Chapter 11: Springtime
It is potato-planting time for the Wilder family. Little Almanzo drives a team of mares and harrows the field.
Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle. From dawn to dark he worked, from dark to dawn he slept, then he was up again working.
The field was harrowed until all the weeds were killed and the dirt was nice and smooth. Then Royal and Almanzo took up the last of the potatoes that weren’t sold at the market and cut them into pieces, leaving 2-3 eyes on each piece.
A potato is not a seed; it is part of a potato plant’s root. Cut it up and plant it, and it will always make more potatoes just like itself.
Well, that is just what I did. I recently discovered the Japanese sweet potato at a local health food store. I saved a small portion that had a few eyes and planted it in a pot. In a few weeks we will dig it out and see if we made anything. At the very least we grew a pretty plant.
Chapter 10: The Turn of the Year
Don’t let my nonexistent posts fool you; I am enjoying Farmer Boy more than Little House in the Big Woods. Chapter 10 is full of goodies; it begins with collecting sap from maple trees to make brown sugar and maple syrup. The sugar and syrup will last a full year.
The big excitement was the race to sell potatoes to the New York potato buyers. The potatoes had to be hauled out of the cellar, loaded in the wagon and driven to town. Almanzo’s father sold 500 bushels at a $1 a bushel. The whole family was proud that he knew when to store the potatoes and when to sell them.
Once the potatoes are gone mother announces house cleaning, bright and early the next day. Almanzo hated house cleaning; he had to tear up carpet tacks along the edges of “miles of carpet”. The carpet was hung outdoors on clotheslines and was beat with a stick.
We recently decided to list our house and needless to say the carpet was in a bad way. We don’t want to replace the carpet until we are moved out, otherwise it will probably be ruined before we get the house listed. We took the old carpet up and until we get moved out I have painted the subfloors.
Chapter 9: Breaking the Calves
Chapter 9 is more of chapter 5. Almanzo continues to train his calves Bright and Star. His father helps him braid a whiplash from moosewood that will last until the summer heat dries it out.
We don’t have any calves to train but we do have Princess Buttercup and Padme. No worries, we don’t whip them; we have two dogs and one leash so I decided to use scrap material to crochet a dog leash.
Cut your scraps into long strips, approximately 2 inches wide, sew the ends together to create one long, continuous strip. This calico has a little too much stretch; fabric that doesn’t have a lot of stretch is best.
Fold in half and press with an iron.
Crochet a long chain, create a large loop at one end for holding and leave room to tie and sew the hardware that hooks to the dog collar at the other end. I purchased my hardware at Lowe’s.
Chapter 8: Sunday
On Sunday morning, when Almanzo makes his way to the kitchen, Mother is busy making stacked pancakes. Mother makes stacked pancakes every Sunday before church. Bless this woman, I teach Sunday school and attend church afterwards, I only have time for a few quick cups of coffee. When my stomach roars during the service I think to myself, ” ‘Jesus is the bread of life’ must be a metaphor.”
Anyway, the Wilder home seems much more lively on Sunday morn than the Ingalls home. Mother is making pancakes and setting the top crust on the chicken pie that the family will eat after church. Father is brushing the driving-horses so that they shine and all are rushing to get dressed.
Church is 5 miles from the Wilder home but transportation is no matter. Father has the best horses in New York State, the horses pull the family by sleigh, they trot the whole 5 miles, and arrive at the church stable in thirty minutes.
When church is finished the Wilder family returns home for Sunday dinner. Almanzo has rye ‘n ‘injun bread, chicken pie, and pickled beets. For dessert he enjoys pumpkin pie, then apple pie with cheese. Apparently gluttony was not preached at the Wilder’s church.
Having recently taken a week off from work to thoroughly enjoy my spring break, I watched a bit of morning t.v. This mostly included PBS Create but I did catch a cooking segment on the Nate Berkus Show (guilty pleasure) that featured homemade chicken pot pie. I was horror struck at the whipping cream and flour used to bond the inside of the pie. I’ll even go a step further and call this butt-bond, as in it will bond itself directly to my butt.
This weight-watcher knew just what to do. I looked to Hungry Girl, click the link below to view chicken pot pie minus butt-bond.
I chose to make my crust from scratch instead of buying the Pillsbury version, I’m a rebel like that.
Chapter 7: Saturday Night
I was excited to read this chapter and compare it to the Saturday evenings and Sundays at the Ingalls home.
Saturday is baking day in the Wilder household, as it was in the Ingalls household too. Almanzo’s mother is frying doughnuts; she rolls the dough out and slashes it into long strips. She doubles the strip, twists it, and places it in a copper kettle of hot fat.
