History With Homeschoolers

Today we attended one of the monthly “History With Homeschoolers” programs at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center. The Mahoning Valley Historical Society opened the Tyler Center about 3 years ago. It boasts a permanent collection of exhibits and also offers a variety of classes, lectures and other programs relating to local and regional history.

Today, we learned about the steel industry and how it affected the economy of the area. Next month, we will talk about why so many people immigrated here from the turn of the century through the sixties, all due to the steel industry.

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Whitehouse Farm Tour

Today we attended a tour of Whitehouse Fruit Farm.  We have done this tour twice before, but we always enjoy seeing the farm in fall.

We started out in a tent with the rest of our homeschool group.  The tour guide talked to us about the kinds of fruits and vegetables they grow at this farm.  This time of year, they have fresh apples, peppers and pumpkins.

Next, we got to take a walk through the orchard. 

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We saw the peach trees, which have been painted white at the base of their trunks.  We learned that this is like a “sunscreen”, to keep the bark from being burned in the winter when the leaves are not there to protect it.

In the cold storage area, we learned that apples will keep many months if kept at about 36 degrees F and with some humidity.  There is a puddle of water in the center of the storage room to provide the necessary humidity.  We also learned we could simulate that at home by putting a damp sponge in our home refrigerator drawer along with our apples!

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Finally, we had a treat: a cinnamon donut and some cider.  The kids enjoyed a chance to run around at the play area on a beautiful fall day.

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Wetlands Preserve Hike

This afternoon, we stopped on the way home from O7’s violin lesson at the Mill Creek Park Wetlands Preserve for a nature hike.

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Today was a perfect day to hike here. We knew this was a spring or fall adventure because, as a wetlands, there aren’t really any trees to provide shade in the heat of summer.

There is a map at the parking area. We chose to hike the main wetlands east of the parking lot.

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The interpretive signs along the trail made it a very interesting hike, both in terms of local and park history as well as the wildlife and plants we eventually saw along the way.

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We quickly spotted red winged black birds. They were everywhere. One kept circling and then landing on marshy growth up trail from us, seemingly to keep an eye on what we were doing.

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We spotted cattails, a sure sign of wet areas:

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The kids were very excited by all the wildflowers. It was hard to resist the urge to pick them, but we left them alone.

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Mostly.

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We learned about the “Mill Creek Greenway”:

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spotted more red winged black birds:

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and hiked around to the large pond in the northeast corner of the area:

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We found a great sign that helped us identify several of the birds we spotted that day.

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More cattails as we approached the pond.

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At the pond, we spied a pair of Canada Geese about to go for a dip.

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They changed their minds shortly after, though, and headed for another pond.

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More helpful signs:

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Here is a crayfish “chimney”:

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We also spotted loads of tadpoles in a puddle:

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S9 made an interesting, but icky, discovery:

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The trail we hiked was about one mile long. Next time, we hope to visit the “Uplands” area and the American Elm demonstration exhibit.

Arms Family Museum

Today my sister-in-law and I took the kids to the Arms Family Museum. This is an historic house on Wick Avenue in Youngstown. It was given to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society to preserve local history and artifacts about the origins of the Mahoning Valley.

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This time of year, the house is decorated with elaborate holiday trimmings and many of the regular house exhibits are not visible. But on the second floor, the hands-on history museum is still open, and the kids got to do a “scavenger hunt” leading them through the history of the valley. They learned about how the land was settled, who the prominent people were of the time, and saw how and why many immigrants chose to come here.

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My SIL took S8 and I took O6, and we helped them with the scavenger hunt. It was really interesting.  She and I both learned a lot right along with the kids.

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Afterwards, we went to the basement where there are children’s exhibits set up. Old fashioned toys, coloring pages, craft supplies, and art materials are available for the kids to explore.

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We are definitely planning to come back again after the holidays to get another look at the museum and play in the basement.

In the evening, the kids went to gymnastics for their hour-long weekly class.

