|Steam paddle boat on the Mississippi near Winona.|
The last couple of months I have been reading to our children the “Little House” series, “Little House On the Prairie,” and now the “Little House in the Woods.” The author is Laura Ingalls Wilder who lived and wrote about her life as a little girl in several states while growing up in the 1800s. The book “Little House in the Woods” takes place not to far from here in Pepin, Wisconsin. It is about a 40-minute drive from Winona. Yesterday we ate at Nelson, Wisconsin just south of Pepin. As we sat outside the Nelson Creamery (restaurant), which is about 8 miles from Pepin, my thoughts went back to the time that Laura grew up in this area. What beautiful scenery she must have enjoyed while living here. The outdoors was wilder than it is today, and now it has few bears and no panthers as she called them, but the woods are still teaming with snakes, deer, wild turkey and smaller game. As I read about her everyday life back in the late 1800s, I see how far technology has taken us since then. Yet, our ways of life have changed us in so many different respects, which makes it difficult at times, to understand Laura’s life and all the challenges that she went through. Now we have the modern conveniences of electricity (not candles,) and roads made of pavement rather than dirt paths that Laura’s father’s wagon went through. Cash was almost unheard then, whereas barter was common during those days. Laura’s dad would bring in a winter’s cache of furs to trade for food and clothing supplies for his family, not to speak of the seed for next year’s crop of wheat for his horses and cattle.
|Buck in our meadow in the autumn.|
Today we rush to the grocery store for our sustenance, as well as the hardware stores for the needed things for home and garden, or farm. During Laura’s time period, her father and brothers would get together to butcher their livestock once a year and salt it away, and/or smoke the meat for later winter food. During those days, many would store their meat in the granary to keep it cool, and away from predators that might consume it before the family could eat it. Today we have refrigerators and freezers to store our perishables and we don’t have to smoke or salt for our meat to keep it fresh. I must admit though that one of my neighbors has a meat smoker. I would love to see him at work and learn his skills.
|Pickwick Mill, ground flour during Laura's day |
and still makes flour today.
During Laura’s day they had to store garden produce in the attic where it was dry. They would spread the squash, pumpkins, peppers out, or hang them from the rafters for later use. Sugar was held at a premium during her day as well. White sugar was very expensive and used only for company when they could afford it. In many cases, they would make sugar from the maple syrup that they gathered from the maple trees nearby. In each situation, Laura would describe the process when they made something from scratch; to me it was very intriguing. We have lost much in our modern day lifestyles, Laura’s way of life was simple, but it brought the families together in the chores that they did during their regular day. It makes me think, have we progressed with all our conveniences today, or have we perhaps taken a step backwards? Families were close in Laura’s time, are they today? It makes me think, “Do we have the quality of life that they had then?” Their daily lives were very hard and they did not have the medicines that we have today, but even though they might have lived shorter lives, did their existence hold more meaning than ours today? Did they love deeper then? If so, could it have been due to the closeness of there lives one to another? What was it about that lifestyle which compels so many today to want to return to those times? It certainly was not simpler, life was hard, but was it full of more life than what we experience today? Questions to think about, pray about.