|By Mrs. Frank Rundell, Sr.|
As time goes on, the old natural methods of foretelling the weather get more and more impossible. The signs upon which the “setters” in Palmer & Sawyers and William Higgins’ stores at Spencertown depended on for prophesying what we might expect for the coming winter are gone.
|The thickness of the burrs on the nuts once foretold the severity of the winter, but the hickory and chestnut trees that once grew along stone walls and in fields are no more.|
Turkeys, too, were watched for signs of the weather. It was noted…did they roost on a fence rail or, indicating deep snow, high in a tree. Today they live in a wire cage, their natural instincts bred out of them so they’re just plain dumb.
The farmer of today with his corn harvester pays no attention to the thickness of the corn husks or whether or not they completely cover the tip end of the cob. The farmer of yesterday who sat in the field husking his corn by hand knew about this unfailing prediction.
There are only four natural ways left to predict the weather. Watch the cows in the pasture; note the way they face as they usually head into the wind. If they face south, it usually means rain, but if they face north it could mean cooler and clear weather. Observe the chipmunk and see how he carries his tail. If it’s low, it is said to mean a light winter, but if it sticks up straight in the air it could mean a deep snow. Keep an eye on the direction of the wind during a line storm and if those furry caterpillars are very dark in color it indicates we’re in for a rough winter.
Gone these many years, however, are three of Spencertown’s weather predictors, who were better than today’s forecasters. Tam and Hen Dean, along with Thede Chace, were experts. Young folks never even made plans for a picnic unless they first asked one of these men.
Mrs. Rundell wrote a column for The Chatham Courier, focused on life in Spencertown, from the 1940’s through 1972. Reprinted from the book of her collected columns, And So It Was: Yesteryear in the Punsit Valley, Griswold Publishing, 1993. A very special thank you to Jim Rundell for his generous donations to the society.
|We were looking for some natural autumn decorations and came across the idea of waxed leaves! It is very inexpensive, easy to do, and looks beautiful. The leaves will keep their color and shape throughout the season. Here we have a simple arrangement in the Morey-Devereaux House.|
Autumn leaves with stems, in a variety of shapes and colors;
Paraffin wax (available where canning supplies are sold: grocery stores, hardware stores);
A double boiler (a pot within a pot) or a mini crock pot will do the trick;
Waxed or parchment paper to dry the leaves on.
|We improvised the above double boiler using a pouring pot within a larger pot. Place a few inches of water in the outer pot and place several blocks of paraffin wax in the inner pot. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to low so that the wax slowly melts. (If using a mini crock pot, place the wax directly in the pot.) When all the wax is melted turn the heat to warm.|
While waiting for your wax to melt, place enough sheets of wax or parchment paper on a nearby counter to set your drying leaves.
Once all the wax is ready, take a single leaf by the stem and gently lower the leaf into the melted wax. Be careful, the wax is very hot. This is why we prefer leaves with long stems! A single dip is generally enough to coat the entire leaf. Raise the leaf, and let the excess wax drip into the pot. Place the leaf on your paper.
|The leaves will dry in about two minutes and are then ready for whatever decorating you have in mind.|
|While we are unable to hold any large holiday gatherings this year, we are planning to turn our shop into a Holiday Shop for one weekend (date to be announced shortly).If you are an artist or a bit crafty, and like to make holiday decorations, we welcome donations of handmade Christmas and Hanukkah ornaments and decorative items (jewelry too) for sale in the shop. All proceeds benefit Old Austerlitz and the Austerlitz Historical Society.Please contact Jeff at [email protected]|
GOT OLD SHEETS?
|We are collecting old sheets (flat sheets, not fitted) to cover exhibit spaces and furniture for the winter months. If you have any to donate, please email Jeff at [email protected] to arrange a drop off time.|
If you order from Amazon you can use smile.amazon.com instead (with your same password) and a percentage of your purchase cost will be donated to AHS.
