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.

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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)

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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)

 

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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?

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Picture Perfect Laura

 

Laura Ingalls digs up her own dirt.

She  never portrayed herself as perfect, like some biographers. Those ugly moments of jealousy, hatred and anger were never glazed over, although sometimes justified.

She slapped, sulked, disobeyed and coveted her way through childhood, just like kids from all generations.

Her relationship with her Pa was interesting. She records a lot of disobedience, but not a lot of spanking, although that was the  threat she felt lurking over her head. Ma and Pa kept the kids in line and kept them alive, despite the dangers and temptations in all the various places they lived. Too bad Ma and Pa didn’t write a parenting book!

As a child I related to Laura and never considered her as a naughty child.  Reading through as a mother, I’ve marveled at Ma and Pa’s patience. I’ve wondered if they ever despaired about how she would turn out.   She was the clichéd handful!

We wanted to make Laura picture perfect for our Little House Dollhouse.

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The miniatures that are just plain, paintable metal are much cheaper. (from the Dollhouse Cottage.)

 

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Two coats of gold paint with craft paint we had on hand.

 

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A postcard of the Ingalls family I bought somewhere along the line for educational purposes. Don’t ya’ have a stash of stuff ya’ just KNOW you’ll use someday?  We’ve had this on display all year with other vintage postcards.

 

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Beka photocopied the postcard,  traced around the frame, then cut the picture to fit in the frame, making sure it didn’t go all the way to edge, just to the middle of the frame.

I wanted a pic of Pa and Ma, but Pa and Laura were closest together, so that’s what we used.  The more I thought about it, the more appropriate this was.  I think Pa had a great part in helping the rambunctious Laura grow into the woman we’ve known and loved most of our lives.  He kept her from being a monster child, but never quenched her spirit.

 

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A piece was cut to perfect fit over the picture, to make it look like it was framed in glass.  I love laminating sheets!  They can be expensive, but I used to buy them at Wal-Mart for a reasonable price.  It is clearer than clear Contact paper, but easier than running to an office supply store to have something laminated.

Another piece the size of the whole frame was cut to stick the picture to the frame on the back.  That was Beka’s clever idea!  I love giving kids the freedom to do things their own way, sometimes their way is BETTER than our way. I hadn’t even thought about how we would actually stick the picture to the frame.

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Laura Ingalls –  the Picture Perfect version.

Christmas Cookies on the Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Chapter 31

 

Christmas came to Walnut Grove and Laura is surprised it’s Christmas because there’s no snow. I was surprised she didn’t know because in my house the kids ALWAYS know when it’s Christmas, with or without snow.  They count down the days and drive me crazy asking “how many more sleeps until Christmas?”

 

Ma and Pa don’t tell the kids, but they know there’s something going on because they have to take a bath in the middle. of. the. week.  Back then, it was a clear signal that something was up.  Actually, in 1874, Christmas was on a Friday, but Laura didn’t have the Internet back then to verify the details, and she probably didn’t keep every calendar from the previous 50 years.  But, she knew it was NOT bath night. 

 

Laura sees her first Christmas tree in the church and gets a fur cape and muff that is BETTER than Nellie Oleson’s.  Ooh, Laura is so honest about her little mean heart,  isn’t she? I love her for this, and I think that’s why we were drawn to her books as children.  She was naughty just like us! 

 

We wanted Christmas to come to our Little House dollhouse, so we started with Christmas cookies.

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Ma Ingalls had a Norwegian neighbor over and they rolled out little snowmen cookies together over cups of hot coffee.  They talked about storms, grasshoppers, the wheat harvest and naughty children almost drowning in the Plum Creek.  Baby Carrie slept peacefully in the homemade cradle right next to the fireplace.

The white apron on the left was sewn by my mommy years and years ago.  I still love playing with it! I remembering snuggling in bed late at night, listening to the whirr of her Necchi sewing machine, knowing she was stitching together amazing gifts for Christmas.

