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Classy BLT’s are in, right?

My mom and sister do not eat bacon. Say what? In this time of the bacon renaissance, when everything from bandaids to doughnuts to toothpaste. can be found bacon flavored, they just don’t eat it. Crazy!

So at home we would eat turkey bacon, which didn’t seem terrible at the time. I didn’t understand the whole bacon craze, really. We would often eat TLAT’s, turkey bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato. Always on toasted whole wheat bread. They were good! Fast, easy, and still yummy as a leftover, and I’m really picky about leftovers.

Then I married Hubbins, and turkey bacon would not do. Real bacon for us, or none at all. And oh goodness. REAL BACON IS SO DELICIOUS!!!! Who in their right mind eats turkey bacon?? We eat a lot of bacon around here, Costco packs of it. But one thing I couldn’t make was BLT’s!!

Well, I mean, I could MAKE them. But Hubbins doesn’t like tomatoes. Or avocado, weirdo. So BLAT’s were a no-go. Then one day, perusing my cabinet full of various canned concoctions, a lightbulb went off. Tomato JAM!! Delicious on burgers, so why would bacon be different?!

It’s not. It’s fantastic. I upped the ante this time and made easy rustic bread, so simple to do and makes your BLT worthy of a classy upscale diner. This is the recipe I used and it’s great. It makes two loaves, so freeze one for later. I toasted one side of the bread in the broiler to make the outside crusty and the inside soft.

Just in case you don’t know how to make a BLT, it’s bacon, lettuce, and tomato (or tomato jam!) on bread with mayonnaise. I used fresh red lettuce from my garden, and I think some added avocado would be sublime. All you need besides fresh crusty bread to make it fancy is the tomato jam! Here’s how you do it:

This is a canning recipe from one of my favorite books, so if you want to can, this recipe makes 3 half-pint jars. Half it and you’d have a batch to use for a couple rounds of sandwiches without canning.

Combine: 1 dry quart (about 2 lbs) chopped orange grape tomatoes with

  • 1 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C bottled lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, until it’s nice and jammy, approx 45 min.

(If you are canning make sure all your stuff is sanitized and jars are boiled and ready, fill them with 1/2 inch headspace and process 15 minutes. If you are unfamiliar with hot water bath canning please look up some info before jumping in!! There’s important food safety to consider.)

Yum yum yum, a sandwich fit for a king! Or a picky husband. But I’d still eat my momma’s little whole-wheat TLAT’s. They were good.

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Spring is Here, Are You Farmin’??

Ahh, life on the farm. Always busy, but so rewarding! And easy. I mean, the sun is ALWAYS shining. It never rains! And, I never have to water! But my crops still grow! There’s no pests, no disease, and no weeding. It’s phenomenally easy to be a farmer, really. I just plant some seeds, and two minutes to six hours later, I’m harvesting fresh, perfect, delicious produce!

Oh wait. That’s just my Hay Day farm.

In reality, growing your own food is quite a bit of work, even on a small scale. It does rain, and then it doesn’t and you have to water, and there’s spiders and slugs and other pests, and neighborhood cats poop in your fresh planted lettuce box! But the rewards of eating fresh, home grown produce are worth way more than some experience points from swiping a fake scythe through your imaginary wheat. Here’s just a few!

  1. Fresh food tastes better! Produce you grow yourself, in season (or get locally from a farmer’s market) always tastes better than some waxy, mealy, previously frozen and shipped store-bought offering.
  2. Pride! You grew something! Be proud!
  3. Healthy eating is easier when you can just pick a few lettuce leaves for a salad versus having to go buy salad because you forgot about that box of lettuce in the fridge and now it’s green smelly sludge, and forget it, let’s just eat pizza and candy for dinner.
  4. Being outside more is good for you mentally.
  5. If you grow things to can, freeze, or otherwise preserve you are also stocking up on less processed foods for the winter when not much grows.

Those are just a couple benefits from growing your own food. Hubbins and I are determined to make our fourth year garden the best one yet. I took these pictures of our early spring progress last week, but then I got busy and neglected to post them. So here they are now!

rhubarb looking good
garden view, ignore that cat poop!!
spinach and sprouting radishes!
new pallet strawberry box
my wild berry box
new lettuce box with window for growing in the winter!

