Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Heating, Weather Hill style.  We use a 1908 Glenwood Base Heater #6 and it is a wonderful piece of equipment.  While it can burn coal or wood, I prefer wood.  As Eric Sloane wrote, wood heat warms many times over.  For me, it warms once when I cut the wood, once when I split the wood, once when I stack the wood, and once when I burn the wood.  There is nothing that can compare to a properly built wood fire of seasoned hardwood in a good stove.  I prefer burning Birch as it is fragrant both during splitting and burning.

Last evening, at the height of the gale when the air temperature fell considerably, I smiled at the thought of my “radiant floor heating”.  As the Glenwood burned merrily along downstairs, I received the benefit of a strategically placed antique cast iron floor grate I installed by cutting a hole in my bedroom floor with a chainsaw.  Additionally, the rising heat from the first floor circulates among the ceiling beams, giving the floor of my bedroom a “warm to the touch” sensation much appreciated as a hopped bare foot into my cherry four post bed.

October 31, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Like many residents of the Mid-Atlantic, Edith and I are picking up tree limbs, small branches, and other vestiges of Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully, damage to Weather Hill is minimal.

The impending storm caused a flurry of activity at the local hardware store.  Generators were in demand – a friend told me that she was number 61 on a waiting list.  I wonder what Eric Sloane would think of that?  It set me thinking about Eric’s Philosophy of Awareness, and idea that has intrigued me for years – in fact, I entitled the biography I wrote of Eric Aware: A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane.  It seemed like a fitting title and after eleven years it still does.

Eric suggested that the early American was more aware than we are today – an awareness born of necessity because of the way people lived and worked.  The early American man and woman were more aware of the environment to be sure – weather, for example, was a factor that was closely watched because one’s livelihood and indeed perhaps one’s life, depended on a level of awareness that simply does not exist today.  Yesterday you might have to deliver a wagon load of grain to the next village, today one leaves a climate controlled house to climb into a climate controlled automobile to drive to a climate controlled office.  Rain and snow are a nuisance today, yesterday they could prove deadly to the traveler caught unaware.

Eric suggested another, perhaps kinder, interpretation of awareness.  In this second version, the early American man and woman were more aware because so much of what they created they either did so by their own hands, or knew who did.  A pair of socks, for example, take on a different significance when they were knitted for you by your grandmother.  You would treat a candlestand or table differently if you made it with your own two hands.  Furniture like that finds a prominent place in familial lore and is usually passed down from generation to generation.  Can you see the same occurring with a press board table made in China and sold in 7,500 WalMart stores across our nation?

I think Eric was also trying to tease out exactly what this all meant for the man and woman of today.  As we progressed from and agricultural society into an industrial one, we left a lot of things behind – most things for the good.  Yet it is difficult to argue that we as a people and as a nation didn’t experience a loss.  Eric Sloane himself would be the first to argue how unrealistic it is to think that we could or should return to “the good old days”.  But what have we given up?  As humans, we practiced and lived an agricultural existence for thousands of years – we’ve lived an industrial one for one hundred and fifty.  We are arguably more wealthy and have more leisure time than ever before.  How come we are more depressed, less satisfied, more medicated, and less fulfilled than ever before?  What are we missing?

I am not a clinical psychologist, but I can’t help wondering if much of the dissatisfaction of a present age has to do with the possibility that our brains and ways of thinking have not caught up to, speaking in an evolutionary sense, our new industrialized, sedentary, and over-stimulated lives.  Maybe our brain, aware of this drastically quick evolutionary jump, has not yet determined a response to this new shift, but instead manifests it’s lack of comfort with our new ways of working and living in other ways.  How does awareness play a role?  I’ll attempt to explain that tomorrow.  Right now, Edith and I have more branches to collect…

October 24, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Weather Hill Farm welcomes our second rescue animal, a sheep that was to be slaughtered before my business partner Edith stepped in and put an end to all the “slaughtering nonsense”.  Wife Beth was next in line to name the next animal (we rotate that distinction in the family) and chose “Emmy Noether” after an early 20th century mathematician who was a pioneer in her field (as our Emmy is in hers).  Welcome, Emmy!

Sheep may safely graze
Whilst the shepherd is watching.
Where the wise and good rule
Peace will also reign there
And there will be peace throughout the world.

–  J.S. Bach, Hunt Contata 208 “Sheep May Safely Graze” written in 1713

 

Rescue Horse “Dandy”, Rescue Sheep “Emmy Noether” and Daughter and Business Partner “Edith”

October 23, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

You are needed as a member of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum.  For a limited time, if you join at the Sponsor, Director, or President’s Circle Membership Level, you will receive a complimentary signed and inscribed copy of Aware:  A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane.  Help the Eric Sloane Museum and get a great book as a bonus!

