Tuesday, November 4, 2008

home again, home again jig-a-dee-jig


slave's dirt floor cabin down in the bottom



dirt floor cabin at Great Hopes Plantation
That funny basket there above the bed is a chicken basket to carry chickens. The spaces between the logs of the cabin were filled with a mix of mud, manure, hair and straw and removed in summer for colonial air conditioning.

We are just home from voting for our first Afro-American President which was a very exciting experience. We left the poll and took a cloudy damp day tour of the gardens at the monastery across the street. Riotous red-orange crape myrtles surround the parking lot and roses are blooming in the garden slow and rich this time of year to finish the season. Last week was spent in Williamsburg/Jamestown, Virginia where we saw all sorts of beautiful leaves and trees, colonial houses and folks dressed to illustrate life of the 1770's.  On this trip we took my mother along for the full experience since she no longer has to play nurse to my father. We took  walks and enjoyed having lunches in the three taverns of Williamsburg. We went to Jamestown to see the new medallion discovered this past year in the basement digs of Fort Jamestown's buildings. I was impressed with the drawing on it since it looked like a line drawing from my own sketch book. The medallion was an Indian's head cut from copper foil and incised with a line to show eyes, nose, ear and the outline of his hair. Not as big as a quarter it was very fine work but also very simple. The historians at the museum posited that this could have been an identification badge, for the Indian who wore it, to come and go from the fortress. They didn't explain why they thought that was plausible. I would guess there was some mention of such a thing in some one's diary from those times but I wish they had explained exactly why. I was completely delighted to take lots of photographs while we were touring and one of our last experiences was visiting a place called  Great Hopes Plantation of colonial Williamsburg. This farm is where they have more and more buildings  each year and fields tilled by real oxen and tended by hand. There on the far are the colonial Williamsburg staff carpenters who are building all the time. They use eighteenth century tools and techniques to build in the historic area. A few years back when this area was begun not long after a hurricane blew right through town they were collecting fallen trees and slicing them into boards and beams for new buildings! Right now they are working on the first building to go up on Duke of Gloucester Street in 50 years. The newly rediscovered and excavated Carlton Coffee House. This coffee house was underneath a late Victorian 189o's home that they moved to the edged of town and sold to some private person. The visit to the Great Hopes Plantation was late in the day and there was a lone carpenter named Chris who was working on a few "goads" for the Oxen drivers to use to direct the Oxen. He was very red and burnt from working in the sun but his personality beamed as he explained he was being a good guy and making these smooth sticks to be given as gifts at the International Oxen Conference taking place behind his building in the field. I took a couple short videos of him scrapping the old wood from these sticks to make them more flexible. He used a scrapping tool that was like a two handle knife blade to pull the length of the stick and shape it to his liking. The bench he sits on holds the stick in place until he steps on the pedal that raised a big heavy round  ball that held the stick still as he pulled the blade across the stick. 
video

There were others on the plantation working including a lady who was making pegs for the carpenters using the same sort of bench with a pedal and ball to hold them in place while she scrapped the pegs down to the right size and circumference.  We visited the slave quarters and saw a house with a dirt floor that was pretty exotic for us but common in that time for all sorts of people slaves and otherwise. All in all the trip to Great Hopes Plantation was a high point in the week. We saw  a coop with Dominique chickens (rare old breed) and three hogs in the pig pen that were soon to be hanging in the newly built smoke house, a resident whispered. 
I have a lot of stories and pictures  from this years Williamsburg & Jamestown  trip but before you go to sleep or click delete I will close and join the masses waiting for the exciting news of who won the elections! More to come... 

1 comment:

wondermachine said...

"WOOF!" on the "orange beard." Gorgeous! I'm sure you appreciated his carpentry skills too. GRIN