This past weekend we set out to find some good ole’ nature to dip our toes in after 5 full days in the big city. City life is a trip. It’s so hot and so humid and while I am walking around feeling the eagerness of an explorer, I am struck that some people (a very many people) are choosing to live in these conditions. Baffling! And in the same moment, I get it, I have that faint sense that if I lived here long enough I could grow to miss it too. In the weird way that you miss what is normal, like the smell of ChloraPrep and the beep of the thermometer. If you know, you know.
Anyway, getting out of the city for respite was the goal for the weekend so we settled on some random state park outside of the city, near the Delaware border. We packed-up the kids, and a picnic and set off to Ridley Creek State Park.
No one thought to ensure that Selah was wearing shoes which was not discovered until arrival at the park. So instead of a family hike, it morphed in to a family carry. Being a family carry, we didn’t venture as far down the trails, of which there are many, but we were still able to enjoy walking around the park office and accompanying paved trail and gardens. Everyone enjoyed very much getting out in the fresh air. And by everyone, I mean everyone, but Selah, who whined more or less the whole time. First annoyed that she didn’t have shoes, but then mainly just saying on repeat, “I am wet!?” with angry confusion. We tried to explain humidity to her and she kept replying with, “No! I’m too hot! and too wet!” Additionally, the buzz of the cicadas was quite loud which I think was concerning to her. Humidity and ominous bug noises are not for Selah.
The boys found a creek on the backside of the mansion which acts as the park office and explored down it for a couple hundred yards. Jude found “ancient writing”, which may or may not have been initials carved in to a fallen tree. Beau found cicada exoskeletons which Selah was NOT impressed by. They could have stayed there all day if we had let them. Despite Selah being hot and confused about humidity, it was a great way to spend a couple hours.
We enjoyed a long, lazy picnic where Selah finally accepted the weather and actually settled in, running barefoot, around the lawn, and the boys engaged in an epic pinecone battle. Eventually, we decided to head home. It had only been a couple of hours, but we figured it was enough. We had gotten out of the city, we’d touched the natural earth, mission accomplished.
On the way home we spotted a sign that read, “Colonial Plantation —>” and decided to follow arrow to see what it was all about. A couple miles down a wandering road we found parking lot with a sign that indicated seeing said colonial plantation would be $14 per adult and $10 per child. We couldn’t see anything from the parking lot, surrounded by dense forest, but I figured it was worth a shot. It’d either be worth the $58 or a complete bust, but it felt like a gamble worth taking. We unpacked our kids and headed in through the gate. As we paid the entry-fee that woman noted that we “[had] the place to ourselves.”
We crossed over a small bridge and the dense trees opened up into a rolling acreage of lush fields sprinkled with stone houses and out buildings. It is what’s called a “living history” site of a 1770’s colonial plantation, set-up complete with a garden, a planation home, a barn full of animals, a blacksmith forge, and more. The property is run by farm hands dressed in proper 1770’s work attire (a cook, a Gardner, a farm hand, a head of house) who offer a guided tour of all aspects of the plantation. You can read more about the details and history here.
During our time we dug potatoes, harvested raspberries, squash, onions, and garlic, learned all about the numerous crops grown on the farm, learned about the ways they naturally kept out pests, preserved foods, and used medicinal herbs, made candles, explored the plantation home, admired the turkeys, chickens, sheep, ox, horses, and more. There was so much natural, experiential learning happening, for all of us, it felt like my heart was going to burst right open.
It was such a treat. I kept saying, “I can’t believe we found this place!” under my breath, repeating it so often I found myself to sound like a broken record, but I didn’t care! I was so thankful for this unplanned gift. All I had wanted was to get out of the city and in to nature, and this was it!
At the end of the day Joshua asked everyone what their favorite part of the plantation had been. Beau’s favorite was the raspberries, of which he had harvested (and eaten) handfuls. Jude’s favorite was digging the potatoes and the candle making. Selah’s favorite was the horse and also the raspberries. When it was my turn to reply I said that my favorite thing was just that we didn’t miss it. As I said it, it didn’t feel like a proper response. Is not missing something a “favorite?” I wasn’t sure, but it was all I could think of, the overwhelm of gratitude that we found that place. “We could have missed that entire experience!” I also really enjoyed my time in the plantation house. The children were fully occupied making candles and so I enjoyed a 15-minute in-depth (adult-centric) tour of the house. I learned about the form and function of the walk-in hearth, the term “death by petticoat”, details of the revolution, and more!
The gardener allowed us to take home some of the bounty we harvested. Most of it is donated to the local food pantry, or eaten by the plantation staff, but I think he could see the eagerness in our kids. So that evening we enjoyed mashed potatoes with garlic and onion. Everyone had a delightful connection to the meal that we had helped pull from the earth just hours prior!
What a gift this random right turn allowed for us!