Saturday, October 31, 2009


I have two neighbor friends that will be moving in the next couple of weeks. I am overwhelmed for both of them as they gather their families and belongings and venture into new neighborhoods. Both friends have children and dogs. One is moving to a new house while the other is moving temporarily to a condo until they can locate a house to move into. Both are using moving trucks for some items, one is using a Pod to help store some things until they find their house. Boxes and planning what gets put in the Pod, what gets put in the basement storage, what gets moved first, who will be there to help move the heavy items, how to juggle getting the closings and paper work settled, the kids to/from school. Keeping little ones occupied while cleaning, organizing, setting up the homestead takes place. The list goes on!

Then I recall the Ingalls' first move. The covered wagon, exchange of horses, and careful planning and packing, setting off and just deciding when it was time to stop and set up camp. The journey was difficult; no road!, no warmth!, no rest stops to use the bathroom!, no place to stop for a quick bite!, no entertainment for the kids in the back seat!, heck, no back seat!

Can you imagine moving to a new place with no other people, no furniture, no house even!? Leaving what you know for something you know nothing of. Planning for meals for - who knows how long- before you got back "to town" to get necessary provisions. How do you know how much corn meal to bring? Flour? Beans? What tools and utensils? Personal items? And to complicate matters, traveling in a covered wagon included more difficulties than lack of comfort. Each item packed had to be in it's own special, secure space. The wagon itself could only hold so much weight as well. Too heavy and the horses wouldn't be able to pull as well for as long. Or make the journey, say, across rivers, all the more dangerous. Too little provisions would result in running out of essentials and no where to restock, risking health, safety and the ability to build shelter once a suitable plot of land was found.

What would you bring with you if you could only bring 2000 pounds worth of items? Read here: for an idea of how one pioneer woman packed and planned her covered wagon, the preparation that went into journey. Read here: to plan your own journey in a covered wagon. How different would it be preparing for a move in modern times? I must say, being a knitter and spinner, I'm pleased to see that a spinning wheel may have been included in the packing! And the spinning of the wagon cover! What a task!

I'm not sure which type of preparation sounds better when I compare moving out on the prairie and moving in modern times. It seems there may be benefits to both. But I do know that the adventure never ends, and a woman's work is never done. I'll miss my friends as they move, not too far, but not across the street either, and I hope to find the grace of Caroline and the adventurous spirit of Charles when I approach change in my own life.

by bethanyg

A Visit to the Past

  In the little town of Whitehall, AR a log cabin village has been created.  Most of these cabins have  been carefully taken apart and re-assembled here, safe from the dangers of development.  For two weekends every year this village wakes from its century-long sleep to host the activities of reenactors and give visitors a taste of history.

   Come, walk with me; the day is cool but bright.  On a beautiful fall day like this, there's no telling how much fun we could have.  The mule has already been up and working since day-break, turning the sorghum press.  I hear the folks boiling down the sap to make molasses are giving out samples.  On the way, we'll likely see the broom-maker and his wife at work in their shop and the printer setting up and inking all those little metal letters to print out this week's news.  

   Winter is a coming, besides the chill in the air, the thick winter quilts airing out on the laundry line are a sure sign that cold weather is ahead.  Is all this talk of winter making you feel cold?  Well, we'll just stop in to visit in this cabin.  I see smoke billowing out the chimney; a warm fire would be most welcome.  The housewife is busy about the cabin and is glad we stopped by; she says she'd appreciate it if we could watch her little one while she finishes up supper.  The men-folk of the area are all out getting the last of the hay bailed up, soon they'll be done and come looking for that big pot of black-eyed peas and sausage.  Hmm.... I can smell the cornbread; it's almost ready!

   It's such a peaceful life here; it's so sad to think of the changes that are coming.  On the other side of town the army has set up a recruitment office and all the young men, full of promise and potential are lined up to sign their names.  The loud boom of the canon is no less unsettling, every hour reminding us of those who will soon be marching off.  Heaven preserve us and bring them home safe!  With all the young men, brothers and fathers, headed off to war, the school-house has been closed; all the younger children who would have filled it with the sounds of laughter and sing-song chants of times tables are needed at home to help their Ma's run the farm.  

