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.
Stepping 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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.