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Journey Into History with The Modern Pioneer Family

Sometime in April or May (date is still T.B.D.) our family will be traveling to my hometown in Missouri to attend my younger brother’s wedding.

Why you say is this of significance to this blog (I mean other than it is the wedding of a family member and thus an important family even to welcome a new sister-by-marriage and a new auntie to our family)?  Well, let us consider then that my “hometown” in my youth was Independence, Missouri and that I was born in Oregon City, Oregon.

Independence, Missouri holds an important place in the history of the United States of America.  It was the hometown of our President, Harry S. Truman and it is also the city from which most of our Nation’s expansion toward the Pacific Coast began.  Independence, Missouri is starting place of the 4 major traveling routes into the West:  The Santa Fe Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail and the Oregon Trail (not listed in historical order on purpose.)

We have noticed some huge holes in our children’s study of American History at their local school.  Thus my husband and I have decided to put together for a history lesson project a unit study of  The Oregon Trail  for our family, in order to turn what would ordinarily be a mini-vacation to just attend a family event into an educational field trip for the children.  This is part of our efforts to “after-school” the children to augment what is turning out to be a lack-luster public school education.  To this end I visited out local lending library and checked out some books on this topic and am now working on preparing a lesson plan to outline our study of this subject.


Here is a list of just some of the resources we’ve found relating directly to the Oregon Trail and to the Pioneer Period of U.S. History in general:

1. Pathways of America ” The Oregon Trail” by Lynda Hatch

2. How I Survived the Oregon Trail (The Journal of Jesse Adams) by Laura Wilson

3. The Oregon Trail- Let Freedom Ring

4. If You Were a Pioneer on the Prairie by Anne Kamma

5.  The American Frontier by Melanine Ann Apel

6. Black Frontiers (A History of African American Heroes In the Old West) by Lillian Schlissel

7. Cornerstones of Freedom “The Oregon Trail” by R. Conrad Stein

8. Homesteading on the Plains (Daily Life in the Land of Laura Ingalls Wilder)

9. Pioneering Women of the Wild West by Jeff Savage

10. Discovering Geography of North America with Books Kids Love by Carol J. Fuhler

11.  Pioneers (An Activity Book) by John Artman

12. Cowboys (An Activity Book) by John Artman

13. Indians (An Activity Book) by John Artman

While studying the history topic of the Oregon Trail; we will also involve Reading & Literature, Spelling, Arithmetic, Geography, Science and Music and then conclude our unit with a memorable field trip to historical sites in Independence, MO and nearby towns for some hands-on-learning.


National Cub-Scouting Week

Today marks the end of National Cub-Scouting Week, so I thought I would dedicate my post today to our 2 young Cub-scouts and their accomplishments.homeimprovement 031

Unfortunately, it’s been a couple months since they have attended meetings, between weather issues, meetings that were canceled by their den leaders for various reasons and somebody at home being sick with some sort of illness almost constantly since before Christmas.

But, back in November at our Pack Meeting, Charles participated in the Flag Ceremony and did a very good job of it.  At this meeting, both Charles and Henry also earned their Bobcat Badges… the first of many to come.homeimprovement 036

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Henry’s Tiger Den made their $200/scout quota for selling popcorn.  Charles’ Bear Den exceeded the $200/scout quota and averaged about $350/scout.  Charles was a great little salesman and earned $358 in popcorn sales for the Pack.  Both of them did AWESOME!

Both Henry and Charles have been working hard on their bowling skills with their Grandpa Bill in order to earn their belt loop awards for the sport of bowling.

It’s Been a Long Time (Since Last Year’s Garden)

Wow, it has been far too long since I’ve made a new posting.  All of the computers in the house were broken for several months and our library (20 miles away) has a 30 minutes time limit per patron/per visit for internet usage. Unfortunately our twice a month trip to the library was barely enough computer-time to delete all the junk email from my inbox.

So, I deeply apologize for being completely out of touch for approx. 2 months or so there.

