Tuesday, December 3, 2013

At This Festive Season of the Year

Around Landis Valley, Christmastime is officially here. True, the interiors have been decked already, with trees, putzes, ribbon, candles, ornaments, and festive artifacts on display, but the exteriors always need a little something that says “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Enter the swags and the wreath made today by 10 Heirloom Seed Project volunteers. Thirty swags will grace the doors and some of the signposts around the village and one wreath will hang against the fa├žade of the Yellow Barn, totaling 250 pounds of plant material.

And what a variety of plants are used! Beginning at 9 a.m., the volunteers are presented with at least double the amount of greens and dried ornamental plants that they will need to create the beautiful decorations.

“We supply the greens and the volunteers bring whatever they want to put on the swags,” says Beth Leensvaart, Assistant Coordinator of the Heirloom Seed Project. “In fact, that’s the most fun for me—collecting the dried ornamentals.

It is a veritable feast for the creative minds gathered. They carefully pluck from the piles and bags:
  • Pine branches and cones
  • Locust Bean Pods
  • Fir
  • Holly
  • Hydrangeas
  • Lavender
  • Boxwood
  • Winterberries
  • Prickly sweet gum tree seed pods
  • Broomcorn
  • Milkweed Pods
  • Chokecherry
  • Amaranth
For the swags, most of the branches are pleasantly arranged and then twisted together with floral wire. They must be held together tightly because, as the days pass, the branches dry out and shrink, causing loose, errant stems to fall from the arrangement. A few of the decorations, like the gum seed pods and the hydrangeas, need to be glued in place. Once done, each swag then gets a pretty, freshly-made, red bow [at left]. Beth reports that the enterprise uses about 100 yards of ribbon.

As for this year’s wreath, that is the realm of long-time volunteers Gloria Stevens and Julie Welsh [right]. They have taken holly, amaranth, pine cones, broom corn and boxwood, twisted them together with branches of fir and floral wire, and have wrapped them around the roughly 4-foot wide wooden frame.

They are not edible by any stretch of the imagination, but the swags and wreath are eye candy for not only those with a horticultural bent, but for anyone who appreciates natural beauty. It also creates a feeling of satisfaction in Landis Valley volunteers and staff who come together and festively change the Landis Valley landscape. Enjoy!

Our swags and wreath will be on display from now until December 31. Bring the family and tour the decorated buildings, make Christmas-themed crafts to take home, and enjoy complimentary gingersnaps and cocoa as you are entertained by the Belsnickel. It’s Country Christmas Village, Landis Valley’s interpretation of Pennsylvania German Christmas traditions. Saturdays, December 7 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays, December 8 and 15, from noon to 4 p.m. Regular admission rates apply.

Also, don’t miss the Holiday at Landis Valley Bonfire, to be held Friday, December 13, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. As this is our annual gift to you, admission is free and all are welcome! We just request that, in lieu of admission, please bring a canned-good donation for the Lancaster County Food Bank. We hope to see you there!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Never-ending Toil: A Short History of Animal and Human-powered Treadmills

Blog entry by Shayla Carey

Image taken from the article, "History of the Horse in Britain," by Wikipedia.  Image from the book, 1881 Dictionnaire d'arts Industriels
Before they became exercise equipment, treadmills were used to harness the energy of living things to power simple and complex machines.  Egyptians used animals to power saqiyas that pulled water from the Nile and sent it to irrigation channels, according to J. Kenneth Major, author of the HistoryToday article, “The Pre-Industrial Sources of Power: Muscle Power.”  Romans attached oxen, donkeys, and humans to hourglass-shaped flour mills (examples of which were preserved at Pompeii).  In the fifth century A.D., Chinese engineers built ships propelled by man-powered treadmill-paddle-wheels, as described in the book, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel, by Frances and Joseph Gies.  Major mentions that horse power pulled ore out of medieval mines and powered mills located in areas without ample supplies of other renewable energy sources (sheltered valleys without sufficient wind, areas without swiftly flowing water, etc).  Landis Valley has one example of a horse-powered treadmill in the Bitzer Barn.

