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Review of the 2016 Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow at the Queens County Farm Museum

Hello all. A week ago, I attended the Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow which takes place at the end of July at the Queens County Farm Museum. I have been coming to this place, and the associated Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo (which I originally thought was part of the QCFM, but later learned that it’s an entirely separate organization) ever since I was in pre-school. Chances are if you went to pre-school or elementary school here in Queens, New York, that around October you came to this place for some pumpkin picking. I enjoy coming here for the special events that they host, and among them is the yearly gathering of the Indian tribes from across the Americas to represent and honor their heritage – from Canada to Ecuador, and everywhere in between.

As a historian specializing in tribal cultures from ancient times to modern times, I feel that behooves me to come to events like this as often as I can in order to keep up my credibility as a historian and quasi-anthropologist. Also, I just love coming here purely for it’s own sake – I greatly enjoy coming to this place, I enjoy the “rendezvous” like atmosphere, and of course, I love the music and the dances. The food isn’t bad either!

The pow wow was a three-day event, and I arrived on saturday July 30. The weather was forecasted to be pretty bad that weekend, and on Friday, the first day of the festivities, it poured. When I arrived on Saturday, the sky was gray and heavy, and there were warnings that there would be occassional showers throughout the day.

Although it’s called a “museum” the QCFM is working farm where they grow crops and raise livestock. In fact, it is the last fully-operational farm left in all of Queens County. It’s a large place, and the pow wow events were confined to the front portion of the farm where the gate and most of the buildings are. The center and rear of the farm were pretty isolated, aside from a few farm workers and some families looking at the animals in their pens.

I enjoy walking amidst the gardens and crop fields. As I’ve said in previous posts on this blog, although I’ve lived my whole life in the city, I’ve always been more of a country person at heart, and this place allows me a certain amount of escapism.

The first building that you see when you walk in is the Adriance Farmhouse.

QCFM 1QCFM 2

Nearby are other associated buildings which are used for a variety of purposes.

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In the nearby gardens, they grow many of the herbs and vegetables that they sell at the market stand, which is located outside of the giftshop.

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In terms of livestock, they have a refreshing variety, including pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, cows, horses, and even alpacas!

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Just beyond the gardens is the cornfield. they grow the corn in the form of a maze which is then enjoyed by the children during autumn. When I was there, the corn stalks were five and a half feet high, up to my chin.

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Other gardens stretch all the way to the back of the farm property. This is a rather large expanse of open area. On one side are grape vines, some open grass, and then more vegetable and herb gardens. The QCFM used to make and sell its own wine (the 2006 Merlot was especially good), but they stopped doing this a few years back. The following three photos are my attempt at a wide pan shot, which unfortunately my camera can’t do, so I had to take three separate pictures.

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The object that you see in the last picture is a greenhouse. There are several of these small greenhouses, constructed from a frame and covered with thin plastic sheeting, dotted all over the farm. Here is a better picture of it.

QCFM 15

You’re probably expecting me to post pictures of the pow wow celebrations, but I deliberately took NO pictures of this. The dancers, musicians, and story-tellers that were present here have strong feelings about having their pictures being taken. Remember, these people are not tourist attractions. They are people deserving of respect, and I felt that it would not be appropriate to be snapping pictures of people when they don’t want to be photographed. Besides, in this age when everyone who attends a concert records it on their smartphone rather than sitting back and enjoying the show, I am adamant in not allowing technology to get in the way of an immersive sensory experience. So, no photos. Don’t like that? Tough.

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Captain Louis Antoine de Bougainville

Louis Antoine de Bougainville

Louis Antoine de Bougainville (November 12, 1729 – August 31, 1811) was a French scholar, military officer, and explorer. He was a brilliant mathematician, gained fame for himself fighting in the French and Indian War, he became the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe, and he conducted an extensive exploration of the South Pacific. Bougainville Island, where a ferocious battle took place during World War II, is named after him.

This is a drawing as he would have looked in his 20s during his service in the French and Indian War as a captain in the French Army and as the aide-de-camp to Gen. Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. Made using a combination of No.2 pencil, colored pencils, and markers. The portrait that you see is based upon several existing portraits of him from later in life (none of them being full portraits), especially his distinctive blue coat with the gold Celtic-style braiding.

For more info, read the following:

The Easter Rising of 1916: 100 Years Later, and some thoughts on the importance of history

Today marks the 100th anniversary one of the most important dates in modern European history. On the Monday after Easter in 1916, a group of young heavily-armed men dressed in military uniforms stood outside the front doors of the General Post Office in central Dublin. There, one of their number, a young poet named Podraigh Pearse (the name is often Anglicized as Patrick Pearse), read a document called “The Proclamation of the Irish Republic”. In front of a curious and ever-growing crowd, he called for full and complete independence from British rule, which had existed in Ireland since the Middle Ages. Then, taking up defensive positions within the post office and elsewhere in the city, Pearse and his fellow rebels awaited the inevitable British military response. What happened next has become a core part of Irish history and cultural legend.

