Grinding Wheat for The Long Winter

The Long Winter

 

The Long Winter was so long, I barely blogged through it.

 

OK, maybe I didn’t blog at all.

I have several posts in the drafts, but didn’t get around to it.

All ten of my homeschool blog readers are missing me, I’m pretty sure.

It was a long, long, long winter. Maybe I didn’t like this book very much because I lived about half my life in North Dakota, where every winter was a long winter.

(My friend, Tandis, is having a Long Winter in Wisconsin.  You can read her funny blog at Life as We Ski It.)

When I had five kids and my husband was a Road Warrior (traveling for business),  I spent the Longest Winter ever on a farmstead out in the country.  We had a record of 117 inches of snow, the interstates shut down 14 times, a record of two days of early spring melting, followed by two days of harsh rain, followed by another freeze, and another thaw, followed by the Red River flood of a lifetime.  The trees and telephone poles were so laden with snow, they snapped off all the way across the eastern border of the state like a stack of dominoes.

At the time, I really didn’t mind.  I was young, strong, loved adventure, and loved being home with my five kids.  Even the weeks when I was stormed in for days alone. As long as we had milk and diapers, we were good. We baked a lot to keep the house toasty and cozy, we read and played. We built forts inside with the extra sheets.  When it warmed up to zero degrees, the kids were allowed to play outside.


(More of Wisconsin snow. I have to tease Tandis, that’s nothing to brag about, they can still see the swing set!)

The snow piled up higher than our swing set, the old-fashioned, big and dangerous kind from a public school.  The kids would climb to the top of the half-circle Quonset, the metal buildings you store combines and tractors in, and slide down the rippled sides. Sometimes I would bundle up, go outside with my kids and sit on this special branch that was high above the swing set and perfectly shaped to sit on.  I’d lean back against the main branch and talk on my cell phone to my homeschooling momma-of-many friend, Kirsti, who lived in town. When the snow melted, my  branch was so high in the air, I couldn’t dream of reaching it with any of the ladders we owned.

Looking back now, I’m amazed at what we survived.

So, reading The Long Winter wasn’t that fun, I don’t see blizzards and starvation as exciting adventures, like I did when I was younger.

The Ingalls, like everyone else in town, were running out of food.  Because they had no flour, they were grinding it in their coffee mill.

I sprang to action.  You know that Amazing Homeschool Mommy moment when the stars line up just right and you have the time, ambition and elements to do something wonderful for school? 

We had one of those moments. It was a rare moment, but we had one.

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I had some hard red spring wheat from North Dakota farmers, Michelle and Matt.  I was visiting my wonderful, amazing and talented sister in law, Susan,  a few summers ago and shared my desire to go all domestic and healthy again, and make my own bread and grind my own flax. She drove me to a friend’s house.  Michelle gave me coffee, welcomed me like a relative, then she and her husband filled an 18 gallon Rubbermaid with wheat. “Cuz that’s just how people from North Dakota are.

I’m on my last smidgeon, I’ve been saving it for something special.

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Isn’t it beautiful?

The Ingalls were experiencing their Long Winter.  The people and the stores were almost out of food. Ma had no flour to bake with, and Banker Ruth bought the last sack of flour for $50.  Pa had the last bag of wheat from the wilder boys’ stock.

p. 193, “It’s a pity there isn’t a grist mill in town,” Pa said.

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p. 194, “We have a mill,” Ma replied.  She reached to the top of the cupboard and took down the coffee mill.

Ma set the little brown wooden box on the table.  The black iron hopper in the top of the mill held half a cupful of the grain.

 

This antique coffee grinder was a gift from another SIL, Nita.  She is the amazing, talented one that knits and tats and once made a baby sweater with one arm.  Seriously!  But I can’t tease too much, because I can’t knit at all.  Check out her blog and see the beautiful sweaters she knit with two arms. She also sells her creations on Etsy.

 

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“The mill gave out its grinding noise.”

It was a hard start, but the adventure was on.  We pretended we were starving.

I’ve really learned that school is more fun and the lessons last in their heart when you DO instead of just READ.  It was a blast trying to grind wheat.

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“Wheat will grind just like coffee,” Ma said.

My grandson loves this coffee grinder, but he puts all kinds of amazing things in it. Read about Bubba’s Coffee Bean Business if ya’ wanna’ see his adorable Pirate Face.

