Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Annual Mid-Missouri Mule, Horse, Ox & Historic Farming and Crafts Days held at Gail Cross' Witness Tree Farm, Gerald, MO

This weekend was set aside to attend the 17th Annual Mid-Missouri Mule, Horse, Ox & Historic Farming and Crafts Days held at Gail Cross' Witness Tree Farm, Gerald, MO. The event is a two-day festival, sponsored by The Missouri Draft Horse and Mule Association, Inc., focusing on old time crafts, farming, cooking, and rare livestock breeds—anything pertaining to how our ancestors lived before modern technology.
Most young people today have no idea of what their great-grandparents did on a daily basis to farm, cook, and make clothing. Electricity and Walmart didn't exist; liquid soap and Zest didn't appear in the bathroom, bread didn't come in a uniform shape in a bag. Worst of all for them, McDonald's and fast food were not around every corner.
Rain had been predicted for the first day of the event. I thought I took what I would need, but forgot the poncho. Thanks to Dollar General, I grabbed one for a dollar. Jo Schaper, assistant editor of The River Hills Traveler, and I worked an early shift at the entrance to the event. I got there a bit early and had my camera ready to get some pics before it did.
The rains were steady, but light. Jo and I had fun Ozark engineering the canopy (designed more as a sunshade than rain shield), but the rain didn't slow attendance. We met a family that drove from Shawnee Mission, KS, camping at Meramec State Park, so they could attend the event.
The food was delicious and reasonably priced. The selection was plentiful, making
for a difficult decision. Jo and I both stopped at the booth with the large cinnamon rolls, hot rolls, biscuits and cobblers. All had been baked in large dutch ovens or bowls over an open fire. We both chose the cinnamon rolls -- huge and best cinnamon roll I have eaten. There was even a choice of butter or icing to add to your snack. The fresh rolls and biscuits were also huge--made to be slathered with the fresh sorghum syrup that Gail had stayed up half the night to cook outdoors in a large pan. You definitely want to go to this festival with a good appetite and forget the diet!
No engine-powered vehicles are allowed into the event. There is some walking

required to get to the booths, but it is worth every step. A handicap parking area is closer to the vendors and the ground is flat enough for power chairs.
 Vendors make some of their wares on site.  Kettles of chili and soup, lye soap cooked in a large kettle over the open fire, yarns being spun on a spinning wheel or weaved on a loom, to a display of vintage beaded and boxed purses. The young and old can enjoy the native teepee setup ready for a council meeting.
Tanned animal hides are on display. The Rural Spinners and Weavers spin and weave yarns into garments as you watch and you can see how the they once dyed yarns and fabrics in iron kettles over open fires by adding native plants for a variety of colors. If you are looking for a unique, handmade broom, there are several types to select. These are only a few of the heritage crafts and history booths that you will find at this event.
The sounds are those you won't hear in a city--a treat to the ears. Imagine, the clink and snort of  teams working the fields, chickens clucking as they scratch for bugs, the delicate harmony of stringed instruments and  the blacksmith's hammer clanging against the anvil as he bends the hot iron. Mules and horses grind corn, a sorghum press squeezes juice from the cane, and visitors' chatter as they ride in the Schempler wagon while the patient team takes them around a field.
The show attracts a large crowd every year. The entire small entrance fee covers the expenses to ensure the event continues.
If you are interested to see how the pioneers farmed and lived in years past without modern technology or electricity, you should mark your calendar to attend this event on the first weekend in October. Wear your hiking shoes--remember there are farm animals around here--or to take a native plant identification walk down the trail. The kids can play with primitive toys and games carved out of wood and  imagination -- no batteries, USB ports or chargers. You may  be serenaded by the Bluegill Buddies,  or other local musicians strumming bluegrass in the midst of making and selling. You can rest on a hay bale and listen to a chorus played on a fiddle, banjo and dulcimer. 
For more information: www.witnesstreefarm.org/

Author Bio:
Donna Featherson of Nature's Medicinal Treasures and Buck & Hootie Productions.  Follow Donna on Twitter or find her often in the River Hills Traveler.

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