So far we have lettuce, spinach, sugar peas, green onions and leek seeds, radishes, onion sets, and some garlic started. And of course all the berries. We’re still going to add carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and tomatillos, cucumbers, and I’m working on a bunch of pepper starts inside. We’re hoping to really to good this year, so stay tuned!

Repurposed Baby Food Jar Candles

So when you have a baby and don’t make much money you can often qualify for the WIC program. It’s a really helpful program for lower income families, although some of the offerings are limited, and if you have a picky dainty eater, you end up with a cupboard full of jars of unused baby food. And even the stuff she did eat turned into piles of little glass jars. Of course you can recycle them, but I’m a sucker for a glass jar, and the tinier and cuter they are the better. BeechNut makes the stinkin cutest little jars! I just had to keep them. So I had a growing stack of jars, but what to do with them? I searched around for ideas, and what I settled on was candles, since I needed a small gift for a large number of people.

Making candles from baby food jars is not a new idea, but I thought I’d share how I did it, along with a couple of misteps (shocking, I’m sure).

Firstly, how I did it. I put melted beeswax in jars.

Ha! So first, prep the jars by removing the label. I found that most of the labels peeled off cleanly under warm running water, but some were still a little sticky, and I don’t have a tried and true method to change that. Once they are to your liking, you need a wick. I ordered this brand, and then I twisted lengths of it double. Then I used hot glue and a paperclip to secure the length of wick to the bottom of the jar. A clothespin helps the wick stay in place while the hot wax cools.

Next you need melted wax. I ordered two kinds, block and pellets. I highly recommend getting block over pellets for candles. I thought I’d be clever and pour the little pieces into the jars and then put all the jars in a double boiler, saving time pouring the wax. Well it DID work.. except there are air pockets between all the pellets. Meaning as it melts it settles. And it wasn’t any easier to pour them in the jars than it was hot wax. And I ended up having two tone candles when I ran out of granules and had to order more beeswax.

The block I ordered was not enough either, and I was outof time to order more, so I ended up picking the wicks out of a hundred tea lights and melting them down to finish the rest of the candles. NOTE: making candles uses A LOT of wax!

So, just order block beeswax. Lots. Melt it in a double boiler (a bowl or jar inside a pot with water in it) and then use something like a plastic cup to scoop some melty wax out and slowly fill your candle. (don’t put the clothespin on until you pour the wax) Let it cool, then remove the clothespin and trim the wick! Add a ribbon for gift giving or for cuteness.

I must say I am super happy with them despite my troubles. The beeswax has such a lovely smell, and the wick is slow burning. I love them, and I’ll definitely be making more. Other containers can work too, I saved some loose tea tins for next time. They were a perfect little gift, and an overall fun project! (Except for picking apart a hundred tea lights. That wasn’t fun. Not at all.)

More Fun with Your Homemade Soaps!

Just a quick post today, with a couple different soap variations. First are some things you can do with some pre-made bars of your soap. If you have a batch that looks funky, you can grate it up and melt it in a double boiler, and make something else out of it, or just use home made soap in place of buying soap for making liquid hand soap. I don’t know how lard soap would work in laundry soap however so I can’t recommend that today.

You can also make nice gift soaps for the gardeners in your life, or just for you. Grate 8 ounces of unscented homemade soap. Melt it down in a double boiler. One at a time stir in

  • 1 Tablespoon oat flour (make by grinding oats in a coffee grinder or Magic Bullet)
  • 1 teaspoon almond butter or other conditioning fat
  • 1 teaspoon essential oil blend for bug repelling power: eucalyptus, citronella, catnip, and cedarwood are examples.

Be patient when mixing as it may take a while to blend in. Pour into a mold and let sit until cooled, remove from mold and let harden back up for a couple of days. The recipe says it makes two 4-ounce bars, so pick your mold accordingly.

