Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Historic Hell

UPDATE:  Why does it always rain on field trip days?  I think of the seven or so days of tours we've had, it's rained 6 times!!  This means damp kids (because they walk over, money being too short for a bus), lunch inside (oh, the smell of bologna sandwiches on a wet day!  It's like wet dog.), and no outdoor activities, so they don't get the full historic house experience AND are restless and extra noisy.  Do we have to make up the deficit in our annual rainfall in October???
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Okay, it's not that bad.  But we have been having a few glitches with the historic house tours this season.  Volunteer shortage is always a challenge and this year is no different, but we're filling in the slots and I'll end up doing about half of them.  Almost a chance for me to wear all my different costume pieces!  (Though, if it doesn't cool off, I'll be wearing my vest instead of my bodices and one skirt instead of two!)

But there have been other things.  The biggest challenge has been our new activity:  making butter.  We talk about prepping for the winter and storing the harvest because there were green grocers. per se.  We used to string apple slices on string and hang them in the fireplace, talking about pie for breakfast and lunch and dinner so that Americans were called "pie eaters," but this year we're making butter.  Kid are fascinated to learn than a.) butter was not available all year long because cows don't naturally produce milk all year b.)  butter was salted to preserve it because there was no refrigeration (butter is still salted as a preservative--buy unsalted; it's fresher.)  c.) butter isn't naturally golden yellow, though it does have a faint yellow hue when it separates--real gold color is obtained using marigold petals and d.) YOU can make butter yourself.

Except it hasn't been working.  In theory, you shake heavy cream (not half and half or, heaven forbid, any low-fat project--you need the fat) in a container with some kind of agitator; this mimics the old-fashioned butter churn with the plunger-stick.   We started with glass jars with screw-top lids and marbles.  I even tested it with the kiddos--voila, butter in less than five minutes.  But on the very first day of tours, in the first class, the bottom of a glass jar just sheared right off, spraying cream, but luckily not glass, everywhere.  I guess there was a flaw in the glass, though I expect better of Ball jars.

Better safe than sorry, we switched to screw-top Ziploc snack containers, the kind in which my kids take apples to school.  But the plastic can't stand up to the use--perhaps it's the marble or the dice (or sometimes the Lego) hitting the plastic, but small cracks appeared in every single container, even on the first go-round.  I even bought a second round of containers, but, still, leakage.

We were going to go back to jars today, but there were two kids with dairy allergies so we returned to stringing apples.  Besides, the class was 45 minutes late, and apples are faster.  Still, the kids are fascinated by the butter and we'll return to that tomorrow.

But the late classes these last two days has been another headache.  Docents have to trim the tour, sometimes by as much as 45 minutes!  That's hard on the fly.  Especially after the kids have been inside all day and are noisy and restless (they go to another museum before us)--with the wet weather, they can't eat outside before the tour or play outside afterwards. (Today, one of the teachers had just given up, wouldn't even try to quieten the kids.) This causes chaos.

Especially with cream flying everywhere.

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