Friday, July 31, 2009

Field Trip - Heritage Gardens, Belvidere, Illinois

Today we're going on a garden tour field trip at the Heritage Gardens in Belvidere. These gardens are part of the Boone County Conservation District and they're a great example of bringing history alive. We're going to have some fun and hopefully learn something new.

My sister works in the gardens and she will be interpreting one of the five heritage gardens for us.

The gardens were started in 1983 as an integral part of an education program instituted by the conservation district. The decision was made to showcase the history of European settlement in this area by recreating their gardens. The gardens represent the population that lived in this northern Illinois area in the early 1800's.

My favorite is the Potawatomi garden which represents the native people who lived in the area when settlers first began arriving. The other four major ethnic groups include German, Norwegian, Scottish and Yankee.

The staff researched and planted heirloom varieties that would have been authentic for each group. Only open pollinated heirloom varieties are included. It's like an open air growing, green museum!

Let's get started because we've got lots of ground to cover. I hope you brought some comfortable shoes.

There are several nice gardens near the administration building but we're going to concentrate on the ethnic gardens today.

There's a nice pathway leading to the first garden. Just to the right of the pathway we find the German garden.

The German garden reflects the sensibilities of the early German settlers. They put all the space around their homes to use growing useful plants. Some of the varieties grown are: “Old German tomato”, Yellow Hinkelhatz Hot Pepper, Forellenschuloss Lettuce, Huberschmidt ground cherry, French breakfast radish, Early blood turnip beet, Black turtle soup bean, Purple and white kohlrabi, West Indian gherkin cucumber, Mangle Wertzel beet, Virginia smoking tobacco.

A little ways down the pathway is the Murray cabin, a mid-1800's typical woodlands cabin. It was necessary to protect yourself from the northern Illinois elements, windy, hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. There were plenty of vermin to deal with and it was generally unpleasant.

Although the interior looks pleasant, I cannot imagine living with an entire family in a space smaller than my bedroom. The interior walls are calcimined in an attempt to reflect light and create a cheery interior. This would have been a typical cabin inhabited by a Scottish immigrant family.

Behind the Murray cabin is the Scottish garden. The Heritage Gardens are lucky to have the Walker Shortbread company as a sponsor of this garden.

One of the interpreters tends to the garden.

Have you ever seen a wattle fence? Here's a good example.

Immigrants were forced to used what they had on hand. A wattle fence is constructed using tall sticks, bound together. It was necessary to protect their gardens from animals, pests and weather. Losing a crop could mean starvation.

Let's continue along the path to the Norwegian garden.

There were many Norwegians who settled in northern Illinois. They tended to locate their gardens a distance from their house and grew lots of root vegetables, which stored well.

The Yankee Garden was copied from an actual plan published in the 1855 Wisconsin-Iowa Farmer by Mr. Powell of Janesville, Wisconsin. The Yankees were more experimental than the immigrants, who tended to hold on to their old world ways.

I loved the white fence with the corn planted behind.

The next garden is my favorite, the Potawatomi Garden. This is an example of the garden used by the native woodlands tribes. Central to these gardens were the three sisters - Corn, beans and squash. The corn would be planted first and allowed to take hold. The beans would be planted and the established corn plants would serve as bean poles. The squash would be planted last and would spread their prickly vines along the garden floor, discouraging animals from raiding the garden.

Scientific studies have proven that a diet of the three sisters is sufficient to provide all the amino acids required for a healthy life.

The immigrants occasionally married a native and the resulting people were called mete'. Here's my sister Pam. I suppose we could be considered mete', since our great-grandmother (a Seminole) married a white man in the early 1900's.

She's incredibly talented. She made this skirt with it's traditional ribbonwork border. (This is not the clothing of our grandmother's tribe, but reflects the woodlands tribes). Oh, she made the mocassins also.

Here are handcrafted gardening tools.

In the summertime the Potawatomi would live in an open aired structure but in the winter they would live in a wigwam like this one. It would be covered with mats or hides.

