We started the summer with a family road trip to Wyoming. The decision to head West for my second-niece’s graduation party was fairly last-minute, but it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
    We literally hit the road the minute school got out. The van looked like a scene out of a National Lampoon’s movie; with all of our gear and luggage, we could hardly see Daphne in the back seat.
    A few miles into the trip, we started our first book on tape. We didn’t pack any movies along for the adventure or any electronic devices. We also did the majority of our driving during the day. Glen and I wanted the kids to see the sights of the trip; not have their eyes glued to screens. By the time the trip was through, we finished five audio books. And, indeed, they were able to take in all the geographical wonders of the Badlands and the Rocky Mountains.
    When I tell people the trip was nearly perfect, the sentiment comes from the feeling of balance. We spent two nights in a hotel and two nights camping in our tent. (Four nights in a tent, sleeping on the ground might have done me in.) We spent two days of the trip visiting with family at my cousin’s, while the kids ran wild in the Wyoming wilderness with their cousins and second-cousins. We spent two days together with just our family – one of which was touring Yellowstone National Park.
    Yellowstone was amazing.  We marveled at the snow-covered mountains and the switchback highways – and the lack of guardrails. We hiked. We explored meandering streams, waterfalls, and geysers. We saw moose, pronghorns, grizzly bears, and countless other creatures. (The kids were actually counting, but I lost track.) We had a close encounter (from safely inside our vehicle) with a herd of bison. We were close enough to answer the question we had been pondering: do bison cows have four teats or two teats? All in all, Yellowstone was magical.
    I learned later that the magic might just be the trees. According to research done in Japan, when we spend time in the forest, we are “undergoing an invisible reaction with phytoncides – active chemical substances given off by plants. [These] compounds do our body good.” Maybe this is why folks who live in the city are drawn to wilderness activities like camping and backpacking.
    As Labor Day approached, signaling the end of summer and the start of the school year, Glen decided we should sneak in one more camping trip. I agreed that a little getaway would be wonderful.
    We packed our gear into our little green fish house – affectionately known to us as Casa Verde. We bought the fish house a couple years ago so our employees would have a place to nap between shifts or change clothes after coming from school. We have actually used it to go ice fishing and deer hunting, as well. We had planned to use it for camping last summer, but it ended up storming that weekend, so we canceled the trip.
    It turned out to be perfect. We had a spot nestled in amongst a stand of old oak trees. We were a stone’s throw away from the water. The night was still enough to hear the wildlife around us. The temperature was cool enough to make the warmth from our campfire cozy and welcoming. There were no bugs, so it didn’t matter if the kids left the door open on Casa Verde. We roasted hotdogs over the fire and treated the kids to s’mores and campfire pies. Over and over, the kids declared that this camping trip was the best idea ever.
    Where did we go camping?
    In our pasture.
    One of the paddocks by our big pond was vacant at the time, so Glen pulled Casa Verde out there. We didn’t spend half of a day packing, we didn’t have to drive 1,400 miles to get there, we didn’t have to hire a relief milker, and we didn’t spend an extra penny for the experience.
    I’ve been saying for years now that we should offer a camping site in our pasture as an agri-tourism venture. But we’d never actually camped there ourselves. Plus, it’s not always easy for us to take off for a week or weekend, so Glen figured, “why not take full advantage of what we have right here?”
    With great certainty, I can say there will be many more perfect summer getaways right here in our pasture.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com