Keeping Our (Horses) Cool

Much like the Shakers, our farmers use draft horses to provide horsepower for a variety of purposes—to work the sorghum press, till certain fields, transport people and more. Because of the high visibility of the ever-popular Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides through the Village AND the vast number of hot days this summer, we receive questions from guests about our horses’ well-being pretty often. As equine and stable assistant, my main purpose is to care for, train and spoil the horses at Shaker Village. (Yes, I have a cool job.) As the heat rolls in during these summer months, our horses continue to get the five-star treatment they deserve. So, what makes horses happy?

Fun Fact: Animals such as cows, pigs, goats and sheep are unable to sweat… but, horses do sweat, which makes working in the heat a more bearable activity for them. You might see our horses working into a sweat while giving wagon rides on hot weekends, but there’s no need to worry. As a matter of fact, if the horses aren’t sweating, then I begin to worry. The sweat on a horse is doing an important job in the process of thermoregulation (more on that later). In fact, almost 70 percent of the horse’s body heat is lost through sweat evaporation. There are two particularly interesting benefits of sweat. Equine sweat produces a specific protein called latherin, which causes it to appear foamy and white as the harness makes contact with the skin. (This is where we get the saying “working up a lather.”) The latherin allows the sweat to spread further. Also, the sweat is slightly hypertonic, meaning it has more salt than other fluids. Increased salt content allows for more fluid to be drawn to the skin to cool. Together, these functions of sweat lead to a more efficient cooling rate.

Now, what about those really, REALLY hot days? Sometimes it’s just too hot for our horses to work—sweat or not. We pay close attention to the weather and follow a strict heat index policy, which considers both the temperature and the humidity. If the heat index rises to 100 or higher, our wagon rides are canceled for the day and the horses stay in shaded cool areas with plenty of water. On the days that it doesn’t reach the heat threshold, we utilize the best of our resources to keep the horses comfortable during their daily tasks. Water becomes our main concern. The average horse drinks 5-7 gallons of water in cool weather, at rest. With hotter weather causing elevated water loss through sweat, we see horses drink 20 gallons or more in a single day! Water is provided in our horses’ pastures via automatic waterers that provide unlimited fresh, cool water. Our horses also have access to a salt electrolyte block, which helps to restore the salt lost in their sweat. In between tours, the horses are given water and placed in front of a fan to cool them off. During their lunch break, they receive a large pile of hay, along with unlimited water.

Anyone know what thermoregulation is? (It’s the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different.) Horses are pretty efficient at this, but we help them out a little. The quickest way to cool our horses is by utilizing convection and conduction. Translation: after a good day’s work, our horses get to enjoy a nice cold hose down. Our horses are hosed until the skin and muscles become cool to the touch. Water on, water off, water on, water off…  As we hose our horses, we scrape the water off and continue to apply water so that the heat is transferred from the horse to the water. Once the horse has become cool to the touch, we scrape the last bit off water off the horses. Water that is left on the horse will trap and insulate the heat of the muscles. So, a horse that is turned out wet in the hot sun is at risk to become super-heated since the water is unable to evaporate before it becomes heated and stays trapped on the skin. Hosing them down is a process, but they enjoy every minute of it.

The horses at Shaker Village are well loved by staff, not to mention all the guests they get to meet on a weekly basis. You could say they are local celebrities around here. I’m lucky to work closely with such sweet, gentle horses. Whether it is our retired team of 25-year-old Percherons (the same breed the Shakers kept), or our younger active breeds, all of our horses are shown the best care possible. Plan a visit to learn about all the members of our farm family and the roles they play at the Village. Wagon Rides are available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of October. Our horses can’t wait to meet you, and I look forward to seeing new faces and answering any questions you may have. I’ll be the one driving the wagon! Until then, happy (cool) trails!


Explore 3,000 acres of discovery by horseback! Harness your favorite steed for a backcountry ride through Kentucky forests, fields and creek crossings. The Preserve’s trail system includes 37 miles of horseback riding and carriage-friendly trails. Overnight boarding and Annual Equestrian Passes available. Learn more.


