I could not wait to blog this trip. And I was even more excited that Erin agreed to write the written portion of this post, since writing is not my thing. Her words can not be more perfect. I 100% recommend this trip to families, I believe everyone should go! Thank you Susan and David for everything. You gave us some amazing memories. You will always hold a place in our hearts.
Tom: We should take the kids camping.
Dan: We should! But Erin won’t go. She doesn’t camp.
Erin: He’s right. Went once and I will never go again.
That was pretty much how the “idea” of camping came up one night while we were all out to dinner. See, I really do like the “idea” of camping. Making your own fire, sleeping under the stars, hiking, fishing, talking laughing, teaching our children about becoming one with nature; it all sounds like a really great time to me. What DOESN’T sound like a great time? Bugs, no electricity, no shower, no bathroom…sleeping under the stars. See, my first camping experience was ruined, not only with bugs, but with a terrible storm that I swore was going to knock down trees around us, onto our tent. Luckily, I lived through that moment to take another shot at this camping thing. But this time, thanks to a client of Gina’s, I was stepping it up a notch. We dubbed this trip GLAM-ping, not camping.
Our trip to Kinnikinnick Farm had been planned for months. Gina set up everything we needed, including our welcome meal for when we arrived on Friday night. We spent hours admiring the pictures and video online that showed us the two bedroom tent we would be staying in that also included the most adorable little nook with a bed. We talked endlessly about what we were going to bring, wear, eat and do while staying on this picture perfect farm. Speaking of pictures, Gina couldn’t WAIT to snap every detail of Susan and David’s homestead. So when Friday morning rolled around, we were ready for pioneer living.
I think I can speak for Tom and Gina when I say that, although we were ready to unplug and let go of the daily distractions and electronics and finally relax and enjoy time together, there was a bit of nervousness. No ipads? No televisions? No DVD players for movies? (We did bring the ipad just in case, but only used it for a short time one day.) What if the kids don’t want to sleep in an unfamiliar place? Our minds were racing with the “what ifs” as we embarked on our first Collins/Sandzryk Family Camping trip.
We pulled into Kinnikinnick Farm about 5 hours later (we made a pit stop at the New Glarus Brewery for a quick beer tasting and to stock up on Spotted Cow) and immediately filled our lungs with the fresh country air. The landscape was gorgeous. Neatly manicured rows of lettuces, herbs, sugar snap peas and other sprouting veggies greeted us, along with our own mailbox. Clearly, no detail here was going to be missed. The kids all piled out of the cars and were in awe of the barns and of course, our tents. Gina got our “mail” (welcome papers) and we all headed towards our tents to explore and to see if this dream tent we had been swooning over for months was as great in person as it looked online.
“Oh my god! Mom look at this!” were the words that came out of our kids’ mouths as they raced through each nook and cranny of our tent. The highlight was the nook bed…that Charlotte so gracefully rolled out of about ten minutes after arriving. The excitement on their faces was priceless as they all climbed up to snuggle in together and hideout. I mean, this thing was amazing. I don’t think people understand when we explain to them now that this wasn’t just any old tent. The 5 tents that occupy the land on Kinnikinnick Farm are 484 square feet. There is one room in the back with bunk beds, another room with a full bed and then a cupboard bed that can comfortably sleep an adult or two children. A sink and wood burning stove fill the center of the room with a dining table and chairs, cooling chest and relaxing “recliners” to each side of the front half of the living space. Sets of glasses, dishes, forks, knives…everything you need while camping…filled the spaces next to the sink. Notice I didn’t say that there was a bathroom in the tent? That’s because David and Susan decided to build a bath house instead. Check out the pictures…I’d rather have their bath house over the alternative and day. And what tent would be complete without an old fashioned coffee grinder? Tom’s favorite part of the two mornings we were there was boiling a big pot of water, grinding coffee, and filtering the coffee grounds through an antique coffee maker. I’m not kidding when I say that all of our previous anxieties melted away and we really felt like we were at home.
