According to the garden historians, Rudy & Joe Favretti, “At the time of the American Revolution, about ninety-four percent of all people in this country were engaged in farming.”
“Most farmers had their farmstead, which consisted of a few acres, and then somewhere else they had their meadows, fields, and woodlots. Large scale crops, such as hay, corn, and, perhaps, even pumpkins and turnips, were grown away from the homelot, but the smaller scale crops, such as, peas, cabbages, radishes, carrots, garlic, onions, leeks, melons, herbs, and beans were planted in gardens near the house. These homelot gardens were tended by the women of the household.”
They also quote from Thomas Tusser, a sixteenth century poet:
“In March and April, from morning till night,
In sowing and setting, good housewives delight:
To have in a garden or otherlike plot,
To trim up their house and to furnish the pot.”
The Favrettis describe the logistics and layouts of the ‘homelot’ gardens for the colony homesteader. Usually, the gardens were located nearest to the house, with the early crops being planted in the southern-facing plot to take advantage of the reflected heat in which “….the women of the house planted roses, perennials, and possibly herbs as well as fragrant annuals.” Fruit trees provided shady places around the house and then larger orchards were established on the homestead. Colonists were quick to adopt beekeeping:
“Bees, on the other hand, were often a feature of our early gardens. Their value as pollinators and honey producers was much appreciated. Hence, bees were incorporated into the garden and orchard. An elaborate skep was not always present because a hollowed log would serve as well.”
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In our continuing gardening efforts, we have frequently uncovered stones laid in paths that start and stop, but apparently lead nowhere. We have often wondered why these stones are located where they are. The Favrettis have answered our question: “Stepping stone walks traversed the lawn in direct lines to the woodshed, privy and the well. In the fork of the walks leading to the privy and well was a large, flat stone on which tubs were placed for laundering. The adjoining grass area served as a drying yard.” We are developing our theories for which functional building was located where in the early days of this property, and perhaps my research will uncover an associated journal kept by earlier inhabitants.
Time for us to plot a map and take advantage of the clues from the stepping stones.
Thanks to my colleague, Jacqueline Connell for guiding me to the Favretti’s book.
Rudy & Joe Favretti, For Every House A Garden A Guide for Reproducing Period Gardens, (University Press of New England, 1990), pp. 15, 20, 22-23, 25