The dough sinks to the bottom, then floats to the top and will roll over to cook on the other side. The narrator explains that some women make there doughnuts in a “new-fangled shape, round, with a hole in the middle.” Not Mother Wilder,“she didn’t have time to waste turning doughnuts.”
Saturday night at the Wilder house is also similar to the Ingalls household. It is bath night and off to church on Sunday morn. After supper, Royal and Almanzo carry a tub outdoors to the rain-water barrel. Royal uses a hatchet to break up the ice in the water barrel and Almanzo dips the water and chunks of ice into the washtub. The ice was heated on the stove and one at a time the family bathed in the kitchen, near the heat from the oven.
Here at this little house we are lucky enough to have indoor plumbing and city water. Our water bill is higher in the summer because we water our garden twice a day. By the time August rolls around we are praying for rain everyday so that we don’t have to wrestle the garden hose. This year we are placing a rain barrel beneath a down spout to help control the increased water usage.
There are plenty of DIY-ers out there with how-to videos on making rain barrels. Our local Habitat for Humanity had several donated so we opted to purchase from them, rather than spend money at a hardware store to make our own.
We will remove the pipe that carries water from the down spout and away from the house, then adjust the spout to drain into the barrel.
Chapter 6: Filling the Ice-house
In this chapter, it is so cold in New York that the snow is described as sand under foot and if you were to throw a little water into the air it would come back down as balls of ice. This is what is described as “perfect weather for cutting ice”. When blocks of ice are lifted from the pond it will not drip water, but instantly be frozen.
Almanzo’s father hires two men to use a cross-cut saw to cut the 20” thick ice into 20” blocks. The blocks of ice were loaded onto the bobsled and taken back to the ice-house. The ice-house was high off the ground and made of wide boards with space in between. The solid floor was covered with sawdust and the blocks of ice were placed on the sawdust. It was Almanzo and Royal’s job to fill the cracks between the blocks with sawdust and tamp it down with sticks. They covered the top of the blocks with sawdust and then father would place more blocks on top. This was very hard work and the time passed quickly.
When they went in for dinner Mother had made: fried apples ‘n onions, roast beef, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed carrots, boiled turnips and buttered bread. For dessert he had bird’s nest pudding.
It took several days to fill the ice-house. With the blocks of ice buried in sawdust they would not melt in the summer heat. Mother would use the ice to make ice-cream, lemonade and cold egg-nog.
For this little house project, I found a recipe for the bird’s nest pudding that Laura writes of. According to the description in the book, it sounds as though my crust came out okay but I did not have any syrupy brown juice. It appears to be soaked up by the crust. It’s hard to tell when you are cooking from heirloom recipes. Also, the critics did not seem very impressed, but I have not accepted defeat. I will try again.
P.S. It looks really good, right?
Chapter 5: Birthday
It is Almanzo’s birthday; he is officially 9 years old. Children today countdown to their birthday weeks in advance; they prepare birthday wish lists for family members that inquire, “What would you like for your birthday?” Then, when mom, dad, grandma or grandpa gets a look at what’s on the list, it’s like a stake to the heart. Video games, iPhone, iPod, iPad, iWant, iWant, iWant-consumerism is an ugly beast when it possesses your children.
Consumerism had not yet been born in 1866 and little Almanzo is not even aware that it is his birthday; his father reminds him at the breakfast table, his birthday gift- a calf yoke. Almanzo stays home from school and uses his calf yoke to train his father’s calves. When teaching the calves to come closer at the command of “Giddap” he motivates them with bits of carrot.
Feeding animals is the inspiration for this Little House Project.
Story Continued: When morning is gone, father comes to get Almanzo for dinner-time. After eating his meal, mother asks him to fill the wood box. In the woodshed, Almanzo finds a second gift- a sled made from hickory. The kid is genuinely surprised; he spends the afternoon sledding outside. Almanzo takes a short break to snack on apples, doughnuts and cookies. He can hear mother upstairs working on her loom and goes in search of father. He is in his attic workroom shaving wood shingles.
After checking in on both of his parents Almanzo returns outdoors to sled. Much too soon the day comes to an end and it is time to do chores.
We don’t have livestock here at our little house but we do have two dogs and two cats. One of our dogs is a puppy in training, in other words, we bribe her with a lot of treats. It shouldn’t come as a shock that dog treats are made in China; by manufacturing our own treats we reduce consumerism, packaging, and our carbon footprint.
I chose to make dog treats but did a little research on commercial dog food. I was curious to know when we started processing our animal’s food. The first dog biscuit was commercialized in the mid-1800s. Canned horse meat was introduced as pet food after WWI. You read that correctly, some entrepreneur up-cycled the dead horses killed in battle. This is probably the same guy that started telling people dogs have different nutritional needs than humans.
