Archive for November, 2011

The Pioneer’s Cyber Monday Sales

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

While we’re ordering our holiday gifts online today because of Cyber Monday sales, I can’t help but think of the contrast of now, versus 150 years ago, when Kansas was being homesteaded by pioneers of several different nationalities.

Butter in the Well, historical fiction book by Linda K. HubalekThink how simple and thankful the pioneers were for their holidays and gift giving. When you read the diary entries from Butter in the Well, you’ll see what I mean…

“November 26, 1868

 We celebrated the American holiday called Thanksgiving with the Robinsons today. We were thankful to be asked to their home. They live in a dugout too, but have two rooms and real furniture. Benjamin had shot a turkey down near their bend of the river. He said that turkey is the traditional meat for the Thanksgiving meal back East. But Adelaide also fixed venison, potatoes, creamed hominy corn, pickled beets, fresh wheat bread (I had two thick slices) and dried currant pie. Since she has a cow, we also enjoyed fresh butter and cheese. Adelaide sent home a wedge of cheese and a loaf of bread. She is so thoughtful.

December 9, 1868

Since Carl is spending most of his time inside now that it is cold, he has been carving. He has made some wooden spoons and small bowls for me, and tool handles for himself. He carved a doll’s head and I added a little body for it out of one of Christina’s first dresses. It will be her Christmas present.

Carl bought a two-lidded stove in Salina this month to heat the dugout and so I could do some of my cooking inside. It is a very small second-hand stove, but better than cooking everything outside.

Since the days are shorter and sometimes overcast, we need more light in the dugout. Rather than use up the supply of candles, we are burning a plate of tallow, using a piece of twisted cloth as the wick, or burning the tail feathers of ducks geese. I don’t care for the smell of singed feathers, but I have to use what we’ve got.”

(Excerpts from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Gifts were given and received, be it food or a hand-carved item, with thought and love back then. And, actually we’re still doing the same things now, only with a different means of obtaining them.

Have fun today as you think of Christmas gifts to give to others. Will you hand make some items this year, or order them online?

P.S. If you’d like to read more about these Kansas pioneers, or would like to give them as a holiday gifts, the Kindle and Nook ebooks are on sale this month as Butterfield Books Inc.’s Cyber Monday special. Or, you can buy autographed books on my website, where you always get free shipping. Happy Shopping and Giving!

Our Family’s Thanksgiving Table

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, my mind wanders back to the simple Thanksgiving days of my youth—50+years ago—when my mom, grandma, or aunts hosted the noon meal. Each year we rotated to whose house we would go to, and each holds special memories.

Various tables were pushed together so we could all sit and pass the multiple platters and bowls of steaming food in a continuous circle.

We enjoyed the traditional foods of turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes—with a few Swedish dishes mixed in. (On Aunt Maydean’s turn we got the bonus of her homemade root beer.)

After the meal we’d have to dry all the pots, pans, dishes, and silverware used that day with a tea towel that kept getting soggier by each piece. That was part of the tradition too.

Now decades have gone by, changing who sits at our family Thanksgiving table. Our generation of cousins married, adding spouses and new children to the table, or left to join a new family’s table. Others left—but not by choice—due to age or disease.

Tomorrow as I’m eating white turkey meat dipped in cranberry sauce, I’ll be thinking of Thanksgiving pasts and who is missing from our table this year.

It’s just part of Thanksgiving to be grateful for food and family, both present and past.

And I’m really grateful for those memories…

Flooding Memories

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

(This month I’m posting excerpts from my books and telling you the story behind them.)

I remember several floods while growing up on the farm I featured in my Butter in the Well book series.

The creek runs through the middle of the farm, with the river on the west border. Most times the creek is dry, but it can flood quickly as Kajsa found out there first night on their new land.

“March 31, 1868

…Tonight and for quite a while we will sleep in the wagon and cook on the campfire. We stacked the lumber beside the wagon, so we have more room in the wagon bed. Carl may sleep on the ground, but Christina needs to be protected from the damp ground and the creatures that I’m sure will check us out tonight.

Thank goodness Christina has stayed healthy. Many children died on the long trip to America and were buried at sea. It broke my heart to hear about parents burying their babies along the wagon trails going west. The families had to move on, knowing they would never visit the grave. One woman told me she hoped her little one would be left in peace and not dug up by a wolf looking for food, or an Indian looking for clothing.

My thoughts have been interrupted several times by the dark clouds building up above the bluffs to the west. We experienced a few thunderstorms in Illinois and Christina was terrified. I was pretty uneasy myself. We were in a house then, not out in the wide open, lost in a sea of waving grass…

April 1, 1868

It poured all last night, maybe a slight pause, and then more buckets of rain. Carl and I were soaking wet, trying to keep Christina and our supplies halfway dry. Our poor animals were tied to the wagon, having no choice but to be miserable where they stood. In the dawn light we saw we were surrounded by water. The creek had flooded its banks and was rising around us. Our stack of boards was floating away so Carl and I had to jump from the wagon and splash around in the muddy waters, shoving the lumber back into the wagon. We had to move farther up our land to the northeast to escape the floodwater. The creek I was so happy about had become a life-threatening curse. It is evening now and the water is receding. We now know that the land will be our master and not the other way around.”

(Excerpt from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

The creek has flooded the farm on occasion for over 140 years. Sometimes it’s been a decade between floods, or a week depending on the year.

You can hear the floodwater coming up the “alley” between the corrals before you see it. It has seeped into the barn and granary, ruining things sitting on the floor of the buildings if they weren’t moved out in time. I remember tying the horses and 4-H calves up to the fence east of the house to be out of harm’s way when I was in grade school.

The house is on higher land but the cellar has been flooded a few times. I don’t know if their first home, a dugout was ever threatened.

Can you imagine Kajsa’s worry as the waters crept up towards their farm? It would have been the same as my parent’s worry decades later… with the same creek and the same buildings.