Saturday, September 24, 2011

A New Take on Boiled Peanuts

Wednesday-Friday, 21-23 September 2011
Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown, FL

Boiled peanuts are a big thing in the south. Now I love peanuts! Just about every thing you can do to a peanut suits me just fine. Raw, salted, roasted, peanut butter, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, by the bucket with a pitcher of beer. But this yankee has a hard time getting around boiled peanuts.

So when I learned that Panhandle Pioneer Settlement has a "Peanut Boil" as an event, I was eager to participate, learn, and maybe convince my taste buds that here was a new pleasure for their enjoyment.

Preparations started on Wednesday with two street size trash cans of peanuts donated by a local farmer. We washed the peanuts in the contraption shown in the picture. (I can't remember the name of that thing to save my life.). Washing took most of the day. We washed a couple buckets of peanuts at a time.

Thursday was drying day. Our only activity was to occassionally rake the pile to make sure all the peanuts got exposed to the breeze to dry thoroughly.

Friday we boiled peanuts. The pot was more like a Wok than a kettle. First task was to get a roaring hardwood fire going under the kettle, bring the water to a boil, and add rock salt. Then start dumping in the peanuts. Stoking the fire and stirring with a shovel, kept this mixture cooking for several hours.

The finished product was bagged and sold to the public.

"THE PEANUT BOIL" was a community event sponsored by Panhandle Pioneer Settlement. It ran from afternoon into the evening with games, entertainment, and of course boiled peanuts.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scratch Dinner

Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown, FL

This evening we had a rare treat. "Miss Francis", a local lady who does a lot for the settlement prepared a scratch dinner on a wood stove. This was done for two photo journalists doing a magazine piece on colonial homemaking.

Francis is an excellent cook and she used the kitchen in the Yon Farm House. (See for pictures and find the Yon House at the "Attractions" tab.) She prepared the dinner for fifteen on a wood-burning stove from scratch, except for the chicken. She commented that she didn't have any live chickens and slaughtering, bleeding, and plucking several live chickens to feed fifteen would be a bit over the top for this event. She assured us, however, that she has prepared chicken from scratch many times.

The aroma of the dinner cooking floated over the settlement for most of the afternoon. I could imagine in days gone bye fathers, sons, and farm hands working in the fields with those smells coming from the kitchen. When the dinner bell rang -- look out!!!

Our dinner menu was: fried chicken, okra, rice w/chicken gravy, sweet potatoes, farmer's peas, and buttermilk biscuits. Beverage was tea (sweet or unsweet). Dessert was a delicious pear cobbler. The only concessions to modernity was ice and the store bought chickens.

Dinner was served on the large wraparound porch of the Yon Farm House with the dishes, glassware, and silverware from the house. The weather was kind to us -- a warm, pleasant evening with a light breeze. We all went home well fed and comfortable with another experience to add to our travel memories.

Monday, September 19, 2011

About Panhandle Pioneer Settlement

Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blountstown, FL

Panhandle Pioneer Settlement (PPS) brings together the material history of life between 1840 and the beginning of World War II. The mission is to acquire, document, research, and restore buildings and tools that were used in daily life. The settlement is arranged to simulate an agricultural community and serve the public as a rural living history museum.

PPS relies heavily on volunteers. Local volunteers turn out in large numbers to help with community events held at the settlement. There are five FHU campsites for full-time workampers. In addition, workampers have use of a laundry facility and access to the internet through the settlement's wi-fi network. While not officially acknowledged, there is a lot of cooking and free eating that includes the workampers.

Workamper duties vary. PPS asks for ten hours per week per person and workampers are expected to participate in setup, conduct, and cleanup involved with the community events held at the settlement. Beyond that they operate a "job jar" system -- "if you see something that needs to be done and it interests you, do it".

Some tasks are regular, routine, and continuing such as storekeeper, tour guide, and grounds maintenance. Other tasks come from an ever changing list of one time repairs and improvements.

Here is a cross section of the current workamper population while we were there. One couple has been workamping for over 15 years. They came here frequently in years past and now have pretty much settled down to permanent full-time. A second couple is here for the winter (September to May). This is their third workamping experience. We are here for two months (September and October) between other commitments. Another couple is scheduled to arrive in December and stay the winter. People with varied backgrounds and from all walks of life make this a very interesting experience.

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