Doughnuts in Your Socks!

It is Christmas week and many of our readers are waiting on Santa Claus! Do you put up a stocking or receive gifts under a Christmas tree? Or do you have other traditions for giving gifts in the winter months? There are many holidays Iowans celebrate in December where people give gifts.

a home in the wilderness

Did kids a long time ago wait for Santa? In the 1840s, many Iowa kids were pioneers. They lived with their families in log houses in the country away from town. Most of these children did not put up a Christmas tree in their house. But a lot of them did hang their stockings on the end of their bed for presents on Christmas night. Stockings are long wool socks. In 2015, we sometimes make fancy stockings to put up for Santa. In 1840, Christmas stockings were the same socks kids wore on their feet everyday!

kids stockings 1870

Some of these pioneer kids wrote in their diaries about how their family celebrated Christmas. Mary Miller lived in Clinton, Iowa in 1842. She remembered, “We all hung up our stockings. Next morning we were gleeful at finding in each stocking a nice fat, brown doughnut and some pieces of gaily colored calico. I was happy because I knew that my elder sister would make and dress a rag doll for me, just like the one with which she played.” Would these gifts make you happy today? Can you imagine finding a sticky doughnut in your sock?

doughnut

Doughnuts were a favorite treat for holidays. When pioneers made doughnuts, it didn’t take up a lot of sugar, but it tasted really sweet! You and your family can make these doughnuts too. Pioneers would fry the doughnuts in a kettle over a fire. With an adult’s help, you can fry your doughnuts on top of your stove.

Cooking fire at the 1850 Pioneer Log House

Here is a Pioneer style recipe for this sweet treat. Kids can do the mixing, cutting, and finishing. An adult should do the frying. Always be careful when working around any kind of stove and hot oil!

¼ cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 cups flour

½ tsp salt

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

Vegetable oil to fry

Cinnamon, powdered sugar to finish

Cream (that means mix together really well) butter and sugar. Mix in two eggs and vanilla, set these wet ingredients to one side. In a different bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix half of these dry ingredients into the butter/sugar, then add a bit of the buttermilk. Then add the other half of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk. Mix together until you have a dough. (Chill this dough for a good half hour, if possible.) Roll dough out on a floured table or counter. Roll the dough out 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut the doughnut shapes using a biscuit or doughnut cutter—the end of a glass works well too. An adult should preheat a heavy pot with vegetable oil in it. Have an adult fry the doughnuts in the hot oil (approximately 375 degrees) until golden brown on both sides. Place on a towel to cool. Sprinkle with either cinnamon or powdered sugar.

We wish all of our readers a very happy holiday season!

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Houses and Homes

This summer at Living History Farms, we are celebrating houses and homes! The places people live in come in lots of shapes and sizes. Some houses are big. Some houses are small. Some people live in apartments. Some people live in farm houses. Some people live in mobile trailers. The people and things which share our living space and the things we do there together make the house into our home.

1900 farm house

Was this true a long time ago? Let’s take a walk through the past to see where people were living in Iowa a long time ago. As we look at each of these houses, think about how they compare to your house. Let’s start at the 1700 Ioway Farm. The Ioway Indian people lived in Iowa during the 1700s. They had 3 types of houses that they lived in during the year. Each house had just one room, a bedroom. Everyone in the family slept in this one room together. The summer house would be built up on the top of a hill where flooding was not an issue and where a breeze could be found. The frame of the house was made out of trees and then covered with bark taken off of elm trees. The bark would reflect the sun, making it cooler inside the house.Bark house

The winter house would be built down in the woods where it was protected from the winter winds by the trees. The frame of the house was made out of willow trees and was covered by 4 layers of cattail leaves that were sewn together into mats. The cattail mats would keep the wind out of the house and a small fire in the center of the home would heat it up to 50 degrees. (How warm is your house in the winter time?) The house would have an animal skin for the door.

mat house

The Ioway people used a traveling house for a month at a time, in the summer and winter, when they would go on a buffalo hunt. The frame was made from pine trees and the cover was made from buffalo hides sewn together. The house was lightweight enough to carry and was fast to put up and take down.tipi

What about houses for pioneer settlers? People from America and Europe started moving to Iowa in the 1840s. They had to build their homes by hand. Many of them used the trees around them to build houses. log house

Many settlers built a house with just one room that would be used as a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and storage room. There would be 2 doors on the house to go outside. If they had time for extra building, the trees might be squared off for a nicer house. There might be a loft upstairs used as a bedroom by all the children and used for storage. The house would have a fireplace on one end to heat it and to use for cooking. During cold winter months, the fireplace might have looked warm, but it could only keep the house around 40 degrees inside during the day.

