October 24th, 2012 at 6:22 pm
I’ll admit it; I’m probably a little bit too “connected.” With my iPhone always in my hand, I’m usually switching from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, then on to email, text messaging, the stock market app, and Huffington Post—and let’s not forget Fruit Ninja. I could say that I need to stay on top of everything because of work, but that wouldn’t entirely be true. It’s become a habit, an all-too-familiar one in our modern age.
So what struck me most when I walked across the wooden walkway and entered the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, located on 112 acres inside Ridley Creek State Park, was the silence. Other than the wind rustling through the trees and the sound of a rooster crowing, it was quiet—noticeably so. I slowed down my pace, breathed in deeply, and put my iPhone in my purse—and I didn’t reach for it again until I left, several hours later.
The Plantation seeks to re-create the life of an Edgmont farm family during the mid-eighteenth century. Owned during this time by the Pratts, Quakers who purchased the property in 1720, the land belonged to the family until 1833. The property was privately owned and used as a home until the 1950s. In April 1976, in honor of the Bicentennial Year of our country, the Plantation began welcoming the public as a living history site. Now open on weekends from spring through early December, the Plantation, staffed by volunteers with a true passion for making history come alive, provides visitors with a remarkable look back at our country’s early days.
I lingered as I walked the grounds of the Plantation, stopping to photograph the beautiful fall foliage and to visit with the piglets in their stall (the Plantation is also home to sheep, chickens, and geese that roam throughout the grounds; a horse named Abigail; and Frye, a steer), but the smell of a wood fire coming from the house invited me to keep moving. I was told before I arrived that I’d be able to see a demonstration of authentic Colonial hearth cooking, and this was something I’d been anticipating all week.
When I walked through the front door of the Plantation home and into the kitchen, I was greeted by Vicki, a 9-year volunteer; Sue, who’s been at the Plantation for 2 years; and young Miriam, who’s been volunteering with her father David for 3 years. Vicki was in the midst of cooking, which is how she spends much of her time as a volunteer. All of her cooking is done authentically according to the time period—using the methods and ingredients our forbears would have used. She stepped into and out of the huge hearth, moving cast iron pots from place to place as she prepared a meal, as she does each weekend, for her fellow volunteers.
What’s unique about the Plantation, as opposed to other historical sites and museums, is that visitors are invited to touch and experience everything they see. Sit on the chairs, dig your hands into a basket of freshly shorn wool, pull water from the well—none of it is off limits. I took a brief tour of the house with Sue and the grounds with David, but when Miriam rang the dinner bell, I headed back to the kitchen quickly, anxious to try the meal to which I’d been so graciously invited.
I’ve eaten at many of the area’s finest restaurants; you could say it’s a hobby of mine. But I’ve got to say, that meal of Swiss chard with potatoes, onions, and sorrel; pumpkin soup with clove; and fresh-out-of-the-hearth wheat bread with preserves made from raspberries picked in the park was the most soul-satisfying one I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe it was the company of those who enjoy what they do so much, maybe it was the warmth of the fire, maybe it was the stillness of the moment. I can’t quite put my finger on it—but what I do know is that during that meal I felt a deep appreciation for those who came before us and worked together to create what we have today. I can think of no better testament to the hard-working volunteers at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation than that.
The Plantation will be open on weekends through December 8. This weekend (October 27 and 28), join them for their annual Halloween at the Plantation celebration from 11am to 5pm each day (last entry at 4pm). Visitors can enjoy story times, a puppet show, trick-or-treating, visits with the animals, a mock witch trial, and demonstrations of candle making, corn husk dolls, box loom rug-making, and more. Other upcoming special events include a Militia Muster with the 4th Legionary Cavalry on November 10 and Christmas on the Farm on December 8. For more information on these and other happenings at the Plantation, visit their website at colonialplantation.org.