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She looked into the little drawer.  The broken bits of wheat were crushed out flat.

 

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“Can you make bread of that?” Pa asked.

“Of course I can,” Ma replied. “But we must keep the mill grinding if I’m to have enough to make a loaf for dinner.”

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We didn’t have all day to grind with the coffee grinder, so we switched over to the Nutrimill. I bought it from Urban Homemaker. 

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Lame Wheat Grinding Video

Do you hate hearing your own voice?  Listening to this video I was not happy to hear that I STILL sound like I grew up in the Midwest. Oh, fur shur, ya’ know, I’m trying hard tu talk like du dickshunaree, ya’ know, fur Pete’s sake.

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p. 196, The brown bread that Ma had made from the ground wheat was very good. It had a fresh, nutty flavor that seemed almost to take the place of butter.

Coffee grinder on the left.  Electric mill on the right. Not bad for a vintage coffee grinder that isn’t used to grind coffee anymore, huh?

 

 

When the stars line up again for a perfect homeschool day, we plan to make bread from this book by Melissa K. Norris. She has a tutorial on her blog sidebar for a bread you can make in 5 minutes per day.  She also offers some freebies. I’m not Ma Ingalls.  I can’t grind wheat AND make bread all in the same week, let alone the same day.

But for now, we’re just thankful that The Long Winter is over.

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Orphans Wanted!

Often when I read about the Pony Express,
I wonder about the teens of today.
Would there be enough teenage boys to staff the venture?

Then, I remind myself that young men
have always craved adventure.
Today, there isn’t a west to tame,
but young men find things to jump out of,
jump onto, jump under and jump with.

They attach wheels, sails, skis or faster motors
to anything and everything so they can
jump and twist and reinvent the sport.

We live in a day and age of
EXTREME SPORTS
so all the thrill jockeys
can still find something new to conquer.

Maybe young men today aren’t so different, after all.

Pony Express 001

It’s an amazing time period and it was a thrilling adventure
for young men and our young country.

Pony Express founders

This is to show you the amazing work of  Cheryl Harness,
who makes history come alive with the power of story
and delightful illustrations.

I didn’t realize she was such a prolific author until I looked online.
We definitely will be using her books again!

Riding the Pony Express 001

A book that has been on our shelf for years and years.

Only 80 pages, so a good adventure read for a younger
boy who hasn’t quite fallen in love with reading yet.

This might entice him.

Landmark Pony Express 001

My mom and dad raised six kids with a wall full of books,
including the Landmark series.

As soon as I started having kids,
yes, before they could even read,
I started buying all the Landmark books I
found at garage sales and thrift stores.
I was thrilled that Mom and Dad donated their collection
to my bookshelf a few years into homeschooling.

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The thrill of imminent death must have drawn some riders.

Probably the $25 drew others.

Like teenagers today,
I  imagine some just wanted to get away from home.

As a mom, the call for orphans always tugged at my heart.
Pretty sure I wouldn’t let my sons do this,
but  the thought of young men dying
with no mom to cry for them,
is just as hard to imagine.

I will never complain about the price of postage again.

Never.

I promise.

Poke a stick in my eye and everything.

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If you still haven’t had enough adventure, check out the The Pony Express National Museum’s website.

Since the majority of us won’t be able to visit the museum in person,
feel free to take a video tour.

The drama and the history are exciting and for someone who already loves history,
anything Pony Express thrills me.

But, here’s the best part of the story.

The Bible 001

Each of the Pony Express riders were given a Bible.
Even though they traveled light, and often were required to kill their own food,
the founders considered the Bible important enough to be carried.

I have always been encouraged by the desire of these men
to honor the Lord with their business.
I like to wonder if any of those daring, rough young men
ever sat by their campfire at night,
gnawing at whatever animal they killed,
and read a few verses.

Did they look up at the night sky and ponder the Creator?

And if you’re wondering about anything else on this subject,
here’s a wonderful online list of all topics concerning the Pony Express.

Cheryl Harness gripped my heart with her conclusion,

“The brave young riders and their ponies helped to make a nation happen…
it’s the ponies and the daring young men who ride in our imagination.
When the wind is in the West,
listen for distant hoofbeats.

It’s the Pony Express.”

Can ya’ hear it?