Pioneer fireplace

As more and more settlers moved to Iowa, small towns like Walnut Hill were built. Life in a town was a little different from life on a farm. If your family owned one of the businesses in town, you might have a really comfortable home with many rooms.Tangen house

The Tangen House is home to the Implement Dealer’s family in our town of Walnut Hill. The house has 7 rooms on the main floor. Each room had a use. The parlor was for guests to sit in when visiting. There are 7 different doors on the main floor that go to the outside. The bedrooms would be upstairs. This house would have 5 bedrooms upstairs for the family.

If your family was one of the upper class families you might have a really fancy house, like the Flynn Mansion. The Flynn Mansion was built using bricks.Flynn mansion

This house has 7 rooms on the main floor of the house, 8 bedrooms and another room on the second floor, an attic, and a cupola on the very top of the house. The house was built with a furnace to heat it and with gas lights to light each room. There are 2 big doors on the front of the house and 5 other doors in the house that go to the outside.

A farm family in 1900 might build their house in a square shape, a T-shape, or another shape. The house on the 1900 Farm at Living History Farms is a T-shape home. It has 2 rooms on the main floor and 2 bedrooms for children on the second floor in the front of the house. 1900 farm house

The back of the house has 3 rooms on the main floor. The house was heated by a stove in the center room that was also used to cook on. The house has 3 different doors that go to the outside.

Are any of these houses like your house? How many rooms does your house have? How are the rooms in your house used? Would you want to live in one of these homes or are you happy with the one that you have? What do you think made each of these houses special to the people who would have lived there? What made it home–more than just a place to live?

Caregivers: Starting on June 15th, there will be a special traveling exhibit about what makes a house a home in the Wallace Exhibit Center at Living History Farms. The exhibit is free with paid admission to the museum. House & Home, an exhibit organized by NEH on the Road, encourages visitors to explore how our ideal of the perfect house and our experience of what it means to “be at home” have changed over time. The exhibition includes domestic furnishings and home construction materials, photographs, “please touch” interactive components, and films. Together, the objects and images illustrate how transformations in technology, government policy, and consumer culture have impacted American domestic life.

Drawn from the flagship installation at the National Building Museum, House & Home embarks on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, to explore the varied history, and many cultural meanings of the American home. This exhibition has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been adapted and is being toured by Mid-American Arts Alliance. House & Home was organized by the National Building Museum, Washington D.C., and curated by Sarah Leavitt. Additional support was provided by the Home Depot Foundation.

 

New Arrivals!

Hello Everyone! Farmer Mike here! Winter is finally over and I am happy to say we have some new additions to the barnyards at Living History Farms this spring.

Hank as a babyLilly the 1900 Farm milk cow had her calf on March 5. We had hoped she would wait for warmer weather.  It was the coldest night of the month with the overnight low of 2 degrees! Luckily, the day was sunny and the temperature warmed up. Mother and baby are doing fine. Lilly can produce over 4 gallons of milk a day, far more than the calf needs, so we have begun milking her for some of our programs.

Hank

Lilly and her calf are a breed, or type of cattle, called Shorthorn. Shorthorn cattle can be just red or just white but most often they are red and white spotted. Most shorthorns have horns—both boys and girls. Lily is special though; she is a polled cow. Animals who naturally do not grow horns are “polled”. She has passed that trait to her calf.

cattle 1900

When you visit the museum you will see shorthorn cattle at the 1850 Pioneer Farm and the 1900 Horse-Powered Farm. The 1850 Farm cattle have horns, but the 1900 Farm cattle happen to be polled.shorthorn

In the 1800s, farmers wanted to make more money from their livestock and they began to raise specific breeds that were good at giving milk or had good meat. Angus and Herefords are special breeds that give good meat, but these breeds don’t make good milk cows. Jerseys and Guernsey’s give lots of milk but they aren’t the best beef producers. The Shorthorn was the most common breed in Iowa in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Shorthorn was popular because it was very good at all the jobs cattle had on a farm. They were good milk producers, good beef producers, and in pioneer times they made good oxen. Martin Flynn, the man who built the mansion at our museum, raised famous Shorthorns. Men came from all over the country to buy cattle at the Walnut Hill Farm.

