This past Friday, we said our farewells to the 2013-2014 school year and joyously welcomed summer and its carefree days.
As is our tradition, our last day of school was anything but ordinary...and the best part was, the kids had no idea what was on the agenda. The entire day was full of surprises.
Here's a quick recap of our fun.
The first surprise was a hot plate of cinnamon rolls...the fam favorite breakfast.
Surprise #2 came after an hour-and-a-half drive. We stopped at a park to meet some of our favorite homeschool families for a picnic lunch.
Surprise #3 quickly followed. I had invited all the families to join us for a field trip to a living history museum that chronicles the evolution of the logging industry and forestry department in our state.
We had an exceptional tour guide, "Lucky Pierre," who took us on an imaginary journey back 100 years to a newly constructed logging encampment. We took a "25 mile" hike into the woods hoping to land jobs with the logging crew.
We first had to check in at the office and get outfitted with standard issue tools. We were reminded that we would get up to $1 a week, depending upon our job assignments, but would not get paid until the entire crew fulfilled the season contract and delivered the promised number of logs.
Then it was on to the bunkhouse where we got to see the male sleeping quarters. Since the loggers never showered and rarely ever changed clothes throughout the entire winter logging season, the bunk had a memorable smell. The almost all-male crew operated with a dark-to-dark schedule and only got to see their bunk house in the day light on Sunday because they got up in the dark hours of the morning and returned to camp well after sundown Monday through Saturday.
Before heading to check out the rest of the camp, Sweetie Pea got to help sharpen an ax.
Lucky Pierre then showed us to the 8-holer. (I won't go into too much detail about this small log hut except to say that this was a room that sat 8 men at one time...cheek to cheek...ahem!)
From there, we were instructed to duck way low to enter the cool, earthy-smelling root cellar where "cookie" kept the season's food stuffs.
We headed on over to the dining hall, next, to meet one of the highest paid members of the crew...the Cookie. He was the first into the camp and the last to leave when the contract was fulfilled. Earning a whopping $50 a month, the Cookie held the coveted but difficult task of feeding up to 80 men three times a day.
Because there were hundreds of logging encampments throughout the region, the Cookie's job was to serve THE BEST food around. Otherwise, the men would call him a "belly robber" and head down the road to work at a competitor's logging outfit.
The loggers were summoned to breakfast by this horn, had fifteen minutes to eat, and had to eat in complete silence...absolutely NO TALKING in the dining hall. Talking wasted precious eating time and could potentially make the men late for their several-mile hike into the woods to work.
A hot soup lunch was served at the work site, courtesy of the swing-dingle...a traveling chuck wagon sleigh.
Dinner was served back in the dining hall to complete the 6,000 calorie day. Interesting to note, most camps held to a strict prunes-at-every-meal policy to help keep everyone...um...regular.
Before continuing our tour of camp, we paused to have a friendly sawing competition to determine our job assignments. Greased Lightning and I didn't fair too well and were given the lowest jobs of the crew...the "road monkeys," the loggers in charge of scoopin' up the "road apples" that the horses left behind.
We got to see the water sled next. This was the sled that carried and drained thousands of gallons of water onto the roads in order to coat them with ice so that a two-horse sled team could haul several tons worth of logs up and down hills.
We had a quick lesson in "team" work as we acted as horses trying to haul one of the moms on a make-shift sled. Then it was on to meet the real stars of the logging camp...the team.
The blacksmith shop was next. The Smithy told us that his most important job was to make sure that all the hauling chain was in good working order. He also made horseshoes, nails, and any other metal goods that the crew and camp required.
Blonde Warrior volunteered to get a first-hand look at what happened to a horse if he became unruly while being shoed.
After leaving the blacksmith shop, we hiked to another area of woods and sped ahead about thirty years to tour the one-room cabin of one of President Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corp members who would have been in charge of sitting in a high fire tower for most of the day searching the horizon for any potential fire threats.
Playtime at the interactive interpretive center came next. The kids got to get up-close-and-personal with over 100 years of forestry memorabilia. We ended our tour by watching two short videos...one detailed a devastating forest fire that hit our state in the early 1900s and the other was real-life footage of the last logging run of our area.
The 4th and final surprise was a bit impromptu...a chocolate dipped ice cream cone with friends. It made for a great end to a fantastic year of learning!