Carroll Farm Museum is ripe for a fall harvest

UP FRONT

October 05, 1995|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,SUN STAFF

There is a harmony In Autumn, and a lustre in its sky, Which thro' the Summer is not heard or seen.

$ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Autumn in Maryland stirs the impulse to get out there, a restlessness likely sprung from rural roots. Not so many generations ago, this season called our ancestors urgently to the fields -- to get in the crops, to stock up for the coming of harsher days.

But autumn also has a celebratory air, a crisp sense of survival, accomplishment and appreciation of nature's grace. No wonder, then, that fall in Maryland brings forth a rich crop of events -- such as the annual Fall Harvest Days being held this weekend at the Carroll County Farm Museum.

"Once you're here, you're hooked. It's like a family; you've found a quiet place here," says Dottie Freeman, administrator of the 130-acre Westminster museum complex, whose first organized event in 1966 was the first Fall Harvest Days celebration.

"We are here so that we can keep alive the rural roots of Carroll County to educate the young to how it used to be," says Ms. Freeman.

Harvest Days can bring 15,000 visitors to the museum, which aims to re-create the atmosphere of a 19th-century farm, just west of downtown Westminster.

Visitors will notice traditional but probably unfamiliar aromas, from boiling apple butter to the metallic whiff of hot steel from a blacksmith's forge.

They may partake of a variety of homemade foods, including fresh-baked breads, newly harvested fruits and vegetables, pit beef, country sausage, apple dumplings and candy.

They can browse among more than 60 craft dealers, offering wood carvings, iron works, pottery and other hand-wrought items. Country music will be performed throughout the day.

Youngsters can participate in a Pedal Pull contest on toy tractors and stuff their own scarecrows to take home (the $8 cost includes clothes, straw, eyes, nose and mouth, plus instruction).

Area farmers are also invited to participate in a Heaviest Pumpkin Contest, to be judged beginning at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the stage area. The big gourds must be entered at the museum no later than 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Ms. Freeman, a Carroll County native who grew up on farmland not far from the museum site and has been on the staff for 10 years, says urban children can learn surprising things.

"We're here to show that milk comes from cows and eggs from chickens. You'd be surprised at the number of children who come here and don't know that," she says.

Many youngsters will never have seen a mailbox on a post, either, she says, noting that Carroll County was the first Rural Free Delivery area designated by the U.S. Postal Service, in 1899.

The Mason/Dixon Historical Society also plans demonstrations of steam-powered farm equipment, such as wood saws and threshing machines, to show how chores were accomplished before gasoline power.

A staff of 10 employees and more than 200 volunteers work to produce the Harvest Days event, says Ms. Freeman, and some have been involved since that 1966 beginning.

"There are two of us in the quilting group who are going on 30 years next year," says Anna Leister, 79, of Westminster. She names neighbor Anna Rae Hunter as the other original demonstrator of the traditional art.

The two make up one-half of the Farm Museum's quilting demonstration team from the Hillsdale Homemakers Club. Together, they usually produce three quilts over the course of a summer in weekend demonstrations. Other members are Nancy Ogletree and Sarah Zentgraf.

What is the appeal of quilting?

"Just doing it. It's just relaxing," says Mrs. Leister. And she adds that curiosity about the stitchery art is about equally distributed between kids and adults.

The Farm Museum honored its volunteers at an awards brunch '' last week.

Ms. Freeman, who says that her grandchildren living in New Jersey know a visit to Maryland means a farm outing, says many visitors are surprised to learn the history of the Farm Museum.

As late as 1965, she notes, it was the Carroll County Almshouse -- "the poor house." Since 1852, indigent people had lived at the farm and worked its fields.

When it closed, she says, just six residents still occupied the property, and they were accommodated in other facilities. She credits the late Landon Burns, an extension agent, with leading the drive to convert the Almshouse into a farm museum.

"Unfortunately, he did not live to see its opening," she says. However, his name is remembered in a Westminster recreational facility, Landon Burns Park.

"We're very happy that the museum has progressed and grown to become one of the most-visited museums in the eastern United States."

Fall Harvest Days

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 Center St., Westminster

Admission: $4 adults; $2 children 7-18 and seniors 60 and over; under 6 free

$ Call: (410) 848-7775

Apples,honey and other festivals

Here are details on some other fall festivals in the Baltimore region and beyond that are coming up this weekend and next week.

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