1891 Sale Ad

Other additions are lots of lambs! Sheep usually have twins, sometimes single lambs, and rarely triplets. This year our sheep have had a single lamb, two sets of twins, and one set of triplets so far! The first lamb came way back in December. Here’s the winter lamb with Farmer Kelly.lamb with Kelly

The first twins arrived March 11, with a set of triplets not long after. We had another set of twins this past week.  twin lambs and other sheep

Our adult sheep are pretty round and shaggy right now. Their wool is thick from keeping them warm all winter. Sheep are sheared, or get a haircut, once a year in the spring.

lambs and momWe are hoping to shear our sheep in May. Each of our adult sheep will give 8 to 10 pounds of wool. How much is ten pounds? Three 2-liter bottles of soda weigh ten pounds. A bowling ball often weighs about ten pounds. That’s heavy wool! After the wool is washed and the dirt and oils come out, the wool will weigh less than half that amount. The fibers (or individual hairs) of the wool are 2 inches long or more depending on the sheep. Sheep were usually kept for their wool and sometimes for meat. Our sheep are mixed breeds as was common in Pioneer Iowa. lamb and mom feeding

Winter Food for the Pioneers

cold pioneersDuring the winter months, pioneers in Iowa did their best to keep warm. They would keep the fire in their log homes going all day and wear warm clothes made of flannel and wool. But what did they eat? Iowa is too cold in the winter to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, so pioneers needed to find a way to make their crops from the summer last through the winter months. Here are a couple of ways they could do that: picklingPickling: Pickling means placing something in vinegar and spices to make it last longer. The vinegar helps stop germs from getting to the food and making it rotten. The pickles we see at the store are pickled cucumbers, but you can pickle almost anything, such as peppers, nuts, melons, cherries, and tomatoes. Can you guess what pioneers called pickled tomatoes? Ketchup! We still eat pickled tomatoes today! dryingDrying: Pioneers would hang food up to dry. Taking the moisture out of the food helps make it last longer. Pioneers would string foods up close to the fire where the heat from the fire would help dry them out, or they could place some food outside, and the heat from the sun would dry things out.  Some foods pioneer could dry include apples, pumpkins, pears, and grapes. Dried grapes are called raisins! root cellarRoot cellar: A root cellar is like a man made cave. Pioneers would dig into the side of a hill, and place some foods like root vegetables, underground. beets carrotsRoot vegetables are foods where people eat the part that grows under the ground such as potatoes, carrots, beets, and onions. The root cellar would stay about 50-60 degrees all year round, keep the vegetables from getting too hot or too cold. Pioneers would start preserving their food as soon as possible in the summertime to make sure they had plenty to eat during the winter. They would store these foods upstairs in their attics or keep them in the root cellar. applesYou can try these food saving ideas at home now! With an adult’s help, you can try drying apple slices. Cut two or three large apples into very thin slices and let the slices soak in a mixture of 3 or 4 cups of water and a half cup of lemon juice. Adults can do the slicing while kids help mix the water and lemon juice. The lemon juice helps keep the apples from turning brown. The pioneer  would not have had lemon juice–so you can skip this step if you want. Lay the apple slices out onto cookie sheets or baking racks. In the fall and winter, you can put the apple slices into your modern oven. Bake them for 1 hour at 200 degrees and then flip them apple slices over. Then bake them 1 to 2 hours more at 200 degrees. Sometimes a really juicy apple can take even a bit longer. The finished apple should be leathery–kind of like a raisin. Let the slices cool and then store them in an airtight container or bag. On a really sunny day, you can dry apples without the oven. Set your trays of apple slices in a very sunny place and lay cheesecloth over the slices to keep the bugs off of them. The apples may have to be in the sun for a day or two to dry completely. (If you are drying the apples outside in the sun, bring them in at night and put them out again the next day.)

Training New Oxen

oxen and wagonIf you’ve visited our 1850 Farm at the museum, you’ve likely encountered our oxen – Beau and Luke. But, what is an ox? Is it a special breed or species? Nope! An ox is just a cow – one that has been trained to work as a draft animal.

So what makes an ox an ox?

