Friday, June 21, 2013

Screamin' Oaks Farm: Tonganoxie, Kansas

Tonganoxie is west of Kansas City by about an hour.  It wasn't far from us when we lived at Fort Leavenworth.  Screamin' Oaks is a private farm of sorts, little more than a house and a barn and several animals, and is run by a lady who makes stuff from goat's milk.  Visits must be scheduled in advance, whether for your family or a school or social group.  It's a great little place to take Cub Scouts or Brownies, or a MOPs or preschool group.

The kids got a chance to see turtles.

And they got up close and personal with a turkey.  He had kind of an attitude.

 Actually the turkey and two outcast roosters roamed the place like some sort of gang.  They took themselves waaaay too seriously and made a hilarious posse.  All they need were tattoos.

The kids got a kick out of feeding the chickens.

The farm is named "Screaming Oaks" for the peacocks.  If you don't know what a peacock sounds like, well, go there and find out.

This donkey held long conversations with a horse a pen over.  Like, for reals.

This is Natalie after being told her ice cream was made from goat's milk.  They had chocolate and pumpkin flavors on-hand.  Both got a thumbs up.  Mike and I also bought some tomato and basil goat cheese which was great on crackers.

All the kids got a chance to milk a goat, and we learned all sort s of cool goat facts about how goats are named (the first letter should tell you the year they were born).

Natalie was astute enough to observe that goat are different from cows because they only have "2 nozzles."

Some of the things we learned about goats and their milk is that around the world, goat milk is more common than cow's milk.  It's gentler on the stomach and is often tolerable to people with lactose problems.  Tastes pretty yummy, too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wayside Wednesday: Combat Air Museum, Topeka

After hitting the Oz Museum in Wamego, we took a circuitous route back home by way of Topeka, and stopped at the Combat Air Museum.

It's kind of a run down place as far as air museums go.  It's $6 per adult and $4 for kids over 4, but if you or your kids like planes and you need a break on a road trip, it's a good pit stop.

They did have a fair amount of World War I planes, which you don't see at most places.

Otherwise it was standard air-museum stuff, only with a lot more rust.

She's either trying to launch nukes or order pizza...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas

The official Oz Museum is located in Wamego, Kansas.  Not much else is in Wamego, to be honest, but we had a groupon, so off we went one day.  It's on the main drag through downtown.  Blink and you'll miss it.

I'm ashamed to say my kids aren't as familiar with The Wizard of Oz as I was at their age.  But it was also on TV fairly regularly, and our only copy now is VHS, and our only VCR is in the basement.  They found the museum interesting enough, but would have liked it better if I had prepped them with the movie beforehand.

That have tons of memorabilia from all the books, not just the one everyone knows.  It was quite a cultural phenomenon.

The Wicked Witch gets her army from West Point rejects.

The generation raised on Star Wars prequels was not impressed by the special effects.

They did, however, like the tornado machine.

They had some pretty cool t-shirts.  I got a mug that says, "Don't make me break out my flying monkeys!"

The best time to visit is probably during their "Oztoberfest."  Unless you don't like crowds.  Then any other time is fine.  Good for killing a couple hours or stopping on a long trip.

You can do the whole thing in a couple hours, unless you are a die-hard WoO fan.  For local eating there are several fast-food joints, but not much else.  Topeka is not very far away.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ashfall Fossil Beds

Yay!  We went somewhere!

We headed northwest from Omaha for a 3 hour drive up to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, where the University of Nebraska is running a long-term dig of a fossil bed created by the supervolcano in Idaho 11 million years ago.  During this time, the land was dominated by the ancestors of horses, camels, wolves, rhinos, and other creatures.  It is speculated the area was a waterhole type location and many animals congregated there as many inches of volcanic dust choked them and the vegetation to a regional extinction.

Admission is $5 per person over the age of 3, and you also have to have a state park parking permit ($5 or $26 for the year).  It really is in the middle of nowhere, but the signs from the highway are pretty clearly marked, so you don't have to worry too much about missing them.

The Visitor's Center:

 There were many things in the visitor's center about mammoths, but there aren't any mammoths at the site.  Probably added it because most people are familiar with them.

A window on the side had two students sorting and cleaning fossils and answering questions.

Meanwhile, out behind the center was the Rhino Barn, an 18,000 square foot building over the main dig.

Along the path you could see many more potential sites and older digs.  The area was discovered in the 1970s and excavated over the next 20 years.

In the Barn, one grad student was actively digging and several cameras were trained on him so you could see better what he was up to.  Another student answered questions.  In the hillside, you can see over the main layer of excavation is a layer devoid of any animal or vegetation remains.  This is from the local extinction event that lasted many years, but life slowly came back.

A display of an assembled rhino.

According to the students, there's enough are under the barn alone to keep excavating for another 30 years.

Many rhino skeletons, mostly mothers pregnant or with calves are found here in a large group.  They can tell enough to know all the lungs (except those of the unborn) were suffering from disease brought on by inhaling the fine ash from the volcano.  Kind of sad.

Outside there was a dig for kids, with individual bones bolted into the trough.  It was also shaded.

 Looking back at the barn, you can get a feel for the land it sits on.

Another barn near a sheltered picnic area held a much bigger dig with full skeletons to uncover.

Several hands-on displays demonstrated how bones fit together.  A llama skeleton "puzzle" helped illustrate.

Miriam found a giant ammonite, which is her favorite fossil.

Overall, it was a nice day-trip from Omaha, and there was enough to interest both kids and adults.  Two hours can easily be spent here.  There are a few paths around the area, but we didn't explore them much.

It IS in the middle of nowhere, but if you've got a map, it's hard to get lost.  There's not much in terms of places to eat, but many small towns have city parks with benches and playgrounds for a picnic lunch or pit stop.  Norfolk is the nearest city of consequence, and it has just about anything you'd want to eat at.

As a side note, we were looking for a place to picnic on the way up, and not seeing a park in Norfolk (though a different highway on the way back took us right past a great big one), we stopped in Meadow Grove (pop 332) when we saw a sign for the city park.  It was really nothing more than a picnic table and a yard-grade fountain (when we told the kids to take their lunches to the table, they said "Isn't that somebody's yard?") though there were also public bathrooms.  We caused quite a stir in the tiny town with our two-car caravan with out of state plates.  A small crowd gathered at the library across the street and gawked at us.  The local sheriff even walked over and said hello then asked if we were lost- I'm guessing the librarian called him up.  Probably the biggest excitement they've had in a month or two.  Wonder if we made the local paper.