Sunday, November 30, 2014

On to the Ohio Oneys

Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to be spent with your family. And this year we spent it with our family and extended family located in the Amish interior of Ohio. (More on the Amish later). We rarely see the Ohio Oneys due to distance etc... so it was a wonderful opportunity that we got to hang out with Brian's various aunts, uncles, cousins, and their children. You can tell Ainsley got lots of love and attention on this trip.

Sophie really took to hanging out with her girl 'cousins' and ended the night exchanging phone numbers with the girls.

Even Connor loved the toy room and the girls' excitement to leave him and most of the toys... alone.

Thankfully we had a 5 day stay in Ohio so we really got a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with the Ohio Oneys.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Malabar Farms

Imagine yourself as a veteran of World War 1 and a Pulizer prize winning author... what would you invest your money in?

Why a farm of course!

 Louis Bromfield grew up in Mansfield, OH, studied journalism at Columbia University, enlisted in the US Army Ambulance Brigade during World War 1, published 30 books, and won a Pulizer prize for his book the Early Autumn in 1937. He decided to return to Ohio and build a farm. During his return he talked about soil and water conversation, and wrote many non-fiction works about his experience as a farmer.

And this was his farm. It's still a working farm set up to educate others about the tasks and chores done in working farms throughout the area.

There's more to see and do (House tours, Farm tours, etc...) if you come when everything is open. So... apparently not on weekdays of the week of Thanksgiving. However, we enjoyed seeing it and apparently it's become quite a popular tourist sight.

For more information on Malabar Farms, click HERE.

Windy Adventure through Mohican State Park

One of the things I wanted to do while we were in Ohio was go hiking. I think on most of our trips during Thanksgiving, we've always tried to do some hiking. And while yes I figured it would be cold, I did not expect the wind.

As we entered Mohican State Park, it was filled with thousands of trees... and several tree limbs that seemed to be blocking the road.

I didn't wan to turn around just because a few branches blocked our way... I mean come on... let's have an adventure! So when we did encounter brush on the road, I got out and started clearing the road. It was actually fun. I got exercise and it smelled like Christmas trees!

Once I even got help from the Park Rangers. They were very nice and informed me if I wanted any of the branches to make wreathes or use as firewood I was free to pack it up in the van and take it home with me. I declined.

 It was definitely an adventure, but I didn't want something that we could fix to prevent us from spending some time outdoors and seeing... wait for it.... a covered bridge.

Ohio is known for it's covered bridges. And while yes I realize it is JUST a bridge... the working Grist Mill that I also wanted to see was closed... the fire tower we could climb was unsafe with the wind... the Lyons Falls hiking trail didn't seem possible with my fellow companions... so dang it I at least wanted to do/see something. And therefore... the covered bridge.

And while the weather does continue to get colder, perhaps though we will return

Well.... maybe WITHOUT the kiddos.

For more information about Mohican State Park click HERE!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 Things I NEVER knew about Andrew Jackson

There are 10 things I never knew about Andrew Jackson until AFTER I took the tour of the Hermitage. And this is without seeing the video prior to the audio tour with the kiddos. Definitely made me what to know more about his life.

1. Andrew Jackson was considered a president of the people because he was the first president to grow up poor. Everything he ended up having (The Hermitage, education, etc...) were things he had to work for.

2. Jackson grew up in South Carolina. And would move out west to settle in Tennessee BEFORE Lewis and Clark began their expedition out west.

3. During the Revolutionary War, a British officer ordered Jackson with a task. When Jackson refused the British soldier slashed Jackson across the face leaving a mark/scar to remember his disobedience. Instead, Jackson never forgot his hatred for the British.

4. Jackson was dearly in love with his wife Rachel. He never remarried after she died. Once when he was in the White House, someone mentioned to Jackson if he missed his wife. He answered that she was the first thing he saw when he woke up and the last thing he saw when he went to bed at night. He was referring to a picture he kept of her during his presidency in the White House.

5. Jackson was PRO-slavery, but not for secession. In fact he would fight against it.

6. Jackson at a young age contacted syphilis, which prevented him from having children. He would eventually adopt his wife's nephew as an infant and name him Andrew Jackson III. Andrew Jackson the third had a twin brother than remained with his biological parents.

7. Andrew Jackson the Third was a horrible farmer and was held responsible for running the Hermitage farm while Jackson was away serving as President. When he returned he found that Jackson III had run the family farm deep in debt. Luckily, Jackson's friends and acquaintances helped him escape bankruptcy.

