Staff Blog

Animal EncountersKatie Arnold - Interpreter and Communications
Animal Encounters is by far one of our guests’ most beloved stops when they visit Conner Prairie. At Animal Encounters, visitors get the opportunity to learn about our livestock in the context of historical and present-day importance, and they get to interact with the animals.

Really, who doesn’t want the opportunity to pet a baby lamb?

There’s no doubt that Animal Encounters is a gem that many people love and are curious about.
As the weather cools down and the days grow shorter, guests are curious about what happens to our animals in the winter.

Ross Rexing, one of our full-time agriculture employees, shares what happens to our animals during our off season.

Q: Where do the animals in Animal Encounters go in the winter?
A: Guests often ask us, “Do the animals go to their farms for the winter?” Well, we usually respond with a quick answer that they stay just where they are for the cold months. We all know that the animals call Conner Prairie home but sometimes that is difficult for the public to grasp. They ask how animals could stay warm in an unheated barn or open pasture. Livestock are extremely hardy and resilient. As long as they have feed, water and somewhere to escape the cold winds, they will usually do just fine.

Q: You say feed, meaning grass or hay. Does the agriculture staff get hay in the summer and save it?
A: Grass doesn’t typically grow much in the winter months. With a high percentage of our animals needing hay to eat, we must have hay either stock piled or readily available from a local farmer. We work very hard to get as much hay early on in the summer months when it is cheapest in hopes of having enough to stretch into to the cold months when hay is at its highest cost.

Q: So what happens to the animals during this time?
A: As the open season comes to a close, breeding goes into full swing. Before breeding can take place, though, sheep and goats need to be up to date on vaccinations and worming. Sheep and goats start cycling as the days get shorter so we had better have our bucks and rams picked out, on-site and ready to get to work. All the potential breeding dates are determined ahead of time in hopes of having lambs or kids born every couple of weeks during the months that our grounds are open.

Animal EncountersQ: Are the sheep and goats so resilient that they can stay out in the cold?
A: With sheep’s’ long fleece, they do quite well in the snow and cold. The goats, which have very thin hide, are usually cooped up in the barn for most of the winter where they are protected from the cold winter winds or drafts.

Q: What about the hogs?
A: As for the hogs, they can be bred at any time of the year but we prefer farrowing to take place in the late spring and summer months. This requires breeding to take place from late December to the end of April. Probably the hardest thing with the hogs during the winter is keeping their water flowing and unfrozen since most of their pens are away from electrical outlets. If they were close enough to outlets, we could get an electrical water tank heater to it and make things much easier. We often get away with using either a hammer or stick to bust up the ice. Adding straw to their shelters each week keeps them warm.

Q: How do the chickens do during the winter?

A: Poultry tend to do well here in the winter months. Busting ice in water bowls is a common chore in the coops. Poultry with smaller combs, the cool flap on top of their head, tend to fare a little better when the temperature drops. 

Q: And what about the cattle? What about Mosey?

A: Cattle and the horse are the real experts at thriving in the cold. Cattle and horse both have thick hides and grow thick hair to insulate them against Mother Nature’s worst. It is vital that we, the agriculture staff, make sure they have enough hay to feed their inner furnaces. Cattle are sometimes called walking furnaces since their four-stomach compartments give off tremendous heat while digestion is taking place. A horse will also eat large quantities of hay for its stomach to metabolize into heat for its core.

Q: Finally, there are so many babies born in the barn each year. What happens with all of them?
A: We are often asked that question. Not all livestock is created equal. There will be a few young animals each year that will jump way past the others in terms of body structure, growth rate, width of the loin and round, overall length and even temperament. The animals that we determine to be capable of breeding stock for Conner Prairie will be kept for the next season. The young animals not as worthy of being kept and males that are too closely related to our own stock will be sold to either be market animals or possible breeding stock for other farms. We pride ourselves on having the mentality that we are a working farm and all animals have a purpose, whether here or on another farm. We just know that to keep having babies born each spring, we must make room for them so that they too have adequate space to grow and bounce around the barn and pasture.
Posted: 9/22/2014 2:37:36 PM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

Homeschool Days
Rosie Arnold - Education Programs Manager
Last year, Conner Prairie welcomed more than 1,400 guests during our inaugural Homeschool Day at Conner Prairie. It was a huge success.

So this year, we’re having Homeschool Days at Conner Prairie – that’s right, two of them, on Sept. 9-10.
We’re offering our school group rate of $5 per student to all homeschool families on these special days.

The educator in each family will receive free admission to Conner Prairie and any accompanying adults will receive a reduced admission rate of $8.50.

During our Homeschool Days, our grounds will be alive with all the wonderful things Conner Prairie has to offer. Homeschool students can play history detective at the Conner House, step into the role of a Civil War soldier, strike a deal with our fur trader at Lenape Camp and come up a brand new invention in Create.Connect. Throughout the day, students will be able to connect what they see and do with topics they’re studying, from social studies to science, technology, engineering and math.

Our education team will be on hand throughout Homeschool Days to answer questions about how the experiences at Conner Prairie can connect with academic standards and curriculum goals.

We’re excited to share information with you about all the programs we offer throughout the year to keep the learning going.

We look forward to seeing you Sept. 9-10.

Posted: 8/26/2014 5:04:32 PM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

Rosemary ArnoldRosemary Arnold - Education Programs Manager
Long ago, there was a man named Weh-hee-xa-MOO-kes. People thought Weh-hee-xa-MOO-kes was very foolish. He was, however, the wisest man in the village. He pretended that he wasn’t intelligent but the strange things he did taught people many important lessons.

