Belleville/Old Bedford Village Report, or What I Did On My Summer Vacation
Well, folks, I got back
from Belleville at Old Bedford Village, PA, yesterday afternoon,
and finally have a moment to breathe and post a
It was wonderful. We arrived Wednesday afternoon and were shown the house we'd be staying in, which was built in 1762. The house is used
by the village's spinner/dyer/weaver, Becky Edwards (hi, Becky!) to demo spinning etc., so it's got a great wheel, flax wheel, etc. in
it. We moved our gear into the house and found that we _really_ didn't need to bring so much stuff, but hadn't quite realized how
much furniture (tables, chairs) the house would already have. Next was to find the water and wood, and to see about getting a cupboard
under the stairs opened up so we could use it to store non-period necessities like the cooler (for eggs and milk, since there was no
springhouse in which to keep them cool, nor a convenient cow or chickens to get them fresh every morning).
Once we were settled in, we got kitted out and sat on the porch and watched the other reenactors arriving, and got to meet some of the
staff. There were a few glitches -- the wood needed to be chopped to be of a good size to use for fires, and some faucets needed to be
turned on so we could get water; and a few folks got locked out of the houses they were supposed to inhabit, but eventually Roger showed
up with the keys, the houses were unlocked and it all got straightened out. Not bad for a new event...
Thursday it rained ALL day. I got up and cooked breakfast – very glad that we'd gotten our wood the day before and filled the wood-box
in the hallway, and also quite happy to be in a house with a good roof and a wide porch rather than a dripping tent. The day's
activities were pretty much gone by the wayside, which didn't matter -- it was fun to sit around on the porch or in Carolyn's house
chatting, telling jokes and drinking chocolate. We had a local TV station come by and film a few interviews, of which about a minute
(and a brief shot of my retreating backside, walking down the road with my yoke and buckets) showed up on the news. I took my big dye
kettle up the road to the blacksmith, who made a bail for it, something I've been meaning to have done since I got it about five
years ago, then actually walked to my house in the rain to deliver it. Wow... <g> It started to really feel like a village at that point.
Friday was sunny, so we had lots of school groups and some tourists coming through. I put a chicken to roast on the hearth (hung on a
string from the crane), which was done in time for a late lunch. We'd planned on doing laundry, but I wound up doing most of the
washing. Jamie Seifield, MaryJane's son (hi, MJ) was very helpful in digging the fire pit and starting the fire for the wash. I hauled a
LOT of water for the wash kettle and rinse tub, then got started washing. Mary Jane used some of the hot water to work on felting a
hat. The laundry eventually got hung on the line, and I got the brisket started in the kettle for that evening's pot-luck dinner. I
can't remember what else I did, but it was a full and busy day. The pot luck was spectacular; lots of wonderful food came out from every
house, and we all sat down outside at tables borrowed from the houses and had a great time.
Saturday we were going to do a market day, but there wound up being so many tourists it was hard to get away from our houses to gather in
the square and set up. I think if we'd had more reenactors there, so that at least one person could stay in the houses to talk to the
tourists, it would have worked better. As it was, we found plenty of other things to do; I put together a raisin pie and Ms. Vi came over
to show me how to use a dutch oven. I could have taken the pie to the village bakery, but decided I really wanted to know how to use a
dutch oven, as I've never had occasion to learn (and it's not something I really can use in my regular persona). We also had had a
deer delivered and butchered the previous evening, so I got some of the venison and put it in a stew for that evening's meal. Then
toward the evening, we got together on my porch and worked on draping a gown for Becky; I fitted the bodice lining and got the center back
panel pleats basted down, and Ms. Vi took pictures. The boys were restless for dinner at this point, so we stopped and had yet another
wonderful group meal out in front of the houses.
Sunday we got up and got ready for church; Carolyn's husband was playing the local Calvinist minister, and delivered a sermon with
veiled references to the recent imposition of more taxes by the Crown. After the service there was an argument about taxes on the
church steps, then we went back to our houses and fixed some food and brought it out for yet another group meal. I brought out the
leftover raisin pie, and Schnitz and Nep (ham, apples and dumplings), and we had lots of other great food, and sat around feeling quite
stuffed. The funny thing is that I didn't gain a pound, despite all the eating -- I think I worked it all off! No wonder farm people
could eat that way... Oh, and Becky showed me how to spin flax. I definitely need Kevin to make a distaff for me, so I can do it on my
One complaint from the tourists, apparently, was that we didn't have some militia-type demos from the guys. Next time, maybe... I'm told
that the village has sometimes done reenactments of an actual episode where some Natives showed up on the day that the local militia was
drilling, with the resulting skirmish. That would make a good little scenario for future events. We got hints from Carolyn about a
possible nighttime raid, so I slept with a hatchet by my bed, just in case. We figured out how to bar the doors, but weren't sure how well
that would hold in the event of a raid. Even though it didn't happen (this time), it helped me get into the mood -- not knowing when, or
if, a raid might happen, and trying to plan what I'd do if it did.
Anyway, it was over way too soon, and I would have loved to have stayed for much longer. Dreams about winning the lottery and living
like that all the time were running through my brain... <g> It was really great getting into the rhythm of village life, sleeping on the
hearth and getting up to stoke the fire... It's amazing that 18th c. women had ANY time to sew! I had hardly two minutes to sit still. I
guess if you had a bunch of children around doing chores like hauling water and firewood and sweeping up the house, that'd give you more
spare time; as it was, I had to do those things myself.
Thank you, Carolyn, for organizing Belleville! I can't wait to do it again!