Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hello to Panhandle Pioneer Settlement

Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown, FL

Let's start with pronunciation. Blount is pronounced "Blunt". Named for the chief of the Indian tribe that once populated the area. Descendants are still here.

We've been here two weeks and we are getting our bearings and developing a routine for our "work" life. We each work 10 hours a week doing "whatever needs to be done". There are five campsites for WorKampers and quite a few volunteers from the town do things for the settlement, both on-site and off-site. Right now there are three couples living in the Settlement as WorKampers. One couple has taken us under their wing and shown us the ropes, thus making our introduction simple and easy. We each do a weekly time sheet listing what we have worked on and how many hours.

Michelle is settling into a groove of operating the general store (all that Coldwater Creek experience) and weeding flower beds. Today she was a tour guide for the first time. There is a card of information for each building on the tour. However, most of the time the tour guide learns a lot from the people taking the tour. For example one of the buildings is a two room school house. Today's tour group included a lady who attended school in that building and she filled in a lot of details about the artifacts in the building.

The storekeeper gets to visit with the visitors and swap stories

Several flower gardens scattered about always need weeding

For my part, I am trying to participate in some of the restoration projects along with setup and cleanup for events held here at the settlement and some grounds maintenance chores. There are two buildings here that are actively used for events -- both private and settlement sponsored. One is a school gymnasium that was built in 1942 and was active until 1961. It was moved here in 1995. The other, called the Clubhouse, was built as an activity center for the youth of Blountstown. It was moved here in ????.

Maintenance chores, so far, have been emptying public trash cans around the settlement (about once a week) and crushing collected soda pop cans for transport and sale to a local recycling center. No grass cutting so far -- things are pretty parched here. Under the heading of "restoration" falls several tasks involving 'finishing' projects that were almost completed then left for one reason or another. First was the completion of a sand blast chamber created from an ice machine. A very ingenious design for a practical tool, valuable here because much of the restoration work involves farm implements and machinery. Second was completing the restoration of two hand plows. Both of these efforts gave me a sense that a lot of projects here get to the 95% complete point and then can't seem to get to the finish line. I might be able to spend all my time here putting in that last 5% on a whole variety of things.

Trash collection and disposition is a recurring task

Restored Hand Plow

Not so with project #3 for which I volunteered and may very well wish I hadn't -- the Axe House floor. The Axe House is a modern one room building on a concrete slab built to house a donated collection of antique axes, saws, picks, hammers, other farm implements, and some railroad tools. The concrete floor was sealed and then painted -- some kind of a big chemical mistake. The paint never dried or cured properly so the floor is a sticky mess and needs to be stripped. Lying on the sticky floor are many of the collection items. We all know that stripping paint is a dirty job and in this case the room is full of stuff that has nowhere else to go. I believe everyone else has run away from this project and maybe I should also. But the final exhibit will be a nice addition to the settlement, so I feel guilty about turning my back on it.

Display Wall in the Axe House

So what is our compensation for our ten hours (each) per week? We get a campsite with water, electricity, and sewer. We get free use of the laundry facility. When not in use, we have the gymnasium (about 30 yards from our campsite) to use for Michelle's quilting and my fly-tying. AND.......whenever the gym is used for an event including food service, they leave the leftovers in the refrigerator. So we have a free meal (four so far).

FHU Campsite for Volunteers

Two weeks into an eight week adventure, we are well satisfied with our decision to come here.

Learn more about Panhandle Pioneer Settlement
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