I am sure there is a plethora of dog treat recipes available online but here is the recipe I used:
1- 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C dry powdered milk
1/4 C water
1/8 C vegetable oil
2 T unflavored yogurt
1/2 C chopped liver
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Roll the dough into bite-size balls according to the size of your dog. Bake 40-45 minutes. Let the treats cool and serve.
Mixing the ingredients. Its not pretty, more importantly, its not horse meat.
This recipe actually makes quite a bit. This is just the first batch out of the oven.
Meet the Senator-aka Padme. A Little House bonus, that is an up-cycled, made in China, dinosaur toy I turned into a barrette. You may recognize Padme from a 1980s re-make of “Girls Just Want to Have Fur”.
Meet the cutest dog in the world- Princess Buttercup. By the looks of that chin(s) she should be put on a raw food diet.
Chapter 4: Surprise
In chapter one I mentioned that Almanzo and Royal are afraid of the older boys in the school yard. Turns out, they had good reason to fear the Hardscrabble boys, these boys were hardcore thugs. The school board had great difficulty employing a school teacher because these boys would beat up any teacher that tried to discipline them. One teacher lost his life due to a thrashing given by the boys of Hardscrabble settlement.
Almanzo is greatly concerned for Mr. Corse, his teacher, so much so that he cannot learn his lessons. Bill Ritchie and his gang are notorious for being disrespectful and provoking a teacher so that they can “thrash” them. This little punk is why we have alternative schools within the public school districts today.
When Bill Ritchie and the Hardscrabble gang ignore the warning Mr. Corse extended to them previously in regards to being tardy, Mr. Corse asks them to come to the front of the classroom to be disciplined. The boys start up the aisle to dish out their own form of punishment. Mr. Corse pulls an ox-whip from his desk and coils it around Bill’s legs and jerks him off of his feet. With every attempt to get up and come after Mr. Corse he gets another lashing from the ox-whip. Finally, he runs from the classroom crying. The rest of his cronies escape the classroom without receiving their whipping.
Mr. Corse then coils the ox-whip and places it on his desk. He wipes his face with a handkerchief and straightens his collar. All of the students are pardoned for not learning their lessons, rightfully so, considering the dramatic distraction.
This past summer I purchased a yard of fabric with a vintage design that reminded me of my grandma Violet. I have decided to use that fabric to make handkerchiefs for grandma. Grandma and Papa are farmers, so they spend a great deal of time outdoors. Grandma likes to use bandanas this time of year to wrap around her head to protect her against earaches.
I used this bandana as a template.
I used Imagene, my serger, to create a narrow hem. The same can be accomplished with a sewing machine, there is just more to iron and pin.
Chapter 3: Winter Night
After supper, Mother and the girls cleaned the dishes and swept the floor, Father cut up potatoes and carrots to feed to the cows the next day, Royal greased his boots and Almanzo greased his moccasins using tallow.
Once they finished these tasks they gathered around the big stove in the dining room. This stove sounds amazing. The front of the stove was in the dining room and the back of the stove warmed the parlor, the chimney warmed the bedrooms upstairs and the top of the stove was an oven. I wonder if I could have one of these installed to replace my existing oven.
Royal popped popcorn in the stove and the entire family, including Mr. Corse, sat around the warm stove eating buttery popcorn, apples, and drinking hot cider. Mother sat in her rocking-chair knitting, Father used broken glass to scrape a new ax-handle, Royal carved a chain of links from pine, Alice worked on her embroidery, and Eliza Jane read the New York weekly newspaper aloud. Man, I wish my family were more like this. We all tend to zone out in front of an electronic device at the end of the day. I do make an effort to knit while zoning in front of the television.
Father mentions to Mr. Corse that it’s 40 below outside and it will be colder by morning. At midnight, Almanzo’s father goes outside to stir the animals that don’t fit in his barns. He makes them run around the barnyard until they are warmed with exercise. Otherwise, they will freeze in their sleep. Almanzo and Royal get out of bed at 5am to do their morning chores. Afterwards they go into the house to eat breakfast before walking the mile-and-a-half to school.
It’s only natural that I would want to use this chapter to knit something since Mother is knitting, but to quote BFM, “This is not a knitting blog Dandy; you need to do more than knit.” [Roll eyes here] Am I right? Probably not, most likely you would all like to see something other than the cool socks I just knit.
In this chapter Eliza Jane reads the newspaper out loud as her family sits around the stove, each working on their individual projects. During this time last year I tortured myself with a Microeconomics course; I was required to purchase a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. Convinced that I would find a purpose for the unread papers, I piled them up in my basement. Just when I was about to deposit them in the compost, voila, purpose appears. I will repurpose the remaining papers into seed pots.
I can start my seeds in these newspaper pots and plant them straight in the ground when the time comes. These pots don’t look super sturdy which is why I have old yogurt containers on standby.