Saturday, October 30, 2010

Le Duc Historic Estate--Friday History Field Trip #7

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)
This week's Friday History Field Trip was to LeDuc Historic Estate in Hastings. I am having so much fun finding these sites! I love that my kids are enough into history that they enjoy it, too. Even though Kutey says she doesn't like history.


William LeDuc and his wife Mary moved to Minnesota in the 1850's. They originally moved to St. Paul, but eventually moved Hastings. They had farms in the area, and LeDuc was involved in many other ventures as well. LeDuc House was completed in 1865-66 and is fairly unaltered since that time. The timing of the house is interesting, because William LeDuc, the builder, was a Civil War officer. While he was off at war, his wife was back in Ohio with her mother. The house was built largely in their absence. It is also very early in the history of Minnesota as a state. They were building the house at a time when the area was largely wilderness. As such, it is a massive house. It also apparently cost a a small fortune when built. They thought it might cost as much as $5000, a great deal of money at the time. When completed, however, it was 6 times that much--$30,000. It took the family years--and an inheritance--to finally get back on firm financial footing.


LeDuc tried many things to make his fortune, held many positions. Most notably, he was the Commissioner of Agriculture under President Rutherford B. Hayes. The LeDuc's also hosted the first presidential visit to the State of Minnesota, too. Rutherford B. Hayes, of course.


The house is based on an Andrew Jackson Downing design that Mary found in a book entitled "Cottage Residences." It is the Headley House in the Hudson River Valley. Mary LeDuc reversed the plan by holding it up to a window and tracing it. The windows are also not quite as long as they should have been. Mary LeDuc wanted them to go all the way to the floor, but the builder convinced her that in Minnesota that would be a poor choice, so they end 15 inches from the floor. Still very large.


At LeDuc you go on a guided tour, which is what Kiddo prefers. He likes that he can ask as many questions as he needs. I like that I don't need to know anything when I go in. I am learning with the kids. Our LeDuc tour had only one other couple on it, which was wonderful, too. I am not always sure what people think when I show up with a 7 year-old and a 4 year-old. This couple complimented us at the end, told Kiddo he asked good questions, and commented on how good they were. I know these things, but it is always nice when others recognize them, too!


We also wandered about outside the house for a bit, and found some favorite things there. First up, Chickens!
Ever since our visit to St. Augustine in May, Kutey has had a thing for chickens, particularly for feeding them! So we spent a bit of time feeding the chickens bits of grass. There was a whole list of things you could find around the yard that the chickens like to eat (along with what you SHOULDN'T feed them!). So close to the end of the growing season here in Minnesota, however, we were lucky to find grass!

Kiddo's favorite Ben Franklin invention. We look for them often, but honestly, this one sort of snuck up on us. It is a lovely example however.


Want to go on your own tour of LeDuc? You can! I love this site. They have a virtual tour on their website! It even shows the basement and the third floor, areas that are not available for tour in person. 200 photographs and 50 interactive 360 degree panoramics. They won't be open again for tours until Spring (we literally hit the last Friday), but the virtual tour is good! And if you aren't from the area, the virtual tour will give you a bit of an idea of what we got to see!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Go here and watch this!

Team Ra-Ras Kicks Breast Cancer

From the site: The Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, teaming up with over 130 NFL Alumni Philadelphia Chapter Cheerleaders and UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania, invite the world to help "Team Ra-Ras Kick Breast Cancer." To encourage viewers to share the video with others and increase breast cancer awareness, UnitedHealthcare will donate ten cents ($.10) per view to The Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

It is for a great cause, one important to me. Give 4 minutes of your life to support the cause. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I am trying to understand. Kiddo has been introduced to Pokemon. His cousin is into it, has been for over a year. We spent a lot of time with his family over the weekend (for our annual fall camping trip), and Pokemon was present. Kiddo has no cards. Up until this weekend I don't think he knew much about them at all, except for the little bit cousin C explain in previous short encounters. But now. Well, now he knows. He hasn't asked for any cards of his own (Thank goodness!), but he is creating his own characters, drawing them, talking about damage points, powers, etc. I don't understand any of it (admittedly I have not tried). Here is my question: is there any thing redeeming about Pokemon? Will it help him with, say, math? Logical reasoning? Is there a reason I should stop ignoring it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

It is a rainy, blustery day here, which has me sitting inside planning. And thinking. Way to much. My current rumination of choice is how to avoid doing too much.