Turnspit dog at work.
Taken from the Wikipedia article, "Turnspit Dog."
Fast forward centuries and you find that dogs were pressed into service as well, and not just for the herding, hunting, and companion jobs dogs in the American Kennel Club were specifically bred for.  Some, mainly in the lowlands of northern Europe, pulled small carts filled with canisters of milk and other supplies, as well as people, according to the book, Colonel Richardson’s Airedales:  The Making of the British War Dog School1900-1918, by Bryan D. Cummins, PhD.  There were also terriers that flushed out and killed rats, weasels and mink, as well as an extinct variety that turned a roasting spit.  These tiny, bow-legged “turnspit dogs” took turns in shifts running like hamsters inside a wheel that rotated a roast haunch over the hearth.  Dave DeWitt’s book, The Founding Foodies:  How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine, mentions another interesting little fact:  the City Tavern, a Philadelphia establishment frequented by Thomas Jefferson, featured roasts that were turned by little turnspit dogs.

While horses provided power for larger machines like threshers on farms in the latter half of the 19th century, some dogs, as well as goats and sheep, ran smaller treadmills (example at right).  According to Larry Hess, a former teacher and engineer of much of the machinery in the triangle village during Harvest Days, these machines pumped water, powered washing machines, and cracked corn.  One task they could not so effectively help the busy farm family with, though, was churning butter, as these reluctant laborers would frequently stop and needed to be prodded to move again.  This left the constant motion required by butter churning to the children.

Most butter churns involved constant, tiring vertical motion, but this year’s Harvest Days will feature a churn run by a kid-powered treadmill.  The machine (at left), an 1888 Harding Manufacturing Company contraption, differs from the animal powered ones only in that it has a front handle grip for kids.   It took one hour to separate cream into butter and buttermilk and the kids would pass the time by singing songs such as “Come butter come, come butter come.  Peter stands at the gate, waiting for a buttered cake.”  They would take turns walking, too, as even boundless energy needs to recharge.

What has saved animals (and humans, too) from the drudgery of most menial labor is the inventiveness of people who were able to harness the power of fossil fuels to drive engines.  Our factories, farms and homes no longer need treadmills to transfer monotonous motion of one kind to useful motion of another.  These machines, similar in design to the one to be featured at Harvest Days, have now been relegated to the realm of exercise equipment and to hospitals for use during stress tests. Our dogs can rest easy now that they don’t have to work like dogs anymore.

Incidentally, page 150 of the book, Yesterday’s Farm Tools and Equipment, by Dr. Irwin Richman and Michael Emery, features a quote from the 1840 edition of The Cultivator:  “Churning is never done by hand except for a single cow.  In small dairies, the churn is worked by a dog or sheep, the latter being preferred; the larger dairies have water or horse power.”

If your kids want to try walking the treadmill, come down to Harvest Days, to be held October 12 & 13, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.  It's a celebration of a year's worth of hard work, with demonstrations, food, exhibits, music, and wagon rides spread out over our 40+ acre village area.  It's a great time and a Lancaster County tradition.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Learning What Books Can't Teach: Part 2

Guest Blog Entry by Emily Reinl
As an intern doing interpretation at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum this summer, I have been very much enjoying myself. One of my favorite parts of working here – and something that surprised me – is how many people I get to meet from all over the world. In particular, I like getting visitors from Germany; I have taken several years’ worth of German classes and plan on studying abroad in Germany in a couple of years, so I enjoy having the opportunity to speak German with native German speakers. I also often get the impression that the visitors appreciate my attempts to converse with them in their native language, which makes the experience all the more gratifying.

