Friday, March 13, 2009

A Trip Through Time

We spent the first half of this week in Williamsburg, playing at Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park, and exploring Jamestown Settlement and Colonial Williamsburg. A rare getaway as a family, we really enjoyed our time down there and felt lucky to get such a great rate through a local homeschooling group. Usually, one of us needs to stay home to take care of the farm, but we're lucky enough to have a really reliable farmsitter (who didn't organize this particular group trip!) that lets us get away for short periods of time every once in a while.

The highlights of the trip for me were the time spent poking around in the colonial garden in Williamsburg and talking with a food historian in one of the colonial kitchens. Unfortunately, my favorite place of all, Great Hopes Plantation, was closed for the season, but I still found ways to nourish my own love for all things homesteading. Knowing that I won't likely get back down there this season has made me more determined to seek out some of the historical homesteads closer to my neck o' the woods, and I'll definitely be heading down to Monticello at some point during this growing season.

Here you can see all the cloches out to protect the plants at night; during the day they are set aside:

They had row covers made from saplings and cuttings and canvas tarps. You can see the tarps thrown aside in the above photo on the potting benches behind me. They also had some permanent row cover frames built that could be lifted on and off the rows of plants. These were constructed of solid framing wood and tar paper, though Jim didn't get a photo of them for me.

Here are some of the standard cold frames for starting plants:

And here, you can see the very clever straw insulation design:

The food historians were cooking over an open fire and had just finished spit roasting a piece of beef and making mashed potatoes, which Emily sorely wished she could taste. One was making some lemon custard tarts in a dutch oven near the fire, and he said it only took a ship about 6 days to bring citrus up from the Caribbean, which made sense once he said it. Nutmeg was also a plentiful spice.

I asked if he thought the food tasted better cooked with wood fire, to which he responded that the meat definitely did, but mostly the food tasted better simply because it was fresh. He continued to say that people now don't know what fresh ingredients taste like, and the girls had to say, "Well we do!" The historian protested, beginning a spiel about how grocery food isn't really fresh in the same way. My girls indignantly said, "we don't go to the grocery store!" *laughing* I told him that we raised our own food, that I went out and milked our cow, etc. and we talked a little bit about the different breeds we raised and those that were raised at Colonial Williamsburg. The piece of beef was from one of their Devons.

Overall, we had a lovely time, but it is good to be back home. I'll leave you with a few more garden images, while I go get to work on mine!


Woolysheep said...

It sounds like it was a really great trip. I have wanted to go to Williamsburg for ages but haven't managed it yet. Another one I would like to see is L'anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

I thought the glass domes over the plants was genious. Like mini greenhouses.

I am glad to hear you had a good time.

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

Thank you for sharing all those photos. so interesting. I should go back to Williamsburg! It's been 20 years and I don't remember the kitchen gardens. I know that's where I would spent lots of time too!

Glad you were able to take a few days of family vacation times!

Madeline said...

Very cool straw insulation. It looks like you had a great time. You guys deserved a family break all together! As you said, thank goodness for farm help.

~Crystal~ said...

Ohhhh, LOVE the pics. Thanks so much for sharing. There are some fabulous ideas there!

Woody said...

The gardens are downright beautiful..
So when are you going to take a glass blowing class to make the cloches?

Hah...just ribbing ya!

We were talking this past week about heading east for a vacation/history tour with Katy. I was so fortunate to get to see much of this country at an early age and my folks would stop at every historic site along the way.


Danielle said...

Yes, those gardens are fabulous aren't they? I always leave with garden envy and a nagging feeling of inadequacy, but then I try to remind myself that they have "staff" and I have moi.

Woody, you know you'd be welcome if you're ever in our neck o' the woods—I'd even make you dinner and offer a nice drink. We're not far from D.C. as well as Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields.

Country Girl said...

Sounds like a great trip. Nice garden pictures and your new babies are sweet.

Woody said...

Well, Thanks for the invite. I'd look forward to the day to meet you and Jim, but a dinner and drink too! I've drooled on my keyboard at some of the dishes you've prepared and posted..:)