April 25, 2012

Civil War Paper Bags

Today we are used to going to a store, having them bag out items and hand them to us. During the mid-1800s, You would go to the store, point out what you wanted and the clerk would hand it to you to put in your own bags, boxes and barrels brought from home. Some shops in the city would wrap up your parcel in paper and have it delivered to your home as a courtesy.

People complained of shop owners wrapping purchases in newspaper only to have the ink ruin their purchase but more expensive shops used plain or brown paper to prevent this. Newspaper covered parcels were considered low class and few wealthy ladies wanted to be seen carrying one.

In 1852 Francis Wolle patented a paper bag making machine but his bags weren't widely available until 1869, when he founded the Union Paper Bag Machine Company. Before that, if you wanted a paper bag, you'd have to make it yourself or rely on mass handmade bags that some products came in. Little paper bags were popular for holding seeds and tiny foodstuffs like raisins, dried herbs, small cakes, nuts ect. Thick, brown paper was common for paper bag making.

Making paper bags is a pretty simple endeavor. 

How to make paper bags, the 1850s way: 

 -Cut 1 piece of paper the size you want the final bag to be, adding an extra 1/2 inch on 3 sides. Cut a second piece without the extra 1/2 inch. 

-Put glue on the "extra" flaps of paper and place the smaller piece of paper on top of the larger one, making sure that the two top edges are even.

-Press down the side edges and allow a minute to dry.

-Glue the bottom flap and fold to the top, fold the flap over and let it dry. Once dry, fill it with your favorite goodies!

This is very low tech but one way they did it. These instructions were taken from the book Rollo's Vacation, where a girl is teaching her little brother how to make bags to keep seeds in. The book recommends powdered gum-arabic, which can still be purchased in art stores, but is very expensive. 

April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

It's pretty rainy here, but I thought I'd put together a list of fun Earth friendly tutorials and websites! I can't wait to get started on the garden this year. I am scaling down this year. I am only going to grow herbs, a few tomato plants and leeks. Andy is going to grow a few tomatoes and corn in his garden. Neither of us have tried corn before but it should be fun. 


-Make Your Own Seed Bombs- This tutorial uses newspaper to make biodegradable seed "tokens." I'm thinking that this would be a really neat thing to use to trade heirloom seeds for herbs with friends.
-Vertical Gardens- Vertical gardening mixed with aquaponics. Garden inspiration to save space.
-Birdseed Wreath- Tutorial for a very cool wreath made from birdseed, gelatin and corn syrup.   
-Pea Trellis- Make a simple plant trellis with string and sticks. This website has a lot of garden projects and recipes. 
-12 Vertical Gardens- Very creative gardens, designed to save garden space.


-Urban Homesteading: Heirloom skills for sustainable living
. This is the website and blog of the author of the book "Urban Homesteading." There is lots of useful information here, even if you don't buy her book.
-Growing Tomatoes- This website has a lot of good information on growing tomatoes. I have never had a lot of luck with tomatoes but this site is really helpful.    
-The Good Acre: Surviving Hard Times With a Family Garden: An account of victory gardens during WWII.
- Aspiring Homemaker- If you haven't been over to Mia's blog, her family is a homesteading inspiration.

Does anyone have any favorite websites, tutorials, or books on gardening, homesteading, self-sufficiency etc.? Please share!

April 20, 2012

Changes on the Farm

I'm finally back at work and happy to see some of the changes that occurred over the winter.

The green and newly blossoming trees.
A new baby calf.
Lighting the beehive oven, the first time since I've worked here.
A new baby lamb with a protective new mama.
New friends. :)
I'm so excited to be back on the farm again. Even with all of the stressful things that happen there and the physical labor, it is still the most relaxing place I ever go. In the early mornings, when the fog hangs low and there's dew on everything, I find myself crossing the bridge that leads from the 21st century into the 18th century. I always take a moment before I step off the bridge to look over the beauty of the farm and remind myself to "never take it for granted."

I'd like to think the farm misses us too after being shut up all winter. :)

April 13, 2012

Mummified Forearm from Antietam

An arm was purportedly dug up on a farm by a farmer shortly after the Battle of Antietam. This arm was pickled by the farmer in a brine then embalmed by a doctor and has been on display for years. Its current home is the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, where scientists are trying to verify the story as well as figure out what caused the arm wound, the possible soldier's age and nationality.

Antietam was a particularly violent, battle with 23,000 casualties in one day. As with many battlefields, remains at Antietam still become exposed from time to time, like when a visitor found the remains of a New York soldier in 2008.

It is very likely that the arm really did belong to a soldier. Scientists have already confirmed that the arm came from a young soldier, possibly younger than 20.  

Read the full story at Md. Civil War Museum Gives Severed Arm a Good Look. 

The dead at Antietam are of personal interest to me as my ancestor with the 124th PA was among the burial detail after the battle only one month after he joined the army.

Library of Congress

 These photos are surreal to look at as the landscape looks so similar today. The rolling hills and farms look so peaceful today.

Library of Congress
Library of Congress
Library of Congress

There is a discussion now as to whether the arm should be respectfully buried instead of being a macabre museum display. I think it should still remain on display as you only need to see something like that once to instantly understand the horrors of war. I can only imagine what that soldier would want to tell future generations about war. 

