This first trip was a visit to the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, VA. It's a living history farm that gives folks a chance to step back to the year 1771 and find out what life was like in colonial America. We attended the Farm Skills Program, where children get hands on experience with tasks that their colonial counterparts might have performed--things like dipping candles, pounding corn, carding and spinning wool, and even playing some 18th-century games.
As we entered the farm, we first encountered the tobacco barn (Meg for some reason always tries to pronounce it to-BOK-o), situated next to the tobacco fields and used as a space for drying the harvested leaves.
This turkey greeted us as we approached the barn. We learned that turkeys were herded through tobacco fields because they devour tobacco worms, one of the greatest threats to this important cash crop.
A closer look at Tom T., in all his glory:
(Personal confession: I HATE the way a turkey's head looks. That particular texture absolutely makes me want to puke.)
Inside the tobacco barn...
And trying to get back outside the tobacco barn, as a territorial goose barred the way (almost causing my oh-so-courageous children to fall apart completely):
After our escape from the poultry, we started larnin' us some farm skills. First, Meg and Matthew and I got to dip our own candles. This station was somewhat of a disaster for my crew--an unfortunate collision of hot wax, delicate skin, very clear expectations of what a "farm" ought to be, and disillusionment. What with one burn and two bad attitudes, (mine being one of the latter), we had some rough moments, and I came closer than I've ever come before to packing my kids up early and going home. Fortunately... God to the rescue. He eventually picked up our pieces, changed our hearts, and let us move on to...
Did anyone else in my generation (beside fellow Nalle girls) grow up eating the occasional bowl of cornmeal for breakfast? With a pat of butter melting in the middle? Mmmm, I want some. But I'm really glad we never had to do this before we got to eat ours.
Next we got to learn about making fabric. This lady told us about raw wool...
...and showed us how to card some until it was fine and smooth. (No picture of the process, but here's a crummy one of the finished product.)
We then tried to spin the wool into thread using a drop spindle. We failed. But we stopped and took some silly pictures instead! Does that count for anything?
At this point, my kids were more than ready for the station where we learned about colonial-style games and amusements. Meg and Matthew didn't have much luck rolling hoops or playing quoits, but they loved the section that was done up like an 18th-century playground (if there was such a thing). They enjoyed the great rope swing, crude see-saws and a balance beam, a kind of bean bag toss, and this game:
It involved a hoop suspended from a tree branch. The object was to take the "dart" (a long feather weighted at one end by a bit of corn cob) and throw it through the hoop.
(In this picture you can see the feather dart on its trajectory--it's the beige blur near the bottom right.)
This was such a big hit I'm thinking of making one for our yard.
And that was about it for our time at the farm.
Overall, though we definitely enjoyed our visit, I think my kids were a bit on the young side for optimum benefit. I wouldn't mind possibly taking them back when they are eight or nine, more inquisitive, more educated about the colonial era, and more coordinated. (And hey, while I'm describing the ideal, why not when we have Daddy with us too?) I think they would appreciate the whole event even more at that point. It's so neat that small-scale living history places like this exist, and I'm grateful for my friend Debbie, who planned this trip for all of us!