My Year Begins With Willow

You know that first day in March or April when you breath in and the air has a scent again because it’s no longer frozen? That was the time of year we moved to the homestead, and that is always the first day of my personal New Year.

That is when the air tells me it is Basket Making Season.

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Fresh willow scythes

That first spring on the homestead, our neighbor girl showed us the acres of gold that grew in a low spot below where we had pitched the tipi. Though my mother had woven beautiful red and jute baskets for years, Kateri showed us a new technique using wild willow. Delighted with the opportunity to create with materials off our own land, we spent hours (between wood-cutting and water-hauling and while dinner was simmering in the cast iron pot in the fire pit) tromping through the swamp clipping armloads of willow, hauling it back up to the campsite, and weaving it into baskets large and small which we dreamed of using to harvest veggies from our garden that summer.

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the beginning of a basket

Every spring since, I have gotten a strong urge in my fingers–like sap rising in twigs–to bend and bow willow scythes into golden cages of sweet-smelling symmetry. I have made big baskets, little baskets, berry baskets, and half-bushel baskets. I just love weaving.

And every place I have lived since we left the homestead I have taken willow with me and planted it in preparation for the urge to weave. Alas, I’ve had to move away from each little stand of willow before it was mature enough to give me basket material.

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sections too thick for weaving will be planted

Lucky for me, my best friend likes to plant willow and, unlike me, she’s stayed in the same spot long enough to reap a harvest.

And lucky for me, I just happened to visit on a day she had a bunch of fresh willow lying around just waiting to be woven.

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Twining the first weavers to make the base

She made lunch while the kids played and I wove to my heart’s content. Though it had been 3 or 4 years since I’d last made a basket, my fingers remembered what my teachers had taught me, and by lunch time, a small bread basket was complete.

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the technique for building the basket’s sides, called randing, always makes me wish I had 4 hands.

Weaving is something that, when I do it, I feel such joy and satisfaction in the deepest, most Trina-ish part of me, that I know it is something God made me to do.

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Once weaving is complete, the basket gets a ‘hair cut’, then it’s finished!

I’ve always been grateful to the women who taught me to weave: my mother, my friend Kateri, and finally, the world-renown English basketry expert Bonnie Gale, whom I just happened to meet when I was 19, and who just happened to live in the same town as I (coincidence? I think not) and who trained me in the more intricate, traditional techniques of English Basket Weaving.

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not to be confused with weeping willow trees, basket willow grows as a tall bush. I planted mine along the edge of our yard. In 3 years this row will produce enough for a basket.

I’m just so excited that last year I finally got some willow planted in our yard, and in a few more years I should have a harvest of my own.

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Meanwhile, if I go missing on a warm day in spring, you’ll probably find me in my friend’s back yard playing with her willow.

Wanna make a willow basket yourself?”Natural Baskets” (affiliate link) is my favorite weaving book and contains most of the techniques I used in the above basket.

A Fresh Perspective on Pee

Some days it seems all I do all day is manage bodily functions. Jesse’s wetting his pants. Claire’s distraction leading to 20 min. toilet runs. Seth’s stinky diapers. And my own frequent needs–fed by the goal of drinking a gallon of water per day for the sake of my kidneys–requiring multiple runs up the stairs for myself each day.

I know I should not be complaining. I’m lucky to have a bathroom,

lucky to have the mold problem over,

lucky to pee indoors.

I remember the bathroom situation on the homestead…Oh, my poor mother, peeing in a bucket for years, including pregnancy with her 7th child. Emptying the chamber pot every day…a whole gallon—or two–of the family’s bodily discharge, hauled across the lawn into the pit dug by hand,

hold your nose,

toss the gloppy, yellow mess,

don’t splatter your long denim dress.

Back to the pump to pump, pump, pump, swill, pour rinse water gently at the base of the perennials—that garden always was so lush with its constant, potent water supply.

And I complain about having to wipe my child’s bum? And I complain about bed-wetting when at least I have a washer and dryer on the premises and an accident never means a whole unplanned trip to the Laundromat 20 min. away?

God, forgive me. Thank you for the gift of perspective, fed by ammonia-scented memories…

All summer that first year on the homestead, while living in a tipi, we had simply used a trench in the woods.