It is a conscious effort for me this year, avoiding over-scheduling. It isn't easy. Every option out there sounds wonderful! In this week already, I have had to turn down the opportunity to go to two different Halloween activities. Then there are the activities that come through our local homeschooling groups. There are so many! You could literally never be at home. I know, there are weeks when we aren't! Add to all the homeschool activities all the after school and evening activities for school-age kids. I view evenings as family time, so I limit those activities.

So I am being vigilant. But I feel guilty, too. What if I am skipping activities that my kids would find enriching? Are we attending enough activities so that they are making enough social connections? Should I just go to every activity I think my kids might possibly enjoy? What about the other stuff, ya know, like reading and math?

I don't remember there being this many options when I was young! Maybe my parents just did a better job of picking for us. I don't feel like I missed out, either. I didn't attend more than one or two theater productions in my elementary years (and I couldn't tell you what they were! Very memorable, no?) We probably went on two field trips a year. As a family we went to the zoo once or twice a year, maybe. We hit a few other sites, maybe one site a year. I know I have been to Fort Snelling more times in the last year and a half than I had been there in my entire life prior to that. And I did not feel deprived as a child.


How do you choose? How do you avoid over-committing, especially when everyone around you seems to be doing so much more?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marine Mill Site--Friday History Field Trip #6, On Saturday

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)Every year our family joins my family of origin and some extended family members for a 4 day camping trip in October. We go to William O'Brien State Park, which is close to the Twin Cities metro area. That allows those who don't want to camp to come out for a day or two. The park is coincidentally just down the St. Croix River from our last Friday History Field Trip--Folsom House.

Because we were camping this weekend, I chose a site close to the campground for our Friday History Field Trip--the mill site at Marine on St. Croix. Since Friday was a big day of visitors--there were 9 children 7 and under--we chose to wait a day and go on this particular field trip on Saturday.

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

The site is basically interpretive signs marking the ruins of of what was the first commercial saw mill in Minnesota. It was built in 1839, prior to Minnesota becoming a state, and closed in 1895. Seems like a short lifespan, but the raw lumber was farther away by then, I am sure. All that remains are the stone foundations of some of the buildings. The signs help you to envision how much actually stood here, though, over 115 years ago.

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

Marine on St. Croix is a cute little town, too, so some in our group ventured into the little shops--getting coffees and hot cocoas and $2 chocolates.

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

Across the street from the actual mill site there is a cabin marked with a historical marker sign as an "Early Settler's Cabin." We went and read the sign, viewed a mill pond (at least I am pretty sure that is what is was, I didn't photograph the sign, so I can't remember for sure). It is a restored cabin, you can see in the picture where the original logs are (the grey at the top).

FHFT,Marine Mill,2010

The sites are small and easy to see in a short amount of time. We managed to squeeze them in between rain showers (so it was really wet, but not bad). This field trip did, however, prove to me that it is sometimes better to go alone than with a group. The other 7-year-old was not as interested in history. Kiddo was torn between running ahead with the him and going slower and soaking it all in. Thankfully it is an easy site to revisit, maybe in the summer!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Glacial Potholes


After our trip to Folsom House, we had a little time. My grandfather is buried in Taylors Falls (he grew up there), so we headed to the cemetery for some genealogy. The hosts at Folsom house encouraged us to look for Folsoms in the cemetery as well. We spent some time walking around to view the stones of our ancestors. We also noticed a number of very old stones, read the years, and talked about what was happening in the area at the time. There are many that date from the 1860s to 1880s.


After that we headed down to the St. Croix River and Interstate State Park. I am told I have been here before, but I have little recollection of it. It is a very interesting park geologically speaking. There are at least 10 different lava flows visible in the park and 2 distinct glacial events. There are also glacial potholes.


These holes were formed by the Glacial St. Croix. Here, fast moving waters ground rocks in whirlpools against the rock, wearing it away like sandpaper. The park contains more potholes in a smaller area than anywhere else in the world. These potholes are also some of the deepest known in the world, and they are found right here in Minnesota! There are trails that let you walk amongst them, and one you can even go into--at the bottom, where the rock was worn away at the side, too.


The kids were fascinated by the holes (but they like rocks in general, so I wasn't surprised). The unfortunate part was that there wasn't enough time to explore as much as they would have liked. I will be adding this park to our list of places to visit again next summer!