April 10, 2012

Inspiration for this Summer: Civil War Bathing Dresses

Summer is coming, and if we have another hot July like the one we had last summer. Everyone might be wanting a classy bathing dress to get some temporary relief.

Bathing dresses in the mid-1800s were made of wool, and intended to cover the body in a way that would allow the wearer to move more freely than they were used to. Corsets were still worn with bathing dresses.

The description for the print above from Godey's Lady's Book:

"Figure 1:  Turkish pants of a gray and white striped material, fastened at the ankle with an elastic cord.  Paletôt dress of a dark blue and black flannel, made with a small cape, and trimmed with black mohair braid.  Oil silk hat, bound and trimmed with scarlet binding.

Figure 2:  Suit of pearl-colored flannel, trimmed with dark blue flannel, and braided in a plain Grecian pattern with narrow blue braid.  Cap of oil silk, trimmed with dark blue flannel.

Figure 3:  Suit of black cloth, bound with scarlet flannel.  The collar is of scarlet flannel, also the cap, which is trimmed with black braid and a long black tassel.

Figure 4:  Suit of scarlet flannel, trimmed with wide and narrow black braid.  The dress is decorated with applications of black cloth, cut in the shape of anchors.  The hat is of white straw, trimmed with scarlet braid."

Godey's Lady's Book was one of the most popular magazines of the time. It was said that Southern soldiers, fighting up North would send home copies to their girlfriends who were not getting them through the blockade. It was said that these rare copies were passed around from one girl to another that soon they consisted only of scraps as girls were so curious to see what the latest fashions were.

I find around this time of year, I get the biggest urge to sew and will collect a huge pile of things that I would love to wear. :) I know I have no use for and would not have the money to sew most of it but it is still fun to make a big collection of "things you wish you could wear." I particularly like Figure No. 2 in the above etching.

When I look at my big stack of clippings, I always feel like the girl in the cartoon below who is being "punished" for being a traitor. "Let her see but not touch the latest novelties in Hats, Dry-Goods, ect." One can only imagine what Southern women of the era, wished they could wear!

Is anyone else starting a new collection of (mostly fantasy) "to sew" items? :)

April 7, 2012

Meteor Showers of 2012

I normally do a post about the meteor showers of the year because it's lovely when reenacting events are schedule for the same weekend. It's purely magical to lay on your back in your work dress and watch the fire smoke swirl up to the sky and see the brilliant meteors shower down.

Reenactments are a great time to witness meteor showers because the are typically in big fields and sometimes are removed from cities and other bright lights. You can see more stars in general at events, but a meteor shower is just amazing. 

Meteors are frequently called "falling stars" but they really are just debris left behind by comets. The debris granules can be the size of a sand grain or as large as a boulder and are known as meteoroids until the reach the Earth's atmosphere and heat up. The trail that the meteorite follows through the atmosphere is a meteor and if a meteor doesn't burn up and hits the Earth, intact, it becomes a meteorite. 

Showers of 2012 

-Lyrids (April 21-22)
-Eta Aquarids (May 5-6)
-*Lyrids (June 14-16)
-*Delta Aquarids (July 28-29)
-Capricornids (July 29-30)
-**Perseids (August 12-13)
-Draconids (October 8-9)
-*Orionids (October 21-22)
-**Taurids (November 5-12) 
-**Leonids (November 16-18) This meteor shower is particularly brilliant every 33 years. In 1833 the shower was estimated to have over 100,000 meteors an hour. Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass both witnessed this shower.
-**Geminids (December 12-14)

* Indicate a more brilliant shower.  

I hope everyone is lucky enough to get to see a shower or two this year. One of the best ones is in December, unfortunately it isn't as pleasing to witness due to the cold. The summer showers are very relaxing and enjoyable to watch. It's not something people think about when planning an event. I never thought about it until I went to an event and saw one. Has anyone gotten to witness a shower at an event?

April 5, 2012

There is Nothing New Under the Sun: The Hunger Games

With the recent release of the film, The Hunger Games, questions about the similarities of the film and a Japanese movie, Battle Royale have been hotly debated. There are people that say The Hunger Games is a poor copy of the plot of Battle Royale. Others claim that while they are both about children killing each other, that the stories and themes are different.

I feel like we trudge through this kind of debate every time some book or movie becomes popular. How many times did people pick apart Harry Potter as though fiction should not have any influences? (Rowling was never found guilty of plagiarism.) 

What people don't want to hear is that there is nothing new under the sun. Historians are well acquainted with this. It is true, ideas are a dime a dozen. Humans have very similar life experiences and not surprisingly, humans  have similar ideas. But, it really isn't the idea that is important, it is the treatment of the idea that makes all of the difference.

I know some artists like to think that their work is unique with no influences and unlike anything ever done but this is foolish thinking. I, like many, have fallen prey to this in my early years of writing when I found someone wrote a similar story or a blog post on the same topic. :) If you've had an idea, chances are someone else has had it too. That is what makes art transcendent of time and place. Literature deals with universal themes, that is why we love it and love sharing it.

Anyone who feels that their enjoyment of The Hunger Games was affected by its blatant rip off of Battle Royal should read Lord of the Flies which was surprisingly, almost a fanfic of a book called "The Coral Island," or do some research on gladiator games. Lotteries and battles to the death are nothing new. These were not the focus in The Hunger Games, which emphasized inequality and the real reality of "reality TV."

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