You know how sometimes you get what you think could either be a great idea or a terrible idea, and the entire time you really aren't sure which it is? That's kind of how our latest adventure went!
Last weekend I got the awesome opportunity to hang out with some lovely Midwest bloggers (Oh My! Omaha, Simplify, Live, Love, Her Heartland Soul, Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids, and Midwest Wanderer) and their families. The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce invited us out for the 4th Annual Franklin Co Harvest Tour, held in Hampton, Iowa.
I was so excited when I received my invitation, but also super apprehensive because Joel had to work that weekend and if I wanted to go I would have to take both girls by myself. I knew that this was going to be an exercise in patience and parenting, but I was ready to give it a go. (ok, honestly I almost cancelled like 5 times. But I knew we would have fun, if we just stuck with it!) We had a few moments that were rough, and a few moments when I thought "this is crazy, why am I doing this?" but overall we had a really great time! I learned a lot about agriculture in Iowa, and got to know some really great people!
Friday night we all met up at TownsEnd Winery, which is a family run winery that grows all their fruit and typically produces 12-15 different varieties of wine each year. I am normally not a fruity sweet wine person, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of these wines! I even managed to snag a few bottles to bring back home, when I was allowed to escape the kiddie sticker table, that is. I brought home a mulberry wine, a concord grape aged in an oak barrel, a frontenac, and a cranberry table wine which has mysteriously vanished from this picture.
Saturday morning we headed over to Rustic Brew for breakfast. Truth be told it was our Second Breakfast, since we woke at our usual 6 in the morning and headed down to the hotel breakfast for some much needed coffee and waffles. A few hours later we met with the group and headed into town. I immediately fell in love with the rustic charm of this place! Its in an old main street building, and filled with hand painted murals, mismatched chairs and lots of cozy touches. I think what tickles me the most about this place is that not only can you get a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee, but you can also get a micro-brew made by the owner, and even a selection of wine! You can stay and drink the day away, literally!
While we waited for breakfast to be served we had a great time getting to know our group and exploring the shop. The girls immediately fell in love with the giant chalkboard wall and the 100 year old piano! Evelyn was having so much fun she just couldn't bear to stop. And decided that in the middle of the owner's presentation would be a great time to throw an epic two-year-old temper tantrum in the bathroom floor. For everyone to hear. Awesome.
After breakfast we stopped by the Franklin County Historical Museum. This place is a treasure trove of great artifacts from Iowa's history - everything from Bison skulls, arrowheads, farming implements, an old Model T truck, and every kind of household item you could think of! They also had a great "Main Street" area with a church, livery, press, and many more building that you could walk in and check out.
The kiddos loved running up and down the main street and climbing all over this caboose! It was a much needed energy releaser on a gorgeous fall morning!
I loved this room full of old record books! I would have loved to have spent some more time here discovering all the great nooks and crannies of this place (and actually being able to read some of the plaques instead of chasing children off of antique stoves...)
We were given some time to wander through the downtown shops of Hampton, IA. I love old main streets! It is so fun to see all the architecture, the old shops, the cozy atmosphere, and how each shop incorporates that history into who they are. I apparently didn't take any photos of this. Both girls were pretty tired, cold, hungry, and winey at this point, so we headed back to the car for some snacks and quiet rest time before our next stop.
Our next stop on the Tour was Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, which is a company that produces corn, soybean and alfalfa seeds. They provided us with lunch and had us watch an informational video, which I totally missed because both kids needed to go to the bathroom, and then we had a water spill that needed cleaning up. Then the Iowa Farm Bureau gave us a presentation on their Ag in the Classroom program, where they go into rural areas and give presentations to children Kindergarten and up on agriculture and its importance.
Our next stop was the farm of Roy and Jeanie Arends, and Roy gave us an in-the-field demonstration on tiling. Have you ever heard about tiling a field? Don't worry, I hadn't either. I actually had no idea what he was talking about, but quickly became fascinated! If you are like me you tend to think that the Midwest is the best place to grow crops because we have all this flat ground and fertile soil. But in actuality, all this flat ground means that the water just kind of...sits there. And you don't have to be a farmer to know that crops don't really grow in standing water. To help move the water from the field and out into a waterway, farmers use "tile-ing" - installing specialized pipes that help to remove the water from the field and direct it down to a waterway (in this case the Iowa River). At Roy's farm, the original tiles had been put in over 100 years ago - by hand. Crews of 4 men hand-dug the trenches to place the tiles. The first three men were in charge of digging - they had to dig by the rod and spade. So they dug down the depth of a spade (18 inches) and the length of a rod (16 feet). The first man dug the first spade, the second man dug the second spade depth, and the third man dug the third spade depth (so by this time they were about 4.5 feet down. And each of those men got paid $1. The fourth man was lucky because he got to lay down the tiles, and he was paid $1.25. And then this continued every 100 feet, for the entire width and length of a field. Can you imagine?! Ugh, I will never complain about planting flowers again.
Today they have technology to the rescue!A specialized attachment hooks up to a tractor and helps to lay the pipes, dig the holes, and put the dirt back in place in no time at all. And GPS records and tracks all the information so you know that the pipes are being laid down with the natural slope of the land so all the water will run off correctly.
We loved getting the chance to climb on up into a combine and see all that goes into harvesting corn and soybeans! It is definitely more high tech than just driving through a field. It typically takes this farmer and his family about 2 weeks to harvest all his corn and soybeans, and thats with 12-14 hour days. It was really cool to see how the combine worked, how it cut down the stalks of corn, harvested the ears, spit the stalks and corn husks out the back and put the kernels into the tank on the top.
Ainsley LOVED checking out the cornfield. Picking corn was her thing (and yes, there is corn in every single one of her pockets). FYI, this is the kind of corn that is used for livestock feed, to produce ethanol, and for processed food products. This is not sweet corn, its a totally different variety!
We loved exploring through the cornfield so much that we just "had" to try out going potty there. Yup. We left a #2 behind in the field.
After a lovely family style dinner at La Frontera (with the best enchiladas I think I've ever had) we headed back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed on to see a vaudeville show (which I heard was great fun) but we were definitely ready to call it quits for the day. Evelyn pretty much just whimpered the entire way through dinner, and actually managed to fall asleep in my arms for a while. We got back to the hotel at 7, and both kids had passed out by 7:30. And I wasn't far behind them!
We had one last stop on our adventure out of town, and this was a good one! We stopped by the Harriman-Nielsen Historic Farm for a quick tour, and to check out the Fall Festival they were getting ready for. The festival didn't technically start until a few hours later, but they were so gracious in letting us poke around and made us feel so welcomed! This gorgeous house was build in the late 1890's and has been so well preserved. Seriously, this family kept everything! From thousands of letters written in Danish, elegant dresses (and pictures of them wearing them!), dishes, even the original wallpaper! This home really helps to give a sense of what it was like to live at the turn of the century. And my girls were so involved playing in the pit of corn kernels with Michelle's girls that I actually got to take my time (well, kind of!)
The girls and I even got a ride in a 1915 Model T! It was so fun, and the whole time the girls were yelling "WHEEE!"
The Fall Festival is a must do event if you are ever in Hampton, IA! Not only were there gorgeous signs of fall everywhere I looked, but the town and festival are full of wonderful, warm people, so many great things to do!
Thank you so much to Franklin County and the Iowa Farm Bureau for hosting this great weekend! The girls and I learned so much and had a great time!
Want to read more about my adventures in Iowa? Read about my tour with the Iowa Pork Producers!