DPR offers classes to teach cultural heritage

Jan. 18, 2014 @ 11:41 AM

I often think about what life was like in the 1800s. One didn’t have to go to the store to purchase many items because they were made from home. Families made cheese, butter, soap, blankets and honey, to name a few.  Growing up I would often work in the garden with my grandma and mom, learning how to tend to the things that would sustain our family.  I often had a desire to learn about making those particular items and to delve deeper into sustainable gardening.

Three years ago, when the opportunity to program cultural heritage activities for Durham Parks and Recreation (DPR), was presented to me, I jumped on it.  I figured that I could offer programs tailored around the McCowns and Mangums, who lived at West Point Park from 1850s to the 1960s. 

There was a lot of written and oral history that I learned about these families. The Mangum family had a big garden, they kept sheep and chickens, and the mom, Sally Mangum, did quite a bit of weaving.  Hugh Mangum was definitely an artist and craftsman. His photography, which illustrates lives and activities in Durham, and his darkroom are on permanent exhibit at West Point on the Eno Park.

I had a strong ancestral framework to develop programs with local fiber artists, gardeners, farmers and herbalists.  Working alongside our incredible community, we have developed mostly introductory programs for people who have never kept sheep or chickens, quilted or felted or made soap or cheese.

This season we will be offering some of these crafts.  For example, on Feb. 9, Samantha Gasson of Bull City Farm will teach a cheese-making class.  Then on March 8 and 22, local farmer and fiber artist Marie Crock will be teaching Hand Quilting 101 and on March 8 the owners of Starrlight Mead will be teaching our mead class. In April, our very own North Carolina tomato man, Craig LeHoullier, will be teaching a class to get you ready to plant your garden.  Those are only a handful of the exciting cultural heritage programs that will be offered from January to May. 

We hope that all of our participants walk away from the class having the knowledge to make informed decisions, while still having fun and meeting likeminded people.   We keep the programs family-oriented since owning animals is a family endeavor and making cheese, or herbal remedies can affect the whole family.  All ages should be given the opportunity to learn about these homesteading skills at an affordable price for the whole family.   

If you want to learn more about me, what my mom and grandmother taught me as well as the many programs available, email me at Jessica.Leff@durhamnc.gov or visit my blog at http://culturalheritageindurham.blogspot.com.