There are always plenty of chores to do around a farm, but winter preparations require extra help! Assist the farm family in their preparations for the cold months ahead by repairing fences, clearing brush, “pitching” the house as well as indoor chores like learning to spin wool for yarn and preserve the last of the gardens bounty.
For our current year’s event schedule, please see our calendar of events.
Events may be cancelled due to weather conditions.
Information about 18th Century Fences:
The Bradley Family has two types of fences around their property, the Split Rail (also called panel or “worm” fences) and wattle or “withie” fences.
Split Rail fences are made from large logs or small trees using a mallet and a wedge. The wedge is pounded into the end of the log. As the log splits, more wedges are pounded into the split until the log splits in half. Depending on the size of the log, the process is then repeated until as many rails as possible have been split from the log. Rails should be between four and eight inches thick and eleven feet long.
Once you have split the rails, they are then laid down in a pattern best suited to enclosing the area you wish to fence off. Stones are placed beneath the bottom rails at the corners of each angle to prevent the rails from rotting too quickly. Rails are then laid one on top of the other until the desired height is reached.
Once the fence has reached the desired height, it is then “staked”. Shorter rails are placed upright in the corners on each side of the fence to help give it support. Finally, one or two more rails called “riders” are placed ontop of the stakes to lock the fence into place. 18th century law required all split rail fences to be at least five feet in height and the rails close enough together to keep livestock out. If your crops were damaged by a neighbor’s livestock, the law only required them to pay you for damages if you had a lawful fence.
Withie fences were used to enclose smaller areas. The Bradleys have put large stakes in the ground around the area in which they need to fence off and then wind vines from the woods or “withies” around the stakes until the fence is tall enough to keep small animals out.
What is Pitch?
Pitch is an oily, sticky substance used to seal and waterproof wood and other substances. Most likely, the Bradley family would buy pitch from a merchant in Alexandria. Pitch itself comes from the sap of pine and fir trees. It is obtained by splitting the logs of those trees into small “billets” and placing them in kilns or furnances made especially for the purpose of extracting the tar. The kiln is heated and the tar oozes from the billets and runs off into a collection area. The smoke from the process gives the tar its dark color. The tar is then slowly boiled to consume more of its moisture and become pitch.
The Bradley family mixes Pitch with turpentine (which is another by product of pine trees) to spread on most of its buildings like the farm house, pig shelter and all of its bird coops in order to waterproof them against the elements. The Bradleys must be very careful using Pitch, however, because it is very sticky, smelly and highly flamable. Additionally, it will permantly stain any cloth it comes in contact with.
Rates Claude Moore Colonial Farm One of the
TOP 10 PLACES for KIDS!
This spring break, Patricia Nevins Kime—respected journalist and author of the first edition of Moon Washington DC—offers her selections for ten can’t-miss activities, perfect for kids and their chaperones.
"7. Claude Moore Colonial Farm: Something’s always being grown, harvested, dyed, dried, or crafted at Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Virginia, a rendition of a modest circa-1771 frontier farm."