Midwest Travel Bug

If you are a follower of me on Instagram, you would know that I have been chugging along this summer on goal #35 on my 40 before 40: Explore Illinois [and the midwest] on weekend road trips.

First off, I was lucky enough to get to stay at a friend’s family’s house in New Buffalo, MI recently  – and play in Lake Michigan, plus see the most amazing sunset I’ve seen in a while. Also, as I previously mentioned – I had the chance to stay in Southwestern Wisconsin at Life O’Riley Farm & Guesthouses. It was an incredible trip. Way cooler than I could have even hoped for. The owners, Jean and Mike, were the most gracious and wonderful hosts. I will elaborate more on what went down on that trip below. Lastly, I got to fulfill a life’s ‘bucket list’ item, and fish Lake Michigan (out of Waukegan, IL) with my day and my son. My mom, husband, and family friend ended up coming last minute, too! Incredible. Words cannot express what the day meant to me.

Now, here’s my little journal of my life at Life O’Riley:

Thursday, 7/26

We rolled into the farm from Chicago pretty late (around 9pm). Jean was waiting for us to show us around the quaint little rehabbed granary and schoolhouse were we would be staying. The spaces were a perfect size for our 7 adults and 2 young kid crew. (Three adults stayed in the Granary, and the rest of us stayed in the Schoolhouse.) Jean pointed out the fresh farm eggs, milk, cream, apple cider, and baked goods that were left in our refrigerators for us to help ourselves to.

Friday, 7/27

Since we had 3 mornings of breakfasts to consider, and lots of fresh eggs and produce at our disposal, we decided to divy up the morning breakfast responsibilities to three ‘groups’ ahead of time. For breakfast on day 1, my buddy Chad made some lovely individual egg treats, kind of like these mini frittatas. So delish!

We decided that it would be our ‘hunting and gathering’  day – and proceeded to explore the farm and the area around us for the rest of the day. Just a few miles away, we found an Amish produce auction, which was strange and wonderful for us city folk. We bought some local honey and potatoes, and enjoyed watching how other cultures live and do business. There were some Mennonites selling some delicious hamburgers there for $3 – and if you go, don’t miss out on one!

I mentioned that Jean and Mike were gracious hosts. They allowed us to have a run at their beautiful garden – and we helped ourselves to lots of beautiful beets, kale, tomatos, herbs, onions, and more to use for our dinner that night. They also let us borrow their sweet John Deere Gator, in which we used to travel around and explore the farm’s many kittens, chickens, rooster, turkeys, pigs, cows, rock quarry, beehives, fields, and fire pit.

Saturday, 7/28

Today was my husband and my turn to make breakfast. As an ex-Texan, I will always choose to make breakfast tacos when given a choice. I always offer flour tortillas as a choice (we brought them from home), but I prefer the non-gluten filled corn tortillas.  Cooked in a damp dish towel for a few minutes in the microwave makes the tortillas perfect.

After playing around a bit more on the farm (Jean let the boys play with her kid’s (now grown up) amazing old trucks that they they found under the porch), we headed to nearby Boscobel to explore. They had a sweet little train museum and cheese shop that we were crazy about.

Have you ever canoed on the Wisconsin River – stopping along the sand banks along the way? Well, now I can say that I have. It was a blast! (If you aren’t g-free like me, be sure to pick up some Wisconsin New Glarus beer for the trip. But if you are, their liquor store stocks g-free beer!)

That night, we had set up a $10 (!) a person farm-to-table dinner at Jean and Mike’s house. They grilled some of their Chickens that were recently slaughtered, and prepared the most amazing sides that ingredients came from their garden. Jean had asked each of us to bring a poem to share, as this was something they asked of their guests. (There were so many books, including poetry tucked in both the school house and granary, it wasn’t hard to find one. However, our technical crew came to the table with iphone saved poetry which seemed to amuse Jean and Mike.) It was a very sweet tradition to be a part of. We finished the amazing night with homemade three layer chocolate cake (which I ate, g-free be damned!) and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, July 29

Before heading out, the last of our breakfast crew whipped up some banana pancakes using the maple syrup that was made by Jean and Mike last February on the farm, and left in the schoolhouse for guest. Wow. Somehow, we convinced Mike to join us and had another lovely conversation with him. Leaving that farm was very hard to do.

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