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.

Montana 2010 023

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.

IMG_1112

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.

IMG_1114T

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.

 

IMG_1115
“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.

IMG_1116
“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.

IMG_1128

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

 

IMG_1130

“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.”

IMG_1135
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. 

.

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.

IMG_1145

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.

All Aboard!

By the Shores of Silver Lake

Out of college, my husband taught in a private Christian school for seven years.  We loved ministering to the high school kids and living in Kansas.  They were formational years to our Christian life. Of course, we often joked that the three best things about teaching were June, July and August, but we loved working with teens the most.

When my husband went into the computer industry, he had the typical vacation schedule with only two weeks off.

Box T 1997

At the same time, he began teaching the Bible every summer for two weeks at  Box T Bible and Saddle Camp run by Florence and Lewellyn Tewksbury in the middle of North Dakota.  We loved the teen ministry and didn’t mind having no time off.  Our ministry together was our family vacation.

However, driving from North Dakota to Montana to visit my parents each year with a car full of little children and no husband was a challenge.  We found help one year when we bought a Disney video and it came with an Amtrak coupon for buy one adult fair, get one child for free.  The baby was free, the middle children were half fare, so we had a deal. 

I  took the train for the first time in my life.

It was an exciting adventure, even if we couldn’t afford the sleeper car, and even if it ended up taking longer than driving.  They placed us in a smaller handicapped room with two seats that faced each other.  I had a cooler of snacks and a huge bag of books and new toys.  My favorite memory was reading Ransom of Red Chief by O.Henry aloud. I think I was more excited than my kids.

North Dakota 295(pics from Ritzville, WA train depot and museum)

The Ingalls’ didn’t quite share my enthusiasm for taking a train when Ma and the girls moved by train from Plum Creek to Dakota Territory. There were too many unknowns for them.

p. 6  Pa said to Ma, “I’ll go with Docia tomorrow morning…  Nelson’s agreed to haul our stuff to the depot, and you’ll all come out on the train.”

p. 7  “Laura knew, of course, that people did travel on trains.  The trains were often wrecked and the people killed.  She was not exactly afraid, but she was excited.

Ma said in her quiet way, ‘I am sure we will manage nicely with Laura and Carrie to help me.’ ”

 

North Dakota 293

p. 16, “Clean and starched and dressed-up, in the morning of a weekday, they sat in a row on the bench in the waiting room while Ma bought the tickets.”

North Dakota 270

p. 16, “At the ticket window, Ma carefully counted money out of her pocketbook.”

 

North Dakota 280

p. 16, “The two satchels stood on the sunny platform outside the waiting-room door.”

North Dakota 274

p. 16, “Traveling on the train cost money.”

p. 30, “She knew now what Pa meant when he spoke of the wonderful times they were living in. There ha never been such wonders in the whole history of the world, Pa said.  Now, in one morning, they had actually traveled a whole week’s journey.”

In the end, Laura, of course, decided it was a thrilling adventure, to the point of wishing her pa was a railroad man.

 

 

For further study about the wonders of the train world:

Northern Pacific Railway Museum

Great Northern Railway History

Friends of the Burlington Northern Railroad

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association

Central Pacific Railroad

Railroad Hall at the Smithsonian (pics)

Four Generations of Button Savers

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Chapter 13

Our assignment in the Prairie Primer was to make a button string.

 

“That afternoon, when Carrie was asleep, Ma beckoned Mary and Laura.  Her face was shining with a secret.  They put their heads close to hers, and she told them, They could make a button-string for Carrie’s Christmas! (p.90)

 

Beka and I decided to make the button string for the Carrie doll in our Ingalls family dollhouse. We had to pick out the tiniest buttons from my collection.

Christmas 028

It’s way more enticing to sort my family’s buttons on a Jadeite Jane Ray desert plate. I have some from my Grandma Geneva, from my Mom and I’ve been adding to the collection for years. Rebekah has started collecting buttons, so we have four generations of button saving in our sewing cabinet. Like the women before me, I never cut a shirt into rags before cutting off all the buttons. I used to shove shirts in the “All You Can Fit in a Bag for $1 Sale” at the thrift store just for the buttons. 

Beka and I love fingering through the buttons, sorting and imagining. We can feel the history and the thrill of creation that has passed through the generations.