By winter we had built a cabin, and an outhouse, but it was too cold and too far from the house in the dead of winter with the temperature dipping to 30 below. So we got creative. We couldn’t afford those beautiful, smooth rimmed enamel chamber pots we drooled over at the local antique stores,  so we used the 5 gallon bucket with a lid, which we kept on the back porch. When someone needed it, they’d either nip outside REAL quick (one learned to pee forcefully), or drag it inside and anyone else downstairs would politely avert their gaze. When the bucket was full, we’d set it next to the stove with the lid on all night to thaw it so it could be dumped the next morning.

Us girls had the modest advantage of wearing ankle length dresses that draped nicely over the bucket, completely shrouding our activities while we sat on The Pot. That’s where one of us (I won’t say who–I’m completely dispensing with names so the characters in this story can retain some semblance of their pride) was sitting one day when the neighbor man came in and had an entire conversation with the individual while she sat on the bucket. She couldn’t move, lest she reveal what she was in the middle of. Our neighbor left without a notion of what was going on, though I’m sure he wondered why she never rose to greet him!

We can laugh about it now, but these memories remind me all I have to be grateful for. Next time I feel like complaining about pee, I’m gonna remember the pee pot and thank God I have a toilet. Indoors.

“Life was like a Missionary Bootcamp”

In my teens I often imagined that God had put me on the homestead as preparation for a call to a primitive mission field. I read missionary biographies and marveled at the similarities and how familiar their daily routines sounded to me. My life was like Missionary Boot Camp:

  • Hauling water, gathering fuel for cooking fires, learning to cook and eat whatever the woods or garden produced felt like a semester in “Bush Life Basics”. (Jerusalem artichokes, squirrel meat, our common lunch of beans and rice always reminded me of missionary food.)
  • Conserving electricity, learning to start a generator, hauling jugs of fuel by hand, and having to close my book after the sun set was all in the course “Living Off-Grid 101”.
  • Using a latrine, wearing the same outfit for a week at a time to save laundry, and learning to bathe my entire body (including washing my hair) with 2 gallons of water (which I hauled from the spring and heated over a fire I started myself with wood I sawed by hand!) got me extra credit in “Wilderness Practicality”.

Little did I realize, all this was actually training for “My Life as a Trailer-Park Landlord’s Wife”. This became abundantly clear to me last week…

I was half-way through boiling noodles for dinner, and was trying to light a second burner to make the cheese-sauce when I realized I was out of gas.

It was 5:30 on a Saturday evening. We wouldn’t be able to get more fuel till Monday.

The first thing I did was to grab my pot of boiling noodles and transfer it outside to the side burner on our grill. I had to wait for the noodles to finish cooking before I could use the burner to make the cheese sauce, but we still ate dinner before 6. Meanwhile, Jeremy, who’d been tiling in the remodeled office all day, took the chance to shower before the hot water in the gas-heated hot water tank cooled off. I planned on getting my shower in later when the water would most likely still be tepid. I was so warm from running up and down out of the bus to add ingredients and stir my dinner, a cool shower actually sounded quite appealing. (and, due to Missionary Boot Camp, I’d had plenty of them already).

After dinner I confess I decided to ignore the problem temporarily. I piled the dishes in the sink and went out to enjoy the twilight on our front stoop with my husband and my inlaws, watching the kids ride their bikes in front of our lot. (simple, trailer-park pleasures, dontchaknow).

An hour later I realized the predicament I was in. The kids were tired, filthy, and it was Sunday tomorrow. How was I going to get us all clean enough for church (let alone their beds) and get the kitchen clean and make something for breakfast without hot water or a stove? I stood in front of my sink and confess to a few frustrated tears before Homestead Girl kicked in. I proclaimed, out loud, “I can do this!” and set to.

Claire got a chilly rinse off in the shower, but that whole tepid shower thing wasn’t going over well with the children, so I gathered towels and p.j.’s and went across the yard to my in-laws camper where my MIL kindly shared their scanty hot water supply so I could bathe the boys. I got the kids all put to bed by 8:30, then I filled my biggest pot with water and put it on the grill burner to heat for dishwater.

The bus grew quiet as everyone else went to bed and fell asleep. I tidied the bus, made a plan for a breakfast that could be baked in the toaster oven, checked my email on Jeremy’s phone, and finally my dishwater was ready. I washed the dishes, wiped down all surfaces to discourage a sugar ant invasion overnight, and headed to the bathroom with a dishpan of hot water to give myself a sponge bath (Not just for invalids anymore! Conserves water! Effective and refreshing!)

