A new feature in the garden this year was our rope hops walls. These large structures were created to support 12 new hops plants, which in the future will be used in our beer brewing demonstrations.
Our staff gardener Mike and his volunteers spent time this summer working on building two walls to grow the hops that will be used in our beer brewing program. The walls are each 12 ft high and 21 ft wide, with six plants at the base protected by stacked firewood boxes. We’ve been watching over the past month as the hops slowly creep up and the gardeners wrap new tendrils around the ropes, encouraging them to spread out and up the wall. This fall when the hops are matured, the entire frame can be taken down and the vines easily harvested.
It seems like craft beer brewing is all the rage these days, but it’s definitely not anything new! Beer brewing had long been a common activity in the home when colonists began arriving in Pennsylvania. For those who could afford a higher quality beverage, professional breweries quickly sprang into action, making Philadelphia a beer-brewing center in the New World. William Penn was known to purchase up to 20 barrels of beer a month from renowned brewer Henry Badcock and ship them up the Delaware to his country estate, Pennsbury Manor.
But for those who preferred to save their money, home brewing was easy and inexpensive. The two ingredients you need for a basic brew – barley and hops – could be grown in your Kitchen Garden. In fact, brewing your own beer would guarantee a ready supply of fresh yeast for baking in the kitchen. The brewing process involves bursts of activity followed by long periods of waiting, so it could be done in between other work in the kitchen.
Pennsbury Manor features beer brewing demonstrations throughout the year; check the calendar of events for the upcoming program and stop out and savor the aroma.
By Hannah Howard, Volunteer & Special Project Coordinator
We have many vegetables and herbs growing in the Kitchen Garden that we still grow and use today, but what about the ones we don’t?
For the adventurous visitor who loves to poke around and explore, there are some wonderfully unusual plants you can find tucked away in corners and along the side paths of the Kitchen Garden. I love taking a tour with our gardener, he can point out all sorts of curiosities and the creative ways they discovered for using them in the 17th Century!
One of my favorite plants is definitely the marsh mallow… yes, you read that correctly! The roots of this plant, when crushed up and beaten with sugar and egg whites, produces a gooey, white, mixture very similar to our modern marshmallows. If you visit the garden, be sure to touch the leaves, which are amazing – they feel like a thick, luxurious velvet!
Along the right wall of the garden, you’ll find a very special plant – jewelweed, also called lady’s purse. The juice in the stem can combat poison ivy and poison oak. Modern hikers and campers should definitely learn to recognize this plant, which is most distinctive when it starts to bloom in August. The blossoms are bright orange, and can often be found near where the poison ivy is growing. The juice of this plant is often used to combat other problems, including bee stings and mosquito bites.
Be sure to stop by Pennsbury’s Kitchen Garden and check out what’s growing this season!
By Hannah Howard, Volunteer & Special Project Coordinator
Pennsbury Manor’s interns have been hard at work researching new stories for our 75th anniversary. As they continue to explore Pennsbury’s history, we’ll be sharing their reflections on what they’re discovering!
For having lived here only 4 years, Penn’s ties to the land and its people seems to have lasted long after the buildings had disappeared. Not only did they work the land, but people continued to remember him by naming landmarks and businesses in his honor. In fact, I discovered there was a William Penn Farm located in the same area as Penn’s original estate!
The Warner Company owned most of the land in the area where Pennsbury is today, and the acreage they weren’t using to mine sand and gravel was rented out to the King’s Farm Company, who owned and operated William Penn Farm. The Crozier Family’s farmhouse, which had been built on Penn’s original Manor House foundations and was home to 3 generations of the Crozier family, was left standing and become home to a whole new generation of Pennsylvania farmers. The tenants and families who worked the Penn Farm created a community of their own.
In 1900, William Morris Leedom was in charge of overseeing the farm. His grandson, Rev. George C. Leedom, Jr. recalls the Crozier house as being home of both his grandparents and parents. There have even been several Leedom family reunions held on the grounds at Pennsbury Manor. William Leedom also built an earthen wharf in 1900 named “Billy Penn Wharf.” This wharf served as a place for river traffic to bring goods for the Penn Farm and its neighbors, and as a way to ship farm produce for sale upriver to Trenton or down to Philadelphia. You can see the wharf, along the layout of the farm property, in the aerial shot below:
Seymour Yardley Warner, a Quaker, was the last owner of the farm under the steward system that had been in place. George Caulton Leedom, Rev. Leedom’s father, became in charge of the William Penn Farm when his father died in 1919. Rev. Leedom’s mother, Ethel Leedom, worked under Warner as a cook to feed him and his guests as well as overseer of the economic aspect of the farm. Warner sold the farm for gravel interests in 1926. Rev. Leedom believed that the land deeded to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was through the purchase from Warner.