 

Ma had saved buttons since she was smaller than Laura, and she had buttons her mother had saved when her mother was a little girl. (p. 90)

Mary had one end of the string and Laura had the other.  They picked out the buttons they wanted and strung them on the string.  They held the string out and looked at it, and took off some buttons and put on others.

One day Ma told them that this was the day before Christmas.  They must finish the button-string that day.” (p.91)

Christmas 030

Then quickly, quickly, Laura and Mary finished the button-string. Ma tied the ends together for them. It was a beautiful button-string. (p. 92)

 

little house 001

Carrie’s eyes and her mouth were perfectly round when she saw it.  Then she squealed, and grabbed it and squealed again.  She sat on Pa’s knee, looking at her candy and her button-string and wriggling and laughing with joy. (p. 94)

 

For the fire in our fireplace we use a battery operated tea light.  We cut all the extra plastic off and stacked pieces of wood around it.  It keeps the dolls warm on a winter day.  Even though the Ingalls family didn’t have one, we added a small Nativity scene to the mantle to celebrate Christmas.

We love reliving the stories of Laura Ingalls through our dolls. It’s been an amazing way to add the thrill of discovery and creation to our homeschool life. When Beka has a hard time knowing what’s school and what’s play, I know something is going right in our home…..or would that be school?

Lessons from Colored Beads

 

In Little House on the Prairie, Pa took Mary and Laura on a walk down the trail near their to the abandoned Indian camp.  The girls were delighted to explore, but I’m pretty sure Laura was pretending she was an Indian princess.

When they first settled in the area, It amazed me that apparently Pa didn’t know the trail was active.  Aren’t homesteaders supposed to know all that good stuff about tracking, footprints, and Indian trails? Maybe he just wanted the land, so he told the family it was old.  Maybe he didn’t know.  But, after living there awhile, the Indians had sadly  moved off their land, and Pa was free to explore the area.

They saw holes left by tent poles and charcoal remains of fire pits.  Pa read the tracks of large moccasins, small moccasins, bare toes, rabbits, birds and wolves for his two little girls. He had them examine the bones around the fire to determine that the women had cooked rabbit for dinner.  A homeschooling father in all his glory, turning an adventure into an education.

When Laura finds a blue bead, the educational moment ceased, and a treasure hunt began. Living in such simplicity, those beads were a prize. I wonder if Laura dreamed of that moment for years to come, the thrill of bending over to pick up yet another bit of brightly colored glass.  When they were through, Pa tied Laura’s beads in one corner of his handkerchief and Mary’s in another.  Since the girls rarely owned anything of their own, I loved Pa’s wisdom in keeping them separate.  At home they unwrapped them to show Ma.

Laura remembered, “The beads were even prettier than they had been in the Indian camp.” (p. 179)

What happened next I still have a hard time sorting through in my mind.  Mary, the Good Daughter, gives her beads to Baby Carrie.  Laura felt the pressure to be good and gives her treasure away, too. They strung all the beads together into a necklace for a baby. When the baby began pulling at the strand, Ma put it away in the trunk for when she grew up. For the rest of her life, Laura felt naughty for wanting those beads.

I don’t understand why Ma didn’t stress sharing, instead of just giving.  The girls had so little, and the beads brought no joy to the baby.  She deprived two girls of a joy that would have brightened their prairie life by giving a treasure to someone incapable of enjoying it.

The assignment  for the prairie primer was to make a beaded necklace. Like Ma, I’ve made some mistakes in parenting, micro-managing projects has been one of them.  A type A person, I like things done correctly, on schedule, and according to directions.  I like to tell them exactly how to do it.

It took me awhile to realize nurturing creativity is just as important as nurturing the ability to follow directions.

For this project, I said, “Make a beaded necklace.” I let Rebekah know what types of beads I had and the types of beading I could teach her.  I offered to run to the craft store if she wanted to learn something more complicated.

She went for the simple plastic pony beads and yarn.  I didn’t say anything.  Ya’ know, I sure don’t want her to write a book about her disappointing bead experience years from now.

 

pumpkin, grandparent dolls 179

I was  surprised  to see her book propped open in the tub of beads.  When I asked why, she said, “I only want to use the colors that Mary and Laura found.”

 

Yea, she totally owned that project.

 

pumpkin, grandparent dolls 180

She’s learning to multi-task, a necessary skill for a woman.

