Little House on the Prairie: Week Six

I can’t believe we’re at the end of week 6, with only four more weeks to go.  So much to do, so little time in which to do it!  We have definitely upped the gear this week as there were one or two activities which needed to be done in order for the planned activities over the next few weeks to take place.

Here was our Little House on the Prairie at the start:

And really nothing much has changed this week exteriorly, so this is the photo from last week:


Inside, however, is blossoming into a home.  Here is how it was at the beginning:


And here it is after six weeks:



So what have we all been up to?

It has been quite a good week for involving the little ones.  They have had the picture books read to them nightly (four each night) for the past six weeks, and now more fully understand exactly what we are doing and who they are meant to be.  When we made butter this week A4 pointed out it was like the Ingalls’ butter.  Both have been watering our Little House kitchen garden:


They have also been helping their big sisters make some laundry and washing up balls.  In the 1800’s one means of washing was by making a crude soap from lye and fat.  This was made into small balls and used for washing up and washing clothes.  The balls dissolved into the water, helping with the cleaning process.  A year or so ago we made some soap from scratch, using fats and lye.  It was going to be made into Christmas presents, but whilst it was perfectly serviceable it was not very pretty, and certainly not good enough to give as presents to anyone outside the family.  It was however perfect for this summer’s Little House project, and meant we could skip the whole making soap from scratch.  We grated our bars and I halved the resulting shavings.  The first half was put into bowls and boiling water was added:


Each child had a bowl to work with and made up lots of smalls balls of soap:


These were left to dry in preparation for some projects in a few weeks time, and then packaged up into jars for our Little House Kitchen, one for the laundry and the other for the dishes.  Here is a picture of one labelled and the other I left so the soap balls were visible for the picture:


The second half of the shavings will be used for a fun hand soap making project next week.

Even I have been busy this week, in the quiet of the early hours of the morning.  Right from the start I had wanted to make a rag doll, as a special present for my littlest girl (I have other plans for A4).  Thing is, whilst I can sew (in a fashion), I’m not terribly gifted so anything I made would need to be very simple.  I had a couple of aprons made from a lovely linen.  They were old, tattered, ripped and stained, but my mum had given them to me when T11 was born, and I then passed them on to my girls after they started cooking and baking.  That was about 5 years ago and they were a bit worse for wear now.  I didn’t want to throw them out so decided to pass them on to my younger two in the form of a rag doll.  I roped A4 into helping me dye them, using coffee as a form of natural dye:


It wasn’t a very strong dye, but we were attempting a skin colour so it worked out well for us:


From small acorns mighty oaks grow, and from these tatty, stained aprons we made a lovely rag doll, clothes and all, dyed using natural dyes from food and garden produce.  Here is Raggy (named by A4, I am sure, on account of her extreme ‘ragginess’) before she was stuffed:


It may not look professional (and it truly isn’t), but as Gary said, ‘it is an authentic rag doll, Claire!’  It goes without saying my girls loved it.  They would not be known for being terribly discerning, but it was them, and only them, I wanted to impress.  Here she is stuffed and with a face and hair:


The rest of the aprons I cut into material for a (very basic) dress and apron for the doll.

We had a great deal of fun dyeing the aprons initially with the coffee, so much so that I got to pondering what I might have on hand to dye the dress and apron material.  It was late at night when I stated experimenting, and I did so without any proper research (much more fun that way).  Using anything in my fridge or cupboard that had a colour to it, I testing it all on scraps of the apron fabric.  Once I had found the colours I wanted, I dyed the clothes material:


The pink was a mixture of blueberry juice, raspberry pulp and beetroot, mixed with hot water and a bit of vinegar.  The yellow was a rather disgusting smelling concoction of mustard powder, turmeric and vinegar which turned green before changing back to yellow when I added the vinegar.  And the green, which I was so, so happy with, was made from boiled leaves (nettles, dock basically anything I found in the dark in the garden!) and some vinegar.  It took time and playing about and my hands still bear the brunt of all the various attempts, but it was kind of cool!

My plan was to use the top part of the adult aprons as the doll aprons, and these I had dyed yellow.  I had cut off the neck tie and then cut the top part off where it met the bottom half of the apron. Turning it upside down, I threaded the neck tie through the already sewn seam.  I gathered the material and this was the result, a simple no sew apron:


The rest of the material I fashioned into a dress.  This was trial and error once more, as I headed in with a needle and thread with very little forethought.  It turned out fine, although don’t look too close or you might notice the atrocious sewing.  This is a rag doll which essentially should be viewed from a distance!  I intend to use the pink dyed fabric to make another dress so B2 can dress and undress and redress her little rag doll.

Finally, Raggy in her dress:


And with her apron as well:


The clothes are easy to put on and easy to remove.  The rag doll is soft, very cuddly and very loved by it’s new owner.

The others have been equally busy beavering away at all their own individual projects.  C10 made a second dish cloth for the house, in addition to two beautiful tea towels.  The tea towels were cut out of an old ripped linen dress of theirs.  She sewed seams around all four edges and intends to do some simple stitch decoration with embroidery thread.

