Monthly Archives: March 2015

A View of the Farm

The Barnyard cropped

I worried off and on this year that I was spending too much time in the past with my long ago relatives. But now that I’m stepping away from it for a while I feel even closer to the farm on Whirlwind Hill and to all the ghosts that kept me company while I wrote, painted, and researched.

Distance, as painters know, can make a painting come together. When you step back to take a look at what you’ve done, all those individual brush strokes suddenly coalesce and the image takes on its own life. What you thought were many little pieces become a complete view.

But there are many different views of the farm on Whirlwind Hill. I’ve written about happy times, good memories, tragedies, and successes. I’ve deliberately left out family quarrels, hard feelings, crop failures, and the stormy times that are an integral part of a long family history. I prefer a more cheerful slant, and chose the moments that worked to carry history into the present and give it an encouraging future.

Because this is my last regular post I’ll close with some painted views of the farm. The farm lives on for me as a feeling – a feeling and a memory of a place that embraced me and still connects me and my brother and cousins to the ancestors who loved and sheltered and protected us.  I send out a huge thanks to all of you who followed my musings and encouraged me this year. I’ve enjoyed every minute of this project and every chance I’ve had to learn more about my readers.

Here is the painting of the farm by Mary E. Hart that hung in the farmhouse parlor. It was probably done around 1860-1870.

Oil painting of the Hall farm done by Mary E. Hart around 1860 as it hung in the farmhouse parlor in 1932.

Oil painting of the Hall farm done by Mary E. Hart around 1860 as it hung in the farmhouse parlor in 1932.

A hundred years later, my mother, Janet Hall Crump, made a copy of Mary’s painting and passed the copy on to me.

"The Hall Farm," Janet Hall Crump, oil on canvas board, around 1960, after a painting by Mary E. Hart

“The Hall Farm,” Janet Hall Crump, oil on canvas board, around 1960, after a painting by Mary E. Hart

She – my mother – was my touchstone for farm memories and the source of endless stories about the family. She gave me not only her love for her childhood home, but also her sense of humor and her appreciation of painting and art. Thanks Mom!

Carol and Janet Crump on Whirlwind Hill, 1947

Carol and Janet Crump on Whirlwind Hill, 1947

In 1998, for my brother Kirt’s birthday, I made him a copy of my mother’s copy of Mary E. Hart’s painting. It always pleases me that the Hall barns were once painted yellow and the house and picket fence a classic white.

"The Hall Farm," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1998, after a painting by Janet Hall Crump

“The Hall Farm,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1998, after a painting by Janet Hall Crump

In 1985 I painted my own view of the farm, as I knew it during my childhood when the house had brown shingles and the barn had two silos. Because this is a monoprint, the image is backwards, but no less real to me.

"A View of the Farm," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint, 1985

“A View of the Farm,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint, 1985

In the end it doesn’t matter which is the “true” memory or the “real” view, because when I’m on Whirlwind Hill, I’m always home.


Spring Cleaning

Spring washing on Whirlwind Hill

Spring washing on Whirlwind Hill

As spring nudges me with warm breezes and birdsong I feel the urge to clean my own nest. And when the cold of the New England winter abated, my ancestors set about refreshing the rooms of the farmhouse.

My great-grandmother Lydia opened doors, pushed up windows, brought furniture, rugs, and carpets out onto the sidewalks to air. With her broom she swept away the dust and shadows of a long winter. She aired out the quilts and bedding and washed all the curtains. My grandfather whitewashed the kitchen and called on the paperhanger to brighten the chambers. What a good feeling it must have been after months of smoky stove, fireplace, and furnace fires to let the sunshine and fresh air flow through the old house.

Wednesday, March 13, 1912 – “Cloudy and rainy. The meadows full of water. The water rushing down the gutter. Ellsworth and Pauline [hired girl] cleaned the kitchen attic. Looks fine. A good work done, which is very pleasing to me.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, April 24, 1912 – “Pauline cleaning and righting the front chamber and Ellen’s room. I washed and ironed the front chamber curtains. The rooms look very nice.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, May 1, 1912 – “A nice clear day from morning until night. Done lots of work. Pauline cleaned two rooms upstairs. Her room and Ellsworth’s, and the back hall. Looks fine.” – Lydia Jane Hall

It’s a time of transition, this spring-cleaning time. When I used to have shows of my paintings every year or two, I always cleaned my studio and organized my supplies after the show was hung and the opening over. Cleaning and organizing helped me get started again. It opened a space for whatever new images, projects, and ideas came along.