In its immediate sense, the Easter Rising was a failure – all of the defensive positions were taken by British forces and the ringleaders were executed. However, it marked a sea change in Irish nationalism. Previous Irish rebellions had been essentially one-offs, flaring up and then being supressed, with many decades of down-time taking place between each independence attempt. In one circumstance, a whole century went by without any hostilities. However, after 1916, many Irish now made a concerted effort to drive the British out of Ireland for good. This resulted in the rebellion which finally culminated in Irish independence in 1922. I’m certain that the 100th anniversary of Irish independence in 2022 will result in massive celebrations seen throughout the country.

Since the Easter Rising of 1916 is clearly seen by many as the initial spark that led to Ireland becoming free after nearly 800 years of British rule, the 100th anniversary of this event is being marked with great celebration within Ireland itself and amongst Irish populations elsewhere. PBS has regularly been airing programs about this event, a play was created commemorating it, and Irish and British news media have been crackling with item pieces on this event and how it has effected modern Anglo-Irish politics. Both the Easter Rising and its anniversary are important historical and cultural milestones, especially for the people of the British Isles, and I’m happy to see that there has been a lot of conscious media attention on it.

I wish that I could say that there was more, especially in the United States, where the mainstream media don’t seem all that interested in such things. I remember that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2013 received minimal media attention. The 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War in 2015 received hardly any attention at all, and the 250th anniversary of the passing of the Stamp Act of 1765, also in 2015, which many people see as one of the defining moments in the move towards American independence from Britain, received absolutely NO RECOGNITION WHATSOEVER! To a historian like myself, this is nothing short of deliberate historical and cultural extermination, a detestable process in which the hallmarks of people’s history are ignored or discarded in favor of other things which we are brainwashed into thinking are more important. The reason for this is disturbingly simple – nobody in the US really gives a damn about such things anymore. In today’s fast-paced tech-obsessed reality TV-obsessed society, things like history are seen as boring and irrelevant. I once worked with someone who hated history because, in her words, “it’s of no use to me now”. I can’t stand it when people have this mindset of “if it doesn’t benefit me personally, I don’t need it”. In a way, I can understand this way of thinking. Really, are all of those names and dates really important to your normal day-to-day affairs? Probably not. However, as the old saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. When people lose sight of their own cultural heritage, it makes it all the easier for them to be manipulated and molded by those who are in power, either at home or abroad. I’ve been seeing this for years with the emergence of so-called “sheeple”.

In Europe, including Britain and Ireland, history is a living breathing thing. It’s a palatable thing in the air and earth. In America, I don’t see this. I see people who are only concerned with the present and the future, and give little to no thought about the past. No wonder that college and university history programs are dying all across this country. No wonder that having a history degree is considered useless when looking for a job. What will happen in 2025 when America has the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War? Or in 2041 with the 100th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Sure, there will probably be a handful of quick news items on it, and maybe a few special edition magazines seen on news stands, but aside from that, I dare say that these upcoming important anniversaries will be acknowledged by a collective shrug. People in the US will take a quick note of this, say something like “Oh, that’s interesting”, and then move on to what they were doing before and give no thought to it for the rest of the day.

For me, this is sad. I place great value on history and historical memory. I’m sure a lot of other people in the United States do too, but for the most part, I don’t see it. I see people who are losing sight of their historical heritage more and more with every passing year. Is it any wonder why we’ve been seeing platitude-spouting demagogues taking center stage in American politics? When history is forgotten, history can get twisted around to suit other people’s ends. American historical memory is being constantly re-written so that people here imagine that things played out differently than they actually did. Incorrect facts are being constantly touted as cold hard truth. Historical characters are cast in exclusive good/bad, black/white relationships to each other with no gray area in between. TV channels, such as “The History Channel” of all things, have replaced informative programming with, well let’s be frank, bullshit. The History Channel, which by the way is no longer called that, is now dominated with programs on aliens, rednecks, Alaska, the Bible, doomsday, and Nostra-fucking-damus.

I look at all of this for what it is – the gradual eroding of history, the altering of historical memory, and by extension the manipulation of culture. In Europe, history is alive and well. In America, it’s dying.

Portrait of a Huron war-chief

Huron chief Long Spear

Hello all. This is a portrait of a war-chief of the Huron tribe named Long Spear – I don’t know how to say that in Huron/Wyandot, but I’m certain somebody out there knows. This person was supposed to be a character in a video game set in the French and Indian War that my friend Andrew and I were going to develop years ago, but that idea unfortunately never got off of the ground.