Finally I took advantage of the quiet and read a few pages in my book before turning out my 8-volt battery bedroom light and falling asleep to the hum of the air conditioner in my cozy little bedroom in the back of the bus, grateful for my training which made the evening’s challenge a familiar routine.

P.S. I I’m just wrapping up my lastest newsletter and I think you’ll love it…sign up in my sidebar so you don’t miss it (because I have no idea how to share the back issues with you lol).

God, Mountains, and How I met my Husband, Part Second

Our God is a Mountain Mover, People. Here’s my personal testimony to that effect. Read Part First Here.

We’d been on the homestead for about two months now. We were still living in the tipi (it hadn’t blown away yet), while Dad and my brothers were busy every day learning how to get the horse to haul logs out of the woods with which to build our cabin.

One afternoon on a sunny day toward the end of May, we heard the sound of an engine – an airplane engine -  quite low – as if it was going to land! We ran out of the trees and into the meadow, scanning the horizon for the aircraft we were sure was about to ditch in our very back yard. And then we spotted it – coming out of the North East, low over the trees, a small, white plane with red stripes. It descended further as it cleared the trees and passed right over our heads!

And then it waved.

“They’ve found us!” We joked. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, and someone had obviously sent a spy plane to search us out. We laughed, and wondered who the apparently friendly pilot could be, and how he had known that this little meadow was populated. The plane circled us a few more times, and waved its wings once more before zooming off over the next hill.

A few weeks later we enjoyed what to us, living without a phone and new to the area, was a regular occurrence – a random, surprise visit from a stranger. It was a man – looked to be in his mid 40′s (turns out he was only 13 – he was born on Leap Day) with the friendliest face and kindest eyes you’ve ever seen. Made you wanna smile just looking at him. And smile we did when we found out he was a mutual friend of an old acquaintance of our parents from 15 years ago – and, he owned a little white airplane with a red stripe.

Turns out that Tom (the pilot) had got a phone call from “R.K.” – an old friend of my parents from when they lived in Florida – asking him if he would come and check up on us. R.K. had heard about our apparent attempt to drop off the face of the earth, and was concerned. So, being the well-connected individual that she was, she called up a few of her friends that lived in Upstate NY and asked them to go see if the Baumans were still alive. Tom was one of those friends, and he only lived about an hour away. So one day, on a good day for flying, he took his plane in a southeasterly direction, following landmarks and rivers till he spotted a circle of white canvas – the tipi – and knew he had found the weird family R.K. was so concerned about.

Tom was a great guy – and it was neat, ’cause he was a believer, too. My parents enjoyed swapping memories of their mutual friend and bits of each others life stories. After that visit, the sight of the little red and white plane was to become a regular occurrence over the next few years, and we enjoyed the occasional visit with Tom and his wife.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – what does Tom have to do with anything? I thought Jeremy was going to be the one flying the plane!

Here’s the thing — Tom and his airplane were a pebble. One of the people or circumstances God used to eventually connect me with my future husband. It wasn’t till several years after I was married that I realized how all these little details and random acquaintances had lined up to bring Jeremy and I together. I had no idea when that plane flew over or when I met Tom, that this was the start of a journey. Sometimes you don’t know when you’re in the middle of a miracle until after it has occurred. 

Next…the chickens and a dollhouse. Two hundred Chickens.

Seen and Overheard

I was all over the internet last week – several guest posts I’d written and some other stuff all got posted at the same time. I noticed post getting published barely in time to share them on facebook, so I decided to recap with my blog readers here, in case you missed them.

Read about how I overcame my first bout of Homeschool Jitters over at The Better Mom. Yes, it has something to do with elephants…

Enjoy a very personal review of my book from a gal who knew me when we lived in a tipi…


Find out what all these notebooks are in my post for the month on Passionate Homemaking. Lindsay’s theme for the month is ‘Building the Family’ – some great, practical inspiration going on over there this month!

See you around!

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Moving Day

Well, remember that sweet purse coupon deal I told you about two weeks ago? And then I came back to tell you it was not so sweet, that I had misunderstood the promotion?

Well. I am here to say, there is still good customer service in this world.