Next Monday, March 30, will be my last regular entry for “On Whirlwind Hill.” In my first post last year on April 7, I said I would write my stories for a year. The year has passed and I’m ready to let some new ideas visit me. I do have unfinished business on Whirlwind Hill. I haven’t read all the journals and letters yet, I haven’t climbed the Three Notches, and I still haven’t found out why this lovely neighborhood was named Whirlwind Hill. The blog will stay up indefinitely, and I may add a post from time to time. If you’re a subscriber, an email will let you know if I’ve added something. And comments will still reach me. I’ve loved connecting with all of you who have read and commented and shared stories.

"Spring Cleaning," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and gouache, 2015

“Spring Cleaning,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and gouache, 2015

On Monday: A View of the Farm

Lydia Jane’s Birthday



My great-grandmother, Lydia Jane Hart Hall, was born in the Hart family homestead in Durham, Connecticut on March 22, 1841.

"The Original Hart Home," Mary E. Hart, oil on canvas, reproduced in black and white

“The Original Hart Home,” Mary E. Hart, oil on canvas, reproduced in black and white

Lydia has kept me company for the past few years as I immersed myself in her journals and in other stories about the farm on Whirlwind Hill. I have come to admire and love Lydia’s perceptive and quiet way of observing the world around her. To celebrate her birthday I’ll let the elegance of her own words speak for her.

The first piece is a 1912 letter she wrote to her mother, Lydia Reed Hart, who was unable to be with her daughter on her birthday. The second is her diary entry from her eightieth birthday on March 22, 1921.

When I refer to her in “On Whirlwind Hill,” I call her Lydia, but those closest to her called her Jane.

Lydia Jane Hart Hall with her first grandson, William Cannon, 1897

Lydia Jane Hart Hall with her first grandson, William Cannon, 1897

March 22, 1912

My dear Mother,

The twenty-second day of March, and you well know what happened seventy-one years ago. I think the blue birds are not singing as much this morning as Father said they were then. These years that have passed –  many seem short to both of us to look back, but long to look ahead.

The years of my childhood, the years spent with you and father, John and Walter, in the old home, are very very peasant to recall. Your tender watchful care, and all the years of my married life when we could have your presence with us, the many times your loving fingers have helped me over rough places. All these things and more than tongue can tell leads my heart to go out to you with much love and affection. I hope you are feeling well. I wanted to come and see you today, but couldn’t…

When it comes a little warmer and the traveling gets better, I am in hopes to come over and spend a night with you. Hope you will keep well and be careful not to fall. Keep warm. Hope you may not have any cold…

William joins with me in love to you. Also Ellsworth.

Your loving daughter,


March 22, 1921 – “Not quite as warm this morn. Bluebirds and robins singing. Spring is really here. The yards are looking green. This is my birthday. Eighty years have passed with its joys and sorrows. I have loved my home and my friends. My family with my husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are very near and dear to me. May God bless them and keep them.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Happy Birthday Lydia Jane!

"Bluebirds for Lydia Jane," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and gouache, 2015

“Bluebirds for Lydia Jane,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and gouache, 2015

On Wednesday:  Spring Cleaning

Easter Cards for Agnes

Last November I shared some of the birthday cards sent to my grandmother Agnes Hall by her childhood Sunday school teacher. There was some discussion at the time about his motivation in painting and sending Agnes these cards over many years.

But that was the era when post cards, greeting cards, and hand-painted scenes were a form of entertainment both for the person making the object and for the recipient. It was a time when Beatrix Potter was painting the pictures we’re so familiar with today.

Maybe Mr. Hulbert knew that my grandmother would save the cards he made, and that someday they’d influence others in the family to communicate using pen, pencil, paint, and brush.

Here are two of Agnes’ Easter cards. One of them is made like a little book, so I’ll post each page separately. I’m especially fond of the page with the hepatica and the singing bird. My mother and I went each spring onto the mountainside near the reservoir to search for the spring hepatica. They were hard to spot under the brown leaves and twigs, but their purple-blue petals were a joy to find. I now have a sharp-lobed hepatica growing in my garden in Alaska, and it reminds me of those spring searches with my mother.

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1900

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1900

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 1

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 1

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 2

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 2

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 3

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 3

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 4

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 4

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 5

Easter Card, J. O. Hulbert, 1902, page 5

On Monday:  Lydia Jane’s Birthday

Games and Grandparents

When my cousin Sue and I played dress-up in the old clothes from our Grandma Crump’s trunk, we might have been practicing for our first prom. We put on the too-big dresses, the “clip-clop” shoes (Sue’s words for the high heels), the bright red lipstick, and the outdated hats. We thought we looked like princesses, or maybe like the unidentified Civil War era relative in this photo.

