The “Bess” Bonnet

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet (

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,

When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,   

When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   

A highwayman comes riding—


A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.

He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.   

He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   

But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,

         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

-“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes

The nasty weather we’re having right now has at least one benefit I suppose…inspiring me to finally blog about my new quilted winter hood!

I began this project the beginning of October. I’d actually owned the pattern unused since last year, but I pulled it out hoping to whip up a hood before the Cedar Creek reenactment. Of course that didn’t happen, but c’est le vie. (Actually it’s more my procrastinating self’s fault, when will I learn?)

I used Anna Worden Bauersmith’s Quilted Winter Hood pattern. The pattern offers a regular size and one with a deeper brim. I went with the regular size. I’ve made various winter hoods before, but I love that this particular pattern is less utilitarian in shape and is instead modeled more like the fashion bonnets of the era. The pattern was clear and easy to understand, though I would have liked a few marks or notches to help match the pieces when sewing the bavolet to the crown.

The lining is a cream colored cotton sateen and the batting is wool. For the main fabric I chose a simple and versatile black silk taffeta. I made the bow and ties also from silk taffeta I had on hand. They are just tacked on to the bonnet, so if I get tired of them they can be easily switched out for a fresh color. I discovered the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes while working on this project and didn’t realize until later that I unconsciously made the bonnet from two colors specifically mentioned in the poem!

“Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.”

For that reason I’ve decided to name it my “Bess” bonnet. 🙂

Using some suggestions offered in the pattern and inspiration from Sarah Jane’s version, I came up with a quilting design that pleased me. I quilted it all by hand. At first I didn’t plan on the final row of shell pattern closest to the brim, but I’m glad I added it because I think it balances out the design nicely.

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( 2
Quilted crown design
The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( 3
Koda “helping” me quilt
The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( 4
Hand quilting

The crown is stiffened with wire to help it hold its shape. The pattern recommends “20 gauge millinery wire”. I honestly have no idea how big that is, so I just used some jewelry wire we had laying around and it seems to work fine.

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( 5
A look inside the hood: all of the raw seams joining the pieces together are finished with a whip stitch
The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( 7
Back view

I would definitely recommend this pattern to someone looking for a more refined, fashionable winter hood. The research and clear instructions are wonderful. I was a little leery of the price…$20. I thought that was a little much for a pattern that is basically only three pieces…but then again, the price didn’t dissuade me from purchasing the pattern when I did! I think the printing costs contributed to the higher price and I see that Anna now offers the same pattern as a digital download for the very reasonable price of $7 (you can buy it here). These hoods use so little material now that I have the investment of the pattern already I can see myself making quite a few in different colors!

The Farming Daughter: The "Bess" Bonnet ( 6
The three main pieces: crown, tip, and bavolet

Overall, I’m very pleased with my finished Bess bonnet. I think proper accessories can really help to complete the believable “look” of the period…and they’re great conversation starters with the public! I also love how this piece can easily be incorporated in a wide range of personas. Of course the shape and materials are fine enough for a more well to do impression, but it requires so little fabric that an enterprising farm wife could have easily afforded the small bit of silk required to make herself a nice winter Sunday piece of headwear.

I’ll be excited for the next cold weather event so I can try out my new winter hood! Have you ever sewn a winter hood? Do you have a favorite piece of historic clothing or gear that transcends several social classes?

-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

Just the basics:

Fabric: black silk taffeta from Originals by Kay, cream cotton sateen from Joann’s, red silk taffeta from Fabrics Universe on Etsy, wool batting

Notions: black cotton quilting thread, 2′ wire

Pattern: “Quilted Winter Hood” by Anna Worden Bauersmith (the pattern is for sale here in her shop)

Year: 1860s

How historically accurate is it?: Fairly good I’d say. The pattern is modeled after designs of original bonnets and all of the construction methods are period correct. The lining should possibly be a printed cotton or a polished cotton instead of cotton sateen. I’m quite pleased with the finished results though!

Hours to complete: 10 maybe?

First worn: Just to try on when finished

Cost: $5 (black silk taffeta), $3 (cotton sateen), $1.5 (red silk taffeta), $2( wool batting) $1 (notions-thread & wire), $20 (pattern)

Total cost (with pattern): $32.50

Total cost (without pattern): $12.50

Caring for Cows in the Winter

Caring for Cows in the Winter (

Whenever I talk about our farm during the winter, the first question I get asked is, “How do cows do with the cold?” Actually, cows tend to prefer cold weather over hot. Their thick hides (7x thicker than human skin on average), hair, and unique heat-producing digestion mean that a cow’s favorite temperature is between 40° and 65° F.  Of course, it gets colder than that during the winter and we want to make sure our cows are safe and comfortable even if a blizzard is blowing outside. So how do we do that?