By Sarah Lepianka, Intern
Source: “Belated Impressions of Pennsbury” by Rev. George C. Leedom, Jr.
It’s been a great summer for our garden here at Pennsbury Manor!
Because of all the rain, our summer harvest is growing quickly and will need to be harvested in the next few weeks. This would have been fantastic news in the 17th Century. By harvesting the summer crops quickly, they have more time to turn over the beds and replant the next crop. They wouldn’t want to waste a single day of warm weather, since what they can cultivate during the spring, summer, and fall will determine how much food they have to last the winter.
For those of us whose summer BBQ’s wouldn’t be the same without some tangy horseradish, check out the amazing crop growing near the garden cistern! Horseradish is one of those plants that can be continually harvested as needed, so it needs some good protection from the bunnies who like to tour our Kitchen Garden! The fencing shown here is called “wattle fencing” and uses the flexible branches trimmed off of the apple trees in the spring. It’s a wonderful way to use the resources of the garden while also created a sturdy protection for your crops.
Most of our field crops – barley, buckwheat, oats, wheat, and rye – were just harvested. Grains were an essential part of the colonists’ diet and could be dried and stored away to use throughout the winter. The last one we’ll harvest will be the flax, which gets pulled up by the root and used as a fiber in making linen. Most farms wouldn’t make their own linen, but they could grow it and sell it to the nearby cottage industries, who would then break the reeds, comb out the fibers, and weave on a loom.
Our white pattypan squash has taken over one of the garden beds, it’s gorgeous! Pattypan is an early squash, you can see they are starting to blossom and will hopefully have a large harvest. Next up will be another planting of beans, radishes, beets, and yellow crookneck squash which wil be harvest this fall.
Chives are a great plant to grow in the Kitchen Garden, since you can chop off the stalks and it will keep growing back all season. Mustard Greens are another constant resource that can be picked anytime, and they are self-sewn and easy to grow. But some plants take a longer time to mature. Our asparagus is still in its first year of growth, so we’re not ready to harvest this year. Leaving the asparagus shoots alone for 2-3 years before harvesting means you will have a much bigger yield with larger stalks. But of course when living in the new colony, if the garden had a bad season and you were desperate for the food, you would have to harvest what you could to survive.
Stay tuned this fall for more updates on our Kitchen Garden’s progress!
As the summer heat drags on, we turn our focus to an important crop we’ve been growing in the Kitchen Garden: flax. This reed-like plant has been used for thousands of years to create a light-weight, durable fabric called linen, which was a staple textile for common folk and aristocrats alike.
Linen production in the Delaware River Valley began primarily in Swedish settlements as farmers began cultivating flax. By the time William Penn held the proprietorship of the colony, local leaders were urging settlers to increase growth of this fiber crop.
The harvest of the flax begins in late July. Farmers would pull the crop from the ground and tie them into small bundles in which they would be laid out to dry for several days. Next step would be to pull the fibers apart with a tool referred to as a “ripple comb.” During this stage, the seeds would be removed and could either be used for planting or sent to an oil mill for pressing.
Following this, the separated fibers would be wetted and laid out to soften. After separating them again, they would begin a process known as “hackling” or “hatchling.” Workers would draw fibers through a board with fixed steel teeth, providing fibers for grades of linen varying from rough working clothes to finer table clothes and sheets.
Flax was not initially a popular crop because of its need for fertile soil and the time-consuming, strenuous process of harvesting. However, flax became more profitable up into the mid-1700s as a major export of the region. Soon, with the rise of cotton in the 1800’s, linen production would nearly cease to exist.
On an estate such as Pennsbury Manor, linens of all kinds would be common, from the roughest weave to the finest bleached linen. Visitors can see evidence of it’s colonial role all around, from the tools of flax harvest found in the kitchen house to the linen press kept in Penn’s Great Hall to store his expensive investment. Linen was one of the key fabics of its time, and continues its popularity today!
From early 17th century England, well into the mid 18th century, the uses for milk can best be described as abundant! However, in the early 1600’s it may have been hard to foresee the leaps in popularity this common resource would make. Although it was consumed, in one form or another, by all classes, it was most common among the poor until the mid 17th Century, especially in the form of cheeseand butter. It was only used amongst the upper classes for the occasional eccentricity, such as the Earl of Rutland in 1602 who was rumored as preferring to bathe in milk!
