Monday, October 27, 2014

Plimoth Plantation

On our last day in the Boston area Vicki and I decided to visit the Plimoth Plantation just south of Boston.  Christopher caught a whiff of something possibly educational and opted to stay in the motorhome playing computer games.  Plymouth sits about 40 miles south of Boston and is, of course, the site where the Massachusetts pilgrims (who never called themselves pilgrims) first set up shop in "the New World".  The name "Plimoth Plantation" reflects the fact that in the 17th century, spelling was a much less exacting enterprise than it is today. 
Plimoth Plantation English village
We had been to Plymouth in 2005 and visited Plymouth Rock (singularly unimpressive) and the Mayflower II at that time but had not gone to the Plantation exhibit, so we wanted to correct that omission.  It is apparently quite crowded in the summer but with Labor Day fading from view in the rear view mirror, it was a pretty sparse collection of tourists that we had to contend with on the day we went.

Wampanaug summer house
Plimoth Plantation is another historical re-enactment site that is divided into two sections.  The first is a native American village and the second is a reconstruction of the colonial town of Plimoth (or Plymouth or Plemuth or whatever).  The town is suppose to represent a specific year (1627) but only has about a quarter as many buildings as the real Playmeth would have had at that time.

The Indian village represents the Wampanaug tribe that met the colonists on their arrival.  The villagers can actually come from any tribe in America and are not "in character", i.e. not pretending to be from 1627.   The most informative "Wampanaug" we talked to was actually from North Dakota and was tooling around the village in an electric wheelchair.  The handful of structures represent Wampanaug summer and winter homes and the inhabitants demonstrate Wampanaug life, regardless of what tribe or part of the country they actually hail from.  The day we were there everyone was busily splitting reeds so they could be dried out for basket making, which was primarily a winter activity.  A few of the women were roasting quail on a stick.  They looked good but we weren't offered any.
Helpful native in electric wheelchair
Kitchen detail
Quail on a stick
Plantation family at supper
In the English village the inhabitants were "in character", not just representing generic colonists but specific colonists.  Each one was playing an historical person who they had to research and learn that individual's history and family and whatnot.  They would tell you how old they were and why they left England and what their job was in the colony.  And they stay in character no matter what you say.  When we said we were from California the response was "Ah yes, the Island o' California.  I've 'eard o' that there.  Good Sir Francis Drake visited there on 'is trip 'round th' world."

The project of the day was the making of charcoal, which was used primarily by the blacksmith.  After all... "sure and there be plenty o' trees about.  You wouldn't go t'  all the trouble o' makin' charcoal just to warm yer 'ouse or cook yer food."  But to work iron you needed something that burned hotter.  They explained the process of charcoal making, but all there was to look at was a big pile of smoking dirt.  So here is a smoking dirt picture for you.
Charcoal maker with smokey dirt pile
Historic colonial era water barrel

Ye olde grist mill
Part of your entrance price for the Plumyth Plantation tour included a visit to their old grist mill which was located a couple of miles away in Plymouth proper because it had to be on the river to run the water wheel.  This was where Indian maize, the colony's main food crop  was ground between two huge round stones into grist.  The stones had grooves cut into them where the grist could collect and gradually be pushed to the outside edge of the wheels.  The finest grist was separated out as corn meal which was used like flour to make bread and cakes.  Coarser  ground corn was cooked into grits, the corny Malt'O'Meal stuff southerners love for breakfast.  How the words "grist" and "grits" came to refer to different versions of the same stuff was not really spelled out.  The mill was not actually running the day we were there but you could see the gear mechanism and the mill wheels and a video showed what it looked like in operation.

As we left the mill to head home, an Osprey flew up and landed in a tree across the street.  So I went to the car and got my long lens out to take a few pictures.  Oh look, here's one now.
Ye olde colonial osprey

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