Reynoldsburg resident Rachel Brooks makes a habit of stepping back in time.

The 20-year-old student at Hocking College in Nelsonville is in her second year as an intern at Slate Run Living Historical Farm.

Her work attire includes an old-fashion bonnet and long dress typical of the 1880s. Her duties include cooking on a wood-burning stove, carding and spinning wool by hand or even wielding a pitchfork to pitch hay.

"I had gained an interest in spinning wool during my first internship with the farm last year," she said. "Now I've been spinning since April. I like spinning and carding wool by hand because I feel like I'm helping to keep two historic art forms alive. I like to feel that I'm preserving history."

As a part of the Columbns and Franklin County Metro Parks system, Slate Run Living Historical Farm at 1375 state Route 674 near Canal Winchester is open from 6:30 a.m. to dark every day.

Workers on the farm use Percheron draft horses to pull plows and machinery in the fields, grow wheat and oats and raise pigs, sheep, chickens and other livestock.

Visitors can participate in farm chores and learn how life on a farm looked in the 1880s, park manager Ann Culek said.

"Where else can you go to touch a horse and open its mouth, or talk about life and death on the farm, be it squashing potato bugs in the garden or butchering a hog?" she said. "We also get to talk about natural systems and the water cycle and how things grow."

Culek has worked at the farm for 27 years.

"Our internship program gives students exposure to public speaking and helps them learn to work with all populations of people, from adults to preschool children and people with disabilities," she said.

She said the interns, like all the workers on the farm, "wear many hats."

"They do all the maintenance on the farm, whether it is working in the field or garden and moving pumpkin vines around or cleaning and wiping down the outhouse," Culek said. "The jobs change with the seasons."

Brooks said she learned to spin wool from Central Ohio Weavers Guild member Madeline Dickerson.

She said visitors also get to see where the wool originates -- from the farm's flock of sheep.

"People get to see sheep being sheared by use of an old-fashioned hand-crank shearer as well as traditional hand shears, both of which would have been used during the 1880s," Brooks said.

Her interest in living history coincides with her classes on natural and historical interpretation at Hocking College. She is currently majoring in wildlife-resources management.

She said Slate Run Living Historical Farm is a "true window to the past."

"I get to experience components of history I could not experience anywhere else, even practices that would not be in the realm of women's work during the 1880s, such as driving horses through a field," she said. "I love the devotion to historical accuracy and preserving historical practices, such as physically cooking dinner on a genuine wood-burning stove."

She called her co-workers "one big presentation team."

"We help each other educate the public by doing the same jobs," she said. "My co-workers and I can all be seen working in our heirloom vegetable garden, preparing a meal on the wood-burning stove using meat and produce from the farm, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, butchering chickens and various other practices from the time period."

Brooks said she is learning valuable skills.

"One of my dreams is to have a garden and to preserve my own homegrown food by canning and drying," she said. "Thanks to the farm, I know how to do both of those things.

"Working at the farm has also given me more courage, and has helped me learn how to interact and connect with people."

pwillis@thisweeknews.com

@PamelaThisWeek