I spent several hours today in the homestead that I will demonstrate and interpret for visitors to Old World Wisconsin. Tomorrow I will learn to light a fire in the cookstove and the bake oven and actually cook something. The house and land was purchased by Adam Schottler, an immigrant from southern Germany who had a larger farm nearby. He rented the house out until his son Matthias was married, and then he gave his son and daughter-in-law the property. The Wisconsin Historical Society acquired the house and a few other buildings from the period, and assembled them together to form a homestead for the museum. The restoration date targeted is 1875. At that time, Matthias and Caroline Schottler had 2 children. They had 11 children total during their marriage. Here’s a photo that shows the zigzag fence, the granary and pig pen, the barn, the summer kitchen (or bake house), and behind it, the house. The granary, summer kitchen, and house are all one behind the other in this photo, so you can’t see much of them. The wooden crossbar frame standing outside is for butchering hogs (which we’ll do in the fall). The green field in the background is planted with rye. I am supposedly going to help make a rye straw basket, and to raise dough in it for rye bread, which I will bake in the bake kitchen oven…an oven that holds 24 loaves at a time!
I will also be busying myself chopping wood and gardening in order to prepare food in that summer kitchen. Today I saw rhubarb and asparagus and currents and thyme and sage and rosemary and lemon balm and dill and horseradish already growing in the garden. All of this produce is to be used on site during the season. I don’t get to take any home, but I do get to help use it. I have been wanting to learn more about how to “live off the land” for a while now, and this is going to be a great introduction, I think.
Right now I’m learning all kinds of logistics to interpreting this area for school groups beginning a week from today, but I think of the feel of the sun on my cheeks and the 13-stripe ground squirrel that peeked into the kitchen today, and I imagine moments that I will have simply soaking up the homesteading life, pondering the way of a woman who worked hard, raised 11 children, and knew the land around her intimately. What will I learn from her? What appreciation and meaning will take root inside me? Gratitude, a sense of life rooted and grounded, a hope for my own children to live honestly in the simple abundance of the earth?It’s a connection that I’m eager to explore.
I apologize for leaving out a poetry challenge for today, but I am too sunburned and tired to concentrate on that today. Tomorrow I have another early day out at the site. I am looking forward to sleep! And to getting my costume….more to come!