how our day ended listening to an armless man play guitar

Remember when I said that visiting the Ingalls Homestead was was one of my favorite days? Well I’d only told you the first 2/3 of that day, here is the rest of the story. . .

Initially, we had intended to leave De Smet, SD on Saturday afternoon after a few hours on the homestead and head on to our Minnesota destination (Trent’s hometown) to visit his family for a few weeks.  Once we decided to stay for one more night, we were faced with an open evening as well as dinner decisions. Our fridge was getting sparse so we figured we needed to find a grocery store or go to a restaurant. In the end we didn’t do either of those options. Instead, we discovered that a Catholic church located on the other side of the park where we were staying was having a free-will offering dinner–excellent. Following this dinner a free concert was planned–bonus. The concert performer was a man named Tony Melendez who happens to play the guitar with his feet because he was born without arms. No arms? Plays the guitar? Loves Jesus? We’re in!

Turns out that the Catholic church knows how to put on a meal. We filled our bellies to overflowing (thanks to the lady who kept coming around and practically forcing us to take 2nd and 3rd helpings of dessert because no one wanted leftovers). Afterwards, we moved upstairs and sat down for a feast of the ears. Tony not only has a beautiful voice and a talent for the guitar, but he also has a beautiful story of God’s pursuit for his heart how God is using him just. as. he. is. I captured about a half a minute of one of his songs on video. Click here to see Tony in action.

That evening, I found myself overwhelmed by the way God provided not only for our needs but for our wants as well. Just that morning I had prayed and asked the Lord to help me have wisdom on how to encourage one of my children who was struggling with self-confidence. What better teacher could be provided than someone like Tony who has been willing to overcome his fears and boldly use what God has given him to serve and encourage others?

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

why visiting the Ingalls Homestead is now a favorite memory

Last Saturday was a perfect day. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was one of my favorite days.

We awoke at our leisure and took our time moving through our morning routines. Outside the RV new views greeted us through our tinted windows–this time a city park complete with playground equipment anxiously awaiting our children’s giggles and grins. After packing our lunches we piled into the van and took the short drive to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in the town of De Smet, SD (which was the setting of her books By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years). We arrived around noon and began exploring the quarter section of land which is privately owned and operated as a hands-on living history experience.

sod homeStepping into a sod house and shanty we were able to learn about the differences in how or why these two homes were built as well as the pros and cons of each.

driving the horses

From there the kids took turns driving a covered wagon and visiting a one-room school house where a teacher gave us a feel for a some of the history and examples of lessons and activities.

bad boy in class
Trent demonstrating how children might be disciplined for bad behavior

one-room-schoolhouse

Afterward, the kids each took turns riding a horse or pony before seeing a demonstration of how hay was twisted into sticks for fuel to burn (as told in The Long Winter).

pony ride on the ingalls homestead

Next, the kids were able to use a hand-held wheat grinder to grind wheat into flour, shell an ear of corn with an old fashioned corn sheller and use fabric to turn their corn husk into a corn cob doll (just like Laura once had).

corn-cob-doll
making a corn cob doll

cob-doll-book

A homemade jumprope made from bailing twine was constructed by each child using a hand crank machine used at the end of the 20th century.

making a homemade jump rope
making a homemade jump rope

Need to go potty? An outhouse with side-by-side seats is available. One of my children decided to make use of this opportunity and said the door was almost fully closed when latched. No sooner had he sat down, when visitors came by to see the authentic little john. “Occupied!” he hollered hoping no one would be able to see through the crack in the door.

Ingalls Homestead washing clothes

Nearby a washboard, rinse station, and wringer awaited my children’s curiosity and soon they were practicing washing hand towels and hanging them to dry on the line. After they had perfected their technique, Hunter asked if he could wash is own shirt. “Why not?” I responded. Soon, all three boys were grinning, shirtless and elbow-deep in wash water.

Once their clothing was flapping in the breeze on the clothes line they discovered the water pump. This provided more timeless entertainment and gayety.

Ingalls Homestead Water Pump fun

We had intended to leave by mid-afternoon however, around wash time we realized that the fun had only just begun and decided to cancel our travel plans for the day and just be.

ingalls homestead water pump

It was at that moment that the day became my favorite. A perfect combination of adventure, new experiences, learning, curiosity and fun minus a rushed schedule. This was when I first tasted the freedom of this new lifestyle. Granted, we always have the power to take control of our day but how often do we let our day control us? On September 10th we controlled our schedule and I’ll remember the image of my kids pumping water while Trent and Hunter laid on the grass looking at the clouds for a long time to come.

*Affiliate links were used for the Little House books on Amazon.

Montana, Mt. Rushmore & a mannequin in the outhouse

beginning our adventureIf the last 10 days were a dinner, than we have been dinning at an all-you-can-eat buffet, in fast forward. Its been amazing and exhausting.

We began our journey with a brief visit with family and friends in the Coeur d’Alene area. Parking our RV in the driveway of hospitable friends, we soaked up moments and meals with many people we love but have not seen much of since our move to Kamiah a year and a half ago.

boondocking at cabelasOn Labor Day we set out on the open road headed east traveling through Montana. Our first official public boondocking experience left me shocked and amazed. The Cabela’s parking lot in Billings had dog kennels, horse corrals and even a dumping station (a place where we could empty our black and grey tanks)! Waking up in the same bed in a new state and realizing that this was our new life was both surreal and exciting.