Another recipe I found is for making dish washing soap. I have tried many different variations of homemade dish soap and I’ve yet to find one that I really love, but I’m going to give this one a try. You need:

  • 16 ounces of grated soap
  • 40 ounces water
  • 4 ounces liquid glycerin
  • 1 ounce rosemary essential oil
  • 1 ounce sweet orange essential oil (note:these two oils are suggested to cut grease, but lavender, patchouli, or sage are also suggested as options to add in for scent, one drop at a time until you like it)

Prepare four 10-ounce bottles. (Or two 20-oz? One 40-oz? I would think so.) Combine the water and grated soap into a double boiler and heat until the soap has melted and the liquid is clear and runny. Add the glycerin and the essential oils. Blend well and pour into your containers! Scrub a pot!

Another gifting soap is a lavender oat exfoliating bar.

  • 40 ounces grated soap
  • 20 ounces water
  • 1 cup lightly chopped oats
  • 2 ounces lavender essential oil
  • .5 ounce whole lavender flowers

Melt the soap gently in the water in a double boiler with a minimum of stirring. When it’s runny looking, add the oats, oil, and flowers. Pour into molds and let cool until firm to the touch. Release from the molds and let dry for 2 to four weeks. (So, doing the math, if you are making soap that needs to cure, AND turning it into this recipe, make sure you start early enough to get your gifts done in time!)

Lastly, if you aren’t too keen on making soap from grease drippings, or maybe you have a vegan friend that you’d like to impress, you can make pure olive oil soap! Follow the  soap making directions from last time with the following ingredients:

  • 100 ounces olive oil
  • 12.6 ounces lye
  • 30 ounces water
  • 4 ounces essential oils if desired

Notice that this recipe calls for less water than the other ratio. Because of this, it sets up very fast and gets very hard. She states that she unmolds and cuts after about 8 hours, but the cure time is about six weeks. A unscented version of this would probably be very nice in any of the above recipes too!

There you have it! This ends the soap making series, I hope you learned a few things, and I hope you’re ready to get out there and get soapin!!

And Finally, How to Make Soap!

Success! We made our soap on Saturday, and now I can tell you how we did it! Well I could have TOLD you how, because we did it before, but now I have pictures, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I can just type every thousandth word from the instructions, and you’ll get the gist. Haaaa …

Okay. So by now you should have lots of rendered fat, lye, and molds. There are a couple other things you’ll need, so gather them up before you start. You need:

  • digital scale
  • immersion/stick blender
  • large pot that is non-aluminum, and tall is better than shallow and wide
  • large non-aluminum bowl or pitcher (hard plastic ok)
  • long-handled plastic spoon (I used a wooden spoon, but make sure it’s not ever used for food again)
  • gloves
  • safety glasses, and optionally a mask or bandana
  • old clothes
  • newspapers to cover your counters
  • essential oils (optional)

Ready? Here we go!

Once your soap is rendered, making a batch only takes about an hour. The most tedious but most important part is the measuring of the ingredient. So first, measure your rendered fat. A digital scale is ideal, as well as one that lets you zero out to compensate for the weight of your bowl. The formula is: One pound of fat to 6 ounces water and 2 ounces of lye. So once you have your fat weight you can calculate the other amounts from there. We had 3.5 pounds fat, so we used 21 ounces of water and 7 ounces of lye. Check your math twice or five or six times to make sure.

Once you know how much fat you have, start melting it in the non-aluminum pan on the stove. While it melts, measure your water into the bowl or pitcher. Water is the only ingredient you can measure by volume. Set the bowl or pitcher in the sink or on a covered counter top. Now put on your gloves and eye protection if you haven’t already!!

Next measure your lye on the digital scale, make sure to account for the container. (We used a little cup we could throw away but you can use glass or something). Sprinkle the lye slowly into the water and swirl with your spoon. NOTE: This is the part where you might want a mask or bandana! When the lye reacts with the water it gets super hot and lets off fumes. Don’t breathe them in!!! The fumes made me cough, but if you aren’t sensitive or have a window open you might be ok. I left the room and Hubbs wore a mask until the fumes calmed down.

