There is no English expression that adequately describes the phenomenon of the German farm Hof. This is a collection of outbuildings generally containing a spring house for refrigeration and dairying, a bake house, a smoke house, a woodshed, a privy and a summer house/kitchen or wash house. The kitchen garden frequently defined one side of the yard where a water source was nearby. The Schneider Haus Hof has been researched and faithfully recreated. Special events and daily interpretation reflect the seasonal chores that would have taken place in these domestic outbuildings.
Used seasonally, the wash house would sit dormant once butchering was done in December/January and would come to life in the spring when wool was spun into yarn. This second kitchen was used for many tasks including pickling and preserving, washing laundry, boiling maple sap, processing meat and much more. Cooking and eating also took place in the wash house during the warmer months, eliminating heat and odours from the main farmhouse. Construction began on this early wash house in the fall of 2010, the foundations of which had been unearthed during a 1984 archaeological investigation.
Built over springs, these structures would protect water against contamination, particularly useful since livestock roamed free on early farms. The earliest spring houses in Pennsylvania and likely in Waterloo County were constructed of log but larger more durable stone structures, were also common. In addition to keeping water sources clean, spring houses were used for refrigeration - milk and milk products were stored in crocks and set down into trenches that directed a flow of water through the building, keeping milk and cream cool on hot summer days.
This combination outbuilding was one of the most important. Rye bread was a staple of local Mennonites' diets in the 1850s and smoking was one of the few ways that large quantities of meat could be preserved. Drying or dehydration was also a standard way the women preserved fruits and vegetables in the years before vacuum sealing. Even in the late 1850s, when glass canning jars came on the market, the drying house continued to be preferred for the drying of apple pieces, still used in the local cuisine today and known as apple Schnitz. Our building was rescued from an Elmira area Martin family farm, dismantled and reconstructed on site in the summer of 1998.