Custer State ParkFor the next three days we parked ourselves in the Black Hills of South Dakota next to some family that had come to enjoy a short camping trip with us. As a child, my husband often traveled to the Black Hills for family vacations. For him this stay was a bit nostalgic, for the rest of us it was excitingly new. We attended a ceremonial night blast at the Crazy Horse memorial, drove through Custer State Park, visited Jewel Cave National Monument and attended the night ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Monument. I highlighted details from each of these locations in the photos on my Instagram account so if you click through any of the links above you can be directed to those photos and details with ease.

sod homeAfter our whirlwind visit in the Black Hills, we set out once again in an easterly direction stopping briefly in Philip, South Dakota. Here Ashlyn and I dressed up in costume and our family traversed across the prairie visiting one of the last remaining sod houses in the state.

 

prairie girlsPrairie dogs peered out of their holes in the ground as the wind whipped at our dresses and bonnets. We stood amazed that settlers were able to withstand the harsh conditions of the barren land that stood before us. Between blizzards, floods, fires and pestilence, it seemed that all was against their success. Most surprising of all however was the mannequin sitting in the outhouse with his pants pulled down, he gave us a scare and a fit of giggles that we will not soon forget!

the beautiful intermission

final river runWe are now in countdown mode as our launch date approaches this coming week. The last _____ occur frequently. Today the kids swam in the pool for what might be the last time. Yesterday Hunter went to the river with a friend for perhaps the last time. Last week we floated the river for the last time. While there is sadness at the thinning time, there is also a thick sense of urgency pushing us forward in the direction that has been pulling on our heartstrings since we first began heading down this unusual path.

I watch online (via a private Facebook group called Fulltime Families) as others who have ventured out into the similar unknown sell their home and virtually jump directly into their RV while it is pulling out of the driveway. The speed at which they move from “sold” to “road” is often breakneck. In contract, it feels as though our process of leaving has been teasingly slow. Our home has now been sold for over a year and a half. We have been living in our RV for 4 months within walking distance of our storage unit allowing us to frequently make changes to what we wish to bring with. We’ve been essentially playing house and flirting with the idea of grown-up traveling.

Now as the days-to-departure dip below 4, we are getting the excited jitters of impending adventure. Ironically, the preparation that would typically accompany a large-scale travel itinerary is unnecessary. We are already packed. It’s so weird. I honestly keep getting confused by this simple reality.

This does not mean we haven’t had things to do. We have. Mail is now being forwarded to my sweet in-laws who have agreed to send it on to us as needed. Our travel plans for the next few months are being mapped out. Dental appointments are being squeezed into the last remaining hours. Our truck is in the shop getting a necessary repair before it can pull the RV (praying it is ready by our launch date). Our library loan number is quickly dropping as we push to finish the last few books we are borrowing (Number the Stars is almost complete). And just today the “check engine” light began flashing in our van. Clearly we have some remaining loose ends to tie up.

It is in these final days that I am reminded of the truth that found me last March when we were days away from moving from Athol to Kamiah:

It’s unfortunate, but often we reserve sharing the feelings hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts for times of departure. Sometimes we are better at living out intentional goodbyes than we are at living out our in-between days. …It reminded me that having a life isn’t nearly as significant as impacting one. Making an impact often requires making each moment count. After all, the moment, is the only place we really have impact anyway.

Local NewspaperThese last moments are precious and fleeting. We will cling to them so they do not slip needlessly away. I had the fun opportunity to write an article in our local paper this week about our upcoming adventure and the blessing we have received by living here for the past year and a half. Friends that we have made here have impacted us. Lessons we have learned here have changed us. We are better because of the in-between time that we had between our “sold” and “road”. It was indeed a beautiful, unexpected intermission. As we soon pull forward, we will do so with wonderful memories staring back at us in the rearview mirror.

the moving carousel of milking cows

I love factory-type tours so when my mother in law asked if we would be interested in visiting a new diary during our recent stay in Minnesota, we were quick to agree.

To be honest, my expectations were low. I’ve been spoiled living in Idaho with fresh, raw cow milk. I’ve been friends with the farmers. I know what the cows eat (grass in the summer and alfalfa in the winter) and how they are treated. These cows are not given a number, but a name. These are happy cows. Happy cows are going to give me awesome milk. Lately, I’ve even had the milk hand delivered to my front door two times a week. That’s a tough act to follow. But as I said, I love tours so how I could I not go?

Cow Carousel

Upon arrival we were entranced by the moving carousel of milking cows. What a sight to behold! Just over 100 cows (most of them Jersey) slowing turning in a circle taking a 6 minute ride from start to finish while they are milked.

cow field trip

Next, we saw where the collected milk is cooled and transferred directly into the trucks that will deliver their load to a nearby cheese plant within hours of milking.

cow field trip

cow field trip

One of the most mind-blowing aspects of the tour was this little machine that processes the cow manure in such a way that almost all of the moisture is removed. The resulting product is dry, crumbly and reused to line the cow beds!

cow field trip

cow field trip

As we visited the mama cows, we were greeted with the best surprise of the day-a baby calf being born right in front of our eyes! We stood quiet and in awe, ever thankful for the wonderful timing of our tour. Click here to view the 2 minute video of the birth.

I still love my raw milk and the option to farm on a small-scale. However, I will willingly admit that for a large-scale operation, this dairy was doing a lot of things right and I’m glad we had a chance to see it in person.