Lanterman’s Mill

Today we joined another group of homeschoolers for a tour of the historic Lanterman’s Mill in Mill Creek Park.

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We started out on the covered bridge that crosses Mill Creek.  This bridge, which was rebuilt in the 1980s, is an example of the covered bridges that were often used in the 1800s-early 1900s in our area.  The bridge is covered for two reasons: to protect the wood floor from the elements, and also to keep the horses who were bringing grain to the mill from getting spooked as they crossed the water.

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Next, we looked out over the creek and saw where the water came into the mill from a small diversion next to the falls.

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Here’s the little gate where the diverted water is allowed to enter into the mill:

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The water enters where the grate is, below where the girls are standing with our guide.

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From here, we went into the mill and followed the path the water would take.

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Here we are looking at the inner gate, which can be opened or closed from upstairs.

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Here is the mill wheel:

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We saw the vertical driveshaft that runs through all three levels of the mill, and the wooden safety gear (if something jams, the wooden teeth would snap, rather than binding up all the more expensive metal parts). Then we went upstairs and saw the actual grinding stones.

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The mill is still operating, though not today as they are waiting for a part to do a repair. They still grind wheat, buckwheat and corn on these grindstones. We got to feel the different whole grains.

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We also got a closeup view, via two small stones, of how the grinding process works.

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Next, we went up to the attic. Finished flour is carried up to the attic via little tin cups attached to a belt, which is basically a pulley-bucket system. This is called the “elevator”. The grain goes up to the attic and is sifted in the binder. Here’s the binder:

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Here is a mill stone. The ones Mr. Lanterman used in his mill came from France in three pieces, which were bound together with a metal strap.

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We learned that the bottom stone, which does not turn, is called the bedstone. The top stone is called the runner. They have grooves in them to allow the ground flour to pass between the stones and out to the elevator system.

Next, we went on a brief hike along Mill Creek. At the time the mill was operating, a local attorney named Volney Rogers hiked along the creek to the mill every day. He loved the hike so much that he bought all the property and bequeathed it to make Mill Creek Park, to preserve it for future generations. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Rogers, as Mill Creek Park is definitely a unique treasure that we appreciate all the time.

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Here, we are looking at some of the foliage that is indigent to our area.

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We hiked to a large outcrop called “Umbrella Rock”. Our guide explained that native Americans would likely have used this as a shelter. In addition to protecting themselves from elements, animals and other Indians, the rock has a large quantity of iron oxide that they probably used for painting on the rock walls and, when necessary, on themselves.

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J9 getting some war paint

We also spotted a Great Blue Heron and a mink on our hike.

Finally, we headed back. At the gift shop, I bought a small bag of Lanterman’s Mill flour, which we will make into pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.

Schwebel Bread Tour

There is a large baking factory in our town that makes bread, rolls and buns for stores as far east as Buffalo and all the way west to the Indiana line. It was started in the early 1900s by a mom and dad in their home kitchen. There are rooms at the local University named after the family and the company is still owned and operated by family today. We had a chance to go on an amazing tour of the factory with our local homeschool group this morning.

They were very strict about no pictures in the factory, but basically we were able to follow a loaf of bread from the bags of flour to the proofing sponge all the way to where finished, bagged bread would be loaded on a delivery truck. It was pretty amazing. The kids could also see a lot of the automation equipment similar to what their dad designs. He does mostly automotive applications which also use robots (no robots in the bread factory) but the processes are much the same, with lots of conveyors and lots of things moving. They couldn’t believe how fast the loaves moved around. We stood right next to the giant mixers, felt the heat of the big oven, saw the loaves cooling on a moving conveyor, saw how they were de-panned with a puff of air, and watched the bagger put each one lickety-split into a plastic bag and zipped on the twist-tie. It was amazing.

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Souvenirs from the tour

At the end, we got to take home a loaf of bread that was baked that very morning. What a really cool and informative tour!

Schwebel Bread tour