Now you have to wait a bit. You want your lye solution and your melted fat to cool a little. When you can place your hand on the outside of the bowl and the pot and now scald yourself, it’s good to go. Put your pot of melted fat on the covered counter and carefully pour the lye solution in.

Using the immersion blender, blend! Make sure you don’t turn it on until it’s submerged in the fat, and the reason a tall sided pot is best is to avoid splatters. Try to be as tidy as possible and avoid getting lye all over the place! Blending is super boring and makes my hand cramp up, but it doesn’t take too long. Maybe five or ten minutes. Blend until you reach a light “trace” which means if you turn off the blender and let some of the soap drip onto itself, you leave a trail, or trace, of where you’ve been. Similar to making jam, if you’ve ever done that.

When you reach light trace is the time to add essential oils, if you want. Generally you would use about half an ounce of essential oils per pound of fat, we used about 2 ounces for 3.5 pounds for a nice strong scent. Essential oils can be expensive, but this brand has good prices on Amazon.

After adding the oils, whiz it around a little bit more, and you’re ready to mold! We used a hard plastic ladle to make it easier. Once it’s in the mold, leave it for one day. Put gloves on, and pop or peel it out of the molds, and slice if necessary. You have to let it cure for three weeks, but if you wait that long to cut it, it will be too hard. One day gets it solid enough to handle but leaves it soft enough to cut.

That’s it! You made soap! And in three weeks you can use it! I decided I’ll do one more post about soap, with a couple different recipes to try, and some other fun things you can do with your newly made soap!! Scrub a dub dub!

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top photo is the beginning of the blending process, in the lower left you can see trace. lower right is our fancy pants molds
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top right, Trader Joe’s chicken soup dumpling container as molds, with lavender buds on the botton. top left, yummy pringles soap slices. bottom, dumpling molds unmolded!

Make Your Own Not-Ugly Soap, Part Two

I did it! I’m back on time for part two of the soap making series! 2/3 of the way there! To be honest, the reason this series is three parts is because Hubbs and I have over a pound of rendered fat sitting in the fridge waiting for us to get around to turning it into soap, so I’m stalling for time. Let’s hope we actually do it this week so NEXT week, when we finally get to the recipe and directions, I have some pictures for you. Only time will tell.

This week we’re talking about lye. Lye is a chemical, that today is synthetically made, but you can make yourself with hardwood ash. (Hence the logs up above) I won’t be getting into that any time soon, but there’s all sorts of tutorials if you’re interested. You can also dig deep into the science of lye, how it’s made, chemical information and way more than I’m interested in. Lye is sometimes called caustic soda, which makes it sound scary, right? In my Little House in the Suburbs book, she compares the danger level of lye to the danger level of bleach. So if you’re comfortable with using bleach, you can handle lye. That being said, there are some precautions to take.

Make sure you wear clothes you don’t mind ruining, or a good apron that covers you well. You can wear gloves, lye does burn the skin, but if you are right next to a sink, one soap maker I read about said they hamper her movement and she’s close enough to rinse off. A similar thought about long sleeves; while they may provide arm protection, you might still get lye on your skin THROUGH the sleeves should they get wet, or if you’re trying to remove a wet garment it might spread the lye elsewhere on you. One thing that is a must is eye protection. The author who didn’t wear gloves stated that she forgot her eye protection in a rush (which was just her reading glasses, so nothing over the top), and ended up with burns to her cornea when some lye splashed in her eye. Another good way to prevent accidents is to make sure you make soap on a day when you’re unhurried, you have someone else watching the kids, the pets are outside, and you aren’t expecting any urgent calls. Measure and remeasure, read through the steps, do a dry run in your mind, and relax.

Lye can’t be bought in stores because unfortunately people started using it to make meth, so that means more hassle for people with a legitimate reason to have it. I ordered mine from a great soap company called Bramble Berry, it’s decently priced and shipping isn’t outrageous.

So, you’ve saved and rendered your fat. You have your lye purchased. What about molds? You can buy them, sure. OR you can scavenge them. Pringles cans make great soap molds, because you just peel them off. You can use silicone muffin cups or other silicone molds. And empty cardboard milk carton will work. I saved some interesting plastic containers from some little dumplings that had a nice swirl pattern and a chocolate box with nice shaped little holes. You can also build one from wood, or pvc pipe, directions for both in that link. Next time, we’ll finally get to the fun part, making that soap!!!

