Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We had the opportunity this month to visit family in Iowa. I never lived in the Midwest city where both my parents grew up, but trips there always feel like I am going back home.

(Henry and family, circa 1880)

We made this trip mainly to attend a wedding, but were able to fit in a few other activities as well, such as tracking down caramels made by nuns, playing mini golf, and visiting the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin.

(Three generations of Henry's descendants, including his great-great-great grandson, John Henry, 2011)

We also made a trip to the family farm. This isn't what most people would think of as a Midwest farm. It isn't a sprawling piece of flatland that can be planted with acres and acres of corn. It is down in a hollow, along a "crick," and set on a slab of eroding limestone. Our relatives, one of whom is the great-great-great grandfather Hank is named after, probably had a very hard time working this land.

What could you do here on a few acres (and sorta make a living)? Well, if we were so inclined to set up our home on this plot of land today, we discussed doing the following:

~ Growing organic hops (hops grow vertically, so you can pack in a lot of vines)
~ Making organic beer (naturally)
~ Chickens!
~ Harvesting morels which grow abundantly in the surrounding forest
~ Growing berries to make jam (homemade jam was being sold in the local tourist stores for $8/jar!)
~ Baking pies and bread for a local restaurant to serve
~ Letting a little boy run free to make leaf boats, look for fossils, and do whatever boys do in an open space dozens of miles from the nearest McDonalds.

BT and I are dreamers, and we had fun playing the "what if" game imagining life on a farm. The farm house itself looks straight out of the Blair Witch Project* at the moment, so that would be a major investment. Oh, and the winters, and all the work, and being subject to the seasons, pests, and the unexpected to determine if you were going to make it by that year.

But, it is fun to pretend :)

* So we made no mention of the family names to Hank as we explored the farm. Inside the house, he asked what something was, and somebody must have said it was Henry's so-and-so. He then pointed and said excitedly - There's Henry! I want to touch him. Then, as we headed down towards the creek, there is an old shed. Hank said he wanted to see "Mama Harry" in there. Now, who knows why he said mama, and he may have meant Henry, but doesn't it give you chills to hear that Henry's wife was named Harriet? I was seriously creeped out.


Favorite of the day: Cute idea, and cute bag

Working on: Oh, I don't know where I am at with projects.


Carolyn said...

Glad you had a great time! Love your blog!

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leslie said...

i didn't know you dreamt about living on a farm as well, we need to talk!! i go from farm dreaming to beach house dreaming to small cabin high in the mountains to rustic stonehouse in italy dreaming... i don't spend much of my day in the reality of my own life. sorta scary!! loved this post, i think it is awesome you guys visited and love that "mama hank" reference, so cute!! miss you!

sweet little sister said...

What an adventure! And hunting down those caramels was super appreciated... they were positively scrumptious!!! Best caramels EVER. How cool to visit some family history while there. Sounds like Hank had a great time!!
I have a farm yearning too, particularly when I hear Frostiana-The Pasture (Randall Thompson) I think I may have been meant for a dairy farm or growing crops, cause God knows I couldn't raise animals for slaughter ;)
Maybe you and BT will grow those hops on hour property in LB... and sell home brew, pies and jam... You're so right tho. A Lot of work!!!!! Thanks for sharing your trip!