Adventures with Little House & the American Frontier

What is not to love about all the adventure in a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family on the American Frontier? For boys and girls alike these stories captivate our imaginations and our hearts.

Fortunately for us, there are many products and ideas based on these books and I’ll highlight some for you today. An Adventure on the frontier would make a fine summer Adventure

Blog She Wrote: Little House Adventure

Books for Your Adventure Box:

Little House Original Series- the original 9 book series about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family’s life on the American Frontier, including her husband Almanzo Wilder. A note about the books- make sure you get a book with the drawn cover and not the photo covers. The photo covers are abridged versions and do not have the original text. Also, I really like the color collector’s editions. They are sturdy, colorful, and the text is easy on younger readers’ eyes.

My First Little House Books- picture books written from chapters from the various Little House books. These are great for younger readers and siblings to get introduced to Laura and her family’s adventures. Beautiful, color illustrations!

The Little House Guide Book- a tour of the Little House historical sites

A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Journeys across America- this one tells the story of her travels/moves as an adult with Almanzo and her daughter Rose

Laura Ingalls Wilder Country: The People and Places in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Life and Books- talks about the people and places that inspired her stories

Blog She Wrote: Little House Adventure

Field Trips for Your Adventure Box:

Little House Historical Sites- if you are a Little House fan, you’ve probably dreamed of visiting some of the sites dedicated to preserving the homes where Laura and her family lived. If you live in the midwest, it’s not unheard of to take a tour of all the sites on a fun road trip. If that’s you, then have a great time!

Our family has only been to one and it’s the only historical Little House site with the original structures on the original site- the home of Almanzo Wilder, the subject of the book Farmer Boy, in Malone, NY. It was a fantastic visit! You can read about our visit- it was a God-ordained day and simply one of the best we’ve ever head. Take a moment and we’ll take you back with us!

19th Century American life museums & centers- Places that feature life from frontier times and the way things were during the time Laura lived also make a great destination. Villages which have been restored are common, but they are usually expensive. Keep your eye out for opportunities at universities and libraries which might have presentations or activity days devoted to 19th Century life in America.

Blog She Wrote: Little House AdventureAnother fun resource- are the Little House audio CDs. They are the unabridged versions read by Cherry Jones. We love these any time. They are so worth the investment!

Blog She Wrote: Little House Adventure

These photos were taken at the Wilder Homestead in Malone, NY last summer. The red farm house is the original building and is fully restored. You can go upstairs and even see the place in the parlor where the blacking brush landed!

The three barns are replicas of the original three barns built by Mr. Wilder. The original structures were destroyed in a fire, but these were built using the descriptions in Farmer Boy. When the excavation was done on the land, they found the original foundation and it was just about 10 inches off from the description in the book. Just think about that for a moment…Almanzo was right around 90 when he recalled his childhood to be retold by Laura in her book, Farmer Boy. That’s a pretty impressive memory!

Blog She Wrote: Little House AdventureIt was great fun to walk through the barn yard where Almanzo trained Bright and Star. If you ever get the chance to visit a historical site, enjoy it. It’s so worth the experience! Below you can see the Trout River right across the lane from the farm house. You are allowed to walk the river along the property, but it was so hot the day we were there we couldn’t think of it. We’d never imagined it to be nearly 100 degrees in the north of NY (just miles from the Canadian border) in June!

Blog She Wrote: Little House AdventureActivity Books & Kits for Your Adventure Box:

My Book of Little House Paper Dolls- lovely paper doll set featuring Laura and her family. Has fun back drops for playing out the story.

The Little House Cookbook- recipes from the Little House books along with a nice historical perspective on the ingredients and methods of cooking used by frontier Americans

My Little House Crafts Book- 18 projects with directions from the stories in Laura’s books.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook- has music for the favorite songs in the Little House books

My Little House Sewing Book- sewing projects from the series

The Prairie Primer- a unit study book for the Little House series.

Blog She Wrote: Little House Adventure

Musical Fun for a Little House Adventure:

Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Arkansas Traveler: Music from Little House on the Prairie

A Tribute to Charles Pa Ingalls- played by Bruce Hoffman, this is music mentioned in Laura’s books and played on Pa’s fiddle! We picked this one up while visiting Almanzo Wilder’s house.

Blog She Wrote: Little House Adventure

Other Things to Have on Hand for some Frontier Adventuring:

  • Cloth and yarn with a sewing kit to try out a nine patch quilt or to knit some red mittens like Laura’s from Little House in the Big Woods
  • Buttons- to make a button bracelet or for mending. Have your kids start a button box!
  • Building Items- to build log cabins and other structures
  • Paper- for making paper dolls and garlands
  • Buttermilk- for making butter quickly in a mason jar
  • Wax- for candle making should you want to try it

Enjoy the enchantment of the world of the American frontier and the stories of Laura and her family. There are so many resources to help you fill a box full of Adventure!

