The Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Festival at Clermont, Part 3
Yesterday, I told you all about the sheep that I saw at the sheep and wool festival at Clermont last weekend, and the wool things that are made from their fleece. Today, I thought I would share about some of the other animals and people I got to meet!
Did you know that sheep are not the only animal that you can spin yarn from? Fur from several different animals can be spun… even from a fuzzy dog or cat! (I wonder if you could make a sweater from groundhog fur?) One of the favorite, and softest furs to spin into yarn is from the angora rabbit. Rather than shearing off all the fur from the rabbit first, we got to watch a lady spin right from the rabbit:
That fuzzy thing in her lap is a rabbit! Just like shearing the sheep, pulling the fur from the rabbit to spin it does not hurt the rabbit. I guess it is kind of like brushing the loose fur from your cat or dog, so it doesn’t fall out all over the place.
I also got to watch some border collies. Did you know that border collies are used to heard sheep, to help get them from one place to another? The border collies in the herding demonstration at the festival were herding ducks, instead of sheep, but they were good at what they do!
With the help of a well-trained border collie, a farmer could easily move a large flock of sheep from one pasture to another, without any escaping.
Well, that about sums up the animals I got to meet at the Sheep and Wool Festival, but what about the people?
I got to meet some of the great staff and volunteers who helped make the day run smoothly, and made sure everyone had a good time:
I owe a special thanks to Kjirsten Gustavson, the educator at Clermont, who put the festival together, and invited Bob and I to come. I didn’t get a photo with her this time, but I’m looking forward to visiting her again, and getting a tour of the inside of the house!
Speaking of the house, check out those beautiful lilacs that were in bloom along the lilac walk, on the way down to the house!
I also got to meet a lot of great kids who were taking part in the children’s activities at the festival, including my youngest fan:
So that’s it… as you can see, Bob and I had a great time a the Chancellor’s Sheep and Wool Festival at Clermont this past weekend. We learned a lot about sheep, and some other animals too. If you have a chance, go check out the festival next year!
The Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Showcase at Clermont, Part 2
Yesterday, I told you that I got to attend the Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase at Clermont State Historic Site, and I explained a little about why they hold a sheep festival there in the first place. Today, I thought I would show you some of the neat things we got to see and learn about.
Being a sheep and wool festival, I did get to meet some sheep!
A friend helped me get a closer look at the sheep, but they weren’t too interested in talking to me. In fact, they were much friendlier to a fellow sheep:
We also got to watch a sheep shearing demonstration. Shearing is when the wool is cut off the sheep. Removing the wool is kind of like getting a haircut: it doesn’t hurt the sheep. In fact, in the hot summer it makes them more comfortable!
Fred DePaul showed us how sheep are sheared using both old-fashioned shears (which look just like big scissors) and with motorized shears. Fred was very gentle, and the sheep stayed very calm. I tried to convince Bob the Livingston History Sheep to get sheared, but he decided he wanted to keep his wool coat to himself. He told me that after a sheep gets sheared, the other sheep don’t recognize it right away, and he didn’t want me to forget who he was!
Once the fleece is removed, it is washed (to get out all the grass and dirt that got on the sheep while it was still wearing the fleece) and then carded (kind of like combing the fleece to get all the knots out). Then it can be spun into yarn, and knit, crocheted, or woven into fabric!
Here I am with some fleece that still needs to be carded:
Here I am with some roving (fleece that has been washed, carded, and in this case dyed pretty colors):
Speaking of spinning, there were lots of spinners at the festival!
All of those people spent the day out in the sunshine spinning their fleece, and teaching anyone who was interested in learning about how to spin! I wonder what they will make with all the yarn they made?
Here is some yarn that was for sale at the festival, that was spun from wool, just like the spinners were making:
So while I was at the festival, I got to see pretty much the whole process of going from a sheep to a sweater!
I got to see some other neat animals too… more on that tomorrow.
The Chancellor's Sheep and Wool Showcase at Clermont, Part 1
Whew! Last weekend was busy, but I got to see a lot of neat things, and meet great people!
On Saturday, my friend Bob the Livingston History Sheep invited me to come with him to the Chancellor’s Sheep and Wool Showcase, at Clermont State Historic Site! Since it was a festival that celebrated sheep, Bob had his own tent, and was even a clue in the scavenger hunt for children. Pretty neat!
Here we are in Bob’s tent, with Geoff Benton, the Deputy Town Historian from Livingston (another friend of Bob’s).
