Little House: Let's Read Big Woods, Chapter 7

Chapter 7 has the Sugar Snow -- a quick spring snow that results in more maple syrup flowage for Grandpa Ingalls. Pa hops to it and takes the family to the grandparents' house to help out, plus there's going to be a dance.

   Pa’s blue eyes twinkled; he had been saving the best for the last, and he said to Ma:
   “Hey, Caroline! There’ll be a dance!”
   Ma smiled. She looked very happy, and she laid down her mending for a minute. “Oh, Charles!” she said.
   Then she went on with her mending, but she kept on smiling. She said, “I’ll wear my delaine.”
   Ma’s delaine dress was beautiful. It was a dark green, with a little pattern all over it that looked like ripe strawberries. A dressmaker had made it, in the East, in the place where Ma came from when she married Pa and moved out west to the Big Woods in Wisconsin. Ma had been very fashionable, before she married Pa, and a dressmaker had made her clothes.

HEY WHAT.

That one little bit is the most interesting thing about Ma ever. Where did she live? How did she meet Pa? How does she know all these farmhand skills, like cheese making and the like, if she comes from the fashionable-back-east? What does she think about being taken away from town life and put into a 1-room log cabin in the middle of nowhere where she goes days or sometimes weeks without seeing other adult human beings who are not her husband?

WHAT DREAMS DID SHE DREAM IN HER EARLIER LIFE.

Also, this entire chapter is about making maple syrup, which seems hard. Makes you wonder who thought to do all that first.

14 comments:

Loquat said...

Who first figured out how to tap maple trees for sap and boil it down into sweet syrup? Probably someone with a sweet tooth and no other available sources of sugar. (I was going to ask the same question regarding stinging nettles, which are edible, before realizing that it was probably someone facing starvation. And if you were wondering, boiling the nettles apparently neutralizes the stinginess.)

Then again, lots of pre-20th-century food preparation was a lot of work - see also, the process of fermenting mushrooms or green walnuts into the brown sauce that was called Ketchup before tomato ketchup became a thing.

EdinburghEye said...

Not quite as hard work as making sugar out of sugar beets. And not as skilled as keeping bees.

Majromax said...

Also, this entire chapter is about making maple syrup, which seems hard. Makes you wonder who thought to do all that first.

The first nations. It's really a remarkable source of sugar, too -- extremely pure. Also, I'm not so sure it would be a great deal of work exactly, since the boiling itself only needs lightly attended.

I was going to ask the same question regarding stinging nettles, which are edible, before realizing that it was probably someone facing starvation.

Also, if I remember correctly, a good source of iron.

Makabit said...

That's actually odd, since I recall reading part of the series they did later on earlier Ingalls women, and IIRC, an orphaned Caroline was living with her mother and siblings in a pretty bare-bones set-up. I suppose it's possible that she went on to be 'very fashionable', and have her clothes made for her in between that and marrying Charles Ingalls, but it surprises me.

Makabit said...

Checking Wiki. Caroline's mother remarried, so they may have been more affluent after that. She started teaching when she was sixteen, and married Charles Ingalls when she was twenty-one. I suppose that allows for some years when she was making her own money and might have been able to dress in fashion.

Danel said...

I've always meant to try Heston Blumenthal's recipe for old-stylee mushroom ketchup - it's apparently really good with steak.

UrsulaV said...

I came for the Narnia discussions (which I love) but I de-lurk here to say that when I re-read these as an adult, this bit just killed me.

I spent the next few books (I had read "Big Woods" eleventy-million times as a kid, but no others) waiting for Ma to pick up a hatchet and scream "No more, Charles!" Because how do you go from that life to one where you are on the edge of starvation, deeply isolated, shatteringly poor and not Totally Lose All The Marbles?

(And the minute these go out of copyright, in another...thirteen years?...I am sending off my dark fairy tale version where Ma Irongall copes with her terrible isolation by having an affair with a fairy lover, and Pa turns out to be a were-bear. But for now it sits in the virtual desk drawer.)

Brin Bellway said...

(And the minute these go out of copyright, in another...thirteen years?...I am sending off my dark fairy tale version where Ma Irongall copes with her terrible isolation by having an affair with a fairy lover, and Pa turns out to be a were-bear. But for now it sits in the virtual desk drawer.)

Ooh. Sounds like a good 32nd birthday present. (Well, I suppose it wouldn't be quite that quick.)

Wait. UrsulaV? As in not Ursula L? You might want to get a more distinct name, as I only just noticed it didn't say Ursula L and I doubt I'm the only one.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

(And the minute these go out of copyright, in another...thirteen years?...

Under current US law (95 years after publication for works published before 1978), the copyright on Big Woods lapses in 2027.

But since Steamboat Willie was published five years before Big Woods, you can basically assume that the copyright will be extended indefinitely. The Disney Corporation will NEVER allow their rights to the Mouse to expire.

Isabel C. said...

Although fair use might well cover the sort of story UrsulaV is talking about, in a Wind Done Gone kind of way.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

That's very much a legal grey area - Wind Done Gone was never established as fair use, since the case was settled out of court, and it looks from the settlement that Houghton Mifflin didn't think they could win (since they agreed to pay an unknown chunk of money to have the case dropped). Copyright cases are unfortunately usually a matter of "the side with the most money wins".

★☆ keri ☆★ said...

The Disney Corporation will NEVER allow their rights to the Mouse to expire.

Copyright needs some serious reform. I don't really understand why they have to keep lobbying to extend the copyright stuff, because they DO still continue to use the Steamboat Willie image and animation amongst their other IP, unlike other IP owners who don't really do anything after 70 years (not least because they're probably dead?). IDEK if I understand it fully, but if Disney want to say "yo, this is ours and we still exist so don't fuck with it", then I feel like they should be able to? and to restrict who makes money off it (since that's the main sticking point). Kind of like trademark?

But I probably don't really understand the issue, and I suspect that MacBride and the Laura Ingalls Wilder library in Mansfield might fight over who can establish rights for Little House and whatnot to restrict earned income. (There was already a fight ten years ago, iirc.)

Copyright is so fucking complicated. One of my heroes on Twitter is @copyrightlibn who is awesome and I learn a lot from her, though she mostly focuses on CC licenses and fair use and stuff.

Ursula Vernon said...

I am so unused to running into other Ursulas, I can honestly say it's never come up!

Ursula Vernon said...

...and my attempts to change it seem to be failing. Odd.

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