Gabriella Kreinbrook, Equine and Stable Assistant

Growing Ideas at Shaker Village

Being the farm manager at Shaker Village is a pretty good gig for someone who wakes up and goes to bed thinking about vibrant local food systems. My path here has been long and winding, and it all started back in college when I learned about a new philosophy of living and farming known as permaculture. Earlier this week, I checked a big box off my list when I traveled to the Driftless Area of Wisconsin for a nine-day course to earn my Permaculture Design Certificate.

Often misunderstood, and largely under-practiced in the United States, permaculture has become the emergent trend in global agriculture since the word was coined in the late 1970s in Australia. It is defined as a system of agricultural and social design principles that simulate or directly utilize the patterns of natural ecosystems. Its founders coined the term to invoke their goals of establishing a permanent agriculture, but it has often been noted since that its broader implications include the permanence of culture. What better philosophy to dictate the management practices of a cultural site like Shaker Village?

The focus of our course revolved around building agricultural systems that are resilient or agricultural systems with the ability to provide for people and planet throughout unforeseeable pathological, economic or climatic events. As permaculture practitioners, we start with recognizing broad ecological patterns, rather than starting with details. We believe that every landscape can be productive and beautiful regardless of whether it’s considered “good farmland” and that we can regenerate any landscape with good design and continued management.

Perhaps most importantly, we recognize that human beings have become the keystone species in nearly every location we occupy, which is an incredible responsibility. In practical terms, permaculture farms typically revolve around perennial plants, which produce reliably with few inputs and have ample room for wildlife and natural cycles. Annual crops, which are inherently extractive, are scaled to a level that can be sustainably maintained within a larger perennial based system.

I chose the course at Mastodon Valley Farm because I share their belief in the hardwood savanna ecosystem as a model for regenerative farms in our part of the world. A savanna is a landscape characterized by grasslands interspersed with hardwood trees, particularly those producing nuts or acorns. Throughout the past 13,000 years or so, savannas have been the dominant ecosystem in North America and the most productive when measured in normal human foodstuffs. Since the end of the last Ice Age, until a few hundred years ago, large animals, such as mastodons, grazed and migrated across the continent, moving nutrients, thinning forests and stimulating new growth along the way. They were the managers of the landscape, maintaining diverse habitats and building the richest deposits of topsoil on the planet.

Our mission is to mimic these incredible ecosystems by utilizing the species we have available to us, which are more easily recognizable. Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry each interact with the landscape in their own ways. Each species can be incredibly detrimental to the landscape under poor management, but they are the prescription for regeneration of those landscapes when managed according to natural cycles.

I am excited to announce that over the next few years The Farm at Shaker Village, in partnership with The Preserve, will be taking steps toward building a more resilient agricultural system that supports the mission of our critical site. Our plans include more animals, fruit and nut trees, and warm season grasses. Like most good things, this won’t happen overnight—it will take years, so we’re not wasting any time getting started. We look forward to sharing our experiences with our guests and community and continuing the legacy of vibrant culture and sustainability that has made Shaker Village what it is today.


Dylan Kennedy is the farm manager…

Dixie Huffman Retires

After 46 years of employment with Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Dixie Huffman is retiring. While that is a remarkable achievement by itself, Dixie’s connection to Pleasant Hill began almost literally since the day she was born. A lifelong resident of Mercer County, as a young girl in the 1930s, Dixie lived on land that was once owned by the Shakers, near the West Lot Dwelling. Her first memories of the Pleasant Hill buildings were from well before the restoration; at one time, she recalled, “it didn’t look like there was much life here.”

Dixie’s professional career at Pleasant Hill began in 1971, as an interpreter during her summer breaks from her full-time teaching career. Upon retiring from teaching, in the late 1970s, she became a full-time fixture of the Pleasant Hill interpretive team. As the years progressed, she began to work behind the scenes with the collection, helping the curatorial staff with very important tasks like cataloging, records management and research.

Dixie and her pencils from transcribing manuscripts.

In recent years, “Miss Dixie” has become best known among staff for her extensive transcription of the Shaker primarily sources. Sitting for hours in front of a microfilm machine, she diligently copied the original records onto legal pads that could easily be shared with staff and guests alike. It has often been said that she knows the Shakers personally, despite having never met them. If you’ve ever experienced her stories about Henry Daily, you know exactly what we mean.