 

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Beka and I used Sculpey clay and little cookie cutters and punches. This is the same red cutting board we used when drilling and cutting a shelf for the General Store, so it’s getting pretty beat up this year in school. We painted two little wood mugs gray to look like the tin mugs Laura and Mary got for Christmas in Kansas.  We also made them candy canes and the little heart cakes they received in their stockings.   We’re trying to replicate their Christmas celebrations, of course, with some creative embellishment.

 

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We baked our creations in the toaster oven.  We learned the hard way if you overcook them, they turn dark.  OOPS! (see finished  below)

 

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The little cookie cutters from Michaels.

 

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These little punches from the Dollhouse Cottage work great and are very inexpensive.  We discovered it works better to NOT use the plunger.  See the little circles in the middle of our stars? That’s from the plunger. Just roll out the dough, put it on the cookie sheet that is going in the oven,  use the punch to form all the shapes you want, making sure you push all the way through the clay.  You separate the cookies AFTER they’re baked.  The stars were over baked, but supposed to be white. We’re pretending they’re gingerbread.  The cookies on the right were from a tan clay with little red clay circles and cooked to perfection. You can tell I didn’t push the cutter all the way down, there’s still little ridges around my cookies.  But, we’re not perfectionists around here, we’re just happy to get stuff done.

 

After all, Christmas is around the corner and we have so much to do to get ready!

 

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Practice makes perfect.  So does a miniature class at the Dollhouse Cottage. While Beka and I pulled out the first burned batch, we remembered the dollhouse store has $10 miniature workshops the first Saturday of each month and they LOVE having children. As you can see from above, our creations got a little better after spending a few hours crafting with Sandi, the owner.

 

I was so surprised to find the little jars with corks in the jewelry-making department at JoAnn’s. They were two in a package for $1, but came with a little eye screw so you could fill the jars and wear them on a necklace.  We needed candy in our store for the little children.

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And since you might want to really make cookies this year, I will pass on the famous rolled out sugar cookie recipe from my 100% Norwegian Gramma Geneva.

One year the kids and I went over to another family’s house to make rolled out sugar cookies.  She made the dough ahead of time from her family’s recipe.  They were delicious, but there was no nutmeg. What surprised me even more, was how thick she rolled out the sugar cookies.  I was thinking to myself “She’s only going to get about two dozen cookies out of a batch of dough.”

I thought about “the waste” until I almost laughed out loud.  She grew up in a very wealthy family on the East coast,  with  European money gained during WWII.  I grew up in a middle class family, from very poor grandparents, who struggled to stay warm and full during WWII. My relatives rolled sugar cookies almost as thin as paper, trying to get as many cookies from a batch as possible.  My friend’s family grew up with plenty of money, and there was always more flour,sugar and butter in the pantry so they could roll out their cookies as thick as they wanted.

 

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Gramma never frosted her cookies, because they were for dunking in the coffee, but her cookie jar was always full when we came to visit. Her cookie jar has been sitting on my counter for about 15 years, and it’s rarely full.  Sometimes I put in store-bought treats,  but they always taste like guilt.  There’s no better feeling than to fill Gramma’s cookie jar with homemade cookies.

 

When I married in 1986, this recipe became a part of every holiday celebration.  I made hearts for Valentine’s day.  I made trees and stars for Christmas.  When I couldn’t find a football cookie cutter, I smooshed a circle one into the right shape to celebrate the Super Bowl with cookies.   I always frosted and decorated my cookies.

 

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This is what I wrote on the back of my recipe card. I’ve made them only a few times since 2005.

Again this year, I’m telling myself, “Maybe this year.”

Maybe this year, they’ll be Gramma’s sugar cookies in the house, not just in the dollhouse.

 

 

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If you still can’t get enough of Laura, here’s a wonderful blog post Christmastime When Laura was Sixteen,  from the blog All Things Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

The blog,  Laura’s Sweet Memories, provided a recipe for Farmer Boy Carrot Cookies.  Last year, they blogged Laura’s Gingerbread recipe, saying if she hadn’t become famous for her writing, she certainly would have become famous for her gingerbread.

 

If you’re looking for a quick simple recipe, try Laura’s Saucepan Coco Brownies from The Cottonwood Tree, another blogger dedicated to Laura.

