Monthly Archives: September 2014

Barns – Part I

"Hall Barn around 1950," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

“Hall Barn around 1950,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

My grandparents’ barn wasn’t really my territory. It was dark inside and filled with cobwebs. The cows, in their stanchions twice a day at milking time, were formidable creatures. They ate hay at one end and made smelly messes at the other while the milking machines attached to their swollen udders vibrated and pumped.

Cows being milked

Cows being milked

It was here that my sweet grandfather and my gruff uncle spent much of their time. When I walked into the barn, Uncle Francis teased me. “Why aren’t you in school? Don’t you have anything to do?” He believed in hard work and demanded it from those around him, so, without a job to do I often felt out of place in the barn. I wanted to be like Fern in “Charlotte’s Web” – a girl who understood animals and loved being with pigs and spiders and rats – but I was a reader and preferred to sit in the farmhouse and read about barn life.

And there was so much life in my grandparents’ barn. Downstairs, below the haymow, the cows filled the air with their steamy breath. Cats and kittens surrounded pie tins of warm milk. The bull demanded attention. And spiders – none of them “Charlotte” – inhabited every nook and cranny. Upstairs, swallows and bats swooped through the rafters, and horses stood to be brushed in their stalls. The farmers dropped hay down to the cows through a big hole in the floor – a dangerous spot for children – but when we were allowed to, we played in the haymow, and on Easter Sunday our grandfather hid painted eggs in and around the dusty bales and stacks.

"Haymow," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

“Haymow,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

Unlike the house, the barn now seems totally gone. I can still see the house foundation, the well stone, the sidewalk, and the cellar door of the house, but there’s no trace of the barn on the Whirlwind Hill property. Any hole or stone it might have left behind is covered with dirt and grass. I have to guess at where it used to stand.

But, in truth, it isn’t totally gone, because in 1975 a young woodworker named George Senercia read a book that changed the course of his life and the fate of the Hall barn. The book was “Diary of an Early American Boy” by Eric Sloane, a New England artist who wrote and illustrated books about early American barns and tools. This book started George on a lifelong quest to learn and use and teach the process of building and restoring barns the way it was done in 18th and 19th century New England.

George Senercia (center) working on a timber

George Senercia (center) working on a timber

On Easter Sunday, 1977, while driving down Whirlwind Hill, George noticed the Hall barn, which by then was starting to deteriorate. My uncle stopped farming in the early 1970’s, and the barn was abandoned. George knocked on Francis’ door and offered to take the barn down and haul it away for free. When they came to an agreement, George dismantled, restored, and rebuilt the barn as his workshop in the nearby town of Northford, Connecticut.

In the course of the painstaking work of taking apart the barn, George found a beam into which my great-great-great grandfather Aaron Hall had carved his name and the date 1818. George became so interested in the history of the Hall family that he probably knows more about my relatives than I do.

So in 2008, when my parent’s barn was aging, my brother asked George if he would restore it. He agreed, and in August 2008, he began to take apart our barn. It took two years before the Crump barn was ready to be raised again. On Wednesday I’ll tell you about it.

"Crump Barn, around 1990," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2014

“Crump Barn, around 1990,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2014

On Wednesday:  Barns – Part II

Apples – An Addendum

One of the joys of writing this blog is hearing from readers who share their stories with me.

After my post about apples on September 17th, I heard from two cousins with more apple tales. Cousin Sue heard an NPR piece about a man in Vermont who raises heirloom apples at his orchard. This orchardist, who dislikes Honeycrisp apples (he calls them a “one note apple”), tried to feed them to his pigs. They ate them the first time, but after that when he tried to give them Honeycrisps for dinner they tipped over their trough.