 

beka 010

 

It was beautiful, it was simple, and it was done according to her standards. I was happy she finished.  She had fun creating. Years from now, when she reads Little House on the Prairie with her kids, and they get to the part of Laura’s bad bead memories, I hope she speaks of her beaded necklace and her mother with fondness.

Susanna Wasn’t in a Gum Tree Canoe

 

 

The Ingalls are leaving Kansas at the end of “Little House on the Prairie”
and stopped on the lonely prairie to eat and sleep.

It had been a long, hard year
and they’ve lost a year out of their life,
their new home, and their food for the following year,
and are only leaving with a new mule with very long ears.

 

As usual, Pa brings peace and comfort
to his family by playing his violin.

 

Laura writes Pa’s words to
Oh, Susanna”

“I went to California
With my wash-pan on my knee,
And every time I thought of home,
I wished it wasn’t me.”

 

This is a version close to Pa’s version.

The quote by musician Truman Price on You Tube,

“This version of Oh Suzanna was made by gold miners on the way to California.
It was a hit song of 1849, more popular than Foster’s original from the year before.
I didn’t change any words. ‘I came from Salem City, my wash-pan on my knee…’ “

The words have evolved through time,
but the lyrical tune and the theme of love
still beats in American hearts.

 

 

I love me some Johnny Cash and
my husband loves him some James Taylor.

I had no idear they performed together.

 

It was equally as surprising to discover this early rock band
performed the song.

 

The longevity of Stephen Foster’s work,
influencing musicians from every genre and generation,
proves he is still the Father of American Music.

The Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh
provides a great biography and detailed Q&A about Foster.

 

But, what about that Gum Tree Canoe?

I thought I would be smart and BING gum tree canoe.
Yea, we don’t use the “G” word in our house.
Turns out if you accidentally type in “gumshoe canoe”
you really come up with nothing.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Even if you correctly type in
“what is a gum tree canoe” you still get

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So, I got clever, ‘cuz at night when I’m really tired,
and I wanna’  launch a blog, get my laundry done,
and get enough sleep to look almost human the next day,
I can get clever.  Or desperate. You decide.

I looked up gum tree.
One site defined it as “a tree that produces gum.”
Like, DUH!
Gimme’ something I can really use.

Another site said gum trees
grow in the southwest states and can be up to 100 feet tall
and the trunk can be up to three feet wide.
In the olden days, people chewed the bark for gum.

OK.
Now I get it.

Tall, wide tree makes long, wide canoe.
And since we have Trident, Wrigleys and Bubble Yum,
we can leave the bark alone.
But, ya’ might wanna take a rabbit trail from the
gum tree canoe to  the history of chewing gum.
It will only waste about five minutes of your time.
Maybe ten if you’re a slow reader or
actually read every word, not just skim through
for the good stuff.

Now, I can go on with the music.

 

John Hartford plays this tune at the Grand Ol’ Opry. 

 

 

 

This is the Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band’s version.
They have an amazing website “American History through Music.”
Their list of the songs features many of the songs
played by Pa in the Little House on the Prairie books.
Besides, their educational resources are for
teachers and “homeschool parents.”
Wow.
They pay us homage.
Now ya’ gotta’ visit their site.

 

Gum Tree Canoe

chorus:

Singing row away, row o’er the waters so blue
Like a feather we’ll float in my Gum Tree Canoe
Singing row away, row o’er the waters so blue
Like a feather we’ll float in my Gum Tree Canoe

verses:

On the Tombigbee River so bright I was born
In a hut made of husks of the tall yellow corn
It was there I first met with my Julia so true
And I rowed her about in my Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)
All day in the fields of soft cotton I’d hoe
I think of my Julia and sing as I go
Oh, I catch her a bird with a wing of true blue
And at night sail her ‘round in my Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)
With my hands on the banjo and toe on the oar
I sing to the sound of the river’s soft roar
While the stars they look down on my Julia so true
And dance in her eyes in my Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)
One night the stream bore us so far away
That we couldn’t come back, so we thought we’d just stay
Oh, we spied a tall ship with a flag of true blue
And it took us in tow in our Gum Tree Canoe

(chorus)

 

*****

Pa knew music could still the heart and give hope and peace.
As he spent years moving his family around
to places they were facing panthers, wolves, coyotes, loneliness,
fires, Indians, raging rivers and disease,
we see that what his gun couldn’t take care of,
his violin could.

