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Heritage club tries out plantation life
Heritage club members from 6 to 19 demonstrate skills used on a Colonial plantation

 Emily Kegley, 9, spins yarn on a walking wheel during a gathering Saturday at George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Kegley is a member of a 4-H club that has been learning plantation skills such as weaving.
Photos by Elijah Nouvelage/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 1/6/2013


As many of their friends spent much of yesterday watching TV or texting, youngsters in a unique 4-H club were busy re-creating life as it would have been on the 12th day of Christmas at Washington's Birthplace.

Wearing period costumes, club members from the ages of 6 to 19 spun yarn, pounded metal on a forge, organized Colonial dances and wove wool sheered on the grounds into a rough cloth, scenes a young George Washington might have witnessed on Pope's Creek plantation in Westmoreland County.

A graduate of the group, now employed by the national park known as Washington Birthplace National Monument, even put together a full feast on the eve of Epiphany.

It was complete with a roast of beef cooked in a tin oven at the edge of the kitchen hearth.

"We grew all the herbs and some of the vegetables here," said Meagan Gay, who learned her Colonial cooking as a member of the 4-H Heritage Club that's headquartered at and run in cooperation with the national park.

She added, "Funny thing, we'll have half the rangers and most of the club members down here to the kitchen once the roast's done and you can smell the doughnuts cooking."

But perhaps the most fitting and natural adaptation of Colonial behavior--at least for youngsters--was demonstrated by club member Jaden Hight, 10, of King George.

As Gay pointed out, there aren't many days when the young Hight and her friends aren't seen munching a frond of fennel from the garden planted to approximate what the Washingtons might have grown.

Liking the licorice-like taste, Hight made no excuses when asked if she was prone to munch a bunch during living-history events at the birthplace.

"Because it's historically accurate, you don't have to worry about pesticides," she noted, swirling the colorful cape that topped the sort of period frocks and skirts she and her friends donned for the day.

One of the key figures in the club, Deborah Lawton, spent most of her day in the spinning cottage just down from the big house.

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