Early American Apple Varieties Courtesy of Eric Sloane

October 23, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Not only was the process of selecting, picking, and pressing apples markedly different in the 18th and 19th centuries, the apples themselves have changed a great deal.  Gone forever are thousands of varieties which once were a part of the American landscape.  Even apples which were extremely popular in mid-nineteenth century America have largely disappeared.  Have you ever hear of:

Summer Apples:  Pearman, Red Astrachan, Benoni, Bevan’s Favorite, Bohanan, Caroline Red June, Early Harvest, Early Strawberry, Early Joe, Garretson’s Early, Golden Sweet, Keswick Codlin, Lyman’s Pumpkin Sweet, Manomet, Oslin, Summer Belle-fleur, Sweet Paradise, Summer Rose, Summer Queen, Sops of Wine, William’s Favorite.

Fall Apples:  Emperor Alexander, Autumn Swaar, Beauty of Kent, Bailey Spice, Clyde Beuty, Duchess of Lodenburg, Cloth of Gold, Fall Pippen, Fleiner, Garden Royal, Sassafras Sweet Cole, Jewet’s Fine Red, Queen Anne, Maiden’s Blush, Lyman’s Pound Sweet, Porter, Pomme Royal, President, Spice Sweet, Smoke House, Tomkins, Sweet Paradise.

Winter Apples:  Siberian Crab, Flowering Chinese, Bourrassa, Bell Flower, Belle et Bonne, Carthouse, Dominie, Fameuse, Fallawater, Fort Miami, King, Jonathan, Limber Twig, Mother, Pomme d’Api, Minister, Ortley, Peck’s Pleasant, Pickman, Pryor’s Red, Rawle’s Jannet, Russet Golden, Seek No Further, Winter Blush, Winesap, Wine Apple.

There were thousands more, most of which are sadly no longer with us.  The autumn landscape, air cider and recipes are decidedly poorer without them.  For a great book on the subject, please see Vrest Orton’s “The American Cider Book:  The Story of America’s Natural Beverage”.  I highly recommend the book.

 

October 23, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Saturday was our annual journey to the “illicit” cider press hidden at the base of the mountain.  It isn’t really illicit – the kindly Amish family that runs it have been inspected and questioned so often by the USDA agent because they do not pasteurize the cider they press.  I can’t recommend unpasteurized cider for everyone.  Concerns over cleanliness of facilities and E Coli and other forms of bacteria are warranted and drinking unpasteurized cider can have health consequences, so I cannot recommend the consumption of unpasteurized cider.

What I love about our press is that they charge for the service of pressing the apples – you bring how much and whatever you want to have pressed.  Cider making of the 21st century differs markedly from cider making of the 18th for reasons that extend far beyond pasteurization.  18th century processes of cider pressing called for picking the absolute best examples of apples and never resorting to picking apples off the ground.  Several varieties were essential for the best flavor, chosen at the peak of their ripeness.  One of the most flavorful ciders I ever had pressed was one that I chose four different varieties of apples and included two bushels of pears to boot.  The result was a cider that would have appealed to the most discriminating wine connoisseur.

Edith Helps to Unload Apples at the Cider Press

Our Cider Press - Unfortunately, Few Remain Scattered Throughout Pennsylvania

The press equipment is decidedly 1930’s vintage, powered by a stationary diesel engine.  Apples are unloaded into a hopper, run through a washer, and conveyed to the ceiling of the press room.  Once at the top of the press room, the apples are conveyed into another hopper which leads them into a grinder.  The grinder grinds the entire apple – core, stem, skin, seeds, bugs, bacteria, et al – into “cheese”, which is what is actually pressed into cider (some people mistakenly believe that a press just presses whole apples, but the grinding process is an important step).  The press can use a variety of implements to bring force down upon the cheese – the press where we have our apples turned into cider uses a hydraulic cylinder powered by a stationary diesel engine to supply the force, but smaller presses sometimes use a cast iron plate that is screwed down by hand on top of the cheese.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, larger presses employed a beam press, which utilized a large timber that was quite long.  The timber was used as a lever to bring force down open the apples.

     The photo above shows the stationary diesel power plant used to power the press.  Belts transfer the power between the power unit and the press itself.  It can be pulled out by a team of horses and serviced or replaced as needed.

We enjoy cider as a beverage, but I especially like cooking with cider.  It is a delicious additive to pancakes (substitute for water or milk), and is the base for schnitz pie, a Pennsylvania German delight which combines apple butter, apple sauce, and dried apples into a baked pie.