I found the original version of this man’s portrait that I had made back in 2005, I think – there was no date on it, but I’m pretty sure that’s when I first drew him. The overall pose and design was the same, but it was less detailed, done with markers instead of colored pencils, and was rather sloppy. I decided to re-make Long Spear’s portrait, and the result is what you see here.

Media for this portrait include:

  • No. 2 pencil
  • Crayola and Prismacolor colored pencils
  • Black felt-tip marker

I’m sure that many of you will likely see the influence that Wes Studi’s portrayal of Magua in the film The Last of the Mohicans had on this design. However, I tried very hard not to make a clone copy of THAT Huron war-chief! If you have any questions or comments, please write them. Hope you enjoy my latest work. Keep your pencils sharp, everyone.

Prince Frederick Augustus

Prince Frederick Augustus 1815

Here is a portrait of Prince Frederick Augustus (1763-1827), the younger brother of Britain’s King George IV. This is how he would have looked at or around the year 1815, I think. It’s thanks to him that the British Army, which had previously been in a state of neglect, was reformed and able to beat back Napoleon. The portrait is somewhat based on an existing portrait by John Jackson dated to 1822 (see here). He is garbed in clothes typical of the early 19th Century. On his chest is a medal from the Order of the Garter.

I found out after making this picture that I made one big mistake – Prince Frederick had blonde hair, not dark hair. Oops.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Frederick,_Duke_of_York_and_Albany

Keep your pencils sharp, everybody.

Review of the 2014 Warwick, New York “Applefest”

On Sunday, October 5, I attended the annual Applefest for the first time. This is a massive fair that is held in the town of Warwick (established in the late 1700s), Orange County, New York. I was informed that it was one of the biggest autumn festivals in the entire Northeast, with a projected attendance of somewhere around 35,000 people. My parents and I had a lovely ride through the rural hilly forest-covered countryside of lowerstate New York (I hate using the phrase “downstate” because it sounds depressing). As I stated in a previous post, I’m a country boy at heart, and I love to get out of the damned city at every opportunity, especially to experience “old time” things like quaint fall and country festivals.

Despite my very limited finances, I had a feeling that I would be spending an inordinately high amount of money there. At country fairs, things tend to be slightly on the expensive side. Local craftsmen and farmers need to sell their wares, and with many of them feeling the pinch from economically bad times, they need to adjust their prices higher to make up for things.

When we got there, which was at around 10:30 AM (only a half-hour after the fair opened), the place was already jammed. I was surprised how popular the fair was in both senses of the word. I was told to expect a large crowd, but I wasn’t prepared for this. There were at least 7,000 or 8,000 people when we got there, and the crowds kept increasing every minute. Almost immediately, I spotted various stands for things. They were giving pony rides to small children, the local town fire department had set up a barbecue, and there was a stand for adopting ex-racing greyhounds – they seemed to enjoy a more relaxed laid back lifestyle than the hectic energetic one that they had previously pursued. Next to this was a stand selling spices and varieties of olive oils. In the energetic spirit of the moment, and with a fervent desire to help local communities and craftsmen, I bought three different bottles: Italian herb, sun-dried tomato, and spicy pepper.

The Applefest was not just about apples, despite its name. Certainly, all things apple-related played a big part in it, but the stands were for far more: food stands, craft vendors, and environmental/community awareness booths talking out things like solar energy, banning plastic bags, and animal adoption. On top of all this, seemingly everybody in the town decided to have a yard sale!

I had many good experiences here, but at the top of the list was when I got to make apple cider myself, which was something that I had never done before. I have an immense unquenchable thirst for knowledge, especially pertaining to things that I regard as from the past, and I tried to get as much information as I could. I first began by carefully studying the construction of the portable press, which was about the size of a bicycle, and took a few pictures just to have a reference – I am determiend to get one of these things for myself, if I should ever be so lucky as to have my own farm somewhere. I also carefully watched the press in operation. I had a wonderful conversation with a teenager (at least I assume he was a teenager) named Rafael about the process of making apple cider. He told me that it takes about 40 pounds of apples to make one gallon of apple cider, and that you can make your cider of a specific flavor depending on the apple variety (some are sugary sweet while others are tart). Then came the best part – I got to help him. I started by tossing the apples into the hopper. The hopper is connected to a turbine, which is connected to a wheel-crank. The operator turns the crank, which turns the turbine, which crushes the apples. The crushed bits then fall out of a hole in the underside and down into an awaiting bucket. The buckets are not whole – they have large slats cut into the side so that the juice can escape when being pressed. Make sure that the bucket is lined with a mesh cloth! Not only does it prevent the apple bits from being squeezed out through the bucket slats, it also makes cleaning the bucket a lot easier, and you can carry the shredded apple chunks away like they’re in a bag. After I acted as  the shoveler, so to speak, I acted as the presser. The bucket was placed underneath a large cast-iron screw with four spike-shaped handles on the top, and there was a circular wooden board underneath the screw, unattached. After the bucket of apple pulp was placed under the screw press, the mesh bag that the pulp was in was folded over, completely covering the apple pulp – this is to prevent the apple chunks from sticking to the underside of the board. Then, the board was placed over the pulp, lined up directly underneath the screw. Then, start turning! You have to make sure that you don’t turn too much, otherwise you’ll break open the bucket. As I turned the screw, which was easy at first but got to be rather hard work, I observed the tan-orange cider juice coming out of the slats, traveling a short distance down a decline and out of a drainage hole. Underneath the hole was a steel pot, collecting the juice. I helped Rafael out a coule of times with the process as the people watched us. I shook his sticky hand with my sticky hand and thanked him for all of the information that he gave me and for allowing me to participate. He smiled and gave me a free cup of cider for my work.