One day, some hunters said to Weh-hee-xa-MOO-kes, “We’re so very hungry. We wish we had turkey dipped in grease.” When the hunters returned that evening, they found Weh-hee-xa-MOO-kes dipping a freshly killed turkey in a kettle of grease. It hadn’t even been cooked and its feathers were still on. “Weh-hee-xa-MOO-kes,” a hunter said. “What are you doing? Why are you dipping that turkey in grease? You’re supposed to clean it and cook it first.”

“Shey a mah lee-unt-PUN-ney,” Weh-hee-xa-MOO-kes said. “You should have told me so. You only said you wanted turkey dipped in grease. Now you have it.”

The Lenape taught this story so that children would choose their words carefully. “Mean what you say,” the Lenape would caution. “Words are important. They can cause much harm or they can do a lot of good and they should not be used lightly.”

This story, from “The Algonquian of New York” by David M. Oestreicher, is just one example of the rich culture of the Lenape – or Delaware – Indians who lived in central Indiana 200 years ago. In 1795, they came to Indiana after being pushed from their original home on the East Coast to make way for European-American settlement. When William Conner arrived in Indiana around 1800, he settled among the Lenape. His first wife was Lenape and his sons would go on to become leaders in the tribe. But by 1820, the Lenape were again pushed west.

Woodland Indian School ProgramNow in the 21st century, the traditions of the Lenape live on and are celebrated in their traditional music, dance, storytelling and dress. This fall, Conner Prairie will once again highlight this priceless piece of Indiana’s heritage with its “Woodland Indians: Art and Culture” program featuring Lenape presenters from the Delaware Tribe of Oklahoma, where the Lenape tribe is now headquartered.

From Sept. 29 through Oct. 3, Conner Prairie will offer a school experience during which students will rotate through six sessions. At the end of the week, Conner Prairie will host a special Saturday public program. Each day will feature a demonstration powwow. Audience members will be invited to participate in the dances and music with the performers.

“The Woodland Indians: Art and Culture” program will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The cost is $6 per student and adult chaperone. Teachers and school staff are free. The public program will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 4 and is free with general admission.

For more information, contact Conner Prairie’s Guest Services office at (317) 776-6006.
Posted: 8/20/2014 3:48:51 PM by Conner Prairie | with 0 comments

By Social Media Specialist Katie Arnold
Last week brought Conner Prairie’s 2014 Adventure Camp to a close.

There were 10 sessions of Adventure Camp, each one lasting one week. Campers got the opportunity to explore Conner Prairie and swim, fish, canoe, paint, learn about horses, practice their archery skills, go water sliding, make their own ice cream and much more.

"We go to the historic portions of Conner Prairie and so much more," said Adventure Camp counselor Lauren Miller, a Purdue University student. "We do something new each hour."

Campers also form new relationships with fellow campers and their counselors. Returning campers remember us from the year before, Miller said. Counselor Brandon Pearce agreed. "Campers look up to us and have told me that they want to be camp counselors when they grow up. For me, that is a great compliment."

After spending time with Miller and Pearce, it's obvious that the summer camp experience at Conner Prairie is as rewarding for them as it is for the campers.

"After one season of camp, I learned that I have to work with children, Miller said, who originally thought she'd pursue a major in pharmacy. " So I switched my career path to speech therapy.

Pearce also benefits from his counselor experience. "I've always loved children, so I can really open up here," he said.

Posted: 8/11/2014 9:33:56 AM by Guest Blogger | with 0 comments

By guest blogger Michele Crew

In Prairietown, visitors to Conner Prairie are immersed in life as it was back in 1836. Guests join citizens in their daily tasks, celebrations and other activities. There are weddings, auctions, games, neighborly banter and disputes.

But one aspect of life that isn’t often discussed in Prairietown is the subject of death and the way in which people coped with mortality.

For many Americans living in the early 19th century, death was a part of daily life, an event that was reflected on and remembered through a variety of traditions and personal beliefs. Religion played a role in helping people through the loss of loved one. A common theme that arises in many historical accounts is that those who have gone on before no longer suffer and have moved on to a better place. People who were aware that their time was near would tell their families that they had prepared themselves and that they should not worry and hoped to see everyone again soon someday.

Prairietown citizens and guests will be able to discuss and explore these concepts when Lydia Hawkins is laid to rest in the Prairietown cemetery Saturday, August 9. Hawkins was close friends with the Curtis family in town, who has offered their home to the Hawkins family for the ceremony. The Curtis home will be a place for Hawkins’s coffin to be held until the funeral service and a place for friends and neighbors to gather.

Being Methodist like the Curtis family, Hawkins’s husband has requested Brother Brownfield, a travelling Methodist leader, to perform the service. As part of the service, hymns will be sung using the shape note method, a popular style of singing from the late 18th century into the early 19th century at revivals and religious meetings. Shape note singing does not follow the traditional method of sheet music reading as it uses simple shape notation and is sung a cappella. This method of singing was communal in its style as it allowed people of all backgrounds and education to partake.

Following the service, guests can join the family outside the Curtis home to help remember Hawkins and partake in funeral biscuits, a traditional cake or cookie served as a token of remembrance. These funeral biscuits were sometimes stamped with symbols or even wrapped with paper printed with hymns, religious verses or other similar text.

Outside of Prairietown, Shannon Cable, a Civil War re-enactor and presenter on mourning practices, will offer both a modern and historical perspective on mourning traditions with her displays that contain a variety of objects, including mourning jewelry and photographs.

Posted: 8/1/2014 4:14:34 PM by Guest Blogger | with 0 comments

Recent Posts
Animal Q & A
Homeschool Days Offered September 9 & 10
Teachers: Bring Your Students to the Woodland Indians Program
Adventure Camp - A Blast for Campers AND Counselors
Funeral Re-enactment Sat., Aug. 9 in Prairietown