We may have only recently entered the 21st century, but the turn of the 20th century is still alive here in Dayton. Thanks to the folks at Five Rivers MetroParks, you can experience what life was like in the 1880s right here in southwest Ohio.
Whoever said “what’s old is new again” obviously lived through the pain of watching fashion recirculate and stared in horrified amazement as his or her children begged and pleaded to purchase an outfit that eerily resembled an ensemble sent packing to Goodwill several decades ago. The same holds true in Dayton today. Know of anyone who knits from yarn they spun themselves and sews their own clothes? And would can their own vegetables for the winter and make their own cheese and soap? Or grow out their beards and curl up their moustaches and brew their own beer? You might refer to them as “hipsters,” but in the 1880s, they were just “people.”
That’s right; your great-great grandfather, who waxed his elegant moustache before snapping his suspenders and hopping on the seat of his fixed-gear bicycle, was a hipster before it was cool. Capitalizing on the re-emergence of the native hipster, Five Rivers MetroParks offers classes to teach you how to grow and pickle and can your own food. You can learn to make cheese and soap and even how to craft a microbrew. It’s all here. In Dayton. Again.
Grow your own
If you are passionate about growing your own food, MetroParks has programs that can help. From tips about seed selection and planting to what to grow in the winter and even community gardening, Five Rivers MetroParks knows how to work with nature and wants to share that knowledge with you. Think you lack green thumbs? Maybe you just need the right instruction. Think about it – all those people living in the late 19th century didn’t simply wake up one day infused with vast botanical knowledge; they experimented, they failed a few times, but ultimately, they succeeded. They had to. The stakes were a little higher for pioneer who couldn’t simply shrug their shoulders and head to the nearest Wynn Dixie if they killed their sole source of sustenance.
Programs will take you from gardening newbie to horticulture diva and are available many of the facilities in the parks’ system including Wergerzyn Gardens, Cox Arboretum, Carriage Hill and many more. There’s even an annual gardening conference.
And as for resources, visit MetroParks.org for printable brochures with hundreds of tips, suggestions and helpful advice whether you’re starting out or trying grow your greenest garden yet.
It’s all here. At your MetroParks.
Down on the Farm
Food preservation in 2013: Adorable place settings and thoughtful gifts for friends and family. Food preservation in 1880: Avoiding starvation. True, modern living has provided us with the means to live comfortably. Heck, we could obtain essential nutrients from a powdered capsule if we want. But there’s no excitement, adventure or well-meaning intent from ingesting a pill, so people are looking back to the 1800s again, and Five Rivers MetroParks offers programs that will help you live more sustainably by preserving the food you just learned how to grow.
At Carriage Hill MetroPark, members of the canning club learn to preserve fruits and vegetables in an inexpensive and efficient way. Pickling classes are also available at Carriage Hill and Possum Creek MetroParks.
Brewing was an everyday part of life in the 1880s. Carriage Hill also offers “Making Small Beers” where participants discuss the actual brewing process and make some small beers using ingredients like apple, sorghum or maple.
The 2nd Street Market has all the programming you need to really go retro. With programs on handmade soap making, cheese making, canning and even sewing, knitting and quilting, you will find all of the homesteading skills you need. Check out the Heirloom Skills series of programs at MetroParks.org.
And if all this skill-building, growing, preserving and crafting sounds like too much for you, you are in luck. The vendors at the 2nd Street Market have done all the work for you.
You can find artisan bakers, canned vegetables or vegetables to can, knitted goods and home-spun yarn, fabrics to make your own clothes, fresh and organic meats like chicken and beef, handmade soaps and cheese, and so much more. More good news: By buying goods at the 2nd Street Market, you’re supporting local businesses and keeping your dollars at work right here in Dayton. That’s so 1880.
Great-great-grandpa had it right: Use resources wisely and make your own stuff. So go retro. Grow out a curly moustache. Take your horse and carriage (or ride your bike—fixie or otherwise) to a MetroParks facility today for everything you need to “live the dream of the 1890s.” [link to Portlandia]