Today was the start of Christopher's last week of holidays. We decided to keep our adventures local. Today's trip was to Lang Pioneer Village. I've been to Lang, quite a few times over the last few years, but it never really gets old (pardon the pun). It's just a short drive (less than an hour), in Keene, Ontario, (very close to Peterborough) and the admission is so extremely reasonable.
Off we headed on our adventure into the known, which always unveils something new. This week my niece and nephew are visiting my parents. My guys were delighted for Nana and Popa and Sienna and Nate to come along on our adventure. It was for the best that today was a dark day that threatened rain, and then made good on it's threat. We were practically the only ones there. It allowed the kids to explore uninhibited, and with giddy abandon. It was a treat, at least for me, to hear the kids enjoying each others company, and the laughter that comes with that enjoyment.
The village now has historical interpreters, which is really neat. Each place we saw an interpreter, we learned something. I learned for example from the "printer" the reason we call the letters, "upper case" and "lower case". The reason we call them this is because the printers kept the print face capital letters in the "upper cases" of their storage containers, and the small letters in their "lower cases", pretty neat, huh?
The hotel was a pretty a neat stop. We were able to purchase ginger beer and lemonade, in the kitchens. Turns out the kids are not ginger beer fans. The nice historical interpreter told us that she liked to mix the two, which the kids did, and agreed with her, they liked it. The sleeping part of the hotel was by today's standards horrifying. For 75 cents a person could rent the best room in the hotel, which had a bed and a bathtub. For 5 cents you could sleep in the "flop room", on mattresses filled with straw, and share a bed with strangers. All I could think about was all of the bed bugs and lice that the patrons would all have shared... shudder!
There are a few different houses in the village, each representing a different economic status of the original residents. Each home had a little garden, and most had an animal pen. The kids were quite taken with the pigs, which they named Porky and Miss Piggy. The agricultural aspect to the village got us to thinking about the differences in then and now. Then you would fall into bed exhausted. There was never idle time. I don't think that they would long for different, because they didn't know different. It was hard, but simple. Today we worry so much about keeping up with everyone else, the eroding middle class and what that means. Because of technology we have so much more free time for worry.
There is a little church on site, and my understanding is that they have weddings at the pioneer village. Elly quite enjoyed going up to the front of the church and putting on a show for the other kids. She was having a grand old time entertaining the kids until another family came in, and then she ran like crazy, deciding that she did not want to put on a show after all.
The weaving house is a new addition to the village. It opened last August. The interpreter had a little weaving loom out, and let the kids try it out. It turns out that weaving is a lot harder than it looks.
Hands down my favourite part of the village was the blacksmith shop. I could have stood there for hours watching the demonstration, I only hesitantly left when the kids became restless. I feel a tie to the blacksmith. My great-grandfather was a blacksmith in Harrowsmith, Ontario. He came from a long line of blacksmiths. When my father was a boy he would spend his summers with his grandma and grandpa in Harrowsmith helping out at the smithy. My father often would tell us stories, always with a smile on his face about his summers in Harrowsmith.
As I watch the blacksmith I am amazed at the almost magic of it. Metal, an object that seems so hard, when heated becomes soft and pliable. The skilled blacksmith can transform this seemingly at his will. He pushes the bellow to heat the fire, then carefully puts his rod in to heat it. He hits it in just the right places, just the right amount of times, then plunges the metal into his barrel of water. This process is repeated over and over, until that simple piece of metal becomes what the smith wills it to become.
Our young blacksmith answered all of our questions (even though I am sure that he would have loved for us to leave him alone). He endured my usual running play by play, and irritating questions to the kids... "Why do you think the black smith is pushing on that big bag?" "Why do you think he heats that metal up", oh with me everything is an educational experience, whether you like it or not!
The smith showed the kids a puzzle that he had made. Each child tried and gave up, until it came to Riley. I'm sure that if we hadn't made her give up she would still be looking at that puzzle, moving small bits, trying to decide what to do next. In the end the smith showed us how to solve his puzzle. The answer seemed so easy, and yet none of us had thought to try it.
The kid's favourite building was the school house, with its playground. In the end we had to threaten them to get them to move along. The kids were upset because the school teacher was not in when we went. The last time Sienna and Nate had come to visit and gone to Lang, the "teacher" made lefty Sienna write with her right hand, and threatened to strap her left hand if she used it again. The little glutton for punishment hoped to experience it all over again today.
We arrived at the grist mill at 4:00, unknown to us, it was when that part of the village closes. The mill itself and the bridge that leads to it were stunningly beautiful.
We had a great day. In typical style, Christopher asked the interpreter in the Fitzpatrick House if the pioneers would have waked their loved ones in the parlor. It looked pretty small for that purpose, he went on to add. His eyes and ears perked up to see the wooden coffin at the Hastie Carpenter Shop, and to learn that early on that had been the carpenter's bread and butter. It just goes to show, you can take the funeral director away from his work, but you can't take work away from the funeral director (no matter how uncomfortable it makes anyone else). I on the other hand was quick to point out that most of the settlers seemed to be either Scottish or Irish. Being the nerd that I am, I was quick to point that out. I then went on to explain that I thought this was due in part to the rebellion of Bonny Prince Charlie that left many Scots without a home, or means to provide for their families. The Irish of around the same time also found themselves subjected to a similar situation at the hands of the ruling English. When I had looked up from my excited running theory, only my husband was still there, and his eyes looked glassy. See you can take the nerd out, but you can bet she will bore everyone around her to tears.
Lang Pioneer Village is an excellent place to visit. The price is right, general admission is only $8.00 for adults; $7 for students and seniors; Youth ages 5-14 are $4.00, children under 5 are free, but the best deal yet is Families with two adults and four children are $20.00. There are coupons online at thekawarthas.ca, or the Lang Pioneer Village brochure also have a $2.00 off coupon. It's a great value, and a wonderful time. There are interesting theme days, The Pioneer Corn Roast, Sunday, September 2 from 10-4; Applefest, Sunday, September 30 from 10 - 4; Spooky Halloween, October 19, 20, 26, and 27 from 6- 9; and Christmas by Candlelight Saturday and Sunday December 8 and 9 from 5 - 9. The Christmas by Candlelight was amazing when I took the two big girls a couple of years ago. If you want to find out more information go to langpioneervillage.ca