Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beautiful image shared by a visitor...

Today we were reminded, once again, of how special Log Cabin Village truly is, and how incredible our visitors are! Sherman, Texas, resident Steve Hagan and his family recently visited us for the second time this year. They were generous enough to share this beautiful photo they took in the herb garden during their visit. They were also gracious enough to allow me to share this image with you.

Thank you very much, Hagan family! We hope to see you again soon...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Plunging into despair...

Those of you who have visited the Village within the past 2 years know that we have a wonderful hands-on cabin. You also know that this wonderful hands-on cabin has wonderful hands-on activities inside and wonderful hands-on activities outside.

You might call it a hands-on wonder (or blessed miracle for those with children needing edutained for a few moments whilst the parents catch a breather).

The most popular outdoor hands-on activity is our recirculating water pump. Children love this pump. Adults love this pump. We love this pump. The pump housing was lovingly built by our skilled tradesman, Steve. The pump itself was ordered online.

And a beautiful pump it is. Or rather, was.

You see, since this activity is loved like no other, it gets used like no other. And with frequent loving (violent) use comes the inevitable breakage. And tears...but that's a whole DIFFERENT story.

The last time we repaired the pump, all it took was replacing the leathers. Do you know what pump leathers are? Neither did I until I had to call the lovely pump experts at Lehman's and order the parts. I know now, though.

Unfortunately, the problem this time was not the leathers. It was the plunger assembly. Do you know what a plunger assembly is? Neither did I until we had to research and research and research to try and find something on the internet that vaguely resembled the broken pieces that Steve pulled out of the now-defunct beloved pump.

Plunger assembly.

Did you know it's really difficult to try and find what you need by Googling "plunger assembly?" We have a pump that's literally named "Our Good Cistern Pump." It has a "Kant Freeze" enclosed top. These are not the most unique of descriptors when one is combing the bowels of the internet.

I found myself at Lehman's again. I again called their pump experts, and they directed me to the part number I would need to order. And it was only $20.00! I ordered three, so as never to be caught in this predicament again.

These parts don't fit our pump. At all.

I don't blame Lehman's. I'm not sure I adequately conveyed the information needed to discern which pump parts we actually needed. Be that as it may, we have worthless broken pump parts and worthless good pump parts sitting here in the office.

What's a museum educator to do? The children...think of the children with their tear-stained faces. They just want to pump water. But our pump has been incapacitated.

I turned to the Lehman's pump experts again. This time via live chat. Surely I couldn't mess things up via live chat! Chatted with a lovely woman named Beth who told me she'd need to doublecheck that the parts they carry would indeed fit our "Good" pump. I asked about instead getting a pump to fit our good parts, and she suggested that we keep the pump we have because it's better than the pump we would order.


We are too. But soon we'll know whether we'll have a new pump, new parts, both, or neither.

And you thought working at a museum was a quiet, low-stress job!

*note: I, in no way, am officially endorsing Lehman's, nor are they aware that I am mentioning them here. I will, however, say that they have some of the BEST customer service in the business.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Keeping the Home Fires Burning...

Check this out!

It's our new fire pit!

Isn't it fabulous????

Even looks great from this angle!
So why are we so excited about this? This new fire pit design, with the metal encapulated fire ring, allows us to demonstrate outdoor cooking without a fire marshal present--which means we can show this exciting frontier skill more frequently!
It's too hot to slave over a fire right now, but keep your eyes peeled for dutch oven lovin' this fall!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Longing for cooler breezes...

As we observe both our visitors and historical interpreters with brows (although not enthusiasm) dampened by sweat, we wonder how our ancestors coped with the Texas summer heat. Frequent dips in a nearby spring? A dogtrot cabin? Vacations to Michigan? While the first two are real possibilities, our pioneer forefathers and mothers also had a few other tricks up their sleeves. In addition to wearing long sleeves to protect from the sun, they also sported natural fibers and loose garments that helped promote air flow to cool the body when soaked with sweat. Check out these other great innovative ideas (again...courtesy The Handbook of Texas online). And keep cool!

