The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 25, 2013

Kids experience Pennsylvania life in the 1800s

The butter was churned, the candles dipped and the cider pressed.

In a modern world, these tasks would seem tiresome if done often. But at the annual Harvest Festival Sunday at Old Dry Road Farm in Lower Heidelberg Township, they served as a way for children to catch a glimpse into the life of a hardworking farm family in the 1800s.

Kathryn Klein, 11, of Lower Heidelberg Township sat on the leaf-littered grass and waited for a chance to use the "schnitzelbank," a tool used by the Pennsylvania Dutch to carve furniture parts.

Her eyes followed the slow and deliberate movements of the novice craftsman before her.

"I think it's cool to see what it'd be like to live in those times," she said. "Two hundred years ago you couldn't go home and play video games. You had to do really hard work."

The Old Dry Road Farm complex sits on 200 acres and comprises three farms; two date to the 1700s, one to the 1800s.

So while what goes on at the festival is all in good fun, the autumn-themed activities are a representation of the elbow grease that went into early Pennsylvanian life.

Carol Gardecki, secretary of the Old Dry Road Farm board of directors, spent six hours over a bubbling kettle of chicken and corn noodle soup the day of the event.

She said the time-consuming nature of much of what goes on at the festival is a fun way for children to witness a good work ethic.

"Nothing was easy," she said. "You didn't just turn on the gas flame and there it is."

At 19 years old, Zachary Long knows that nothing in the bygone days of America's settlers was instant.

He's a historian at the Daniel Boone Homestead and was invited to come to the festival to teach attendees how to churn butter. It takes four hours and an arm-numbing cranking motion to make about a half-gallon of butter.

"When kids see this, they can see that living back then wasn't a fairy tale; it wasn't Cinderella," he said as he ushered a few curious people into a small white farmhouse.

Roy Degler Jr., 21, of Sinking Spring has learned a similar lesson after six years of grinding and pressing apples for the fresh cider that's sold at the festival.

"I wouldn't want to do this for a living," he said, laughing. "At the end of the day it's nice to sit down."

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