About Bygone Basics – Our Story
Chef Valerie Hanson, Kitchenaire
Growing up on a family farm, Valerie Hanson learned bygone kitchen and farm skills as they were passed from mother to daughter for generations. She continues to learn additional heritage skills.
She was one of eight children growing up near the nearby Silver Lake sand dunes in western Michigan’s Oceana County. She and her husband, John, also have eight children. With her youngest child now in her 20s, she has continued these home arts for decades.
Often one of their six daughters or a friend assists as “scullery maids” during the exclusive private Bygone Basics’ heritage “cooking vacations” experiences. Truly, a family endeavor, Valerie’s husband, John, may well put on an apron and be found helping also.
She is licensed through:
- USDA, Michigan Department of Agriculture: Better Process Control School at Michigan State University in both acidified and low acid areas.
- State of Michigan: Wholesale Food Processor License (FLP110269)
- Life Experience: More than 40 years in the field
Origins of Bygone Basics
After spending 41 years living in a very old fashioned family farm environment, Valerie suddenly was living in suburbia. She and John Hanson met, and then married, at the local Book Nook and Java Shop. They created Bygone Basics together. It was born in suburban Whitehall, Michigan. The Hansons love taking cooking vacations while they travel to get a true feel for the “flavor” of an area. The idea for it began when they engaged a Mexican woman in Cozumel, MX to demonstrate her own generational culinary knowledge. Of that, and the existing passion for their own mid-west US heritage, Bygone Basics was created.
Valerie, with degrees in business and accounting, has successfully run businesses as the executive; and, John, with a technical position at a local company, and many years of re-modeling experience; knew they could create this very unique niche company that began as a way to teach local families the value of traditional cost saving and health beneficial home arts (canning, baking, gardening, and integrating small farm animals into a life-style) and has become a tourist destination for culinary tourism. Guests arrive from all over the U.S.A (and 22 other countries…and counting). for an immersion experience in heritage mid-Western culinary and lifestyle traditions.
The experiential business soon outgrew the suburban residence and the Hansons searched for a suitable home for their culinary arts business that embraced historical traditions. The perfect place was found. The Hansons and Bygone Basics moved to Montague where they had a few acres and a big historic home. It needed a lot of work, but it has been a labor of love.
Guests now can choose to extend their experience into a Stay and Play. Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast at Bygone Basics allows further immersion in a style of living that celebrates the simple farm-country life.
History of the Home
The history of the new home of Bygone Basics is long and its beginnings, impressive.
William Montague Ferry (lumber baron & founder of the City of Grand Haven, MI) and his wife, Amanda White Ferry, were the parents of Noah Ferry, founder of the City of Montague (also a young lumber tycoon).
Noah, sadly, was lost in the Battle of Gettysburg to Robert E Lee’s forces in 1863. His mother, Amanda, left a bequest upon her death in 1870 toward a church and manse to be built in honor of her son. Noah’s brother, Edward, commissioned the building of the church and its parsonage (formally known as a Manse) in his brother’s name. He used the manse as a bargaining point so the parishioners could demonstrate their own commitment to the church. They had to use their own labor to build, (under the direction of George Dowling) the Manse. Once it was completed, they would get their church. They built it (likely 1872-73). Convinced they could care for the church and manse, Edward Ferry added his money to his mother’s and in 1874 the completed church (today known as Ferry Memorial Reformed Church) and the parsonage/manse were opened.
As a parsonage built by a lumber baron family, the style of home is best described as modestly grand with its high arched ceilings and enormous window heights; yet an absence of overt grandeur that would not have been becoming of a parsonage. In the photo at the top of the page (circa 1880) ours is the house to the right of the high steepled church. The home was moved about a mile away (circa 1980) when the church decided to expand its building. It was lost for a while to the frailties of human memory and became a three apartment rental home. But low and behold …underneath the 1970’s carpeting and paneling lay waiting the original old manse, 140 year old knotty pine floors and massive arched front door still intact.
It is this parsonage (which still can be known formally as a Manse, as a pastor still resides here) that houses Bygone Basics’ heritage kitchen and Amanda Bequest Bed & Breakfast.
We look forward to showing this home to our guests and will preserve it in the spirit of its heritage. It is truly the perfect home for an immersion experience to occur and as a heritage Bed & Breakfast where guests can experience their own cooking vacations via some of the culturally almost lost, heritage ways of life such as butter churning; growing and preserving food stuffs; making soaps & candles, and traditional baking.