reading Little House in the Big Woods, Zack started asking questions about life at that time - what they had and didn't have, how they did things, etc. James quickly looked up a local living history farm. They were making molasses that day and we had just barely enough time to visit, so we piled right into the car as quickly as possible and headed out there.
The Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead is part of the LBJ historical tour in Johnson City. They have a setup for what life was like in the early 1900's. Although Little House in the Big Woods begins in 1871, there were a lot of things that were similar. There was a food storage area at the farm with braided dried onions and garlic and smoked meats hanging from the ceiling, just as Laura and her family had in their loft. Seeing them in person and smelling the onions made what we had just read seem all the more real. We chased the chickens (sorry, chickens!), saw a day-old calf and petted the mamma cow, climbed on a wagon like they use in the book, watched the horse-powered sorghum press, felt the heat from boiling down the molasses, tasted the sweet sorgham syrup, and quizzed the period-dressed volunteers about their cooking and milk clabbering. There was a tray of homemade lye soap out and examples of clothes and toys children would have had in those times. The small workshop with all the tools reminded me of my grandad's tool shop attached to the barn at their farm in New Mexico.
It was inspiring to me to watch what was being made by hand and the kids enjoyed just running around the farmyard.
If you live in or near Austin, it's worth the drive. Check out this post from a volunteer at the farm for more information and pictures - it's a fun activity, and just enough to see with little ones without being overwhelming.