Friday, May 15, 2015

Spotlight on Randall Cattle, a Critically Endangered Breed

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey

Perhaps you’ve noticed the new bovine additions to our pasture.  They’re named Abby and Patrick and they are Randall Lineback cattle, a critically endangered breed from Vermont.  On this, Endangered Species Day, I’d like to highlight this type of cattle.
What makes them unique among other linebacks is that they are what the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy calls a “landrace,” which are “local populations of animals that are consistent enough to be considered breeds, but are more variable in appearance than are standardized breeds.”  According to the Randall Cattle Registry, the breed started with the landrace hill cattle of New England, of which a large herd was kept by the Randall family in Vermont.  Their herd was bred in isolation on this farm for eighty years until Everett Randall died in 1985 and his widow could not take care of them anymore.  The herd was sold off and many of the cattle were slaughtered.  Some were saved, though, thanks to the efforts of Robert Gear, Cynthia Creech and Philip B. & Dianne Lang, and the total breeding population went from roughly 20 to around 200 today.  Careful registry and a solid breeding plan have “gradually watered down the very tight genetics” of the original herd that came to Cynthia, thus ensuring a more stable breeding population.  Now, according to her website, she has enough heifers and cows to be able to sell them to other farmers, including the Langs, and has sold them to farms in Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Rhode Island, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Ontario.  Patrick and Abby are not registered, though we believe they came from Maine.

The Randalls are a dual purpose breed, more suited to milk production but able to be trained as oxen.  They are all horned and can be identified not only by the characteristic line down their backs, but by black, blue/black, and sometimes red blotches and spots over their bodies.  Abby has eye rings, too—another characteristic of the breed.  They have a medium sized build and are more suited to the cool summers of New England than the hot climates of the South, as Cynthia experienced at her first farm in Tennessee (read her story here—it’s very interesting).

Our previous herd, of which Lad is the only one left, were American Linebacks.  They are related to the Randalls, but their genetics are more watered down with Holsteins and other modern breeds than are Randalls.  It’s a treat to come and see Patrick and Abby, as they are more in keeping with the type of cattle one would have seen in America’s early history than Lad and his family were.

Patrick and Abby are both 4 ½ year sold, though they’re not siblings like Ruby and Lad were.   They came to us from a York County farm that could not take care of them anymore.  We will not breed them, as they are sterile, but they will get to work as oxen (see photo of them as calves at right).  “We have to get them used to being handled again,” says farm manager Joe Schott.  “So, some volunteers and I will lead them around the pasture for a while, then yoke and handle them in the pasture, then take them around the site.  They’ll be able to then pull a cart, though they’re not big enough to do farm work with the ploughs we have.”

Patrick and Abby should do well at Landis Valley and we love having them here.  Click here to see Patrick & Abby frolicking in their new home with Lad.



Meet new kids on the block - Patrick and Abbie, running around with Lad. They just arrived today and we are all enjoying their liveliness. Patrick and Abbie are Randall cattle - a heritage breed. To learn more about the breed, visit http://www.randallcattleregistry.org
Posted by Landis Valley Museum on Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Meet Volunteer of the Year Karen Gunderson

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey

From left:  Brenda Reigle, director of Bureau of Historic Sites & Museums; Jim Lewars, site director at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum; 2014 Volunteers of the Year Karen & Ken Gunderson; Jeffrey Bliemeister, site director at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  Image by PHMC/Don Giles.
Through the patience, interest, and skills of 2014 Volunteer of the Year Karen Gunderson, ordinary people of southeastern PA have made history.  Since moving to Lancaster County from Virginia in 2008, she has been organizing diaries, ledgers, recipe books, and other various bound manuscripts in the museum collection — at the same time, helping to sketch a picture of 18th-20th century life in rural Pennsylvania.

"Working with the ledgers and manuscripts has helped me see these people from the past as real people," she says.  "In their own handwriting, the books tell people's stories about their work and everyday life — and I can see how much we have in common with them. And many also took time to write personal notes in their business books about their families, marriages, births, and deaths. These personal notes feel to me like a message in a bottle that they've left for us to find in the 21st century. I always think they would be pleased to know that people 100-200 years in the future are reading what they wrote and remembering them."

Karen's service doesn't stop at the Collections Gallery.  She can also be seen at Herb & Garden Faire (May 8 & 9, 2015) and Harvest Days (October 10 & 11, 2015).  Her husband volunteers at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Landis Valley's sister PHMC site, and has received the Volunteer of the Year award from there, too.  The self-employed information technologist and mother of two also enjoys quilting and many forms of paper arts, including calligraphy and marbling.

