Thursday, October 6, 2016

Barnraising, Heirloom Plants, and All the Fun of the Fair

We drove to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania for the 161st annual fair. It is so much bigger than our small (but quintessential) West End Fair where I enter my flowers and vegetables. I love country fairs for their horticultural exhibits, the animals, the shows, the food -- but not one of these is my favorite at Bloomsburg. For me the historical area at Bloomsburg Fair distinguishes it from all others with the Caleb Barton House and restored gardens. Caleb Barton built the residence in 1855 and local citizens held the first fair in Barton's field the same year. New this year to the historic site was a traditional barn raising by the Amish community. They used vintage timber from barns previously demolished.

Amish workers building a barn at Bloomsburg Fair

We were interested to see that these Amish men used power tools. While they, 'The Plain People', live and work as did their forefathers, still traveling in horse drawn buggies, it seems that modern life has caught up with them a little.

We later saw on TV that the barn was largely finished by the end of the fair.

Being anxious to tour the garden, I hurried there next. If you look at the picture of the house at the top of the page you will see a tall stand of corn on the right.This is 'Country Gentlemen' sweetcorn with its distinctive white kernels arranged in a zigzag pattern, not in rows. 'Country Gentlemen' is an heirloom variety. Most of the plants in this garden are from heirloom seeds, sown and beautifully maintained by a local herb society.

'Country Gentlemen' corn

Raised beds predominate the garden. They contain a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams

A cutting garden borders the vegetable area on two sides. Late September blooms made a colorful display.

The white structure with the red roof behind the cutting garden (in the next picture) is a restored one-room-schoolhouse -- another building of interest in the historic area of the fair.

'Fading' sunflowers provide vertical interest.
Love this windflower 'Anemone Rogustissima' Japanese anemone

We saw herbs in several beds growing among other plants as well as in the separate herb garden.

Herb Garden

I noticed a beautiful stand of my favorite fall-flowering sedum 'Autumn Fire.'

Sedum 'Autumn Fire' Stonecrop

Sweet Annie Scarecrow welcomed fall with her display of mums, gourds and pumpkins. She was constructed of a spade for her face and spine and a three-pronged hand cultivator rake for fingers. With her pretty garden hat she had a stylish autumn look. I'd love to copy this idea in my garden.

Sweet Annie looking out at all the fun of the fair.

The pretty historic outhouse has a cold frame on one side made with an old window casement. The cold frame contained heirloom spinach 'Amsterdam Prickly Seeded', the type grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. This spinach is said to be very hardy.

Newly planted Spinach 'Amsterdam Prickly Seeded'

After the garden, we toured the Caleb Barton House. A costumed guide in each room told us the history with stories about its furniture and other contents.

Note the proximity of the barn raising.

We spent the rest of the morning browsing the many fair exhibits. The horticultural building was my favorite -- no surprise to you, I'm sure.  This year's horticultural theme was 'A Trip Down Memory Lane.'

A 1929 Ford floral delivery truck greeted us as we entered the building.

Although the fourth day of the fair, the flower entries were in remarkably good shape. Of course, they were mainly late blooming perennials and annuals. The dahlias were particularly beautiful.

The succulent display, suitable for hanging on a garden wall or fence, was my favorite.

Would love this living picture on my shed.

 The most amusing floral exhibit was the 'Fun Flowerpot Figures.'

After the exhibit halls we explored the rest of the fair. We bought food from some of the many, many food vendors; so difficult to choose among them. We admired cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and horses. We watched the Clydesdales strutting their stuff. Later, we found the perfect little white buddy for little black Dude, my miniature horse.

She had pretty barrettes and 'sparkles.' Dude would be enchanted.

It is said that it always rains at the Bloomsburg Fair and local lore was correct again this year as it poured for the last three or four days. But it didn't rain at the beginning of the week when we were there. A lovely sunny day filled with sights to remember.

Pamela x

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Thanks for sharing the fair with us. Just lovely!

  2. would be fun to actually see a barn raising

    1. It is very interesting, Diana. It was the norm in this farming area years ago when neighbors helped neighbors. The men raised the barns and the women provided a gigantic picnic for the families when the barn was completed. Those were the days! Folks today don't even know their neighbors' names. So sad. P. x

  3. Pam, what a wonderful fair! We haven't gone to our county fair for two years now, it's always in July at the height of gardening/tour season for us, but if our fair was as amazing as the Bloomsburg Fair, well, we'd go every time. I think it's fantastic the Amish were building a barn with reclaimed lumber, it's such a shame to see barn after barn here in WI fall to ruin. I realize the cost of upkeep is prohibitive, but it is still a shame to see them go. I'd love to build a barn here, some day it may happen. (Listen to me, the woman who is having a hard time finishing a stone thing, ha.) I've been going back on several of your posts I've missed, I loved the seating in the garden post, too. I will implement your idea of taking time to reflect for a few moments on what needs to be done in the garden that day and also to appreciate the sounds and sights. Far too often I forget to simply the enjoy the garden, weeds and all. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. :-)

  4. hi Pam,
    Interesting blog. In England building houses around wooden beams has become very popular. these days many of the beams are what is called green oak, ie beams made from new oak. However, many old houses have oak beams. Our house has medieval beams that were recycled into our hose 300 years ago! My recent blog on a medieval village has many photos of old buildings see

    1. I checked out your beautiful blog, Steve, and it made me homesick for my homeland. Thank you for visiting.

    2. I do not know why I came up anonymous. Must be the profile I selected!

  5. What a fabulous day out. I'd have been really interested in the barn raising, I watched a programme on TV about it, and about how Amish people live, and it was so interesting. I enjoy country fairs, a bit of everything going on so there's something to catch the interest of everyone. Glad the weather stayed fine for you.

  6. It is always fun at fairs, especially those in PA. I have been to the Bloomsburg Fair and it is a great day out. The barn raising is something I just noted in a comment on my post on my visit to PA this week. My photos compare Germany to PA and how similar the two places look to one another. I was at Jim Thorpe this past Thursday and love that area. I also was in the Poconos. No photos of the Poconos though. I am coming back in a few weeks again. Color on the trees is just starting to get pretty.

    1. You were so near to my home in the Poconos, Donna. Wish we had known. Actually Jim Thorpe is considered to be part of the Poconos as it nestles among the Pocono Mountains.

  7. That looks like a wonderful day well spent. I would have loved to have seen the barn raising :-)

  8. Don't you just love a county fair? I'm going to miss ours this year, traveling, but next year I'm there!