An unidentified relative in a Civil War era dress.

An unidentified relative in a Civil War era dress.

Instead, we looked like this – waif-like, but so cheerful with our illusions of glamour.

Sue Collins and Carol Crump around 1952

Sue Collins and Carol Crump around 1952

My grandparents rarely involved themselves in our play, but they kept a few toys and books around and they themselves seemed to be always nearby.

At my Crump grandparents’ house the toys and books were on a shelf in the living room below the staircase along with the movie projector and their travel souvenirs. I remember the “Higgly Piggly” board game, a blue plastic ball with bells inside, and books like “The Fly-Away Hat” and “Fluffy and Tuffy.”

The cover of "Fluffy and Tuffy"

The cover of “Fluffy and Tuffy”

Most of the play on the farm happened outside. Both my grandparents were busy all day with farm and housework, but they were a constant and comforting presence. My grandmother could often be persuaded to play a hand of setback or a round of croquet, but on rainy days we resorted to our imaginations. We played games of hide and seek, hide the button, and “school.” I remember only one toy in the house, and that was a set of lead battleships and soldiers that we spread out on the living room floor. Another rainy day activity was looking at the World War I photos that came with the 1920 stereoscope. When looked at through the viewer, the two pictures on the card became a vivid three-dimensional image. It felt like we were right there, in the midst of the destruction.

These days I try to keep my grandchildren away from violent images. But my brother and cousins and I looked with fascination at these scary pictures. I even hesitate to post the sights we stared at – the dead soldiers, the skeletons hanging over barbed wire, the decomposing horses, the devastated landscape. This picture of a bombed cathedral is mild compared to most of the one hundred depictions that we looked at on a regular basis.

"The World Renowned Cathedral of Reims, France, Ruined by the Huns"

“The World Renowned Cathedral of Reims, France, Ruined by the Huns”

My own grandsons like me to play games WITH them – to get down on the floor and make Lego sheep, play Dino Checkers, and move Fisher-Price people around.

"Village People," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2013

“Village People,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and colored pencil, 2013

But one day recently, when they were visiting on a rainy afternoon, my daughter’s two boys had a long adventure using four of my old shoulder bags, a handful of coins, some painted Styrofoam balls that we duct-taped onto the straps of the purses, and various treasures they “bought” from me to take on their journey. They played on their own, but checked in every so often to tell me about what they were doing. I wasn’t being a playmate, or a teacher, or really even a babysitter, but, as my own grandparents had been for me, a reliable and comforting presence – a touchstone of reality in the world of make-believe. It’s one of the best jobs I know.

Henry and Aubrey Kennedy at the start of an adventure.

Henry and Aubrey Kennedy at the start of an adventure.

On Wednesday:  Easter Cards for Agnes

The Barnyard

At dawn and dusk the Whirlwind Hill cows passed through the barnyard. All the food they ate during the day went into making the milk and the other products that they left behind before they went out to pasture again. My grandfather and uncles gathered up those “other products,” put them into the manure spreader, and carted them to the fields to feed the crops. “Waste not, want not” was what farm life was all about.

The door into the cow barn faced east. I like to think of my ancestors greeted by the rising sun as they left the barn in the morning to go back to the farmhouse for their coffee and breakfast and by the westward sunset in the evening as they crossed Whirlwind Hill Road to join the family in the warmth of the kitchen for supper.

"The Barnyard," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2015

“The Barnyard,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2015

On Monday:  Games and Grandparents


My grandmother, Agnes Biggs Hall, could cook anything. She fed people day in and day out using her two stoves in the farmhouse kitchen. She baked bread, pies, and cookies, roasted chickens and beef, fried donuts and bacon, boiled potatoes and sweet corn, churned butter, pasteurized milk, put up pickles and peaches, and saved scraps to feed the pigs, dogs, and cats.

No wonder she loved going out to eat. She had a surprisingly adventurous palate. The first avocado I ever saw was one she was eating at her kitchen table, scooping the flesh from a half of the black-skinned orb and telling me how delicious it was. She probably would have cooked more adventurously had my grandfather’s taste in food not run to the bland side. His favorite supper was something he called “spaghetti soup” – un-drained spaghetti with watery tomato sauce and buttered white bread. So going to a restaurant was often the only way my grandmother got to try new things.

