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Pa. Fall Family Farm Day a living history of chores in the 1800s

November 08, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Give a person a bar of soap and a jar of apple butter and they might stay clean and full for a week.

Teach a person to make soap and apple butter and they could be clean and full for a lifetime.

Soap-making and brewing apple butter were two of the demonstrations put on Saturday during the first Fall Family Farm Day at Allison-Antrim Museum. The event showcased 19th-century chores and featured candle dipping and creating a natural stain from boiled walnuts.

"We try to show what it would have been like back then," said Shari Walker, whose family was invited from Martinsburg, W.Va., to the Allison-Antrim Museum to give a "living history" of the 1800s. "A lot of these things are daylong projects, but we tried to break it down just to give people an idea of what it was like. It's nice to get the children out here so they can see how different it was."

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Kay Shomper showed visitors how lard is turned into soap, first by rendering the fat. She then cooked up the recipe and turned out dozens of bars of lye soap and Castile soap. The Castile soap is made using olive oil instead of animal fat.

Shomper also dipped candles, taking a wick attached to a small wooden rod and sinking it into a pot of wax. Once the candles cooled, visitors could take home their self-made candlesticks.

"This is just a fun day for families," museum president Bonnie Shockey said. "A lot of grandparents brought their grandchildren, which is nice to see. Hopefully, we can make this into an annual event."

Should there be a second Fall Family Farm Day, it is sure to be on a larger scale. By then, the museum's Civil War-era barn is expected to be completed for at least limited collection use for museum artifacts, according to project manager Keven Walker, son of Shari Walker.

In fact, the natural stain demonstration shown Saturday is the same process that will be used to stain the recycled floor boards in the upper level of the barn.

The historic barn was once at the intersection of Loop Road and U.S. 11 in Chambersburg before being purchased by the museum. The barn was dismantled in the spring of 2004 and each individual stone and beam was marked so that it could be reconstructed exactly as it was a century and a half earlier to maintain its authenticity.

"People went through all this trouble to get this barn here and get it up, so we want to keep it looking like a barn," Keven Walker said. "Barns were the center of agricultural life, and agricultural life was the center of this region. We're trying to make the barn as much like that as we can."

Upon completion, museum valuables will be moved to the barn from the museum house, which has become too small for the hundreds of priceless artifacts currently inside.

The reconstructed barn will have a library area and a children's area on the upper level, while a secure collections area will be formed underneath. But the new technology that will be installed, virtually by necessity, will not detract from the barn's historical validity, Keven Walker said.

"This is taking it into the 21st century of collection care in a 19th-century building," he said. "The barn itself is as much as an exhibit as the museum."

The project is community-funded by donations, which can be made at the museum located at 365 S. Ridge Ave. Fall Family Farm Day helped the cause by giving proceeds from a limited lunch menu to the project.

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