 

And if you have time to watch a video, listen to Laura tell her own Christmas stories.

A Good Ol’ Fashioned Thrashing

 

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Chapter 8

Not only was Pa lucky enough to buy his dugout and a sowed field from a very clean, handsome Norwegian, Mr. Hanson, he works for another wonderful, good-looking Norwegian, Mr. Nelson. Pa retraces the history of their moves by recalling they lived with Swedes and Germans in Wisconsin, Indians in Kansas and now Norwegians in Minnesota.  But he magnanimously admits, “They’re good neighbours.” Oh, wasn’t that kind of him?  His next comment makes me wonder what he really thought about my people. He says to Ma, ”But I guess our kind of folks is pretty scarce.”  (p. 44) What did he mean by OUR kind of people?

Apparently, Caroline is Scottish, but with Dutch nobility. Charles had a grandmother from the famed Delano family, but I never heard of them until I read Wikipedia, and traced English family back to the Mayflower.  Oh, they were those kind of people.  But, how kind of them to consent to living with Norwegians.Oh, wait, is that why Laura insisted on the old English spellings in her books instead of the new American spellings published by Webster in 1828?

It’s now harvest time, 1874, and Pa can’t start his field until he’s cut Mr. Nelson’s wheat.  He cuts it by hand with a scythe, binds it in bundles and stacks it to dry in the sunshine.  Over and over he swung the blade, cut the wheat, tied it up and stacked it.

 

He worked so hard, he was too tired to fiddle.  For Pa, that’s tired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you watch this video of a teenage girl using a scythe, you’ll wonder why Pa was so tired.  After all, he was a pretty strong pioneer man.

 

Anyhoo, when Pa is done cutting, three men come with a threshing-machine. For a little girl who loves adventure, I can’t believe Laura only described this amazing occasion only by saying she heard “harsh machinery noises” and “when the sun rose chaff flew golden in the wind.” (p. 53.)  Wanna’ hear those noises?  Watch this video from an 1870 thresher. It only had two owners and is now a museum piece.

 

But, that’s it?  That’s all she has to say?  He Pa cuts the fields by hand and instead of thumping on the stalks of wheat by hand to separate the kernels of grain, he has a high tech piece of equipment that saves him days of work.  She wasn’t impressed, but I was.  I love farming.  I dug ya’ up some history and some family pics.

 

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Here’s a pic from my cousin Dean’s family, also of good Norwegian blood.  His mom came from the Peterson family who homesteaded near Bisbee, ND.

 

You wanna see how these old steam threshers work?  Western MN Steam Threshers has their own YouTube channel.  Every year they have a Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, MN where you can ride an old steam train, and watch old tractors and threshers in action and watch other pioneer demonstrations. 

 

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It’s an annual Labor Day pilgrimage for many, including my cousin Blaine, who provided the great pictures. He also has that good Norwegian blood coursing through his veins.  He works hard and  keeps his house and yard clean, so I’m pretty sure Pa Ingalls wouldn’t mind having him for a neighbor. Wait, neighbour.

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People camp there in the primitive fields, listening to days of “harsh machinery noises.”

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The homesteaders were diligent to make history, these men and women are diligent in preserving history.

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Naughty, naughty Laura.  After the threshers are gone, there’s a huge pile of golden straw.  That’s the stuff left after you cut the grain off, in case ya’ don’t speak farmer.  If you scroll back up to see the old picture and notice the straw stack in the background, you’ll know why Laura was enticed.

Laura and Mary go to that huge pile and slide down over and over until “there was hardly any stack left in the middle of loose heaps of straw.” (p. 53)  Then Laura, like many sneaky kids I’ve known, went into the house and was very, very good.  I learned too late in life, when a child is being exceptionally good, it’s probably bad.  If they’re being very kind, helpful and waiting on you hand and foot, they might be atoning for sins you’ve yet to discover.  Pa fixes the stack, like a good Pa, probably remembering his own childhood shenanigans.

He sternly warns them to not slide down the hay stack again.

Laura obeys.