I also love having the opportunity to dress in period costume. Ever since I was little, I have loved historical clothing; this contributed to developing my interest in living history museums. I put together the outfit I wear for my internship over the course of several years, buying some here, making some there. For instance, I made my skirt but then bought the blouse I wear with it. I try to be as historically accurate with my costume as possible, even down to wearing the proper undergarments. I always have to laugh a little to myself when I am in the store and a visitor points out the corset and comments on how uncomfortable he or she thinks it looks – I wear a corset every day I work, and I find it very comfortable. I feel great in my costume, and I love the way wearing it and being at Landis Valley transports me back in time.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Learning What Books Can't Teach: Part 1

Guest Blog Entry by Marian Krick

The Landis Valley internship experience is a truly symbiotic one.  They help us and, in return, they gain valuable experience in their respective fields, whether they be History, English, Museum Studies, Tourism, or even Auto Body Technician.  These interns truly learn from the past at our museum and, in the spirit of sharing, they would like to share some of their experiences with you.

Hello Everyone!  My name is Marian and I am an intern with Landis Valley for the summer.  I am a student at Slippery Rock University studying resort management/tourism.  Here at Landis Valley I am working within the sales department.

One opportunity that I have had has been shadowing during tours.  The experience has refreshed my memory on historical information, and it has also taught me about the guests that choose to come here.  Listening to their questions and their stories during the tour is really interesting.  It reminds me that each guest is different, and will take something different away from their experience at the museum.

An especially exciting tour occurred during the week of the Summer Institute.  As our group went from building to building, guests were sidetracked by displays of traditional crafts and other activities.  One craft, which we were told is called a "whirligig", really caught their attention.  It had them excited and talking for the rest of the morning!

Shadowing tours and other experiences have really taught me a lot.  I look forward to learning more by the end of the summer!

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Tour of Landis Valley's Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Guest Blog Entry by Shayla Carey.

“This is one of the most interesting plants that we have here,” says Dr. Irwin Richman on this exceptionally fine afternoon as we stroll the grounds of Landis Valley. We’ve stopped at the stout bush closest to the path that leads to the back of the Country Store from the parking lot. Burgundy-colored flowers that look like shredded paper teacups decorate an otherwise unremarkable plant. “Its common name is the “Sweet Smelling Shrub” [left] and it is a native of the Carolinas. It was probably introduced up here by the Moravians. “

He takes a branch and bends it my way. I bend over and take a whiff: my nose is almost assaulted by the smell of over-ripe apples. “It has a very nice aroma and an old Pennsylvania German custom was that women would tie it into a handkerchief as a scent.”

“It is sweet,” I say. “Do the young flowers smell better than the older ones?”

“When they’re fresher they have a stronger aroma.”
I lean over and try a younger flower. The apple smell definitely seems younger, more fresh. I like it.

This is one of the many types of flowering trees and shrubs that provide the backdrop for the interpretive buildings, animals, and people here. Enter the museum grounds in the springtime and see flowering cherry and dogwood trees grace the space around the Tavern. Beyond the Tavern, a trumpet vine climbs over the arbor. A tall smoke tree lends visual interest to the Crafts Barn. Walnuts line the pathway to the Log Farm where quinces, lilacs, and chestnuts bloom at different times in Spring. Stately hundred-year-old sycamores dominate the areas around the Brick Farmstead and the Landis Valley Hotel and roses climb fences in between.

We get questions about the plants at Landis Valley all of the time, and, since he is leading the upcoming Summer Institute tour, “Genius at Work: The Wharton Esherick Museum and Chanticleer Estate,” I thought I could tap Dr. Richman’s fountain of horticultural knowledge. And he doesn’t disappoint.

Below is a list of some of the many flowering shrubs and trees you may encounter:

