history, Mellie's Musings, Spinning

Pioneer Days

We’re coming up to my favorite season of the year… fall.  And with fall comes all the fall festivals.  I sometimes feel like there aren’t enough weekends in the whole of autumn to go to all the celebrations.  So I do my best to make it to a few of my favorites each year, and then try a couple of new ones too.


This past weekend was Pioneer Days, which is always one of my favorites.  I love to tour the old homes and imagine what it would have been like raising a family with no indoor plumbing or electricity in these very small houses!  Sometimes I look at it from a romantic perspective of “the good old days”, but then I remember the stories my mother told me of my grandmother’s old home, including the snakes in the outhouse and the hauling of water, and I’m once again extremely grateful for indoor plumbing, and all the other options we have in the modern world.  

19th century brick-heated stove - mellieblossom.com

Another thing that I remember my grandmother telling me about, growing up in rural Pennsylvania was the wood burning stove and fire pit that were used for cooking.  This brick stove here worked by making a fire in the fireplace which would then heat up the bricks.  In the bricks to the right of the fireplace was hollowed out to make a stove, which they’d then use for baking. 

19th Century Dress and Spinning Wheel


I always bore my kids by spending way too much time taking photographs of the spinning wheels, and noting all the differences in them.  It’s amazing to think back on how long women have been spinning, spinning, spinning, and then turning that yarn into clothing and blankets for their families.  I cannot even imagine the amount of time it would take if I had to spin the yarn for every crochet project that I do – no wonder they had so little clothing.  

19th century spinning bobbins

wool fiber for spinning

Clock Reel - used for measuring out hanks of yarn - mellieblossom.com

There were some really interesting things that I learned too.  For example, this is a clock reel, and it was used to measure yarn in the 1800s.  These wheels were always 54” around and had a counter, which was used to keep track of how many times the yarn was spun around it.  After it hit 40 rounds, it made a noise to let the spinner know that a hank had been measured out.

Crushing Corn into Cornmeal

The boys really enjoyed the sights and activities as well – there were a bunch of children’s crafts.  My boys played with a wheel, using a stick to push it along.  They helped build a barn, and pressed apples into cider.  Here’s my boy using a small log that was hung on a tree to crush corn into cornmeal.  The heavy log bounced on the tree branch and was like a primitive grinder.  (And yes, that is him wearing a sweater in the middle of September!  We’re usually sweating in 90 degrees when we go to this, but this year it’s really felt like fall!)

Great Wheel or Walking Wheel

And here is an old-time general store.  It’s so funny to see the original version of some of the products that are still around today!  In the upper right hand corner is “Wheat Krispies”, and Quaker Oats oatmeal is the the left of it (which still looks the same).  My kids recognized the baking soda label s well, and the coffee container in the center looked very familiar to me – I wonder if there was a version of it around when I was growing up. 

All in all, we had so much fun!  It’s as close as we can get to a time machine, taking us back to the old days.  And I was very happy indeed to come home to electricity, indoor plumbing and refrigerator and spend some time crocheting for fun.  I was inspired to pull out my spinning wheel and start practicing spinning my own yarn again.  I’m pretty rusty, but as long as I’m swooning over everyone else’s, I might as well make better use of my own!

~Mellie ★

19th Century Bonnet - Pioneer Days


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