We’ve had a rather mild winter here in South Dakota once again. And I am wondering if we will have another drought summer with lots of grass- hoppers as we did last summer.  (However, our tomatoes and peppers really seemed to enjoy the hot summer weather last year.)  I say lots of grasshoppers, but of course it was NOTHING like the nearly Biblical Plague of Grasshoppers that Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in her book, On the Banks of Plum Creek… I can certainly be thankful for that.

We’ve started a few vegetable plants indoors already in our windowsills. Lettuce, Herbs and a few cherry-type tomatoes, all of which make good container garden plants. Toward the end of this month we will be getting the indoor mini greenhouse out of storage and setting up our grow lights and really getting busy starting our heirloom vegetable and flower transplants so they will be ready to set out in the garden this spring.

Varieties We plan to Grow in 2013: (Not a complete list, but a nice start of one.)

Beans: Gold Marie Vining (wax type pole bean), Royal Purple Pole, and Chinese Long Bean

Broccoli: Purple Sprouting and Romanesco

Carrots: Amarillo (yellow), Atomic Red (red), Cosmic Purple (purple), Snow White (white), plus an heirloom orange carrot

Cabbage: Red Express

Cauliflower: Cheddar, and both a green and a purple variety.

Celery: Red Re-Selection

Cucumbers: Dragon’s Egg, Boston Pickling, Uzebeski

Eggplant: Ping tung (very sweet elongated variety)

Popcorn: (the only corn we will grow this year) Dakota Black

Peppers: Lipstick, Chocolate Bell, Orange Bell, Yellow Bell, Red Bell, Green Bell, Mini Bell, Anaheim, Santa Fe, and Sweet Banana.

Pumpkins: Red Warty Thing, Cinderella, the pumpkin that looks like it’s covered in peanuts and a blue pie pumpkin that my grandmother always grew in Oregon.

Tomatoes: Black Prince (which we loved last year),  Black Icicle, Orange Icicle, Green Zebra, Chocolate Cherry, Yellow Pear (which come up wild here every summer), Pink Caspian and Nature’s Riddle to name a few.

*Traditional garden center hybrids like Better Boy and Early Girl have never really done well for us here on this farm, but many of the heirlooms we’ve tried have done very nicely on our farm here.  One notable exception to that was the “Mr. Stripey” plant I bought last year at the local big box store… it was the weirdest tomato plant I have every grown… huge plant with weird fuzzy leaves, lots of blossoms… but it never produced a single tomato fruit  despite plenty of bees and other pollinators(I am sure that other people do fabulously with this variety… it just never did anything for us, making me wonder if it’s not adapted to the Southern US or something?)

We’ll probably grown a dozen or two others, but I can’t remember them all off the top of my head.

A Holiday Craft Re-Post

Today I am re-posting a craft project idea, an Ornament How-to for the Christmas Season that was written by one of my dearest friends and fellow blogger.

As I’ve mentioned before, Aimee is a Home-schooling Christian mother and she is full of great ideas for Christmas gifts and decor on a tight budget.

The recipe included is not gluten free, but I will look for one that I can add to this later.

DECEMBER 9, 2010 · 8:06 PM

Salt Dough Again

The boys and I made salt dough ornaments again today; and things went much better.

It has been very dry here, the humidity in the house dipping below 40%; so I have been boiling a stock pot of in the kitchen for hours at a time to try to combat the dry skin, static and other effects of low humidity like the struggles we have been having with out salt-dough (the bread I made over the weekend was pretty bad too).  Today’s dough worked much better than the last 3 times I have made it this season, so maybe the boiling water helped the humidity in the kitchen enough?  I’ll be doing it next time too, just in case it is the key.

The recipe I used today:

  • 1.25 cup HOT water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 cups flour

I started with the cup of salt and the 1.24 cups of HOT water and spent a good 3 or 4 minutes quickly stirring the mix to dissolve the salt as much as possible before the flour.  The salt did not dissolve 100% of the way for me though.

As I kneaded the dough I still had to add more water – but by bit – but I got DOUGH.  I suspect in total it ended up being 1.5 cups of water or even a little more, but that last part I add so “little by little” I can’t be sure.  This time the dough rolled out nicely too, such a pleasant change.  I was able to get the dough rolled out thin, thinner than the other 2 batches we’ve made.  (2 batches of “cookies” made, one attempt at dough thrown out).