   I'm glad the little chapel is still open!  In times like these, such a place of solace is all the more dear.  Would you like to go there; there are some folks gathering up there to sing the praises of the Lord.  I hear the bell ringing now; they must be getting ready to start.  After all that singing, perhaps we could walk on down to the general store .  We can get some sasperilla, my treat, and sit around listening to the musicians gathered on the porch while we watch the sun going down over this fair little town.

To see images from this excursion, please visit

Making Butter

If you asked me 5 years ago if I would consider making my own butter, I would have looked at you like you'd grown a 3rd eye. Even a year ago I probably would have scoffed at you. Why would I want to make my own butter when I could buy it at the store?

When the activity came up for making butter, I still thought it was silly. After all, my dad had once told me that if you shake one of those little containers of creamer that it would turn into butter. I hate to admit it, but I shook and shook that thing and nothing ever happened.

Then I got the idea that I could use my Kitchenaid mixer to make butter. Why not? I did some googling and found that other people have done it before. I bought my cream and tried it. I felt a little like Laura Ingalls when Pa brought home the sewing machine and she thought of running the sheets through it instead of hand sewing them together with little tiny stitches. I'm sure my great-grandma rolled over in her grave, but that butter I made came out just like any other butter with a lot less work.

As a society, we need to know where our food comes from. I read an article in our local newspaper the other day that mentioned that kids think that apples come from the store, not a tree. I thought butter came from the store. Not really, but it doesn't hurt to take time to think about where things come from.

by a-chan 

From a churn to a mixer, what a difference a century makes!
picture by Hatsfineandfancy

Read Along: Week 19- Moving In

  • This chapter reminds me of a poem by Eugine Field, Wynkin Blynkin and Nod. I wonder if He saw the same sky Laura did with the big moon. Covered wagons were often called Prairie Schooners because of the large canvas tops, like the one that nearly blew Pa away as he was attempting to strap it down as a roof for the house. (I imagine Laura would have thought that sailing away with a canvas to the sky would be a grand adventure!)
Here is Buffy Sainte-Marie singing the poem for us…..

What other poems remind you of nature or traveling?

  •  Laura often talks about helping her sisters dress and undress their buttons. Read this blog entry about button strings that girls use to collect, very interesting reading.
Lets make a button craft using buttons from your button box (if you don’t have a button box, plan your project and buy the ones you need)
Here are some links:
Here are some button fairies strings. Here are some instructions, but it’s all up to your imagination!
A choker, where you could add a button to the center flower.
A wire and button brooch
A fabric based pin
A felt heart brooch covered in buttons
Here is a crochet coffee cup cozy
and a Knitted button band
You could also string them for bracelets or necklaces as well

  •  Enjoy sifting through your button jar if you have one. Enjoy the different shapes and sizes and textures. Pick one or two out for the younger members of the family and make a dancing button yoyo to play with
 By HatsFineandFancy

We had other button craft ideas come in after this posted on Rav.  All great ideas, so I will share them with you as well .....

bethanyg -Thought I’d add a couple that we do/will do.

Bookmarks on strings with beads or buttons–length of string cut longer than the length of a book. Knot a little way down, string with beads or buttons, tie top knot. Can do the same to the bottom length of the string. The empty part of the string lays in the book while the beads or buttons hang from the top/bottom.

Felted cuffs from sweater, embellished with buttons.

Felted sweaters, cut into flower shapes and embellished with buttons.

HatsFineandFancy -I found another neat button idea, another  book mark :o)

Friday, October 30, 2009

When Grandma Cooked

Here is a poem written by my Great Great Uncle Clifford Tremain.  I don't have a date for when he wrote it but I'm guessing 1950's, early 60's... reminiscing about his childhood. It was just found by a historian and published recently  in the Cambridge Advocate newspaper.

When Grandma Cooked
When Grandma cooked for the threshing gang
In the days of long ago,
She didn’t have water hot and cold
Right at her elbow.

She carried the water from a spring
About half a mile away,
And didn’t join a bridge or social club
To pass the time away.

She had to split her own firewood
To make the kettle boil,
For there wasn’t any such thing
As electricity, gas or oil.

Now besides these little chores or tasks
That she had to do,
With one hand as she went past
She rocked the cradle too.

