Sunday, July 17, 2016

Field Trip! to the past, a historic farmstead

I took a field trip today, to a meeting of the Delaware Valley Unit of the Herb Society of America folks, courtesy of Helen H, who drove us there, to the historic Holcombe Jimison Farmstead, right by the Delaware, in Lambertville NJ.

Narrowly saved from extinction by the building of a major highway, the historic society managed to keep a few acres intact and dedicated to the farm around them, and to add all kinds of historical artifacts and interesting preservation of our farming past.

It was a boiling hot July day, a good time to remember that the farmers back in the early 19th century, when some of the barns were built, the farmhouse itself dating back to the 17th century, had no relief from the heat.  

I was there for a tour and a talk on edible weeds, very interesting presentation by a member of the Herb society, but I was most struck by the existence of this treasure of a museum and grounds that I hardly knew existed before.  

So this is my turn to pass on the good news and invite local readers to make a point of going there and enjoying the barns, the museum of farm implements and historic NJ items, plus meet the blacksmith, see the Kean Barn with old carriages and more recent engines, plus the herb gardens.  The herbs were the main reason for my visit, and it was interesting to explore how they'd decided to cultivate herbs to reflect the changing demographics of our population.

Within one small enclosure, are plots for herbs from India, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, Mexico, China, and other cultures. Amazing really to see what has been achieved, totally by volunteer labor.  Most of the people are very knowledgeable, with background at Brooklyn Botanical Garden, research into entomology and other specialties.  

 tour guide with modern water bottle, showing me the wooden water pipe excavated from nearby town when roads were being rebuilt recently.  There are still pipes like this in the infrastructure of New York and Philadelphia
 Some of the pictures hark back to my own childhood in the country, without utilities or running water, and I recognized the washday items all too clearly. My mom turning that huge mangle to wring the clothes. And the later, smaller one, that latest best thing she got years later, still hand driven. A poss stick in the background there, too, for possing clothes, all laundry hand done.

Canning and processing of food mainly done by women

 Spot the fruit varieties here, in the collection of stencils used to mark fruit crates

Funeral hearse, restored to 19th century condition, needing only black horses.

My tour guide was a retired teacher who enthusiastically showed me practically everything, untiringly, on the farmstead, then delivered me to the building where they gave me refreshments, and the talk on edible weeds.  A very full afternoon, and I definitely have to go back there.

Such a labor intensive life.  I noted that in the wool processing area, the hand carders are exactly like my own, same design still being made, because it works!  And the office for the doctor/dentist which was also his dispensary, since he did it all, and he installed the first telephone system for the area while he was at it.  Also led the local brass band.  Just too many items for pictures in this post, you have to go there!

And rural electrification is said to have got its start in this region. Hats off to the energy and real bravery of early farmers.  This is why I like to buy food from my local farmers, since many of them are the latest generation on the family farm, and hard work is their way of life. 

While I was there, a young couple came in searching for someone to donate the family parlor organ too. Turned out they were descendants of the original Jimison family and this was the organ that came originally from this farm, so it will probably come back again.


  1. Thank goodness for historical societies that see the value in places such as this and work so tirelessly to save them and then turn them into a place of learning. Looks like a grand place to visit!

  2. I wish I could go and see that farm and museum. I love that sort of stuff. Nice to know that the family organ is going back to it's rightful home too.

  3. Right up my alley, this place!


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