Meanwhile L10 made a simple red checked table-cloth.  She measured and cut the material, hemming the edges:


T11 had the job of finishing the stove.  He painted, drilled and painted and drilled some more until…


If you remember from last week, this was made out of a wooden box which was broken at the hinges.  T11 turned it on its side, reattached the lid as a door using new hinges and added a handle.  He also screwed in four feet to hold it off the ground.  This was necessary for the door to open.  This week he has obtained a chunk of a railway sleeper from our garden and a thinner piece of timber.  These were to represent the stove’s flue.  He painted everything black.  Twice.  And attached everything together.  The hot plate that the food will be cooked on (during pretend play) was made out of a slate drinks coaster.   We only had one so he stuck it at the front and popped a metal container on it for a saucepan.  Once he had screwed it to the corner of our Little House we piled wood either side, from the wood he had chopped a couple of weeks ago.  We were all really, really pleased with the result, mostly because it has enormous potential for role-playing for the younger (and probably older) two girls with a top stove and an oven.  Well done T11!

As always we have all been busy in the kitchen.  This week it was a team effort to make butter, jam and prairie bread (non yeast) which we all did with alacrity!  First up was the butter because we knew this would take a bit of time.  C10 was unofficially in charge of proceedings although she roped in her brothers and sisters to do a lot of the shaking:


It was very exciting when it started to thicken:


Then separate:


We drained it using our cheese cloth and then salted it and ended up with a lovely slab of home-made butter:


It created lots of lovely butter milk which we  used to make some soda bread, and much like in the Little House books, I gave the little girls some bread dough to play with:


And then we baked all the little shapes they made.  The two larger shapes you may (or may not) recognise as turtles:


T11 was in charge of the jam.  He had been ferrying away all his raspberries over the last few weeks just for this purpose.  He boiled them up with a smidge of water, some pectin and sugar, and boiled and boiled stirring all the while.  The children often swapped round jobs to give them a change of scene!  He did a simple plate test and once it wrinkled placed it into the jar.  It didn’t even nearly fill it but he was so pleased with himself:

Me and my jam (oh, and my sister!)

Concurrently L10, A4 and I, in between taking turns shaking butter and stirring jam, were making some soda bread, that is bread raised using bicarbonate of soda rather than yeast.  Here it is next to a small jar of our jam, which I cooled quickly so we could use it immediately and our slab of butter.  It was so very, very delicious:


There were a few things we had wanted to get done but failed to complete, which we will continue with next week.  I didn’t even start the curtains, on account of Raggy’s hair taking 6 times as long as expected, L10 didn’t do her cod balls, and the girls didn’t finish their patch work cushion for the chair.  And we haven’t even started reading the chapter on herbal healing from T11’s survival book.  Well, T11 has of course, but that goes without saying.  He is now a self-proclaimed walking apothecary!

We have very nearly finished making all our prairie dressing up which we will showcase next week, the girls will be finishing the patchwork for the chair (who knew hand sewn patch work would take so long?) and I’m sure they’ll be lots of other things going on as well, given that we only have 4 more weeks left of Prairie learning.  Such FUN!

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  1. I love the enthusiasm the entire family has for this living project! Everything looks just wonderful – I really need to start reading these posts after breakfast, because my stomach is growling for home baked bread, butter and jam (not happening). The stove looks fantastic, and Raggy and her clothes is adorable – its wonderful you were able to take a piece of their childhood (aprons) and use turn them into something your youngest loves!

  2. This is just such an inspirational project, and the bread and jam look so delicious 🙂 I’m taking notes!

  3. I so love this entire project. I would never have thought to do something like this, as ongoing and involved as this, but how wonderful! Your family is learning so much and I’ll be they’re having so much fun in the process!

  4. Love everything in your recap, but my favourite is the photo of B!!
    Myra, from Canada where it is gloomy and I am enjoying a hot cup of tea.

  5. Great projects. The soda bread with butter and jam makes my tummy want some. I’d love us girls to spend at least part of a day in kitchen while you’re over here. I think I could learn some things from those twins! Will you bring the rag doll over? I think it looks adorable The stove is very realistic too. T seems to have done a brilliant job, and the logs at the sides just finish it off. Really looking forward to seeing you all xxxxxxx

  6. This is just exceptional, so much done in a week! This series has been such a joy and inspiration to follow. I love how the rag doll turns out, and all the food looks very tempting! 🙂

  7. I’ve really enjoyed this series! Little House was always one of my favorite series, and is now my girls favorite too. We plan on visiting some of the homesites in the book next Summer. Thanks for sharing!

    1. How wonderful you are able to see the actual sites! We will be going to Ireland in the autumn and will go to an American history museum where they have a replica of the Little House on the Prairie.

  8. how lovely to have had so much fun and still have a long list of fun activities you’re looking forward to doing! The stove is quite magnificent!
    And your bread, butter and jam makes my mouth water.
    Oh and I am also extremely impressed with Raggy. She will mean so much to B2 for a long time, I’m sure. I love the way the colours came out. Well done all of you!

  9. Wow! What a great ( and very busy week). I am exhausted just thinking about all of the prep and other work you must have done :). But, I bet the kids loved every minute of it!

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