There is no way to quantify the number of people she has shared the Shakers with over the years. But one thing is certain: each of these people had a warm, friendly and engaging experience. With her retirement, Shaker Village is losing one its institutions. We will all miss seeing her during her afternoon walks, her stories, her remarkable personality, her friendliness and her sense of humor. She has been a friend to all she encountered. In contrast to what she experienced in the days before the restoration, there is now life in the Village, and for 46 years, Dixie Huffman has been an integral part in making that happen.

Last week, staff, family and friends gathered with Dixie to celebrate and thank her for her work at Shaker Village.

For staff, having Dixie around meant great stories told from the journals she’d been transcribing on a given day, sweet conversations around the lunch table and the camaraderie of a great friend. She brought the Shakers to life for many, since she added her own fiery personality when retelling each one. She was well known for spending her breaks with the farm animals (of course, she was their favorite person to see, as she always brought a bag of apples with her). For us, it was more than difficult to choose a worthy gift for someone so special to not only the people here, but the place and the work Shaker Village strives to do. But we had to try.

The Dixie Huffman Scholarship will be rewarded to one junior or senior from Burgin High School or Mercer County Senior High School as a way to offset internship and/or college expenses. This area and education are two things near and dear to Dixie’s heart, so we chose to honor her legacy by paying forward to local school children her loyalty and dedication to this place. We will miss seeing Dixie daily “at the office,” but we know she’ll be visiting with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren often.

Recipe: Rose Old Fashioned

Our official connection to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail might be recent, but the Shakers processed and distilled herbs and plants on this property more than 100 years ago. The surviving records of the Pleasant Hill Shakers show that during the 19th century, they were purchasing, consuming and making alcoholic beverages—and also selling small quantities. But, that’s an entire post for another day.

To distill a plant, such as rose petals, is to burn off the impurities and keep only the best parts of the plant that could be used medicinally, as an anti-inflammatory, or for culinary purposes. Rose Water is believed to remedy many things, but the Shakers used it the same way that we use vanilla extract. Our friends over at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail came up with this recipe featuring Shaker Rose Water. If you’re looking for a refreshing new cocktail recipe, grab your favorite Kentucky Bourbon and try this out!

ROSE OLD FASHIONED

Ingredients:

2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon, about 100 proof

1 sugar cube

A few dashes of Angostura bitters

1 small bar spoon of rose water (available in The Shops)

1 mint sprig

Instructions:

Muddle cube with bitters. 

Stir in rose water and Bourbon. 

Serve over ice.

Garnish with mint.


PS. We hear Kentucky Bourbon tastes better in a Shaker Village rocks glass! Visit The Shops at Shaker Village to purchase a souvenir rocks glass or a bottle of rose water!


Grab a cocktail and join us for live music on the Trustees’ Lawn every weekend through October!

In the Words of Henry Daily…

The journals kept by the Shakers have a lot of information in them, and most of it is very basic and straightforward. However, one of the delights of reading these volumes is when the personality of the record-keeper shines through. It doesn’t happen in every journal, and it is more prevalent in some than others, but when it does happen you can almost imagine that you are sitting in the room and having a conversation with a very real person.

This is especially true in the journals kept by Henry Daily. He had a big personality—one that comes across as interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes mean and almost never dull. I would describe him as a curmudgeon. When he keeps these journals, he is an older member who remembered the golden years of Shaker life. He is unhappy with the changes and developments that had taken place in the later 19th century—and he doesn’t hesitate to convey that in the journals. I can’t help but wonder if he ever said any of these things out loud.

Henry Daily is also really good for a soundbite. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to him. I thought it would be fun to imagine if I actually did sit down across the table from him and interview him. How might he answer some of these questions? Probably in a similar way that he writes in his journals… so I used direct quotes from the journals in order to answer these questions. One thing you’ll notice: he often referred to himself in the third person, and this was pretty common in Shaker journals.

AG: Good evening, Henry. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. You really look tired… how has your day been?