Karen and her husband love to volunteer and travel together and they are looking forward currently enjoying a trip to Germany.  Congratulations to Karen and all of the other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Volunteer of the Year honorees who received their awards on April 18.

PHMC Volunteers of the Year, site directors, and administrative staff.  Image by PHMC/Don Giles.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Saying Goodbye: Sandra Jean Coldren

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey

Goodbye, Sandra Jean
Sandy in 2011 with one of her theorems
What do a bridge estimator with a 41-year career at High Steel Structures, a Landis Valley Associates board member, and an extremely talented theorem painter with a passion for Colonial art have in common?

Everything, as they were all one person:  Sandra Coldren.

A hard-working and dedicated member of the LVA board for 18 years, Sandy began her volunteering career with the museum in the late 1970’s, according to longtime friend and fellow LVA president, Clair Garman.  She became treasurer in 1980 and then ascended to the presidency in 1983. She stepped down and served as treasurer again from 1985-6.  During that time and after, she chaired many committees (among them Membership and Harvest Days), volunteered at the museum store, and, for 15 years, taught reverse glass painting and theorem painting at Summer Institute.

Sandy’s love of theorem painting began in 1972, when she painted her first theorem for her grandmother.  She took classes at the Fletcher Farm School in Vermont, Winterthur, Colonial Williamsburg (a place very dear to her heart), and the New York State Historical Association.  Over the years, as her technique improved and she studied more, she opened her own business, Theorems by SJC, in 1983.  Her business grew and so did her reputation for producing award winning paintings, but she didn't keep her talent to herself.  “I was lucky enough to be able to study under several talented theorem artists and historians.  Like every traditional craft, theorem painting must be learned and then passed on, so today I’m fortunate to take what I've learned and teach it to others,” she said in an article in the December, 2009 issue of Early American Life.

She passed on her knowledge of historic folk arts through juried craft and folk art shows, classes, and the founding, in 1991, of the Distelfink Artisans, a chapter of the International Decorative Artisans League.  She was also a juried member of the PA Guild of Craftsmen and a member of the Ephrata Cloister.  She was honored by Early American Life as one of America’s Top 200 Traditional Craftspeople.

To those who knew her, her active service record and accolades are not the first thing that comes to mind.  “She was a hard worker, but also a lot of fun,” Clair remembers.  “She could tell a joke with the best of them.  I remember when, in the 80’s, the museum had gotten a pair of pigs that would be butchered for Harvest Days and named them Clair and Sandy.  She looked at me and said, ‘Yours should go first.’  She had a sharp sense of humor.”


Clair carries his lifetime membership card, signed by Sandy, in his wallet—a treasured keepsake of their time in service together.  “If you were a friend of Sandy’s, you had a friend for life.  I miss her.  She was quite a gal.”

Click here to see a short video of Sandy's painting technique:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Life is Pretty Sweet Beyond the Maple Trees

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey

On February 21, Landis Valley and the Backyard Fruit Growers will be hosting the February Workshops, a set of four classes, taught by experts, on various intermediate- to high-level gardening topics.  These include:  Restoring the American Chestnut; Soil, Carbon, Gardening and Agriculture – the Rest of the Story; Apple Pruning Basics; and An Introduction to Making Maple Syrup.  I plan on attending this year, but choosing a topic to take will be difficult as all are interesting and, surprisingly, all are pertinent to a person with a small plot of land like me.

Even syrup production. This flabbergasted me, since sugar is difficult to produce on a small, artisanal scale, especially if one is allergic to bees, lives too far north for cane or sorghum, and doesn’t have acres for corn or decades to wait for maples to reach maturity.  What I have are some black walnut trees, some very mature maples, and a bunch of maple saplings that just won’t die.

Other years, I’ve looked at these and sighed.  This year, after hearing about research being done in intensive vacuuming techniques on young saplings and expansion into black walnut tapping, plus some of the great things you can do with the ever-versatile apple, I’m a little more excited.