Apparently, I was not the only one disappointed at the coupon turning out to be too-good-too-be-true. Handbags.com must have gotten a lot of negative feedback. And you know what they did with it? They turned around and made it right. I received this email not two days later…

Dear TRINA,
Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Launching a new website is always a fun and challenging time, and there are always a few hiccups along the way.
We appreciate you taking the time to provide us feedback, which helps us improve upon our customer experience. We apologize for the confusion regarding our Invite a Friend promotion, and understand your frustration.
We have resolved this issue for any affected customers, and have included a new coupon code(s) that will correctly apply the discount of $25 off a purchase of $25.01. As a way of apology, the original code you’d received will still remain valid, and we hope that you will use it for a future purchase with us.
Thank you for being a loyal Handbags.com customer and participating in the launch of our exciting new website.
Sincerely,
The Handbags.com Team

 Can you imagine how excited I was! I could afford to use my coupon now! So, off I went, and ordered my much needed, much coveted new, purple, Fossil wallet after all. Oh, and a pair of $26 earrings which I got for just $1 with another one of my coupons.

I waited to update you till my purchases actually arrived in the mail. They came yesterday – it was like Christmas! I LOVE my new earrings, and the wallet is scrumptious.

But then, before I posted about this great deal again, I called the company and got the full scoop. They are no longer offering the same coupon ($25 of a $25.01 or more purchase) but you can still get $25 off if you spend $50 or more. So, it’s not the same awesome deal it was, but if you’ve got some burn money and want a new purse, wallet or accessorize (they have hats and jewelry, too!), then Handbags.com is the place to go!

So, you see how much I love you all? I did all that homework so I could make sure that what I share with you on the blog is all good.

 Sign up at Handbags.com today and then share the site with your friends. For every three people that sign up under you, you get a $25 coupon, valid for use on any purchase over $50.  Hurry – the promotion ends October 31st!

Now I’m off to go move my cards and change and tiny scraps of important paper over from my lousy, falling-apart, too-small wallet to my shiny-brand-new one…thus the title of this post. ;)

Of Pancake Zoos and Native Accomidations

 Our road trip last month was another chance to relive some fond memories and experiences from the homestead. Considering the bus’ difficulty keeping us cool at times, we cooked outside as much as possible. Thankfully, I don’t mind cooking over an open fire. Apparently, neither does my father-in-law.

 His specialty is shaped pancakes, which thrills the grandkids and even impresses the adults. He made this tipi pancake just for me.

 Jesse got a snake. And an elephant. And a Rhino. Claire got a giraffe. I’m not kidding. Grandpa’s quite the artist.

 Seth got Ostrich eggs. Now THAT takes talent.
(Homemade Bisquick Mix recipe)

 Pancakes weren’t the only thing that gave me flashbacks. The campsite in Missouri actually had tipis you could rent to camp in.

 I enjoyed showing Jesse a real tipi and telling him how I lived in one when I was little.

It was amazing to stand inside this tipi and have the memories flood back. I found myself so grateful that, though that was a hard season in our family’s life, by God’s grace I mostly remember the good parts and a chance to revisit a tipi was actually a good thing.

Empathy

From that day on, I was terrified of the wind.   I sat in the rocker in the small, cleared space in the center of the tipi, rocking steadily in an effort to soothe myself. My hands covered my ears trying to block out the rush of the wind as it roared from the west and rushed through the tree tops above us. I prayed – begging God to stop the wind. I knew he could – He was master of the wind and the waves. I begged him to calm the wind, so afraid that it would once again try to tear away the thin layer of canvas – the only thing between us and the harsh, early spring weather – the only thing we had left to call home. 

This morning I heard about the 634,000 Haitians still living in tent cities, at the mercy of the approaching tropical storm Emily, and my heart went out to them. I know what it feels like to have your only home in possession of the wind. It’s not just inconvenient, people. It’s terrifying. Pray for the Haitians. Pray for the little children. Pray. It’s something we can do.

A day in the life of a tipi-dweller

Wow! It’s been literally years since the last installment of my tipi tales! I have so little time anymore when my mind is empty enough and the house is quiet enough for focused writing. But, oh, how I love the journeys back in time as I tell these stories. I wrote this early in the morning after nursing Seth and finding I couldn’t get back to sleep. With this installment, I will attempt to give my readers an idea of what a typically day on our homestead was like that first spring…

Continued from Episode Nine: What’s Cooking?

Daddy’s days were spent with the goal of building a more permanent dwelling for our family, hopefully before winter. As that was still 7 or 8 months away, however, and the first weeks much time was spent on other important tasks, such as establishing a good water supply for the family, making our campsite as functional and comfortable as possible, and acquiring the tools and building relationships with knowledgeable people in preparation for building our cabin. The boys, 15 and 10, were his assistants, while I spent my days with Mom, for the most part.