She just goes to smell the straw. Pa didn’t tell her not to smell.

Then, she climbs the straw.  Pa didn’t tell her not to climb.

She flies down the straw.

She bounces down the straw.

She rolls down the straw.

She even convinces Mary to join in the fun.  After all, Pa only forbid sliding down.

 

When Pa approached the girls after the second day of trampling down his hay stack, Laura describes his attitude as dreadful, stern and terrible.  He raises his voice.  We know that because Laura writes it in all caps.  “DID YOU SLIDE DOWN THE STRAW-STACK?”

According to her childish brain, Laura answers honestly.  “We did not slide, Pa. But we did roll down it.”

 

I was expecting Laura to get a big ol’ fashioned spanking.  She feared a spanking just for fidgeting on the Sabbath.  But this time, she was really, really, really naughty.

 

Instead of thrashing Laura and Mary for flattening what was left after threshing, Pa turns his back to the girls and quakes in the threshold.

 

The girls were thankful to not be throttled, so were thoroughly through with their hay stack thrills.

 

 

More Farming Research:

Southest Old Threshers’ Reunion

National Threshers Association

Midwest Old Threshers Reunion

Introduction to Pioneer Farming

Minnesota History of Agriculture and Farming

Stages of Wheat Growth  (Technical page, but scroll down for a chart with drawing of wheat at each stage.  Also a description of kernel dryness water, milk, soft dough, and hard dough stages.)

 

So, head out and get thrashing on your farming homework.

Drying Fruit For Regularity

 

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Chapter 9

“When they came to a plum thicket they set down their big pails. They filled their little pails with plums and emptied them into the big pails till they were full.  Then they carried the big pails back to the roof of the dugout.  On the clean grass Ma spread clean cloths, and Laura and Mary laid the plums on the cloths, to dry in the sun.  Next winter they would have dried plums to eat.”  p. 63

We were to discuss food preservation with our students because Ma and the girls were drying plums. In other words, they were making prunes.  I learned the California Plum Board made a bold name change because they felt prune had a negative image.  Ya’ think?  Anybody else out there suddenly thinking about irregularity?  The FDA approved their name change, so we need to get with the times.  Or rather, get back to the pioneer roots when they were dried plums and not prunes.

When you read the above link about plums, you discover they had great nutritional value.  I wonder if Ma knew this, or if they were busy just trying to make sure they had food for the winter.

Anyhoo, instead of just waxing eloquent about food preservation, I remembered something. Years ago, when I didn’t live in the Apple State of Washington and everybody had apple trees in their yards because we weren’t worried about apple maggots and we rarely paid over $1 per pound for apples, I used to make a lot of dried apples and applesauce.  It was a yearly fall tradition.

Then we moved to the apple state and could no longer afford to cut up apples that cost at least $1 each just to shrivel up in my dehydrator and eat in a few bites.

But, we had a few on sale for $1.67 apples that were getting a little mushy, and Beka had never participated in  the fall tradition, so we pulled out my tools.

 

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An apple peeler/corer is amazing. Of course, it took me awhile to remember how to use it, and I had to tighten the screws before I could get back into that Becky-Home-ecky groove.

 

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Kids tend to be more helpful when cool and/or dangerous tools are involved.

I remembered to not tell Beka this was “school” so she would think it was still fun.  Oh, the mind games we sometimes have to play!

I’ve also been known to use the Tom Sawyer trick, where I really “enjoy” a work project until they ask to help.  Moms can be so devious smart sometimes!

 

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I’ve owned this dehydrator for over two decades, and was a super cheapy one to begin with.  My hubby was a teacher at a private Christian school, so were were living on love and faith. I used coupons and rebates  to buy most personal things for the home.  I had been saving my rebate money for awhile when this went on sale for around $20 at the Pamida store in Valley Center, KS.

I’ll never forget the feeling of walking out of the store with this in my arms.  I felt rich.  I owned a dehydrator. 

You know why the Lord answers prayer and provides for His people?  It evokes praise!  Years later, I look at this cheapy little dehydrator, and I am STILL thankful to the Lord for His provision.

