Just Another Day in Research


Lukie, don’t go into the water, I ask
I am not Lukie, I am a different person,
and I am in research,
I need to go into the water!
My four-year old replies
What a great spring day, the first day of April!
exclaims my six-year-old

And it surely was, 75F, sun and summery wind. We spent the whole day at Volkening Herritage Farm and Spring Valley Forest Preserve. This 135 acres of forests, marshes and streams, smacked right in the middle of suburban sprawl, was a paradise for the little ones searching for frogs. We found our first butterfly of the season, beautiful Mourning Cloak, kids chased and stalked her for a while. Volkening Farm carries on farm activities of the 1880s, volunteers dressed in period clothing performing period chores. Farm house is a restored 1880s house, barn is from 1870s. Two friendly plow horses, Duke and Prince loved to be petted and fed. One year old calf Maria was still nursing and sleeping in the sun. Chickens were out running into the forest digging deep for worms now that the ground is nicely warmed up. The bank barn had a nice second floor full of hay and nooks and crannies to explore, kids hiding there.

Volkening4Volkening17 Volkening14Volkening3

The farmhouse was interesting to me, as well as the small laundry house nearby with the root cellar underneath it. Did you know how German women of 1880s made “plastic wrap”? Apparently they preferred to keep most preserved food in clay pots instead of preserve jars. They used paper and yarn to tie up the top of the pot, then would brush a solution of egg white and salt to seal the paper in essence crating a plastic wrap-like seal. Eggs were never washed so that they keep longer. Eggs were also kept in lard to preserve them. Root veggies in moist sand. Meet salted and smoked. Milk was immersed in the spring water. My grandma, as soon as she was done milking, she would strain the milk, poor it into special containers and lowered and submerged it into our cold well water to keep it cold and have cream separate faster.


Wash up for lunchtime


German clay pots

The farm sells their eggs and honey. Next time we go, the milk cow will be back from her winter retreat and kids can try their milking skills, pigs will also be back with the piglets. We had lunch with the chickens, and headed to the woods.

Some say you are never too old to squeeze into hollow trees...

Some say you are never too old to squeeze into hollow trees…

Others say they desperately need the biggest saw

Others say they desperately need the biggest saw

From the farm, the forest path leads up the hill and to the log cabin in the pine woods. The Merkle cabin was built in 1927 by a hopeful young man, who wanted to establish his peony farm, but died a few years later. His family took care of his cabin and surrounding area, and seven acres of peonies bloomed there at one point. Log cabin now has brick addition and beautiful surrounding woods as well as a pond perfect for bird watching. There is a waterfall so tempting for the little four year old feet to climb in, and a floating deck to walk out to. The maple syrup boiling equipment was still there, left from 2 weeks ago, an event that featured pancakes and fresh hot syrup.


Merkle Log Cabin stands as a tribute to one man’s dreams

We watched four pairs of ducks doing their mating circles in the water. The path around the lake winds into a beautiful Illinois prairie. Many acres of prairies extend all the way to the nature center, where a green building with grass roof collects water for indoor turtles. The rain water drips from the roof down the chain into a turtle pond inside. Nature center houses a large library of books on nature, Illinois land, and nature education, as well as many hand on activities for kids. There is an old silo next to the center building, and as you climb the winding stairs to the top, you can overlook the whole prairie and the ponds. We stood high up there, in the wind.

Volkening9 Volkening6

We walked and walked and walked, until our dusty feet were blistered and faces burnt in the sun. And drove home, with windows down, catching the wind in our palms, and the little one fell asleep, before the sun hit the horizon. All done with butterflies, all done with chickens, sticks, frogs and logs, saws, and cows, horses and hay, and water. All done with his research for the day.

Wheel Barrel? :)

Wheel Barrel? πŸ™‚



About BeeHappee

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the flowers gone? https://beehappeenow.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Homeschooling, Nature, Photography, Unschooling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Just Another Day in Research

  1. bobraxton says:

    water horse sticks saws
    chickens logs frogs cows
    butterflies all done

    2013.03.18 Tue
    around and
    dreams around

    we tell
    shape us

    told us
    shape us

    when the
    dies: what

  2. Great photos indeed! I love the rural setting! πŸ™‚
    Thank goodness the warmer weather is getting here too!

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you. Next week still looks on the cool side, but slowly and surely the spring will creep in, and you will be able to hunt for more bug pictures! πŸ™‚

  3. smcasson says:

    Love your last line: all done…
    Great one.
    Flooding here! Played in the rain all day and it wasn’t too cold!

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thanks, Scott. So far pretty dry here, but I am sure it will come and I just realized we have no rain gear. Neighbors kids were making mud soup here yesterday, we all got muddy, and my guys just stay that way, all crusty, no bath for maybe a month…too busy with research πŸ™‚

  4. That sounds and looks just like my kind of place!
    Love that toolshed, but above all the tip with the “plastic” wrap! Got to try that.

    And I sometimes wonder how will my kids remember what we are doing or what we did? How will your kids remember a day like this? Maybe someday they will sit at home, drinking their morningcoffee until a sudden smell or sound propels them back to that place, that day….

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thanks, Ron! Yes, they’ll remember. My little guy recalled the place right away when we walked in, he says this is where I was giving chickens blueberries! He remembered the whole thing from last July, when he was 3.5 and he remembered the colors of chickens, and pigs, and he was looking for clover for baby cow, I had to explain that clover is not out yet, and he said: but that is cow’s favorite food. They’ll definitely remember more about these places than some computer games. . . Thanks for reminding me about that. πŸ™‚
      Lady who was telling us all the history said that when economy tanked in 2008, people flocked to these farms to learn how to live sustainably and preserve food, learn the old ways. I am glad they keep up a lot of these places here and restore them to their original condition, with most people just volunteering for the cause.
      Good luck with all your gardens! I am looking forward reading about your adventures.

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