8. Andrew Jackson often picked up and housed orphan children. The Hermitage under Andrew Jackson's occupancy became a kind of foster home for several children.

9. Rachel enjoyed Greek literature. As a result Jackson and the home decorated with Greek architectural pillars in front, and in the front room the wallpaper shows a scene from Homer's Illiad.

10. Andrew Jackson (the first Tennessee president) would die in 1845 during the presidency of the second Tennessee President- James K. Polk.

The Hermitage

Brian and I have enjoyed seeing Presidential homes on our vacations. We've visited Mount Vernon (George Washington's home) and Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's home) during 2 trips to Virginia. When we discovered that Andrew Jackson's home (The Hermitage) was just outside of Nashville, Tennessee we couldn't resist. However, this time we had the kids with us.

However, apparently we weren't the first parents to bring their kids, and they had walkmans and "stations" for the kids so they could also listen about the history of The Hermitage and President Andrew Jackson's life as well.

Luckily it was one of the warmer days of our stay in Nashville so it was easy for the kids to walk and run around, even though we did get rained on for about 10 minutes or so. On the way up they said that the landscape today was different compared to when Jackson was alive, because the front drive and surrounding area would mostly have consisted of cotton fields instead of the nice lawn and all the trees. Later trees were added from various areas where Jackson fought his battles against the British (both during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812) as well as various skirmishes with Native American tribes.

 The Hermitage I would say was similiar in size to Mount Vernon and Monticello with a library, bedrooms, parlors, and dining area in the main house. No photography was allowed inside the home. However, inside was Jacksons' sword from the War of 1812, a painting of his wife Rachel which he kept with him in the White House, bound copies of newspapers from his time in the executive office, and many original furnishings.

As for the exterior there was a fire to the Hermitage in one of the years after Jackson returned from serving as President. Rather than repaint the whole house after the repairs were finished, he only painted the front of the home, since that was only what guests would see. The above pictures is taken from the front of the house; below the back and sides.

Outside buildings include an icehouse, the kitchen of course, the water well, the pantry, and smokehouse to name a few.

On the side of the house, was a garden designed by his wife Rachel.

Apparently she loved her garden so much that when she died, Jackson buried her in a corner of the garden. And beside his wife, Andrew Jackson himself is also buried beside her in the Hermitage Gardens. I'd be curious to know more about their love story.

Jackson was a proud slave owner, although some sources show that he felt that his slaves were part of his "black family". And when you have a lot of slaves, you need to have lots of places to house those slaves. The "field slaves" who worked in the cotton fields (about 80 families) were near the Spring House far from the home and view of the house.

While the Jackson's were building the Hermitage, they lived in a log cabin on the property grounds (similar to what Thomas Jefferson and his wife did at Monticello). After their home was complete, their original/previous home was converted and used for their slaves.

These buildings had very low doorways, as you can tell. Sophie informed me they were "kid size".

Below archeologist found many artifacts to decipher what a Hermitage's slaves life was like during Jackson's era. My particular favorite was the bone toothbrush.

One slave- Arthur was born at the Hermitage in 1812 and after becoming emancipated after the Civil War decided to remain on the plantation and assist the US government in making the Hermitage a historical sight... even giving tours of the Hermitage up until his death in the early 1900s. He insisted on remaining in his home near the Hermitage, which was another "slave" home for the household slaves.

Later he would request and be granted burial near the Jackson family in the corner of the garden.

While the front lawn was converted to trees and meadows, in the small area near the slave quarters was a small cotton field. The kids got to touch the cotton plants and get an understanding of what it was like to "pick cotton". This was fascinating for me and the kiddos, particularly since being from Kansas and now Dallas, Texas we have limited experience in cotton. 

The kids behaved quite well for most of the trip and enjoyed running through the leaves on the way to the field and slave quarters.

Out of the 3 Presidential Homes we've seen so far- Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Hermitage we ranked them as 3-Good, 2- Better, 1- Best. Brian's vote was #1- Mount Vernon, #2- Monticello, #3 Hermitage. My vote was for #1 Monticello, #2 Mount Vernon, #3 Hermitage. However, I doubt the Hermitage will remain on the bottom as we continue to view prior presidential homes because it really was quite impressive. We definitely recommend seeing the Hermitage if you are near Nashville, with or without kids.

To learn more about the Hermitage, click HERE.