  • *In Flower
  • **Already Flowered
  • ^ Not Flowered Yet

Millstone Grove:
  • Black Walnut**
  • Flowering Cherry**
  • Dogwood**
  • Ginko [right] (not in bloom, but a very interesting tree, as the species is older than the dinosaurs)
  • Buckeye** (a relative of the Chinese Chestnut with drooping, white flowers)
  • Forsythia**
  • Lilac (next to Tinsmith Shop)**
  • Bayberry**
  • Japanese Lilac**
  • Trumpet Vine^
  • Broom Plant (a native of England and Scotland. It is not a bush, but as big as one and with pretty yellow flowers right now)*
  • Smoke Tree (an American native)^
  • Maple**
  • Sycamore (is just finishing up its bloom, then it’s huge leaves will come)*
  • Mulberry (One between the Hotel and the Schoolhouse and one beside the Blacksmith Shop. Will produce tasty fruits later that resemble raspberries)**
  • American Boxwoods (behind the Hotel)
  • Grapevines (beside the Isaac Landis House)**
  • Yucca (beside the Isaac Landis House)*
  • White Hydrangea (beside the Isaac Landis House)
  • Sweet Smelling Shrub (beside and behind the Country Store)*
  • American Holly (in front of the Country Store)^
  • Rose of Sharon (behind the Blacksmith Shop)**
  • Japanese Red Maple (behind the Heirloom Seed House)**
  • Magnolia**
  • White Rose [above, right] (behind the Landis Brothers’ House)*
  • Pink Rose (At gate to Landis Brothers’ House. Definitely smell this one!)*

Log Farm:
  • Quince (a white-flowered tree that bears fruit so sweet early settlers made candy from it)**
  • Walnut**
  • Chinese Chestnut**
  • Apples**
  • Wineberry (A vine along the snake rail fence that will bloom later in the summer and provide a wonderfully tasting fruit similar to raspberries. Don’t touch, though, as it is absolutely covered in thorns!)^
Brick Farmstead:
  • Sycamore (is just finishing up its bloom, then it’s huge leaves will come)*
  • Chinese Chestnut**
  • American Persimmon Tree (these flowers resemble the Sweet Smelling Shrub in appearance)*
  • Peach (beside the pasture fence)**
  • Rose (there are two of these bushes: one beside the Brick Garden and one beside the pasture)* 
I know that I can’t count them as shrubs, but my eye is naturally drawn to the peonies that partially line the old road to Reading. Their pale, cheery blooms hide such a sweet and wonderful fragrance that I can’t help but stop and smell them. Dr. Richman keeps going, though, as he heads to the old rose at the corner of the fence surrounding the Federal Barn’s pasture. This rose is the quintessential rose--headier than any rose I’ve ever smelled before and an absolute joy to be around. I can even share it with the bees that normally send me running.

Our feet take us to trees that have already flowered, too, with baby apples, walnuts, and grapes peeking out from nests of leaves. Quinces, apples and mulberries will provide fruit for hungry birds and small mammals.

“Actually,” Dr. Richman says as we leave the quince tree, “There was a time when quinces were more commonly grown than apples in America.”

“When did that change?” I ask.

“The changeover occurred in the late 18th and early 19th century,” he says. “It was discovered that apples could keep longer and, more importantly, they could be made into cider—hard cider.”

Later, Dr. Richman shows me the mulberry tree and sagely says with a smile, “It should be a chestnut.” He then quotes from “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Under the spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

A tour with Dr. Richman is always enlightening and, with him, I’m starting to appreciate Landis Valley’s incredible scenery anew. It’ll never be just a background again.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Mennonites of Landis Valley: An Interview with Museum Curator Jennifer Royer

A panel from the new exhibit,
"The Mennonite Faith in Landis Valley"
Perhaps you’ve noticed it as you’ve approached Landis Valley’s entrance:  the large brick building and picturesque cemetery neighboring the Visitor Center.  That is the Mennonite church at Landis Valley, today known as Landis Valley Christian Fellowship, and is the only house of worship ever built here.  Its history is closely intertwined with our museum’s:  Henry L. Landis, grandfather of the museum’s founders, helped get the land surveyed for the meetinghouse; the Landis family is buried there; land and buildings have been exchanged between the church and the museum; and the church makes and sells its famous chicken corn noodle soup every year at Herb and Garden Faire and Harvest Days.

Now the symbiotic relationship is on display in Landis Valley’s newest exhibit, “The Mennonite Faith in Landis Valley.”  Recently, Landis Valley curator Jennifer Royer sat down for an interview with the Valley Gazette, the museum's newsletter, to give visitors a taste of what to expect from this newest permanent exhibit, to be housed in half of the former “Sexton’s House” behind the Visitor Center.

