A day at George Washington's Mount Vernon would be pretty neat for a colonial period study of the United States, don't you think? So that's exactly where we took our history lesson today - on the road.
Mom and I took the kids to Mount Vernon and had an incredibly fun day. At the beginning of our visit we were told about the 6 week old pigs that were a must see. And see we did . . . after walking all over the grounds searching for them. People weren't very good at giving directions when trails don't have exact names, ie. "trail that passes by the apple trees." It all turned out alright though. Because in the end we had seen all that there was to see at Mount Vernon. So for that ... thanks little pigs for leading us on a wild goose pig chase. :)
Here are a dozen things we learned while at Mount Vernon:
1. George Washington wanted his mansion to be handsome and impressive and look like white stone. But stone was very expensive, so Washington had the outside made of long wood boards that were chiseled into the shape of stones. Then the boards were whitewashed with paint containing course sand to make them appear and feel like limestone.
2. George Washington did have false teeth, but they were not made of wood. In fact, his false teeth were probably more uncomfortable than wood. In one set of false teeth, his dentist used a cow’s tooth, one of Washington’s own teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal, and springs.
3. One of George Washington's favorite foods was fish caught in the Potomac River that ran in front of Mount Vernon. In the springtime when many fish swam upstream, slaves would catch the fish (mostly shad and herring) using large nets. They might catch as many as one million fish in a 6 week period!
4. Even though wigs were fashionable at the time, Washington kept his own hair, which he wore long and tied back in a queue, or ponytail. He did, however, powder his hair as was the custom of the time.
5. The last thing George Washington added to his Mount Vernon mansion was a cupola on top of the roof. Because hot air rises, he would open the cupola's windows in the summer to let the heat out.
6. In Washington's time everything had to be written by hand. George Washington wrote hundreds of letters and kept records on everything that happened on his farm. His hired clerk helped him with all of his writing. The clerk would copy things carefully, and Washington would sign the final letter. Because of the urgency of many documents the clerk's quarters on the estate were conveniently located near Washington's office so that he could quickly get to him.
7. George Washington inherited Mount Vernon upon the death of his older half-brother Lawrence. He lived at Mount Vernon from 1754 until his death in 1799. He enlarged the house and expanded the estate from 2100 acres to 8000 acres.
7. Before the Revolutionary War, Washington switched his cash crop from tobacco to wheat. He knew wheat didn't deplete the soil as quickly as tobacco and it had economic advantages as well. Because the British did not tax and regulate the sale of wheat as closely as tobacco Washington had a larger market in which to sell his wheat. A major advantage to growing wheat also was that if the market were bad, the crop could be used to feed the Washington family, slaves, and livestock.
8. George Washington also used a method to conserve his soil and improve long-term productivity with a seven-year crop rotation schedule. Washington and other farmers of his time believed that by rotating crops, their fields would not become "exhausted" or the soil depleted of nourishment.
9. George Washington had no biological children of his own, but he helped raise Martha's two children (John and Patsy) from her previous marriage and informally adopted her two grandchildren (Nelly and Wash) after their fathers' passing.
10. Washington had 300 slaves. In his will he granted them all freedom.
11. Martha Washington loved George dearly. She journeyed to be with him on the battlefield when he served in the Continental Army. She even spent the 1777-1778 winter with him at Valley Forge.
12. It appears that George Washington actually didn't chop down a cherry tree after all.
Mount Vernon taught us much about life in the 1700's on a large estate. Olivia's favorite part of the visit was the walking tour through the mansion and seeing the kitchen. Isaac's highlight was visiting the children's hands-on history room where he was able to play with George Washington (a doll) in a large replica of Mount Vernon and dress up like a colonist. Joshua was thrilled to be outside all day and seeing all of the farm animals. Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the kids enjoy a history lesson through a field trip excursion. There are such rich history lessons like the one we had today to experience in life. And even if you go a wild goose pig chase, no part of the experience is ever wasted. :)
My mom and dad celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this past weekend. Since my sister, Allison, was in town, too, we planned a special RUBY RED (traditional 40th anniversary gift) dinner in their honor.
While Allison and I prepared the meal, Olivia and Isaac were the servers. Here they are helping set the table.
Olivia serving her Granddad
Isaac serving his Grandma
RED fruit - cherries, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, and heart-shaped watermelon slices
Allison's RED Homemade Garden Fresh Gazpacho - The best gazpacho I've ever eaten. She even juiced fresh tomatoes for this recipe.
Allison's Fried Eggplant Parmesan with RED Tomato Sauce over Egg Noodles and Steamed Asparagus
My Chocolate Mousse with Whipping Cream and a heart-shaped RED strawberry - a family favorite dessert
Allison and I both love cooking and we were honored to prepare a special anniversary meal for our parents. Here's to 40 more years Mom and Dad!
HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY MOM AND DAD!!! WE LOVE YOU!!!
Friday we found ourselves at a local pick-your-own farm. Olivia, Isaac, Joshua, Allison, and I had our first experience of picking peaches directly off the tree. We truly had a "PEACHY" time.
Upon arriving at the farm and after gathering buckets, Olivia and Joshua piled into one red "Radio Flyer" wagon and Isaac into another. We headed straight for the peach trees. Many peaches of the "freestone yellow" variety were picked. I will have to say that Isaac was the most into the peach picking experience and was the most diligent of all at filling our buckets with juicy ripe peaches. :)
The farm we visited grew many other types of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, too. I addition to the peaches, we also picked apples, pluots, tomatoes, and zinnias. Our trunk overflowed with an abundance of freshly picked produce -- peaches, tomatoes, corn, zinnias, pluots, apples, Asian pears, and cucumbers. Because of all this amazing produce, our weekend meals have been absolutely delicious - peach cobbler, peach clafouti, tomato gazpacho, corn on the cob, tomato sandwiches, fried okra, and more all gathered round a beautiful zinnia centerpiece of red and yellow.
Olivia is studying the Colonial period in history this year. Since we are in Virginia (visiting my parents), where many areas from the colonial period remain today we decided to have a real-life history lesson today for lunch. We stepped back in time to 1729 when we entered through the doors of the Red Fox Inn. The Red Fox Inn (previously the Beveridge House) is a tavern that was built in 1729 in the village of Middleburg (previously Chinn's Ordinary), so named because it was the "middle" point between Alexandria and Winchester, Virginia, for those riding by coach or horseback. It "provided the overnight resting stop for travelers making the 70-mile overland journey." In 1748 a young surveyor, George Washington, even visited the area.
We enjoyed Virginia Peanut Soup, Virginia Spring Rolls, Red Fox Crab Cakes, a Grilled Virginia Ham and Brie Sandwich, and sweet iced tea.
We had a great time learning while eating regional food and talking about what it might have been like in 1729.
The kids and I have come to Virginia for a 2 week stay while something is going on at home. Can you guess what it is?
We are having a grand time and are getting to spend some time with my sister, Allison, who has come to town, too.
Some ways we have spent our time:
Playing in a pool Grandma bought for the kids
Helping Granddad snap off the ends of green beans
Playing hop scotch with Auntie Alli
Drawing with chalk on the driveway
Eating tomato sandwiches
It's very special being with Mom and Dad. As I noticed all of our shoes lined up today I realized that ALL of my mom and dad's kids are at home right now. From youngest to oldest - Joshua, Isaac, Olivia, Allison, Ashley