HDH. Daily took a lot of our boarders to high Bridge to the 6 oclock & 10 minutes train then brought home a large load of freight. Then went back with a load of 48 boxes of Malt & brought home another large load of freight this was done A.M. he also took 480 lbs flour in the kitchen before the bell rang to rise this morning. After dinner H.D. filled up and hauled 1500 lbs to the office. John Smith let from 1500 to 2000 lbs flour spoil at the Office just from pure laziness because he did not keep it stirred. H. Daily took 150 lbs out of his flour houses. After this H.D. went to the threshing yard & filled up & hauled in 12 large sheets full of wheat chaff to pack malt in. Will this do for an old man’s day’s work or not. (7-18-1881)

 

AG: Wow, yes, it certainly will. On busy days like this, are you glad to have so many people around to help do the work?

HDWe are trying to harvest our wheat tho our machines do so poorly we get very little done. We have a few of the Brethren as hands tho it is mostly done by hirelings and we are getting in debt everyday worse and worse. Our business men do perhaps the best they know but the worst is they do not know. Our wheat is ripening quite fast will soon be ready to cut. We have a very strange elder in the C.F. He took our cart today and drove it through the middle of our wheat field & the grain is nearly ripe, namely Napoleon Brown we never saw the like before in our lives.  Napoleon Brown has had 4 pares of boots & 3 pares of shoes made for himself this year. Our shoe maker tells me this evening the boots were worth $41.00 the shoes were worth $16.00  This is $57.00 for Boots & shoes in one year the mending was worth $6.00  This is $63.00 for boots & shoes this year. If every member in the Center Family used up this amount they could not pay for their feet. There is 62 persons in the Center Family at this time. If all in the Family would consume as many boot & shoes as Napoleon Brown it would foot up $3906 the Family could not pay for their shoeing we think. This is awful extravagant indeed. (6-24-1881; 6-10-1881; 12-30-1887; 12-31-1887)

 

AG: I see… well, let me ask you about animals because everyone likes animals. I saw a dog running around… I didn’t realize that the Shakers kept pets. Do you have a pet?

HDThe Center Family has come to a desperate pass indeed.  They have Andrew Bloomberg a Swede for second Elder & he has a dog following him wherever he goes has him in the shop with him & has no use for him. This is not according to Shakerism but belong without… This dog will eat as much as a man or more. If we all had a dog we would all starve before spring since we have very little to live on & cannot afford a dog for each member in the Society. The dog is a perfect nuisance anyhow & them that keep them are no better certain. (9-20-1887)

 

AG: Ok. Well, I saw chickens on the farm, and they seem to be doing good right now… at least they are eating well, right?

HDFrederick Roth retook charge of C.F. chickens this morning has been doing other work a year. Susan Murry has been pretending to take care of them in his place. (2-8-1887)

 

AG: It sounds like you have disagreements or problems, just like all families do. Sometimes it’s good to get a little space… do you always stay here, or do you get to leave the village sometime?

HDAlexander Milligan & James Shain of the E.F. started to the Exposition in Cincinnati.  This is strange indeed when H. N. Daily had a free pass and could not get to go.  (10-6-1881)

 

AG: Henry, I have to be honest here. It doesn’t seem like you like anyone or anything. Is there anything you like to do?

HDH.N. Daily went out to the Fare which is now going on. Was there 5 hours. The President Adison Walden took him in to the side show which the Debenport Brothers are running by the slight of hand which beats anything we seen there it is marvelous indeed to see what man can do. The president then took HD in the judges stand and told him to go any where he chose. HD had the best day of his life as to pleasure. So much for this day. (8-3-1882)

 

AG: I know you’re very busy and probably still have a lot to do. Thank you for your time, Henry.

HDThis has been a very cold day. H.N. Daily cleaned out the ice house A.M. We may have ice this spell if so we are ready to get it. H.D. went this afternoon by himself and hauled a load of straw to the hen house to keep the chickens feet from freezing. He is now 73 years of age past who will do so at this age.  (12-29-1887)

 

In all seriousness, we are fortunate to have so many remarkable first-person accounts of Shaker life here at Pleasant Hill. It is a joy to get to know these Shakers through their own words—and their own handwriting—as stories of work and worship within the community come to life through their journals.


Aaron Genton is the collections manager…