Oxen are usually male cattle. They go through extensive training starting when they are very young to teach them how to pull heavy loads and listen to their human handlers – called drovers or teamsters. They don’t actually earn the title of “ox” until they have been through four years of this training! Until then, the calves are often called “working steers”.

calves in halterTraining starts when they are only a few weeks old, as they learn to be comfortable around people. The first step in an ox’s training doesn’t involve any work at all, but there is still a lot for the young calves to learn. They are taught to wear a halter and how to walk calmly on a lead rope. They learn that humans bring yummy food and soothing brushes and petting. Soon they look forward to seeing their teamsters because of the good things those people bring and do for them. calves and kelly

When they are a few months old, the calves are taught to wear their first yoke. The yoke is the piece of wood that goes across their necks and is traditionally held on with bent pieces of wood called bows. The first yoke is very small, and a team may go through a dozen or more incrementally larger yokes until they are full grown.

oxen

Besides walking alongside their teamster and wearing a yoke, the calves must learn some commands. The calves are taught words that tell them to go forward, turn left and right, stop, and back up. Here are those words, and their meanings:

oxen“Step Up” – go forward

“Gee” – turn right

“Haw” – turn left

“Whoa” – stop

“Back” – back up

Take a look at our youngest “working steers” learning the ropes! These young steers were born at the 1850 Pioneer Farm during the summer of 2014 and are just beginning their ox training!

calves

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy ThanksgivingThis Thursday is a special day in Iowa. Many people will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time when lots of people have a big dinner with their family and friends. They eat together and say “Thank You” for the special people and things in their life. Having a day to say “Thank You” is an old idea. At Living History Farms, we like to remember how people in Iowa have said thank you in the fall every year.venisonIn the year 1700, the Ioway people held big meals together in the fall. They had a party to be happy for a good garden and plenty of food for the winter. Their harvest dinners might have pumpkin, corn, beans, deer, and buffalo!

1850 mealBy the year 1850, new settlers had moved to Iowa. Many of these people had moved here from states in the east, like Massachusetts. They had grown up having a fall party called Thanksgiving. In 1844, John Chambers—he was a territorial governor for Iowa and an important guy—decided to have Thanksgiving as a holiday in Iowa, too. He said in the Iowa City newspaper, “We believe this is the first Thanksgiving Proclamation ever issued in Iowa; we are glad to welcome the good old Pilgrim custom to our midst . . .” Many settlers were still living in log houses in the country. They did not have a lot of money to spend on fancy foods. Their meal was still pumpkin, corn and potatoes. They might roast deer and wild turkeys. This Thanksgiving meal might be for friends and neighbors and just the people who lived right there. People could not travel very far. Remember they did not have cars or planes!

1875 mealtangen cake

Later in 1875, people who lived in towns like Walnut Hill also had Thanksgiving parties. Having family visit and eating a special meal were pretty important by then. A man in Iowa named Thomas Terrill wrote in his diary in 1871, “Thanksgiving Day . . . Folks here for dinner. Had a turkey roast.” In 1880, Thomas wrote, “Took our Thanksgiving dinner at home consisting of a stuffed hen and other good things. Were thankful that we had so much.” Trains could bring fancy foods to Iowa stores from faraway places. A fancy restaurant in Des Moines in 1870 let guests choose from oysters, trout, turkey, chicken, duck, goose, buffalo, and deer. All kinds of cake, nuts and fruit were for dessert. Trains would have brought most of these foods to Des Moines for the cooks at the restaurant.

1900 Farm mealIowa farmers did grow many foods right here to eat at Thanksgiving. An Iowa farm lady near Iowa City, Iowa wrote about raising turkeys on her farm and selling them every year for people to have at Thanksgiving. Miranda Cline wrote in her diary in 1895, “I sold Turkeys at 5 cents per pound, brought home 8 dollars.” In 1900, farm wives might have cooked turkey, and mashed potatoes, squash, chicken pie, pumpkin and apple pie, and might have even served ice cream at dessert to be fancy. One 1887 cookbook did suggest just serving “cold roast turkey” for supper that night. Even then there were leftovers!

Happy Thanksgiving from Living History Farms!All of these foods and parties became something people had every year. Doing something over and over the way our parents and grand-parents did is called a tradition. What traditions do you have for Thanksgiving at your house? Do you eat a big meal? Do you watch football? Or a parade? Whatever your family’s tradition is for this holiday, everyone here at Living History Farms hopes you have a wonderful day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Season!

