Spring time brings History Education

Spring is the time the museum gets school groups to learn local history and pioneer life skills. Today we had about 97 sixth graders from one of the local middle schools to learn about western expansion from post Revolutionary War through the 1830s. The kids were divided into 6 groups that rotated through the 6 stations for about 20 minutes per station. As the resident spinner, I am privileged to get to use the loom house, an original Newbern, VA home, a 10 x 10 foot log cabin that was relocated from another lot in Newbern to the museum property in 1830 and given an upper loft. A bit of history about Newbern and the house which was occupied from 1830’s til well after the Civil War by an enslaved woman and her son. She was so valued as a weaver that after emancipation, she was allowed to continue to live in the house and was paid for her weaving skills for the community. Her son was the first African teacher for the freed African children and paid enough that he later paid his way through Hampton Institute to earn his teaching degree.

With me in this photo is Sarah, a local whose ancestors were enslaved Cherokee and Africans and she teaches about slavery for the groups. I discussed cottage industries of spinning and weaving and the life of a frontier woman.

Though the weather began dark and drizzly, we ended up with a mild, cloudy day and only an occasional mist, so very lucky as two of the 6 stations are outdoors and the groups of 12-15 students had to shift between the stations every 20 minutes.

Over the next two weeks, we will have 3 other groups visiting us there, another sixth grade group from a different middle school, a 4th grade group, and a 2nd grade group. The second graders might prove to be the most challenging to keep engaged, though I suspect their rotations will be much shorter.

As a retired educator, though not in history, I thoroughly enjoy working with the children and work hard to make the sessions interesting and engaging, throwing in tidbits like few baths, only about 2 outfits that are handed down until worn out, and the tasks that they were likely to have had to help the family. Many of the 4th and 6th graders have read some of the original fairy tale versions, so the Sleeping Beauty finger prick is fun to discuss from what probably really happened to her, as I am demonstrating spinning on a walking wheel with a quill. They are a fun age to teach.

I look forward to the future groups scheduled and any additional ones that may fill the calendar.

A Weekly Missive

I have been a lax blogger of late. We have had another round of doctors and imaging, and most of it has been at least in the right direction. More to come in the following week.

My physical trainer and I decided that since I wanted to continue working with her, the best thing to do was come up with 4 workouts to add to the walks. Two whole body, 1 upper body, and 1 lower body. We finished the series this week and will now work to increase reps and weights as tolerated by my shoulder and other achy joints. My strength and flexibility have improved, even in the shoulder with bursitis and torn bicep. On nice days (above 50, not too windy, and dry), we walk a local trail. On cooler days, rainy days, we have been walking a small indoor mall, 6 laps to a mile. Yesterday and today, we both went back to the gym. While hubby walks the indoor track, 9 laps to a mile, I hop on a treadmill. I have been working on increasing my speed while still keeping my heart rate in a “safe” for a 76 year old zone. Today I did 2 miles at 4 mph, then walked a few laps of the track with hubby to cool down some and did my lower body workout. Per Nietzsche, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

It has been too cool to do much in the garden. We even had 3 days of snow flurries this week. And the wind for the past couple of weeks has been brutal. The peas are up, except a 2 foot strip where two of the hens got in the garden and decided to dig there. The asparagus are beginning to show. Soon there will be plenty to enjoy and share with daughter. On one of the only warm sunny days last week, something got in the bin of tomato and pepper starts and took off with a pepper plant. I guess I will have to figure out how to protect them when they are on the deck and replant that pot (again).

Two of my houseplants that summer on the front porch were looking ragged in the corner they occupy during the winter. One is a Dracena fragrans, the other a large Jade plant. Today, the Dracena was cut back and repotted in fresh soil and the Jade was pruned. I purchased a fig that can grow in a container and it came yesterday. It was potted up as well and all three of the pots on floor protecting rolling trays were put in a sunnier location on the south side of the house until they can be put outdoors.

Today was moving day for the chicks. The Calico Princesses are huge, the Buff Orpington, and the little black pullet catching up in size, were moved to the coop. After our walk, workout, and grocery run, the coop was divided in half with a baby gate and pieces of plastic erosion fencing with the hens having their food on the pop door side and access to 3 nesting boxes. The chicks having their food and water on the door side with 3 nesting boxes and perching room. A few weeks of cohabitation safely divided and a little more size on the pullets, they will be set free in the coop with the divider down. There will be some settling of pecking order, but that is inevitable.

