Friday, February 26, 2010

Sugaring Off Starts in March!

We are still in the heart of winter when preparations begin for making Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar.  But Sugaring Off holds the promise that the trees know spring is on its way.  The sap flow that will awaken the trees from their winter sleep and cause buds to burst into leaves is also the flow we tap to make syrup.  Maple syrup is distilled sunshine and the promise of winter end.

Our farmers are busy washing buckets, sorting spiles, and preparing the ox cart for another seasons work.

The fire arch will be rebuild on the grounds, the boiling pan and pots scrubbed clean, and firewood stacked for another seasons work.

To see this late-winter burst of activity come to our Sugaring-Off Sundays, every Sunday in March.  Admission gets you a free Pancake breakfast with real maple syrup.  After breakfast you can wander the grounds, watch the farmers collect and boil sap, and visit with me in the Blacksmith Shop!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Casting Pewter Spoons: Part I

Our blacksmith shop does some metalwork beyond just forging iron.  One recent project is the casting of pewter spoons using bronze molds.  We are fortunate to have both original and reproduction spoons molds.  These are bronze two part molds.  A clamped mold is in use on the left, and an open mold is lying to the right in this photo.
Pewter is a low temperature alloy of tin.  We use modern, lead-free pewter.  It is melted in a steel ladle over the fire in the coal forge. 
The halves are clamped together.  Then molten pewter is poured into the mold.  When the mold has chilled it is opened to reveal the spoon.

Not every pour results in a perfect spoon.  Skill and knowledge play a part in successful casting.  The metal must be at the right temperature and free of dross.  The pour needs to be smooth and uninterrupted.  If the mold is not clamped tightly it leaks molten metal!  These can all lead to an incomplete spoon.  Sometimes the failures become interesting sculptures!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Weather

It has been a moderate winter for The Farmers’ Museum, regardless of the storms that have set records on the East coast and in the South. The Farmers' Museum is located slightly South and an hour’s drive West of Albany. Our snow storms are more likely to come from the Great Lakes than from the Atlantic. With about two feet of snow on the ground and the temperature dropping into the single digits, it has been an average winter for us. The frost and snow does provide a beautiful but austere background for our historic buildings.
Our barns may be over 200 years old, but still do the job of keeping out the wind and snow. The sparrows take advantage of the barns to find a warm perch.
The sheep are kept inside if the wind, snow, and cold are too fierce. But they are naturally well equipped for the weather and like to be outside most days. As ruminates, they spend much of their day eating. A little snow doesn’t bother them!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Blacksmith’s Duel

Blacksmiths are under-represented in our literature, history books, and stories. The village blacksmith is now part of history. But there are some great stories about blacksmiths if you know were to look. The story below is about real people, but I suspect it has been remembered with a little more flair than accuracy. It is a great story.

ONE of the famous duelists of early New Orleans was Bernard Marigny, a member of one of Louisiana's oldest and most influential families, who was a master swordsman and a crack shot with a pistol. He was elected to the state Legislature in 1817 as a member of the House of Representatives and took an active and a leading part in the many disputes that arose between the Creoles and the Americans. At the same time Catahoula Parish was represented by James Humble, a blacksmith and a former resident of Georgia, who was noted for his great stature -- he stood almost seven feet in his stockings. The Georgian replied to one of Marigny's most impassioned speeches, and made various allusions so pointed and personal that the Creole considered himself grievously insulted, and challenged the blacksmith to a duel. Humble sought the advice of a friend.

"I will not fight him," he said. "I know nothing of this dueling business." 
"You must," his friend protested. "No gentleman can refuse a challenge." 
"I'm not a gentleman," Humble retorted. "I'm only a blacksmith."

HUMBLE was assured that he would be mined both politically and socially if he declined to meet the Creole. His friend pointed out that as the challenged person the blacksmith had the choice of weapons and could so choose as to put himself on equal terms with his adversary.

HUMBLE considered the matter for a day or two and then sent this reply to Marigny: "I accept your challenge, and in the exercise of my privilege, I stipulate that the duel shall take place in Lake Pontchartrain in six feet of water, sledge-hammers to be used as weapons."

SINCE Marigny was less than five feet and eight inches tall and so slight that he could scarcely lift a sledge-hammer, this was giving Humble an equal chance with a vengeance. The Creole's friends urged him to stand on a box and run the risk of having his skull cracked by the huge blacksmith's hammer, but Marigny declared that it was impossible for him to fight a man with such a sense of humor. Instead he apologized to Humble, and the two became firm friends.”

Quoted from Great American Folklore : legends, tales, ballads, and superstitions from all across America. Compiled by Kemp P. Battle ; illustrated by John M. Battle. Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, c1986. Pg. 121, 122.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin