December 7, 2013

Longest Winter on the Prairie

Winter could be truly challenging for settlers on the Great Plains, and few were worse than the winter of 1881. Using Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "The Longest Winter," I excerpted parts of the book and found research comparing the actual winter of 1881 to Laura's recollections. Turns out she was spot-on correct in describing the incredible storms and blizzards though she wrote the book nearly 40 years after she experienced that winter as a 13-year-old girl on the prairie.

Winter, 2013

September 16, 2013

Vernon Reeves House

Fall, 2013
This was an especially fun article to write because I first interviewed Vernon nine years ago for an Early American Life article when he lived in a large house he built in the woodlands of Missouri and filled with his considerable collection of prized primitive furnishings. Now he's in a much smaller 19th-century "sidewinder" home in St. Louis, a few blocks from the Mississippi. The radical downsizing has brought out Vernon's decorative creativity, prompting him to break away from his former decor into a style much more personal and ingenious.

September 15, 2013

Laundry: The Worst Chore

Fall, 2013
From the time people first began washing their clothes, laundry has been regarded as a back-breaking and time-consuming task ~ which was why people centuries ago only did washings once or twice a year. Researching this article was great fun and I gained even greater appreciation for American inventiveness in the 1800s, which made laundry day much more palatable.

May 1, 2013

The Rhodus House

Summer, 2013
Betty and Jack Rhodus have spent decades collecting and selling some of the best early furniture and domestic items I've ever seen. Plus their southern Ohio home ~ a reproduction 18th century saltbox and a reassembled early log cabin behind the house ~ perfectly reflects the period and furnishings they both love. This article was an unusual opportunity for me because I'd done an Early American Life article on the Rhoduses several years ago, and this one gave me a chance to renew a friendship and find out what this talented couple's up to today.

April 30, 2013

An Enchanting Garden

Summer, 2013
I enjoy writing articles about folks who use their creativity to delight other people, whether it's with their homes, their art or their gardens ~ and this article addresses two of the three. Linda and Don Kuzak have created a delightfully enchanting garden surrounding their Ohio home, with tons of flowers their neighbors enjoy and pieces of Don's whimsical folk art placed throughout.

February 1, 2013

Living in a Sod House

Spring, 2013

This is one of my favorite articles, ever. It was great fun researching it and learning how countless homesteaders built these humble hovels and then make them as comfortable and homey as they could. The article features entries from diaries and other accounts of what it was like to construct and dwell in these venerable homes that dotted America's Great Plains for several decades. The hand-tinted photos from North Dakota State University really added to the feel of the article.

January 30, 2013

Ancient Companion Planting

Spring, 2013

For about 10,000 years, Native Americans have been aware that planting corn, squash, and beans together created ideal growing conditions for each of the three and could substantially increase the harvest. Known as "The Three Sisters," this early style of companion planting was quickly adopted by America's first European settlers in the 1600s and has been popular ever since. Here's a history of the technique and directions of how to do it, as well as tips on cooking succotash.