Many of my favorite memories of playing with my children involve observing how they interact with the natural world. They love to feed and touch animals, have an innate desire to climb fences and jump off rocks, build things, dig in a garden and all those other great and (mostly) self-directed activities. Our summer trip to the Oliver H. Kelley Farm in Elk River, Minnesota, gave the kids the chance to do all of the above plus (perhaps) deepened their appreciation for modern conveniences at home.
The farm operates as though we’ve gone back to the 1860’s. Guides in period dress are happy to dispense as much or as little information as you’d like about the animals, chores, cooking and harvesting done by the Kelley family when they farmed the land around the time of the Civil War. (Most impressive – farming was not native to Kelley; he was a “book farmer”.)
The kids plunged right into the chores (naturally – they weren’t at home, after all). Pumping heavy buckets of water, raiding the veggie patch for weeds to treat the sheep, sorting beans and stirring a pot of them on the farmhouse stove. Andy helped the farmers dig holes to fix a log fence, Olivia got up close to a pair of oxen and Emily fell in love with barn kitties nestled in the oats (up for adoption; Em was crushed when we couldn’t take one home.).
We wrapped up our afternoon on the farm with a horse-drawn trolley ride along the bluestem prairie and the mighty Mississippi, Andy calling commands to the team.
As an added pleasure, the historic site was hosting a special day for grandparents. Many had accompanied their grandchildren out to Kelley Farm for the day, including my own mother, who often comes along on our summer adventures. Memories of the kids with their many wonderful grandparents are also among my most favorite.
For the Files: Oliver H. Kelley Farm is located at 15788 Kelley Farm Rd. Elk River, MN 55330. Operated by the Minnesota Historical Society, admission is free if you’re a member (we are certainly getting our money’s worth this year!). Regular admission is $9/adults, $7/children 6-17, free for ages 5 & under. Free admission on Grandparents Day for those with a grandchild in tow! Farm is open Memorial Day – Labor Day with additional special events April – October.
About the Author: Anne Kingston is the Owner and Founder of Tourmoms.com.