Pioneer Zoo

Pioneer Zoo

As I was making dinner tonight, I thought how nice it would be if I had a hog to feed my orts to. One of many highlights of my pioneer weekend was feeding the hog. I heard one docent call the hog Mr. Ham, and another call him Bacon. Then someone pointed out he was a lady hog, which was rather obvious actually, and so I called her Miss Ham after that, which is polite and impolite at the same time. I don't mind eating animals, but I draw the line at naming them after cuts of their own meat. If I had a hog, I would name it something dignified like Geraldine or Roderick.

Then again, perhaps naming a pig you are going to eat after a cut of its own meat helps you not get attached. Miss Hog is "this year's hog" which means there was a "last year's hog" which makes a lot of sense in retrospect. Where else could that slab of bacon with the skin still on it have come from? They don't sell it like that in the store!

So that's the hog. She never failed to be hungry, and was therefore a credit to her species.

For neighbors, we had sheep. 

The sheep live in a log cabin for some reason. Incidentally, that log cabin is much more like the one the Hetchlers would have lived in when they first arrived in Scottsville. Utterly dismal and tiny. Perhaps it would've served as a sheep shelter after they moved out of it. I have no idea. Anyway, we've all seen sheep before, so let's move on.

To oxen!

I had literally nothing to do with the oxen the entire time I was pioneering, so I know next to nothing about them. Other than that they are mind-boggling enormous animals. When I was blacksmithing, they kept crossing by the back door and blocking out the light. OXEN ARE SO BIG.

If you came to the Genesee Country in the summer time, before about 1795, oxen would've been the best choice for pulling your wagon, because there weren't any real roads, and the land was practically impenetrable. After the the Treaty of Canandaigua in November 1794, however, everyone felt it was safe to move west (safe from Native Americans, that is) and roads into the frontier were built. If you were smart, though, you'd wait for winter and come on a sleigh. Much easier. You would never want to travel in spring and fall because of mud.

I think I've said all that in an earlier blog post, but nevermind. It bears repeating. Or it doesn't. You can decide for yourself.

There were also chickens. They weren't laying because it had been too warm for too long. But Helpful Docent Marie told us an interesting fact: unwashed eggs stored in a box covered in ash will keep for months. She said they tested it out once, and out of some eighty eggs, only eight had gone off after several months, and only one exploded. I didn't know eggs could become explosive, so that was a very interesting fact indeed. Then she told us something even more interesting, which is that she had used one of these ancient eggs in the cornbread she was leaving for us for dinner. Oh my yes, that was interesting to know.

I think April and Brandon and I can agree that the most important animals of our pioneer experience were the barn cats, Honey and Ginger. They were very very bad cats, and they got away with it because they were very very adorable.

The first thing Honey did when we met her was make herself at home on one of the freshly-stuffed ticks. Ginger, following soon after, decided to help April sew them up. Ginger is very good with string, as we shall discover.

Honey was a terrible beggar.

And an excellent thief. In this brief gallery, you can see her (1) wishin' and hopin', (2) thwarted, and (3) plotting, one nanosecond before she snatched a piece of chicken off Brandon's plate and darted away.

Bad cat! But both cats have an admirable temperament. I witnessed them get mauled by an entire Girl Scout Troupe, and they barely woke up. In fact, they were such dedicated sleepers that several people asked if they were real. One person thought Honey was taxidermied.

Since it was such a warm and humid weekend, we slept with both doors open, giving the cats access to the cabin that they didn't usually have at night. Normally they sleep in the barn. But on Friday I woke up in the middle of the night because some sort of animal was preparing to settle itself in the crook of my legs. In the dark, color is very hard to see, and I sleepily went through a series of possibilities: Skunk? Raccoon? Porcupine? Strange black cat? Since it seemed not to have designs on my life, I went back to sleep, only to wake up in the morning and discover that it was only Ginger. She also joined me the next night. I was so tired that I only woke up because she was strangely restless for a cat. In the morning when I was folding up my sheets, I discovered the reason: she had found one of the strings I'd used to tie up the legs of the chicken, played with it for a while in my bed, and left it there.

Also in my bedsheets: the extra string I was saving to sew the rest of my quilt squares. Where she got that, I don't know. I thought I'd left it on a pretty high shelf.

Bad, bad cat.

She did not appear to feel any guilt at all, even after we discovered that she and/or Honey had eaten the 1-2-3-4 cake left over from our Saturday night frolic. You can see the mess of plastic wrap on the bench in this photo.

They got away with it, because they're so darling.

Good morning, Honey. I came within a whisker of adopting a cat today because of you, which is saying a lot, because I have a mild allergy to cats and could've been mildly miserable for twenty years! Maybe if I can acquire a barn someday, I will acquire an orange tabby cat to live in it. But only if I learn to hide all my string first.

Photos of GCVM by me. 

Pioneer Food

Pioneer Food

Pioneer Homestead

Pioneer Homestead