Cousin Patti and her husband Tom, who were on a trip to Northern Michigan, visited “Christmas Cove,” an orchard in Northport, Michigan that grows two hundred and fifty antique varieties of apple. They were excited to find some of the apple names our great grandfather William E. Hall had listed in his journal. When they showed the list to the orchard owner she said they raise seven or eight of the apples on William’s list. So in honor of our great-grandfather, Patti bought some Blue Pearmain apples. William’s list calls them “Black” Pearmain, but that seems close enough for me.

Blue Pearmain apples - photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

Blue Pearmain apples – photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

Tom also shared this quote from Henry David Thoreau’s book “Wild Apples.”

I know a Blue Pearmain tree, growing on the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there, on the first survey, but you must look according to system. Those which lie exposed are quite brown and rotten now, or perchance a few still show one blooming cheek here and there amid the wet leaves. Nevertheless, with experienced eyes, I explore amid the bare alders and the huckleberry-bushes and the withered sedge, and in the crevices of the rocks, which are full of leaves, and pry under the fallen and decaying ferns, which, with apple and alder leaves, thickly strewn the ground. For I know that they lie concealed, fallen into hollows long since and covered up by the leaves of the tree itself, – a proper kind of packing. From these lurking places, anywhere within the circumference of the tree, I draw forth the fruit, all wet and glossy, maybe nibbled out by rabbits and hollowed out by crickets and perhaps with a leaf or two cemented to it…but still with a rich bloom on it, and at least as ripe and well kept, if not better than those in barrels, more crisp and lively than they.”

Blue Pearmain apple - photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

Blue Pearmain apple – photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

On Monday:  Barns – Part I

Baked Beans

On Saturday afternoons in fall and winter, my mother and I got in the car and drove the mile or so from our little red house on East Center Street to the farm on Whirlwind Hill. We visited with my grandparents and uncles and aunts over afternoon coffee in the kitchen, and then we headed home with our treasures. Mine was the weekly Life Magazine. My grandmother had a subscription and let me have it after she was finished. When I got home I read it cover to cover while I waited for the supper that was my mother’s treasure – a big pot of my grandmother’s baked beans.

"Bean Pot," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

“Bean Pot,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor, 2014

Saturday on the farm was baking day, and when cooler weather started, my grandmother started making her beans. I didn’t care for the beans back then (although I’d like to taste them now), but my mother must have appreciated having dinner “to go.” She probably added ham or hot dogs and maybe scalloped potatoes. My brother has always loved baked beans. He still cooks them the old-fashioned way – soaking the beans, adding the molasses, salt pork, etc. and then cooking them in an old bean pot for hours and hours. He claims that real New England baked beans should be made with Yellow Eye beans, and that the very best way to cook them is in a bean hole.

"Yelloweye Beans," Carol Crump Bryner, 2014

“Yelloweye Beans,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2014

On Friday:  Apples – An Addendum

The Room With Nine Doors

I was proud of my grandparents’ living room. It seemed huge, and it had nine doors. How could I not brag about a room with so many ways in and so many ways out?

For the first year of my life the living room was where my extended family rocked and cuddled and cared for me. As I grew older, my brother and cousins joined me there to play hide-and-seek, watch television, and listen to the aunts and uncles chat over Sunday afternoon tea.

Me in my playpen near the doors to back staircase and back bedroom

Me in my playpen near the doors to back staircase and back bedroom

My grandmother let my mother and her siblings and friends push aside the carpet for roller skating, parties, and dancing. This was only possible because in the 1920’s my grandparents tore down walls and turned what had been two or three rooms into this one large space.

First Floor - Hall Farmhouse (after 1927), Carol Crump Bryner

First Floor – Hall Farmhouse (after 1927), Carol Crump Bryner

My great-grandmother wrote in her journals about the parlor, the sitting room, the front room, the west room and the downstairs “chambers.” She never mentioned a living room. I don’t know what the old footprint of the rooms was, but there was originally a large central chimney with a fireplace on each side, one for the parlor and one for the sitting room. These fireplaces were removed during the expansion and a new chimney and fireplace built at the west end.