Nearly150 years later,
these songs of tradition and nostalgia,
bring joy, comfort
and toe-tapping enthusiasm to the modern generation.

Meet My Ingalls Family

When I revealed the teepee Beka and I made during our study of the Plains Indians, I also revealed something unusual about myself ~
I LEARN BY PLAYING and
I TEACH BY PLAYING.

It started out innocently enough when I began to homeschool. Since I learn by seeing and doing,  that was the way I taught. I bought more games and manipulatives  at garage sales and thrift stores than we use.

We had many dress-ups on hand to make history come alive with costumes and props.

It’s more fun to read when you can play along, so when I found Berenstain Bear Puppets at a thrift store they had to come home with us. Any character toy from our books were snatched up for our reading units. It can add a little excitement to reading, can help kids sit still and can help them understand the story better when they are playing along.

When Curious George got a paper route, I sewed a teeny, tiny yellow shoulder bag for our 4 inch  friend.  My kindergarten son and  I cut and folded our newspaper into tiny newspapers for the bag. While I read, he acted out all the mischief with the stuffed monkey. For once, my son was allowed to make a mess by flinging newspapers around the room.

I purchased a colonial cardboard dollhouse and one for the Underground Railroad. Duplos, Barbies and Skipper were brought into the living room for math lessons. (click on links to read previous posts from my previous homeschool blog.)

So, with no Ingalls family dolls to be purchased anywhere, we had to get creative. My favorite childhood dolls are the Sunshine Family, a 1970’s hippie family that threw clay pots and sewed leather purses and sold them out of their pickup camper.   Steve and Stephie  eventually opened a craft store and moved to a farm. They had an adorable baby in a lace-trimmed yellow sleeper named ”Baby Sweets.”  Later on, she grew up and a son was added to the family.

little house 009

At the beginning of the year, the Sunshine Family took on a new persona in our home, Ma and Pa Ingalls. We added a dark-haired Kelly doll as Laura, and a small American Girl doll as Mary. Baby Sweets became Baby Carrie.

They moved into an apple crate, and as we read about their different adventures, we scour the house and yard for the appropriate props.

Didja’ notice the little blue and white figurine on the mantle? It’s a little wooden figure I found in Amsterdam for €.50, which is close to $.50. Yea, I’m a big spender when I travel.
We found a violin for  Pa in the Barbie stuff and a family Bible.

Ma’s knitting needles are two stick pins with white heads, poked into a tiny ball of thin yarn I rolled up.

I still have the pattern my Mom bought to sew the  Sunshine Family new clothes,  so our family will look even more like the Ingalls family after we sew prairie clothes.

Trying to fit five dolls into a crate emphasized the tightness of quarters the Ingalls family always lived in. The girls never had their own rooms, they had only a few books, one doll each, and until Mr. Edwards met Santa Claus, they shared a drinking cup.  As we peer into the little dollhouse we marvel that they were happy and content with their sparse lives. 

But there is so much work to do for a homesteading family, so Beka and I still need to cut stumps for chairs, stack up firewood for the winter,  make a red and white tablecloth, make some fake food, cut out paper dolls and craft to our hearts content to fill up the Little House on the Prairie.

Meanwhile, the Ingalls family has moved ton the banks of Plum Creek, and I am racking my brains about building a dugout home.

Should I use clay, paper mache’, (spell check says this should be macho!) or create a mud/glue recipe? If it weren’t the rainy season, I might dig one out in our yard. Should I make it for the Sunshine Family or make something smaller and create a clothespin family? Any ideas from you creative people out there?  Anyone?  Anyone?

But, what a better way to really imagine life for the Ingalls family in their new home in Minnesota, than to have dirt under our fingernails.

‘Cuz ya’ know by now, in our homeschool, we’re gunna’  PLAY TO LEARN.

Native American Printables

 

Little House on the Prairie 001

 

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Miss Sather.
She taught in a one room school in North Dakota as a teenager,
just like Miss Ingalls does in a later book.

 

But Miss Sather is more special to me,
because she’s my Mommy.

The more I study Little House,
the more I fall in love with my own family’s heritage.
These past few years I’ve spent more time asking
my parents questions about their childhood
and writing things down.

But, the more answers I get,
the more questions I have.

My Mom taught with a one year certificate,
but went back to finish her four year degree
when I started college.