We work on flexible plastic cutting boards.  I love them.  They define a space for each person; especially the boys.  They also move an entire project if I need to slide the boys part (they do tend to drift into each other, must be my boys).  Also if I need one of the boys to “hand me” their project, they can slid me their entire cutting “board”’ like when I help Big Brother roll the dough and he does the rest.  The flexible cutting boards protect my counter from the cookie cutters and other tools; and they make clean up easier since I can simply pick up a good part of the work space and dump it in the sink.  Salt dough can be a very messy project, even for adults alone, and any help in the clean up department is always welcome.

The boys had a great time.  Big Brother worked and worked on his dough, in his space.  He really made an effort at rolling out the dough nicely, though he really struggles at it; rolling the rolling pin AND applying pressure at the same time is more than he can do, but he is only 5.  After Little Brother and I finished our’s I helped Big by rolling his dough out for him, so he could just use the cookie cutters and then transfer the shapes to his pan.  However, he worked at least 25 minutes independently and really made a good effort, did not get frustrated or give up.  I love to watch him.  For Little Brother I roll the dough and let him place the cookie cutters, and then I help push them down “hard”. Little brother then picks up the cookie cutters and I pull the extra dough off and transfer the shapes to the cookie pan.

Momma puts the holes in the ornaments and puts them in the over. 

I set the oven at 170 (the lowest it goes) and just let them dry.  After the first 30 minutes I flip them over and then I just leave them.  Today we put 28 of them in the oven.

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2 Responses to Salt Dough Again

  1. Wow! This is great stuff!
    “If people were concerned about what really matters in life,
    there would be a shortage of craft supplies in the stores!

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A Lifelong Study of Citizenship

The Modern Pioneer Farmer Boys are embarking on a new and exciting adventure into learning about Citizenship, Friendship, Leadership and Growing from Boyhood into Manhood.   Along the way they will learn many skills that are just plain fun… like camping, hiking, fishing and how to whittle (eventually).  Of course I am talking about Cub Scouts and later on, as they get older, Boy Scouts.

The Farmer Boys’ Cub Scout uniforms arrived this afternoon via the UPS’ brown delivery truck, about an hour before the younger one arrived home from school.  Henry couldn’t wait to try it on!  About an hour later, his big brother arrived home and was so excitedly jumping around I thought the family pictures were going to bounce right off the baker’s rack in the dining room.  We finally slowed him down enough to try his on as well.  (FYI… these Cub Scout shirts run a little small and are about 60 or 65% cotton, so if in doubt, order the next size up, they’ll eventually grow into it.  The come with the embroidered Boy Scouts logo and a patch of the US Flag (or I assume a Canadian or other flag for scouts outside the US.)

Henry went to his first Tiger Den meeting 2 weeks ago tomorrow.  Both boys attended the local Cub Scout Pack Meeting on Monday night and found out all about the Boy Scouts’ Popcorn Fundraiser, Grandpa attend with us, since Pa had to work very late and we have to Cub Scouts to keep an eye on.  Charles’ Bear’s Den meeting that was to be held this evening was rescheduled for next Thursday, due to several of the other boys being ill or having other activities (he was slightly disappointed, but agreed we probably should wait, so as not to trade germs as little boys usually do.)  The Popcorn Fundraiser began tonight and grandma drove us to town to pick up their popcorn starter packs. (My “modern covered wagon”  aka my little green Kia Sportage is at the mechanic for a tune-up, since Pa has been having to put in so many hours at his town job, training new employees who work the late night shift.)  Each boy needs to sell at least $300 worth of popcorn (with strong encouragement to set even higher goals).  Our Bear’s Den has 6 boys in it (group goal of $1800) and our Tiger’s Den is twice that size with 12 boys in it (goal of $3000… WOW!)

