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Bradford
Sasha Wolfe

 

October 5, 2009

A DAY AT MUSTER FIELD FARM
(All photos by Sasha Wolfe)

I cut the full page ad out of the paper. I’d never been to Muster Field Farm and when friends, Nelson and Betty Perron, admitted that they'd not been either, we decided that it was time.

Nelson and Betty Perron inspecting the Watters Ice House

The morning started out drizzly and foggy but the clouds broke. It was a perfect fall day with the smell of wood smoke, apples, and fallen leaves in the air and as we found a place to park, Nelson expressed surprise at how much of an area the farm encompassed.

Muster Field Farm is the Mathew Harvey Homestead and the speaker mentioned that the road was once the main route between Warner and New London. The house served as a tavern for many years with a ballroom on the second floor.

Muster Field Farm is still a working farm with flowers, vegetables, orchard, hay, and cordwood, but what makes this place special are the buildings that now populate the property. Here is where history is preserved with structures from Sutton, North Sutton, Sutton Mills, Bradford, Hopkinton, Croydon and Cornish.

The first building we approached was the Bradford Mineral Springs House. Once upon a time, there was a mineral spring at Lovewell Lake in Bradford near the East Washington line. The Bradford Springs Hotel was built and for a few years people came from all over to enjoy these healing waters. The lake disappeared, the springs dried up and now all that is left of that once grand property is swamp and few old cellar holes. The Spring House was rescued along with the old hand pump and brought to Muster Field Farm where it was repaired. 

Another Bradford building was one of the corn cribs. These structures held harvested corn and the v-shape was typical of New England. When I first saw the structure, I thought it was a miniature covered bridge.

The Bradford Ticket Booth was the third piece from Bradford and this was originally on the grounds for the Bradford-Newbury Fair. The fair ran off and on from 1895 until 1927.

Betty stopped to look at flowers. I love old buildings and equipment and took time to photograph rusted parts among weeds and leaves. We inspected a toll booth and came to a Sutton Church Shed. I was intrigued by the old machinery.

Church Sheds were built for horses while their owners were in church. This building now houses corn cutters which are used to chop up corn for silage. Among other items, Nelson was intrigued by a huge roller and we were told that a team of oxen would pull this to pack snow on the roads in the winter. 

Next we spent some time inspecting old machinery in the saw mill before heading over to the Hardy-Pillsbury Barn where soups and hot dogs were being served. 

“What you wanna take my picture for,” drawled Larry Boutwell of Contoocook when I asked permission for a photograph.

Larry Boutwell, Muster Field Farm Museum member and poet

 He struck me as a typical New England Farmer. I explained I was a writer and he informed me that there were two poems that he had written years ago framed and posted on the wall of the old school house. I promised to check them out and he let me take a couple of pictures.

Watters Ice House was next. Muster Field Farm hosts an Ice Day in January when blocks of ice are gathered from Kezar Lake and buried under sawdust in the ice house where it remains frozen and ready for the two day Farm Days event in August. 

Besides buildings, the property also contains quite a few old wagons, sleds, and a rusted tractor with metal wheels was most fascinating.

The Ryder Corner Schoolhouse was used in Croydon until 1938. There was a woman demonstrating candle making in the outer room (cloakroom?) and in the classroom, Fred Creed was reading stories to children.

Fred Creed, story teller and basket maker, with his Feather Collecting Basket

During a break, he explained that he is also a basket maker and the one currently on the desk was a replica of a style of feather basket that was used by children to go out in the barn yard to collect feathers for use in eiderdown quilts. The handle of the basket goes up through the cover so that the lid simply slides along the handle without detaching.

Larry Boutwell’s poems were on the wall. One was about Muster Field Farm and the other about Ice Day. Both are very good and give nice insight into the farm.

The Ezekiel Little Barn was hosting spinners and weavers. Pam Burghardt said that she’s been weaving since 2003 and is often surprised in the dying process when the finished material doesn’t come out as expected. She showed samples of some of the different weaves and explained how lace is made. She talked about a current project of following the process of dye color from yellow to red, how there is a big jump between the first color and the next, and that the change is more subtle the closer she gets to the end red. 

Weaver, Pam Burghardt,  explains making lace.

There were other buildings and many photographs were taken. We checked out spinners, tables with preserves, and tasted fried green tomatoes cooked on an old wood fired black stove. A band played, there were fiddlers, and a couple played fife and drum. 

I definitely want to return to Muster Field Farm. There is more to see and experience and the views are beautiful. 

Muster Field Farm Museum grounds are open every day with major events being Ice Day in January, Farm Days in August, and Harvest Day in October. Guided tours of the Mathew Harvey Homestead are Sundays 1-4 pm, July through Harvest Day. Check out the website at www.musterfieldfarm.com/museum.

 

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