When I started homeschooling,
Mom added her teaching files to mine.

Since we are studying the Plains Indians,
I wanted to share the printables we’ve used for years.

When I didn’t own a printer or scanner in the early years,
I traced over the pattern with thin white paper,
cut out a pattern,
then replicated it onto brown paper.

tipi pattern 001

Chief Headress 001

Chief Legs 001

Chief Body 001

I like to attach the arm with a brad,
so it can wave.

Native Woman Head 001

These were made with an old mimeograph machine,
remember those?

Native Dress 001

Native arms, legs 001

Vest 001

 

In the Midwest, the term Indian is still  used,
even in newspaper headlines.
Years ago, I asked a friend what term she preferred I use for….
I was delicately dancing around my words…
trying to be respectful…
politically correct…
cautious…
accurate…
for her people.

She looked at me, wrinkled up her face with mock exasperation,
and said, “Well, Indian. That’s what we’ve always been called.”
She had a realistic approach about the PC terminology;
their troubles wouldn’t be fixed with a name change.

However, now living in the Pacific Northwest,
where there are many immigrants from India,
I have friends from two different people groups
that prefer the term Indian.

With the need for clarification,
I use Native American.

Growing up, studying the native culture was a requirement
in public school, and one requirement I loved.
Even in my free time, I engrossed myself in biographies
and history books about the Plains Indians.

I loved learning how the different tribes used whatever was available
to provide food, shelter, entertainment and clothing.

Now, years later, when my daughter is the same age,
we’ve enjoyed studying about the Plains Indians.

 

*****

Check out what Jackie and her family, the  Homestead Wannabes,
did for their Native American unit.

 

She also pointed out a fun online game to show children
how the natives used every part of the buffalo.


 

The Minnesota Massacre was mentioned by Mrs. Scott,
although Ma hushed her before she could say too much
in front of Laura and Mary. 
The Minnesota Historical Society covers the event very well,
with videos, personal histories and classroom helps.

 

 

How to Make a Native American Teepee

Some learn by doing, some learn by hearing, some learn by reading.  I learn by PLAYING.  I am SURE it is a learning style.  When we started reading about the Plains Indians, I was so excited about this project, we dropped everything and began.  I grew up  in Montana  and studied the Plains Indians  in elementary school.  I musta’ had this lingering childhood desire to build a teepee for my Barbie doll, because I HAD to divert from the curriculum, just a teensy-weensy bit.

STICKS:

1. Decide how tall you want your teepee.   Barbies are 11 -1/2 inches tall, but they needed room to cook and sleep.   We like the look of lotsa’ stick poking out of the top of the teepee, so our sticks are about 33 inches long.

2.  Send child outside to gather sticks.  Remind them to watch out for dog doo-doo.  We don’t have a dog, we have bad dog-owner neighbors.  I think there’s a sign in my yard only dogs can read, kinda’ like that whistle only they can hear, that says “Poop Here.  Public Doggy Restroom.”  Clean shoes before they come in the house to finish the project.

sewing 114

3.  Peel  bark off sticks.  Make a huge mess on dining room table that sits there all day and spreads to the floor and carpeting. Don’t know if  the Plains Indians peeled theirs, but I wanted the least amount of mess while playing with teepee for years and years.  Yea, after all this work, this baby is gunna’ stay in the family fer shur, you betcha’. (Speakin’ a little MinnesOtan tonight fur y’all.Oh, and a liddle’ ol’ Kansan, too.)

4.  Put sticks out on deck during dinner and forget them there.  Let them get  soaking wet in the rain.  Bring them in the next day to dry.

pumpkin, grandparent dolls 188

5.  Drill holes in sticks at the height you want your teepee to be.  Hey, that rhymes.  We drilled at about 21 inches from the bottom.   Don’t drill into the floor or carpeting.  Not saying we actually did that, just warnin’ ya’.

pumpkin, grandparent dolls 189

6.  Thread old shoelace, leather thong or whatever’s in your junk drawer  through all six sticks, with a bead in-between each stick.

making a teepee 011

7.  Spread out sticks to the width you want  before you tie the string together.

TARP:

sewing 037

1. Find a large piece of paper to make pattern, a long string,  a pen or pencil and a scissors. I chose my ugliest Christmas paper.

