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Harvest Days Previews the Future of the Past at Garfield Farm Museum

CAMPTON HILLS-    On Sunday, October 4th from 11:30 am-4 pm, the future of Garfield Farm Museum's appearance will be previewed with the various building restoration projects underway over the last year. Visitors will also step back in time and discover life before modern technology at Garfield Farm Museum's 34th annual Harvest Days.

    The demonstrations of 1840s household and farm skills at Harvest Days stimulate the minds of the young and the old. Domestic manufacture such as spinning wool or rendering of tallow for making candles go hand in hand with the flailing and winnowing of wheat, shocking and husking of corn that were a focus of activity in the farmyard. The oxen, sheep, turkeys, geese, pigs, and chickens all add to traditional farm setting.

   Reid Miller returns as a traditional part of Harvest Days. Today, rapidly changing events prevent the establishment of traditions that were often the hallmark of rural life. Harvest Days is a tradition itself to recognize past routines that were ingrained into the cycle of life on the prairies of Illinois. The blaze of fall colors, the ripening of crops, the preparation for wintry days ahead, the migration of wild fowl overhead, preserving of foods for the larder, these were all the rhythmic beats to which life's pace was once set. All these are so hard to imagine with today's markedly different stresses, governed more by trends and mass consumerism. Miller's art of telling the tall tale, sharing a story amongst family and neighbors contrasts to the fear today that texting and e-mailing will starve current generations of being able to verbally communicate face to face. To sit, listen, share and participate makes Miller's lifework a joy to witness.

    The art of the story is also a permanent part to Garfield Farm Museum with the recent release of Angie of Garfield Farm by Ann Brack-Johnson, long time volunteer and board member of the museum. Young readers and a very responsive older generation have identified with the fictional storyline Brack-Johnson weaves to highlight the 1840s era of American history. Using the known history of the farm and community and the real names of the Garfield family and their neighbors, a visit to Harvest Days brings those pages to life. Readers can see first hand the buildings, the chores and activities that Brack-Johnson described to reflect the daily life of 9 year old Angie Garfield in 1847. The book will be available and readers should be able to catch the author's attention between her giving tours of the 1846 inn to sign copies of the book.

    Also ‘new’ to the museum is the almost restored 1842 threshing barn. In the last year, this 173 year old structure that barely resembled its original self has been transformed with the return of an interior of long missing hewn beams, a solid wood floor, re-opened doorways, and mowstead walls. Trillium Dell Timberworks of Knoxville, IL will soon install the reproduced doors so grading and landscaping can be completed this fall. Thanks to a challenge grant by the Jeffris Family Foundation of Janesville WI, individual donors and groups like the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley and the Kane County Riverboat Fund have met the challenge raising in total $345,000 for the restoration. This will be the first Harvest Days that the restored building will be presented and interpreted.

     Another change back to the old will be the previewing of the 1846 exterior bedroom wall that was covered over by an 1890s bathtub and sink room. This summer, museum staff removed the structure to begin the process of the last major exterior phase of restoring the 1846 inn. J& R Herra Heating of Elburn, IL returned to relocate a condenser line from the geothermal system they installed in the tavern a couple of years ago so Concept Masonry of Plainfield, IL could repair a portion of foundation wall that had been opened in the 1940s for updating the room.

    The 2015 fall Eagle Scout construction projects will also be near completion as the ox loafing shed built in 2014 by an Eagle Scout, has been shingled and a gravel stall floor added as another Eagle will be completing the re-roofing and painting of the garden shed.

    Tours of the 1846 brick inn will be ongoing. Tavern tours often spark conversations between grandparent and child as grandparents recall their childhood visits to family farms. Children will delight in seeing the museum's farm animals. These include mostly rare heritage breeds of chickens, turkeys, sheep, hogs, and oxen. Tours of the museum's prairie reconnect visitors to nature and its resilience, as the last prairie flowers bloom and go to seed.

    A bake sale will be held and refreshments offered in the museum's visitor's center, the Atwell Burr House. Donations for Harvest Days are $6 for adults and $3 for children under twelve and under.

    Garfield Farm Museum is the only historically intact former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored by donors and volunteers as an 1840s working farm museum. Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt.38 on Garfield Road. For information, call (630) 584-8485 or email