Harvesting Hope

I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food.  Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food.  Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat?  Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed?  And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it?  I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market.  I think about it now.

And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years.  I didn’t lead the way. 

Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space.  My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested.  The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off.  In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place.  What a mess!  But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards.  He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces.  He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden.  You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years.  So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden.  They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures.  They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden.  I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds.  The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction.  Let’s just hope many of them choose to!

VIP Tour

Late in the afternoon yesterday, some VIPs came to tour Old World Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, they arrived only an hour before closing and didn’t have ample opportunity to view the 575 acres and 50 buildings that comprise this living history museum.  So today, my day off, I took them back to the site and gave them a personal tour.  I also secured for them a copy of the historical gardening book that our expert, Marcia Carmichael, published last year.  Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settler’s includes historical references, tools and plot layouts, produce recipes from each ethnic area, and a lot of other wonderful information and sumptuous photographs of the meticulously researched and maintained gardens.  I know this couple is beginning to practice organic gardening, and they are eager to learn all they can.  In addition to that, the young man is a carpenter, and was thrilled to see the craftsmanship on the original structures.  They were able to get some behind-the-scenes photos and detailed descriptions of the building methods of the 19th century.  Each of the interpreters in the various houses were in fine form, communicating information and interest  in a very friendly and professional manner.  The weather was perfect for our visit, and we skipped the tram rides and walked the entire circuit of trails through the site.  It was an altogether delightful tour, and I enjoyed seeing parts of the museum that hadn’t been included in my training schedule.  I consider it a privilege to have been invited to host this marvelous young couple.  Who were they?  My daughter, Rebecca, and her boyfriend Joe. 

In the sauna at the Finnish Ketola farm

One of the friendly faces on the tour

 

Borrowed Beauty

Today I have been impressed by the beauty and grace of others.   I sometimes think that is intimidating, but more and more I am learning to appreciate and celebrate what I notice without turning in judgment upon myself.  I admire the woman who gave me a “Thank You” gift for taking her shift at work.  This gift was hand-crafted, creative, personal, AND included chocolate!  Plus, it was totally unexpected, as she had already thanked me in a note the day I agreed to work for her.  This woman took the day off to go to her granddaughter’s school for Grandparents’ Day.  She is also an expert woodchopper, using the twitter and froe like a man half her age.  I told her that I struggle with that chore and frequently get stuck on the knot holes.  This is what she tucked into the little bag of chocolates for me:


I admire my next door neighbor’s garden and appreciate that she shares that beauty with the entire village.   I love the look of her irises, like bridesmaids dancing in the wind.

So, today I just wanted to take these graceful, thoughtful, beautiful gifts and pass them on.  I appreciate all the other bloggers out there who share their best on a regular basis.  Perhaps we can be a more graceful species after all.  

Exteriors

Another day at the living history museum under my belt.  The new thing I did today was make rhubarb sauce from the gigantic rhubarb plants in the garden.  Not that I actually ate any, I just boiled it in water on the wood stove for a few hours so that the smell would permeate the summer kitchen.  I didn’t have any sugar at first, so my initial taste was very sour!  It reminded me of my mom making rhubarb and custard from the rhubarb in our garden.  My mother didn’t garden a lot, so this was impressive to me.   I know she helped her parents with a “Victory Garden” during WWII, but she was pretty young.   She shops at farmer’s markets and does delicious things with fresh produce, but she doesn’t grow it herself.  I’m looking forward to more garden-to-table assignments. 

I love that this job allows me to be outside so much.  We had thunderclouds overhead for much of the day, but no rain.  The humidity was high, but there was a breeze kicking up from the storm front miles away.  And I noticed a fishy smell first thing today…I guess with storm conditions you can smell Lake Michigan from 50 miles away?!  Unless there’s another explanation.  Anyway, I thought I’d share some photos I took of outbuildings and such. 

The blacksmith shop with St. Peter’s in the background.

When “nature calls”, you can head for the woods…

…or use the 3-holer out by the garden. Good idea planting the fragrant lilacs right beside it!

As you can tell, I’ve got a fabulous work environment!  I’m loving this job.  🙂

 

 

Inheriting a Homestead

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 ryeI 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!