned to a teen wanting to learn to spin, then sold to her, leaving me with the contemporary wheel while sitting in the old home spinning earlier this month.  I had been looking on the internet for an old (period) still functional wheel for some time and in the past couple of days, I found two.  I emailed out to the first seller to be told that the wheel pictured was not the wheel for sale, but representative of wheels he had sold in the past and he was too busy with the Christmas rush to send me any photos or descriptions of what he currently had available until after Christmas.  He also could not tell me if he had a working wheel.  Scratch that seller off my list.

The second seller had a beautiful wheel that had come from a South Carolina estate and it had been in the same family throughout it’s history.  I emailed again and the response was that it spins straight, has all of it’s original parts, is not just a decoration and not a reproduction, plus the price was so incredibly low that it seemed too good to be true, plus, if I am dissatisfied, I can return it within two weeks for a full refund.

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Since my show was successful over the weekend, we decided that I should go ahead and make the purchase.  This morning, I ordered that wheel and now I anxiously await it’s arrival.  It has only 1 bobbin and that bobbin looks small, so this wheel will only be for re-enactment, the rest of the time, gracing our home.  If I truly fall in love with it, perhaps I will have a couple more bobbins made, sell the Louët and make the antique my all the time wheel.  I’m really not a collector of wheels, not keeping more than one in the house at a time.