Not long after getting a little settled in, Susan, the farm owner, came to greet us in our tents. Talk about feeling at home? I literally felt like my mom walked in to join us. Susan had the kindest, voice and was so helpful. You could tell that she truly loves being able to share this experience of farm living with others.
Remember when I said we were wondering what we would have for the kids and ourselves to do? Well, Kinnikinnick Farm is a full working, certified organic farm. Their produce is sold directly to Chicago chefs and farmer’s markets. With that being said, Farmer David has work to do!! Before dinner, he came around with his tractor, as he did numerous times throughout each day, to collect the children who were staying on the grounds. All of the kids were taken to the chicken coops to begin their farm work! Collecting eggs, feeding chickens, feeding pigs and helping with hay for the goats were just a few things David had in store for them while staying. There was nothing better than seeing Ava, Owen, Claire and Charlotte get their hands dirty and become close with the animals, the way our past generations did. By the way, Gina and I were commended by Susan for letting our kids get dirty and not following them around with bottles of hand sanitizer. Moms of the year!!
The day starts early with crowing roosters and dinnertime was around 6:30pm each night. Guests have the option of having Susan and David, along with their other family members, make your dinner, you can bring your own food, or you can choose from the many selections of items in the Honesty Shop. The Honesty Shop is just that…you take items out, they trust you to be honest and mark it down on your designated sheet that is hung on the wall for each tent, and you square up with them at the end of your stay. On our next trip, we will bring WAY less than we did for this one. The Honesty Shop has EVERYTHING you need for your stay; meats and cheeses from local farmers, fresh eggs and milk, juice, popsicles, dry goods, fresh bread, EVERYTHING. Just a suggestion…if you’re going to stay on the farm…you have to make the bacon in the morning. My mouth just watered as I typed that…enough said. If you haven’t noticed Gina LOVED taking pictures of all the fresh deliciousness we were able to enjoy.
Dinner on our first night was great…burgers and hot dogs, fresh salad, homemade salad dressing, baked beans and coleslaw that were all to die for. But really, the magic happened with dinner on the second night. Pizza night on the Farm is a MUST if you’re staying. Susan and her family make cold rise dough during the day, gather together every ingredient you could want, and when the dinner bell rings, you are free to make your own pizzas. After placing the perfect toppings on your dough, your pizza is handed to Farmer David and he slides it into the wood burning oven. A few minutes later, out comes perfection, and I mean it. Just today, Gina texted me saying she could really go for some farm pizza. The night ended perfectly with s’mores kits by the fire (part of the pizza night package), and we watched the sun go down while roasting marshmallows, eating s’mores and enjoying the company of every family staying on the farm.
As the sun went to sleep and the stars woke up, the glow of the candlelit chandeliers in each tent glowed so beautifully. The blanket of stars above us was something out of a movie. Gina was able to point out satellites moving through the sky because she is a two time visitor of Space Camp, after all. (That’s ok, Gina, I went to 4H camp. ) We put all of the kids to sleep and sat outside of our tents and talked about how awesome this trip was and how sad we were that we were leaving in the morning. Our kids got dirty, real dirty. They helped do real jobs on a real farm. They played in the sand and with rocks, picked wild raspberries and fresh sugar snap peas. Who has time for an ipad or a tv when you have crickets and lightening bugs to catch? This time together was, by far, one of the best family experiences to date since having children. It was just natural, no fuss, how kids should play and families and friends should join together. I cannot wait to come back, stay longer and bring more people.
Thank you Susan and David for making us feel at home and opening up your land to us and others. You have created an amazing experience for families.
And personally, thank you for comforting Claire with her fever. Poor thing was a trooper and all of you helped her feel so much better.
Through Gina’s Lens (sorry for the amount of images, but you all should know better by now what you are getting yourself into)
Through Erin’s Lens