Inspiration: A Home In The Woods

I promised that there were more homesteading sources for my novel Dark and Deep than the Little House books, and here is one of them: A Home in the Woods: Pioneer Life in Indiana. This book is a recounting by Howard Johnson of his grandfather’s stories about homesteading in Indiana in the 1830s. The Johnson family cleared a farm out of the woods in a spot that is now the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The Little House books begin with the smallholding in the Big Woods already cleared. We hear Pa complain about constantly fighting the trees, but this book gives you a keek (what’s a keek?) at the actual process of clearing and farming in woodland. It also explains, in a stoic but unsugared way, some of the difficulties of life on a new farm. Shoes? Kids didn’t have ’em. They went barefoot in the snow. Clothes? All linen for many years, there was no way to keep sheep safe or the wool clean. Family togetherness? The children were required to be silent indoors and were thrashed if they weren’t. Good clean fun? Hog-tying the schoolmaster and threatening to throw him down a well.

It’s a truly different take on the same culture that the Little House books describe, and well worth the reading.


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