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WESTVILLE – Like a lot of children, as a girl I devoured pioneer novels.
As I grew older my taste in books changed. Still, I was entranced when I first saw the Pioneer Homestead at Forest Glen County Preserve near Westville, my hometown.
Rustic and charming, it's a reproduction of an Illinois frontier log cabin, barn, herb garden and outbuilding.
Only staff members or people like frontier re-enactors can use the homestead for public programs. But I gained permission from Ken Konsis, director of the Vermilion County Conservation District, to spend a couple of nights there as long as I write about the experience.
CLINTON – A Women in the Outdoors event is planned for Aug. 16 at a farm east of Clinton.
The event will be held at the Don and Susie Hulvey's farm east of Clinton and hosted by the Dewitt County Longbeards, the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
COLLINSVILLE – The fifth annual Archaeology Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville. It will feature ancient crafts, excavation tours, demonstrations of archaeological techniques and artifact processing and hands-on activities.
Among the demonstrations will be bow and arrow making, flintknapping, cordage making, shell carving and fingerweaving. A professional storyteller will relate American Indian stories. Food and refreshment stands will be available.
HOMER – At first glance, the Homer Historical Society Museum looks a bit like an antique shop, with more artifacts than space, and the promise of treasures hidden behind other treasures.
Housed in the historic village and township hall on Main Street, the small museum offers a fine horse carriage with spoked wheels, antique cameras, old-time medical equipment, ladies' hats and gloves, school and sports memorabilia, equipment and signs from early local businesses, a floor loom and war artifacts – including Civil War era – originally owned by local veterans. One room is dedicated to local farm implements that date back to the days when farming was about more than corn and soybeans. The museum collection also includes about 3,000 local photos, roughly half of which date to the first decades of the 19th century.
With the cost of gas, airfare, food and everything else going north, many Americans are staying put and spending less on entertainment.
That doesn't mean, though, that you have to park yourself in front of a television set. There are plenty of things to do for free in East Central Illinois, among them concerts that would carry a pretty hefty ticket fee in most cities.
GALENA – Maureen Fallos remembers her first visit to Galena six years ago at Christmastime. The town of 19th-century buildings on a bluff was all decked out, with costumed people on the corners ringing bells.
It looked to her like a scene from a Charles Dickens novel.
With the kids safely strapped in, Ray Clark points his Jeep Cherokee straight toward a muddy pond.
Son Raymond, sitting in the back seat next to his sister, Jessica, couldn't be happier to have the murky brown water nearly reaching the rocker panels – he loves "gettin' dirty."
Crina, 10, and her 7-year-old sister, Camille, knew exactly what to do when they spotted the huge, colorful, recumbent dragon near a pathway at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.
They were all over that statue by French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, whose works are displayed throughout the grounds of the St. Louis gardens this summer.
ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest continuous botanical gardens in the United States, founded by an Englishman who prospered on the frontier but found his surroundings there uncivilized.
"Uncultivated," wrote 18-year-old Henry Shaw in 1819 after he took a ride through the countryside around St. Louis and found himself overlooking a prairie. "Without trees or fences but covered with tall, luxurian grass, undulated by the gentle breeze of spring."
There's lots to see and do at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Here's a partial list of some of the displays and attractions:
l The William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening is the largest not-for-profit gardening information center in the country. Inside are garden displays for terraces, backyards, city plots, ground covers, vegetables, flower trials, experimental crops, children, birds, prairies, butterflies, shade plots and other areas.