Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Colors of Autumn

From Julie H., historical interpreter:

We are in the midst of fall here in the Shenandoah Valley! This is a great time for a drive or hike through the mountains, and see the changing colors of the leaves over the valley. We haven't peaked yet, like the northern part of the valley, but we are starting to see fierce reds, oranges, and yellows highlighting our forests down here too.

The Frontier Culture Museum is a great stop if you're hiking through the Appalachian Trail, Skyline Drive, or the Blue Ridge Parkway. The pictures from around here simply don't do the colors justice. Come visit the museum, and see for yourself!
Amazing colors! Let's take a walk around the museum, and see the some more. Here is one of the many beautiful trees to greet you as you enter the Old World loop:
The loveliness continues in jolly ole' England:
Between England and Ireland is a pretty little duck pond, and at the bank of one part of the pond sits a massive looming tree. I wish I had a better quality camera on my phone, because the contrast is breath-taking in person:
The Germans have a lovely little apple tree, producing some nice colors:
The Old World loop ends with a deep maroon:
There are some great colors in the New World too. This tree welcomes you in to the new American Indian site:

Settlement remains fairly green. It is surrounded by a lot of pine trees, and the others are just starting to give a slight yellow tint to the leaves, almost reminiscent of early spring! So we continue to the final farms, for some lovely scenes:

Finally, as you make your way back to the visitor center, this fantastic little tree sports some of the mightiest colors of autumn we have to offer here. This is why we all love this season. Here is the full tree from the top of this post, with the brilliant orange leaves.

Oh. And for our West African fans out there... guess who doesn't love autumn??
Poor banana trees. They are trying so hard to hold on as temperatures plummet at night to freezing.

Check out our flickr albums for more photos of fall at the Frontier Culture Museum!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yam Day - Harvest!

From Brad, historical interpreter:

Yam Day Harvest Day!!! 

This was our big week for our yam experiment here at the museum, as we finally got to harvest our crop to see what we've got. We had mixed success, but we've also got some new ideas to improve next year!

For all of you following our blog over the past few months, place your bets now on which yam plant produced the biggest harvest!

If you bet on Yam 1, then you'll have to get a raincheck. We decided not to harvest that mound in order to save one of our healthy plants to show to visitors and school children. Apologies!  When Yam 1 dies, we will certainly harvest and let you know the results!

Yam 2:

This was our biggest vine in the initial week or two of the blog until it fell to #2 and stayed there until it began wilting from cold. Here you can see what's left before harvest:
And now we finally get to dig it up. Here I am, using my Igbo hoe, or ogu, to dig up the yams, starting with the bottom, outside edge of the mound and slowly working my way inward.
Here's an Igbo equivalent to a pick-ax, which I found easier to break up dirt. You really have to be careful not to go too fast because you can easily break the yams. I tried to remember an old Igbo proverb, but couldn't, and so I kept telling myself this: "Old men never break their yams because they move slow. Young men always break their yams because they're impatient."
Here I am, desperately digging with all the patience I can manage, but I didn't find a single yam!

The Twins come next. They've always been healthy, and have fought the frost better than most of the other plants. Here I am taking pride in their longevity.
And then swiftly picking up my digger and breaking open the mound.
 Could it be?
YAMS!!! Well, the beginnings of them anyway. They're not nearly the size they'd be in Africa--generally about the size of a football, these are more like golf balls--but yams nonetheless!
As far as I know, this is a sight that no one else has witnessed in the continental US, full grown or not.
 "Not bad, eh?"

Next up, the Di Ji, or Yam King. This one was the longest vine for the majority of our experiment; let's see if it really is the Yam King!

 First yam found. Rotted. Not very kingly.
 DEFINITELY not kingly.
And then...some yam sprouts off of the original seed planted. We discovered that the new yams typically grow straight down from the seed. Before I knew this, it took me 20 minutes to harvest 1 mound (remember, patience!). Now I can do it in less than 5, which would be useful considering a normal yam farmer would have hundreds if not thousands of these to harvest.
Unfortunately we only found the 3 spuds in the so-called Yam King's mound, so this plant was no match for the tag-team duo of the twins.
Although we didn't get any full-sized yams, I think that just getting yam-spuds is a success in itself, given our comparatively short growing season, low rainfall, and bad soil on the farm (look at previous posts and notice how rocky the soil is! This actually goes back to when the 1850's American farm was located on this site and our landscaping crews graded the topography to match that of the original location for that farmstead. In effect, they removed most, if not all, the topsoil in our garden). Next year, we've got a few ideas floating around to grow real, full-sized yams. We would like to start them earlier next year and decide on a method to transplant them into the mounds without disturbing their roots, because, as you can see in the photo above, they have very long, windy roots. With those good ideas, some fertilizer/compost, and a little luck, we'll be able to grow real African yams in Virginia for the first time in history! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chamber of Commerce

From Julie H., historical interpreter:

A week ago, we were the venue for the fantastic Augusta County Chamber of Commerce festival, "Good Times, Tastes, & Traditions." As per the event title, there were tasty foods, excellent music, and traditional craftspeople. Good times were had by all!

If you missed the event, here are some photos from around the museum. What a great day!

Most folks started out in West Africa, and were greeted by tents filled with food, traditional baskets, and these awesome ladies. They were part of an Igbo dance group out of Baltimore, Maryland, and performed traditional women's dances on site. They had some men with them too, who later did traditional men's dances.

In England, there were beer tents, English-themed food, and more vineyards than you could count!
 And of course, little Alfie was a hit!

More beer, food, wine, and crafts in Ireland:
Heading down to Germany next, dozens more tents, with delicious smells of bratwurst, and other authentic German foods. And of course, more beer, wine, and craftspeople!

Here's the scene from in front of the American Indian exhibit:
And finally, everything down in the last two American farms, filled with many more exciting things. Here's our new 1850s American Short Horn cow, Hollyhock, inspecting some of the tents in front of her, one of which had a very tempting hot tub.

Now, we are preparing for two major events this coming weekend. Homeschool Day is this Friday, when we welcome hundreds of homeschoolers to the site, and Oktoberfest is Saturday, October 6th. We can't wait! Please come out for German food, games, and music this weekend!