Camping the 18th century way

I’m going to start this post by explaining that one of my aunts has progressive MS and relies on a wheelchair or two canes to get around. My mother and other aunt thought it would be nice to take her camping to a special handicapped accessible campground in the Adirondacks called John Dillon Park. My parents live north of there so I took a week off so I could go and see my family too.

In typical “me” fashion I decided to make the trip more interesting (read: difficult) and camp in 18th century fashion as much as possible.


To this end I volunteered to do the cooking over the fire which I used Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy extensively for. The menu was:
scones for breakfast (Joy of Cooking recipe with modifications), pasties for lunch thanks to Kitty Calash’s Pasty Recipe, salmon/salt potatoes/peas from the garden for dinner one night, and fried sausage/apples/swiss chard for dinner the second night.

I made myself a straw ticking mattress with some straw from my parent’s garage and slept on that with my reenacting wool blanket and pillow. I didn’t bring any modern clothes so I was forced to use what I had on (although I did bring an extra shift, apron, and gown).

Really, the entire experience was quite interesting. Instead of the excitement of a reenactment it was more like boring normal life. I was uncomfortable and cold and had to sleep fully dressed the second night for warmth (and I admit I used a sleeping bag the second night as an extra blanket). My feet hurt from walking over miles of gravel path (it was 0.3 miles to water/car and of course there was other walking involved). I’m proud to say that although I didn’t brush my teeth for 2 days I remained relatively clean with a bar of soap and a bottle of homemade lemon water. I even washed my hair one night.

All in all I learned a couple things.
1) I like my modern comforts. As much fun as it is to do reenactments I like to shower, sleep in a bed, etc. and after a couple days I was ready to go home. Although, I’m willing to bet things would get easier if you kept that up for a month or so.
2) Along the same lines, for simple camping or old time reenacting you have to be willing to leave all your modern sensibilities behind. I don’t just mean modern comforts but the modern way we view almost everything we do.
~Food cooked on an open fire won’t taste the same but it’s really easy to do so don’t be afraid to try.
~It’s easy to be clean as long as you understand you won’t have your razors or face creams. And your hair will feel odd if you wash it with a bar of soap. (In fact, I’m wondering if that didn’t help with those hairstyles. My hair is pretty silky and washing with plain bar soap gave it A LOT more body and self grippy-ness.)
~You can keep your clothes clean with the same bar of soap, some water, and a patch of sun.
~You can be warm if you’re willing to give up the notion of pajamas and sleep in everything you own.
~I think going barefoot would have been more comfortable. The shoes (mine are Fugawee Connie shoes) have way less cushion than what we’re used to. If I didn’t think it was safer in a public camping area to have shoes on I would have taken them off.
~Stays are awesome for working in! If you’re lugging water half a mile or carrying a basket of clothes they help a lot. My feet were killing me and my quads were burning but MY BACK DIDN’T HURT AT ALL.
~I need a belt knife. I have a Smith and Wesson knife I bought at a gun show and I used that but I need to find a good one for reenacting. It’s definitely helpful when you’re doing the cooking.

Some pictures:

Firepit

Sausage, Swiss Chard, and Apples
Me cooking
My bed with the addition of a couple modern things.
Each camp site had a very sturdy lean-to. The overhang was big enough that if it rained we could fit the picnic table under it. There was also a wheelchair ramp which made it very accessible.
It was truly a beautiful place.
Ditto. And the first morning we woke up to Loons. 
This one is just pretty and I like it.
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