Fireplace and window, 1951

Fireplace and window, 1951

The two windows at the west end of the room that looked out onto Muddy River and the orchards were the inspiration for my “Window” series of monoprints, and the memory of the many doors in the living room fueled my ongoing fascination with views into and out of rooms. A door at my grandma and grandpa Crump’s house in downtown Wallingford is the subject of a 1990 painting.

"Door to Grandma Crump's Sleeping Porch," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1990

“Door to Grandma and Grandpa Crump’s Sleeping Porch,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1990

Here’s a list of the nine doors in the farmhouse living room:

  • The door into the dining room.
  • The door behind the desk (an unused door into the bathroom.)
  • The door to the back staircase.
  • The door to the back bedroom
  • The door to the side yard.
  • The west door to the parlor
  • The east door to the parlor.
  • The front hallway door
  • The door to the closet under the stairs

Some doors, like the door to the bathroom, remained closed. Others, like the door into the dining room, stayed open. But with so many doors there was always the sense of life going on inside and out and the feeling of endless places to explore. In a room whose function was never strictly defined, there was always something to do. The possibilities felt endless.

"Interior," (the farmhouse living room), Carol Crump Bryner, linocut, 1976

“Interior,” (the farmhouse living room), Carol Crump Bryner, linocut, 1976

On Wednesday:  Baked Beans

Money and Apples

I always liked the idea that earning money on the farm was a last resort – that a farm should be able to sustain itself without cash. But after reading my great-grandfather William E. Hall’s journals, I can see he thought often about making, having, and spending money.

He filled the back pages of his diaries with columns of figures and notes about what he spent and what he earned. The last page of his 1861 journal looks like a daydream about dollars.

Page from journal of William E. Hall, 1861

Page from journal of William E. Hall, 1861

His notes record that he sold a load of wood for $10 and spent $10 on his new teeth. His 1864 diary cost 25 cents, a postage stamp 6 cents, and a telegraph 30 cents. The sale of a cow earned $12.50 and a load of hay $28.75. There was the purchase of the mysterious “dog candy” for 45 cents. Some cotton cloth cost $16.20, and a new buggy relieved him of a whopping $45.00.

The record of farm goods and produce he sold for cash includes cows, oxen, hogs, horses, hay, buckwheat, wood, milk, butter, eggs, hard cider (my great-grandfather also had a still), peaches, and apples. The list of purchased items is much, much longer.

"Modern Apple," Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting

“Modern Apple,” Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting

For years apples were a major source of revenue because, unlike peaches, they could be stored in a root cellar and sold throughout the winter.

Monday, October 5, 1914 – “Men busy picking apples, selling them. The trees are many of them loaded. Not very large, but seem to be good and sound.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, October 7, 1914 – “Ellsworth sold his apples for 35 cents a bushel, to be carried off by the seventh of December.” – Lydia Jane Hall

My great-grandfather William’s 1873 diary includes names of apples he may have grown or thought about growing. (There are about thirty varieties on his list, but I’ve had to leave out some and guess at others because his writing is hard to decipher.)

  • Pown Sweets
  • Peck’s Pleasants
  • Stripe Pippins
  • Gilliflower
  • Maiden Blush
  • Wine Apple
  • New Town Pippin
  • Bell Flower
  • Roxbury Russets
  • Fair Maine
  • English Sweets
  • Hall’s Seedlings
  • James Linds
  • Citron Apples
  • Lord Thorntons
  • Baxter Greenings
  • Rome Apple
  • Black Pearmain
  • Fall Pippins
  • Roderick Greening
  • Red Stripe
  • Balmunds
  • Ruck Apples

I have no idea what kind of apples my mother is eating in this photo, or whether they were grown on the farm. In 1943 when my dad took this portrait of my mom in the fields below the farmhouse, there were probably still apple trees around, but I have a feeling the apples in the photo came from Young’s Apple Orchard, which was at the top of Whirlwind Hill. The orchard was still in business when I started living in Alaska in 1969, and I remember going there to buy apples one fall when I was visiting my parents. Mr. Young packed them up for me and shipped them all the way to the 49th State. What would my great-grandfather have thought of that!

