We started our explorations in the Ozarks by driving to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. I have purchased several seed packets from them in the past year or two and have really enjoyed their company. I highly recommend them: www.rareseeds.com Their Rocky Top lettuce mix is delicious! We ate those lettuces all winter long. Anyway, I had read that they had built a little pioneer village there (and that it was FREE!), so we decided to go check it out. The first thing that we encountered when we arrived was a beautiful raised bed garden. We were able to walk around on it (the paths were all paved with what appeared to be slate tile). There were flowers, herbs, small trees, lettuces, and such planted throughout as well as a beautiful fountain with fish pond. Charlie and I were so impressed with it and would absolutely love to do something along those lines at our home. It was gorgeous and so functional. The kids loved running around, and we had to keep an eye on some of the littles to keep them from swimming in the fish pond (and changing clothes in the monkey house – haha! I guess it would have been the chicken house there.)
The pioneer village was a lot of fun to see. They had built a building that was a hotel/restaurant. I don’t believe there were actually rooms to sleep in, but there was a vegan restaurant where we ate lunch. The kids weren’t so sure about the menu as there were only two choices, and they didn’t include hamburgers, pizza, chicken fingers or grilled cheese. The choices were hummus with flatbread and veggies or roasted cauliflower with lemon and capers pasta. The kids are very familiar with hummus, so most of them chose hummus with flatbread. I, on the other hand, tried the cauliflower with pasta. It was delicious. Charlie was able to get a mixture of the two: roasted cauliflower and other veggies with hummus. The kids all gobbled up the hummus and flatbread as well as some of the veggies. Isaac had chosen the pasta and ate all of it. Most of the people in the restaurant worked for the seed company and were dressed in pioneer clothing. That was a fun and healthy experience.
In the pioneer village, they also had a general store where they had a couple things for sale, an apothecary where we found various herbs, teas, and handmade soaps for sale, another building where they had pioneer clothing and such for sale, a blacksmith shop, a jail, and various barns. We had a lot of fun and bought a couple things. The girls so wanted me to buy them pioneer dresses, which were beautiful but way too expensive, so instead I bought a pattern so that I could see about making some dresses, bonnets, aprons, and pinafores. Isaac, Dominic, and Damien all received coon-skin caps (I’m not planning on going coon hunting any time soon or skinning any coons to make coon-skin caps). We finished by going to the seed store where I was able to buy some Lady Pea seeds that they had been out of when I placed my order in the early spring. Nicholas found a watermelon that he wanted to grow (and will share exactly 1 with our family J), and Nathanael bought a few sorghum seeds because he has been begging us to be able to grow some sorghum this summer. I believe doing some more planting will be one of the first things we do next week after we get home.
After Bakersville, we drove to Ava to do some grocery shopping and stopped at the local Ava Drug Store to buy ice cream for the kids at $.25 per scoop. At one scoop per child, we walked out of there having spent less than $3 on ice cream for everyone, although I added on a tip for the mess that we made sitting at the counter.
Next we drove around through the Ozark countryside for a while. While driving, we stumbled across a sign that said Assumption Abbey, so we ventured 5 miles down a dirt road looking for this monastery. We finally found it, and Charlie and I quickly went in to visit for a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament. Nothing else appeared to be open for us to see, so we glanced around the grounds and left. On the way back to the campsite we drove through yet another big rainstorm. It finished just before we reached the campground. Charlie began cooking stir fry for dinner, and I took the older five children to venture into a cave on the property next to the campground.
We found the owners of the property next door to check-in with them about the cave. They told us that if the creek inside the cave reached waist-high, we probably didn’t need to venture any further as the water level in the cave may get too high. I told them that we weren’t wearing bathing suits, and I wasn’t going to do a bunch of wet laundry, so we wouldn’t be going that far in. We ventured down to the cave where we found a creek flowing out of it. In we went. There wasn’t a whole lot of dry dirt to walk on; it was mostly creek flowing through the middle. Since we had all put on our sandals appropriate for water (except Annette who somehow missed that message and wore tennis shoes) we walked through the water deeper into the cave. The deeper we traipsed, the lower the roof of the cave became. Most of us were walking quite hunched over. We reached a long tunnel part and decided to keep going. However, we didn’t get very far before I (who was in the lead) started slipping some in the silt of the creek. It was at that point that I decided we should turn around as I didn’t want one of us to slip and hit our head on a rock. Supposedly, if we had continued a little further, the cave would have opened up into a nice big room. However, it has been a long time since I have been caving without the benefit of being in a tour cave. Not having my dad with me (as I did when I was caving in Alabama) meant that I was in charge and responsible for everyone else. Maybe I’ll have a little more gumption the next time. Ryon saw a bat hanging from the ceiling while we were in there; at first I refused to look at it because I remember getting freaked out in the cave with my mom when I was young, but I finally summoned the courage to at least look at it on the way out of the cave. We sure did have fun doing that. It brought back a lot of memories of my childhood in Alabama, and I sure am glad that we ventured in a little. Hopefully that experience built some more great memories for the kids as I know it certainly did for me.