In an experiment aimed at learning more about maple sap flow under vacuum pressure, researchers Tim Perkins and Abby van den Berg chopped off the top of a young maple tree, sealed it with a plastic bag, and attached a vacuum hose to it.  Not expecting anything revolutionary, they were pleasantly surprised when the tree produced sap long after the researchers predicted that the sap flow would stop.  “The only explanation was that we were pulling water out of the ground, right up through and out the stem,” Perkins said in the article, “Remaking Maple,” published by the University of Vermont and written by Joshua E. Brown.  Brown likened it to sucking water through a sugary straw.

The potential in this discovery is a much more intensive maple syrup production method, called plantation production, where producers could yield up to 400 gallons of syrup from 6,000 chest-high saplings on one acre.  What it means for me is that those chest-high maple saplings in my yard are on the chopping block.

Now, those maples are Norway maples, which don’t produce as much as sugar maples do, so I may have to supplement with something else.  Enter the black walnuts.

Black walnuts are another type of sap-producing tree that are prevalent in our section of the country.  Landis Valley’s millstone grove is lined with them (at right).  They, as well as their much-rarer cousins, butternuts (white walnuts), can be tapped in much the same way as maples are tapped now.  They produce a sweet syrup with a nutty taste and this is often combined with maple syrup in maple/walnut flavored products such as ice cream.  According to the article, “Move over maple syrup: Researchers in Syracuse are tapping walnut trees (and a birch),” Cornell University researchers are testing whether black walnut syrup can be a commercial crop, with small stands along streets and in parks and college campuses being tapped (with permission).  No mention was made of plantation syrup production from these types of trees.

Another source of sugar and/or syrup, one often overlooked, is cider.  Farm manager Joe Schott and his family made a batch of it at Harvest Days this fall and it was absolutely delicious—mildly sweet and full of cider-y flavor.  After pressing apples grown at Landis Valley, the thin cider was boiled in a small, uncovered copper pot over a fire until it reached the consistency of syrup.  Schott said that the boiling time would depend on the amount of water in your apples and how much cider you start with, but the amount in the demonstration took an afternoon to boil down.  My small plot of land could grow one or more apple trees, especially if I grafted multiple varieties onto one rootstock or they were carefully pruned in espalier form, with their branches trained to go out and up.

Classes at Landis Valley open up a whole new world of farming, gardening, craft and trade techniques, ones that were often used for centuries but are only being recently re-discovered.  As land prices rise and people look to local, native, heirloom foods they can grow and produce themselves, revitalized and re-vamped farming methods will increasingly apply to the small-scale farmer/gardener.  My small corner of the world is looking a little more productive now.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thank God for the Moravians

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey

Thank God for the Moravians, because if they had not settled in Pennsylvania, Christmas would not be nearly as rich in custom.  Yes, we have many customs that come to us from the Lutherans, as well as the Reformed, Episcopalians, and Catholics, but some of our most precious Christmas traditions came from this group of evangelists whose mission was to spread Christianity to the far reaches of the globe.

In a time when the Quakers and Mennonites surrounding their communities observed Christmas as a solemn holy day, the Moravians rejoiced, coming together as a large family and celebrating the birth of the Christ Child.  Below are some interesting facts about Moravain customs:

  • Lovefeast:  Because Christmas was a joyful occasion for them (unlike the Quakers, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and the Pennsylvania German sect people), they held a "Lovefeast," where, amidst bright beeswax candles, members of the congregation mingled and feasted on cakes called streisslers and coffee, tea or chocolate.  The joyful mood was enhanced by music and facilitated the purpose of the feast:  forgiveness of the past year's sins and love for one another.  This feast of forgiveness is not just held on Christmas Eve, though.  Moravians and other denominations have Lovefeasts on other important dates, such as Good Friday and the dates that their congregations were established.  The Christmas Lovefeast is well-known, though, as it draws many visitors from outside denominations.

  • The Moravian Star:  This symbol of the birth of Christ started out as a geometry lesson for young boys at the Neisky Moravian School for boys in Saxony, Germany.  It was quickly adopted by the Moravian Church and hangs from the first Sunday of Advent until Epiphany (January 6).  Points on these stars range from six to over 100, but the traditional star has 26.  Bethlehem's 20-feet diam. 91-feet tall star, was first lighted in 1939 by 280 50-watt lamps and was the tallest individual electrical display in the world at the time.  Now, it is lit with 254 LED lights.