Janet Hall Crump, 1943

Janet Hall Crump, 1943

On Monday:  The Room with Nine Doors


"Clothespin," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

“Clothespin,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

My great-grandmother washed clothes every Monday, and she almost always wrote about it in her journal.

Monday, May 6, 1912 – “Another stormy Monday. Clothes washed and on the line. Pa sitting by the fire.” – Lydia Jane Hall

On Tuesdays she ironed.

Tuesday, May 7, 1912 – “Partly cleared. Clothes drying between the showers so they can be ironed.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Winter complicated the process.

Monday, January 29, 1912 – “Cold. Snowed all day. Washed, put out clothes, but didn’t dry. Brought them in frozen stiff, and dried them in the house.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Spring and summer brought better days.

Monday, April 1, 1912 – “Nice day. The best yet for washing. Clothes look nice. The birds are singing. Some are building their nests.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, August 11, 1913 – “Nice cool day. Washing done at eleven o’clock – looks very nice and white.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Fall started the weather-related difficulties again.

Monday, October 13, 1913 – “Cooler – look for a frost tonight. Cloudy at night. Clothes dry in the house.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, December 1, 1913 – “Dark dreary day – clothes still hanging on the line – not dry at bed-time. Hope it will be pleasant tomorrow.” – Lydia Jane Hall

I hardly think about doing the laundry. When clothes and linens have made a big enough pile I dump them in the washing machine and push the button. When we first came to Alaska in 1969 I had to go to a commercial laundromat once a week, and I thought that was a hardship.

But in 1912 providing clean laundry for the family must have been incredibly time-consuming. I heard somewhere that washing was done on Mondays because that was the day burning was prohibited. Clothes could be hung on the line without getting covered with black soot.

With a big family and no helpful machines, my great-grandmother and grandmother often needed help for their Monday and Tuesday routines.

Monday, June 8, 1914 – “Agnes done the washing. Two weeks washing. Mary [the help] failed to come, she had a lame back and the clothes were put a soak yesterday so had to wash them. They look very nice.” – Lydia Jane Hall

The clothesline on the farm ran from the back door to the woodshed barn in the back yard. The person hanging the wash stood on the stone steps, took clothespins from the bag hanging at the end of the line, hung the wash piece by piece, and pulled the line using a pulley so that the clothes were suspended out over the back yard.

"Washing," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

“Washing,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

By the late 1940’s, when I was a child, my grandmother had a “washing machine.” On Mondays she wheeled it from the back pantry, hooked the hose up to the kitchen sink faucet, filled the tub with clothes and soap and water, and turned it on. It wiggled and jiggled and made all kinds of noises while it agitated. This is what I begged to stay at home from school to watch. After she emptied the tub, my grandmother put the clothes through the wringer attached to the top of the tub, then hung them on the clothesline in the back yard where they billowed and flapped in the fickle Whirlwind Hill breezes.

I especially loved to watch my grandmother put the sheets and towels and clothes through the ironing mangle. This big heated and padded roller ironed linens in much less time than a regular iron. And my grandmother could sit down while using it.

As far as I know, there never was a clothes dryer on the farm. My grandmother continued to put the clothes out on the line or on a drying rack in the kitchen until she died. I think my town grandmother did the same thing. My own parents had no dryer until I was out of college. My mother hung the clothes on a circular clothesline in the back yard year round. Even when my family and I went back east during the summers to visit, and there was a dryer in a closet on the back porch, we hung our t-shirts and socks out in the sunshine. The smell of clothes dried outdoors is irresistible, and the line-dried towels had a roughness and absorbability that’s hard to find these days. Fluffy towels are one of my least favorite inventions. And don’t even get me started about “dryer sheets.”

