Thursday, July 31, 2014

Out West 2014: Ingalls Family Homestead

We've been to the house where Laura and Almanzo lived later in their lives, where Laura wrote the Little House books, but this particular visit was to the the setting for over half her books, the Ingalls homestead in South Dakota where Pa finally moved them after the woods, after their illegal stint in Native American territory, after many more moves and yet another failed homestead.

This is the Ingalls homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, preserved from the Ingalls' time with prairie land, part of the Big Slough, ten acres of crops, and the rebuilt house. We spent the night here, next to the prairie:

By the time Laura moved here at the ripe old age of 12, she considered herself too old to play, but mine are scampering around the exact same ground that Carrie and Grace got to enjoy, at least:

I'm sure that Laura still picked wildflowers, at least:
And perhaps made the occasional flower crown, when she didn't think that anyone was looking:

Given the run of the grounds after the homestead closed to day visitors, we had a fabulous time exploring in the late afternoon sun:

Can you see why the family was frantic when they thought that a toddler Grace was lost here? How would you ever find someone in this tall grass?

Especially, it seems, if they didn't want to be found:

Here's the unsuspecting Matt:

Got him!

The kids worked on their travel journals while Matt and I did the housekeeping for our covered wagon:

The kid can form uppercase and lowercase letters correctly, but won't when I don't remind her.
I journaled a teensy bit, too, because housekeeping is boring:
Mental note: I MUST keep practicing my drawing regularly.
This man pretty much did all the work, stopping frequently for back-and-forths with our realtor by phone and text:

Finally, we were all squared away--

--and could enjoy supper with a good conscience:

I had been looking forward to star-gazing here on the prairie, but I had also been dreading the heat of an un-air-conditioned night. The good news is that the Polar Vortex made the days pleasant and the nights cold the way that I like them; the bad news is that we were under-packed for cold weather, and so, like the Ingalls, we instead retired after dark to snuggle up under our covers (and beach towels, and spare clothes) and go off to sleep.

The next morning we had plenty of time to eat breakfast, pack up, and play with the farm kittens some more before the homestead opened to day visitors:

And then we explored the historical farm, where there was a lot to do:

inside of a sod house

A teenager who is now my favorite docent EVER was at work in the garage, and she helped the kids make corncob dolls (re-telling to them the story of Laura's corncob doll), let them mill corn, told them the story of the wheat loaves from The Long Winter and let them grind wheat in a coffee grinder just the way Ma and the children did, showed them how the "hay twists" were made--

--helped them make a length of rope to use as a jump rope--

--then got Will to "help" her make a bowline and tied her to a post. Matt and I were quite appreciative of that one--I, in particular, was not necessarily in favor of letting her go.

A lovely covered wagon ride across the prairie is included in the homestead visit. When you hop out of the wagon, however, right away a lady comes out of a little one-room schoolhouse and starts ringing her bell. School is in session!
The girls were all handed bonnets and the boys were given straw hats. The kids looked at me for instruction when handed bonnets, since I have a "no public headgear" rule (lice, you know), but I thought, "Aw, the hell with it," and gave them the go-ahead. And nobody got lice, so yay!
The school session was AMAZING--the teacher managed to keep the kids engaged, all while doing the pioneer school subjects with them (I must brag here that Will was a credit to her homeschool with her answers in history and math), teaching us all some history, and discussing one-room schoolhouses in general. She got across a great spirit of authenticity, I think--the kids were suitably cowed when required to have a spelling bee, and Will got to read a riddle from the McGuffey's Reader to them:

AND the kids got to drive the wagon on the way back--Laura would have been so jealous:

After we left the homestead, I did the truly fangirl thing of going to the cemetery to pay my respects to the family:
Pa's headstone is difficult to read.

It's probably creepy that I've been at the graves of every member of the Ingalls' family other than Grace, but I can own that.

Spots update: I've spent the past couple of days following up tips, heading to neighborhoods and apartment complexes where kind people tell me they've seen a cat of a similar description to call for her and talk to people and put up flyers. It's heartbreaking work, but whenever I think that I don't want to go follow up the latest unlikely lead, or don't want to drive at a crawl past every inch of one more labyrinthine apartment complex, I think, "Well, what if Spots is there?", and so, of course, I do, thoroughly. I've another neighborhood to hopefully squeeze in today, before or after our homeschool group's park afternoon, and I should check in with the Animal Shelter again, because even though they should be scanning microchips whenever an animal is found I guess you never know, and I'm sure that Matt and I will find more new places to leave out flyers. I took someone's advice to leave a shirt of mine outside, so that Spots can smell me, and I've been leaving food outside at night and when we're away (for the raccoons to eat, probably) in case I don't see her come home but she's very hungry. Another person suggested buying and installing a live animal trap in case she's nearby but went feral; this *seems* too unlikely, but I don't know, I'm still pricing them anyway.

Here's her flyer; please share as you can and continue to keep a look-out for Spots:
She's really, really needed at home.


Tina said...

You might be able to rent a live trap from a place that rents construction equipment.

I now want to read all to the Laura books. Emma is jealous of Willow and Sydney riding and driving horses!

Love that I get to enjoy your trip by proxy, thanks for sharing!

Belzi said...

I've just found your blog whilst looking for some crayon stuff. What a fabulous adventure. I love Little House on the Prairie but live in the UK, so will never get there. It looks like a fabulous place to visit :)

julie said...

Whenever you make it across the ocean, Belzi, definitely check out South Dakota! You'll like the Ingalls homestead AND the dinosaur stuff!

I way dialed back my broken crayon stash during our recent move, and I amazingly didn't over-restock during all the back-to-school sales... yet. I still have a ton, though, and I'm STILL playing with making a functional crayon-based candle, so the crafts continue!


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