Saturday, 8 June 2013

De Smet

Earlier this week Z, Eden and I went to De Smet, SD with our friend, Krista Miller.  She's moving to Idaho (sad!) and wanted to see De Smet before she left, so we volunteered to go with her.  When we left Sioux Falls it was rainy and cold, but the further north we got the sunnier and warmer it became, until we found 70 degree temperatures in sunny De Smet.  Yay!

For those who don't know, De Smet is the town made famous by the last five books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- By The Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years.  The actual 160 acres that Pa claimed for his homestead have been turned into a living museum which is not only fascinating historically, but also tons of fun!  During the summer it's a working farm, but worked using late 19th century tools and machines.  There's a schoolhouse on site, where the kids can dress up and everyone gets a lesson from the teacher.  Animals abound, all amazingly friendly and docile under eager, childish hands.  The claim shanty that Pa built has been replicated, and children learn how to do laundry, churn butter, and make little games. (Z did the laundry twice and exclaimed "I could do laundry all day!") There's a dug out and a barn full of animals and interesting machines, like one that shells dried corn, leaving a cob with which to make a corn cob doll, like Laura played with in the Big Woods.  (Eden made one of these.)  There's a wonderful machine that is used to make rope, which Z used to make a jump rope, and one of the incredibly nice teenagers who works there will show you how to twist hay, just like the Ingalls did during the long winter of 1880-81 (this is the same hard winter which drove Teddy Roosevelt out of North Dakota).

Unfortunately I didn't get nearly as many pictures as I would have liked, since I forgot my camera, but these are all courtesy of Krista.  Thanks, Krista!

I know I'm biased, but I'm just not sure it gets any cuter than this!

Z in school.  During the Spelling B the teacher asked Z what his name is and he said, "Lazarus, but you can call me Z for short!"  The teacher exclaimed over his name and then asked him to spell it, which he very nicely did. 

Our two little 19th century scholars.
The writing on the blackboard behind them is a riddle which says:
"In marble walls as white as milk,
Lined with a skin as soft as silk,
Within a fountain crystal clear,
A golden apple doth appear;
No doors there are to this stronghold,
Yet thieves break in and steal the gold."

Can anyone guess the answer?

One of the barn cats had just had kittens, and Eden and Z could not get enough of them.
They were adorable. (The kittens and the kids!)

Eden was fascinated by the miniature horses, but also a little spooked by them.  The teenager in charge of the horses saddled this horse, named Star, twice for Eden.  We finally got her to sit on Star, but she couldn't be convinced to take a ride.  I'm not sure Star even noticed whether she had on a saddle or not, or whether there was a child on her or not!

Z, on the other hand, had no such qualms!  He rode Toby twice, drove the two BIG horses that pulled the wagon (and all of us) to the schoolhouse, and also drove another little horse pulling a child-sized carriage.  There was one other miniature horse that had had a baby the day before, and it was just beautiful!

The homestead also boasts the original cottonwood trees that Pa planted as a windbreak around the house.  They're huge now, and beautiful.  In town, you can also visit the house that Pa built for his family as well as the actual Surveyor's House the Ingalls lived in during their first winter in Dakota Territory.  It's funny to visit, because in the book Laura describes the house as absolutely huge, but by today's standards it's tiny.  We didn't have time to look at the town houses since we were on the homestead for almost four hours, but that will be for another visit.

So come to South Dakota, see De Smet, and feel free to visit us in the process!


MOM said...

What a wonderful review of the "Little House" homestead! Why didn't we do that when we were there? I guess it was too expensive. Next time. And isn't there some special memory for you about one of the cottonwood trees? Are you reading the books to the kids? Such wonderful books! So many wonderful experiences...and many more don't know because no one wrote a book about them, now lost in time. I am in awe of history.

megarber said...

I would LOVE to visit there and the other Laura sites. You've given me a great picture though--especially with such dear children embodying it all. <3

Anne said...

Well, what's the answer to the riddle?! :) A chicken? I'm terrible at riddles.

Cool pics. Wish we could have gotten there. Glad you guys had a good time!

The Hitchcocks said...

Chicken is close -- it's an egg!