The vegetables must all be peeled
And ready for the pan,
For Grandma had never seen
The Modern old tin can.

Huge loaves of bread she had to bake
And pies and cookies too,
For it took an awful lot of grub
To feed that hungry crew.

A crock of butter she must churn
Besides the other fuss,
For in those days of do it yourself
There wasn’t any surplus.

She must go out and hunt the eggs
Before she made her cake,
And it would be superior
To any modern make.

And when the threshing had been done
And the gang had all been fed,
She would then the dishes wash
Without any modern dope,
 In a pan of suds made from
Good old home-made soap.

by Clifford Tremain, Hespeler Ontario

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Read Along: Week 18 - The House on the Prairie

A big thanks to SarahJayne for writing this weeks read along! 

This week’s chapter contains yet another frightening experience for the Ingalls family. The pioneer life is filled with dangers, and so far we have seen how Pa and Ma try to keep things light to shield the girls from their fears. Here we see what really frightens Pa, seeing his dear wife injured. It must have been terrifying to be so far from help with only home remedies to treat any sicknesses or injuries.

  • For those sharing this little house adventure with their children, this may be a good time to discuss first aid and how to tell the difference between a break and a sprain. Here is a website with simple directions. It may be interesting to talk about the kinds of medicines and remedies available to the pioneers and how medicines have changed since that time. You can find some info on that here, here, and here.

  • Our craft this week is also more geared towards the young’uns; however I have to admit I had a lot of fun with it too. We will be making a homemade guitar or fiddle.
-4 to 6 rubber bands of the same length, the thinner ones will give a higher pitched sound
-a small box that your rubber bands can stretch around
-two pencils
-an exacto knife (parental use here, obviously)
-anything you might want to decorate your instrument with
To make a bow for your fiddle
-a wire coat hanger
-another rubber band
-wire cutters & pliers
1 cut a hole in the box with the exacto knife to create a soundbox
2 stretch 4 or 6 rubber bands across the hole
3 slide the pencils under the rubber bands to keep them from touching the box
4 have fun plucking the strings as a guitar
If you want to play this as a fiddle, you’ll need a bow
1 using the wire cutters, cut the wire hanger as shown:
making the bow oct09
2 using the pliers, bend the ends around to make a handle and holders for a rubber band:
making the bow2 oct09
3 add the rubber band and play! Note: mine didn’t make much sound just sliding it across the strings; I found that it worked better when striking them diagonally and bouncing the bow.
Finished project:
box fiddle oct09

  • To hear some fabulous fiddle music head on over to the
Henry Reed Collection which was put together by folklorist, Alan Jabbour in the 1960’s in an effort to document and preserve the folk music of the Virginian Appalachians. Many, if not all, of the 184 recorded songs would have been known and played by Pa around a campfire (including Old Dan Tucker). So light some candles, turn off the lights and listen to the sounds Laura & Mary heard. Maybe the kids would like to play along on their hand-made instruments too.

  • Discussion topic:
When the area of the big woods became too settled, Pa wanted to pick everything up and leave, yet it seems that the family’s interaction with their neighbors like Mr. Edwards are the most memorable, joyful times described in the books. I find this seeming contradiction interesting; What do you think?

By SarahJayne

Monday, October 19, 2009

Read Along: Week Seventeen - Prairie Days

Here are this weeks activities….

1: Go birding! Laura talks a lot about the birds she saw on the prairie. Using online or books from the library look up some of the birds she mentions, as well as some from your own area. Watch the bird feeder you made or sit still outside in your yard or at a park and see what birds (and other wildlife) live around you. Write a description of them, even if you don’t know their names and then research to name them.
Here are three links to help you get started on your bird identification and sounds

Audubon Society
Birds by Description
Birds Audio

2: Make a bird mobile. Whether you hang a few from your window or gather sticks or dowel to hang them from a child’s bedroom ceiling. You might even make a few to hang on a Christmas tree! Here are some versions to choose from……

Felt ornaments

3: Life and chores went on no matter where they were. Can you imagine how awkward laundry would have been for ma? How do you think you would do washing sheets outside in a tub? What other daily chores do you do that would be made more difficult done outdoors without modern conveniences? Feel free to leave a comment!

