Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Try cleaning a house made of dirt! One wrong move with a vacuum cleaner and you're living on the street

Because it's Spring (okay, it's February, shut up, let me pretend) it's time for my annual Spring Parade of Calves on Facebook. To follow along as the babies come check out http://www.facebook.com/maryconnealy

My part of this nine-author book is called Homestead on the Range.

Authors always have to learn new things to write a book. We study the setting, the grass and trees, the native animals, career skills, clothing styles, we have to set our story in a time and place and to do that we need to learn new things.

For Homestead on the Range I had to learn to build a sod house.
There are antlers stacked in front of this sod house. This is mysterious. These people seem very somber. Why not? They live in a sod house. I'll bet they don't have air conditioning. I'll bet that stack of antlers is their most prized possession.

Now I truly wish I could say here that to make everything realistic, I built a sod house out my back door and now I live in it during the summer, just so I can bring my book to life for all you lovely readers. Wouldn't that be interesting? Wouldn't you all just lean forward to learn every single thing I know about building a soddy???
Why is there a team of horses on the top of this house? Why are those people in a 'room' with no front wall? Do sod houses have....open porches? I'm going with YES. We have photographic proof here.

But what I learned about sod houses is, many of them have wooden frames, which is sort of weird because wasn't the whole point that there wasn't wood? So where'd they get a frame?

And they didn't invent breaking plows until mid 1880s. Before that they were cutting hundreds, possibly thousands of sod bricks with a shovel. It makes me want to cry a little, just thinking about it. Have I mentioned I'm a wimp? God bless these people. Wow, they worked their HEARTS OUT to gain property, to be free, to own a home, claim some land. It's really amazing and inspiring and I'm frankly ashamed of myself for being so sedentary and out of shape.

Which is no fun so let's move on!

These are the Chrisman sisters, each claimed and proved up on her own homestead. This picture inspired my Wild at Heart series. Or maybe it's more accurate to say it was the seed from which the story grew.

A sod house had 'bricks' about 2 to 3 feet long and a foot wide. They'd lay the sod lengthwise, side by side so the walls were around 2.5 feet thick.
Get that? It's like a FORTRESS.
The walls are thick enough to stop a canon ball.
Or not.
But it did help with the winter wind and the blazing heat of summer. Yep, I'm bettin' these were as cozy as all get out. That sod was a fine substitute for central heating. Okay, I'm beating that to death.

 Moving on.
And now we've got a cow on the roof. It's like a theme or something!

The walls were laid alternately the long way and the short way, this made the walls sturdier, the strips of sod would bind together and stand better. it's kinda like Legos only not primary colors and no cute movie characters!

And they laid the sod GRASS SIDE DOWN. I tried to find out why but couldn't really get to the bottom of it. I assumed it was to keep the children from grazing since they were probably starving to death. 

Are those WATERMELONS on that table? I like watermelon. I could have survived in the wild west. If I'd have known there was watermelon I'd have written this blog all different. Could you have built a sod house? Could you survive on the vast treeless prairie, forty miles from the nearest neighbor. With a cow on your roof. (honestly that 'livestock on the roof' thing is the least of their problems)
The Homestead Brides Collection

 Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for The Homestead Brides Collection.

 Homestead on the Range: Widow Elle Winter meets new homesteader Colin Samuelson on the Nebraska prairie, but the attraction between them is quickly dampened by the discovery that they have seven children between them. Soon their children are working against them to bring the two families together.

Other contributors to The Homestead Brides Collection are: Darlene Franklin, Carla Olson Gade, Ruth Logan Herne, Pam Hillman, DiAnn Mlls, Erica Vetsch, Becca Whitham, and Kathleen Y'Barbo.

 Mary Connealy writes Romantic Comedy with Cowboys, which is odd because Mary is a serious woman who behaves herself and only writes things with the utmost calm and reasonable tone. Writing comedy is just counter-intuitive.

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Unknown said...

Mary, I think sod houses would be better than straw houses. Can you imagine the rodents in the straw? But maybe the sod didn't keep them out, either! I'm still trying for that book of yours. I'll share with Sandra!
Great post. I didn't know some reinforced with lumber

Gail H. said...

