Monday, October 21, 2013

Boston: Freedom Trail

We spent a few days exploring Boston, and enjoyed its wealth of living history. There is so much there that we could have done, but we chose to walk The Freedom Trail. A red brick line connects over a dozen places that have been preserved for their significance during the Colonial and Revolutionary period. This trip has brought US history to life for our family, and we're so blessed to be experiencing these places firsthand.

I always enjoy walking through old graveyard and am fascinated by the inscriptions on tombstones. This was an early Puritan graveyard, and many of the headstones featured a simple engraving of a skull with wings. The skull signified mortality, and the wings the promise of immortality beyond the grave. The inscription reads:
Servant to
John Hancock ESQr.
lied interr'd here
who died 23rd Jan

Frank was a slave owned by John Hancock, governor of Massachusetts, whose large monument stands nearby.
MAY 1818
Costumed interpretors gave tours and presentations along the Freedom Trail. It was so fun to see them dressed up in period clothing. I love the styles from this time period.
This pictures captures Boston for me: old and new settled happily together with a whole lot of life swirling around it all. The Old State House in the center of the picture is Boston's oldest standing building, erected in 1712-13. It served as the seat of the Massachusets legislature, and the Boston Massacre took place in front of it. The Declaration of Independence was first read in Boston from the balcony here on July 18, 1776. There's something sobering about seeing places that were so pivotal in the formation of our nation.  
This was Paul Revere's house in Boston's North End, which now appears to be the "Little Italy" judging by its many Italian restaurants and bakeries. It was from this home that Paul Revere set out on his famous ride to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on their way to arrest them, as well as arousing the militia.
We enjoyed watching a printer hard at work at The Printing Office of Edes and Gil. The printer explained to us the origin of upper and lower case letters. Back when typesetting was a painstakingly long process, where each tiny letter had to be placed by hand, capital letters were kept in the upper case, and "small" letters in the lower case! I love learning interesting little things like that.

We got to watch the printing process, which was very interesting. The printer considered himself very fortunate to have come by this press.
And what was he printing? Copies of the Declaration of Independence, and Peregrine was pleased to buy one for himself and for a friend.
This is the famous Old North Church, where two lanterns were hung to signal that the British were coming by over the water. "One if by land, Two if by sea...." 
After all that walking, we treated ourselves to some delicious Italian pastries: cannolis,  tirimisu, and pignoli cookies. When I was a little girl and we would visit my mom's Italian family, pignoli cookies were a special treat, and it was fun to introduce the kids to their yumminess! We used to joke that you'd better not get between the Great Aunts and the pignolis if you knew what was good for you!
Sometimes referred to as "the Cradle of Liberty", Faneuil Hall is an historic meeting hall and marketplace. It was the site of many meetings where people expressed their growing discontent with England and seeds of Independence were watered and grew. A statue of Samuel Adams stands in front, and on top is a famous grasshopper weather vane. During the Revolution, suspected spies were asked what was on top of Faneuil Hall, and if they didn't know they were treated as British infiltrators! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks

The leaves were just beginning to turn, but this flaming red tree gave us a taste of  why people flock to New England to see the fall foliage.

Being from the Pacific Northwest, the opportunity to stay at a maple sugar farm was too good to pass up. Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, near Montpelier, Vermont, is part of Harvest Hosts, and so we were able to park there overnight.
We were treated to a beautiful sunset over the rolling farmland. 
I was very excited to explore the farm the next morning. We ran into Burr Morse, one of the brothers who run the farm that's been in their family for generations. He was happy to talk with us and answer our questions about how they make maple syrup.  The Burr family helped settle this part of Vermont and learned to tap maple trees from the Native peoples who lived there. At that time hot rocks were used to evaporate water from the sap until only the sugar remained. Ben Franklin highly encouraged the production of maple sugar in the Northeast in the hopes of freeing the United States from dependency on foreign sugar. After Independence, and with improved transportation, more sugar cane was produced for the country in the South. 
A tour group arrived and we were invited to sit in on Burr's presentation in the sugarhouse. Syrup production takes place for only a short run in the spring, so during the rest of the year they stay busy with maintenance and tours. It was very interesting to learn about how much work goes into getting sugar or syrup from sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! I will never again complain about the cost of maple syrup now that I've seen how much work goes into it.
There were all kinds of whimsical woodcarvings scattered here and there around the farm.
Modern maple farms no longer hang buckets to collect sap, but instead drill and insert a tube which is under vacuum pressure. The tubes run into a central tank where the sap is collected and stored until it can be boiled down. At Morse Farm, they only drill one hole per tree per season, and each tree will give about ten gallons of sap. Burr says the trees are all wild; he knows of no one that plants maple trees for sugar production, as they take 40 years to give enough sap. So it takes four trees to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup!
After touring the farm we enjoyed browsing the gift shop and sampling the four different grades of maple syrup and my favorite, maple cream.
Did you notice Maple Creemees on the sign? That's Vermontese for Maple soft serve ice cream! The cashier in the gift shop joked about how "flatlanders" come up to Vermont and have to ask what a Maple Creemee is! 
We had a great time at Morse Farm Sugarworks. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

