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.

 

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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.

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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.

A Trip to the General Store

It’s hard to fathom not shopping at Target once a week. 

OK, maybe sometimes we end up going once a day,  but only when I’m trying to plan something and am really scatterbrained. Like when I go to the grocery store to get milk,
come home with a Jeep load of groceries, but end up going BACK for milk.

It is unfathomable to think in Little House in the Big Woods Laura and Mary had never seen a town before.  In Little House on the Prairie, Pa goes into town once.

Once.

The family stays home. I can’t imagine going a whole year without going to a store. I can’t imagine not replenishing your pantry when you need to.

But, my imagination could make a store for the Ingalls family. Just in case Pa forgot something and Ma needed to go, we put it next to their house.The pretend world I’m creating for her is much easier than her real world.

We started this project last year while playing and learning through “The Olden Days”
but couldn’t finish. 
Since we’re using The Prairie Primer this year, fun projects are easier to fit into school.

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Although I didn’t have the Gramma and Grandpa growing up,  they were a fun, inexpensive find on Etsy from the Chicken Coop Stamper. I spent less money to bring age and wisdom to my pretend world  than I would to buy a new Barbie at Target.

They will have dual roles in the Ingalls lives, portraying the grandparents left behind in Wisconsin, and the store owners for whatever town the Ingalls currently live in.

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Sara Jane Benson is trading eggs for yard goods today. She is another doll from the Sunshine Family mold that actually came dressed in prairie attire. She was found in the Etsy shop Days Gone By Treasures.

 The store is actually an old wooden crate I had with a hinged lid that used to hold embalming fluid.  EW gross, I know!  Beka hasn’t noticed the lettering on the side, so I didn’t bring it to her attention.

We had a blast scouring the house for things that would work. I love miniatures, so had some from my childhood and some from a printer’s shelf display. 

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At the thrift store the other day, we found four more dolls from the Sunshine Family, so bought them for extras.  We’ll have an adult Laura and Almonzo. I have NEVER found them at the thrift store, so to finding  many in one day, was better than that dream where you’re picking up money off the street. Oh, you heard me squealing in excitement?  I’ll try to keep it down next time.

We just needed an older gentleman sitting by the fire playing checkers. The game board was copied off from Jim’s Printable Minis, Mod Podged onto cardboard and set on a baby food jar.

Jim offers vintage maps, Christmas cards, important looking documents (we printed one up for Pa for homesteading since he had trouble with the government, we needed to make his next move official), labels for canned food, Confederate and American money, newspapers, and periodicals.  I love that Jim offers a variety of sizes/scales depending on which dolls you’re playing and learning with.

My public library allows me 25 free colored copies a week, so I printed many things on my last trip to the library. It saves money and the quality is better.

We have a pile of little projects to work on now in those free moments when the rains are starting to look dreary.

The shop counter was a wooden box that candy came in years ago, of course I squirreled it away for the right day, and just added a shelf with balsa wood.

making a teepee 047
See the little peg shelf?  Beka made it. When she  found these candles in some stash I had, she immediately knew they needed to hang up in the store.

We decided with so many projects to create, we couldn’t wait on the menfolk in the house to come home and drill and cut for us.  My Honey-Do list for the house is long enough without adding a bunch of craft work to it.  I wouldn’t want my husband to come home at the end of the day and hand me a list of things I have to do for him, so I try to keep his list as short as possible. We took out the tools and started experimenting.

playhouse 033

She cut a strip of balsa wood and cut four pegs from a skewer. She was NOT interested in measuring, so I let her eyeball it. I don’t have to cram a math lesson in everywhere, although my logic was saying, “This would be a perfect place to use a ruler and division!”
My heart knew too much “school” would take the fun out of it.

She found the correct size drill bit by trial and error on a scrap piece of wood. After drilling four holes, she put a dab of glue and  a peg in each hole.

At this point she was a little bored, so asked me to stain it while she went to play. We hung it up with poster putty.

playhouse 026
Thin strips of balsa wood were cut with an exacto knife and a metal ruler. I scratched the snot out of my cutting board. Not sure what real crafters do, but I think I need to buy a new one for the kitchen. My favorite vintage color is Minwax gunstock.
Beka cut little strips of calico to wrap around the boards.

When Beka decided we needed to tie up packages with brown paper and string, we found a cap to a hair spray bottle, added a pretty blue button with two holes for the lid, wound some fine string around a piece of dowel to completely cover it, popped in it, and we had string on the counter.

We’re working on a wooden structure to hold a roll of brown paper.

As we add to our General Store, my goal is to teach Rebekah to be creative and use what we have.  If she dreams of something she wants in the store, I want to see if we can make it first.  Some day, we’ll make a trip to Hobby Lobby, but I want to start with homemade.  I want her to have the thrill of learning to use the tools and materials on hand to create something she imagined in her mind.

Even though the world we’re making isn’t big enough to live in, someday she’ll have her own home. I want her to be like the previous generations of American women, including her own ancestors,  who had the needed skills and pioneer spirit  to make wherever she’s living a HOME.

 

 

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.

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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’.

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

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

TARP:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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All dressed up in prairie finery, Beka tried.

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

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

 

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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. 

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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.

