Sunday, October 12, 2008

How the Prairie Kicked My Ass

I'm back from my Pioneer weekend and have lots to tell.

Some parts were really really awesome. Some parts were, well, not....

We arrived Friday afternoon and fitted into outfits. Mind you, I had 4 layers which will explain why I look 30lbs heavier in the pictures than I do in real life. I churned butter and washed butter and baked cornbread in hot coals in a dutch oven.. We roped the bed Will stuffed the straw ticks and sewed them up. He also learned how to take care of the animals. I did the dishes in dishpans and learned that I must always keep the fire going with these little logs split for this purpose that burn in about 20 minutes. While I was working on something, I was ALWAYS keeping the fire going. We made up the bed. We finally ate a wonderful supper of pumpkin apple soup (which was made for us before we got there) and cornbread and butter. We were shown around the cabin and then our pioneer guide left us. We got to use the bathrooms up in first aid so we had 2 nighttime walks. The sky was clear and the moon was bright and we walked using a candle lantern. The village was gorgeous in starlight. I read by that candle lantern in front of the fire and went to bed.

Sleeping on the straw tick was not as bad as one would think but the bed was REALLY SMALL. It was a nice evening so we were not cold with all the blankets that we had and the fire (That I must always keep burning).

Morning dawned and we walked up to the bathroom. This was the best part for me. When we walked into the village we were in our outfits in the midst of all the historic buildings and it was beautiful and quiet. I turned and looked over my shoulder and could see the sun rising over the fields. I wish I had a camera but I won't ever forget that scene. For those minutes I WAS back in time. The square was full of fall color trees and everything was perfect. I was in my dream. It was really happy for me.

I made cornmeal mush for breakfast (and kept the fire going) that we ate with my butter and some maple syrup. Will took care of the animals-He even fed these ENORMOUS Oxen. I cleaned up the breakfast dishes. I kept the fire going. I went to pick vegetables in the different gardens around town. Will built a split rail fence.

When I came back our Pioneer guide had arrived. She brought a surprise. Her son had killed 2 squirrels that morning for us to SKIN AND EAT............. I backed away..... Will stepped up and skinned and disemboweled a squirrel. (for those of you who do not know my husband, this is NOT normal behavior for him) Those little rodents were washed and set in a bowl on MY TABLE IN SALT WATER WHERE THEY SAT ALL DAY WHILE I COOKED.

This is where is started to get harry. A pioneer woman, I learned, spends her entire life cooking over an open hearth and keeping the fire going. All of this while she tends to the children (luckily I did not have to do that) washes these enormous heavy pots and carries a lot of water with a yoke when her husband is off doing something . Trust me, it takes a lot of water to make a meal. It is very smoky in the cabin. (So smoky that when I cleaned my ears out later I had SOOT IN MY EARS) There were so many flies all over the food (and those soaking squirrels). I made a twirling pork roast (The squirrels were for Sunday-They were for me to FRY!!!! ) Rye and Injun bread, Mashed root vegetables and glazed carrots with herbs for the dinner (lunch) meal. It was really hot in all of the clothes. We had A LOT of visitors. Students and friends and family (My parents brought our daughter) along with the regular visitors. All of them wanted to know what I was doing/how I was doing. How did we sleep, etc, I was really excited to show them. I fell behind on the dinner prep. WAY behind. It takes A LONG time to make 4 things over one fire and let me tell you, it took me all day. When we were finally ready to eat Will was nowhere to be found. He was driving oxen around the village and bringing back a load of manure for the garden. All I had eaten was a bowl of cornmeal mush at 7 and a contraband banana from Kristin and Michael. We didn't eat until 3pm. By that time I was very hot and very tired and very hungry. I was also feeling very sick from the heat and smoke. I ate because I knew I had to. A little while later I threw up. I threw up for the next 4 hours in First Aid. It was rather embarrassing getting sick in front of museum goers and staff members.

There was a barn dance with musicians and real dancers and gaslight lanterns. I even got a pretty dress to wear because I got sick on the old one. I missed it all. :-(

The entire time I was in first aid my head was spinning and I couldn't get those squirrels out of my head (to the squirrels credit, many of the people who visited the cabin that day told me squirrel was really quite tasty. I do also realize that many people do eat squirrel. It is just not something I've ever considered eating and I was really having an issue with it)

We came home after the barn dance. I slept for 12 hours. We missed the entire day today.

I'm sad that it happened like that. I have not been this excited about something since giving birth. (I kid you not.) I would have really liked to experience the whole thing.

My friends who came back for the dance had a great time which I am grateful for as I was not there with them.

I learned a great deal which I will share over the next few days. The amount of information that our pioneer guide had was absolutely amazing-She was enthralling and can DO all of the pioneer activities that I was supposed to. She's the real deal! The people at the museum were great and even offered to let us come back next year for the whole experience.

Don't think I had a bad time. I had an awesome time. I learned a TON. I have A LOT of perspective. I got to do something most people never get to. It one of the most interesting things I've ever done. I just wish it didn't end so quickly. My husband had a GREAT time. A much better time than he imagined he would. He wished it didn't end so quickly.