For a long time, Vermont has held some sort of mythical allure for me,  and in my late teens, I'm afraid that had more than a little to do with my then favorite ice cream, Ben & Jerry's. There happened to be a Harvest Hosts maple farm not too far away, so we took the opportunity to tour the Ben & Jerry's factory near Montpelier. 

The tour began with a fun and informational video about the humble origins of two friends who split the cost of a $5 ice cream making correspondence course. The rest is history, or course! From the Moovie Theatre, we proceeded to an observation area where we could see down onto the factory floor where ice cream was being made. We weren't allowed to take any pictures of this part, you know, just in case we were spies for Haagen Dazs. From there we entered the tasting room, with generous samples for all. 
The flavor of the day was Triple Caramel Chunk, which was delicious. No surprise there!
This year's new flavors, thought up by a team of experts who travel all over the world eating and gleaning inspiration from food trends. Sounds like a yummy job to me!
Euphoric Stuff.
Peregrine and Pearl's!
The famous Cowmobile.

That's a whole lot of milk, cream, and sugar!
One of the funny flavors resting in peace in the Flavor Graveyard!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Fort Stanwix

In Rome, New York, we spent a morning exploring Fort Stanwix.  Completed in 1762, the British built it to guard a significant portage known as The Oneida Carry during the time of the French and Indian War. It was abandoned and fell into disrepair and then was rebuilt and occupied by the colonists in 1776. The fort was held under seige by the British, Loyalists, and Indians for some time. It later burned to the ground and was abandoned. The National Park Service rebuilt it for the nation's bicentennial celebration in 1976. It is really nicely done, and we enjoyed our time there.

This is a picture of a model of Fort Stanwix, a star fort. The corners were built so that sentries on each could have a 180 degree view. There is a fence, a large ditch, and then the fort with its walls a full 14 feet thick! They were built of wood and filled with earth. It's hard to imagine something of this magnitude being built by sheer manpower.
Wives and children of enlisted men had the great privilege of camping outside the fort, but inside the outer fence. They were often employed washing and mending clothes or cooking for officers. Many soldiers couldn't afford to keep a home for their family, so this enabled them to provide shelter and be nearby.
This dim room was a casemate, where about 40 soldiers cooked and slept, ten to a bed! It was believed at the time that stretching out to sleep was unhealthy, so they slept propped or sitting up. We watched a film about life in the fort and there was certainly nothing glamorous about it. It was a hard and uncomfortable life. After the siege, the American forces expected attack, and for fourteen months kept hundreds of men at the ready. Attack never came, but boredom and cold took its toll on the troops, causing several to desert. They were captured and executed.
It was interesting to see how much nicer the living quarters became as one moved up in rank. This was a Junior Officer room, shared by just two or three men.
Families of higher ranking officers were permitted a small space within the fort. 
Can you imagine what it would have been like for women and children living in a fort in time of war? 
There was a lot for the kids to do, and they were really able to engage with the history of the place. The boys all got dressed up and the park ranger gave them a lesson on musket loading!
Poppy tried her hand at running a hoop.
They all took part in learning how to clean, load, and fire a cannon. The ranger who gave us a tour had plenty of time to talk answer questions. I'm sad that the national parks are all closed due to the government shutdown and all these people are out of work. 
I can't tell you how long Peregrine paced the bridge, keeping guard. He was in full character, thanking people for visiting Fort Stanwix.