Valley Gazette:  What sparked the idea for this particular exhibit?

Jennifer Royer:  There is a natural curiosity by visitors regarding the Mennonite faith and the Landis Valley Mennonite Church, which has been so important to the community.  The exhibit gives a brief overview of both areas and encourages further research and study if visitors are interested in more in-depth information.  Hopefully, this exhibit will answer some of the questions that visitors have and also encourage them to visit the cemetery and learn more about the church.
VG:  How long has the Mennonite Church been in Landis Valley? 

Royer:  In 1847 the church, then known at the Reading Road Mennonite Church, built the first central meetinghouse and cemetery in Landis Valley.  This church stood on the same side of the road as the cemetery.  A larger church was built in 1884 on the opposite side of the street.  The current church was built in 1928.
VG:  What customs particular to the Mennonite faith will the exhibit highlight?

Royer:  The exhibit will discuss the differences between the Amish and Mennonite faiths with regard to clothing, education, and technology.
VG:  How are Amish and Mennonites different from other groups of PA Germans? 

Royer:  I think the question is really how are the Amish and Mennonites different from each other, not other groups of Pennsylvania Germans.  It is assumed that all of the Amish and the Mennonites are the same, act the same way, and believe the same things.  This is not true.  The Mennonites are protestant Christians that share a belief system that is very similar to the Amish.  However, how each group interprets these beliefs and how they believe that they should be carried out is very different.  For instance, most people associate the Amish with their clothing.  The Amish have strict guidelines on clothing that encourage humility and ensures that clothing does not accentuate physical characteristics.  Mennonite clothing varies depending on how conservative a particular group is.  Some groups wear clothing similar to the Amish.  Mennonites of less conservative groups can wear anything that they wish.  You would not be able to pinpoint them as Mennonite based on their clothing.  This is just one difference between the Amish and the Mennonites.  They are a number of other ones.  Some of the differences are highlighted in the exhibit.
VG:  The Sexton’s House is really old.  Have we ever been able to date it?

Royer:  No one knows how old the original Sexton’s House, now the Harness Shop, is.  The building, however, is a German log house with timber frame facade, built in the tradition of a common Pennsylvania German dwelling.
In addition to seeing the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to wander around the adjacent cemetery and search for the Landis brothers and their family, among other notable Landis Valley residents such as Jacob Landis Sr., who was buried there in 1848. “The Mennonite Faith in Landis Valley” opened on Charter Day, March 10. 
Check out this video interview of Landis Valley Museum Director Jim Lewars, who talks about the exhibit opening on Charter Day.  Courtesy of Blue Ridge Cable News.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dutch Ovens: Great For More Than Just Comfort Food

Guest blog entry by Shayla Carey

A pie is like any other animal: make it comfortable and, most of the time, it will do what you want it to do. I had always thought that in order to make a great pie, it should be in either a modern oven or a bake oven. Turns out, a pie can turn out just as good in a Dutch oven, too. One just has to know how to make it comfortable.

“Start off by making a good bed of coals for your oven to rest on,” says Susan Kelleher, one of Landis Valley’s interpretive staff, as she arranges a pile of wood in the far corner of the Tavern’s fireplace. She and fellow interpreter Tom Martin prefer sycamore and cherry, as they give off a nice smell. Walnut and elm are frowned upon, as they smoke. Tom strongly opposes the use of charcoal briquettes, as they give off an odor that blocks the taste of the food.

As I’ve taken the Open Hearth Cooking class at Summer Institute before, Susan trusts that I know how to make a pie from scratch (we did this a lot during the class and, I can say with all honesty, I am very comfortable with transferring the dough to the dish now). Visitors have just come in so she sends me to the back room to prepare my pie. I’m making a pumpkin pie today based on the recipe on the back of the Libby’s® solid pack pumpkin can; my only change is that I use pumpkin that I’ve baked and run through the food mill first, so I decrease the amount of condensed milk in the recipe. I prepare both filling and dough, roll said dough flat, and then, as I have just finished rolling my pie dough onto my pin, I stop. What type of dish do I put the pie in?