 

 

 

October 18, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Highlights from the Eric Sloane Harvest Celebration

October 6, 2012

         

          What an absolutely wonderful way to kick off our membership campaign event!  The weather had been threatening all week but, as if Eric Sloane himself intervened, the rain held off until the end of the day.  Many, many people came from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.  We were all impressed with the quantity and quality of the early American demonstrators – Joe Buda showed participants how early woodworking tools were used, Bob Copolla was busy all afternoon giving tours of the iron furnace to youngsters and adults alike and playing games with our youngest visitors – and he somehow found time to teach them to write with a quill pen!  Lance Kozikowski came to practice the art of tinsmithing and was seen throughout the day busily hammering and speaking with guests, Lynn White came with her husband Harold – Lynn created beautifully intricate lace and I am still uncertain as to how she has the patience to do so.  Harold crafted exquisite redware pottery – including a fantastic platter depicting a whale.  Elizabeth Wood demonstrated some serious dexterity, patience, and artistic craft crating baskets, and Samantha Guilbert happily spent the afternoon spinning wool and talking with her many visitors.  Jennifer Blain flexed some muscle at the blacksmith forge, adding the clang of a blacksmith’s hammer on the forge, which added an ambiance to the event of which Eric Sloane himself would have approved.

    The food was universally acclaimed as delicious, including hamburgers, hot dogs, and Noah Blake apple cider pancakes, complete with real Maple syrup.  The Bischoff family rose to the occasion by manning the food, beverage, and dessert tables (as well as pumpkin sales and providing official photographer Grace – her work appears throughout this page) with the able assistance of Barbara Russ’s mother.  Lia Brassord baked homemade Noah Blake molasses cookies which were phenomenal, and Elissa Potts was kind enough to come with a carload of delicious apple pies from her restaurant, Kent landmark Fife N DrumElissa is a supporter of the Eric Sloane Museum and the Friends group and was so generous to devote her time and 25% of the pie sales to the Friends.  Carl Dill set out an artistic and informative display on early New England stone walls (and filled an entire class on how to build dry laid stone walls in minutes), and Dan Cain and his brother Bill brought along a vintage and beautifully restored Farmall Cub tractor, antique cider press and a few bushels of apples to provide visitors with a unique and an authentic experience pressing apples into cider.  I don’t know who was having more fun – Dan, Bill, or the kids that continually swarmed around them to get a look at the process!  Speaking of kids, many turned out for Bob Copolla’s activities, and to take advantage of the children’s area, which was manned by a very able and helpful Jared Kapsiak and included a bean bag toss, rope ring toss, horseshoes, jump rope, croquet and scavenger hunt.  Next to Jared, Bob, and all the kids, Wendy Kennedy and her son Patrick came with the most adorable Swiss calf (appropriately named Sweetie Pie) anyone had seen for some time and a demonstration cow that the kids (and adults!) could “milk”.

Many, many thanks to the newest members of the Friends group:

President’s Circle:

Jeffrey and Katrina Bischoff

James, Elizabeth, and Edith Mauch

James and Rebecca Mauch

Sponsor:

Amy Gillenson

Cecilia Mullen

John Pennings

Family:

Lucy Ball

Bryan and Rachel Clothier

Linda and Ed D’Orlando

Ophelia Dahl and Lisa Frantzis

Izaak Davis

Alice Mandel

Craig Marcin

 Individual:

Michael H. Bird

Douglas Erwin

Hattie Mauch

Clayton Preston

Scott Sheldon

          I spent as much time as I could walking about and meeting with people – I became re-acquainted with Scott Sheldon, who brought along some rare examples of Eric Sloane books for me to see, Craig Marcin brought along a WWII era aviation illustration by Sloane for me to examine (and we had time to talk about one of our favorite events – the Lewisburg Arts Festival), I met Izaac Davis for this first time (his mother named him after Izaak Blake, Noah’s father in Eric Sloane’s Diary of An Early American Boy) and I enjoyed talking with him and with Amy Gillenson – she was so kind to take me into the museum to view her family’s collection of Eric Sloane pen and ink drawings from Eric’s last book Eighty:  An American Souvenir, which her father published.  Amy is extremely knowledgeable and an absolute pleasure to speak with.  Michael Bird came equipped with his video equipment (he is a professional videographer and very generously donated his time and talents to produce both still photographs of the event and a professional video presentation) and brought his good friend Barbara Bourgeois to volunteer. Karin Peterson, Museum Director for all of Connecticut’s state-owned museums, was on hand and wonderfully of, and helpful to, the entire endeavor.


It was an absolutely fabulous day that was enjoyed by everyone -attendees, demonstrators, and volunteers. Much, much help was given (especially at the end where it was really, really appreciated) by James Purtle, Linda Hall and her incredibly helpful son Gage, and Peter and Barb Russ. Thank you to everyone who came – and a special thank you to all of our new members and volunteers – it is with through your efforts and generosity that the legacy of Eric Sloane is being not only kept alive, but shared with a new generation who can learn so much of value from this national treasure.