I love it when youth become involved in these sort of things. I’m noticing a greater interest among young people in “getting back to the land” and focusing more on simple things. First, I had a great talk with a student from VVS High School about the process of making maple syrup, and now this. I really want more young people to get involved in agrarian pursuits and having a greater appreciation for home-grown local produce.

We made our way through even further. The fair wasn’t limited to just one street – it seemed that half of the town had been converted for the Applefest. Along every street were food venders, craft vendors, and social awareness booths. I had talks with a person who made bows and arrows, a person who made fudge, and another person who represented a group that wanted plastic bags to be banned in the town of Warwick. I was rather moved by that, and I am contemplating starting a similar organization in my home town of Flushing.

After having some hamburgers made for us by the Warwick Fire Department, we looked around for a little bit more, and then decided to head back home. We left at 1:00 PM, and the traffic leading up to Warwick was backed up bumper-to-bumper for miles. By the time that we left, there had to have been at least 30,000 people there, and they were still coming in! Along the road, I passed by the barn of a nearby farm, and painted on the side were the words “LOCAL = GOOD”. I absolutely agree.

I had a great time. I heartily recommend visiting the Warwick Applefest at least once in your life. Certainly, it’s a must if you live in lowerstate New York. I’m already thinking about going back next year.

Review of the 2014 Queens County Fair

I have a great love of the peaceful pastoral countryside. I love quaint farms and orchards, forests, rocky tree-covered hills and crags, glistening rivers, and small crumbling waterfalls. I take every chance that I can get to visit places like this. I especially love it if the scenery in question contains old colonial-style buildings with that musty smokey smell which is my personal high – I absolutely love the smell of a wood-burning fireplace. I get excited whenever I go out to the eastern end of Long Island or up north past the Five Boroughs, because I feel a greater sense of freedom, relaxation, and a feeling of internal peace. Although I am a denizen of New York City, I am much more of a country boy at heart than a city slicker.

Because of this, I love it when there are what I could call “folk-ish” places, where there are a lot of the old-time practices. I like visiting colonial farms and regional celebrations, like apple festivals and seasonal fairs. One of these which I like to visit is the annual Queens County Fair, held at the Queens County Farm Museum. This is the oldest continuously-operating farm in all of New York State, dated to 1697. Located next door is the Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo, which (at least according to my generation) was an obligatory field trip for all children between the ages of 3 to 10. You can find out more about the Queens County Farm Museum by clicking on the link here.

I’ve had this fair marked on my calendar for a long time, and I was very eager when I went to it yesterday on Saturday, September 20.

The Queens County Fair is a typical county fair, the sort of event that I imagine taking place amidst more rural surroundings. You have food vendors, rides, contests, bands playing, performances, and advertisers. The highlight of my day was having a wonderful conversation with a high school student from upstate about the process of making maple syrup. Some may read this and go “Huh? How could you be excited about that?”. Believe me, it absolutely made my day.

The fair is held every September. If you live in Queens or the general New York City area, I highly encourage you to come to this fair the next chance you get – the pig race this year drew a very large crowd (yes, they have pig races – awesome). The fair is usually held in late September around the autumnal equinox. Bring lots of money with you – I guarantee you’ll be spending it.

The Queens County Farm Museum has and hosts events throughout the year. The next one coming up is the Kickoff to Fall, formerly called the Apple Festival, held in early October. Check the museum website for more details and a full calendar.

I had an absolutely great time there, a welcome and relieving change of pace from where I live and how I live. Some people like living in the bustling big city, but I don’t. I’m a country boy, and I need to live in the country. I don’t want to live in NYC anymore. I’ll go to the Queens County Fair every year as long as I am able to do so.