There’s nothing like staying in a historic building for a weekend and making it your home. It’s the best. While I don’t mind tent camping (and I am extremely grateful to every man who has set up a tent for me at events), I much prefer sturdy walls that keep out large raccoons and the cold air. Macktown, in Rockton, IL is a glorious little site along the Rock River. The weekend before the event, we cleaned the entire building so that we could live in it. Part of the fun of using this building again is figuring out how to set up the furniture in a way that is comfortable and easy for our guests to use and allows for the workers to move quickly from one room to the other when working/serving.
I think my layout of having the tables kind of form a T-pattern worked. It was snug, that’s for sure, but there was much more room to walk about. There is a rather large cabinet in the kitchen area that is in a very dysfunctional spot and I wish it could be moved. Our other change was at night when everyone joined us Sat evening, we put up two tables in the bedroom – one against the wall and the other in the doorway that leads to the main dining room and had a “bar” window. Mr. B the younger manned the bar and that kept the drinks safe from greedy little hands.
Returning the following weekend, was like going home. It was so odd, yet comforting. Swept floors, clean windows, space upstairs for sleeping. I was ready.
I arrived Friday evening and set to work finishing my petticoat that I was to wear the next day. Sewing by candlelight – ah what could be better?!
For two and a half days, the building is transformed into The Ox Bow Tavern. The women slept downstairs and some men upstairs and a few in the tavern area.
We slept two in the bed, and four on the floor. It was cozy.
Saturday morning was bright and cold. I try to get dressed quickly, but it never happens. I’m usually out of bed by 5:45/6 a.m. and then I need help with stays, have to make sure all my petticoats are on in the right order and that they are tied snugly, and then that my fichu and cap are arranged properly/attractively. All the while, men are bustling about getting the fire going, the other cook’s helpers (who somehow get dressed more quickly than me) are prepping food, and “father” is chastising me for being in various states of undress.
Even though we are rushing to start the meal so it’s ready for guests, I love how the sun slowly creeps up over the river as we put the room in order; time stands still for just a bit. Breakfast is porridge and bacon. It’s an Ox Bow staple and favorite by all guests. I’m not sure what would happen if we served anything but that. Our hash is divine as well, but people must have their porridge and meat!
There is a frantic mad rush for about an hour as women bustle around the kitchen dishing out porridge and making sure the guests are satisfied. Because of the cool autumn temperatures, everyone wanted to pile into the dining room at once.
Once everyone leaves, it’s time for the tavern staff to eat…
Mr. B the younger finds a spot on the stairs – a fitting spot for his station in life.
And a young recruit and cook sneak morsels in the kitchen.
And clean up….
Mrs. Blodgett instructs B about upcoming tasks to be accomplished.
A clean pile of dishes ready to be put back on the shelves.
As the day progressed, the women prepped food for midday meal and the men cooked it. (Nothing like cleaning up from the first meal so you can start the second).
Fun colored carrots and potatoes for the soup!
Women bustling about.
Making important decisions about which bread to use.
Mrs. Blodgett rules the kitchen.
Mr. Blodgett rules the fire and cooks oysters, soups, and ducks.
Throughout the day and well into the night, we welcomed an outstanding musician. My favorite tune is Staten Island.
A few men and myself even found time to practice our shooting skills.
Our resident soldier demonstrated proper technique first so the new recruit could hone his skills.
Mr. Blodgett then demonstrated for his daughter how best to aim and fire.
I took my turn.
After the fun and games it was back to work preparing for evening meal, which was for the family and staff only. We used our fine china!
Everyone journeyed back to The Ox Bow for a night of revelry and merriment. We had a full house!
A small group of women congregate in the kitchen to exchange news and gossip.
As usual, the family and staff fell in to bed around midnight and slept peacefully until 5:45 the next morning when we awoke to frost on the ground. It was beautiful to watch the sun rise through the fog.
Unfortunately, frosty mornings do not mean water should not be fetched. B was ready and willing to brave the elements.
Family and staff gather around the morning fire to receive instructions for the day.
The daily routine was the same as the day before, and the afternoon was warm, allowing a brief respite in the form of a walk, which lead to random leaf collecting.
And this leaf!
Goodbye little stone house; you’ve served us well again. We look forward to our next event when we can all come together as a family/staff and provide a superb experience for everyone.