“Roughing It” at Silver Springs

Yummy! There’s nothing like a hotdog roasted over a campfire. Here I am with Team Buddy for another Florida State Park campout. I like to kid myself by thinking I’m “living off the land.” Pay no attention to our Viking trailer in the background. Which by the way is equipped with a microwave, air conditioner, and bathroom. Everyone needs a few creature comforts.

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During our latest adventure we spent a few days exploring Silver Springs State Park. In case you’re unfamiliar with Silver Springs, it was Florida’s first tourist attraction. The largest artesian springs in the world are located here. Everyday 550 million gallons of water flow out of the springs and into the Silver River. Visitors can take a glass bottom boat trip or rent a kayak and view the beautiful plants and animals which thrive in these crystal clear waters. The banks of  the Silver River provided a perfect place for settlers to build their homesteads. A replica village is open to the public at the Silver River Museum.  On weekends, visitors can walk through a pioneer settlement and hear stories of what Florida life was like in the 1890’s. Compared to the pioneers, my idea of “roughing it” is misinformed at best.

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The early settlers in Florida had to make or grow everything they used. The broom pictured above was created by tying a palmetto leaf to a branch.  Fire was always a threat to their homes. The area around the cabin had to be raked and swept of any debris which might burn.

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A family of eleven lived in this replica of their two room cabin. The parents slept in the bedroom with the baby. The boys slept on the porch. The girls slept on the floor of the sitting area. The bed in the corner was reserved for the teacher of the community. Teachers were not paid but received room and board in local homes.

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The kitchen was built separate from the sleeping area in order to keep the heat out of the house and reduce the fire risk. Gourds were used as pitchers. Various utensils were constructed from natural materials found in the woods. Sugar cane syrup was used as a sweetener.

Did you know that the term blacksmith was coined as a name for someone who works with black metal? IMG_6222

During our visit a museum volunteer, Al Duane, demonstrated how to make a metal hook. In this community the metal was shipped in by boat from the northern U.S.  Blacksmiths made nails, tools, and cutlery.  Each member of the family had one set of cutlery which was expected to last them until they grew to adulthood.

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I had to get a photo of the outhouse, complete with a corncob. With no running water, the pioneers only bathed once a month. They used lye soap which they made themselves.  If you didn’t let it cure for twelve weeks, it would tear your skin off. Each family member had two sets of clothes. Laundry was done with a washboard and a tub.

I think this is a pretty good description of “roughing it.” A trip to the Silver River Museum makes me appreciate the conveniences I have today.  The museum is hosting Ocali Country Days on November 10th and 11th, 2018. For more information about this educational event click on the link.

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