Heritage Farmstead Museum
1900 W. 15thSt., Plano
Admission:$2 for self-guided tours; guided tours are $5 for adults; $3.50 for children ages 5 and older.
Parking:The parking lot and adjacent street parking are free.
Buttermilk the Jersey cow lives quite the idyllic life at the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano. The cream-colored cow has a spacious pen all to herself, labors only a couple hours each day and, better yet, doesn’t get fussy or kick you during milking – because she’s fake. When plugged into the wall socket, the mechanical cow will moo dependably for visitors. Feel free to have a seat on the stool beside her; her udders are always ripe for squeezing a milk-like substance into the pail beneath.
The ever-docile cow is the newest interactive exhibit at the 4.5-acre educational farm that offers a barnyard full of hands-on activities for the kids and opportunities to learn about life on the North Texas Blackland Prairie from the 1890s to 1920s. After Buttermilk, visit the farmstead’s live farm animals: a small flock of black-faced sheep, two goats and two donkeys – Poncho, an American Mammoth Jack Stock, and the lovable Cisco, who the staff swears is smart enough to open a combination lock. Pay them a visit in their pens and then feed the chickens, Bourbon Red turkeys and guineafowl with corn you grind yourself with the turn of a wheel.
The farmstead’s 12 original outbuildings and stations are equipped for activities such as tossing washers and horseshoes, playing peach basketball and roping calves made from haystacks. On tours or during special events, families can listen to storybook readings under the pole barn, plow a row through the teaching garden or pick up faux apples from the orchard. The docents – many are longtime volunteers – dress in long-sleeved cotton dresses, bonnets and aprons true to the period. They lead kids through activities and explain how children helped out on the farm in times past, washing clothes with a washboard and hanging them to dry on a line. (The trick, of course, is getting the kids to help with the easier, modern version at home.)
Parents will be intrigued by the museum’s cultural jewel, the 14-room Farrell-Wilson Farmstead. The gingerbread-style house has been named a designated historic site and is restored to its original glory from 1891, even down to the original seven exterior colors. The house contains thousands of objects and archival materials from the period, but don’t think of the Heritage Farmstead as a stagnant museum. The kids won’t. After a visit, they’ll be raving about life on the farm until the cows come home.