Just north of Austin, TX, are 90 acres of living history in the form of furnished pioneer homesteads, farm buildings and implements, and volunteer reenactors. Pioneer Farms is a quaint step back in time, beginning the moment you enter the General Store to purchase your tickets or membership. As old-fashioned as they are, they do, however, offer some modern conveniences-like the ability to pay by credit card :). The General Store is a fun little place in itself; they sell Watkins extracts, free range eggs, pioneer style toys, and some fun, old-fashioned books too.
After receiving your self-guided tour book, you are free to explore at your leisure.
Pioneer Farms has five themed historic areas to explore: an 1840’s Tonkawa Encampment, an 1860’s German Immigrant Farm, an 1870’s Texian Farm, an 1880’s Cotton Planters Farm, and the 1890’s Sprinkle Corner rural village, as well as extra outbuildings scattered throughout the acreage. The farm also has various animals onsite for your enjoyment…
One thing nice about this farm was that the volunteers would answer your questions. While it is fun to go to places that have volunteers who are so period correct that they only live in the past (like pretending they have no idea what your camera is, or why you are talking to yourself with that little box held to your ear), it also can detract from a learning experience when you feel self-conscience about asking a question, not knowing if it is appropriate for the time or not. These volunteers were more like teachers, and enjoyed answering the kids’ questions.
One of our most enjoyable stops was at the blacksmith shop. A smithy was there making knives, and gave us quite a nice lesson on shaping steel; how they cool it in boiling oil since it cools quickly and hold it’s shape – but not cool enough to make the steel brittle (like dipping in boiling water would do), how the different hammers the smith uses shape the steel differently, even how steel moves and how they have to preshape the steel to get a desired knife shape.
The buildings and homes located on the farm are all local area homesteads that are named after the folks that actually lived in them at the indicated time. The buildings have just been moved to the Pioneer Farms acreage so they are close enough together that they present a nice walking history lesson. Some of the buildings have been saved from demolition, several are in the process of restoration, and others completely restored and furnished for visitor’s enjoyment.
While we enjoyed all the stops along the self-guided tour, our favorite stop was the Fritz Kruger Farm! The Kruger Family was a German family that immigrated to the United States in the late 1850s. This farm is as their homestead was in 1868. Maybe it was our favorite stop because the Krugers had 13 children! The lady volunteering at the cabin was telling the kids how small the cabin was for 15 people. Fulltiming in an RV, we thought that it was rather spacious! LOL! When we told her we traveled around in an RV, she took it all in stride, and we had such a pleasant visit!
The Kruger parents slept in the main room of the cabin, with the little ones, probably age 5 and under, sleeping on a pullout trundle bed near them. The girls slept in the loft, which they had to access via an outside ladder.
The Kruger boys slept outside on the porch, in the yard, or in the barn. (I think my boys are jealous).
And they had a happy family because each member knew they were needed and were contributing members of the family.
Pioneer Farms is open year-round, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 10-5. If you enjoy outings like this, you may also be interested in the Pioneer School Workshops and Seminars that the farm offers – everything from blacksmithing to hand-tool woodworking, basket weaving, crocheted rag rugs, dutch oven cooking(!), leatherworking, and many more! For you roadschoolers out there, P.F. is having their yearly homeschool day this coming Friday, March 18. The farm will be featuring Texas history programs and kid-friendly activities. Admission is only $3! And everyone is invited – you don’t have to be a homeschooler!
You can check out Pioneer Farms on their website; be sure to check their calendar of events – as the summer approaches, they offer more and more special events! I think that you will find that Pioneer Farms is a great stop – especially if you are traveling with children!