"Clothesline," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 1986

“Clothesline,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 1986

On Wednesday:  Money and Apples

Painters in the Family

I’ve been wondering lately about the force that nudges a person onto their life path. Is it heredity? Is it serendipity? Is it a desire to be like someone they admire? It’s probably a bit of everything, but, yet, I don’t think it’s an accident that there is, in my family, a line of artist/painters descended from the Harts of Durham, Connecticut. There must be something genetic in the desire to not only observe the world but to record those observations.

My great-grandmother, Lydia Jane Hart Hall, the woman whose journals I quote frequently in this blog, introduced the Hart blood into the Hall family. The Harts were a prominent and long-time Durham family who lived for four generations in the little homestead memorialized in this picture. The Hart family will be the subject of a future post, but today I’m concentrating on Mary E. Hart and the other women in our family who admired and emulated her.

"Original Hart Homestead," Melissa Hall, copy of a painting by Mary E. Hart

“Original Hart Homestead,” Melissa Hall, copy of a painting by Mary E. Hart

I’ve written about Mary E. Hart before in “Violets,” and “Violets, An Addendum.” She lived the prime of her life during the Civil War years – she was born in 1836 and died in 1899 – but her paintings radiate peace. In her early life she’d been a teacher but later on became a prominent artist in the Durham area. She was especially famous for her depictions of violets. Her touch with paint was as delicate when she used oil as it was when she painted with watercolor.

"Pinks and Violets," Mary E. Hart, watercolor, around 1870

“Pinks and Violets,” Mary E. Hart, watercolor, around 1870

"Pansies," (detail), Mary E. Hart, oil on canvas, around 1870

“Pansies,” (detail), Mary E. Hart, oil on canvas, around 1870

Melissa Hall, my mother’s much-older cousin, was born around 1896, and exposed early on to Mary Hart’s paintings. She, like Mary, never married. In this photo from a 1904 Thanksgiving at the farm, she sits to the left of her two sisters, Alice and Gertrude.

"Melissa Hall (left), Alice Hall (top), Gertrude Hall (right front)

“Melissa Hall (left), Alice Hall (top), Gertrude Hall (right front)

Cousin Melissa made copies of many of Mary’s paintings, (the picture of the Hart Homestead is a copy made by her of a Mary Hart painting), but she had a style of her own. To the end of her life she made and sent me and other family members Christmas cards, Easter cards, birthday cards, and postcards.

Melissa's flowers565

My mother, Janet Hall Crump, began painting early, influenced not only by Mary Hart but also by her cousin Melissa. She especially loved painting the flowers she picked from her garden. Here she’s set up her pansies – maybe to be painted – next to Mary Hart’s painting.

Janet's pansies with Mary's painting

Janet’s pansies with Mary’s painting

And Janet, too, liked to make cards and decorations with her brush and paint. This must have been a place card for a dinner.

"Place Card," Janet Hall Crump

“Place Card,” Janet Hall Crump

I grew up surrounded by the paintings done by these three women. There’s no denying their influence on the path I chose. Paintings by Mary, Melissa, and Janet will surface again in my blog posts. Here’s an early still life done by my mother when she was at Boston University. Watercolor was the perfect medium for her. She was a woman who “lived in the moment,” and the immediacy of watercolor suited her perfectly.

"Still Life with Yellow Cup," Janet Hall Crump, watercolor, 1938

“Still Life with Yellow Cup,” Janet Hall Crump, watercolor, 1938

Sixty years later I did my own painting of a yellow cup.

"Morning Light," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1998

“Morning Light,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1998

I can’t resist closing with this example of how the artistic influence travels down the family tree. My daughter did this painting of flowers when she was nine years old. It made me smile today when I took it down from the wall to scan it and noticed that she had signed it Mara “Crump.”

