Friday, September 3, 2010

Cooper's Grist Mill

Yesterday was our first official Field Trip of this school year. We went to Cooper's Grist Mill near Chester, New Jersey to learn about life in a Milltown in the 1800's. When we first got there the guy showed us a map of the area. They had cute little wooden buildings sitting on the map to show where certain things were in the area like the mill, the school house, and the general store. Then we went down to the Grist Mill. The children went through a tunnel that went under the highway. The place was surrounded with Queen Anne's Lace and Yarrow plants. I told everyone how the soldiers used to pack their wounds with yarrow to stop the bleeding.

We went inside the mill. It was very cool in there considering the 95 degree day we were having. The man told us how the grain was carried up the front of the mill with a bag hoist that was operated by the Water Wheel. Then the sack of grain was opened in to the cleaner where it was brushed clean. Large fans on the ceiling helped by blowing away the dust. The grain is then ground between two large millstones. One stone stays stationary and the other one turns at about 90 to 120 turns per minute. The flour then goes through a hole in the wooden hopper and down a chute to the main floor and into bins.

After the grain was processed we went back up to the house where the children were able to try their hand at lots of old time tools. They used two big wash buckets and a scrub board to wash a towel. Then they put the towel through the hand cranked ringer. Later they hung the towel on the clothes line to dry. The next thing they did was go outside and use a hand saw to saw a log. Each child was able to take a turn at cutting through the log. They saw how much work it was when they realized that every person in the group had given it a try but the cut in the log was only an inch or so deep. After cutting wood, they went back in to sew on an old singer treadle sewing machine. I told them that I learned to sew when I was a little girl on a machine just like that. It didn't take long before the kids were able to get that machine humming. Dakota seems to have a real knack for sewing. Maybe because he has seen me sew so much.

They used a hand crank coffee mill to grind coffee. Dakota decided to taste the coffee beans to see what they tasted like. He promptly ran outside to spit out the coffee bean. I guess he just doesn't like coffee as much as his mama does. The next thing they did was card wool. This was a lot more work than the kids thought it would be. Most of them put the two cards together too hard. That made it very difficult to pull the cards apart. After they got a small pile of wool, they used a drop spindle to spin some of it into yarn. There was an old mailbox that had been in the general store. Everyone took a turn at trying to open the combination boxes to get the mail out. The letters were folded but not in envelopes. The address was written on the back of the letter.

At the end of the day, the kids were convinced that life was a lot harder in the 1800's than it is today. They are glad we have so many of the modern appliances. The grandmas that were there had fun reminiscing about using many of the tools the kids played with.

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