"I never realized how much work my father did. Why, one winter he sorted 500 bushels of potatoes after supper by lantern light... he must have got blamed tired of sorting potatoes down cellar every night... [Mother] made all our clothes, coats and pants, undergarments for Father and us boys as well as everything she and the girls wore, and she knit all our socks and mittens... She didn't have time enough in the day to do all the work and so she sewed and knit at night... Mother did all her sewing by hand then, and she spun her own yarn and wove her own cloth. Father harvested his grain by hand with a sickle and cut his hay with a scythe."
Almanzo Wilder, Jan. 1920
It's remote, but if you make the trip to northern New York state, to the town of Malone, you'll find the original home of Almanzo Wilder, and the setting for Farmer Boy by his wife, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The first thing that struck me on making the turn onto the road to the farm was the thought, "Wow, Almanzo really exaggerated that hill he had to go up on the way home from school." The area is really pretty flat. There's a nice rolling hill a bit to the south, but the area around the farm, and to and from town, is quite level.
We came into Malone from the east, on Hwy. 11 from Vermont. From this direction, the farm is off a turn before you reach the town. Watch for the blue signs. The route is well-marked. A few more turns and the red farm house is clearly visible.
We arrived, as is our unfortunate tendency, at five minutes after four pm. Naturally, they closed at four. They were terribly apologetic, though it certainly wasn't their fault, and let me get a nice souvenir mug from the gift shop. The entire place was really still open, except for the house, yet I could see in the windows well enough. I explored the grounds and the farm buildings. The barn and other outbuildings are reconstructions, quite nicely done.
A bonus to our after-hours arrival, however, was getting to see Dean Butler, who played Almanzo on the TV series, preparing and doing some shots for a documentary. We also chatted with Kathy Ellis, Wilder association president (see website). Something I recommend to all of you as you tour these homes and sites is to do this--strike up conversations with the folks who run the places. If they're not too busy they're generally all quite happy to talk about the place, the history, and the people. Most people who run these sites are in it for the same love of the topic that brings you to this website, and so are very happy to share. Kathy Ellis told me they expect to have the documentary they were shooting to be up on their website in streaming video around January 2008, so check for that.
So, now that you've dragged your husband to this distant Ingalls-Wilder location, what else in there to do and see in the area? Lake Champlain is nearby. Just to the other side is St. Albans, Vermont, site of a Confederate raid on their banks during the US Civil War. To the west of Malone are a number of casinos, and the crossing into Canada at Cornwall, Ontario. Malone, itself, is a good-sized town with all the usual services. There's also a classic muscle-car sales right near the turn to the Wilder farm.