"Flowers," Mara Bryner, acrylic, 1986

“Flowers,” Mara Bryner, acrylic, 1986

On Monday:  Washday

The Muddy River Schoolhouse

At the foot of Whirlwind Hill, where the MacKenzie reservoir now beckons ducks, geese, swans, turtles, and hopeful fishermen and women, there was once a school. In 1810 the Muddy River Schoolhouse was built in the Wallingford, Connecticut School District No. 8, and the one-room building sat on this same spot until 1932 when plans were made to dig the new reservoir.

MacKenzie Reservoir, spring, 2014

MacKenzie Reservoir, spring, 2014

For a hundred and twenty-two years this one-room school saw Wallingford schoolchildren come and go. As many as thirty students at a time from kindergarten to sixth grade spent their days in the company of one hard-working teacher, learning to read and write and cope with all the hardships and joys of wooden desks, chalkboards, and a single stove to provide heat in the winter. For at least a year my mother was one of those students. In a 1923 photo of the school, teacher, and students, she’s the sixth child from the left, her dark hair framed by the school doorway.

Muddy River Schoolhouse with teacher and students around 1923, Janet Hall sixth child from the left

Muddy River Schoolhouse with teacher and students around 1923, Janet Hall sixth child from the left

I don’t know for sure how many of my ancestors started their educations there, but in 1861 or 1862 my great-grandmother Lydia Jane Hart came over the Totoket Mountains from Durham, Connecticut to be the teacher. Because the Hall farmland was on the uphill slope above Muddy River, I imagine my great-grandparents meeting for the first time somewhere on Whirlwind Hill. William and Lydia married in 1863, ending Lydia’s career as a teacher but beginning another generation of Muddy River schoolchildren.

In a 1998 Meriden Record article about the school, my mother, Janet Hall Crump, says, “I was pretty young, but I remember the fun things like Christmas time when we would decorate and all the parents would come,” she said. “I’m so glad I had that one year. It’s a rather interesting experience when you’re in a one-room schoolhouse. I am so glad I had that experience.”

But the year at the school that my mother remembers was a short-lived one. In January 1924 my great-grandmother Lydia recorded news of Janet and school.

Friday, January 4, 1924 – “A nice bright morning. Snow gone – no more sliding until more snow and ice come. Agnes has taken the children to school. Janet is at home. She has taken a notion she doesn’t want to go any more. Her mother is going to let her stay home until Spring.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, January 14, 1924 – “Nice bright morning. Quite spring-like, tho we do not hear the birds. Children at school. Janet at home, cutting paper, etc. singing by herself.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, March 6, 1924 – “A very nice morning. Agnes taking the children to school. Janet outside with her daddy whom she likes to talk with, in the house playing with her dolls, coming with books for Grandma to read to her.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, March 19, 1924 – “Nice day – warmer, more like spring. The children have been to school. Agnes has gone to bring them home. Janet is at home this winter. Goes to school next fall. She is as quick to learn as the others. She likes her daddy and likes to be out of doors with him.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Janet Hall with doll, around 1924

Janet Hall with doll, around 1924

It must have been hard for my grandmother Agnes, who made such effort to get her children to school, dance lessons, music lessons, etc., to just let my mom stay at home for this half year. But it was such an important time for Janet. She never forgot the joy of being the “only child” for a few hours each day, of having her daddy all to herself, and of being a part of the daily farm routine. Later on, as a mother herself, she occasionally let my brother and me stay home from school when important things happened on the farm. My brother remembers being allowed to take “sick” days when heavy equipment was working nearby so he could watch the machines in action. And I often begged to stay home so I could go to the farm kitchen to watch my grandmother do the washing.

My mother did go back to school, but not to this little building at the foot of the hill. In the fall she joined her brother and sister at the school in town. She was a good student, and she graduated from Lyman Hall High School. In this high school photo I can still see the little girl who liked to follow her daddy around the farm.