This is a Potawatomi drying rack. Food was dried and preserved for later use.

The Indians grew tobacco, which was grown in a circle and considered sacred. They believed that the rising smoke carried one's prayers to the Great Spirit. It was used for religious and other special purposes. This is Nicotiana rustica, which once grew wild in the midwest.

These are beans grown by the Indians known as Black Coat beans, named after Catholic priests traveling with the French.

Pam holds a string of dried pumpkin slices.

These were added to soups or stews, absorb the liquid and thicken the mixture.

Fire pit inside the wigwam area.

Pam demonstrates finger weaving a new sash for her period clothing.

She's making progress.

Thanks so much for joining me on this walk through Boone County's Conservation District Heritage Gardens.

My sister publishes a blog chronicling the year-round progress of the gardens.

A Year in the Heritage Gardens.

If you're interested in reading a book about the Norwegian immigrant experience I recommend:

Giants in the Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag

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Thanks to my sister Pam, I'll be giving away the Three Sisters. Included is one package of Black Turtle Beans, one Mesquakie Dent Corn and a Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin. Also, courtesy of Walker Shortbread you'll be receiving a small package of their authentic shortbread.

You know the drill. Leave me a comment before 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 2nd. The winner will be announced at Monday Morning's Staff Meeting.

Good luck.

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Further resources:



Anonymous said...

Suzanne, this was a fun trip!! Thank you for opening the door to your adventures and life.

My husband and I garden and love seeing other people's gardens. I loved the photo of the gardening tools made out of deer antlers...I cna't imagine using them, but they sure were neat to see.

I just put up beans from the garden and made cantaloupe sorbet from an abundance of our cantaloupes. I wish I could share them with you. I bet you'd find something amazing to do with them.

Have a great day!

Susan Z Acworth, GA

LydaBabes Going Ons!!!! said...

What a neat trip....and so lucky to have your sister Pam there to help. This year we have a cat liter garden. All our veggies have lived in Cat liter buckets. We planted polebeans in them and have a stake in the middle with twine to have them grow up. It works great....Our Cukes, tomatoes, zukes all grown this way. Even used cement blocks to grow things. We had a bounty this year. Ground here is nothing but clay and rocks....but the weeds grow great.......
Love the trip.....thanks,

Ang. said...

Thanks for the trip! We have started to plant more and more heritage vegetables in our garden. This was fascinating. I am surprised that there was no Swedish garden. There are a lot of Swedes in that area, too. Again, thanks for taking us along! Love it!

gene said...

Wonderful trip, I loved it and want to win the seeds so I can plant them in my garden next spring. The dried squash rings are a great idea. I will read your sister's blog and the Norwegian one as well, as my husband's family came from Norway. Thanks again,

chocolatechic said...

This is one of the neatest blog posts you have done.

I love history, and to see it come alive fascinates me to no end.

I wanted to see more of the inside of the cabin. (hint, hint)

Merisi said...

Thank you, Suzanne,
this was such an interesting read and I learned so many new facts about the life of the early immigrants and the native tribes as well.

Have you ever been to the Cherokee Reservation in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina? The woodland gardens there are a sight to behold, they way they appear in clearings after a walk amongst tall trees is simply mesmerizing.

Thirkellgirl said...

I love horticultural field trips! We were just at Roanoke Colony this past summer and they have an identical wattle fence there, with a view of the water beyond. Love it! More gardens, please!

Kitty said...

Oh, I loved reading your post this morning! I'm always interested in reading about everyday living of our early settlers. It would be fun to grow some of the same things they did. Once we bought an "ancient Indian squash" at the farmer's market and saved the seeds from it to grow later on. Thanks for a very interesting trip today!

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful post. Bet your sister loves working there too!

The rings for the soup are so ingenious on their part. Please do not include me on the give-away... :-)

The Blue Ridge Gal

Marfa (formula for a life) said...

Awesome field trip, Suzanne,I loved it. I love trips that are informative and where I can see nature, thank you. I hope I win. I will be sharing my winnings with my BF cause he has a great green thumb.