My first question for Bob, was does Clermont hold a sheep showcase anyway? Why not a groundhog festival? It turns out that Robert Livingston (we’ll call him Chancellor Livingston, since there were a lot of Roberts in the Livingston family) became interested in Merino Sheep while he was living in Paris and serving as Minister to France. Merinos have lots of very high quality fleece. They are also good for eating (don’t tell Bob that part!). In both France, and their native country, Spain, they were highly prized and closely guarded— not just anyone could take them out of the country. The Chancellor was given permission to take four Merinos to the United States. He believed that if American farmers switched their flocks to Merino sheep, it would help the American economy: better wool made locally meant less imported cloth from France!
After the Chancellor was successful at breeding the Merino sheep at his farm, he began holding public sheep shearings. This allowed farmers to see all the great wool that the Merino sheep produced, which meant that they began buying the sheep from Livingston. These were the first sheep festivals at Clermont! In 1809, the Chancellor wrote a book about Merino sheep and breeding, called A Treatise on Sheep. There is a copy of the book in CCHS’ collection!
So now you know a little about the history of sheep at Clermont. Tomorrow, I tell you about some of the other neat things we saw at the festival.
Oh, and Bob the Livingston History Sheep… did you know he was named after Chancellor Robert Livingston? He says he can trace his ancestors all the way back to those first Merino sheep that the Chancellor brought to Clermont!
My friend Bob (the Livingston History Sheep) asked me to join him at the Sheep & Wool Festival at Clermont today. I can’t wait to meet some sheep, see the pretty wool yarn, and to learn more about the Livingston Family! Stop by and say hello (Bob is even handing out autographs!)
People Who Preserve History: Benjamin Smith and Alex Culpepper
Last Friday, I got to meet Benjamin Smith and Alex Culpepper, from the magazine Patriots of the American Revolution. Their time in Kinderhook at the village green was just one stop on their “Knox Trail Honor Walk.” So what is the Knox Trail, you ask? (I certainly did!)
The story begins all the way back during the American Revolution. In 1775, the city of Boston was under seige by British troops. The American army needed more cannons. Knox was sent, by General George Washington, on a long journey to Fort Ticonderoga, to get cannons that had been recently captured. The area north of Albany, on the way to Fort Ticonderoga was still wilderness, with very few people living there. It would have been a tough journey just getting to Fort Ticonderoga, before they had lots of cannons to travel with! They arrived at the fort in December 1775. Knox and his men used oxen and sleds to haul over 50 tons of cannons back to Dorchester Heights, in Boston! It was the extra cannons, delivered by Knox, that caused the British troops to withdraw from the city.
In 1926, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Knox’s journey, monuments were installed along the route. There is one in Kinderhook, on the village green, and one in Ghent, in front of Hogeboom’s Tavern (along Route 66).
Ben and Alex’s goal is to walk the path of Knox’s trail, from Fort Ticonderoga (NY) all the way to Dorchester Heights (Boston, MA)! The walk is not just to remember the history— they will also be raising money for several museums and historic sites along the way. You can read more about the project here. By now, they are getting close to the end of their journey. You can follow their progress on the facebook page for the magazine.
Last week was school break week again- that means I spent the week doing neat history activities with fun kids! We made marbled paper, poetry gardens, stitched samplers, and studied the shapes that make up the architecture of Kinderhook. By far, my favorite day was when we baked some Dutch recipes- just like the Van Alen family might have eaten!
First, we made a bar cookie, called Jan Hagel cookies. We mixed together sugar, butter, egg yokes, flour, and cinnamon. Then we pressed the dough into a pan. We painted the dough with egg whites (with a special cooking paintbursh!) and then spread chopped walnuts on the top. We put them in the oven to bake, and when they came out, it was taste test time! Delicious! (If you want to try making them at home, there is a recipe here).
Next, we made Dutch wafer cookies. Wafer cookies are very thin, round cookies, with pretty designs pressed into the sides. I don’t have a picture right now, but at the Van Alen House, there is a wafer iron, that was used over the fireplace. (here is a similar one in the collection of the New-York Historical Society). Since we didn’t have a working fireplace, we used a modern pizzelle maker (pizzelles are what Italians call wafer cookies).
The Dutch were also known for their pretzels. We made Krakelingen, which are a sweet pretzel, more like a cookie. The pretzel recipe was tricky! Even though we made it three times, and we carefully followed the directions every time, they came out a little differently. At least we were able to bake them in a new oven, with good temperature controls. It must have been even harder to make cookies come out the same with each batch if you were cooking them over a wood fired oven!