For more information:
There is a video walking tour of the potholes here. It is meant to be loaded onto a video player and carried through the area, but it gives a information and photos of the potholes. There is a nicely done pdf of the formation of the area here. General information about the park can be found here.

Folsom House--Friday History Field Trip #5

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!) This week's Friday History Field Trip was to Folsom House in Taylors Falls, MN. I was very excited. I have family history in Taylors Falls. I have been to the area many times over the years, but I had never once even HEARD of Folsom house.


Folsom House was built by W.H.C. Folsom who made his fortune in lumber among other things. He served in the state house and senate early in the state's history. He moved his family into the house in 1850, and the house remained in the family until it was turned over to the Historical Society. Because the house remained in the family, and because the family never fell on hard times, the house is still filled with the belongings of the family. There are some very unique items--I won't give away all the secrets, some of them you just have to see for yourself! But there is a unique collection of cups and a number of unique toys. The kitchen tools, however, are perhaps the most interesting.


Normally there are guided tours of the house, and that is what we expected. We happened to go, however, on the first day of a weekend-long quilt show in the house. This meant that we did not get a tour, unfortunately. We are good at asking questions, though, so we still learned a great deal. There are two parlors in the house--the men's parlor, and the women's parlor. They are side by side and were open to each other when we visited, but we were told what they were. There is a beautiful library, a large dining room, and several bedrooms upstairs--two of which you can go through.


Instead of windows on one whole side of the house--where the parlors are on the first floor and bedrooms on the second floor--there are doors. Four of them. I believe they said it had to do with how windows were viewed for the value of the house (and thus the taxes). As is the case in many houses this age, there are few closets. One that we saw. Closets were considered rooms and you were taxed based on the number of rooms, thus no closets. At least that is what I have been told! It is also true, however, that they had fewer possessions they would have placed in a closet, so it would have been much less necessary to have a closet.


One of the fun things we did was to go through the house (particularly the parlors) and note the chairs. We have become "chair historians," and we like to see which chairs are for the men (chairs with arms) and which are for the women (those without). We learned about chairs at Civil War Day at Fort Snelling this year, and it adds some fun to our tours! We also looked at the stair case, which was exceptionally wide. Apparently it was a status symbol to have a wide staircase. It was also more accommodating of hoop skirts, the fashion of the day.


Kutey loved this lamp in the men's parlor. It was very unique. And fragile. One pane had already been replaced, it appeared, and another was cracked horribly. It didn't detract from Kutey's fascination, however! I love seeing what catches the kids eye when we go to places like this. I might not have even noticed this lamp!

The field trip was a good one, but I think we'll be visiting Folsom House again when they are giving tours. We'd like to learn more!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Miners rescued in Chile

I have been watching the live footage of the 33 miners being rescued from the collapsed mine in Chile. I am so happy for them and for their families. I started watching late last night, and had a hard time tearing myself away from it. I can understand only a very little of what is said, my Spanish isn't great, but I don't think you have to understand the language to understand the emotion.

As I watched, I thought about how different the coverage would be if it were in the U.S. There would be commentators, of course, telling us repeatedly what is happening, how long the shaft is, the size and weight of every piece involved, etc. There would also be back story on each person coming out of the mine: who they are, how long they worked for the mine, what exactly their position was, who was waiting for them at the top, etc. etc. etc. This coverage is blissfully simple. I can read the caption telling me who is coming out, and how old they are. I can also read the caption that tells me who the emotional person standing near the shaft waiting for their loved one is. Really, that is all I want to know.

What I find interesting, however, is that they also have a camera that follows the miners to the area where they are reunited with their families (after being checked out preliminarily at triage). I really don't need to be there. I know they are emotional, and frankly, if it was me, I think I would want to be left alone. Yes, they only give us a few moments of that reunion, but I am not sure I even need to be included in that. Thankfully, it seems the camera operators are at least responsive to the miners needs. I caught a glimpse of one reunion, where the couple was embracing for a long time. The miner stared directly at the camera (even with the dark glasses, you could tell he was staring at the camera), which made me feel like I was intruding. Then he simply shook his head once, and the camera left them. I have to wonder if that would have happened if it had been somewhere else in the world.