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For many years, we dehydrated apples and pineapples (cans of rings, well drained)  for gifts for other people, so we were able to pass on the blessing. That’s another reason the Lord blesses us, so we will pass on blessing to others.

Drying in my little guy took only about 24 hours, and we quickly ate them all and had to make another batch.  To keep your apples from turning brown, dip them in lemon juice or pineapple juice.  I prefer pineapple juice because of the sweetness.

In The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker, she  gives instructions for drying apples without a dehydrator. You simple slice apples in 1/8 inch disks and slip them onto string or rods.  Hang them in a warm, dry place like a furnace room or sun porch.  She said you can even use curtain rods over a sunny window or a laundry rack near a radiator. (p. 129)  In other words, you use that pioneer spirit to figure out what works best for your living situation.

She said to use fresh, tart apples and to peel them only if the skins are tough.  Hard times calls for different rules.  I always thought it was a great way to not waste apples that were getting mushy because you were going to make them mushy, anyway.

 

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This book by Edward B. Reynolds and Michael Kennedy has added some fun dimension to my passion to learn about the Wild West. (Published by Falcon Publishing, Inc. 2000 in Helena, MT)

 

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This recipe was on p. 83 and was considered a specialty from Utah. I read this and realized why pioneer women were always so tired.  First, this batch is HUGE.  I think she was cooking for a threshing crew.  Next, it would take almost all day. 

This would be my recipe:

Set one good book and a handful of prunes on the couch.
Leave the eggs for breakfast in case you read too late into the night.
Save the sugar for cookies, they taste better.
Sprinkle cinnamon, allspice and cloves on the counter so the house smells good and people who walk in think you’re productive.
Go back to the couch and read the whole book, while nibbling on a few prunes.

 

I have great childhood memories of picking chokecherries, asparagus, currents and rosehips in Montana, then watching my mom busy in the kitchen. There was such a satisfaction in lining the shelves with brightly hued jellies and syrups.

 

Sometimes I feel bad asking my kids to do chores, this generation is much more kid-centric. Some of my kids’ friends don’t have any chores.   Instead of spending our days in tasks for survival, the average modern parents spend their days fulfilling their children with play-dates, various lessons and sports.  These things are good in moderation, but as I read through Little House books, I am once again reminded of the most valuable thing my parents passed onto me.

It wasn’t land.

It wasn’t riches.

It wasn’t valuable family heirlooms.

It was a great work ethic, along with the knowledge and experience to accomplish anything and everything I needed to do as a wife a mother.  I would be a fool to not pass on this most valuable heritage to my own children.

That’s why some days, we cast aside the books and the worksheets, pull out the tools and work together.  I am determined to pass on the most valuable heritage, just like my Mom and Ma Ingalls did.

Living Under the Bank on Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek

 

We started On the Banks of Plum Creek a few weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten over the move.

At the end of Little House on the Prairie, Pa had to leave Indian country. He moved his family back to Pepin, WI for two years before taking that covered wagon west to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. So, Ma had another tearful goodbye with her family.

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It was a long drive for the Ingalls family. Of course, we have GPS, Mapquest and even old fashioned printed maps, but from what I’ve read, there were only rugged trails.  The Ingalls family traveled 196 miles in a bouncy wagon on a journey that offered no amenities, no fast-food restaurants and no rest areas.  Certainly no free coffee or vending machines at those wayside stops for the weary.  If they had good travel days and were able to travel 10-15 miles per day, the journey would have taken  13-20days. If they traveled 5 miles a day, the journey would take 39 days.  Can you imagine eating on the road that long without McDonalds?

After traveling the dusty trail,  they get to live in a dirt house.  Not even a sod house, a house made with bricks of sod.  It was a dugout. The Norwegian, Mr. Hanson, dug out under a grassy creek bank like a bear’s cave, then made the front wall out of sod.  He’d even made a real door and a greased-paper window. I loved how Laura described the usefulness of the window, p. 11.  “But the wall was so thick that the light from the window stayed near the window.” The interior walls were white-washed, which I find amazing. How do you paint dirt?  I can believe a Norwegian would paint dirt, I come from a long line of strong, Norwegian women who waged a lifelong war against dirt and disorder.