Vee said...

What fun! This history lesson/field trip was perfect for a Friday morning. And I adore Walker shortbread...just love the stuff. How intriguing about the pumpkin slices that thicken a soup... Your sister is beautiful and very talented indeed. I love that first picture of her lost in thought or prayer or whatever. :D

Lisa said...

What a fun trip! Thank you so much for sharing. I think I'll check out Pam's blog now...

Piecefulafternoon said...

That was a delightful tour - thanks so much for taking us all along with you (your car must be very spacious). I enjoyed the history and your sister's finger weaving - that looks very interesting.

Steph said...

That looks like a neat place! Where were the southern gardens? lol.

By the way, have you seen what Henry has been up to lately? haha.

Lisa D. said...

I love learning the history of how different areas were settled. Up her in northern Canada, that history is still quite recent. Families had to clear their land, by hand, before a crop could be planted (this area was mostly bush), and have a garden in and a house to live in and try to survive long, harsh winters (we regularly drop down to 30 below zero, sometimes 40 below.) The stories of survival and adventure are just so incredible. Oh, and here in Canada, we say "Metis".

Mary said...

Suzanne thanks so much for the field trip. I had no idea it was in Belvidere and I live so close. The wedding is tomorrow and once it is over the hubs and I may need a road trip.


Becky K. said...

A very informative and fun field trip. I cannot imagine living all of the time that close to each other. I totally love my family but I need space to breathe.

Becky K.

Karen Deborah said...

Your just a natural born teacher aren't you. I would love to enter your contest. Very interesting trip.

Liz in PA said...

Thank You Suzanne!
I totally loved my adventure with you today in the Boone County
Heritage Gardens!

The History of the variety of People was educational.

I wonder what the history of the various APRONS of the different nationalities would be and what they would look like?

We have a garden and are anxiously awaiting the fruits of our labor! Well actually my husband does all the work, I can no longer garden dut to many health issues. And I so miss getting my hands in the soil.

WE NEED MORE SUN HERE, and it better come fast because the field corn is way behind in growth, along with many crops.

misti said...

What a great post. I've been reading your blog for awhile and I really enjoyed this one. I'd love to have some of those seeds, but if not, it was still a treat to read about the historical gardens.

Stephanie_Oh said...

I really enjoyed your post today. What a great trip! Especially nice that your sister ,Pam, could join us. Her skirt and mocassins were beautiful. The ribbon weaving was very pretty. Stephanie

Suzanne said...

Susan - Thank for coming along. Hmmmm, I'd cut your cantaloupes into wedges and wrap them with some wonderful prosciutto.

Lyda - Cat litter garden? That's a great idea. We have tomatoes growing in pots on the deck and they're getting very tall. All the tomatoes are quite small yet and still green.

Ang - There are a lot of Swedes, but I'm wondering if they're more prevalent further east, around us. I know Geneva once had a huge Swedish population.

Annette - The Sons of Norway are a very busy organization. Is there one in your area?

Chocolatechic - I'll post a couple more pics of the inside of the cabin but basically I was standing in the middle. I can't imagine that you could fit more than six people standing. I think it was mentioned that the kids slept upstairs in the loft. I'm not kidding when I say my bedroom is bigger than this cabin. It was a subsistence life for sure.

Merisi - Visiting the Cherokee Reservation is on my bucket list. The Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminoles were known as the five civilized tribes. There are so many books on the native tribes. Very interesting reading.

Thirkellgirl - More gardens? I'll try to visit more this summer. Winter will be upon us soon. Isn't the Roanoke Colony the people who disappeared? The first white child born in the new world... Virginia Dare?? That had to be interesting. My type of tourist place.

Kitty - Guess what else they grow at the Heritage Gardens? VIking strawberries..... yes, strawberries grown from seed found in an ancient Viking site.

Di - This is a great place for my sister to work because she is such a knowledgeable gardener.

Marfa - You take your readers on some great little trips. I love seeing south Florida.... land of my forefathers!

