Mount Vernon Off The Beaten Path

  • Off The Beaten Path
    by Ewingjr98
  • Off The Beaten Path
    by Ewingjr98
  • Off The Beaten Path
    by Ewingjr98

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Mount Vernon

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    The Mount Vernon Forest Trail

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 12, 2005

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    THE MOUNT VERNON FOREST TRAIL

    After a visit to Washington's barn we hiked up the Mount Vernon Forest Trail to come back to the upper part of the estate which took us maybe 10 min. The trail is only 1/4-mile long but steep in some parts. The trail provides a glimpse of the natural enironment Washington appreciated for a variety of reasons. We stopped by a few information tables along the way to read information on the forest, its trees and animals now and in the past.

    Keep in mind that nearly half of 8,000 - acre Mount Vernon estate was native woodland. It provided a remarkable amount of wood, the most important construction material and fuel used on the estate. The forest also supplied the wild game that appeared on the dining table as well as a source of entertainment and exercise for Washington and the other avid fox hunters wo visited the estate.

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    Cobble Quarry

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    COBBLES

    There is a set or better to say a composition of cobbles put on the left side of the Mount Vernon Forest Trail. Cobbles of all sizes were collected and used to construct roadways, walks and structural foundations.

    Just a few yards to the north from this place, Washington discovered an outcropping of sandstone which provided larger bloks for major building projects. This quarry was also mined in the 1790s by the builders of the nation's new capital, Washington.

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    Horses of George Washington

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 12, 2005

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    GRAZING  HORSE

    I saw a few horses grazing behind a fence of a pasture close to Washington's famous barn. Horses were used for transportation both people and loads and other works in Mount Vernon. Especially they worked in the barn.

    I got to know that George Washington lived with and among animals and horses from his early years. In Mount Vernon he had many dogs (a few lived in a house), a few birds and a few horses used for hunting. His famous horses Nelson ("battle horse") and Blueskin (hunting horse) retired in Mount Vernon after the Revolutionary War.

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    Inside Washington's barn

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    WASHIGTON'S  BARN - FIRST FLOOR

    When i visited the Washington's barn, first I got to know how the wheat was threshed. Keep in main that Washington made wheat the main crop of Mount Vernon after long time of tobacco grow. Whaet was cash crop, which he sold overseas and in local markets to generate income.

    Wheat was threshed by hand, by beating the wheat with a flail to break the grain out of the straw, before building the barn. It was very slow and not efficient process. Alternatively, horses were used on an open ground (wheat was "treaded out" or trampled by horses) which was more efficient but... horse excrement would become mixed in with the grain. In both ways weather could make the procedure impossible (rains) or difficult (strong winds) to do.

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    Sixteen-Sided Barn

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    SIXTEEN-SIDED BARN

    We walked from the Potomac River bank, inland, along Washington's Pioneer Farmer Site and at the end of fields there was this interesting, large and strange wooden structure on my picture.

    It was a nearly round barn, with 16-sides, designed specifically for thrashing wheat. It was made of both bricks (foundations and first floor) and of wood planks (the second floor), built in 1792 - 1794. Although Washington was in Philadelphia serving as President at that time, he carefully supervised the construction of his new barn.

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    Hand tools

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    HAND  TOOLS USED FOR FRAMING

    There is an exposition of hand tools used at Mount Vernon located in a wooden hut at Pioneer Farmer Site, close to the Potomac River. There were many hand tools made of wood and iron used in framing, woodworking, farming like etc.

    It was not the most interesting part of my Mount Vernon trip but I noticed that some tools were unique and had to be made at place. Well, some basic tools are similar today and still used but mainly in housing construction which still partly relies on hand work. In agriculture and farming a lot changed.

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    Hog Island Sheep

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 12, 2005

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    HOG  ISLAND  SHEEP

    I met a few, maybe dozen of sheep grazing and relaxing at the George Washington: Pioneer Farmer site. I got to know that it's a very rare breed (less than 200 are in existence!) called Hog Island Sheep. The sheep had black head and white rest of the body.

    The name of the breed originates from Hog Island, a 17th Century English settlement, one of Virginia's barrier islands located off its Eastern Shore. George Washington owned between 600 and 1,000 sheep. They were source of wool and meat: lamb and mutton for all who lived and worked at Mount Vernon. They also trimmed yards and fields and their manure was used as fertilizer.

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    Field slaves

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 10, 2005

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    HERE  FIELD  SLAVES  WORKED

    This simple, wooden, roofed structure, on my picture, is the reconstruction of the work place of Washington's field slaves. There is nothing more than a few wooden barrels and buckets for water or seeds and a few simple farm tools.