On a somewhat oddly-related note:

I was reading an article today regarding the decline in reading skills and literacy among males in the United States.  The statistics quoted in the article showed a steady, but alarming decline in both the interest and ability to read among American Boys as compared to their female classmates and sisters.  Our country has been in the cultural pattern of infantiling it’s young males for almost as long as I’ve been alive and developed an educational system that very strongly favors girls… sad, but true.  It got me thinking and wondering just how closely this educational decline in boys, overlaps not only with the advent and rise in popularity of video gaming, computer gaming, cell phones and other electronic gadgets and the “sports groupie parents'” quest to produce the next Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth… but also in the declining numbers of young boys joining in Boy Scout’s activities, 4-H and other activity groups that teach kids wisdom, resourcefulness, honor, obedience, effort, diligence and responsibility like Awanas, Girl Scouts, Campfire Kids etc… I am wondering if those declining scouts statistics would very closely match this  educational decline in our boys???

The 1st of the Long Awaited D.I.Y. Projects

Well, my friends, I hope this month of September is finding you all healthy, happy and busily harvesting if you had a garden this summer.

I had hoped to get busy on this series of posts of some D.I.Y. projects months ago, but as many of you know it has been a totally crazy-busy summer and not all of it in a good way… but I shall navigate my way away from that particular topic before I get on my soapbox and start preaching once again on the ills of the Nanny-State.  I haven’t had much opportunity this season to be on the computer, particularly after “my brain” PINKIE (my pink laptop) died in early August.  This is the 2nd hard-drive and fan that I will have to have replaced in my laptop, since purchasing it in Sept. 2009 (does not include the cd-rom that went out on it or the power jack that broke… far too many repairs for a 3 year old computer in my opinion)… so anyway, it awaits repairs until they can be afforded and for now I am using the netbook that I bought last winter to do my taxes while waiting for the power jack to get fixed (took 2 months for the repair shop to get the right part, since the manufacturer sent a dud the first time)… netbook is primarily used by the kids for research and play.  The netbook is slower, but it’s been a good little computer.  Lesson Learned: Don’t buy a computer because you like the color!

DIY Project #1

Staining Unfinished Wood Furniture

This type of project is great if you want to save a little money and like quality wood furnishings for your home.  This idea is also fabulous if your personal tastes run toward the unusual, unique or funky!

If you are lucky to have a shop that carries unfinished wood furniture nearby and find yourself in the market for a new desk, an entertainment center or some other wooden object for your home or office, do yourself, your pocketbook and a local business a big favor… stop by and see for yourself the unfinished gems these businesses have to offer.  If you don’t have such a shop locally or within reasonable driving distance, check online and order some mail-order catalogs.

We have a local shop that sells unfinished furniture and refurbished pre-loved furniture  in Mitchell, SD (about 35 miles from us one-way).  We love to stop in there on occassion (usually a Saturday we are in town already for an excursion to the lumberyard/home center or to the fabric store)… many times we just window-shop… other times we find a piece tha we fall in love with.  Over the years we’ve purchased a pair of pre-loved wingback chairs, a loveseat, a dresser for the baby and an unfinished wood entertainment center designed to fit into a corner.

Love the entertainment center as we did, it sat in the basement for several years before we got around to working on it.  There were several debates over “how we should finish it” that had to ironed out during that time and even the kids weighed in with their individual opinions on the matter.  Pioneer Pa loves “wood” (as in traditional stained wood finishes)… he is fond of saying “If it’s wood, it’s good!”  My answer to that is that the entertainment center is already made of wood and plain old brown wood is rather boring and lacking in personality.  I love painted wood furniture, painted to look like furnishings from an 18th or 19th century farmhouse.  I also love to infuse my love of color into my home.  In Farmer Boy Charles’ opinion, the entertainment center should be green and yellow and John Deere all over.  Henry said it should be red, white and blue… and painted like the American Flag (could have been cute, but was not going to go with anything else in the room.)  As green is a favorite color of mine and several of the chairs in our living room were already green, green also going nicely with our wall color (a faux finish with an orange-peach basecoat white washed with a nearly white “peach” glaze), the pecan colored wood bookshelf and the autumn oak colored hardwood patterned vinyl flooring, we decided to go partially with Charles’ suggestion of a bright green and compromised on the stain vs. paint debate by choosing a tintable Minwax water-based stain in “Northern Ivy”.