Vee - I'm crazy for the Walker Shortbread. I can't make it at home as good as theirs. My sister is actually engaging in a Zen meditation exercise in an attempt to create a force field to fend off the clouds of mosquitos that were descending on us!!!

Lisa - I'm glad you came along.

Pieceful - Yes...big car with a black hole that will accommodate thousands. Now I just need to attract thousands of readers to fill that void. HA. I'm going to ask my sister to show us how to do the finger weaving.

Steph - No peanuts there for sure! Not the right soil or something. YES... I saw what Henry's been up to. He'll be featured at the Monday Morning Staff Meeting.

Lisa D. - When you read some of the first person accounts of settling the prairie you're amazed that anyone survived. Have you read Giants in the Earth? I highly recommend it.

Mary - I'll be thinking about you tomorrow. I hope all goes well and that your feet hold out!!!

Becky - I'm with you.... holed up all winter in a space that small. No wonder they call it cabin fever.

Karen - Oh gosh, I don't think of myself as a teacher at all. Maybe just a chatty travel agent.

Liz - YES!! I need to do some apron research. I also have curtailed my gardening activities due to health issues. Such is life. I just moved my activities inside to my sewing room!

Misti - Your name is in the running, you never know!

Stephanie - I love that ribbon work. Take a lot of patience.

Thanks everyone for joining me on the field trip. There will be another one next week.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a cool tour! I love seeing these kinds of things because my father was Cherokee.

I wonder if I could get that corn to grow if I started it inside in peat pots ? Hmm.....

Heidi said...

OH - now I want to come and visit you and your sister!!! I may fire up the Harley, throw Milk Dud in once saddle bag, Lispy in the other, Big Son on the back and head SOUTH!!! Your sister is VERY talented!!!

cityfarmer said...

thank you for this lovely tour. I live ery close and will hce to try and get over there.

wish my gardens looke this good.

Jody Blue said...

That was so much fun! Thanks to you and your sister!

Katie H said...

What a fun place to have so close to you. Your sister must love working there!

Kathleen H of Blgtn IN said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the garden trip. I want to see the other gardens now! We planted our first garden this year (a little late but thats ok). I have picked our first green beans and I feel like a pioneer myself. They were delicious. Nothing like fresh green beans.
Thanks for the trip.
Kathleen H

Kathy said...

I just found your blog for the first time during a search for the words "farm" "wife" and "home". I loved the pictures from the Heritage Gardens. The Native American pics were of particular interest. My husband has recently become interested in researching his Native American (Cherokee) heritage, and it is so fascinating to see what foods were grown, how their clothes and tools (like the fire pit) looked. Thank you for sharing the pictures & please enter me in the drawing for the seeds :)

PJ in IL said...

I luckily sold my home in January and had to move to a rental so no garden for me this year. I will be moving to a home in the the next 2 weeks though and will be able to plant again next spring. Those gardens and that little house were so beautiful! Thank you!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Oh, man! Good luck with those garden tools. Makes me thankful for my metal hoe, let alone my tractor! I'm headed to Pam's now! Thanks for the tour--loved it (and am looking up that finger-weaving thing!). C.

Anonymous said...

Hope I am not too late to get in on your giveaway.


Louise said...

What a wonderful trip! I have Old German tomatoes in my garden. I tried them the first time last year and loved them, so I put in two this year. (A d@m& tomato worm ate one of them.)

In North Dakota, they call similar fences "palisade" fences.

I love all the different cultures represented by this garden,and your sister. WOW! She is amazing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne. Loved seeing the Heritage Gardens. I like to try different heirloom seeds in my garden - they seem to have more flavor.

Have you heard about the hamburger place in Moonlight, IL? It was written up in the Hamburger America book. Might make a good field trip.

I always enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work.

Kathy R.

JamespFaI said...

Oh, man! Good luck with those garden tools. Makes me thankful for my metal hoe, let alone my tractor! I'm headed to Pam's now! Thanks for the tour--loved it (and am looking up that finger-weaving thing!). C.