Signing up for AmazonSmile is simple:Go to smile.amazon.com and login with your existing Amazon account, if you have an account Amazon will immediately call you with a verification code, so have a pen ready;Once logged in, scroll down and type ‘Austerlitz Historical Society’ in the box and click ‘search’;Click ‘select’ to choose the Austerlitz Historical Society;Check the box acknowledging that you must visit smile.amazon.com each time you shop in order to support the Austerlitz Historical Society and click ‘Start Shopping’.
|There are only two more weekends to view the new Art Austerlitz gallery and the new exhibits at Old Austerlitz, so if you haven’t stopped by, please do. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from our visitors this season, and thought we’d share a few of the things – sometimes surprising things – that people found interesting.|
The first photo shows a rare multi-spout whale oil/lard lamp. Made of tin, the lamp has a sculptural quality that always surprises our guests. When filled with oil or lard, the lamp can provide a significant amount of light that will last through the night. While the lamp can be used indoors (with good ventilation), this type of lamp was often used for working outdoors and for night fishing.
The second photo above shows just a small selection from our amazing kitchen/cooking collection. This collection was largely assembled by Alice Corbin and Norma Edsall and generously donated to the society. A highlight of this year’s tour is when Michael Rebic demonstrates the use of some of the more unusual items.
|We all know about the quality of French wine, French food, and French fashion, but who would have thought that a French mousetrap would cause a sensation in the late 1800’s? This sign, pointing to the floor, explains what the fuss was all about.|
|Here is the rather complex French “Marty Trap.” (Notice the mousehole in our exhibit space baseboard.)|
|This exhibit shows the difference between quill pens and dip pens. Dip pens were invented in 1822, but were not widely used in America until the 1860’s and 70’s. Both quill and dip pens almost forced the writer to write in an elegant manor — and we show several examples. Incidentally, ball point pens were not invented until 1938.|
|This odd contraption is a pipe rack (notice how long early clay pipes were, sometimes as long as 17 or 18 inches). “When pipes became foul with tobacco juice they were not thrown away, but were laid, as many as two or three dozen at a time, in a rack and then placed in a very hot oven until thoroughly baked, when they would be taken out quite clean and more agreeable to smoke than a new pipe.” The devices were also used on the hearth. (Thank you to Phil Palladino for the donation of clay pipes.)|
|Another rare item (and we have two) is this 18th century “cup dog.” Used in the hearth, the “cup” would hold small pots with sauces or porridge to keep them warm.|
|Entering the gallery, this 36″ x 36″ work of art is what artist Peter Bradley Cohen calls “Sugar-coated photography.” The piece is titled “Michael, 2019” and while it has been sold, it can still be viewed until September 6th.|
|This beautiful, intricate and delicate installation by Joan Grubin is made of paper. When a slight breeze occurs, the piece gently undulates.|
|Three works of art on paper by Artist Zack Neven.|
|Fundraising Update: As many of you know, we have set a goal of raising $20,000 this summer to help offset the loss of income from the cancelled Blueberry Festival and we are almost there. We are happy to report that to date we have raised $19,076. A list of donors is available on the website under the Support tab. THANK YOU to all who have donated. If you would like to donate please go to www.oldausterlitz.org|
Gardening: We can use a few hands to help lay black plastic in front of several buildings where we will establish or expand beds to plant bushes. We can also use a few gardeners with loppers to help clean-up the growth around the schoolhouse.
The Shop: We need a few individuals who can assist us in taking year-end inventory.
Exhibit Research: Did you know that the 1770’s was the era of big hair, or that men in the eighteenth century used curlers to style their wigs? We need researchers to assist with a new exhibit on hair. If you have a home computer, you can help us research information and images.
If you are interested in any of these volunteer opportunities, please contact Jeff Harris at: [email protected]
|Autumn in Austerlitz:|
Due to the continued Covid-19 pandemic and the state restrictions on large gatherings, we are sad to announce that the Autumn in Austerlitz Festival will not be held this year.
Remember: We are open Saturdays & Sundays, Noon – 4pm through September 6th, 2020We hope to see you soon.