The museum opens May 1st! That’s only three days away. When you visit our museum this season, there are many people for you to meet. There are greeters in the Visitor Center. There are tractor drivers who help people board the carts and drive them out to the trail stop. At each of the farms and shops, you will meet our historic guides. They are the people who answer questions and help guests understand what it was like to live in Iowa a long time ago. Kids often ask us about our jobs at the museum and what we do every day. Would you like to know more about us? Maybe why those historic guides like to dress up in long sleeved clothes on really hot days? Or how they know the answers to all those questions? Let’s get to know Farmer Kelly this week. Read about why she likes her job and what keeps her busy. Then stop in at the museum on Thursday and say hello!
Farmer Kelly works at the 1900 Horse-Powered Farm. You might see her working in the barn or driving the Percheron draft horses there. Do you think it’s hard to take care of those big horses? Or milking cows? Let’s ask her!
Q. Hi Farmer Kelly! Where at the museum do you work?
A. I spend most of my time at the 1900 Horse-Powered Farm, but you may also see me working with the oxen at the 1850 Pioneer Farm.
Q. We see you at the museum a lot. Do you live at Living History Farms?
A. I don’t live at the museum. I only work here during the day. When the museum closes, I go home to a modern house with indoor plumbing and electricity.
Q. Have you always lived here in Iowa?
A. I’m originally from Perry, Iowa, but I lived in New Hampshire for several years, where I learned a lot about dairy cows!
Q. Do you make your own old style clothing?
A. Thankfully, I don’t have to make my own clothing for work – called “Period Clothing”. We have someone who is in charge of making (and mending!) everyone’s clothes here at the museum. I do enjoy wearing my period clothing. It’s all made out of cotton, so it’s light, cool, and airy during the summer time, but it also protects me from the sun and from getting scraped up around the farm.
Q. What kinds of things do you do at the farm every day?
A. The first thing I do when I get to the 1900 Farm is open up all of the buildings and feed the animals. They are always very hungry for breakfast! Every day is a little different. Some days I work in the fields planting, cultivating (that’s weeding), or harvesting crops. But other days I am mostly in the barnyard, fixing fences, splitting firewood, or cleaning out the barn.
Q. What is the hardest chore you have to do?
A. Splitting wood is one of the harder tasks I have to do. The logs and the ax can be heavy, and it takes a lot of bending over to pick up the split pieces of wood. It took a lot of practice to get better at it. The more I practice, the stronger I get. That makes it a lot easier, and my aim is even starting to improve!
Q. What is the most fun chore you do?
A. Driving the horses is one of the most fun activities I get to do on the 1900 Farm. It usually doesn’t matter what I’m doing with them; even spreading manure can be fun. I like it because I get to spend time with the horses. It can be really relaxing to work with them, and its fun to show people that girls can drive the horses, too!
Q. Those horses are really big—are they scary to be around?
A. The horses are very big; some weigh more than 2000 pounds! But they aren’t scary to be around. All of our horses are very friendly and love to be petted. Draft horses are often referred to as “gentle giants”, and I’d say this is true of our horses!
Q. When kids visit the 1900 Farm with their family, how should they act around the horses?
A. When you visit with your family, it’s important to ask a farmer before you pet a horse that isn’t in the barn. The horses also like if you act calm and cautious around them. Running and loud noises can make them nervous! You should also always be careful of going behind them and be careful of their back legs. Make a big, wide circle around the horse.
Q. What do you like to show people at the 1900 Farm?
A. I love to talk with visitors about milk and dairying on the 1900 Farm. Did you know that milk wasn’t a common drink back then? I also love to show people how to milk a cow by hand. I even let visitors try it for themselves. If you visit the 1900 Farm in late June and July, usually at the beginning or end of the day, you might get a chance to try your hand at milking a cow.
Q. What is your favorite season and what are your favorite animals on the 1900 Farm?
A. My favorite season is spring. I love seeing everything green up as the snow disappears, and I’m always anxious to start working in the garden and fields. My favorite animals on the 1900 Farm are the pigs. They’re very smart animals and love attention from the farmers, especially having their backs scratched.
Q. How did you learn to work with farm animals?
A. I went to college to study Animal Science. I learned a lot about how animals behave and how to handle them. I also learned what to feed them and how their bodies work. I’ve been working with horses since I was about 8 years old, but I didn’t learn how to drive draft horses until I started working at the museum.
Q. You know a lot about history! How do you learn it all?
A. We have a library here at the museum full of books and articles that help us learn the history of farming. I also spend a lot of time searching the internet for information on topics I am interested in or questions visitors ask that I don’t know the answer to. Last summer, I was interested in the history of beekeeping, so I read a lot of issues of the American Bee Journal. It does take a lot of reading to learn all this history. But it’s fun when you like what you’re reading about!
Q. Who is your favorite person in history? Why?
A. I have a lot of favorites, but John Muir is at the top of the list. He is often referred to as the “Father of the National Parks in America” because he petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890. I think it’s pretty cool that he fought so hard to keep some of the most beautiful places in America wild and natural.
Come visit Kelly at Living History Farms this season!