  • The Christmas Pyramid:  Alfred Shoemaker describes this one best, in his book, Christmas in Pennsylvania: “Christmas pyramids were four-sided frame structures (pyramid shaped, as the name correctly implies), some two to three feet in height.  Placed on tables, they served as a Christmas decoration, being loaded down with cookies, candies, and all sorts of fruit.  Christmas pyramids, incidentally, have a long history in northern and eastern Germany.”  Vangie Roby Sweitzer quotes the Bethlehem Diary in her book, The Moravian Christmas Putz:  Bethlehem Moravians Tell the Story of the Birth of Christ:

    "Dec. 25, 1747: Early in the morning, right after they got up, we gave our little children in the children's home a surprise, and made them a lovefeast in memory of the Jesus child and his birth in the stable. For that purpose, a few small and large pyramids [the early Moravian version of a Christmas tree] were made with greenery, which were all beautifully laden with lights, and the biggest ones were also decorated with apples and nice verses."

  • The Putz: Pronounced like "foots," this is a Moravian take on smaller creche scenes that only feature the holy family. They trace their origins to St. Francis of Assisi, who used the creches, or presepio, to explain the Nativity to the illiterate. Because they were labeled as "graven images" in the Reformation, they were thrown out of the churches. They survived in homes, though, and thrived in the mountainous areas of Germany. Creche figurines were carved by skilled tradesmen and in these isolated places that straddled the Polish/Czech border, the Moravians adopted the custom of building their elaborate scenes. Within the verse quoted above, the writer also describes one of the first putzes, built in 1747 in Bethlehem:

    "There was also a stable of Bethlehem with the ox and the donkey as well as with the shepherds to whom the good news of his birth was first brought..."

    Moravian putz-building has grown since then and neighboring Lititz has an impressive one. According to the Lititz Moravian Church's website, "A diorama 16' long and 6' deep, it depicts the Judean countryside with Bethlehem and the nearby stable as a central scene. On the hillsides are other scenes relating to the coming of the Christ child. On one hill is the Prophet Isaiah whose Old Testament prophecy spoke of a new King form the House of David. Other scenes include the angel's visit to Mary, shepherds in field near Bethlehem, Wise Men coming over the hills from afar, and the scene of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt." Admission to this putz is free and is worth seeing.

    Landis Valley's rather unique putz can trace its origins to an idea floated by staff band board members Cindy Kirby-Reedy, Beth Leensvaart, and Rick Brouse. They wanted to expand the Pennsylvania German Christmas traditions, but didn't want to link it directly to one church (we are owned by the Commonwealth, after all). Rick came up with the idea to build scale models of some of our buildings that could be set within a winter scene. Cindy and Beth ran with the idea and, in 2006, the putz was born. Using Rick's architectural experience, the three build five scale models, each with intricate detail. Though the putz was discontinued for a few years, it has seen a revival thanks to a writing intern (this gal!) who happened to have some artistic talent, as well as some willing and very able friends and family.
Though they are not officially Pennsylvania Dutch, Landis Valley respects the Moravian contributions to Christmas by featuring the delicate paper stars on some of our Christmas trees, as well as crafting our elaborate putz, housed during December in our Education Building. We also welcome the Lititz Moravian Trombone Choir to our Holiday at Landis Valley Bonfire every year. Come see our display of Pennsylvania German (and some Moravian!) customs at Country Christmas Village, Saturdays, December 6 & 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays, December 7 & 14, from noon to 4 p.m.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Postcard from America to Landis Valley: Mt. St. Helens

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey


Take a look at the mountain in the picture. It’s a typical snow-capped peak, with a lush forest at its feet and a clear sky above—nothing abnormal.  If the title of the image didn’t state, “Mount St. Helens, Washington,” one would think that it was just another massif looming above the landscape.

According to the USDA Forest Service, on May 18, 1980, at 8:32 in the morning, the vista changed forever as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake caused the most massive landslide in recorded history:  the collapse of the summit and north flank of Mount St. Helens.  Suddenly, superheated groundwater and gas-rich magma within the volcano escaped in a lateral blast, sending a plume of volcanic ash and pumice 15 miles into the atmosphere and melting glaciers that mixed with rock and debris to create a concrete-like slurry that destroyed 230 square miles of forest.

In other words, this picture on this postcard will never be taken again.

It’s another treasure in Landis Valley’s collection of postcards and was published in the early 1900’s by the Edward H. Mitchell Company, out of San Francisco.  It was never sent to anyone, so it is virtually impossible to date it precisely.  It is a divided back card and, because cards with a divided back were not introduced until 1907, this card could not have been produced before then, according to the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City.  Domestically, the postage rate is 1 cent, which means that it could not have been produced after 1952, but, because Mitchell’s company closed in 1923, it was obviously produced before then.  The postage rate was increased to 2 cents in 1917 (because of a temporary War Tax), then lowered back to 1 cent in 1919, then raised again in 1925 to 2 cents.  All of this means that it was printed sometime either between 1907 and 1917 or from 1919 to 1925.

