May 15, 2006

Why Wear Aprons, Bonnets and Hats?

Our kids enjoy dressing in pioneer fashion, think Little House on the Prairie, and often do. Today we visited the Oliver Kelly Farm in Minnesota. This is a working farm set back in the 1860's along the Mississippi River. This also happens to be one of my kids favorite places to visit. We started visiting about 3 years ago when Rhiannon was just three and Ciaran 2 and have spent many days there since. We went so much we joined the Minnesota Historical Society and in the process found many other wonderful locations to visit and enjoy!

Back to the farm. Today we went for one of their homeschool program days and the theme of the day was planting on the farm. The kids had opportunity to help plow fields(guiding the oxen team that was plowing), plant and water seeds, transplant seedlings, work in the garden, shell corn, separate out a variety of beans for planting, carry wood, fetch and carry water, clean the kitchen, help cook, pile manure and straw with a pitchfork, and a few other farm tasks. In addition they were able to see up close and sometimes pet roosters, calves, pigs and piglets, lambs and sheep and oxen. They also burned off energy.

It may seem strange that the kids love going here as they actually do the farm work, but they really love it. Not because my kids love doing their own chores around the home, but something about this is different for them and very enjoyable. When the kids were getting dressed today they asked why the girls wore aprons and bonnets and why the boys wore big straw hats. I almost answered them right away but decided to see if they could figure it out themselves.

Not too long into the day did they quickly realize the benefits of the wide brimmed hats and bonnets and how they kept the sun and heat off them, as well as the occasional raindrops. The girls especially appreciated that their bonnets tied as they could easily drop them down around their neck while inside and then lift them back into place when they went outside with little assistance and no risk of losing them.

At the end of the day Rhiannon's white apron was filthy and wet. Covered with dirt, food, little bits and pieces of her work all day yet her dress itself was still in fairly good shape, though looks like I may need to fix a hem. She was thankful for the apron and had discovered very naturally the answer to her question about the bonnet and apron. The lesson had far more impact on her discovering it herself and living it then any explanation I could have possibly given.

The moment this struck me was when Ciaran was assisting with pitching manure and hay into a big cart from a big stack. Little 5 year old Ciaran picked up a BIG batch of the stuff with the pitchfork and lifted it over his head into the cart. I was sure it was going to land right on top of him and go all over the place. He had more strength and dexterity than I gave him credit for (or God simply had more mercy knowing my personal limits) and all the manure made it into the cart and just a few pieces of hay fell onto his hat. He placed the pitchfork down, lifted off his hat and simply brushed it away and put back on his hat and continued working. I realized then an added benefit of the wide brimmed hat, intentional or not. Ciaran realized the benefits himself when he saw how the hat protected his head from the heat and sun as well as little flying pieces of his work.

We truly had a great day at the farm. We met up with two families we knew, one intentionally and one by surprise. The combination was perfect as the family we were meeting with has three little boys - Ciaran jumps in with them and they just go off doing little boy things (chasing roosters, climbing fences, smelling the pigs, catching bugs, carrying things, and pitching manure!) and have a grand time running off energy.

Rhiannon on the other hand has a different idea of fun. She saw a little girl in the parking lot also dressed in pioneer clothing and stuck to her like glue. Thankfully we knew the mother and her daughter also likes to hold hands and giggle and work with other little girls in pioneer clothing. We ended up splitting up for a good part of the time so the girls could carry water, plant seeds and seedlings, sew and cook and clean in the kitchen and other little girl things. A memory burned in my mind from today was watching Rhiannon run across the field holding her skirts with three other little girls similarly dressed holding their own. It was like watching my own daughter in the opening credits of Little House on the Prairie. There were four of these little girls, all right around the age of 7, and they were buddies and did everything together and were so cute while they did it!

Rhia had a great girlish time and Ciaran a great boyish time. They naturally demonstrated why tasks on a farm during that time period were generally divided by gender and the boys worked on some things and the girls on others. Given the freedom to do what they naturally wanted our kids choose these traditional and typical roles for themselves without any coaching whatsoever. I am thankful for the families we met up with and for the comfort and freedom to allow my children to split up and work with others and for the kindness and generosity of the other mothers.

As for Sirah. She spent much of the time in a backpack on my shoulders generally content. She wanted to get down for a bit but was indecisive and often unhappy, it just got to be a long day for her. She informed me that "this is a bit rough for me mommy" and "It is hard to be 2" that was our cue to wrap things up and head home. She was asleep within moments of the car starting. Still she had a good time and did participate in some things and I even got a few cute pictures of her.

As for me well I am tired and drained physically and emotionally. We left the farm too late and spent 2 hours driving what took us 30 minutes to drive on the way to the farm. We ran home, ate very quickly, washed up and headed to tball for the evening. Then off to pick up daddy and did not land in bed until after 10pm! Still it was a great day. If you live nearby I highly recommend the Oliver Kelly Farm.

Peace in Him,

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