One final thought on lye. In the Little House books, Ma made hominy by burning some hardwood to get the ash (lye) and then boiling the corn in the lye water until the skins split. Then she hulled them all by hand until they were clean of the skins. I don’t know about you, but just thinking about that makes my hands hurt!! Also, if you’re interested in leaning why lye is allowed in organically made soaps, and more on the chemical process of saponification, this blog was really interesting!

See you next week, same bat time, same bat channel!

Homemade Soap Isn’t Ugly, Dad

Hello! I’m back! What a crazy month January was, and as a result of many troublesome events as well as a lack of interesting things to talk about, I neglected to write about anything. But now I’m back with what I hope is a three part series on soap making, that only takes three weeks to do.

So. My dad for some reason HATES homemade soap. I really don’t get it. He makes fun of me all the time for making my own soaps, and I don’t know why. Maybe he’s just jealous.  Yeah. That’s probably it. He likes to describe things as, “as ugly as homemade soap.” But homemade soap is actually really pretty, I think, and it’s a lot easier to make than you might think!

When talking about MAKING soap, I’m not talking about dish soap or laundry soap or hand soap. Those soaps all start with existing soap, and melt it down and reconfigure it into a different texture of soap, perhaps with some add-ins. The same can be said of what many people think of when talking about soap making, glycerin soap. I don’t know how to make glycerin, I don’t even know what it is. But you can buy plain glycerin soap, melt it down, add scents and colors and lego guys and what have you and mold it into a new shape of soap, but not NEW SOAP. Today we’re talking gung-ho, lye-based, chemistry in the kitchen soap. It sounds scary. But I’m here to tell you it’s not.

In one of my favorite self-sufficiency books, Little House in the Suburbs, she has a simple formula for soap making.

Oil + (water and lye mix) = soap.

That’s it! There are a number of different recipes you can try, different fats and oils and things you can mix, but I’m going for easy and cheap here, so I’m going to talk about making soap with grease drippings, true Caroline Ingalls style. Ma had a jar of soft brown squoodgy soap, I don’t know exactly how she made it, but using grease in your kitchen, you can make your own creamy sudsy soap, and it won’t smell like food, I promise! Not only will you save money by not buying the fats for your soap, you’ll be reducing waste, and using every part of the animal, which is something that most of us don’t think about in these days when we aren’t raising livestock ourselves and needing to get the highest return back.

You CAN buy clean lard from the grocery store if you want, and make lard soap from it. It will be the same recipe and process. OR when you cook beef and bacon, you can save the drippings in old cans in the fridge until they start to multiply like rabbits, and then you can make soap! It’s way cheaper than spending extra money on oils for your soap. You can mix and match any grease drippings.

This week we are just going to talk about preparing your fat. You don’t want taco seasoning and chunks of crispy bacon bits in your soap! So collect how ever much grease you want to, our first try at soap we had about six cans of grease saved and we made something like 20-25 bars of soap? You only need 2 ounces of lye for a whole pound of fat, so decide what you think you’ll need, and save accordingly. (More on lye next time)

Once you have your fat saved, you need to render it, to clean it up of all the yuck and imperfections. Here’s how you do it:

Put half fat, half water into a big ol’ pot. Bring it to a boil, then remove from heat and add half as much cold water as before cooking. This is just to speed the cooling along. Let cool completely until the fat floats on top and you can scoop it off. You will probably want to do this at least one more time, maybe two. Render your fat before the day that you actually want to make soap, and then store it in the fridge until you’re ready to go!

Next time we’ll talk about lye, soap making safety, and what to use for molds. The third installment will be the soap recipe! Now go cook some bacon so you’re ready for next week! A lot of bacon. Like for your entire neighborhood. Have some sort of bacon cookoff or something. Yummy, and you’ll be ready to make that soap!