Wow, interesting info. I think you survive with what you don't know. By that I mean if I was born into it and I didn't know anything else improbably could survive. They seemed to die young because of disease that there weren't cures for yet but otherwise they were strong from all the work they did. We are such wimps these days with all our modern conveniences. The sod placed with the grass side down, maybe to keep the cows from grazing on the roof, oh wait, that didn't work! Ha. Maybe it helped keep the sod together better so it didn't crumble on their heads?

Suz D. said...

Wow! So glad I don't have a sod house.

Anonymous said...

Yup people had to be tough to homestead back in the day.

Ginger Solomon said...

I'm so glad I don't have to live in a sod house. Bugs and I don't get along well, and a cow on my house. Arggh. :)

Anonymous said...

It definitely would have been interesting back then; but I prefer my modern wood house to sod, LOL! :) Thanks for the interesting article and chance to win!
jenalunde at yahoo.com

Crystal @ Serving Joyfully said...

I really want this book! And, thanks for the dose of humorous history. I love learning about this time and place. Thanks for the chance to win!

CrystalBrothers (at) ymail (dot) com

Mary Connealy said...

Hi everyone. I heard the blog is messing with some commentors through the captcha code. I'm going to try and fix it.

I hope it doesn't blow up!

Anonymous said...

I don't think I would have done well in a house with no windows but I sure do enjoy reading about those times in our history. Please put my name in the drawing; I would really like to win it! Judy Smith

Jan Drexler said...

Hey. I live on the prairie. If the choice was between living in a soddy or living straight on the prairie, I'd be building that soddy as fast as I could. Plow or no plow!

Because when the wind blows, it's no spring zephyr. :) And when it's a sunny August day, you need shade! I can't even imagine being in a blizzard with no shelter.

And when you read about the claim shanties homesteaders put up, I'd even take a soddy over one of those! Remember, the Ingalls family barely survived their first blizzard in their claim shanty.

Yup. I'll take the soddy. And I'll make it nice and clean so you can come visit. We'll have tea. Ignore the cow on the roof.

I've been looking forward to this book for months. Stick my name in the hat, please!

Susan Snodgrass said...

I am so glad I didn't live back then! Can you imagine menopause on the prairie? I can barely do it in the 21st century! Please enter me to win the book, Mary.

Patty said...

I don't think I would have been a very good pioneer, but I love reading about them!

Lynna Reed said...

To a fellow Burt Countian - when I grew up there: I LOVE your humor and all of your books I've had opportunity to read! Keep writing!!

Melinda said...

Not sure I could live that way. But, it could certainly be an adventure.

Melinda said...

Not sure I could live that way. But, it could certainly be an adventure.

Rebecca Maney said...

I love to read these kinds of books from time to time. What a great line-up of authors! It would be great to win a copy!

Becky Dempsey said...

That was really interesting to learn those tidbits about sod houses. I suspect they put the sod grass side down so the grass didn't keep growing. Imagine if you had to mow your walls. I seem to remember in one of the Little House books Laura talking about a cow putting their foot through the "roof".

Anonymous said...

Sod houses might have been warm but I hate bugs.

Caryl Kane said...

Hey Mary! I sneezed the whole time while I read about building a soddy! What a life it was in those days.

I look forward to reading The Homestead Brides.


Quilt Lady said...

I am not sure I would want to live in a sod house but I guess we can make do with a lot of things if we had to. I would really perfer what we have today to live in. We have come a long way for sure. Entering under the name of Virginia.

susanlulu said...

Loved the photos and the information! Love learning about the past!
susan in nc

Shirley said...

Thank you for the post. The collection looks like a wonderful collection of stories by an amazing set of authors.

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I don't think the dirt sifting down would be a plus for me..

Samantha T said...

Not so sure about a sod house, but I do love baby calves!

Rhonda's Doings said...

sod houses worked well for a time for the Laura Ingalls' family and others in that region.

PriviesAndPrims said...

The worst part must of been the snakes and bugs dropping from the ceiling!