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.   

Plum Creek dugout1

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.

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.

 

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!