When I went out to snap this photo, there was a dog I have never seen before nosing around the chicken run. The hens had the sense to go in the coop as you can see through the barricade. When I ran it off, it took off not toward known neighbors. I hope I don’t have another predator to have to deal with.

We loaned our scaffolding to a young couple to build their house. Most of it was returned a very long time ago, but we let them hold on to a few sections for additional tasks they had. They volunteered their help on anything I needed in exchange. Once I figure out the configuration and make a materials list, they are going to help me rebuild the chicken run, well made, and covered with chicken wire, hopefully tall enough or nearly tall enough for me to work inside and to keep the hawks out from above and the dogs and coyotes out from the sides. The gate will need to be secured better than the rock that leans up against the outside of it now.

On the craft front, I purchased some fabric, mostly Kaffe Fassett prints, made strips of 4 patterns sewn together with a layer of flannel between the top and the back and I’m making a Kantha quilt lap blanket to use on my new recliner on cool nights. In a week, I have managed about 1/4 of the running stitches that hold the layers together.

It isn’t quite as large as I hoped, but large enough for a first attempt. The fiber hubby gave me for Christmas and spun on my spindles is being knit into a Reyna scarf for me. There is a little bit of spinning going on, but it is not a current priority.

The week is supposed to warm back up, so the peas will be replanted, any additional weeding needed will be done. And Wednesday will be the first of 4 class sessions at the Museum over the next 3 weeks. I do enjoy doing them, most are 4th and 6th graders, but one group will be 2nd graders. I’m going to have to think about how to present to them. I need to make sure my costume is clean and pressed.

And Then There Were Four

After last week’s Cooper Hawk attack killed my last Buff Orpington, we went to Rural King and came home with 6 chicks. Two of them were too weak to make it but Rural King has a replacement policy so on Monday we went back and they replaced them. The original 6 were 2 each Buff Orpingtons, Calico Princesses, and a tiny black chick (maybe Black sex link, as there were two breeds in the bin and the sub that came in to get them didn’t know which was which.) One Buff and one black were the ones that didn’t survive the night. The replacements were a Buff and another Calico Princess. They are surviving great.

Four of them stretching to see what was going on in the room. The Buff and the black are smaller than the others and are hiding under the heat table. I’m thinking they are all Calico’s, even the supposed replacement Buff. They are already growing back feathers, have long feathered wings, but will be late July or early August before they begin to lay.

After nearly of week of being penned up, I let the remaining 5 hens out today, it was a thick rainy day and I hoped they would be safe. Nope, the Hawk got one more, so now there are only 4 laying hens who unfortunately will have to remain penned up. With all the squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, moles, and voles, the Hawk can take, I can’t afford to let it continue to hunt my hens. The only solution I can think of to expanding the hen’s territory is to make a tunnel within my garden with chicken wire so then can wander the length of the garden eating bugs and weeds without digging up my veggies.

After the weekend, another garden box was cleared and one each row of peas and sugar snap peas planted in that bed. Sprouting potatoes were cut to seal over, and a sweet potato set in a jar of water to hopefully sprout shoots before they are needed for the garden. After Sunday night’s below freezing temperature, the potatoes will be planted between and outside of the two rows of peas and covered with straw. The replacement garden box that was ordered arrived late yesterday, but I need a warmer, drier day to assemble it and fill it with soil and compost. Since it will be planted with beans which are still 6 weeks away from planting, there is no hurry. The tomatoes have all sprouted and about half of the peppers have. As soon as the rest sprout, they will get deck time in filtered sun protected in a plastic crate so they grow strong not tall. They will be brought in at night and on days that are too cool, until it is time to plant them in the ground.

My plum tree is full of blossom buds and tomorrow night is supposed to drop into the upper 20’s. I’m seriously thinking about throwing a sheet over it to keep it from dropping the blooms. Last year, a freeze kept it and the two peach trees from producing any fruit. I am hoping for plums and peaches this year. And figs. Even if the one in the back garden doesn’t produce, I have ordered a small fig that than be potted in a big pot and brought in during the winter. Since I don’t have or need a true hoop house, I have to work with what I do have.