Earlier this week the kids and I were treated not only to a day spent with our good friend and her daughter, but we got to tag along with them on a trip to Old World Wisconsin. A living history site, Old World Wisconsin allows you to step back in time to the late 19th century when many European immigrants — including my own ancestors — were arriving in Wisconsin in search of new beginnings and a better life. The staff dresses in period costumes, authentic breeds of livestock graze happily in their pastures, and heirloom gardens accompany every homestead. None of us had been before and nothing could have prepared me for how incredibly awesome this place is.
My friend is an avid and very talented gardener, so we stopped and studied each garden.
We walked along to another homestead where the staff focused on demonstrating how flax was grown, processed, and ultimately spun and woven into clothing. This, of course, was one of my favorite parts.
Next to a pasture with the oxen named Pete & Charlie, this gentleman was set up in a beautiful thatched roof barn and showed us how the flax was processed from stalk to the ready to spin fiber. It. Was. Incredible. I left all the more in awe of this beautiful fiber, the lovely linens with which I get to knit, and reconsidering (briefly) the days when my husband wanted to plant our yard in flax so that I could spin it.
My son really enjoyed this toolshop where he was allowed to try his hand at helping to carve a tool’s handle.
My friend taught my daughter how to do laundry…
And she did not want to stop! We probably could have stayed here washing laundry until closing time and my girl would have been happy. She likes to help me hang laundry at home, too, so it makes sense. The only thing that lured her away from this spot was the promise of baby pigs in a neighboring manger.
As we walked along toward the slightly more recent 1880s town, I couldn’t help but notice that it was quiet. A real, true quiet. Nestled apart from busy roads and highways and without any motorized vehicles save for a few trams to help transport people around the park, the only sounds you could hear were those of nature and our own conversations. I could have taken a photo to share that moment in time with you, but it seemed inappropriate. I can tell you, though, that was beyond the costumes and authentic homes of 200years ago, it was a moment in time that let me feel like the whole world stood still. Quiet. Peaceful. Unchanged.
As we waited for the kids to check out a chapel on a little hill, a tram came along and we hitched a ride back to the slightly more recent 1880s town where the kiddos were recruited to help water another large heirloom garden.
As we were walking away toward our lunch, one of the ladies from the garden stopped us to let us know she’d brought out some of the little girls’ Laura Ingalls Wilder dress-up clothes because my girl looked just the right size. My little lady bolted back to the house and by the time I caught up she was all dressed up, hoop skirt, bonnet, and all.
I’m not sure who enjoyed this dress-up more — my girl or the ladies who work there or the families who passed by while she modeled. Suffice to say, she fit the costumes perfectly and we joked that she should definitely be recruited to model for the brochure.
We rounded out our day with a delicious little picnic that Mr Knitting Sarah had picked out for us (he didn’t come with us, but he did pick up all the food because he’s awesome like that) followed by a nice cold scoop of ice cream at the park’s cafe. To top this wonderful day off, we also got to spend a little time at our friend’s house, touring her gorgeous gardens and playing with her incredibly adorable puppy. What a day!
When we got home, I thought it was only right that I spin a little. You know, I have to do my part to keep history alive in the modern world.
This is my latest spinning project – I’m working on a traditional 3-ply for this Falkland from Dyeabolical. The colorway is Fate, PhD – this colorway was love at first site for me with the mix of blues and golds. It’s a far cry from the raw flax I watched them process and spin earlier in the day, but it’s spinning all the same and I can’t help but hope that I’m keeping a little bit of that tradition, that heritage alive.
We’re look forward to returning to Old World Wisconsin very soon again, there are some homeschool days in autumn of which we will definitely take advantage. There is much more to learn and for people like my friend and I (and probably you, too), to return to that moment in time where our handcrafts were an integral part of family life, to see the beautiful oxen at pasture and the care put into the heirloom gardens, and to experience the profound quiet — well, I think there’s something important in that. I’m so thankful there are still places where our history lives on and we can get a wonderful glimpse of this moment in time.