AIR-CONDITIONING. The earliest home air cooling in Texas was practiced by the Mexican and Spanish population. At an early date Spanish Americans constructed adobe houses with thick masonry walls with a door or a closable opening in each of the four walls. At night the opened doors and openings permitted an all-night flow of air through the rooms. This lowered the temperature of the entire adobe wall. All openings were closed from sunup until sundown. The owner thus captured a mass of cool air in his home that lasted until siesta time, after the midday meal. During the day, the semitropical sun would heat up the outer walls by direct radiation. For the night sleeping hours, while the house was cooling for the next day, the adobe inhabitant and his family sometimes slept out-of-doors, where they could obtain the benefit of natural night cooling. The Spanish-speaking people learned this practice from African and Asiatic Arabs who had learned to employ the existing forces of nature to keep cool. From Spain this practice entered Mexico and then Texas. The early white settlers in the state also built their homes so that they could be cooled by this system of cross-ventilation.

Well water was also introduced as an air-cooling medium at an early date. The water was pumped from the well to fan radiators installed in the space to be cooled. Unless the water was pumped for other uses subsequent to its application as a coolant, this was not an economical procedure in Texas since the well water was usually 62° to 72 F and thus had little cooling potential.

In the dairy regions of Central Texas, nineteenth-century German farmers adopted evaporative cooling. This system, which was practiced extensively in Central and West Texas, was originated for milk cooling. The evening milk was placed in metal cans; fans blew air through wetted blankets covering the cans. This air took on "wet bulb" temperatures and cooled the milk to 70° or 75° F. This system was easily modified for home cooling, as is evident today in the wide range of evaporative coolers ranging from the desert variety to the sophisticated designs used in large homes, commercial structures, and government buildings. During this same period the cities in low elevations in eastern North Texas experimented with every type of fan, with ice and dry ice, and with evaporative and sky-cooling devices to combat the summer heat waves.

Manufacturing of cooling devices began in Texas cities as early as 1870 and provided the beginning of a new type of industry. Air cooling with commercial ice dates back to approximately 1910, when ice could be purchased for as little as four dollars a ton. At first the 300-pound blocks of ice were placed in a vault through which a fan blew air into an outlet duct and thence to the space to be cooled. By 1920 the ice had been placed in an enclosed pool and the ice water circulated to fan radiators in order to cool rooms, auditoriums, and restaurants. The First Baptist churches of Dallas and Austin and the Highland Park Methodist Church were ice-water cooled for many years. The first refrigerated air-cooled building in the Houston area was the Rice Hotel cafeteria, air-conditioned in 1922. The Milam building in San Antonio, which opened in 1928, was the first air-conditioned high-rise office building in the country.

By 1940 Texas had become a national manufacturing center for air-cooling machines and inventions, which ranged from lowly desert coolers to the most sophisticated forms of evaporative coolers and reversed cycle refrigerators, as well as heaters for winter heating and summer refrigerated air cooling. The latter system was designed into one machine, usually called the "heat pump." Also in the 1940s the air-conditioning industry began to include units for automobiles. By the 1950s Dallas had become a major center for the manufacture of car air conditioners. In the early 1960s Don Dixon of San Antonio broadened the potential market for the industry by inventing a unit to fit Volkswagens (cars previously considered "uncoolable"). By the 1960s air-conditioning was a multi-million-dollar industry, with manufacturing and retail establishments accounting for more than 240 businesses in the state. By the 1990s the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association had licensed about 8,000 contractors.

Environmental questions arose in the 1980s concerning the hypothetical deleterious effect of the chlorofluorocarbons used in air-conditioning systems. Passage of the Clean Air Act by the United States Congress in 1992 gave the Environmental Protection Agency the power to require that refrigerants be recovered and recycled. The cost of such procedures prompted the air-conditioning industry to make plans to phase out freon-based units and replace them with supposedly less harmful systems. See also REFRIGERATION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Willis R. Woolrich

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This day in Texas History...

Too great not to share! From the Texas State Historical Association, this is one of MANY reasons that historical records are sometimes hard to come by...

Angry soldiers burn Fredericksburg store, destroying early Gillespie County records

On this day in 1850, a mob of soldiers burned down the store of Fredericksburg merchant John M. Hunter, destroying all Gillespie County records up to that time. Hunter, the first Gillespie County clerk, had a violent temper and had clashed more than once with the soldiers at nearby Fort Martin Scott. On the night of June 30, Hunter had refused to sell whiskey to a soldier named Dole. When Dole became abusive, Hunter fatally stabbed him in the chest. Some fifty angry soldiers returned the next night, looking for Hunter, but the merchant had fled town. Several townspeople attempted to salvage the county records from the burning store, but the soldiers prevented them. Apparently neither Hunter nor the soldiers were punished. Hunter later built a new store on the same block; it opened in time to be used by the district court in October 1850.