Venersborg's Homestead Day recalls earlier era

Demonstrations range from slaughtering a chicken to working apple cider press

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor


photoRowan Rippl, 7, of La Center, works the apple cider press with help from JR Robertson, right, of Vancouver and volunteer Glen Montanye, back, 16, of Venersborg, during Homestead Day at the historic Venersborg Schoolhouse on Sunday. A variety of old skills were taught.

(/The Columbian)

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Coming up

Upcoming events at the Venersborg Schoolhouse, 24309 N.E. 209th St.:

Oct. 13: Autumn potluck and goodie auction; 6 p.m.

Nov. 18: Apple pie-making party, 1 to 4 p.m.

Dec. 2: Wreath-making party, 1 to 5 p.m.

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Venersborg Community Club

Historic Venersborg Schoolhouse

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VENERSBORG -- If you needed to slaughter and dress a chicken or learn to bake your own bread, the 100-year-old Venersborg Schoolhouse was the place to be on Sunday.

Homestead Day offered tips on getting your lifestyle back to the land.

Kristine White said the day was meant "to teach people old skills that can still be used today." She is the event coordinator for the Venersborg Community Club, which meets and has events each month in the schoolhouse.

More than 100 people attended the event. Venersborg is about four miles east of Battle Ground.

Activities included butter-making, leather working on a stitching horse, apple cider pressing, food preservation, seed saving and instruction on how to make your own laundry soap for much cheaper than the grocery store stuff.

A crowd of a dozen watched Karen Kennedy slaughter and then dress a chicken. She explained that chickens often slow down significantly on egg production after 2-and-a-half year years. Then, they either can become pets or food. She helps people who are new to slaughtering chickens.

"They don't know what to do with their old laying hens," Kennedy said. So, she demonstrated by cutting a chicken's neck and letting it bleed out. Then, she scalded the body for about 40 seconds in hot water and proceeded to pluck the bird's feathers.

Kennedy and her family live on 5 acres and grow vegetables, keep bees and have 40 chickens at the Rippl Family Farm.

Yes, she said, it makes her sad to kill the chickens. "It's a little teary," she said.

"I don't raise chickens for pets." she said. "I raise chickens to feed my family."

Walking away from the demonstration, one mother said to her pre-teen daughter, "Not everything should creep you out. … It's a natural way of living."

Bread and jam

Inside the schoolhouse, 11 children, with moms and a few dads hovering, were learning to make bread in a plastic bag and raspberry and strawberry freezer jam.

The moms went from child to child with flour, warm water, instant yeast, salt and sugar.

Kneading his bag full of dough, 7-year-old Marley Wing explained, "We try to get all the lumps out." He is a student at Tukes Valley Primary School.

Ali Wing, Marley's mom, said the family is new to Venersborg. She was watching Marley and 4-year-old Grace at the bread-and-jam table.

Son Rex, just 2, and dad Ryan had other interests.

"I think he is going to watch the chicken-killing in a moment," she said of Rex and his dad.

The Ritton girls — Sophia, 9, Julia, 7, Lily, 4, and Madalyn, 2 — were also at the bread-and-jam table. They are new to Venersborg. Just a month ago, they moved from Vancouver with their parents, Kim and Kris Ritton.

"This is out first schoolhouse event," Kim said. "We love it. They're learning to be little mommies."

"We live on 5 acres with a big pond," Kim said. "There's ducks who live on the pond. We feel like we live in a wildlife park."

The children took their bags of bread and jam home. The plan was to bake the bread Sunday night and enjoy it with the freezer jam.

Ice cream, eggs

Outside the schoolhouse, JR Robertson was serving homemade ice cream with raspberries and huckleberries for topping. He also asked children to help him at the cider press as they made seven gallons of cider from 35 gallons of a variety of apples. He and wife Kathy own the Our Mini Farm in Vancouver.

Families needed to bring their own apples for pressing.

At one of a handful of booths, Brenda Wilson talked about her heirloom hens.

"I sell eggs," she said. "I started out with 600 (chickens). I'm down a little over 300." She sells eggs and chickens and had a large basket with perhaps 12 dozen of her eggs: brown, tan, white and pale green.

She sells most to the Flying Fish Company in Portland and to Battle Ground Produce. But you also can go to her Battle Ground Farm and buy a dozen that she puts out for people to take home. It's $4 a dozen, with buyers expected to put money in a jar. It's the honor system.

Asked if her eggs are better than those in the grocery store, Wilson said, "Mine are a lot fresher and I don't use any chemicals when I wash my eggs, and I don't use feed with enhancers. They lay their eggs naturally and are free-range."

"It's very rewarding," she said of raising chickens in her barn with three sections, each 14 by 16 feet. "I quit my nursing job to do this."