The vista is still changing today.  According to the Christian Science Monitor article titled, “Mt. St Helens: Is it ready to erupt again?” two lava domes have formed in the crater since the 1980 eruption:  one from 1980 to 1986 and the other from 2004 to 2008.  The US Geological Survey reported in September, 2014 that, five miles down, the volcano’s magma chamber is charging again.  Not to worry, though.  Dome building will resume and the summit may take on a similar shape to the one in the postcard, but this dome won’t be built in a day.

In other words, save the postcards you have now.  The view of this young terrain will change again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Historical Magic

Guest blog entry by Kayla Heiserman    
Kayla (left) and her grandmother (right) with a young cousin
Landis Valley Museum has been my home away from home since I was small enough to toddle under the fence. My grandmother has been an employee and volunteer for many years, and when I was four she started bringing me with her to share in the historical magic. My pre-school was 100 acres of handmade penny rugs, warped glass windows, and draft horses pulling jingling wagons of people.

When I was that young, my job was simply to run around and look authentic. My Gram sewed me a chemise, pantaloons, a dress and a bonnet, and I ran around barefoot and smiled at visitors. I visited Tanya the Turkey (below) in the barnyard and marveled at the exhibits in the Visitor's Center. The craftsmen came to know me by name and gave me small things that they'd made.
One craftsman who came to know me well was Mr. Clair Garman, a carpenter at Landis Valley. He would invite me in under the ropes blocking off his work area to show me what he was working on. He gave me three small wooden houses he had made, which I painted and returned to him as a gift. He tells me every time I see him that he keeps those houses on his bedside table, even a decade later.

Every summer, Landis Valley hosts a Civil War encampment. Men come dressed as Union soldiers in their stuffy wool uniforms under the even more oppressive July heat. When I was 6 or 7, Gram was volunteering at the entrance tent, selling tickets, and I was running around, as per usual. One visitor in particular caught my attention. He walked in bedecked in Confederate grey, with a broad brimmed hat, and a handlebar mustache. I had been versed in Civil War etiquette for the past year or so, so I knew what this situation called for. Panic. The enemy was here. Here, above the Confederate high water mark! How? He looked like a general. He probably had troops just waiting to blow cannonballs through my beloved Landis Valley. I had to act. I ran to my grandmother. Flushed, I tugged on the leg of her capris and beckoned her closer. I whispered in her ear that there was a Confederate soldier underfoot, and we had to do something quickly. She chuckled and I scolded her crossly. This was definitely not my idea of a laughing matter. Clearly, Gram could not or would not help, so I ran to the Union. I ran to the nearest "soldier" and told him the crisis. He giggled, and told me they knew his motives and were planning to take care of it. I sighed with relief and, satisfied with that, ran to the barnyard where I'd be safe with Tanya the Turkey.

As I grew older, around the age of eight or so, I had to buy boots to wear because in the 19th century, I would have been too old for bare feet and loose hair out of my bonnet. I stayed inside The Weathervane (now the Landis Valley Museum Store) with my grandmother and played with the puppets or rearranged the farm animal figurines on a shelf. The summer of 2006, I went to summer camp at Landis Valley. I went to "school" at the schoolhouse, boys on the left, girls on the right. I sat in a desk with 200-year-old petrified gum stuck on the edge. We played "graces" and dipped candles in the yard of the Henry Landis house. We cut Scherenschnitte (scissor cuttings) and went on a scavenger hunt in the General Store. I made friends who loved history as much as I did (or at least their parents did).


When I was fourteen, I was old enough to actually volunteer. Every spring, I help out at the Landis Valley Auction and the  Herb and Garden Faire. This past year I worked at the "plant sitting" tent where shoppers could drop off their plants while they shop for more. Every autumn, I volunteer at the pumpkin patch during Harvest Days and every December I go to the Bonfire, see the Belsnickel and have hot apple cider in the Yellow Barn.

Landis Valley has been a part of my life and close to my heart for as long as I can remember, and will be for the rest of my life. I hope to have my wedding here, bring my children here, and volunteer for as long as my able-bodied life will allow.