I didn’t really enjoy the way Laura described Mr. Hanson on p. 2. Norwegians are very handsome people. “His hair was pale yellow, his round face was as red as an Indian’s, and his eyes were so pale that they looked like a mistake.”

But, Pa stereotyped my people correctly when he was describing the dugout to Ma on page 6. “I think you’ll find it very clean,” Pa told her. “Norwegians are clean people. It will be snug for winter, and that’s not far away.”

Ya’ got that right, Pa, Norwegians are very clean people.  My Grandpa Arne came from Norway as a young man, lying about his age to come to America sooner.  He ended up in Kindred, ND and married Geneva, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants, then lived  next door to his in-laws the rest of his life. I always admired him for that.

My grandparents lived in a tiny house, less than 400 square feet, with only a tiny bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a tiny living room for years.  Running water and electricity were added sometime when Mom was in junior high. Yes, that means they had an outhouse, and as a child we used it. The house was tiny, sparsely furnished, but always clean. The best part?  My grandparents never, ever, ever  moved.  My Gramma was as content to stay in her little tiny home as Ma Ingalls was to move from state to state with her husband.

Grandpa Arne died when I was a senior in high school, and Gramma lived alone for about 12  years before moving into a nursing home.  When did we know it was time?  When she could no longer keep her house clean.  I remember my own Mom being so distressed to notice Gramma’s decline, noticing  “Last time I went to visit her, there were drips down her walls.”  A sure sign of decline for Norvegians, fur shur. (There were other signs, too, please don’t think we were a bit over-anxious clean freaks.  My dear Gramma suffered from Alzheimer’s.)

My mom is equally a great housekeeper, even while raising six kids.  We were all taught to cook, clean and garden.  Our clothes weren’t always new, but they were always clean, mended and pressed.  We were even taught how to iron creases into our jeans.  Mom always taught us, “Soap and water are practically free.”  In other words, the condition of your pocketbook didn’t need to reflect the condition of your home.  We were taught to take care of what we had.

The bead situation with Ma frustrated me slightly, but with this move, my admiration for Ma increased greatly.  She moved into a dirt home, because that was the home her husband found for the family.   

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Of course, Laura the Adventurer, is the first one in the door of the dugout. See the original site here. She’s enthralled by the morning glories growing around the home.

 Laura recalls her mom saying, “It’s small, but it’s clean and pleasant.” (p. 11)  Ma doesn’t complain, she looks for things to admire.  Anybody else feeling that the lessons in the Little House books aren’t only for the kids?  I marvel at Ma for following Pa from state to state without complaining.  Of course, we don’t know about the whispered conversations after the kids were in bed, but Laura portrays their life as all bliss and contentment, so we won’t look for dirt, since Ma is living in it. 

On p.17 we hear a little more about the root of her contentment.  “It is all so tame and peaceful,” she said.  “There will be no wolves or Indians howling tonight.  I haven’t felt so safe and at rest since I don’t know when.”

Ma is thankful for the peace and safety, but Pa is excited the town of Walnut Grove is ONLY three miles away. I don’t wanna’ walk across the street to the mailbox, let alone three miles to the nearest town. I Mapquested the Target and discovered it’s 4.28 miles away. I definitely would have to have a LONG list before I wanted to walk there.

As she is putting the girls to bed for the first time she says, “It’s bedtime.  And here is something new, anyway.  We’ve never slept in a dugout before.”  She was able to laugh even though she was living in a dirt cave.

 Oh fur shur, you betcha, it probably was a gut move for dem, ya know. In case ya’ wanna’ know how tu speak MinnusOtan, I rote about dat once, ya’ know. Pa vas lucky enuff to lif around Norvegians, they’s gut people, ya’ know, fur shur.  I tink I’m gunna’ like dis book, On the Banks of Plum Creek.

