Written and submitted by Brian Truskey, Communications department apprentice at Land Between The Lakes
Last weekend my best friend Jamie and I took a trip to the Homeplace 1850s Working farm, specifically for their Sundays in the Parlor and Blacksmithing programs. She and I arrived a little before 1:00, strolled down to the farm, and petted the cat, who it seems already had enough affection for one day. The cat wandered off after a few pets, leaving us to take a short walk around the double pen house.
Soon Cindy and Charlotte, two of the Homeplace Interpreters, made their way to the Parlor and taught us and a few other guests about the simpler ways folks in 1850s prepared for and celebrated Christmas. It seems that even back in 1850 people had come to believe Christmas was becoming too commercialized with all the premade ornaments and gifts available.
As I watched, Charlotte taught a visitor how to make handmade ornaments, while Cindy taught Jamie how to make yarn with a drop spindle. After a few tries, Jamie did rather well and made a small ball of wool yarn. I, on the other hand, well, let’s just say I make a better helper than anything else. If we lived in the 1850s, the yarn she made could have been the start of a homemade gift, like gloves or a scarf. I’m hoping Jamie will have a chance to make more yarn. I wouldn’t mind handmade wool scarf or gloves now that the weather has decided to cool off.
After a fun hour in the Parlor, and losing track of time, we headed over to the blacksmith shop to watch Jonathan at work making chain links. A large group crowded around the shop and watched as he cut iron rods. He heated them with charcoal and a double action, hand worked bellows until the iron glowed red and the flames flickered a whitish blue. Slowly, the iron rod was shaped into an oval around the ends of the anvil. The ends flattened, until finally welded together by hammer, heat, and flux to form a solid link.
Now for the test…Jonathan dropped the link on the anvil and listened to the ring. He knew the weld was good and the link would hold from the sound it made. He also shared the secret to making long chains without wearing out your arms; make shorter segments and then connect those together. Clearly, Jonathan knows what he is talking about.
We were so absorbed by the activities of the afternoon that we forget to take any pictures. The shared memories will have to suffice. Perhaps we will remember on our next visit, when we learn how to turn that yarn into a hand spun gift.