I cannot say our days fell into a rhythm, for it just was not so. We had embarked on such an unknown adventure, with such a steep learning curve, that each day, if not each hour brought new challenges and something to disrupt the fragile routine of our new life. Yet there were the daily chores that must be done, meals that must be prepared, and the tasks to keep our ‘home’ in the woods running as soon as possible.

The day began with the sounds of Daddy getting the fire going (either in the stove in the tipi, or in the fire pit just on the other side of the canvas from my sleeping cot, depending on the weather) and beginning breakfast preparations. Breakfast is a big deal in our family – always has been. It is not skipped, and it is usually quite hearty. On the homestead, with one of our goals being self-sufficiency, breakfast was a simpler affair than in the past. Pancakes, eggs and bacon, cooked to perfection, were a special treat saved for days when we hosted special guests, or when morale really needed a lift. Our more regular daily fare was some form of hot cereal. When we got tired of oatmeal, we switched to cornmeal mush. When that got old, we tried steel-cut oats, cooked ’till soft, with honey and peanut butter swirled in. There was also granola with fresh cow’s milk, and, yet another variation on the them – warm milk poured over dry oats, sprinkled with various nuts and dried fruit. All of these could easily be made on top of the wood stove or in a pot over an open fire.

I still remember, aided by my journal, how a typical morning might start…

“I woke up to the “whhrrr, whhrr, whhrr!” of Dad stirring the cornmeal. Dad doesn’t like lumps in the cornmeal, neither does Mom. No one else minds, but Mom and Dad go to great measures to get them out ’cause thy think WE mind. Its all a bit mixed up…”

Mom would be nursing the baby on her air mattress in the middle of the floor. Anja and Olivia, ages 8 and 5, would be awake already playing or reading books on the cushions that made their beds. The boys and I had the sense to stay in our cozy sleeping bags as long as possible. But soon as breakfast was ready, the call went out – “Feet on the floor!”. Feet still in sleeping bags didn’t count! We’d scramble out of bed and begin packing up our bedding to make a little more living room in the tipi. Sleeping bags were stuffed, Jordan’s cot was collapsed, and all bedding was folded up and stored on Joel’s cot for the day. My cot was used as a sort of a couch during the day. Mom and Dad’s air mattress was deflated and stored away each day. The little girl’s cushions were stacked in front of the book case to make another ‘couch’ of sorts. Then we were ready for breakfast.

We’d eat, balancing our stainless steel camping bowls on our knees, while Dad read devotions. Then the boys would head out with Dad while Mom and I began our chores.

Water must be hauled from the spring at the bottom of the hill to be heated for drinking and dish washing for the day. Kindling must be gathered and dead branches must be sawed into logs for the fire so we could cook. I often spent hours each day with a bow saw, sawing and stacking wood so mom could keep the fire fed. Soup would be started for dinner so it could simmer on the stove or over the fire. The campsite must be tidied and the tipi swept. In the first few weeks we did laundry by hand, but this was such an arduous and overwhelming chore, requiring so much water to haul and so much time to line dry the sopping clothes, we soon resorted to the laundromat. Laundry was done once a week, hauled in old recycling tubs to town, washed, then hauled back and hung on a series of clotheslines strung through the trees around the campground.

When chores were done, we might do something extracurricular, such as collecting wild herbs, exploring our property, or, in the spring, basket making. My mother had made baskets for years, and when we moved to the homestead, our neighbor taught us how to use the willow rods which grew along the creek and in damp areas to make sturdy, serviceable baskets for gathering eggs and herbs and produce from the garden. I fondly remember long hours trudging around in The Marsh  – the damp acre or two fed by the spring at the bottom of the hill – in my mother’s bright yellow boots, carefully selecting the longest, slenderest rods for us to weave with.  When I had collected a pile, I’d tie the rods into a bundle with smaller willow stems and haul them on my back up the hill to the campsite. Mom would be there, tending the fire and keeping an eye on the little girls while she finished up another basket.

In the afternoons I was sometimes free to tag along with the boys, or go exploring on my own. I remember that it took many weeks for me to venture outside the immediate vicinity of the campsite. Though it was thrilling to think that all the land we could see around us was ours to explore, I was not used to such wide open spaces and usually stayed in sight of the tipi. There was much to explore in just that plot of woods at the top of our land – old apple trees, gnarled and shaded by the forest grown up around them, old stone walls made by farmers in the 1800′s, rusty bits of farm equipment in the hedgerows, bird’s nests and deer tracks. It was all new and yet grew delightfully familiar as we began to feel ownership.

