Museum visitors are all thumbs

August 09, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- At the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum Sunday, visitors took a trip back to the times before watering cans and garden hoses.

At the museum, which helps tell the story of rural Washington County life in the 1800s, the focus was the thumb pot.

Early gardeners watered their plants with thumb pots, which were pushed into wooden buckets filled with water. The water seeped into the cylindrical pots from the bottom and when they were full, the user placed a thumb over a hole in the top.

That prevented the water from streaming out as the gardener walked over to the plants.

With a lift of the thumb, the water was able to flow out, allowing the gardener to use it much like a watering can.


Sally Waltz told the story of the thumb pot at the museum's grounds Sunday afternoon, and she encouraged children to make their own version.

Using half-gallon plastic jugs, the children were told how to punch holes in the bottoms of the jugs so water could seep in. Then the kids made single holes in the top.

Karen Matson of Keedysville brought three children to the museum Sunday for the thumb pot fun.

Matson said she thinks its important for people to learn about the hardships people faced as they tried to survive in the county's early days. It's also good for people to learn how food is raised, Matson said.

"The only things they see are in the grocery store," Matson said.

A village made up of various log buildings is being established outside the museum. Among them is the Mount Tabor United Brethren Church, which used to be off Mt. Tabor Road before it was moved to the museum grounds along Sharpsburg Pike next to the Washington County Agricultural Education Center. Also featured in the village is a four-square garden, where people can learn about the early growing practices in the county.

About 25 people milled around in the village at one point Sunday afternoon.

Also being featured Sunday in the village was the Taste of the Garden, where visitors were invited to taste crops being raised, like heirloom tomatoes.

Also demonstrated was how the county's early residents dried their food, Waltz said.

Waltz showed how green beans were threaded onto a string, then dried. Although the dried beans turned a tan color, they retained their nutritional value, Waltz said. Water was added to the beans and cooked, she said.

"It's very, very good. And if they had a potato or two, they would throw those in, too. This was a staple," Waltz said.

The event was part of a Second Sundays program, during which volunteers offer various educational programs at the village.

Organizers said they hope to offer Second Sunday programming through November.

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