At least now I know if the end of the world comes we can eat (or at least skin) the rodents in the back yard. My husband actually BROUGHT home the 2 squirrels and they now sit in my freezer.


Karley Ziegler Mott said...

Oh my gosh, I could NOT have handled the squirrel event. I am almost a total vegetarian, though, and I only eat meat once a month or so. That must've been really hard to have a SQUIRREL in your bowl! Yuck!

I give you so much credit for doing this weekend--I know I couldn't do it, but I don't even like to camp!

I'm sorry you missed your day yesterday--but it sounds like you had a very tiring day!

Christine said...

Thanks Karley!

It WAS tiring.

The squirrels were a real problem for me. It was really unexpected. I thought that we would need to pluck a chicken or something. Chicken is something I've of course, eaten so that didn't seem like a huge deal. I've never even considered eating squirrel nor do I personally know anyone who has.

Now I did tell them we were up to trying anything. Since squirrel was not even on my radar as something edible it did not occur to me that I was signing up to eat rodents!!!

Krista said...

That sounds like so much fun... until the getting sick part.

We had friends in Michigan who ate squirrel pretty regularly and swore that it tasted like chicken. I took their word for it. :o)

I hope you are feeling better.

pedalpower said...

Aww, I'm sorry you got sick. But it sounds like you learned so much and had a great experience! I often think of how hard people had to work to do things that are simple for us today. Just laundry must have been a huge job...makes me thankful for my washer and dryer and ready made soap!

My son and husband have brought squirrel home....I tell them don't bring them unless you are going to cook them. Squirrel is not in my list of things I want to make.

Karley Ziegler Mott said...

Christine--You could come up with a blog post recipes for new squirrel cuisine..

Christine said...

See now THAT is thinking Karley! Squirrel is FREE!! That would make a cheap meal!

The Fine Art of Motherhood said...

Love the picture of the 3 of you! That came out great!!

Simple Blog Writer said...

Wow, this is a great post. What an experience! I'm very impressed.

I would like to try something like this, but the squirrel would be a deal-breaker for me, too.

Makes the saying, "Keep the home fires burning" seem like big burden rather than an endearment.

Christine said...

"Keeping the home fires burning" WAS a burden! We went through a lot of wood and my husband had to keep bringing it in. He didn't have to split it because someone else had already done enough for the rest of the museum season. But that was one more thing a pioneer family would have had to have done that would be totally exhausting.

When we first got home I said I was not doing it again. But given a few days of reflection, I just might!

Maria said...

Christine, I loved reading about your experience. Wow -- you are a strong woman! I am sorry you got sick. I know you were really looking forward to the experience. Maybe you can tell us more about it at MOPS?

Christine said...

Thanks Maria!

I would love to tell you all about it!

Teamcarbone said...

Sorry I’m late at posting but I don’t how but I missed this post when it first came out...well I'm glad you're feeling better but let me say I wasn't too surprised to hear you had gotten ill those all those flies hanging around. Yikes.

I think you should go back next year. Just think you'll be all the wiser the second time around. Just keep thinking about how amazing that Saturday morning was and I think it will get your through.

I also want to say that we enjoyed our visit and I look forward to taking my LO back when she's a bit older.

Prairie Rose said...

This is so interesting, I can't wait to hear more! Do you think you got sick BECAUSE of the experience, or it was just coincidentally bad timing?

Christine said...

Prairie Rose,

I know myself and I'm pretty sure it was the heat and not eating all day.I got such a bad headache. Also, I pretty much need come protein sometime before 3pm so I think I was just feeling so bad and by the time I ate I was too far gone. I couldn't even eat crackers after that!

Of all the things that I thought would happen that weekend-Getting sick was not one of them.

Christine said...

Thanks Kristin,

We so appreciated the friends and family that came to see us. It was a really special thing for us and it was so nice to have the support!

And I appreciated the banana!

I keep wavering, one day I think "Yeah I'll do that again." other times I think I'll enjoy it as a visitor!

It was (obviously) harder than I thought it was. I should have had Michael carry the water that last time!

Unknown said...

Nevermind the squirrels. The flies would have been the deal breaker for me--I can't imagine that squirrels sitting out unrefrigerated in water for two days wouldn't give you a case of food poisoning to rival how sick you already were.

You poor thing! I'm so proud of you for doing it though, I can live vicariously through you. Soot in your ears... man.

Christine said...

Yes the flies!

It was funny because when Will and I were driving home that night (Me with a large coffee can on my lap!) he mentioned "Oh, they packed up all the food you cooked today for you" Like THAT was some kind of favor. I told him "Do you realized I've watched flies crawl all over that food all day long? THROW IT AWAY AND DON'T MENTION IT AGAIN!!!"

I mentioned that there were about 50 flies in the cabin in front of someone who came to see me. They said that was a VERY conservative estimate and it was probably double that.

All I know was there were flies EVERYWHERE. At night we did have a fly strip but they won't let you have that during the day. And really-it was so dark at night, who could tell where the flies were....