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring-Collage2Be sure to check out the other bloggers who are sharing a series this week through iHN’s Spring 2013 Hopscotch.

The Wilder Homestead!

Our trip to the Wilder Homestead was years in the making or I should say years in our vision before we actually made the journey. We have adored all things Little House with our children for many years and Farmer Boy is definitely one of our favorites! For our kids it’s special because, of course, Almanzo grew up in rural northern NY State much like they do. Although we live in upstate NY, Malone is still many hours away north of the Adirondack Mountains. And, as you might imagine, not much else is around. So, we had in mind to take our tent camping on the road and we needed to get better at camping before driving so far to do it! This was our year! It was with great excitement that we set out on a blistering hot day near the Canadian border to see the boyhood home of Almanzo Wilder, the setting for Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The trip definitely exceeded our expectations and was the high light of the vacation- thank goodness! The property is very well kept and without a doubt our tour guide made our day! We were on tour for well over an hour with a man from AZ who comes to Malone in the summer to work at the homestead. He’s been to all the Laura sites and assured us this is the best one of them all. So…if you’ve been thinking about hitting Malone on your Little House pilgrimage, don’t hesitate! In addition to the well kept home, grounds, and barns, you’ll find a shelter with picnic tables and bathrooms. They are also in the midst of building a one room school house like that of Hard Scrabble School. I’m sure it will be a fine addition to the homestead experience.

How can you not love this book? One of the things that I love most about the Little House books is that although it was written about a pioneer family living long ago, the stories Laura shares illustrate that human nature is just the same. Whether it’s Laura and Mary fighting over wood chips, Almanzo’s mother fussing over his eating, or Laura leaving a bit of her skirt out to spook the horses while Nellie Olson rides with she and Almanzo- it strikes a chord because you can see the same things happening today!

Mother’s garden is there in the background- hers would have been much bigger.
Trying out the pump house…this is where Almanzo and Royal would get water for the stock.

Our tour guide Jim led us around for over an hour telling us everything he had learned about the Wilders and Laura and her husband. It was a fantastic tour for a nominal fee. We could not take pictures inside any of the buildings, but we could take as many as we liked outdoors and so I did!

“He stood in the snow and looked at the calves, and they stared innocently at him. He wondered how to teach them what “Giddap!” meant. There wasn’t any way to tell them. But he must find some way to tell them: “When I say, ‘Giddap!’ you must walk straight ahead.” 


Almanzo thought a while, and then he left the calves and went to the cows’ feed box, and filled his pockets with carrots. He came back and stood as far in the front of the calves as he could, holding the rope in his left hand. He put his right hand into the pocket of his barn jumper. Then he shouted, “Giddap!” and he showed Star and Bright a carrot in his hand.


They came eagerly.”

Mother’s lilac bush- lilacs live to be over 200 years old and Jim our tour guide told us this one could very well be her bush!

“Almanzo yelled for Royal. They chased Lucy all around the house, under the snowball bushes and the lilacs. They chased her all over the garden. Lucy whirled and dodged and ducked and ran like anything. All the time she didn’t make a sound; she couldn’t. Her mouth was full of candy.”

The barns are exactly as described in Farmer Boy- when they went to rebuild them (the originals were burned in a fire) archaeologists found the original foundations of the barns and at 80+ years old Almanzo in describing it to Laura was only one foot off!

“Almanzo went first into the Horse-Barn. It faced the house, and it was one hundred feet long. The horses’ row of box-stalls was in the middle; at one end was the calves’ shed, and beyond it the snug henhouse; at the other end was the Buggy-House. It was so large that two buggies and the sleigh could be driven into it, with plenty of room to unhitch the horses. The horses went from it into their stalls, without going out again into the cold.


The Big Barn began at the west end of the Horse-Barn, and made the west side of the barnyard. In the Big Barn’s middle was the Big-Barn Floor. Great doors opened onto it from the meadows, to let loaded hay-wagons in. On one side was the great hay-bay, fifty feet long and twenty feet wide, crammed full of hay to the peak of the roof far overhead.”

Our guide had us all line up- almost ten or more of us around the base of that Elm tree and we could not meet around.

“There were three long, enormous barns, around three sides of the square barnyard. All together, they were the finest barns in all that country.” 

“The roof of the tall red-painted house was rounded with snow, and from all the eaves hung a fringe of great icicles. The front of the house was dark, but a sled-track went to the big barns and a path had been shoveled to the side door, and candle-light shone in the kitchen windows.”

We had a tour of the entire house but the basement- which is still whitewashed. The steps are stout enough to go to the second floor and see the children’s rooms and the attic where the loom and Father’s workshop was- we even got to see the little door where Almanzo would have climbed the ladder to enter the workshop from the woodshed in the house.

Their rooms were fairly large up in the second floor and you could try out the bed and learn what “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” meant.

On the main floor, we visited the kitchen and pantry- the pantry was huge with a place where a well had been dug. When they renovated and shored up the foundation, they found the old well. Unfortunately, in order to make the foundation strongest, they chose not to leave the well accessible.