Supplies Needed for this Do-It-Yourself Project:

Unfinished Wood Furniture (or old funiture that has been sanded for refinishing)

1 qt. Minwax Water-based woodstain in your choice of color

Minwax Spray-on or paint-on water-based Poly-acrylic wood finish in your choice of satin, semi-gloss or gloss finsh to seal the wood after staining

Minwax Water-based Wood Conditioner (optional, highly reccommended if you are working with a softer wood such as pine)

Sand paper (in fine and extra fine grits)

Screwdriver (choose one that matches the type of screws on your furniture piece)

Tack-cloth or a barely damp cotton cloth

Painters rags

vinyl gloves

Newspaper or drop cloth

Old clothes and shoes you don’t mind staining

Step-by-step Instructions

1. Using the appropriate type of screwdriver, remove all hinges, knobs, latches and other hardware from your furniture piece.  I like using a plastic zipper bag to store the hardware (if you want to purchase new drawer pulls, knobs etc. you can to achieve the desired look.)

2.  If you are using the water-based wood conditioner, apply it to your furniture piece according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label.  If you are not using the wood conditioner, skip to step #3.

3.  Lightly sand your piece to remove any “raised grain” in the wood surface along with dents, scratches or other imperfections (unless you love the distressed look then you can feel free to leave some of the flaws in your furniture item), including the wooden portions of all drawers, doors and shelves.

4. Using a tack-cloth or lightly dampened rag, remove all the sanding dust, you can use a vaccum cleaner attachment to remove dust in grooves, molding/carving or other difficult places if needed.

5. If you used a damp cloth, allow several hours for any moisture to dry before proceeding.

6. Stir your stain well, particularly if it has been sitting for any length of time.  Put on vinyl gloves to protect your hands and nails… stain… well… it stains. I didn’t bother with the gloves for this project and looked like a green handed monster for almost a week. You may also wish to use an old shirt and jeans (do NOT wear good clothes for this project), old shoes and possibly your husband’s old BBQ apron.  Also protect your work surface with newspaper or a drop cloth.

7. Open the can of stain and using a painters rag, test it in an inconspicuous area (like the underneath side of a drawer or the bottom of the piece) to make sure you love the color you choose (different woods will yield slightly different results with the same stain due to the natural wood color and wood grain of various species of wood).  If you don’t like it, stop here and choose another color… I know that’s another trip to the hardware store… but you want to love this thing you are making for 20 or 50 years, right?

8.  If you are please with your color choice, proceed as follows…

9.  Using  painters rags, wipe on stain in approximately 18″ x 18″ sections then wiping off excess stain with a clean painters rag.

10. Repeat step # 9 until you have stained the whole piece.

11.Allow stain to dry for several days.

12. Lightly sand any rough feeling areas where the wood grain may have raised with fine grit sandpaper.  If you like a distressed look, you can also lightly sand any corners and edges to give a lightly worn appearance.

13. Using a tack cloth, remove sanding dust.

14. Apply 3 coats of spray-on or paint-on Poly-Acrylic finish in your choice of finish, allowing finish to dry and then sanding lightly with extra-fine sandpaper between the coats and removing any dust with a tack cloth.

15. Allow your project to thoroughly dry for several days.

16. Reattach all of the hardware.

17. Find a buddy to help you move the piece and place it in your room where youd like it to be.

Back to School

Wanted to update all our following friends.  Farmer Boy Henry and our Littlest Pioneer Girl Anna came home for trial reunification a week ago and it has been an eventful week.

We went out last Friday night for chinese food as an extended family, with Grandma and Grandpa Tripp and my 2nd youngest brother, whom the children call, Uncle Jake.  This was a rare treat, in celebration of our 2 youngest’s homecoming.