    The field slaves worked in 8-10 peoples gangs and plowed, planted and harvested the land. The slaves lived at the farm on which they worked. Unfortunately none of original Mount Vernon slave cabins survived although over 300 slaves worked and lived there.

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    George Washington - pioneer farmer

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 10, 2005

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    PIONEER  FARMER  SITE

    This longitudinal four acre area, on my picture, was surrounded by forests from three sides and the Potomac Rivar from the fourth and it's used today to demonstrate the farming techniques that Washington developed in the 45 years he worked Mount Vernon's land.

    Keep in mind that in Washington's lifetime, Mount Vernor was 16 times larger than it is today, including five farms on 8,000 acres. More than 3,000 acres were under cultivation by a work force of nearly 120 field slaves.

    Washington became one of the most accomplished farmers in America. He took a scientific approach to farming and was one of the first to practice conservation of natural resource.

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    Pure, messed nature

    by matcrazy1 Written Jan 10, 2005

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    BANK  OF  THE  POTOMAC  RIVER

    The bank of the Potomac River at the estate was preserved and it looked as it had to look over 200 years before when George Washington was walking there. There are numerous parts of wooden trunks and benches drifted and deposited by the water stream on the bank which looks very picturusque.

    Well, I saw similar natural preservations at some parts of the Pacific Ocean banks and beaches in northern California and up in Oregon and Washington (along Highway 1). I have never seen it along Mediterranean Sea in Europe or Africa where sea shores are either rocky or perfectly cleaned for tourists looking for clean beaches.

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    Where Washington used to sit

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    ALONG  THE  POTOMAC  RIVER

    Look at these simple, old, wooden benches located put along a bank of the Potomac River close to the wharf. George Washington used to ride from his mansion down there, on horseback of his famous horse and... friend called Magnolia, sit down on a bench, look at the ships on the river and think over... who knows... public affairs, his farm, wife...

    Well, on clouded, a little bit rainy and dark day the place looked very picturesque but somewhat sad and secret. And there were very few ships on the Potomac. So, I took a picture and we went to see the next attractions on the estate.

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    The Potomac River

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    THE  POTOMAC  RIVER

    Finally after maybe 20 min. walk down, with short stop by the Old Vault of the Washingtons, we reached the big water. If I didn't know that it's the Potomac River I would think that it's a lake. The river was 1.1 mile (1.8 km) wide at this place. The water didn't look nice and clean, it was cold, grey and murky. On the horizon I saw the flat, mostly covered by forest, opposite bank, which belonged to the state of Maryland.

    I found it interesting and at first moment strange that interstate border line (Virginia - Maryland) doesn't go in the middle of the river but along its western, Virginian bank. Well, it's wiser and more practical to have the whole river in one state for many reasons (financial for example).

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    The wharf

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 10, 2005

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    THE  WHARF  ON  THE  POTOMAC  RIVER

    There is small wharf on a bank of the Potomac River in the Washington's estate.

    THE PAST
    The main portion of the wharf at the river-landing was constructed by Washington, but within a few years additions have been made. At this place vessels were laden with great quantities of tobacco, and also with flour ground in the Mount Vernon mill. Each barrel beared the widely-known brand, "George Washington, Mount Vernon".

    NOWADAYS
    Currently the wharf is the river-landing for cruices on a board of Potomac Spirit (6 1/2 hour roundtrip form Washington DC - details here) and The Miss Christin (roundtrip boat transportation to Mount Vernon from the Old Town Alexandria waterfront; details here).

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    To the Potomac

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 9, 2005

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    STEEP  INCLINE  TRAIL  -  UPPER  PART

    When we already visited the Washington's Estate and the outbuildings we decided to walk down to the Potomac River.

    We chose the shortest trail called Steep Incline (continue straight from the South Lane) which was not that steep at the beginning, as you see on the picture. It's a rather wide unpaved trail, shadowed by species of large broadleafed trees which are unknown for me, which I have never seen before. Surprisingly the leasves were still green although it was already the middle of October.

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    The Fruit Garden and Nursery

    by matcrazy1 Updated Jan 9, 2005

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    RED  BUSH

    When we walked Steep Incline trail towards Potomac River we passed by the Fruit Garden and Nursery on the right. There are some colorful flowers and bushes even in the middle of October there - just one red on my picture.

    The Fruit Garden and Nursery was the largest in the estate. Here Washington experimented first with grapes, then with various new plants and seeds before using them elsewhere on the estate. If you are interested there are Garden and Landscape tours daily April through October (11.00 am, 1.00 pm and 3.00 pm).

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