Living the Life

Little House on the Prairie 001

Chapter 10

The assignment:
split wood.

I’m thinking this Prairie Primer curriculum is way
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,
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.