Thursday, July 9, 2015

Life in the 18th Century Continued

Hi everyone,

So throughout my summer so far working at the Depreciation Lands Museum, I have had many hands on experiences that I feel continues to help the historical content of my writing. Plus it's just an interesting and all around rewarding experience to be able to experience and live (even if just for a few hours out of the day) the way people centuries ago did.

Skills I have picked up along the way so far:

Drop Spindling - the drop spindle is a sort of portable spinning wheel that allows a user to spin fleece (or roving) into yarn or thread for things like sewing, knitting, and crocheting (the latter wasn't widely done until the 1800s or Victorian era). It is a straight stick (usually made of wood) and allows the person spinning to twist the fibers (usually wool, flax, or cotton) into the yarn needed. It is agreed that the process of spinning fibers to form thread has been around for over 10,000 years. And initially, it was done WITHOUT tools. Yes, according to the instructors of the drop spindle class at the museum, those massive sails on the Viking ships where originally spun manually by hand before the drop spindle and spinning wheels came about.
As for when the drop spindle originally came about, no one knows for sure, as the wood never survived. However, whorl-weighted spindles do date back to at least Neolithic times as whorl spindles have been found in archeological digs throughout many areas of the world.
As for the spinning wheel that many today associate with the art of spinning thread and yarn starts to appear in records at around the 13th century. However, it doesn't actually show up in European records until the late Middle Ages/Early Renaissance. Therefore, the drop spindle was largely used worldwide to spin all the threads for materials used for clothing, tapestries, Egyptian mummy-wrappings, ropes, sails, etc. for nearly 9000 years.
After taking the class and then practicing at home afterward, I've actually taken to spinning much of my own yarn for knitting. They do sell roving at a lot of fabric and yarn stores. Or if you live near a farm where they raise sheep or alpaca, you can also inquire about possibly purchasing some fleece from them. :)

Churning Butter - It seems a simple enough task, but in out ADHD society, many people do tend to lose focus after only trying a few pumps. The way butter was made back in the day (and can still be made today) was taking cream (heavy cream or heavy whipping cream works just fine) and pouring it into a jar (if you're churning a small amount) or small wooden barrel (if churning a larger amount). Many people also like to add a bit of salt to act as a preservative. Then you place a lid on top. The lid usually has a hole drilled into the center in order to make way for the plunging stick. Then you churn, moving the plunging stick in an up and down motion until the cream starts to solidify, forming the butter. Buttermilk will also start to form around the more solid substance. The buttermilk is also kept and used for cooking and some even drink it.
Now how long does it take? Well, I churned in a small churner and that took me about 20 minutes. However, churning a larger amount inside a small barrel can take a couple hours. Either way, it is an awesome upper body work out.
Another way to churn butter (and still get the upper body workout) is to put the cream and salt inside a mason jar with a marble and shake it up. The name of the game is to aggravate the cream so it may solidify and make butter. Or, if you need butter on the fly, you can put the cream and salt into a modern blender or food processor and blend for 2 minutes. :)

I will get into more tasks and skills that I have been doing at the museum in later posts. Some of these include cooking in a hearth fireplace (making bread, tarts, and fruit preserves), learning children's games (a lot of which really aren't all that different from games played today), being an 18th century schoolteacher, and writing with a quill and inkwell. I've also gotten to refine my knitting and sewing abilities.
In working at the museum, I continue to see more and more how as a modern society, we really don't do anything anymore. This is why I love learning and demonstrating these skills to people who otherwise would not get to experience them. And I can also pick up another skill for myself. I also love debunking many historical myths that have unfortunately been so widely spread, which I will also get into on a future post.

Til next time. :)


Depreciation Lands Museum Website: 
The Drop Spindle (a crash course): 
Churning Butter (yet another crash course, but please look up other sources as well):

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