2. Tie the string onto the pen and trace a semi-circle onto the paper.  Your desired  interior height is the radius. Get it?  You used that Geometry after all, didn’t you? We drilled the holes at 21 inches, and made a semicircle with a 21 inch radius.

making a teepee 005

4. Cut out pattern and trace onto white material.  I had a piece in my stash that feels like canvas, but was a curtain at one time.  OOPS?  Was I supposed to hang them or play with them? This is an optical illusion, both circles are the same size, I promise. (Click on the link – it reminded me of something else kinda’ cool.)

5. Cut out cloth semicircle.

6.  You can cut out a cool pattern that makes an original opening, but we did the “git ‘er done” pattern.

ASSEMBLY:

1.  Stand up sticks.

making a teepee 014

2. Drape cloth around.

3. Pin in place.

4.  Rub soot from the fireplace around the top to make it look like a fire really was burning inside. (Beka’s idea, I was SO impressed.  I was especially thankful that she felt like it was HER project, after all, I was having WAY TOO MUCH FUN and trying not to take control.)

5.  Decorate as desired.  We saw a lot of decorated teepees, a lot of plain ones.  Beka opted for plain.  I think she was tired of the project, so that was exactly the PERFECT time to quit.

We wanted the teepee portable and reusable, so we didn’t hot glue the fabric to the sticks. 

CLOTHING:

making a teepee 024

The dresses are just T’s.  I measure from wrist to wrist, then from chin to ankle. I chose a tan fabric that doesn’t unravel, but you could use pretty much anything. I sewed the seam on the outside, then fringed with a scissors. If you don’t sew, you could use hot glue or hand sew. For the neckline, I cut a small half circle. I slit a little down the back so the dress can slip over the head, but I didn’t even put a snap there. You can bead necklaces, or sew beads onto the dress.

making a teepee 004
Don’t look too closely.  I never figured out the armpit issue, but Barbie can’t raise her arms, so it doesn’t matter.  Again, my philosophy is to sacrifice perfection for the sake of finishing.  The sooner you get it done, the sooner you can play.

FOOD:

making a teepee 055

This was our favorite library book to use, published by Clarion Books, from Houghton Mifflin Company, NY, because of vivid pictures and easy-to-understand descriptions.

Tribes of the Southern Plains

This book covered more about the Osage Indians, the tribe the Ingalls family lived near in Kansas. This was written by the editors of Time-Life books.

making a teepee 020

We studied the food and found things in the house that would work.  We cut up dried cranberries into little pieces and put in a small wooden bowl for dried chokecherries.  Stems from lavender became bitterroot. Small white beans were dried prairie turnips. (not shown)  Since some Plains Indians gardened, we had small pumpkins.  We had small wooden utensils we pretended were made out of buffalo bones.

BEDDING:

making a teepee 022

Beka just cut various pieces of fabric I had, felt, fake fur, a shrunken red wool sweater, to make the bedding.  Because they had already been trading with the Europeans, they had wool on occasion. When it was time to set up the teepee, she remembered a  diagram in Terry’s book and the materials to replicate it as closely as possible.  She described to me that the head of the home slept in the back, where the red blanket is, the children on the sides.  The cooking area is in the front and on the left of the teepee, the fire goes in the middle.

 

PLAYING:

making a teepee 030

Use all of the above items for playing and pretending.  Give each doll a Native name.  The daughter, Meadow,  neglected to collect firewood before it rained.  She will have to get out tomorrow, to gather kindling for her Native mom who is yet to be named.  They also need to make a stand for drying meat over the fire.  There is always so much work  for a Plains Indian woman to do.

making a teepee 026

The teepee is displayed in the dining room.  Daily we are adding a small project.  Today we made a bark basket by hot gluing a piece of thin white bark around a small plastic cap.  Yea, we totally cheated, but that’s OK.

The dolls will have to stay in the living room until we paint a horse and built a travois so they can move around this winter. Even in the Native culture, a man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.

But tonight, Native Mom and Prairie Momma will rest soundly, knowing we spent the day doing what we love, caring for our families.

 

Hand Over Hand Survival

Little House on the Prairie 001

Chapter 12

*****

Born with two older brothers and one younger brother, I was destined to be a tomboy. The “Little Girls” as we called them, the last two siblings born, were close in age and heart.

