September 16, 2005

Oliver Kelly Farm

We went on a field trip to the Oliver Kelly Farm, a historic site of a real working farm. This is one of my kids favorite places to go on a field trip. Rhiannon was all decked out in her beautiful handmade Little House on the Prairie style dress. Made by a loving friend who took a lot of time and care in making it, it is beautiful! She was wearing a blue short sleeve prairie dress complete with apron and bonnet.

During the long drive there we listened to the audio tape of Little House on the Prairie. Once at the farm we started by looking through the tall grasses for the frogs we heard, sadly we did not find any. Then we headed out to the farm where we began work and hands on help. First the kids chopped wood with an ax. Serona was surprised I let them but they had help and it was well supervised each of them worked on a piece of oak until they were able to split it. Sirah was very upset that she could not participate!

Then we headed over the the animals. They were able to feed and pet horses, sheep, lambs, and piglets. They were especially excited that they got to feed the horse its oats. After we spent awhile with each of the animals we headed over to the wheat threshing machine. The horse began walking, they feed the stalks into the machine and then the little pieces of wheat came out from a long chute that they placed buckets under and the straw came out the other end.

For well over a half hour the three kids just worked on this. First Ciaran and Rhiannon were taking turns but Sirah really wanted to get involved with it. So Rhia moved over to help stack the straw with a pitchfork while Ciaran and Sirah took turns very patiently catching the seed and emptying their pots into a big canvas bag. The bag stood to my chest level from the ground and between the three of them they filled two bags! Meanwhile Rhiannon was working hard stacking the straw. They even let her climb up on the big stacks and help stomp them down. Then they switched and Rhia and Sirah worked on the wheat while Ciaran stacked the straw.

As I watched them I could hardly believe how content they were. I thought about the fact that they could be watching a 30 minute cartoon or they could be doing this and how much happier they and I both were that this was what they were doing. They never once complained but on the way walking to the house Rhia did say "I would rather be a servant in the house than work all day in the hot sun chopping wood, wouldn't you ma?" It made me smile.

We were able to talk about the hard work, the constant work and the chores involved with farming. We talked about pioneer days and we even talked about Monet as we looked out on the fields at the giant haystacks. This trip really helps bring history alive in fun and enjoyable ways.

In the house we set to help in the kitchen. The first thing of course was to bring in the water. So they carried the pail out to the well and then had to nearly junmp and hang on the well to make the water come out it was so hard. I stood back and watched and let them do it even though of course I wanted to help so it wouldn't be so hard. I made them stop at a half pail knowing how heavy it would be. They worked together to carry the pail and it was a strain and struggle for them but they were determined. The managed all the way to the house, I carried it up the stairs and then they brought it to the kitchen again.

Then Ciaran and Sirah brought in some firewood from the woodpile. Rhia meanwhile began stuffing mango's and sewing them for pickling! I never knew they stuffed and sewed things they pickled. I had never seen anyone sew a vegetable before. The "mango" is really a squash grown at the time that they called mangos. The stuffing resembled something like sauerkraut. Then they learned about pickling, the hows and the whys. They ended with a taste test. I tried too, I am thankful for refrigeration! What a taste they must have had to get used to since they pickled so much. Ciaran actually liked the cucumber pickles, Rhia and Sirah the grapes and I liked the pickled onions. They also had a taste of tiny grapes and some small yellow tomatoes.

Sirah was done so we headed back to the car after purchasing a peppermint stick and talking about how Laura and Mary would only get this in their Christmas stockings and on their birthdays and how special it was at the time. This candy was special to my kids as well as we really don't let them have candy all that often and compared to many of their friends they feel like they already are like Laura and Mary - which they are not!

Sirah feel asleep before we were out the driveway and the other two wanted to listen to the tape again, so we did the whole way home - which was longer because it was rush hour! A fabulous trip though. Highly recommended. If you live in the Twin Cities try it. If not try to find historic sites and working farms near you.


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