I have also been sharing this experience with my kids. Yes, they are only 4 and 7, but the coverage is so simple, that it is easy to answer their questions without having to explain the hype by the commentators. We have talked about the process, how long it takes to pull out one miner, how deep the hole is, where the miners have been all this time, why they are wearing dark glasses, what happened that trapped them down there in the first place, why they were down there in the first place, what copper is and what it is used for, where Chile is, just to name a few things. The camera in the mine was great. It really helped them envision what is down there. It is refreshing to be able to let them watch the coverage without too much worry about it being sensationalized. Even if there are things being said they shouldn't hear, they are being said in Spanish, so the kids don't understand it anyway!

Our Classroom Today--October 12


We went to the same campground as last week! We had so much fun really is a great space. This time, however, we admitted we would likely want to stay until dinner time, so we planned dinner and stayed all day long. There was less drawing today, but more fort building. There was no hike today, but there was a great deal of running about in the woods. We also had a mini birthday celebration for our friend J. We roasted different foods (potatoes, broccoli, and tacos), and somehow managed to not have s'mores--I am not sure how that happened!

The weather is getting cooler (it was 86 the end of last week!). Temperatures in the 60s are one of the best things about fall. We know our days of good weather to be outside like this are numbered for this season. Taking advantage of this time is important. It is like the harvest at the end of the season that will sustain us until the warmer weather returns.

It was another beautiful day with good friends in nature. Makes me wish we could do it every day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The groove

The hardest part of going on vacation is coming back. We have been home for a week now, and still aren't back to our routine! I have our schedule mapped out, I know what we planned to accomplish, but, well...we just aren't there. Part of it is the weather--it is so nice outside that I don't even want to think about school! We have done a few things, and I have a few posts to come (one really fun one on Joseph's coat of many colors), but we have sort of been lax the last bit.

How do you get back into your routine?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Classroom Today--October 5


Idyllic, no?

We stumbled upon what might be the greatest outdoor space for us yet. One of our Tuesday group members had a desire to camp, but, well, it just hasn't worked out for her this year. So she wanted to go to a campsite for the day. She did the research, found one reasonably close (it is SUPER close for me, so I love it all the more!), and made the plans. We didn't know what was there. We were pleasantly surprised. The campground is only 5 sites, and we had the whole place to ourselves. There is a central fire pit, along with pits for each site. We used the central fire pit. We had a fire, which the adults sat around while the kids ran and played in the woods surrounding us. They also found the creek pictured above. C had also put together notebooks for the kids, so they could draw things they had seen out in the woods.

It was a very peaceful day. The kids ran. The kids played. The kids drew. We hiked. The adults sat and chatted. And we all tried some new fire roasted foods! We made bannock, something I have wanted to try for a while but never got the ingredients together for! I didn't use the recipe from that site, however, because it was a bit vague for me. Mine was similar, but I can't find the link to it right now, sadly. I'll post it when I do find it! We roasted apples--the easy way, on a stick like a marshmallow. The peel will char, and you can peel it right off and eat the apple. We roasted one whole in foil, too, but I am not sure how that one came out, I didn't try it. We of course had s'mores. And we made banana boats. We didn't use that recipe, though it is similar. T brought bananas, and I rattled off how we had roasted them when I was younger, too. So she tried it...but we only had regular size marshmallows, and we used pieces of Hershey bar. Still, really good. I don't think 5 minutes would have been enough, however. They are better, in my opinion, when the banana is fully mooshy. The first one wasn't quite soft enough, and it was on the fire for more than 5 minutes. Still, quite good, just not as squishy.

The weather was perfect. The leaves are falling from the trees and made a nice crunch beneath our feet. It was such a great day, that we are hoping to do it again next week, weather permitting!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


One of the great things about homeschooling (and there are many!) is the ability to take a vacation when we want to be on vacation. For the last several years, we have taken a week in the fall and gone to the North Shore of Lake Superior. If you are from around here, you understand. If not, well, you should go there at least once.

Last week was our week. It was beautiful. And fun. And relaxing. And it went by so fast! Every morning we woke up and looked out at this while we ate breakfast.
This is part of the Sawtooth Mountain range, a gorgeous, if small, mountain range that runs along the shore of Lake Superior. The peaks aren't huge, but they are mountains, and they are beautiful. An added bonus: many of the peaks are small enough to be accessible for little folks. They can actually climb a mountain!

The view changed over the week. One morning we woke up, and the mountains had been "erased."
Kutey assured us it was just fog. Whew! We were worried.

By the time we left, the color had dropped significantly. The wind and rain had taken their toll. It was still beautiful, just less full of color.