From an early age, I learned to throw like a boy, wrestle like a boy and work like a boy. OK, I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was, but I did get sent to the principal’s office once for beating up a bully on the playground.

I also threw a bully off the bus in high school for tormenting my little sisters. He coulda’ whooped my behind, but he had a momma’ who woulda’ whopped his,
so he conceded and the war was over.

I definitely related to Laura way better than Mary
as a child, and even more as an adult.

Whenever I read history about settling the west I was convinced I was born in the wrong generation. That is, until we spent one day cooking over an open fire, I kinda’ changed my mind in a hurry.

Women had it rough back then, working hard in SKIRTS. Long skirts with ridiculous undergarments. I know I would have been the rebel who wore
her brother’s clothes.

However, I still like to imagine life back then, and have loved the hands-on curriculum we’re using this year.


In Chapter 12 of Little House on the Prairie, Mr. Scott is passed out in the bottom of the well they’re digging because he didn’t test the air for poisonous gas.
Silly man.

It’s the first time we see Ma reacting strongly to danger.  She’s usually calm and collected.

“I don’t want a well,” Ma sobbed.  “It isn’t worth it. I won’t have you running such risks!”
(p. 157)

She was willing to go without water rather than risk her husband’s life.

 

Pa went down to rescue the neighbor anyway and had to climb out

hand

over

hand

with the rope while holding his breath.

Our assignment:  try to climb hand over hand.

See, I told ya’ the curriculum was hands-on!


We headed over to the neighbor’s swing set to test our skills. Like the Ingalls,  we have good neighbors.

sewing 082
All dressed up in prairie finery, Beka tried.

sewing 087

Beka’s climbing would be more proficient, I’m sure, if someone was dying, not dying of laughter. 

sewing 089

Beka’s friend, Amanda, partner in pioneer adventures for the day, also was a good sport about rope climbing.

 

sewing 094 - Copy

Since I won several blue ribbons for rope climbing, back in elementary school, folks, not the Olympics, I had to try.

Afterall, I’m almost 50 and always feel like I have something to prove.

Remembering how quickly I used to climb to the top of the gym, I attacked the rope with gusto.

At the top, I would sway  above the mat, watching the scared kids below, their eyes sparkling in admiration and bask in my moment of glory. 

sewing 094

I’ve definitely lost my touch.

Really lost my touch. I was swaying, and eyes were sparkling, but with hysterical laughter, not admiration. I proved that at least I have my memories.

But, if someone I loved, or someone I needed for survival, like one of my only neighbors, were dying at the bottom of a well, would I be able to save them?

The reality of what the Ingalls family lived through touches me more as an adult than it did as a child.

As a child, I was filled with dreams of fun and adventure.
As an adult, I see how their lives were constantly in danger.

Hand over hand, they clung to the rope of survival, and always managed to pull themselves to safety.

Living the Life

Little House on the Prairie 001

Chapter 10

The assignment:
split wood.


I’m thinking this Prairie Primer curriculum is way
FUNNER
than filling out worksheets.
(Yea, funner is a word now.)

Our family does split wood, we just learned to work where the neighbors can’t see.

 

Of course, you might not know, I’m married to a Minnesota boy, ya’ know,
a hunting, fishing, lumberjack kinda’ guy.
He now works in an office and dresses up during the day.
I call him the Redneck Executive.

 

But, he started chopping firewood in about the 4th or 5th grade,
and got his first chainsaw at 12.
When you heat with wood, it’s kinda’ necessary to cut firewood.
It’s free heat, if you have a source of fallen timber.

 

I grew up with a Dad and three brothers,
and we also heated our home with firewood.


Our sons have grown up cutting firewood,
although our fireplace now is for ambiance,
not a primary heat source.

When we first moved into this neighborhood,
a concerned neighbor actually came to the door.
”Did you know your sons are using an axe?”
We obviously weren’t in Minnesota anymore.

How do you answer that without sounding sarcastic?

”Yea, you kinda’ have to use an axe to chop firewood.”

Trust me. 

I love my kids, and I hate blood,
so we practice safety standards. 

 

sunshine family 243

This is the part of our yard I have named
The Redneck Grill.

We watch movies here.

All kinds of food has been grilled and devoured here.

school stuff 182

Of course, this is where I chopped the firewood.

My wonderful son, Jon, had already split the logs,
so I just had so split it into kindling.

Rebekah wanted to try, but being the good Mom I am, I said NO.