 

Water not from Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek 

It was gunna’ be a simple experiment.  Ya’ know, no special equipment, no special safety gear, just grab some pond water, sterilize it and drink it.  Well, Mrs. Gray didn’t say to drink it, but I was gunna’ be all pioneer and such. We were gunna’ show y’all that we city-slickers have survival skills, just like the Ingalls family.

 

I sent Beka to the crick (that’s Montanan for creek, in case ya’ didn’t know) next door with a canning jar and the obligatory warning about falling in, hitting her head and drowning.  Ya’ know, those things a mother says to make herself feel better.  I wonder if Ma said those same things to Laura and Mary when they were sent to fetch the water?

 

 

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Done deal. 

 

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Beka knows the routine by now.  Didn’t want anyone to drink our “fresh spring water” before it was properly sterilized.

 

 

We set it in a winder (Kansan for window) for a few days.   We looked up a few things on water, so we could be all scientific and scholarly.  One site said an average person uses ten gallons of water per day.  Only ten gallons?  Either that was a 75 year old statistic from the bathe in the gray washtub days, or our family isn’t average.  Another site said that a shower uses 5-7 gallons per minute.  That sounded more accurate. Do any of you have those kids that will soak in the shower until you bang on the door? 

 

In the Olden Days, when I was a kid, we had  well water. When our three minutes of shower time was up, someone (usually Dad)  might turn on the hot water in another room to turn the shower to icy blasts, and the shower would be over.  Of course, it wasn’t about the bill in those days, it was about running out of water. With eight people sharing one bathroom and one tank full of hot water on a school morning, Dad had to regulate.  He was making sure everyone got a little hot water.

Beka and I discussed this and I tried to stress the importance of not wasting water, even if we had plenty. I thought the intent look on her face indicated compliance and agreement.  Her addition to the conversation indicated otherwise.

“Mom, I think we should invent waterproof books so people can read in the shower when you want to relax in the shower and your mom is nagging you to do school.”

 

Well said. 

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On Friday when we had time to finished up allotted projects, the procrastinated things Mrs. Gray knew we’d all have piled up,we poured it into a kettle

 

 

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and began watching for those tiny bubbles that tells you bacteria, germs,  and parasites  are slowly dying.

I had Beka take all the pictures because I am teaching her how to upload and edit pictures. It also makes the assignments a little more exciting for her to be on the other end of the lens.

 

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I assumed Beka knew what was going on without me actually telling her, so when I told her to boil it for 5 minutes, she poured the water in the kettle and set the timer for 5 minutes.  Good girl, following directions.  Bad mommy, giving poor directions.  We discussed the stages water goes through before it is considered “boiling” and kept watching the kettle.  Beka will never be one of those brides who can’t boil water.  I think I could pat myself on the back right now.

 

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Yes, a watched pot does boil faster with the lid on.

 

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Now THAT’S boiling and THAT’S when you set the timer.  We learned to sterilize water at sea level you boil five minutes, the higher the altitude the longer you need to boil the water because the water doesn’t get as hot as is does at sea level.   Cooking at higher altitudes always takes longer.  Hmm.  Fargo, ND is only 274 feet above sea level, but I’m pretty sure that’s why I burn so much stuff, I never adjusted to the change in altitude when I moved to Seattle eight years ago.  That has to be it.

 

Livestrong has a great article about purifying water for backpacking, discussing filters and water purification tablets.  We were getting cold feet about drinking our sterilized water, and I tried to psyche us both up by talking about Hurricane Sandy and the people that needed to boil their water.  I think Beka was secretly wishing she could send them our water, so I came up with a compromise.  We would boil it for just a few more minutes to make it extra clean and refreshing.  Remember my vintage yellow timer? 

 

 

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Well, we didn’t.  We didn’t remember the water, either, and went off to sew.  OK, so the lesson about sterilizing water didn’t work but the lesson about watching a pot did.  The truth of that saying is a pot that isn’t watched will either boil over or boil dry. The School of Hard Knocks is sometimes more educational that Learning by the Books. I found myself thinking, “Phew, she probably won’t do that more than one or two more times in her life.” 

Bet she’ll stock up on purification tablets, too, if she ever moves into hurricane country.