The evenings would find us gathered around whatever source of light there was – the campfire, or the Coleman lantern in the tipi if it was chilly outside. We often spent the evenings writing letters to friends we had left in N.C. Final trips were made to the latrine – in pairs, one to face the other way and hold the flashlight for the other. The stove was filled with logs and and the drafts closed to bank the fire in hopes of keeping coals alive till morning. Mom and Dad would take turns blowing up their mattress, bedtime stories would be read to the girls, baby would be passed around for everyone to kiss before being tucked into her bed. Then it would be lights out – I’d beg for one more minute to finish my sentence in my journal, then Dad would shut the lantern off.

As the glow from the mantles faded, I would imagine what the tipi looked like in the night – a giant, white, paper lantern, slowly fading. I’d snuggle down in my sleeping bag and listen to the night sounds…the creak of my brother’s cots, the whooshing of the air mattress as one of my parents rolled over, the ticking sound of the stove cooling down, and the wind, gently caressing the canvas and reminding us just how close to nature we were as we slept.

Suddenly we heard a rattle in the cat’s food dish, and soft little foot steps outside the tipi flap. Dad spoke up in the darkness, “Boys, tomorrow we gotta set a trap and catch whatever’s snatching the cat’s food…”

Continued in “How to Take a Bath in Your Fridge”

How to Take a Bath in Your Fridge

This is one of those memories from the homestead that we were able to laugh about afterward. Many wondered how we handled life’s necessities in our primitive living conditions, living in a tipi for 8 months, and then a small log cabin with no running water. Here is how we took a bath…

Bath day began with multiple trips down the 45-degree incline to the spring to haul up fresh water. The fire was stoked and metal tubs were suspended over and set around the fire to heat the water. We could usually manage to heat 8-10 gallons at a time if we filled all our metal containers at once. An hour later, the pots over the fire would be simmering, the pails on the stones next the the pit would be warm enough, and we would begin mixing our bath water. An antique enamel saucepan was taken from its hook on an overhanging tree branch to be used as a dipper, and a few scoops of hot water were poured in, then a few scoops of cold from a fresh spring bucket. This was repeated until the water was the perfect temperature for a bath.From the fire pit we headed with said bucket of bath water and dipper to the tipi which had been converted to a bath house.

Bathing 7 people in a tent in the middle of the woods was a challenge my creative mother met with aplomb. The largest container we had that could hold water was drafted – it happened to be a cooler – and set on a towel in the middle of the small space we were able to clear on the floor. No boys allowed during the girl’s baths, and vice-versa. If it was a cool day, the stove inside the tipi was started up to keep the space cozy, and the flap was kept closed to minimize drafts.

Now, let me explain about our tub – this was not your generous, pack-enough-food-for-an-army cooler – this was a small cooler with not much more capacity than two 5-gallon buckets set side-by-side. Actually, an ideal size for a baby bath. Not so great for an adult. I don’t know how my parents did it. I was half way in between child and adult – at 13 I was over 5 ft. but skinny as a willow switch. And I had this fridge-bathing technique down to a science. I would carefully fold my legs and tuck my knees into my armpits and wedge myself into the cooler to get as much of my body into the warm water and out of the drafty air, submerging myself somehow nearly to my neck. Not a relaxing soak by any means, but it did the job.

The line up started with the cleanest child, and moved to the dirtiest (guess who?), with new water added to keep the temperature up. After skin was cleaned, one wrapped in a towel and bent over the cooler to have Mom rinse your hair. A ladle full of water, soap up with shampoo, and another dipper-full or two until the suds were gone. I don’t think we bother with conditioner. Finally, you found a pair of shoes and ran out to the campfire to warm up and let the heat dry your hair.

We used that cooler for most of the summer, then graduated to the largest storage tote that Wal-Mart sold. Wow, was that ever fun. We could teach the little ones to swim in that thing. That lasted for over a year, until Mom was so pregnant with #7 that she couldn’t fit in the ‘tub’ anymore, and we made room in the cabin for an old, cast iron, claw foot tub – something my mother had always wanted anyway. But guess what – we were still hauling and heating the water ourselves. As for showers, that is a tale for another time….

You can find more memories and stories from our life on the homestead here.