Sunday we went to church twice.  Morning services/Sunday school at James River Church in Huron, where my parents attend, and also several good friends of our family as well, including our veterinarian and his family.  Henry particularly enjoyed Sunday School and made friends with a little girl who goes to church there and is also in his 1st grade class.  Then in the afternoon we attended service in DeSmet with our Parish at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in DeSmet, SD.

Monday, we had a review hearing (at which they just set another review hearing in 90 days.)  Grandma babysat Anna for a couple hours for that.  Then off to run several errands because we had to leave at 4:30 am Tues. morning for Rapid City, SD… like getting gas $ together, fueling up my car, going to the car wash to wash and vaccum the car, packing snacks, drinks and diaper bag for the trip etc.

Due to the scheduling of when the children returned home, Henry missed the first 2 days of school.  Thus we had him stay overnight Monday and Tuesday nights so his grandparents could get him to school and from Tuesday and then to school again Wednesday morning,because of our trip to the Black Hills.  He lost one of his baby teeth Tues. and was visited by the toothfairy.

Tuesday we left home super early (unless you keep dairy farmer hours) to drive to the Black Hills for Farmer Boy Charles’ 90-day treatment review meeting.  It was a long trip, particularly for Anna, but she was ecstatic to get to play one-on-one with her oldest brother, Charles.  Other than the Black Hills Children’s Home having some technical difficulties with their phone-line, the meeting went well enough. Charles has moved up from  “late kindergarten” to “early 1st grade” in his reading level.  We are happy that they are making progress where he is right now educationally, but still wondering what in the world our former local school at Iroquois was doing with him in that 5 years they had him there???  If the Children’s home made this much progress in 3 months with him, we have to question and wonder exactly what his former school did with him 8 1/2 hours a day, since they didn’t do much about teaching him to read or do math?

*All American parents really should be keeping a close monitor on what their kids are being taught in public schools, and when there is a problem, try to solve the question of WHY and HOW DO WE FIX THIS PROBLEM.  If only 1/3 of the 8th graders in your state can read and do math adequetly (do NOT confuse this with reading or doing math well) and 2/3’s of 8th grade students are well below grade level in the 2 core subjects that are pretty much required to do all other subjects (except  P.E. and perhaps Music or Art).  We have looked up our state’s results at the State Dept of Ed. and found the statistics above on their own website under the “State’s Report Card” (state-wide scores on the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Test which all 4th and 8th graders in the USA are required to take. Conversely, Special Ed and ESL students actually scored far above their typical classmates in my state, we found that strange.)  Pa and I are very deeply concerned by these statistics, considering our public school experiences with our son Charles.  By these statistics, only 1 of our 3 children will learn to read adequetly… that means 2 of the 3 will either barely learn to read or won’t be able to read at all unless we as parents interven and do a great deal of teaching in the home… but then, I have to wonder WHY we as citizens of this country are paying so much in taxes to fund our public schools when they are not doing the job the citizens are paying them to do?  Here’s a clue, it’s not for lack of funds.   I will be taking a deeper look at this issue in a future post.  If you are curious though about how your state is doing, visit your own State’s Dept of Ed and find out.  Looking at my own states’ schools and populatation, I’d say we are probably fairly average in every way… not much in the way of big inner-city districts… likely a good cross-section of what is actually happening on a nation-wide level… some states are doing much worse and some are doing a significantly better job.

** In our home we will definitely be doing some “after-schooling/weekend-schooling” and a lot of summer schooling in the coming years.  Especially as Charles needs more structure than most typically functioning children and his siblings can reap many benefits from it as well.  Charles has been studying the Lakota language in his current educational placement and desires to coninue that when he comes home.  We are very pleased with this desire to become bilingual and shall be fostering thatas an entire family in the future.  We are hopeful that the children will eventually desire to learn another foreign language as well.  We shall also be providing instruction in Biblical Studies, Geography/History, Phonics, Cursive Hand-Writing, Home Economics and Agribusiness.

Narcissa was very happy to see “her boy” for several hours, and very upset when we had to leave for home.  She did get to have a bit of extra fun though, while we were there.  As we were leaving, several free-ranging cows got on the Children’s Home’s property.  She and I got to help herd them to a gate and get them turned out.

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