Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Road Trip - Part V - Always Something New!

You know they say timing is everything. I don't think this road trip could have been any better. It seemed that everything we did was perfectly timed. The timeliness of the trip during the holiday season helped in minimizing the number of visitors, our dinner reservations were at a reasonable time but best of all luck was on our side. We finished our tour of the Peyton Randolph house and as we were preparing to visit the newly opened kitchen to see the "Hog to Ham" presentation we saw the oxen drawn cart coming right at us.

Turns out it was heading our way so we followed it. However we turned off at the kitchen area. As we walked around to the back of a small building we saw the backs of three women standing at a table. Circling around to get a better look we were greeted by this sight.

When they say "hog to ham" they meant hog to ham. In the eighteenth century the winter was a time to prepare meats - no refrigeration back then. These ladies were busy salting the pork. Some of the pork of course will become the famous salt cured Virginia ham. If you think seeing the head of the hog here is bad, we were told that meat dishes often came to the table with the animal's head and feet attached. Yuck.

The butcher above took time to show everyone the different cuts of meat: bacon, ribs, loins etc. It was an interesting presentation. After the women finished salting the pork it was wrapped and packed onto the oxen drawn cart we saw for delivery to various homes to cure. Other parts of the hog were rubbed with hickory ashes in preparation for the smoke houses.

I couldn't help but think about the pulled pork sandwich I had had on our first day. We poked our heads into the other buildings outside before entering the actual kitchen.

Upon entering we were welcomed by a gentleman monitoring a boiling black pot. Turns out he was making lard from the left over parts of the hog. He was quite interesting telling us that no part of the hog was wasted.

A small entry way from this room led us to where the real food was being prepared. Quite different from my kitchen. The women enjoyed telling us about how food in the eighteenth century was prepared and explaining what they were making.

This woman was making sausage while others were preparing the food for the workers outside. Back in the eighteenth century diners liked meat. We noticed that the potatoes were sitting on the floor in a pan ready to be placed on a small mound of very hot coals. Another mound of hot coals was prepared for the ribs.

The oven

We left the Randolph house and went down to the Blacksmith's Shop. They were in the process of making a wagon for I forget who - hubby will remember. While there I heard the Fife & Drums corp off in the distance. I love to watch them so I ran out to see.

The Fife and Drum corp is in the process of celebrating 50 years at Williamsburg. In 1775 with the onset of the Revolutionary War the Fife and Drum corp was formed and used to give commands in the field. There is something mesmerizing about the group. Everyone loves to view the corp as it passes and many even follow it.

We continued our stroll around taking in all the activities then walked back to the hotel. It's a rather long hike but there was plenty to see.

As you can see it was a beautiful day and the horses were just minding their own business when we came along.

Hubby is good he wanted to keep going but not me I wanted to talk to them. After a lot of coaxing one of the horses decided to come over.

As soon as he saw I had nothing to offer him, he left.

Moving on we came upon the oxen. I'm not sure if these were the same ones we saw earlier but I do know they weren't about to get up.

We finally made it back to the hotel. Like the oxen we were tired and had planned quite a bit for that night so we took naps.

For now have a Firecrackin Great Day!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas Road Trip - Part IV - Inside Colonial Williamsburg

I can only say that I'm glad I am living now and not back then. We live in a nice house with heat, have a kitchen with a refrigerator and stove and our beds must be more comfortable than back then. I spend more time having fun than trying to just survive and I love my mode of transportation. Once you take your first step into Colonial Williamsburg all that is gone.

We like to stay at the Woodlands which is next door to the Visitor's Center where we pick up the weekly program upon arrival. That gives us the opportunity to determine our days and decide to either walk to Colonial Williamsburg or take the bus. As we get older we take the bus more often and get off in the center of Colonial Williamsburg, but one day this trip we walked back to our hotel. That walk is a separate Blog.

The Visitor's Center also has very interesting stores loaded with quality souvenirs and great gift items. Since it was the holiday season hubby and I were on the look out for gifts. As soon as we entered the Center we both saw what we thought would be a great gift for each of our three children. They have always enjoyed our tradition of hanging our Advent Calendar. It's rather simple, small gifts are in daily pockets and as each day comes the gift is hung on a felt tree above. The competition used to be fierce in rising early enough to hang the gift.

The kids also loved coming to Williamsburg. As a matter of fact none of them were happy that they weren't along with us. Anyhow we happened to see wooden advent calendars, one of the Governor's Palace and the other King's Arms. Each door provided ample space for a small item.

The calendars were really cool. However we also decided that we should find relevant items from Colonial Williamsburg to put inside each door with a check in the 24th. I think it cost more to buy all the little gifts then the advent calendar itself. Turns out it was a great idea and the kids loved them.

On this day that we took the bus and passed through the time tunnel to the 18th century to find and entirely different mode of transportation.

Notice that there are no windows and the seats look very hard. By the way it was freezing cold. I was still game for a ride but hubby was absolutely against it.

For the more sporty folks we saw this option. Brrrr...

As in modern day you have to be aware of oncoming traffic. This guy was in a hurry to park. Not like there weren't plenty of places to tie your buggy.

If you look to the left of the picture, past the end of the coach, you'll see the open market. We walked on down to see what different things were displayed. In the front a small fire was burning to help warm up visitors. In the back however I found where the fruit wreaths were being designed.

I was tempted to buy one to take home but restrained myself - it meant I'd have to carry it around with me all day.

Our next stop was the Peyton Randolph house located on Nicholson Street. We've toured the house before, but now the renovated kitchen area and other buildings behind it were opened. As timing would have it hubby and I were given a private tour of the house. Definitely a good time of year. The young lady was very knowledgeable.

We passed by Randolph's office

Then proceeded upstairs where it was explained that husband and wife had separate rooms. That's good because those beds are so small and pillowed that someone would be sleeping on the floor.

Their only means of heat were the fireplaces in each room. The Randolph's were wealthy and slave owners so they didn't have to keep track of stoking the fire. According to the Williamsburg's site over half the population in Williamsburg during the 18th century were enslaved African-Americans.

We then went downstairs to see their dining room which as you'll see has a re-enacted table set.

The closet located at the back on the left was often left open for guests to view, something like our buffets. Dinner at the Randolph's house and other wealthier residents was quite an undertaking. It went on for a couple of hours. Evidently food played a very important part in the social lives of Virginians back then. It was one of the most common ways to exchange information. We were told that the dining process could last two hours in the upper-class households and it wasn't unusual for a conversation that began at the dinner table to continue well into the night. It should be mentioned that dinner was served during the afternoon - no electricity.

Food of course was prepared by the slaves and/or indentured servants in a kitchen that, well see for yourself.

We all prepare food on counters so the above picture isn't too bad but only cooking the food as below on a daily basis?

I have to say it smelled soooooooo good. I'll explain in my next Blog exactly why this food was being cooked and visitors enjoying the aroma as they passed by. It was definitely a look but don't touch.

Living quarters for those less fortunate left a lot to be desired. Their quarters generally consisted one room.

Take a look at this bed compared to above:

Food was prepared and cooked in this same area. A root cellar near the fireplace helped to preserve some foods.

This of course is just a very small sampling of what you can see while visiting this historical town. However if you are considering visiting Colonial Williamsburg be sure to visit their Tour of the Town. Even though we've been so many times I found the interactive map fun and of course educational.

Virginia's Ghosts of the Revolution Calendar calendar

For now have a Firecrackin Great Day!!!