CCHS’ educator, Ashley, also brought in some olie-koecken and olicooks that she had made the night before, for us to try. Both are a little like doughnuts, but without the hole in the center (more like doughnut holes, I gues!). The olie-koecken (in the foreground) have little bits of apple, raisins, and almonds inside, and the olicooks (right next to me in the photo) are just plain. Both are delicious!
It was fun learning about the sweets the Dutch brought with them when they came to this area- especially since we got to taste them! If you want to learn more about Dutch food and recipes, the educators here recommend the books by Peter G. Rose- she is a Dutch food scholar. One of her books, Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Life, was the source for some of the tasty recipes we made. (It is available in the CCHS library, if you would like to try some of them out)
Today marks the 229th birthday of the author Washington Irving. Irving lived in Tarrytown, NY and wrote many stories set in the Hudson Valley. You may have heard of some of them: Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow are two of his best known stories. Irving also wroteKnickerbocker’s History of New York,under the pen name Dietrich Knickerbocker.
The cover of the 1894 edition of “Knickerbocker’s History of New York from the CCHS Library.
So what does Washington Irving have to do with Columbia County? It turns out, he visited here a lot! He was friends with several people who lived in Columbia County, including Martin Van Buren. During one visit to Kinderhook, Irving also met a school teacher, named Jessie Merwin, and they became friends too. Merwin taught at a log, one-room school, in Kinderhook’s District #6. After spending time with Merwin, Irving wrote the storyThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow,and guess who he based the main character, a school teacher, on? Jessie Merwin! In 1846, Martin Van Buren even wrote a statement, verifying that Jessie Merwin was the inspiration for Ichabod Crane:
"This is to certify that I have known Jessie Merwin, Esq., of Kinderhook for about 1/3 of a century and believe him to be a man of honor and integrity, and that he is the same person celebrated in the writings of the Hon. Washington Irving under the character of Ichabod Crane in his famous Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
After Jessie Merwin retired from teaching, the old log schoolhouse was replaced with a new one-room schoolhouse. Eventually, this new schoolhouse got the name the “Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse” after the character in Irving’s book. When Irving heard that the old school had been torn down, he was disappointed. He wrote to Merwin:
"You tell me that the old schoolhouse is torn down and a nice one built in its place. I am sorry for it. I should have liked to see the old school once more; where (I used) after my mornings literary task was over, I used to come and wait for you occasionally until school was dismissed…I don’t think I should look with a friendly eye at the new school house, however nice it may be."
He must have been very sad, to hear that the old building where he spent time with his friend had been torn down!
Today, the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse is a museum, run by CCHS. In 1974, it was moved from its original location to the lawn of the Luykas Van Alen House. Maybe if you’re a 4th grader (or older), you’ve already been there! If not, come visit when it re-opens for the Summer (May 20th).
CCHS also has a collection of prints made by Felix Octavius Darley that show scenes from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In the one above, you can see Ichabod Crane being chased by the headless horseman! Darley also drew illustrations for Rip Van Winkle (you can see one of those, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, here).
An Architecture Tour of Columbia County: Beaux Arts
I thought I would actually start my architectural tour of Columbia County with a very important building: The Columbia County courthouse! Did you know that the current courthouse is actually the fifth that Columbia County has had? The first one was in Claverack, and the second in a different location in Hudson. The third and fourth were located on the site of the current courthouse, but both burned down!
The current Courthouse was built in 1908 by architects from New York City Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore. They also designed Grand Central Terminal in New York City! Since the two previous courthouses had burned down, they built this one to be fireproof. It is made out of granite, sandstone, and iron.
The court house is built in the beaux arts style. Buildings were built in the Beaux Arts style from about 1885 to about 1930. The beaux arts style was not usually used for houses (except for some very big fancy ones), but big public buildings, like court houses, train stations, libraries, and offices.
How can you tell a building is in the beaux arts style? First, beaux arts buildings are usually pretty big. No tiny cottages here! Another clue is that beaux arts buildings are usually made of stone. Look for elements like columns and pilasters (pilasters look kind of like columns, but are flatter and attached to a wall). Our courthouse has both columns and pilasters (can you spot them?). There are often carved decorations, including flowers, garlands, leaves, and shields.
Look at the photo of our courthouse again. Do you see how the center section, with the columns and the pediment (the triangle shape that sits above the columns) stick out a bit from the rest of the building? In fancy architect terms, that is a pedimented central pavilion!
If you look up along the top of the courthouse, you will see a balustrade (its that part that looks kind of like a fence at the top of the building). Our courthouse is also topped with a dome!
I can think of one other building in Columbia County that has some elements of the beaux arts style. Can you think of any?