It turns out that I was right to question this part of the procedure; I should have questioned it before this point, though, to save me the hassle of keeping the dough from dropping off the pin as I dig out a dish. Susan points out that a clay or glass dish works best—do not use metal pie tins in the Dutch oven because your pie will scorch on the bottom. Good to note.

My pie is ready to bake at this point and I carefully bring it out in a beautiful redware dish. I can smell the spices and I can just imagine how it will taste when it’s done. Turns out, I should not have thought so far ahead. Susan smiles, stifles a laugh, and points out that I should have placed the dish into the oven before I poured the filling in. Also good to note for next time.

“Oh, well. It’s just all part of this cooking adventure,” I say to myself as I realize that I forgot to bring my oven mitts. Susan hands me a pair of leather squares like many tavern keepers used before oven mitts.
The Dutch oven, a 10-inch-wide cast-iron pot sitting on an iron trivet, rests on a bed of coals little wider than its bottom. It has a flat top to accommodate another layer of coals.

Carefully, I lift the Dutch oven from its bed and bring it away from the hot fireplace. Even more carefully, I slowly lower my pumpkin pie into the oven. I’m proud of myself. I only spilled a tiny bit and I didn’t burn myself. I replace the lid, pick up the oven, and set it back on the bed; it looks so comfy there.

“Now, put some coals on top,” Susan instructs. As I dig into her carefully tended fire, she says, “You keep the fire in the corner, pull some embers to put over and under the oven, and it cooks in much the same amount of time as a modern oven.” Okay, so it should be about 45 minutes for a pie this size.

“The coals on top help circulate the heat,” Susan says. “Pies need a high heat at first, so the embers on top help, but if you’re making a cake, don’t put a lot on top right away, or it won’t cook right.”

My pie rests comfortably on its bed of coals and so I can rest for a while, too. Susan informs me that this was a popular baking method, especially in colder weather when the heat used to bake would also heat the house a bit. Nowadays, the method is popular with campers, re-enactors, and the Boy Scouts of America.

As we talk, my eyes wander to the coals. Are they too cold? As if reading my thoughts and sensing that I’m getting overly eager, Susan cautions me to resist the urge to pull the embers away and replace them. They should be ready to change when not only do they not glow, but they also look dusty. Even that is not a perfect sign of cool embers, though, and Susan points out that it takes practice to be able to spot a bunch of dead coals.

Eventually, my patience pays off. Roughly 40 minutes later, I push the coals off the lid, lift it, and behold a beautiful little pie. Susan leans over and gently touches the top of the pie to test for doneness, feels resistance, and then gives me the go-ahead to take it out. This is much easier than putting it in, as I just reach in with my leather pot lifters and lift out my pie. It’s best to let it rest for a few hours before cutting it, so it will be ready to eat by tonight’s dinner. After wrapping the pie in a towel, I thank Susan profusely and then really thank her by cleaning up after myself before I leave.

Outside the Tavern, I lift the warm pie to my nose and savor this experience; it’s not every day your meal brings its own story to the table.

With the right fireplace or campfire and the right tools, anyone can do Dutch oven cooking. Both Susan and Tom recommend baking in a Dutch oven between 10” and 12” equipped with a flat top, a handle, and a trivet on the bottom. You can get them from the following Lancaster County retailers:

Leacock Coleman Center - Old Leacock Road, Ronks, PA 17572

Reading China & Glass - Rockvale Square Outlets, 35 S Willowdale Dr., Lancaster, PA 17602

Or from the following online retailers:

Redware pie plates are available at the Weathervane Museum Store. They are made by local craftspeople and are coated with a non-toxic finish, which makes them ideal for baking.

Baking pies in the Dutch oven opens up a whole new world of baking fun. For more information on Dutch oven cooking, check out the article, “Seven Secrets of Dutch Oven Cooking,” by Roger L. Beattie. Landis Valley’s Open Hearth Cooking class is coming up, too. For those who’ve taken the introductory course at Summer Institute, there are still some spaces left for the advanced course during Winter Institute. Click here for more information.