- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 21, 2004

Before museum-goers can visit 1771, they must go past a big view of 2004.

Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a living-history farm museum, is located right next to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in McLean. Traveling the winding road to get to the park gives glimpses of trees and farmlands on one side and electric fences and surveillance cameras on the other.

The realities of national security in the new millennium wash away when one enters the grounds of the farm, however. It is indeed 1771, right down to the costumed interpreters who greet visitors with a nod of the head and say “good day” as they tend to their Colonial-era chores.

“We are a living-history farm,” says farm Director Anna Eberly. “We demonstrate life on a low-income tobacco farm in the 1770s. It is quite a contrast to what is all around us in our location. We are the most expensive piece of real estate with a poor farm on it.”

In the 18th century, most Virginians lived on farms similar to the one at Claude Moore, says Katie Jackson, a staff interpreter. On a recent weekday, Ms. Jackson played the farm wife, preparing and cooking food on the hearth in the farm’s one-room log cabin. Visitors can see how a family would have lived in 1771, cooking and eating in the main room and sleeping in the loft above.

“A lot of historic sites show how rich people lived back then,” she says. “It is fun to look at pretty dresses, but this is how most people lived.”

A visit to Claude Moore starts at the gatehouse, where visitors can pick up a map as well as Colonial-themed gifts and plants grown on the farm. From there, a winding, wooded path leads through the grounds, where visitors might see anything from fields being tilled to cows grazing in the pasture.

Twelve acres here are used for farming. Corn, tobacco, wheat, flax and rye fields as well as kitchen gardens and an orchard are worked by hand using farming methods of the 18th century, Ms. Eberly says. The livestock — which includes chicken, geese and cattle — is allowed to roam freely in the fenced-off pasture.

In the farmhouse, interpreters prepare food such as johnnycakes and potatoes with items picked from the fields. Ms. Jackson explains how life for farm families in the 1770s was all about chores. If you weren’t working the fields, you were working in the house, where there was an endless cycle of lighting fires, carding and spinning wool, weeding the smaller gardens, sewing and sweeping.

All of these are part of the day at Claude Moore Colonial Farm. “The visitors can even help us,” Ms. Jackson says.

Special events are scheduled throughout the year to offer an in-depth look at Colonial life. The next event is the tobacco harvest from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 29. Visitors can help gather plants, clean leaves and hang the leaves on tobacco sticks to cure.

On Sept. 4, the farm will hold its annual wash day. Wash day offers a good dose of perspective for those who complain about having to do modern-day laundry. Back then, farm families made their own soap, washed clothes by hand, boiled the whites and hung the clothes to dry in the orchard.

“People don’t have a real sense of how difficult everything was back then,” Ms. Eberly says.

Fall also is the season for the Farm Skills program, a workshop that offers hands-on experience for all sorts of Colonial skills and games. The farm skills workshop, which costs $5 per person, will take place every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon from Sept. 30 through Nov. 18.

Three weekends a year, the farm hosts its 18th-century Market Fair, a festival that features Colonial craftsmen with items for sale, musicians, games and food representative of the era.

The next Market Fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16 and 17. Admission on Market Fair days is $5 for adults and $2.50 for seniors and children 3 to 12.

WHEN YOU GO:

Location: Claude Moore Colonial Farm is at 6310 Georgetown Pike in McLean.

Directions: Take the Beltway to the Virginia Route 193/Georgetown Pike exit. Go east two miles and follow signs for the farm. The farm is at the intersection of Routes 123 and 193, just before the turn for CIA headquarters.

Hours: It is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, April through mid-December. The farm is closed during inclement weather and on Thanksgiving Day.

Admission: Adults, $3; children ages 3-12 and seniors, $2. On Market Fair days, admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children and seniors. Farm skills programs are $5 per person. Memberships are available.

Parking: Free parking is available.

More information: 703/442-7557 or www.1771.org.

Notes:

• Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a living-history farm where life for a tobacco farming family in 1771 is re-created. Costumed interpreters stay in character as they work on the farm. Different activities are represented depending on the time of year.

• The path through the farm can be quite rocky and muddy, so wear appropriate shoes. Families with children in strollers may want to bring an all-terrain stroller to get over the path.

• There is a small picnic area near the gatehouse.

• The gatehouse sells Colonial reproduction gifts, books and candles as well as a few small snack items. Visitors also can purchase plants grown on the farm.

• The farm has an apprentice program where students can earn community service hours by portraying Colonial-era children and teens at the farm.

Upcoming special events:

• Aug. 29 — Tobacco harvest, 1 to 4 p.m. Farmers will harvest and cure tobacco plants.

• Sept. 4 — Wash day, 1 to 4 p.m. The time-consuming laundry chore will be demonstrated.

• Sept. 18 — Rail burning, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. A bonfire will be set from rotten fence rails. There also will be songs, games and crafts.

• Oct. 2 — Straw into gold, 1 to 4 p.m. Learn how to turn flax into fiber and use a spinning wheel.

• Oct. 16 and 17 — Market Fair, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Enjoy Colonial food, games, songs and merchandise for sale.


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