Janet Hall's High School photo

Janet Hall’s High School photo

In 1932, instead of tearing the school down to make way for the dredging of the reservoir, the town of Wallingford gave it to Oscar Williams, a farmer living on nearby Williams Road. Oscar hired Fred Audisio (who was paid in eggs since Oscar Williams raised chickens) to put a chain on the building and drag it up Williams Road to his farm where it sat mostly intact until 1998. It was then donated to the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust and disassembled for storage. It was supposed to be moved and reassembled on another site, but as far as I know, that has never happened. The Muddy River Schoolhouse may still be in pieces in a barn on Williams Road. It’s another mystery for me to solve, and if I find out anything, I’ll let you know.

The earliest depiction I’ve seen of the schoolhouse is a watercolor by Mary E. Hart (or possibly a copy of her painting made by Melissa Hall) that hangs in my parents’ dining room on Whirlwind Hill. Until a few months ago I thought this was a painting of the Hart Homestead in Durham, but my brother told me its subject is the Muddy River Schoolhouse. I was amazed that I’d looked at this picture for so long without really knowing what it was. For me this discovery was like having a ghost step out of the past and say “howdy!” In the painting, done around 1860 or 1870, the school still has white clapboards. Next to the schoolhouse is the bridge over the river at the bottom of Whirlwind Hill. In the background, on the far side of Muddy River, the painter has brushed in the lush spring blooms of the Hall orchards.

"Muddy River Schoolhouse," Mary E. Hart, watercolor

“Muddy River Schoolhouse,” Mary E. Hart, watercolor

On Wednesday:  Painters in our Family


September Window

September is a bittersweet month. Summer wanes, the sun casts longer shadows, and the foliage seems to look tired as it stores energy for its fall extravaganza. Lydia refers to this time of year as the start of the melancholy days – a time for going inside.

"September Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“September Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

September 16, 1913 – “A nice cool day. Am sorry to have the melancholy days come, when all shut-ins have to be housed. ‘I love the good old summer time.’ Still getting potatoes. Ellsworth went down to Delevan Ives’ place to a corn roast. The Oyster Club.” – Lydia Jane Hall

September 28, 1914 – “A very nice cool fall day – Edgar’s [her oldest child’s] birthday, very much the same kind of a day – fifty years old – it doesn’t seem possible that so many years have flown by since then. So they go and children & grandchildren and great-grandchildren come to us – all we hope to be useful men and women.” – Lydia Jane Hall

September 26, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy gathering apples. Agnes took Lydia to school – all had a ride. Mr. Biggs [my great-grandfather] fixing the flowers, tying up the dahlias, helping Ellsworth with the apples. All busy baking, getting meals, etc. Many hands make light work! All well and happy, seemingly.” – Lydia Jane Hall

See also – April, May, June, July, August Windows

On Monday – The Muddy River Schoolhouse

Outbuildings #1 – The Silo

"Outbuildings," Carol Crump Bryner, collage, 2014

Most of the real work on the farm happened in the barn, in the fields, and in the house. But other jobs required outbuildings that were specific in purpose and sometimes hastily erected and as quickly abandoned when seasons or activities changed. Others had longer lives and a more major presence. They were spread out around the property in an almost haphazard way. A few of them I remember from childhood, but others I know only from photos.


The Silo

September 27, 1924 – “A nice month so far for gathering in the crops which have been quite plentiful. They are now filling the silos. They have put up another silo to make room for all the corn. Edith has been quite helpful in helping them to spread corn in the silo dressed in Ellsworth’s uniform. Three or four days more will finish the corn. The potatoes are good. Apples are nice. Bill [hired man] is taking the apples to Hew Haven once a week, selling them by the load.” – Lydia Jane Hall

The barn on the farm had two silos, but it’s this one I remember most vividly. In mid-summer the men filled it with corn (or maybe hay and grasses – I’m not sure what they put in it) that in a week or so started fermenting and becoming silage to feed to the cows. If you’ve never smelled silage you’re missing one of the olfactory wonders of the world. I don’t think there is anything that smells as nasty as silage, and that’s the truth.

"Silo," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

“Silo,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

On Friday – September Window