We stay in a condo when we go, so we can have a full kitchen. One thing about the North Shore, eating establishments are not as plentiful as one might think. And not all of them are terribly kid friendly. Making most of our own meals makes life a little easier. The condo also means we have more space. There is a nice pool at the resort, which was pleasantly warm this year--it was bitterly cold last year. 15 minutes was all we could bear! This year we were there for an hour each time we went. It was also a salt-water pool this year, which is so much more pleasant than chlorine!

I didn't take any school work with us. The past two years I have taken the bare minimum, making sure we were on track. This year, though, we have been on such a great roll, I decided we needed nothing. Kiddo brought some books, but never read them (he read everything else in sight, just no books). He also planned a couple of crafts to do in the evenings. We made envelopes and wrote notes to each other, complete with stamps that required double-stick tape. The sweetest part of the activity was that when we exchanged, Kiddo noticed that I had not received a note, so he sat down and made another one just for me. Such a great kid!

We visited historic sites, climbed mountains, skipped rocks in the lake, and had an great time. I'll be posting some more highlights as time allows!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Split Rock Lighthouse

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)
One of my favorite sights on the North Shore of Lake Superior (really, the whole North Shore is my favorite, but...) is Split Rock Lighthouse. Lake Superior is the only place in Minnesota to see lighthouses, and Split Rock is definitely the most spectacular of them.

Split Rock LighthouseThe lighthouse was built in 1909-1910 on a 130 foot cliff of anorthosite. It was taken out of service in 1969, when modern navigating technology made it obsolete. It is now the property of the state. The Minnesota Historical Society operates the lighthouse site, while the Department of Natural Resources operates the surrounding state park. It costs extra to go into the lighthouse and keepers house, as well as into the visitor's center exhibits, but you can see the lighthouse from the park, too, which just requires the annual (or daily) permit that is good at all Minnesota State Parks.

Kiddo has always like going to Split Rock, though we have only been into the lighthouse on one previous occasion, I believe. We have often climbed the rocks on the beaches beneath the lighthouse. This year we have a Historical Society Membership, so a trip to the lighthouse when we were going to be on the North Shore anyway was a given. Kiddo looked forward to it for many weeks. We waited until Friday to go, because I found out that in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the lighthouse, they were lighting it (a rare occurrence) on the first Friday of every month. It just so happened we would be there on the first Friday of October.
A visit at that time was a must.

We arrived enough before sunset (the appointed time for the lighting) to tour the visitor center, the lighthouse and the keeper's house before the lighting. The visitors center has a few interesting hands on exhibits as well as a number of informational areas. The kids sorted fish (wooden, of course) in the exhibit about commercial fishing on the lake. We learned that the iron ore in the land on the North Shore of Lake superior (inland is called the Iron Range, and much taconite has been mined there) can interfere with traditional compasses, a problem for navigation! We also learned about the Fresnel lens of the lighthouse.

After our exploration, we went back to the car for a snack. The plan had been to drive down to the beach and then sit on the beach to get a better view of the lighthouse when it was lit. It was clear to us that moving the car was not going to happen...we would never get another place to park. So we walked down. It isn't far, but it was the end of the day and the kids were tired. They were troopers.

If you live in Minnesota, chances are you have seen at least one photograph of Split Rock. But unless you are viewing pictures from prior to 1969, few of them will be of the lighthouse lit. They do light it once a year, in November, and on other rare occurrences. The Coast Guard doesn't allow them to light it regularly, fearing it will interfere with navigation, I guess. I have been to the lighthouse many times, and never witnessed the light on.
Split Rock Lighthouse
It was spectacular. There were a bazillion people there (that is not an exaggeration, and I am sure a bazillion is a number!) Hubby and I looked around and commented on the value of all the photography equipment. I struck up a conversation with a couple of very nice women who set up near me. We talked photo equipment. I don't have what I want yet (I wish I had it before this event, but oh well!) so I asked questions. I had both of them trying to shoot with their left eyes, and finding it impossible! But that is how I always shoot. And that is why I don't have the equipment I want...left eye dominance sometimes puts important buttons in awkward locations on a camera--like right next to my largish nose! The women captured some beautiful photos. I was pretty pleased with what I managed to capture, too, though! Kiddo helped me frame some shots, too, and took great pleasure in seeing the results. We left when my battery died, and made the hike back to the car in the dark. The kids were hungry (there are few places to eat in the area), and tired, but they still thought it was great!

It was a great history field trip, a great experience!