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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Take the reins during a draft horse demonstration at Old World Wisconsin. © Loyd C. Heath
Take the reins during a draft horse demonstration at Old World Wisconsin. © Loyd C. Heath

February 2004

Wisconsin Traveler
Get real

Old World Wisconsin offers authentic hands-on experience in traditional skills workshops.

It seems our appetite for the truly authentic actually has been sharpened by those ridiculous faux-reality TV programs (although your TRAVELER is still waiting for "Survivor X: Sawyer County, Wisconsin/January"). When what poses as real is so patently false, it's only natural we would crave a dose of the genuine article.

Old World Wisconsin is poised to satisfy our desire for the real thing. This spring and summer, the historic site located in Eagle will offer a series of workshops on traditional crafts and skills. Guided by expert staff, the workshop participants will take up the tools and learn the techniques people used 100, 150, even 200 years ago to survive and thrive in Wisconsin's sometimes bountiful, sometimes unforgiving landscape.

Here are a few of the workshops on offer. Additional dates may be added if the workshops fill up, so be sure to ask when you register.

Log Construction, Preservation and Restoration: Intrigued by Lincoln Logs as a child? Now's your chance to scale up those construction dreams of youth. In this workshop you'll learn about log building layout, different corner notching styles, chinking and daubing materials, and how to remove and replace a full log or just a section. Date: Saturday, April 17th. Cost: $125. Registration deadline: April 2nd.

Old Fashioned Lye Soap Making: Staying clean involved plenty of elbow grease in years past. Fat had to be rendered into lard; lye had to be made by leaching water through ashes, and the two combined at just the right temperature to gel into soap. Old World staffers explain the process and will assist you in making your own soap cakes. Date: Saturday, April 3rd. Cost: $30. Registration deadline: March 19th.

Draft Horse Basics: Driving horses for transportation and farm chores like plowing is both a skill and an art. Old World's farmers will show you how to harness a team and hitch the team to various implements. After that, the reins will be in your hands! You'll also pick up tips on horse health and nutrition. Dates: Friday and Saturday, April 16th & 17th. Cost: $150. Registration deadline: April 2nd.

Introduction to 19th Century Blacksmithing: "Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands..." If Longfellow's poetry is the nearest you've come to smithing, here's an opportunity to let the sparks really fly. Learn the rudiments of blacksmithing using traditional 19th century tools and a coal-fired forge. You'll make your own set of tongs during the five-hour workshop. Dates: Saturdays, May 1st, 8th, 15th or 22nd. Cost: $125. Registration deadline: Two weeks prior to each workshop.

Primitive Rug Hooking: Using a hook with a wooden handle, you'll pull loops of wool through a woven base, creating a hand-hooked woolen rug in the same way as it was done in the 1850s. Date: March 13th. Cost: $85. Registration deadline: February 27th.

Warp speed takes on a new meaning at an Old World Wisconsin weaving workshop. © Loyd C. Heath
Warp speed takes on a new meaning at an Old World Wisconsin weaving workshop.

© Loyd C. Heath

The Old World Wisconsin workshops are a great way to gain hands-on experience in a true-to-life historic setting. Call (262) 594-6305 or email Old World Wisconsin to register for the classes. Old World Wisconsin is located 1.5 miles south of Eagle on Highway 67 in Waukesha County.