One of the most critical things is proper housing. A cow needs a clean, dry environment that shelters her from wind and snow. Our cows are housed in a “free-stall” barn and can choose to walk around, eat, drink, lay down, or socialize whenever they want. During the winter, curtains on the side of the barn are raised to block the wind, but on milder days they can be lowered to let in some fresh air. Keeping the cows in the barn during winter ensures the cows never get wet or chilled and protects them from possibly slipping and injuring themselves outside.

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Our Free-Stall Barn (
A few of the girls resting in their freshly groomed stalls.

It is also important that a cow is receiving plenty of high quality feed. A cow’s largest stomach compartment is her rumen, which she uses to ferment her feed for digestion. This fermentation produces heat and, “is beneficial by helping dairy cows prevent a decline in body temperature” (Cooperative Extension, University of California, Davis). We feed our cows a special diet of grass, silage, straw, and grain using a recipe that our dairy nutritionist formulates for us. This ensures that our cows are getting the perfect amount of energy, protein, fiber, and nutrients that they need.

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Feeding the cows (
Eating breakfast

While adult cows handle the cold well, our baby calves require special attention. Since a calf’s surface area to body mass ratio is higher it’s easier for them to lose heat. Like the cows, our calves are housed in a barn with a curtain that can be raised or lowered depending on the temperature. Our newborn and small calves are each kept in their own pen so we can monitor them individually and make sure they are eating properly. We feed our calves two times a day, and the milk is warmed before we serve it. We also use warm water for them to drink.

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Warm milk (
Drinking warm milk

Each calf wears an insulated blanket or coat that helps keep them warm.

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Calf coats (

Twice a day we add fresh bedding to the pens so the calves stay clean and dry. We also put fluffy straw in the little calves’ pens so they can snuggle down and nest in it.

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Adding fresh bedding (
Addison adding fresh straw to the calf pens

Looks like she went a little overboard on this one…

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Extra bedding (

The older calves are housed together in group pens.  We feed grain twice a day with free access hay and water.

Caring for Cows in the Winter: Our calf group pens (
Mason bedding the group pens

It’s important to us that our cows are warm and comfortable, even in the middle of a western NY winter!

I took a short video of one of our calves playing in the bedding we added to her pen. You can watch it here.

To learn more about winter cow care here’s a short article about How Cows Stay Warm in the Winter.

-The Farming Daughter

Winter on the Farm

Winter on the Farm (

Winter came early in November this year, and we’re still firmly in its icy grip. We have so much snow we’re running out of places to pile it! I am definitely thankful for my heavy duty insulated Carhartt overalls this year! The good news is, the cows are all snug in their barns and are handling the cold weather just fine.

Winter on the Farm (
Best Christmas present ever, thanks Mom! 🙂

I thought I’d share some of my favorite “winter on the farm” pictures I’ve taken so far.

First, some pics from Winter Storm Knife that hit us in mid November. We were very blessed not to get as much snow as other places, but we still spent a day shoveling off the barn roofs.

November Snow Storm - Winter on the Farm (
Winter Storm Knife starting
Shoveling Show - Winter on the Farm (
Shoveling snow off the roof
Shoveling on the Roof Winter on the Farm (
The view from the top

Only a week after the storm it was warm enough to let cows out to pasture!

After the Storm Winter on the Farm (


It can either be blizzard-ing and snowy:

Blizzarding Winter on the Farm (

Or, extremely cold and clear:

Cold and Clear Winter on the Farm (


I found these “snow feathers” on some of the driveway stakes and thought they were so delicate and pretty!

Snow Feathers Winter on the Farm (

The frost on the windows is also very beautiful.

Frost on the Windows Winter on the Farm (

Frost on the Windows (2) Winter on the Farm (


Winter Sunrise Winter on the Farm (
Winter Sunset Winter on the Farm (
-18 Winter on the Farm (
18 below!

Winter Snow Winter on the Farm (


Playing in the Snow
The boys coming back from sledding

January Snow Winter on the Farm (

Sunset Winter on the Farm (


I hope you are all keeping warm! Many of my friends have been asking about how our cows do during the winter, so I’ll be posting about that soon!