Nevertheless, the notion of the beneficial properties of milk consumption came about when it was noted of “the fair complexions and good health of those who drank milk…” In addition, it was thought to be the source of farmers’ and servants’ ability to complete hard labor day in and day out. Often consuming the leftovers such as whey(leftover liquid from cheese-making) or buttermilk(the byproduct of butter-making), the poor found ways of making even the lowest products of the dairying process ready for consumption with a few additions such as breadcrumbs, sugar, or spices. The availability of dairying changed, however; as milk climbed in popularity amongst the elite and dairy farmers took up commercial pig-keeping, the leftover dairy that once was disappeared. Another reason for the diminishing availability of milk was due to the enclosure of what was public grazing area during the late Tudor period (late 1500’s, early 1600’s).
Furthermore, as the city populations began to grow (specifically in England) and keeping a cow became more inconvenient, as previously described, dairy shops took the place of local farms and milkmaids hawking their product in the streets took the place of individual household cows (Clarification: Just so nobody asks the question… no, I am NOT referring to milkmaids as cows!). These maids would spend the day carrying pails of milk on yolks, and sometimes driving the cows themselves through the streets to be milked at your door. This option was to bring the milk in from the surrounding countryside, although the milk lost its warmth on the way into town, whereas on-the-spot milking ensured its warmth and freshness.
As a result of these “new” practices, cows became town animals kept in town dairies. Oftentimes the result equaled poor-tasting and poor-quality milk. This was the result of an improper diet; the feed given to town cows often consisted of bean shells, cabbage leaves and brewers’ grain, as opposed to the preferred natural pasture grass of the countryside. Moreover, the “town milk” was of poor quality due to the processing before it was sold. Usually diluted with water, it was skimmed of all cream before it made its way into any market. It was also guaranteed to be contaminated with whatever found its way into the pails as it was carried through the busy English streets. Thus, the safest, best quality milk came straight from the country-bred cow, and this was what was desired, not only to be enjoyed as a glass of milk, but also for the dairying processes to turn the drink into proper fare.
~ Written by Mary Barbagallo, Intern
Food and Drink in Britain – C. Anne Wilson, the Anchor Press Ltd., 1973, Great Britain
Food in Early Modern England – Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760 – Joan Thirsk, Continuum Books, 2007, New York, NY
About a month has passed since our 17th-Century Fashion Show, and we had such an amazing time! A HUGE thank-you goes out to our lovely volunteer models (L-R) Mike Thomforde, Maggie Brosz, Joe Long, Valerie Long, Steve Ringel, Melissa Dill, Ron Matlack, and Judith Kirby. Don’t they look great??
I finally have some time to begin sharing what was discussed during the program. We covered so much about the evolution of clothes in the 17th century, but what I want to highlight most is the diversity in society. I previously posted a teaser of these various styles, and it’s an important step in the evolution of our living history programs. Fashions changed not just for the aristocracy, but all the lower classes as well. A colorful range of people would have lived and worked in colonial Pennsylvania, and we strongly believe all those people should be represented at Pennsbury Manor. This includes showing the variations in their wardrobe!
So today we begin with the lower class of residents at Pennsbury: the Laborers. Whether you were plowing the field, tending the kitchen garden, or churning butter in the dairy, your clothes needed to be practical. Below you see Mike and Maggie modeling appropriate ensembles. Compare them with the 17th-century drawings by Marcellus Laroon, which depict the poor street cryers in late 17th-century London.
Outdoor laborers would have needed to dress for the weather and conditions required of their jobs. While they might have a better set of clothes for Sundays or special occasions, out in the fields their attire had to be sturdy and comfortable. Mike is modeling a shirt, coat, and breeches which are all linen and obviously too big to be made for him specifically. He could have received hand-me-downs or bought clothes secondhand from a street cryer or ready-made from a store. His monmouth cap was a universal style worn by land laborers and sailors alike for centuries. If performing a dirtier job, he would don an apron like the one seen below on the vinegar-seller.
Just like Mike, Maggie is dressed to tackle the hard jobs all laboring women would face depending on the season. She might spend her days washing clothes, tending the Kitchen Garden and animals, brewing beer, or preparing meals at the hearth. The older style of short gown, rather than the more recent mantua style (seen in a previous post), would have been safer for working around fires and less cumbersome when laboring in the garden or stable. Her apron is made of a spare piece of rough linen and kerchief tucked into her bodice and out of the way. The only sign of fashion is the striped linen petticoat.
**You might be wondering why our models don’t have any shoes on in these pictures? That’s because we haven’t been able to afford any. We are fundraising to purchase reproduction shoes, because an interpreter in sneakers ruins the whole atmosphere created by historical dress, am I right? To help out, you can visit our official website www.pennsburymanor.org and click the “Donate Now” button at the bottom.**
Although the Penn family did not reside at Pennsbury in the dead of winter, the estate was certainly not dead; the staff worked to ensure the smooth running of Penn’s summer home in all seasons. Colonial gardeners were no exception, cultivating techniques to battle the cold and prepare for spring. As colonials tired of pickled and salted foods during the winter months, they longed for fresh produce. The hot bed, an important part of the colonial kitchen garden, allowed colonists to begin growing vegetables before spring thawed the ground.
