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Photo-story: Bread baking in the Swiss Settlement

Demonstration for Senior Center members

Members of the Bluffton Senior Citizens Center recently enjoyed an outdoor bread baking demonstration at the Schumacher Homestead, 8350 Bixel Rd. It was a damp and chilly week, but the group brought blankets and chairs, and made themselves comfortable.

Ivan Friesen provided the bread baking expertise, while Swiss Community Historical Society curator Keith Sommers filled in the guests on the history of bread ovens in the area known as The Settlement.

Some five outdoor bake ovens still exist nearby, but the homestead's oven is likely the only one in operating order. It is actually an oven moved to the site in the 1970s from another farm.

Friesen explained how he built a fire in the oven to preheat it. The visitors watched him rake out the embers into a wheelbarrow. An ash pit below the oven would have been common, but one wasn't created when the oven was relocated.

Friesen made a few loaves for the guests to examine and taste. He estimates that area farm families would have baked bread once a week in quantities of eight to forty loaves. The Schumacher family raised 16 children and would probably have needed the upper end of that range.

Docents Ed and Nancy Yeager, Pat Scheidler and Cheri Slotter gave the group a tour of the farm house and summer kitchen.

Tour coordinator Susie Gratz is scheduling tours by appointment. Those interested in scheduling a tour should contact her at [email protected] or leave at message at 419-358-4822.

The Society will also hold special Saturday afternoon open houses on June 4, July 2, and August 6. On those days, visitors may participate in a hands-on activities such as playing Settlement-era games, writing with steel-nib pens and drying herbs. Watch the Icon for more details.

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