She was an enthusiastic forager. When spring came, she cut dandelion greens, boiled them, and served them with butter and vinegar. Finding edible mushrooms was not a problem for her. She went into the yard, looked for the rings of what I think were probably “Fairy Ring Mushrooms.” Unafraid of being wrong, she cut them efficiently with her sharp knife, gathered them in her apron, and took them inside to cook with onions and butter.

And she loved to go fishing and clamming. Her clam chowder was delicious. She made it with a light milky broth and served it with a little pat of butter and a sprinkling of oyster crackers.

When I got married, she gave me an old cookbook called “The Improved Housewife,” published in 1847 and written by “A Married Lady.”

"The Improved Housewife"

“The Improved Housewife”

I don’t know if the cookbook came from the farm or was something she brought with her when she married. The recipes (my grandmother always called them “receipts,” just as it’s spelled on the title page of the cookbook) are both practical and brief. Here are a few that might have helped her cook her harvests.


# 444 – Greens

Turnip tops, white mustard, dock, spinach, water-cresses, dandelion, cabbage plants, the roots and tops of beets, all make nice greens. Boil them, adding a little salaeratus and salt to the water. If not fresh and plump, soak them half an hour in salt and water before cooking. When boiled enough, they will sink to the bottom of the pot.

"Dandelion Greens, " Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2015

“Dandelion Greens, ” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2015


# 459 – Stewed Mushrooms

Gather such as are grown, but are young enough to have red gills; cut off that part of the stem which grew in the earth, wash them carefully, and take the skin from the top; put them in a stew pan with some salt, stew them till tender, thickening them with a spoonful of butter, mixed with one of brown flour. A little red wine may be added, but the flavor of the mushroom is too delicious to require any thing.

"Mushrooms," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2015

“Mushrooms,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2015


#758 – Clams and Crabs

Cut the hinge of the clam-shell with a thin sharp-pointed knife. Roast, take out, chop fine, season, then replace them in the one half their shell with a paste cover, and bake. Very nice. So are crabs. Serve them hot.

Agnes Biggs Hall digging for clams

Agnes Biggs Hall digging for clams

And in case you were wondering how to cure your Erysipelas (or maybe your indigestion from eating the clams or crabs) here’s what the “Married Lady” advises.


#562 – For the Erysipelas

Take three ounces of sarsaparilla root, two of burdock root, three of the bark of sweet ozier, two of cumfrey root, two of the bark of the root of bittersweet, three of princes pine, two of black alder bark, and two handfuls of low mallow leaves, and put it all in four quarts of pure, soft water; steep half away; strain it; add half a pint of molasses, and four ounces of good figs, and boil the mixture ten or fifteen minutes. Strain it again. When cold add one pint of gin. Take a wineglass three times a day.

On Wednesday:  The Barnyard


"Pen," Carol Crump Bryner, colored pencil, 2015

“Pen,” Carol Crump Bryner, colored pencil, 2015

Among the Whirlwind Hill documents my mother treasured were a dozen or so letters written between 1812 and 1815 to my great-great-grandfather Salmon Hall. Until recently I assumed these letters to be written by his brother Aaron Chauncey Hall. All the signatures on the letters were either A. C. Hall, or A. Hall.

A. C. Hall signature

A. C. Hall signature

But just last week I discovered upon closer reading, that many of these old letters were written by my great-great-uncle, Asahel Hall, son of Aaron Hall Esq., older brother of Salmon Hall, and younger brother of Aaron Chauncey Hall. His signature is different than Aaron’s and the letters he wrote more detailed and informal. I was happy to be able to finally connect this Asahel to the Dr. Asahel Hall lauded in an obituary that my mother kept with these letters.

Dr. Asahel Hall signature

Dr. Asahel Hall signature

Asahel grew up on the farm, became a doctor, and during the war of 1812, when he was just twenty years old, became a surgeon’s mate at Fort Griswold in New London, Connecticut. (I wonder what this says about the medical profession in those days, that a twenty-year old could become a doctor?) Later in his life he settled in Poughkeepsie, NY, where he practiced medicine, married, and had four children. One of his sons, Henry Clay Hall, was a long-serving United States diplomat to Mexico, Cuba, and Central America, and was consul-general in Matanzas and Havana, Cuba. Abraham Lincoln signed Henry’s appointment as vice-consul general of Matanzas.

Asahel’s letters home to his brother from his post at Fort Griswold are affectionate and personal. He often laments the fact that he hasn’t heard from his four brothers and six sisters, and wishes he could come home to see them.