-The Farming Daughter

An Old Fashioned Winter

 “The winds came down from mountains cold and like a tide it roared and rolled; and branches groaned, the forest moaned, and leaves were laid upon the mould. The wind went on from West to East; all movement in the forest ceased, but shrill and harsh across the marsh its whistling voices were released. It left the world and took its flight over the wide seas of the night. The moon set sail upon the gale, and stars were fanned to leaping light.”

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Buried in the snow
Buried in the snow

The past several years we’ve had fairly easy winters. Of course, living in western New York will never be the Bahamas, but for several years it hasn’t been that bad, that is, until this winter. This time we were hit with a polar vortex, stinging cold, several-feet-at-a-time, good old fashioned winter! Temperatures were below 0 for weeks at a time and we were blasted with blizzards and wind. My journal entries frequently sounded like this one from January 7th: “Very cold again. This morning it was -14 with a wind chill of -42! Can hear the wind moaning outside.”

A picture I took of the thermometer one morning before going out to do chores. -13!

People often ask me what we do on the farm during the winter. True, there are no fields to till or crops to harvest, but there are plenty of other things to keep us busy! Besides the standard cow care that we do every day (feeding, milking, cleaning barn, etc.) there’s also plowing snow (lots!), unfreezing pipes, fixing equipment, unfreezing equipment, etc. Tasks that we perform every day become difficult when compounded with snow, sub-zero temperatures and driving winds.

For example, we clean our milking cow barn 3 times a day. The manure is scraped into a spreader and applied to our fields as a natural fertilizer. We use a CAT Challenger tractor with tracks instead of wheels to pull the spreader. Normally you just jump into the tractor and drive to the field, but on really cold days the drive wheels of the tracks can freeze. That means you have to thaw out the wheels before you can go anywhere.

Dad unfreezing the tractor's tracks
Dad unfreezing the CAT Challenger’s  tracks with hot water


Another job that can be tricky in the winter is cleaning the heifer barn. All of our other barns can be cleaned with a tractor or skid loader, except for one of our heifer barns. It’s an older style barn with a gutter (trough) in the floor. The manure has to be scraped by hand into the gutter twice a day. There are paddles in the gutter attached to a chain that scrape the manure out of the gutter and dump it into the spreader. In the winter sometimes frozen manure can cause the chain to pop out of the gutter, which takes a while to fix. I helped Dad fix it one day and snapped some pics of him with my phone.

Dad used the come-a-long to ratchet the chain so there would be enough slack to put it back in the gutter
Dad used the come-a-long to ratchet the chain so there would be enough slack to put it back in the gutter


fixing the gutter 2



Dad climbing up the chute
Dad cleaning out the frozen chute
You can't tell from the pictures, but it's actually snowing and blowing pretty hard
You can’t tell from the pictures, but it’s actually snowing and blowing pretty hard

Thankfully, cows do pretty good in the cold. As long as they have shelter, high quality feed, and are clean and dry they do fine. Most cows actually prefer cooler weather to the hot, humid summer.

Since calves are babies they require extra attention in the winter. When it’s cold we give them deep and fluffy bedding that they can “nestle” in and blankets or coats to keep them warm. We closely watch that they are eating enough so they can maintain their body heat and make sure that their buckets stay unfroze.

One of calves warm with her blanket and straw bedding
One of calves warm with her blanket and straw bedding

Of course we have plenty of fun in the winter also! One of my favorite cold weather activities is snow shoeing. This year I snow-shoed over to our neighbor’s house several times to shoot my recurve bow. Living on a farm also means you always have the perfect sledding hills!

Addie sledding
Addie sledding
Little brother Mason having fun
Little brother Mason having fun

sledding 2013-14

Sledding with Emily (you can see more pics at her blog here!)
Sledding with Emily (you can see more pics at her blog here!)

We even built an igloo this year!



I hope you all were able to keep warm! Even though it can be challenging, I don’t mind winter. I love the activities you can only do this time of the year and the hushed white beauty of the snow. Even the howling wind makes me feel warm and comfortable when I’m snug in bed. It reminds me of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

“The first snow came, and the bitter cold…The snow kept coming till it was drifted and banked against the house. In the mornings the window panes were covered with frost in beautiful pictures of trees and flowers and fairies…They were cozy and comfortable in their little house made of logs, with the snow drifted around it and the wind crying because it could not get in by the fire.”

What is the most challenging part of winter for you? What do you do for fun?


-The Farming Daughter