Back from the Civil War

We’re back from Wasioja!  It was so much fun and so much work, and I’m so glad we did it.

We learned so much I couldn’t possibly share it all, and it was so incredible.  I really recommend taking part in Civil War reenactments, not just as a visitor (do that the first time) but also as a volunteer/reenactor.

Here’s just a bit of what we learned….

  • How to do a field amputation.  In detail!

  • Why so many body parts were amputated.

  • The medical degree requirements of the time, and the medical “wisdom” (egads!).  It’s a wonder any human beings survived at all.

  • What it was like to be a southern woman in the south during the war.
  • The drugs (prescribed) of the day and how common they were for man, woman and child.
  • The language of the fan.
  • Battles, generals, songs and traditions.

  • What foods and materials were substituted during the shortages and blockades.  Roasted beet coffee, anybody?
  • The real casualty numbers of the Civil War and why they were so off (it’s actually closer to a million, they think).


  • And so much more.


We stayed with a fabulous unschooling family on their dairy farm Saturday night (Alexandra and her whole family are just delightful, and her Brazilian mother is a magical creature in her own right…. such neat people!!!!).

(Photo of Cupcake by Anna Bayer)

We got filmed for several news reports and for the Wasioja video, and interviewed for the local paper (note: How funny that the reporter managed to spell Hrdlicka right but misspelled Daryl, and that we have three children named Jack, Alex and Annie… reporters invariably get almost everything but your planet wrong even when you give them a direct quote and spell it all out!).

Jack and Alex worked tirelessly to teach kids (and some adults) how to roll hoops, play the game of graces and do other old-time games.  They also disappeared into the tall grass with our toy rifles to play war all weekend.

Daryl had a constant crowd in front of him to learn about old time musical instruments from the spoons to the dulcimer to the one string.  I hardly got to spend a minute with him the whole weekend because he was so popular.

Anna spent the first day in full costume (corset and all!) with me, but chose to go modern for the second day and be a little more comfortable.  🙂

(Anna has taken part in the Wilder Pageant enough to know that you’re never supposed to smile in old time photographs!)

All of the kids (minus Victoria, who was up with friends in the Twin Cities for two weeks) helped out in the children’s craft tent where we were stationed too, and made me proud in the way they chipped in there.

Fiona stole the show on both days, waving and saying hi to every passer-by and even charming Abraham Lincoln.

We will definitely take part next time (two years from now).  Pipestone is next year again.  I’m so happy they stagger them so there’s one every summer.

It was a lot of work, but good work.  And we really came home with such a feeling of the realities of the Civil War times, minus the romantic movie versions and sound bytes.  We have a deep appreciation for the many ways it affected everybody.

If you have never taken part in a Civil War event, I highly recommend it.  Ren Fests are so popular but there are lots of historic times worth visiting.  Why just play in the Renaissance era?  🙂


The 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century

I came across this list of the supposed best novels of the last century at

On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels, at the request of the Modern Library editorial board.

Here’s the first 25:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Victoria has read at least 5 of the top 25 this year as part of her 9th grade reading plan and on her own (1984, The Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird).  I’m not sure how many she’s read of the next 75.

My own tally for how many I’ve read is shockingly low… about ten that I remember.  Several were on my reading lists in college and I managed to completely BS my way through all of the discussions, tests and essays without ever reading them.  College was a terrible time for me to actually try to learn anything, since I was so overwhelmed with life during that time.  I started college at 16, was married by 18, worked full time and then some, and navigated a rather brutal few years of tragedies (my aunt’s murder, my mother’s prolonged terminal illness, my own miscarriages, finding my long-lost father after he’d already died, and so on).  Heart of Darkness just wasn’t a priority, even if it was supposed to be.

Perhaps I ought to make up for it now and finally get to some of those novels.  🙂

What about you?  How many have you read?  Which ones would you add?

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Ants as Guinea Pigs

A few years ago I blogged here about some of the ant experiments we’d done lately and I wrote up a bunch of them as part of an Examiner article, with a link to an ant running Victoria’s chalk ant maze.

Examiner changed formats since then and the old format ate the video, so I rewrote it today and put the video back up.  If you’d like to see an 11 year-old Victoria showing how to make an ant maze (and hear a silly me in the background), I put it up here today:

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There’s also directions for a cool ant trail experiment, taste tests (no, you don’t taste the ants), fun ant books for little ones, natural repellents to try, and so on.

At some point, I also want to retry our butter experiment, which you might remember was derailed by our cats.

I’m still not entirely sure why we should base our butter/margarine choices on what is preferred by ants, though.  We did the experiment after seeing lots of posts on Facebook and such about how ants won’t eat margarine.  Is the idea that ants will instinctively pick a healthier choice?  Why?  The cats sure didn’t.  I’ve seen what dogs eat, and I wouldn’t choose my foods based on which ones they’d pick either.  I’m pretty sure ants would choose a Pixie stick full of sugar and red dye over raw veggies any day.  So why do we really care about their dairy spread preferences?  Just a thought.

Anyway, if you have an assortment of the little critters around your driveway these days, there’s a few ways to put them to work.  😉