“Dear Brother, The mail has come in & nought [sic] do I hear from you & why? Are you too busy to give me a line, or your mind & attention given to the fair daughters? If the latter be the case, I will not presume but admonish you to relax a little and give me a word or two to revive a flagging spirit.” – Asahel Hall, in a letter to his brother Salmon from Fort Griswold, Connecticut, May 20, 1814

He also spends time thinking about women.

“Dear Brother, I am comfortably seated by a good fire in a warm room, although it is devilish cold without & in fact it has been so cold for a number of days, I have hardly made the daring attempt to call on the fair ones. Just after my return, I attended two parties & my favorite lady was there. She almost tempted me to sin. Her glistening arms & ruddy cheeks – her fine fair form & lips so sweet, would almost raise the devil with any fellow.” – Asahel Hall, in a letter to his brother Salmon from Fort Griswold, Connecticut, February 1, 1814

And he gives Salmon advice on planning for the future.

“I had some conversations with Father, about you & business. He said he had not mentioned to you anything about living with him the ensuing year, but was of the opinion it would be best for both for you to tarry another year, as in the course of that time the prospects of affairs might change, & some good opportunity arise for you. He said he would give you so much per month or give you a proportional part of the products of his land, etc. etc. Under all circumstances I could but believe an agreement in one or the other of those points, would be better than entering into any other business.” – Asahel Hall, in a letter to his brother Salmon from Fort Griswold, Connecticut, February 1, 1814

Salmon took his brother’s advice, and so the Hall farm was passed down for generations to enjoy.

Letters sustained me for much of my life. I became homesick easily, and newsy letters arriving at camp, college, summer jobs, and my eventual exile in the far west were always welcome. Both of my grandmothers and my mother regularly wrote me news of all sorts. In this letter sent to me at camp in 1958, my grandmother reports on all of my Hall first cousins except Dean, who hadn’t yet been born.

Grandma Hall's letter to me at Silver Lake Camp, front page, summer, 1958

Grandma Hall’s letter to me at Silver Lake Camp, Front page, summer 1958

Grandma Hall's letter to me at Silver Lake Camp, back page, summer 1958

Grandma Hall’s letter to me at Silver Lake Camp, back page, summer 1958

During my teenage years I corresponded with a pen pal, Merle. She and I wrote letters back and forth from her home in England to my little red house in Wallingford, Connecticut. We talked about lipstick, nail polish, new dresses, our parents, our siblings, our pets, and boys.

I never met Merle, but felt I knew her through the details she sent to me about her everyday life. And now I’m gradually starting to get acquainted with my distant and sometimes mysterious forefathers and mothers. Although their lives and times were different from mine, we shared a similar desire to stay connected, to send and receive news, and to give advice. Maybe the ancestors didn’t talk about lipstick and perfume as I did with Merle, and I certainly never advised anyone to take Calomel the way one brother advised another, but we enjoyed the process of writing a letter – of putting pen to paper and using words to bring another person closer to us and to let them know we care.

A letter from Asahel to Salmon

A letter from Asahel to Salmon

On Monday:  Foraging

March Window

The month that “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” brings with it the first signs of spring. Color creeps back into the landscape, the birdsong can be heard again, and the winds blow away the dark clouds of a long winter.

This is the twelfth and last of my monthly “Windows.” Being able to share these monoprints and the words of my great-grandmother Lydia Jane Hall with all of you readers has been one of my favorite parts of creating this blog. Her words continue to inspire my painting, my writing, and my day-to-day life, and, like her, I welcome the spring that’s coming and the “good old summertime” that isn’t far behind.

"March Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“March Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

Saturday, March 2, 1912 – “March coming in like a lion. Hope it will soon be lamb like.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Tuesday, March 31, 1913 – “A beautiful early morning. The high winds of old March are howling now and hope they will cease soon as this is the last day.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, March 10, 1921 – “A nice day after the shower. The grass is beginning to look green where the snow lays. The children are well and happy out in the open. Their colds do not trouble much, only the use of handkerchiefs.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Tuesday, March 4, 1924 – “A beautiful day. A bright sunshine all day. The snow has certainly gone today, or we can see it is letting go. There is enough left yet. The water has been running off the hills all day. The boulevard covered – the streams are full. Soon the traveling will be good. The green grass will take the place of snow. The birds will come back to build their nests among the green leaves and sing their songs, and they will be welcomed by us all.” – Lydia Jane Hall

See also: April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February Windows.

On Wednesday:  Letters