Archive for November, 2012

November 24, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

A hope that your thanksgiving was shared by family and friends and that you all had much for which to be thankful.

The harvest table at Weather Hill Farm, awaiting 19 guests (kid’s table not pictured!).  Bittersweet, Holly, and White Pine bows bedeck the chandelier.  Seating provided by a set of Shaker ladder back chairs, a matched set of c. 1710 Maple chairs, and a few late 18th c. Windsor chairs.

We have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings.  My sincere Thanksgiving wish for us all is to never loose sight of what is important, to always think and act with purpose, and to always treat others the way that we in turn wish to be treated.

November 6, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

Well, my Amish friend was incorrect in the end (see the thread in “The Life of Eric Sloane” on this blog).  Today the sun shone beautifully for nearly all of the afternoon.  A good day to cut firewood.

It struck me as I was cutting firewood (lazily by 18th century standards – I was using a modern chainsaw to cut logs already de-limbed and stacked) that the early American farmer must have made great use of felled limbs and trees on his property. Felling trees, cutting them to proper stove length and hauling those lengths is incredibly time and energy consuming.  Since the departure of Hurricane Sandy, I have picked up every limb I can find and carry on my 2.5 mile walk each day.  The amount of usable firewood I have obtained in this manner is significant.  I can well imagine that, throughout the year, the farmer visited his tree lines and woodlot to retrieve felled limbs and trees with an eye towards supplementing his firewood stack.  While it is indeed true that our early American counterparts lived in houses that were nowhere near as well insulated as our 20th and 21st century versions and utilized walk-in fireplaces that wasted a great deal of heat, it is also true that they built much smaller homes and confined themselves to smaller areas of that home in the winter.  I believe that it would be possible for a diligent New England farmer to collect enough felled limbs and trees over the course of a year to heat his home without the need to intentionally cut a tree down for firewood.  Pure speculation on my part, yet judging from the remnants of Sandy, entirely possible.

November 5, 2012 |  by  |  No Comments

I am still pondering awareness.  I had the opportunity over the weekend to attend a farm auction with an Amish friend of mine.  Two and a half weeks past, he told me that he saw a double rainbow two evenings in a row, a portend of “four weeks of rest”.  When I asked him what that meant, he simply said “We’ll have four weeks of sunless skies.”  I thought he was a little crazy, but the sun has not shone since and though the weatherman insisted that each of the last three days would be sunny, his prediction has not come true.  Now it appears as if a Nor-Easter will impact our area and provide at least 4 more days of cloudy skies with wind and rain.  I am beginning to think my Amish friend is not so crazy after all…

Farm auction days are emotional ones for me, I can’t imagine what it is like for the family actually having the auction.  I find farm auctions at once exciting and very sad.  I very much enjoy these autumnal adventures, the ability to step back in time and touch and feel so many early American objects, to muse on how they were used, who used them, and why.  But my intrusions into the lives of others is always coupled with a mindful respect and reverence – everything present belonged to someone real – someone who lived, worked, loved, succeeded, and failed.  When I see auction goers manhandling furniture and speaking aloud of how much they can resell a particular piece for, they seem as out of place and disrespectful as if they were conducting their business in a graveyard.

I spoke at length with a woman who was patiently assessing a chest of drawers – she confided that she did not have much money and needed one for her son.  I steered her towards a sturdily built Eastlake piece, knowing that it was well built and likely would not fetch much as Eastlike is somewhat out of style now.  She found me later that afternoon, smiling and happy that she was able to obtain it for $40.  Her smile faded, however, as she looked solemnly at me and said “I can’t imagine having all of my family’s possessions out on display on the lawn and for sale”.  She shook her head sadly and walked slowly towards her truck.

These outings are also a chance to re-connect with this philosophy of awareness.  I always try to imagine how the first farm family lived, what the farm must have looked like then, how they must have experienced the cadence and rhythm of the early American spring, summer, fall, and winter.  Most striking to me are the early sleighs I sometimes discover like the one found at this auction:

      Imagine the need for this winter transportation just one hundred and fifty years ago!  How far we have traveled, how fast that journey has been.  It took homo sapiens how long to invent and perfect a method of winter travel?  Thousands of years?  In a hundred and fifty years we went from infrequent winter travel of short distances via the method pictured above to boarding a climate controlled jet which travels at 400+ MPH and can take us anywhere in the world in a matter of hours.  It is a truly wonderful and magnificent accomplishment, no doubt.  But what has happened to us along the way?  What, in this grossly accelerated technological and evolutionary space of time, have we lost?