My Sweetie Pie Made a Pumpkin Pie

Little House in the Big Woods 001

Chapter 12

*****

 

We’d been having an unseasonably warm fall
and were spending
Every Moment Outside.

 

When my daughter invited Beka and I to a pumpkin patch
we dropped our books and headed out the door.

 

Sometimes you just gotta’ follow the sun,
especially since ya’ know once the rains come,
they don’t leave for a long, long, time.

 

Pumpkin Patch
We loved seeing fields full of pumpkins.

Although we call special outings for school
“field trips”
we rarely end up in a field.

This was a field field trip.

 

Rebekah at Pumpkin Patch

The kids loved running to and fro,
with every pumpkin they could lift  a possibility to take home.

 

 

Jana and Kids at Pumpkin Patch
My oldest daughter, Jana,
with her three Munchkins,
Brookelyn, Maddelyn and Brayden.

I found a handmade sign at a garage sale that says,
“Grandchildren are a reward for not killing your children”
but since it isn’t PC and some people don’t get
it’s a joke
I don’t display it.

But grandchildren are a reward.
After raising six kids with lotsa rules and nutrition and bedtimes,
I love having little people who depend on me for only
candy and toys.
That’s it.
My definition of Gwamma.

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The pumpkin adventure wasn’t over.

The assignment only said “make Pumpkin Pie or stewed pumpkin.”
EEWWWWW.
Stewed pumpkin?
I think not.

To make sure we finished the project
and that Beka had success her first time making pie,
I opted for store bought piecrust and canned pumpkin.

Don’t tell my brothers.
Joel and Allan make amazing pie.
One Thanksgiving, Allan even brought his own rolling pin to Mom’s house
because he was in charge of making the pies.
Of course, my brothers make their own crusts,
use fresh pumpkin,
and yes, they are both single, as a matter of fact.

I don’t know why.

I am the black-sheep, pie-crust buying member of the family.
But not for long.

Pioneering Today: Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way

Last week I read this beautiful book 
and it  inspired me to get back to my pioneer roots.
She has a simple pie-crust recipe Beka and I will be using
when we make our second pie.

It also is going to make my Christmas shopping a lot easier!
Wouldn’t this book look adorable in a basket
with a few vintage cookie cutters and a cookie mix in a canning jar?

 

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We held prayer meeting in our home that evening,
so Beka got to shine serving her delicious pies as the snack.

I love to give my kids moments like these!

 

 

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It tasted even better than it looks.
We had it for breakfast the next morning, too.

There was a little filling left, so we filled little graham cracker pie crusts.

They were also delicious.

 

 

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See that sweet little pie pumpkin in the middle of my fall display?

 

Hopefully, that will be in Beka’s second pie, too.
It just needs to hang around and look harvesty for awhile.

 

See that squash on the right? 
I bought it to try this recipe
from Melissa’s blog Pioneering Today,
but I bought the wrong kind. 
So, it will also sit as a decoration until I decide how I will cook it.

 

For those of you ambitious kitchen people here are some
pumpkin recipes from a blog called “Laura’s Sweet Memories.”

Farmer Boy Pumpkin Treat Squares

Farmer Boy Pumpkin Scones

Farmer Boy Pumpkin Bread

 

Anything is better than stewed pumpkins!


 

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. 

 

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

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Aw, fire.

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

 

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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?

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Doesn’t fresh bread just sound delicious?

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

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

 

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She loves playing The Olden Days!

 

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

 

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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.

Osmosis, Schmosmosis

Little House in the Big Woods 001

Chapter 5

*****

 

I was geared up for a Science experiment to show osmosis.

The word and  definition were vaguely familiar from
my High School Biology class.
I didn’t always pay attention in class, did you?
Good thing my Dad doesn’t read my blog all the time,
because he was my high school Biology teacher.

Remember how I didn’t pay attention to his gold panning lessons?
I must have not been listening too well in Biology, either.

 

We refreshed our minds about osmosis.

 

image

That’s alotta’ big words in Dictionary.com’s explanation.

 

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We liked this definition from ASK better.

 

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We cut the potato in half,
sliced off the round ends,
then scooped out the inside.

Good thing I’ve owned a melon baller for about two decades.
It finally earned its keep.

 

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Each potato slice was set in a bowl,
water was added to about 1/2 inch depth,
and the hollows were filled with colored water.

 

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We added 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to one hollow,
and labeled it because I knew I would forget.

Then I labeled the stuff so my family wouldn’t forget.

If you read the corn cob blog,
we have trouble with projects around here.

 

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Since I don’t want to give them impression that things are always perfect around here,
you needed to see the mess that sat here for a few hours.

 

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There ya’ go.

That’s what it looked like the next day.

 

“Trees use a method called osmosis to force water upwards. Osmosis works because there is a difference between the sap, or juice, inside the root and the water in the ground outside. Sap contains large amounts of sugary substances. Ground water contains only tiny amounts of dissolved nutrients.  Sap is more concentrated than ground water.  Osmosis forces water from the soil through minute holes in the root skin to inside the root. p. 37-38 The Prairie Primer

 

 

Here’s another osmosis potato experiment
from someone who probably listened better in Biology class.

 

I was just feeling good that we started and finished a project.
I think some Science stuff musta’ osmosised into our brains,
doncha’ think?