I was out at Traveller’s Rest yesterday because Mrs. Overton’s garden nags at the back of my mind. I need to someday take the whole house tour, but it’s expensive and I’m cheap. But two things struck me as I was out there, well, three. 1. Mrs. Overton knew how to work an herb garden. It wasn’t some slave of hers (or not totally), but her calling the shots on what was in that garden. And her first husband was a doctor. As the woman of that house, she would have sat at some interesting intersections. I think her garden reflected that. 2. The kitchen is missing. Well, almost all the old outbuildings are missing, with the exception of the weaving house, the smoke house, and a building up front that I forget what it is. But the kitchen is really noticeable in its absence because the smoke house is still there–the other building that would have been incredibly close to the house. I tried to suss out where it would have been, just using my eyes and the size of the trees. 3. In the weaving house, there was a hank of wool yarn. You can tell it’s wool as opposed to cotton because it’s got a little stiffness to it, the curve of yarn holds its shape instead of folding under its own weight. I assumed the yarn on the loom was therefore wool, but this morning that seems stupid. It could have been cotton. Now I wish I’d given it a sniff. Anyway, my point is that nm is right, there’s an odd absence of sheep in Middle Tennessee.
We talked about this with the Bell Witch. People must have had sheep, especially early on, or what did they make clothes from? Sheep would be a good use of the rocky land to Nashville’s south. But we’re not a heavily lamb-eating culture and you don’t see a lot of sheep around now. I also haven’t run across any mention of people having sheep. But the Overtons had a weaving house and they didn’t grow cotton (they appear to have been a diverse farm at first and then, when they pared down into growing one main crop, it was tobacco), so… right? What’s being woven in the weaving house, then? I wonder if this is some weird sexism problem. If women cared for the sheep and women used the sheep’s products, and if the sheep never contributed to the commercial culture of the farm, did it just not get mentioned? Kind of went without saying? Or am I just somehow failing to notice mention of sheep? I feel like I’m geared up to notice their mention, but maybe I’m not.