Are you ready for the best part? When we went into the parlor, we were shown the sick room- also the room where all the Wilder children were born. The stove went through the wall between the dining room and the parlor. But you know the same question was on everyone’s mind…where had the stove blacking hit the wall? Jim the Tour Guide told us that until last August they could not answer that question. However, he visits a historical society which gave him permission to see the renovations of the Wilder home and guess what we could see in the picture? The place where there was a black stain on the lathe and plaster under the wall paper! Now we know for sure where Almazno chucked that blacking brush at her! I’ll let you all find out for yourselves.

Our guide was really great with the kids and the stories and made sure to hit all the high points of the book. You can tell this is a love near and dear to his heart and we were the recipients of his great enthusiasm- definitely a God ordained moment for our family!

“The sun was rising, and all the eastern slopes of the snowdrifts were rosy in its light, when Almanzo snuggled under the fur robes between Father and Royal in the big bobsled, and they set out to the pond on Trout River.”

The Trout River- to get to the part where they would dig ice out, you have to go upstream a ways to where it widens out.

“The cannons sat on their haunches, pointing their long barrels upward. The band kept on playing. Two men kept shouting, “Stand back! Stand back!” and other men were pouring black powder into the cannons’ muzzles and pushing it down with wads of cloth on long rods.”

“The Square was not really squre. The railroad made it three-cornered. But everybody called it the Square, anyway. It was fenced, and grass grew there. Benches stood in rows on the grass, and people were filing between the benches and sitting down as they did in church. “

Do you recognize this building? If you look in the illustration above you will see it. Garth Williams, you rocked it!

We passed right by the Franklin County Fair Grounds before I realized it and missed getting a picture. But, there it was, not long before we came to the Square. I can just imagine the Wilder Family following the same path we did to attend the Franklin County Fair and earn all those ribbons for the jams, jellies,and of course, the milk-fed pumpkin!

One question has always plagued me about the Wilders: If the farm was as successful as it sounds in this book, why did they leave for Spring Valley, MN? We have a lot of books about Laura and her family, but none of them addressed this issue. Well, I have my answer!

I was really surprised to see that the soil on the farm was sandy. It was VERY sandy! So, Father managed to have a successful farm on the land, but it was very hard work to make that soil so productive. Some of Mother’s family had move out to Minnesota and found the soil to be very rich and easy for farming. Over some years, they finally convinced Father to move his family out there. They were back and forth for a while and finally moved on completely. He was also very prosperous in Spring Valley, but I won’t tell you the end of the story.

Our kids love this series of books and have read them over and over along with all those books about the books and we still learned new things and it was a fabulous field trip.

I bought a few postcards for our scrapbook, but then I grabbed a CD that caught my eye. A Tribute to Charles “Pa” Ingalls was made by Bruce Hoffman who is actually playing on Pa’s fiddle! The CD is excellent and features the songs Laura talks about in her books. It brings an extra smile to our faces knowing that the fiddle we are hearing is the same one Pa played for Laura! My kids adore this CD so it’s been getting a lot of playing time and has now found it’s way to our mp3 files and their individual players.

I’m looking forward to getting all moved in to our new home next weekend and just as soon as my new “Secret Lair” is put together in its new spot, I’m going to start a new photo album with just these set of pictures. I can hardly wait!

Our Study within a Study- New York State

Farmer Boy provides us with a great view of farming in NY in the mid 1800s. The Wilders owned a large farm in Malone, NY which is way up near the Canadian border above the Adirondack Mtns. We would love to take the kids there this summer. I’ll keep you posted on our plans. It’s still quite a haul from where we are so we will have to work on the details to make it a pleasant experience!

For now, I’m using the setting of the book as a jumping off point for our study of the state of New York. As hard as it is to believe, we’ve been here for seven years already and three of our children are NY natives. How did this happen?! Interestingly, none of our kids are natives of Maryland and we consider ourselves pretty hardcore Marylanders…or maybe I should speak for myself! At any rate, in accordance with our homeschool guidelines we are studying the history and geography of New York. Don’t worry…I’ll make sure we get some Maryland history in there at some point!

I’m planning a huge mini unit on NY and when I have it all together I will add to this post. For now, we began with a simple political map of the state. They had to list some cities they knew and of course we added Malone and identified the capital- Albany. We identified the main bodies of water and the surrounding states and country.

E 8.5- map and a drawing of the Wilder barns based on the written description

I 4.75- nicely colored map of NY and a wonderfully drawn log cabin. I loves to draw using the series “Draw Write Now”. It has step by step instructions for drawing lots of themed items including this log cabin.

R 6.75- loves to draw and she has done a terrific job with her map and Wilder barn. We did have some help from the Wilder Homestead website because they have a picture of the model of the original barns which are now gone. To give the kids perspective while we were reading and the barn was described with its dimensions, I was quick to point out that the hay-bay was larger than our house!