by HatsFineandFancy

Monday, October 12, 2009

Read Along: Week Sixteen - Camping on the High Prairie

I love camping. I’ve roughed it, tented it, trailer’ed it and enjoyed rustic cabins. I just like being away from the hustle of cities and I love looking out a window and seeing nature right outside. But after two weeks I am more than ready to go home to real bath tubs running water and electricity!
I am writing this post on a damp and cold autumn day in October in mid-west Ontario. I know within a month we will probably see snow. But the trees are changing colors and I am sure we will still have a few more sunny days to enjoy outside. And of course, we will soon have piles of leaves to clear from the yard. So here is what I have planned for the our family, and I hope everyone else will enjoy participating as well.

  • 1: Lets make beans! Soaked beans are a food Ma could have carried with them, but they would take too much time to make.
Baked beans and chili are a staple for camping in our region and comfort food at our house. I especially like putting them in my crock pot and forgetting about them until supper. Homemade baked beans are my favorite, but I rarely have time to soak the dried beans and cook them. But I have come up with a recipe that makes canned beans taste really good. (and you need the cans for the next project!)
Home-style Baked Beans
4 cans of Beans in Tomato sauce (Pork and beans)
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 onion chopped fine
1 pkg of sausage
Cook the sausage and onion together and cut the sausage into 1 inch pieces.
Add all the ingredients to the crock pot and stir. Cook on low for 4 hours.
Serve with Corn/Johnny cakes

It would be great to see your bean or chili recipes as well, feel free to post!

  • 2: Twinkle little star! Lets make some stars…
Knit or crochet Christmas tree star ornaments. Use them as gifts or on the front of cards Crochet a tree skirt Make a blanket
Here is a beautiful paper star and Sewing versions are also available.
But here is the project I encourage the most. Tin can luminaries! They are perfect for the next two seasons. Put them up as fall decorations and use them right through to Christmas. They would look perfect as accents around a jack’o’lantern or as lights for caroling in December.
alt text
1 large can, washed and label peeled. You can leave it silver, or spray paint with a paint meant for metal.
Tea light candle, burnable or LED battery powered (From dollar stores in Christmas section)
coat hanger (or strong wire)and pliers with wire cutters (optional for hanging luminary)
1/2 inch doweling 1 1/2 feet long (optional)
small screw in hook. (goes with doweling)
Fill the can to the top with water and freeze until solid in the freezer (this keeps the can from crushing when you hammer)
Mark out a star shape and any other desired design with dots using a marker.
Place the nail on a dot and hammer through the can into the ice. Repeat for all your dots. Hammer two holes near the top rim across from each other for the wire handle if desired. Melt the ice and dump it out. Dry the inside and place candle inside.
To hang from a hook or tree….
Cut the coat hanger and thread through the two top holes. Bend into a handle shape and bend ends of wire up to keep from coming off.
To carry while burning….
Screw the hook into one end of the doweling and hook the handle of the luminary over it.
Hint: use a piece of dried spaghetti as a lighter if you don’t have a BBQ match or fire lighter.

  •  3: As a family, plan a fall yard work day.(It doesn’t matter what climate you’re living in, there is always seasonal clean up to do.)
Then the fun part! In the evening, Clear an area for a small camp fire. (As a child we would build it in the recently harvested vegetable garden at the edge.) Check with your local fire department for the local rules on backyard recreational fires. Most areas do allow small, contained fires. Don’t use the fire for burning brush or leaves. Here is a link for building fires and fire safety if you have never built one before. As dusk settles, light your luminaries for extra light and eat bowls of chili or baked beans and Johnny cakes as a family around the fire. Enjoy the sunset and make a wish on the first star.

by HatsFineandFancy 

p.s Don't forget the marshmallows! 

Monday, October 5, 2009


Here is a posting from group member bethanyg on their painting project. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Today we did some painting projects. It was part of the weekly read-a-long projects with the Little House on the Prairie Group on Ravelry. I've mentioned it before, but each week we read a chapter and do some projects. This project was to reflect on the sky at sunset~those beautiful colors. We decided to throw in some fall items, since it's definitely upon us here in West Michigan. (I scraped my windows yesterday morning!)