The Red Hot Chili Peppers (flakes)

Hello hello! Here today with an easy tutorial on making your own chili pepper flakes or powder! It couldn’t be simpler. Well, it probably COULD be simpler, but I mean, it’s really easy.

So first, you need some dried chilies. I planted a whole bunch of different pepper seeds two springs ago, and I ended up with half a garden full of weird peppers that I had no idea what they were. I had planted some red chili seeds I saved, and from them grew a random assortment of peppers.. it was strange. But anyway, some of them were jalapenos, which we used, some we used green, an a bunch of the red chili looking ones I let sit on a plate until they dried up. You could also a)buy dried chilies, or b) dry your chilies in the oven at a super low temp for a couple hours. Or do it the lazy way, stick them in a corner and ignore them for over a year and a half, until you decide TODAY IS THE DAY! to do something with them.

Dust your chilies off with a paper towel if they’ve been sitting for a year and a half. Then cut off the tops. Because I just let mine dry naturally, I lost a couple to mold over the many months they sat, and as I cut off the tops I found a few had mold inside of them. Then decide on your preferred chopping method. I started with my handy Kitchen Aid chopper, and it didn’t quite get the bits as small as I wanted. So I dumped the (very potent smelling) crumbs into my NutriBullet with the milling blade. You can see the results below.

IMG_20171219_110033_000614[1]

So, as you can see, the milling blade made it ALMOST into chili powder! In fact, had I seeded it, that’s what it would be. Hubbins pointed out that I could have used a morar and pestle, which would have been very traditional I suppose and felt super earthy and totally self-sufficient (I mean, what’s more back-to-basics than using a rock to bash up your home grown peppers?!), but I have had this project on the back burner for waaay too long now, so I did it the fast way. Also he suggested it after I was done. Anyway, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, here’s a side-by-side comparison of store bought and home made pepper flakes!

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You can see that mine is much more powdery, but it has a lovely intense pepper smell and I’m happy with it! I still have tons of pepper seeds saved so I think I’ll try to get a bunch going again this year and maybe sometime in the winter of 2019 I’ll be making more! Also, clean baby food jars make super-cute little spice jars!

Oh. By the way. Probably a good idea to wash your hands after you cut the peppers and not just go fiddle with the computer and then absentmindedly touch your face and mouth. Not from personal experience. Just sayin.

Origami Seed Packets

A few weeks or maybe months back I wrote about saving seeds, and I think I mentioned posting a tutorial on making simple seed packets. Hubbins had discovered the pattern for them and made a couple, and he said he would make me some more. So I waited, and waited, and waited… until yesterday I decide I’d just do it myself. And good gravy, if I had realized that making them takes approximately three seconds each I would have done it weeks or months ago!!! They are really so so SO simple. All you need is some squares of paper.

I happened to find some actual origami paper on clearance for like two bucks, but had I known better I would have just used junk mail or something. Computer paper, seed catalogs, Trader Joes bags.. really anything you have on hand, just cut a square out of it. If you have a rectangle of paper the first step is to fold the square in half, so fold the edge of your rectangle over, making a triangle, and cut off the extra bit at the bottom. Or measure and cut squares to your desired size. The origami paper worked well for small seeds like peppers and green onions, but a larger, thicker paper would be better for beans or other large seeds, or just large quantities. Got your squares? Prepare for the hardest origami ever.

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Can you handle it?? Is it too hard?? I hope not, please don’t be mean to me if it IS too hard, blame my lousy tutorial and google it and you’ll find many many more photo how-tos. Here’s another pic to show how the seeds go in.

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It’s really that easy. Just three simple folds, fill, and you’re done. These little pouches store easily, are reusable and easy to open and close, and if you use recycled paper you’re sticking it to the man and saving the earth simultaneously. Go make a few right now! I’m thinking of lots of other uses, craft items maybe, or little treasure pouches for kids. Maybe fold one out of fabric and hand stitch the edges and make a little coin pouch or something. If I get around to it and remember to do it and actually try some of those ideas I’ll be sure to tell you all about it six months after I said  I would, so look out for that post sometime mid-summer next year!

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Still a little more paring down to do, but look how much neater and tidier my seed stash is!