pumpkins and squash

Pumpkins are everywhere in November! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cake! Many people just have to have a pumpkin pie with their Thanksgiving meal. Here at the museum, our historic sites grow lots of pumpkin. Did you know that pumpkins have been around a very long time? The pumpkin was first grown thousands of years ago in Mexico. All the way back to 7,000 B.C! That’s a really long time ago! The historic guides at our museum like to grow pumpkins and cook the types of pumpkin recipes people in Iowa would have had in the past. That doesn’t mean they make pumpkin spice coffee and cake, though! The sweet pumpkin muffins and cake we love aren’t very old at all. They only show up in recipe books starting in the 1940s. That’s only about 75 years ago! And that pumpkin coffee that everyone loves was first made in 2003. That’s only 11 years ago! So if people in the long ago past weren’t making cake and cookies out of it, how did they eat their pumpkins?

pumpkinspumpkin on the vine

At the 1700 era Ioway farm, museum guides grow many kinds of pumpkins. The Ioway word for squash is wádwan. Pumpkins belong to the squash family. You might think of big, round, orange pumpkins, but pumpkins come in lots of shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be green and yellow, white, red, or even striped! We are not sure exactly which kinds the Ioway grew, but we know they planted their pumpkins in the garden next to the corn and beans. The Ioway called pumpkin one of the three sisters of life. Pumpkins grow on vines with prickly stems and big leaves. The vines help keep weeds from growing around the base of the corn and bean plants.

The Ioway people ate a lot of pumpkin and squash all year long. In the summer, the Ioway would pick the squash flowers off of the vines and eat them in stews. The Ioway also ate fresh pumpkin in late summer. They roasted the pumpkins whole in their cooking fires. In fall, the Ioway women would pick the pumpkins, cut them into slices and hang the slices on wooden stands to dry out in the sun. The dried rings of pumpkin wouldn’t spoil during the winter. The Ioway could eat them like jerky, or cut them up in soup and stew all winter long. Pumpkin, corn, and bean stew would be a winter treat!

pumpkin dryingpumpkin stew

Before explorers from Europe crossed the oceans, pumpkins did not grow in Europe. Native American peoples taught European settlers how to first cook pumpkins. The Pilgrims in Massachusetts wouldn’t have eaten pumpkin pie at those first Thanksgiving dinners! They would have stewed or baked their pumpkins like their Wampanoag native neighbors had taught them. The Pilgrims did find ways to use pumpkins in some of their own favorite recipes. They learned to bake a creamy pudding made of milk, eggs, and spices inside the pumpkin. They also added corn meal to stewed pumpkin and made bread out of it. Later, European settlers did start to make sweet puddings and pies with pumpkin.

pumpkins 1850At Living History Farms, the 1850 era Pioneer Farm grows lots of pumpkins in the field with the corn. Many of Iowa’s pioneers grew pumpkins and squash to eat during the winter. They could have cut some of the pumpkins into rings and dried them out for eating in stew, just like the Ioway.

pumpkin slicespumpkin rings

They also stored whole pumpkins in the cabin attic or in a root cellar for winter.  pumpkins 1850

These pumpkins could be stewed or roasted and then mashed. Pioneers could add spices to the pumpkin—and sugar and cream if they had some!

pumpkin baking 1850A pioneer woman in a log cabin could eat this mashed pumpkin like a pudding or she could pour it into a pie crust and bake it in a bake kettle in the fireplace.

Farm families in Iowa also made a sweet spread for bread using pumpkins. At our 1900 era Farm, museum guides grow pumpkins and make pumpkin spreads on the wood burning stove. The cooks stew or roast the pumpkin until is very soft.  Then they mash the pumpkin and mix it with sugar and spices. The cook puts the mix in a pot over the wood burning stove and lets the pumpkin heat for a long time. The mixture gets very thick and very sweet. This is called pumpkin butter! This very sweet spread would have been stored in crocks or glass jars in the year 1900 for use all winter long.

jars 1900

You can still make pumpkin butter at home today. With an adult, mix 8 cups of mashed pumpkin with 4 cups of sugar in a bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves. Now you need to cook the mixture. You can pour it into a heavy pot and let it simmer on top of a stove until it gets very, very thick. Cook it on low and stir it every so often. Or you can put the mixture into a heavy pan in the oven and let it bake it for several hours at 300 degrees. In 2014, we can even put the mixture in a slow cooker and let it heat four or five hours until it gets very thick. After you have made your pumpkin butter, you can put it into the refrigerator for several weeks or you can freeze it to eat later this winter!

pumpkin butter

Pumpkin Butter

8 c. mashed pumpkin      4 c. sugar

1 T. cinnamon                 1 t. ginger

1 t. ground cloves

Combine all ingredients; simmer over low heat until very thick. Stir occasionally.