Here are the girls in action:

Goosie's project

Peanut's project

And our finished projects, which we hung on the windows. They are like stained glass, and are beautiful.

Goosie's final project

Peanut's final project

Mom's project

Read Along: Week Fifteen - Crossing the Creek

What a scary memory for a young child like Laura to remember. But this chapter does remind us that Pioneering was not the romantic image we give it sometimes. Life was dangerous and hard.
Activities for this week:

  • Sit down with the family and review swimming rules. Talk about the differences of swimming in a river or lake vrs a pool. Here is a wonderful link to the Red Cross to refresh you on swimming survival.
  • Despite the very bad day Laura’s family had, she still reflects on the beauty of a sun set. The activity for this week is to create something using the colors of a sunset. Here is a wonderful scarf pattern and a childs pullover.
But there are other artistic forms you could use to complete this activity…you could Photograph sunsets each night for a week, or do a series of timed photos in one evening. Step outside every 5 min and snap a photo from the same spot and see the changes of a night sky.

Or….Paint a Picture of a sunset. Here’s a Little House Group original tutorial!

alt text
(this is my cheaters version done on adobe illustrator)

  • 1 piece of white sketch pad paper or water color paper (heavier bond paper a little lighter than card stock)
  • childs box of water colors with “sunset colors”
  • 1/2 or 1 inch wide paint brush (a childs brush will be fine as well)
  • spray bottle of water
  • clean sponge or soft rag
  • 1 piece of black construction paper same size as drawing paper
Take a look at sunset pictures (google images is a great place to start) and note the colors, where they lay in the sky as the sun goes down. Use your picture as a guide to place your paint on the paper.

Spray your white paper with a thin mist of water. Make sure the entire sheet is damp. If your paper is shiny, it is too wet. Use a sponge to wipe off any extra water. (This is called a wet in wet technique. If you need pictures, here is a tutorial)

Start adding paint to the paper with a wet brush using your picture as a guide. The colors should start to bleed and blend together. Clean out your brush as you change colors. Spray the paper lightly again if the paper begins to dry.

Let your paper dry or try a alcohol or salt technique to make your sky paper extra interesting.
Take your black paper and fold it in half. With a pencil draw a frame and then 1/2 of a tree, attached to the bottom of the frame. Make it as basic or as intricate as you wish. Cut out the frame (with tree attached) and lay it over top of your dry water color sky. Attach with glue or tape or your favorite scrap booking method from the back
If you make 4 small sky papers, you could do 1 for each season. Sunsets tend to look different at different times of the year

  • Share a comment here about a special memory about pets in your life. They really are mans best friend!
By HatsFineandFancy

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Read Along: Week Fourteen - Going West

Onto our next book! Here are this weeks activities.....

  • In a journal or as a family, plan an imaginary trip/move.  If you could choose to move some where else where would it be? Use a map and plan a route.  Discuss what things you would take with you if you could only take with you what fit in your family vehicle.  Would you choose items to put in the car differently if you were making a permanent move rather than for a vacation?
  • Make a covered wagon  There is an inexpensive kit if you're not craft savvy or a few free designs on the web such as this shoe box one, or a milk carton, and another from Popsicle sticks. This would look great sitting beside your log cabin! 


If you're not up to making a wagon, how about knitting a few pairs of red mittens for the family? If you don't live in a cold climate, you could still use them at Christmas time.  Use them as a place setting.  Make a few medium sized childrens mitten. Roll a napkin and a trinket or dessert mint together and place into the mitten.  Decorate the cuffs with ribbons and a name tag.
    • Can you imagine how rough their ride must have been? Rides can sometimes still be hard on children in our lives.  They get bored and tired of sitting just like Laura did. Mary and Laura only had their one doll to keep them company on their travels. Lets make a travel bag for the car.  I love crayon totes,  and how about coupons for planned stops! There are travel pillows and mini stuffies (or knitted/crochet).  A travel bag is also a great idea for Christmas gifts for your children or nieces and nephews.  Or if you do Samaritans Purse shoe boxes (or other charity gift boxes).  

    What kind of things would you pack in a bag for children on a long trip? We would love your comments!

    Travel Stuffies: Beanbag dolls by HatsFineandFancy

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