I actually didn’t want to share the axe.

It was kinda fun.

school stuff 185

She gathered other kindling from the yard,
looking for dry twigs,
as her Momma told her.

 

school stuff 194

I wasn’t a Girl Scout,
so we didn’t use a flint
or even matches.

Rebekah was a little intimidated,
so we used this thing we call a Clicky Stick.

school stuff 196
Aw, fire.

No matter how many times you start a fire,
it’s always magical, isn’t it?

 

school stuff 197

She gradually added larger pieces of wood,
until she had a nice bed of coals.

You can see why we had bricks in the fire pit, to hold up the grill.

Doesn’t homemade soup for lunch sound delicious?

school stuff 201

Doesn’t fresh bread just sound delicious?

 

school stuff 207

The round load of bread above is the store bought, this is how our bread turned out.

Beka had this idea to make buns in muffin pans.
I knew it wouldn’t work,
but I also knew she needed to learn that for herself.

So, we baked break in the muffin pan.
It was burned on the bottom and raw on the top.

However, the round loaf of bread  that enticed her in the store,
because she thought it looked Little Housey,
gave us something to eat while we burned the other bread.

 

school stuff 214

We came up with a new plan, our griddle. 
We used butter, lotsa butter, and it was so good.

 

school stuff 220
Before you think I am totally amazing,
look at my ingredients.
Yea, Safeway made our homemade soup.
The bread was from a can you smack against the counter,
and the butter wasn’t homemade,
a
lthough we made butter once.

 

I knew I wanted to teach Beka to start a fire and cook over it,
but I knew I didn’t have enough time to cook from scratch.

Hey, moms can’t be totally amazing
EVERY DAY of their lives!

Sometimes you just gotta’ loosen your standards
and enjoy the moment as you can.

It I had aimed for homemade perfection,
we wouldn’t have had these wonderful moments.

school stuff 221

I do love making coffee over an open fire,
and watching that vintage glass knob for brown bubbles.

Sitting and sipping is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Our school work was done, while I stared at the flames,
and sipped way more coffee than I should have.

Oh, along with constantly chopping more firewood and stoking the fire.

school stuff 241

This is how your coffee looks if it’s sitting too close to the fire you’re stoking.

 

school stuff 234

Remembering something she’d read in another Laura Ingalls book,
Beka gathered some dry leaves.

 

school stuff 236

Pa had the girls twist hay into tight bundles when they ran out of firewood.

 

school stuff 242
Then she decided to harvest the basil,
because in Chapter 7 we discussed using herbs.

 

school stuff 247
She made little bundles that she hung to dry.

We spent the whole afternoon tending the fire and enjoying the last warmth of fall.
At the end of the day,
we knew a little more what the Ingalls family felt like.

Our fingernails were outlined with fine lines of dirt,
our hair was windblown and smoky,
our clothes had smudges of ash and dirt.
We could NOT imagine climbing into bed as dirty as we were.

My mom, daughter of Norwegian immigrants in North Dakota,
lived in a home without running water when she was very young.
She’s described to my kids the Saturday bath ritual.
We can’t fathom taking a bath only once a week.

Beka wore her long skirt all day and discovered what a hindrance
it was to all the duties of the day.

I think she was especially saddened to learn the
”children are to be seen and not heard” rule.
As the youngest in family with six kids,
she has grown up with a table full of
parents and siblings interacting with love, respect and laughter.


While we sat around the fire and chatted,
and as she shared her views with me,
I was again reminded that by nurturing a child’s heart,
you give them liberty to express it with you.

sunshine family 231

After the success of our fire pit day,
we tried again when granddaughter, Brookelyn, came over.

 

sunshine family 232

She loves playing The Olden Days!

 

sunshine family 235

While Brookie tended the soup,
Beka finished the churning.
Being a pioneer woman is so much work!

 

sunshine family 239

Brookie can even cook over a fake fire.
I love how they rigged the roasting sticks for a tripod. 
Their creativity just explodes at times.

 

Reading books can put you in another world,
but living their adventures adds to the senses.

Beka and Brookelyn will never again read about cooking over a fire,
without  feeling the burn of smoke in their eyes and
the grime on their hands,
hearing the crackle of cedar,
and the tasting ash in everything they ate.

For those last few precious warm fall days,
we were the Ingalls family.