Submitted by Brian Truskey, Communications Department Apprentice and Cindy Earls, Lead Interpreter at the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum.
Head through the doors at the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and step back in time. Experience what life was like on a middle Tennessee farm in the 1850s. Since many people have never been on a farm, let alone an 1850s farm, we put together this time traveler’s guide to improve your understanding of the mid-1800s.
As any experienced time traveler can tell you, the best way to visit the past is to blend in. This guide includes vital information to help you “blend in.” It will also help you understand proper “Victorian etiquette” common to farm life in the 1850s.
Check out the guide to answer many of the questions you might have on your time travel visit to the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm.
There aren’t any information signs. How do I find out more about the animals?
Our interpreters love to answer your questions about our animals. Feel free to ask us. On our farm we raise a variety of heritage breeds. These same breeds our forefathers bred for certain traits that worked well in the local environment. Many of our heritage animals would be considered endangered or threatened due to their declining numbers worldwide.
As one of an association of living history museums around the country, the Homeplace works to preserve these rare animals. Instead of tractors, we use our mules and oxen for plowing the fields.
Feel free to ask about the various duties and historic uses for our animals. Some animals produce food, such as eggs or meat, while some produce materials such as wool or feathers. Others like our oxen and mule help with labor. You can meet the oxen anytime, or during one of our Meet the Oxen programs March 28, April 19, and May 3 and 17. See our calendar for more details.
Can I pet or handle the animals?
We reward many our animals for a good day’s work with petting. Petting them for other reasons lessens its effectiveness as a form of encouragement.
Some animals, such as chickens and ducks, express affection differently and prefer not to be petted.
Proctor the mule prefers his space, especially when it comes to his face. If you see him put his ears back, he’s letting you know he needs a little “me” time.
Smokey the cat has an important job on the farm hunting mice. Working at night, she sleeps during the day time, and prefers not to be disturbed, even for petting.
Can I get into the pens or fences?
We ask our visitors to stay on their side of the fences. Pens provide our animals with necessary personal space, and our feet with a buffer zone, free from heavy hooves. It is an unwritten rule on a farm that you do not handle the livestock without first asking permission. Doing so would be similar to going into someone’s garage today and using their car without their permission.
Is it okay if I get closer?
Of course, just make sure to do so slowly and calmly. If an animal runs away, it may mean they are frightened. If that happens, try approaching more slowly or watch patiently and calmly from a distance. Give them some time and our animals will be more relaxed, and may even come a bit closer to you.
You might just get a chance to learn a little more about their behaviors. Just like people, every animal has their own likes, preferences and little quirks of personality. If you watch patiently, you might see something you’ve never seen before, like baby chicks chasing after bugs, or Proctor and the sheep reminding us about their 3:30 dinner time.
Can I feed the animals?
We feed our farm animals regularly, so it’s not necessary for guests to supplement. It could even be unhealthy for the animals to eat too much food, or food outside of their normal diet. If you’d like to lend a hand, stay for Feeding Time on the Farm, every day at 3:30.
How do I know what is growing?
Our interpreters are happy to answer your questions about our gardens, orchards, and fields. We grow a variety of heirloom plants, fruit, and crops and they all have history. If you decide you really like something we grow, let us know. We might just have some tips you can use to grow it in your garden at home.
You can purchase heirloom seeds in our gift shop, letting you take a little of the past home with you. We also offer our Homeplace History and Receipt Book, full of delicious 1850s recipes, available online and at the gift shop. Check out our special edition Gazette about Heirloom Gardening.
Can I lend a hand?
Yes! In fact, we hope you do. We will gladly accept the help of a few extra farm hands around weeding and harvest time. Our interpreters will happily show you the proper methods to tend the plants. Some plants can be delicate and require a skilled hand or specific methods of care. Be sure to ask one of our interpreters about how you can help before jumping in.
April 4 we host our Planting by the Moon and Stars event. Learn how farmers used the position of the moon and stars to determine when to plant their crops. Later that day we will begin our Spring Plowing. May 9 and 23 you can help harvest ripe vegetables and learn about food preservation at our 1850 Crop Cultivation events. Later those days we offer an event on Cultivating to control weeds. See our calendar for more details. The kids can lend a hand and learn all about farm chores May 30th during Children’s Day on the Farm.
Can I take some of the vegetables?
Possibly. When there’s extra we enjoy sharing our heirloom seeds and tasty vegetables with our visitors.
We prefer that you ask before taking any fruits, vegetables or other plants. We use the heirloom vegetables we grow to make authentic 1850s dishes in the kitchen and to show visitors how to preserve vegetables. We use the field crops to feed the farm animals.
Can I try out the bed?
No. Old fashioned beds have to be fluffed every morning to ensure a good night’s sleep. As a result, most folks never laid or sat on their beds during the day. We ask that our visitors follow that same etiquette.
If you want to feel the softness of the beds with your hands, that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure you leave them neat and tidy.
What kind of log buildings will I see?
The Homeplace has 16 authentic wooden 1850s structures. 15 of those log buildings come from within 10 miles of the Pryor Creek area. Our interpreters can tell you about the history, construction methods, and uses of our log buildings. You can also go here for more information on our log buildings, and to see a layout of our farm.
Who left the door open?
We ask that if you open a door or a gate to please close it behind you. This helps keep the warm air in during the winter, and the bugs out. If a gate is closed, please keep it closed. This is especially important on a farm to keep farm animals from escaping.
Visiting Pet Etiquette
Can I bring my pet?
Yes! We welcome well behaved pets on 6’ leashes. Historically many farm animals free ranged. For the protection of our poultry do not allow your pet to chase the animals. Please clean up any messes your pet might make.
Calendar of events | www.landbetweenthelakes.us/calendar/
Children’s Day on the Farm | www.landbetweenthelakes.us/calendar/childrens-day-farm-2/
Heritage breeds | www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage
Homeplace Buildings and Farm Map | www.landbetweenthelakes.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2014HP_FarmMap.pdf
Homeplace 1850s Working Farm | www.landbetweenthelakes.us/seendo/attractions/homeplace/
Planting by the Moon and Stars | www.landbetweenthelakes.us/calendar/planting-moon-stars/
Spring Plowing | www.landbetweenthelakes.us/calendar/spring-plowing/