Why Ma Ingalls was the True Hero, and a Book Review

I love the Little House books. I read them multiple times as a child, and I’ve read them at least two.. three? times as an adult, and I’m thinking about reading them again soon. The main character, of course, is spunky, lovable, impulsive Laura, growing up as a pioneer girl on the prairie. Who doesn’t love reading about when she got her beloved rag doll, or when they brought all the wood in for the blizzard, or her teaching adventures? And of course when mean ol’ Nellie gets her comeuppance, and the love story of Laura and Almanzo.

Now that I’m older, however, it seems to me that the REAL star of the show is Caroline Ingalls, known to Laura as Ma. She was a homemaking superstar! My piddly efforts at self-sufficiency pale in comparison to what she did on a daily basis, and it wasn’t any throw-back, hippie/hipstery/new-age kind of compulsion to reach back to her roots, it was just LIFE, and there wasn’t any other option! Want a new dress? Make it yourself. Want it to be clean? Scrub that sucker with your hands in a tub with soap you made yourself from a pig that your husband slaughtered. And in between the soap making you also boiled the pig’s head and cured all the meat and made sausages and planned how this food would last all winter. Don’t forget you had to keep the fire going at the right temperature to cook everything. And when you were all worn out from the day’s extra labor, you couldn’t call Dominos and throw pizza at your hungry family, you had to go make them dinner too. After washing all the disher, you would finally fall into bed, which was a bed you stuffed with straw yourself, with sheets and quilts you sewed by hand on top, in your nightgown that you also made. Wake up, and do it all again, except today maybe you’re mending all the worn out clothes, making maple syrup, polishing your silver, knitting socks, baking bread, and tending the garden, in between all your other duties. Being a pioneer momma was legit.

So, I was curious to read a Little House book from Caroline’s perspective, and I found it in the book Caroline: Little House, Revisited. It is a novel written from Caroline’s perspective, of the wagon trip and what occurred during the Little House on the Prairie years. What I was hoping to find was a more detailed account of just how much work went into her everyday life. Instead, it’s kind of an emotional journey through her mind. I must say, I didn’t really like it. It seemed to me that from the authors perspective, Caroline was angry and irritated, like, all the time. Grumpy and jealous when Charles gets to go roam around in the rain, and then slightly haughty when he gets cold, wet, and disappointed. But then she spends all this time with internal struggles of being mad vs. not feeling entitled to be mad.. and there’s a lot of things like feelings of anger.. in her elbows? Or something like that. And a lot of breathing in and bitter thoughts and like a whole chapter of them stuck in the mud for a week. Basically, it’s kinda boring. And it paints her as  a reserved, strict, serious, mostly no-fun sort of Ma. There were a few insightful things, like that she had to wear a corset ALL. THE. TIME. She even had maternity corsets and nursing corsets. She took them off to sleep, but miles and miles riding in a wagon in a steel-boned corset sounds awful. It emphasizes her tidy and strong sewing skills, her love for her children, and it does show some of her housekeeping skills, with a gruesome bit about tanning hides with some brain mush goo that grossed me out pretty bad.

But I like the version of Ma that the Little House books tell better. She was busy and industrious, and taught her girls to be the same. Sure, she was more serious than Pa, making sure everyone was polite and proper, even when they were in the middle of nowhere. She made sure her girls had an education, and she kept everyone in line. But she still made time for fun, letting them cook little cakes themselves, making paper dolls, letting them etch in the frost on the windows. She danced, she sang, and she kept a tidy house. She was strong, and helped hoist logs up to build the cabin. She fought a prairie fire. She sewed beautiful clothes, and made sure her girls were fashionable even when they didn’t have much. My image of Ma is a loving, hard-working, strong woman who was proud to be a good wife, mother, and home-maker. And that’s the kind of Ma I’d like to be. So I’m going to re-read the Little House series again, and bring back the old image of Ma I had before. And if you’d like to do the same, here’s a set of the books. I think they’re a worthy read for anyone wanting to be a better Ma. Now I should probably go sew myself a couple rags and knit lace for my second-best dress, while making bread, boiling beans, churning butter, all the while wearing a corset.