Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just call me Laura



When I was a girl I loved - I mean really loved - the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don't have a lot of memories of my childhood, but one that stands out clearly is the day my parents brought home a Little House boxed set for me. I had been a fervent fan for at least a year before that, and had read every one of those books. But to own them all - I can't articulate how rich that made me feel.

I still have those books - me, the one who ruthlessly pares down my belongings every time I move, and who has moved twenty-two times since then, between four different provinces. The box is long gone, and the books are more than a little worse for wear, but I know exactly where they are on the shelf. Those books will be with me forever.

My nine-year old imagination was dominated by those books. I played Little House on the Prairie and made pioneer dresses for my dolls. I had a rag rug in my bedroom, and a washstand, and I dreamed of the day I would have a basin and pitcher to go with them.

I was captivated by the self-sufficiency of Laura's family. Her ma made soap and cheese and bread and sewed clothes. Her pa grew wheat and chopped firewood and built houses from logs and sod. That wasn't all of the attraction for me - I knew all about the magic of homemade music at night by the fire - after all, I learned all fifty-seven verses of "The Fox Went Out One Chilly Night" at my own father's knee as he strummed a guitar in front of a campfire. I knew about the sense of safety and security that came from being with all my family under one roof - in my case it was the canvas roof of a tent when we went camping. But the resourcefulness, the ability to make things instead of buying them - those were awe-inspiring to a nine-year-old and still are forty years later.


So maybe I've been channeling my inner Laura these last couple of weeks. When I look on the porch there are onions and garlic I grew and harvested drying in the summer heat. In the cold cellar are the first of the potatoes, still dusted with dirt and wrapped up in paper bags. On the shelves in the storage room are jars of pickled beets, Victorian barbeque sauce made with rhubarb, blueberry and rhubarb chutneys, gooseberry and lavender jellies, bumbleberry, blueberry and rhubarb jams. Curing on the table in the dining room are my first two batches of handmade soap, and the third, made this morning, is cooling in the milk cartons I used as molds. The first round of tomato sauce is processing in the canner as I write, and in the crock on the counter is my inaugural attempt at sauerkraut, tasting wonderful but still needing a bit more mellowing.

There are good, practical reasons to do all of this. But somehow food security issues and reducing footprints and food budgets don't explain all the deep pleasure I get from growing and canning and making.

I think, when it comes down to it, I have Laura to thank.

7 comments:

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

And I have you to thank for inspiring and reminding me to become more self sufficient! Laura would be proud!! :-))

Natalie said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely reflections.
It's probably time to read Little House in The Big Woods... again. Maria will be so pleased.

Holly House said...

I can't wait until we're producing as much as you guys! Every time you post I get new ideas lol. I never really read much of little house, but there were a lot of other similar books growing up I devoured. I think everyone who lives this lifestyle has something aside from food security driving them.

jeanives said...

I love you!

Paula said...

Oh gosh- that was a favorite of mine as well! I remember going back to the library and looking eagerly for the next book in the series.

And I would have to admit that it was probably those books that got me interested in self-sufficiency in the first place. My parents recognized my interest and encouraged it (actually, I think it was really my mother) by buying me the first Foxfire book for Christmas when I was in Jr. High.

The funny thing is, I floundered a lot as a young adult and older, but now that I'm returning to what interested me as a kid, I'm a lot happier. Well, mostly happier.

I'm really jealous that you're getting all that done!

Miriam said...

Paula - it's a LOT easier when you don't work outside the home! (Okay, I tutor, but not that much...) I don't know the Foxfire books - I'm going to look them up!

Jean, dear friend, I love you, too!

HollyHouse - what an interesting thought, that there's something else that drives most of us. What is it for you?

Natalie - I have happy memories of reading Little House on the Prairie with my mom, way past the age when I needed a bedtime story. It makes me happy to think of you and Maria doing the same!

Kim - it scares me silly to think of being anyone's inspiration for anything. I fumble, and make mistakes, and get distracted, and worry too much about it all being perfect. (Is "perfect" a 4-letter word? Because that's how I feel about it...)

Holly House said...

I have a few reasons for trying to start a homestead, but one is very much about my family.

Growing up my grandpa had a half acre garden next to his house. I remember going in there with him when I was little (only on certain paths because he would burry bear traps to catch raccoons). Every summer their raspberry bushes would fruit and the entire family would come on one day and all of us cousins would pick all the berries, and we'd all take them home and my grandma would save some and all winter long she'd put them in things. My grandparents always, ALWAYS had something delicious whenever the family got together. His corn was a family tradition.

Since then sadly, I've grown up and realized that they aren't the rosy picture I painted of them when I was little, they're both very bigoted and my grandfather has said some incredibly hurtful and hateful things to me. Last year my grandpa had to give up most of his garden because he can't take care of it any more, and even though I don't always like him or what he says, I was really sad. Gardening is our common ground, it's always been part of my life and my family and I feel in some ways I'm carrying the torch, (just not the hatred) of my family before me.

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