In Pennsbury’s garden, the hotbed is located opposite the riverside next to the cold frames. A brick and wood structure, the hotbed protects seedlings from the bitter cold and provides the perfect environment for out-of-season growth. Colonial gardeners would have layered soil over fresh manure from the barn to create the heat source. Once the manure cooled to about seventy degrees Fahrenheit, the bed was ready for seeds. Straw placed on top provided additional protection from the elements. If prepared properly, the hotbed could retain its heat for several weeks.
Although its main purpose was to jumpstart vegetables in the cold weather, colonial gardeners would have used the hotbed year round to grow a variety of plants. We still use the hotbed for this purpose at Pennsbury (see below). For example, last summer, the gardeners used the hotbed to provide a space for growing flax. The hotbed gave us the perfect place to monitor the young flax plants and ensure they would be mature enough for the fall harvest.
Colonists were not able to simply walk into the supermarket and pick up fruits and vegetables during the winter like we can, but they were not completely helpless. They wasted no resources, and that includes time. While they could not beat Mother Nature’s icy grip on their gardens, they could manipulate the temperature of their own growing environment, the hotbed.
**Come to Pennsbury Manor’s Gardening Sunday on May 27 and see what’s starting to sprout in the Kitchen Garden!**
I really don’t like to milk cows. I can’t stand to churn butter. I know this is a shocking admission from a so-called history geek, but it’s true. So each spring I breathe a grateful sigh of relief that I can buy my milk and butter in containers at the grocery store!
I wonder how the milk-maids of Pennsbury Manor felt about these chores in the 1680s. We don’t know their names, but we know they were here and that they were making butter: in 1684, William Penn suggested that James Harrison’s wife, Ann, supervise the maids in the dairy; the 1687 inventory includes churns and other butter-making equipment as well as 6 cows; there is strong evidence that a cow pen existed near the stable. We also know, given the exhausting nature of their work, that dairy maids had to be strong and sturdy to pump away at that churn!
Dairy products were an important part of the diet of people in Penn’s time with butter in particular being used liberally in many recipes. Butter was also preserved in crocks for later use, and even used as a preservative itself as it could create an airtight seal on crocks. And of course it could be sold at market, usually by the women who made the butter. Although buttermilk (the liquid resulting from butter production) could be turned into curds and whey for the household, “the best use of buttermilk for the able housewife is charitably to bestow it on the poor neighbours, whose wants do daily cry out for sustenance.” (Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1615) Who wouldn’t want to do this after being promised that “she shall find the profit thereof in a divine place?” Heaven for buttermilk? What a deal!
May was the peak of butter production. Housewives were advised to breed their cows to calve between March and April when the grass is nearly or at its richest. The resulting milk made the best butter. Later on in the year as the grass passed its prime (July), butter production was replaced by cheese-making – another lucrative product for households.
By 1701, the dairying equipment had disappeared from the inventory of Pennsbury Manor. William Penn’s account books have numerous entries for purchases of butter from local young women. Was butter not produced at Pennsbury any longer? Or did the demands of the Penn family and guests exceed production on the site? I am inclined to believe the latter as Penn still desired a dairy and a milk house. Making butter was an integral chore of an estate; it would be highly unlikely that there was no dairying at all taking place.
Pennsbury will have a milking cow demonstration on April 29, and a dairying demonstration on June 17. Both programs will take place between 1:00-4:00. Don’t look for me to be milking or churning!
By Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator and Former Milkmaid
Last weekend, during our annual spring Interpreter training, I shared an amazing BBC mini-series on 17th-century farm life, and I wanted to make sure everyone else got to hear about it too!
(I’ve actually already shared it a couple of times on this blog, including a recent article about stuffing straw mattresses. But this is a tv series any history buff should not miss, so I couldn’t resist re-posting a link!!)
The series, called Tales From the Green Valley, follows 5 historians and archaeologists as they live on a real 17th-century Welsh farm and perform the daily activities required to survive. Unfortunately the series is not available on DVD in US-format, but luckily all 12 episodes are available onDaily Motion:*
These 12 episodes, one for every month of the year, offers a marvelous inside look at the daily lives of Stuart-era English farmers. They follow the agricultural year and show how much life was influenced by the seasons, in ways that modern society hardly notices anymore.
Throughout the year, we’ll be sharing more posts on seasonal activities, so stay tuned!
Hannah Howard, Volunteer Coordinator
*No copyright infringement intended, used for purely educational purposes