A “Homesteadcation”: Learning Country Skills from Back Then

When family and friends come to town, I always ask them what they want to see and do while they’re here. My dad, for example said he wanted to, “see a buggy.”

“Do you want to see one buggy? We’ll go to Aldi. Wanna see 20? We’ll drive out 250 for a stretch.” That was an easy one to fulfill.

When my three nieces came to town for a “homesteadcation,” I knew I needed something impressive to keep them entertained. They were coming to our homestead so they could learn how to care for our animals.

We were planning a family camping trip in August, and our goats, chickens, ducks, and dogs needed tending while we were gone. My sister-in-law and her family live in the city in Cincinnati, but love the quiet, simple life that we are building up here in Wayne County.

Of course, much of our time was spent on milking lessons: why stainless steel buckets are crucial since they can be sanitized and have no seams, so no bacteria can stow away, getting the milk cool right away, brushing down the goat and cleaning the entire udder, and straining the milk…again through stainless steel. We talked about egg collecting and how much feed to give the birds each day, as well as which chickens were rebels and always broke out of the chicken yard. We talked about what behavior was typical of a livestock guardian dog and what behavior merited a look around the pasture.

My sister-in-law and my nieces were excited about the homestead, but admittedly surprised about how much work it was, and just how heavy a bale of hay is!

lehman's store front
Lehman’s is located in Kidron, Ohio, part of beautiful Amish Country.

But it wasn’t all work. In addition to playgrounds and splash pads, we had to go to our favorite store, Lehman’s. You should have seen their faces when I said our fun outing for the day was going to a local country store. They were unimpressed. “Trust me,” I said. “You’ll love it.”

Just walking in the door, their mouths opened as their eyes lifted. There were old tools at every glance, and something new to see at every turn. We could hardly make it out of the entryway because we spent so much time guessing what each tool had been used for. Was it still used today? Was there a new and improved version? Was it replaced by a machine? Or was that work still done by hand by farmers? Some things were easy to guess, and somethings we still have no idea the intended purpose.

We decided to do the Lehman’s scavenger hunt. Personally, I wanted to explore some parts of the store I’d never seen before. I knew I wasn’t going to do a lot of sightseeing with eight children in tow if they weren’t occupied. I never would have guessed it would turn into such a learning experience.

the kroger family pumping water at lehman's
They had fun trying out the water pumps.

We had amazing conversations about how houses were lit and heated before there was electricity, and still by our Amish neighbors. We talked about all the different things used to make soaps; we had no idea there were so many options for scents!

I loved hearing my kids tell their cousins about how hay is cut and how important the weather is…and the horror that is wet hay! It was magical to hear them surmise the purpose of strange metal tools, some bigger than a car and some small enough to fit in a pocket! Those girls can weave a wild story!

sarah's nephew pushing reel mower
When you visit Lehman’s, you can try out our reel mowers, too,  just like he did.

My four-year-old fell in love with the manual mower (wouldn’t that be fun in our 2 acre yard?!) and my eight-year-old is convinced we now need a water pump. We checked on the veggies we had planted earlier this spring at the gardening class we attended, and my shock continued when the lot of them spent more time begging for the simple, primitive toys than the ones with all the bells and whistles. Children value simplicity and mechanics. They’re attracted to the flashy stuff, but a solid wooden car will win out in the long run every time.

We capped off the trip with our scavenger hunt with our tasty prize: delicious sodas on the porch. Hands down, this was the hit of the trip for my nieces….well okay, maybe they liked milking the goats a little more, but it was a close second. Still, months later, they’re still talking about what life must be like without electricity, and what they would do to pass the time if they had lived “back then.”the kroger family at Lehman's

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