Big Woods - Week 3 {Prairie Primer}

This week, we learned about honey bees, the nutritional value of honey verses sugar, phases of the moon, various forms of oats, how to make cheese, and more.

Note: please keep in mind that some activities take more than one day to complete, but for the sake of sharing and documenting our journey on the blog, I will post them on the day we started the activity or on the day it is scheduled in the Primer. This will also help others who may be coming here for inspiration. See what we are using and resources we use for more details. 

Day 1


Summer in the Big Woods was a time for visiting. Ma makes cheese, and Pa finds a bee tree and harvests the honey leaving enough honey for the bees to survive in chapter 10.

Phases of the moon with Bo. 

and Elli. 

We read from A Pioneer Sampler where the Robertson's find a bee tree. 

We also read The Bee Tree and remembered our row. Sigh. Happy memories. 

I joined a 4H project called the Cowless Homestead Project so we could learn about milking cows and how to make cheese. We covered breeds of milking cows, their size, nutritional and health needs, how much it costs to feed and care for them, how much land they need, how often they need to be milked and how much milk they produce, diseases that are common and how to treat them, how to store raw milk, how to make several kinds of cheese and more. So far we've attended 8 hours of lecture and 2 hours of hands on learning. It's been amazing but overwhelming.  The most amazing part is that I learned that you can buy raw milk in Wyoming now and we are buying it from the family farm that is teaching us all this amazing information. Please keep in mind that this was a 4H project that happened over several weeks of time. I am sharing our cheese making class here because this is why we signed up for the class! 

Mozzarella Cheese {Quick Version in 20 Steps}

What we used:
  • Raw milk
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp citric acid +1/4 to 1/2 cup cool water per gallon of milk
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp (6-12 drops) liquid rennet + 1/4 to 1/2 cup cool water per gallon of milk
  • Brine (1 1/2 cups kosher or non-iodized salt + 1/2 gallon cold water)
What we did: 

1. Put the cold raw milk into a pot.
2. Mix the citric acid into the cold water.

3. Add the water/citric acid mixture to the cold milk. Stir for 30 seconds. 

4. Bring the temperature of the milk to 88 degrees. 

5. Mix the rennet into the cool water.

6. Add the water/rennet mixture to the warm milk. Stir for 30 seconds. 

7. Let sit for 15 minutes.
8. It should be firm. It has coagulated enough when you did you finger into the curds and it breaks cleanly.


Ew! Sour. 

Time to cut the curd!

9. Cut the curds into 1 inch cubes and let rest for 10 minutes. 

10. Bring the temperature slowly to 108 degrees and hold for 35 minutes stirring gently every 5-10 minutes. 

11. Pour the curds into a colander. Drain for 15 minutes. 

12. Time to reheat. Heat enough hot water to cover the curds to 170 degrees. 
13. Cut the cheese into 1 inch pieces. Put the curds into the hot water. Use the back of a spoon to work and stretch the curds until they are cool enough to handle with your hands. 

14. Gently pull the curds like taffy, stretching and folding. The more you work the cheese, the tougher and dryer it gets. 

15. Make a long rope of cheese. Then wind it into a ball. (Keep it in ropes to make string cheese!)

16. Put the ball of cheese back into the hot water and press and form into a ball. 

17. Drop the ball into the cold brine solution for 10-30 minutes. (Longer if desired). 

18. Take the ball of cheese out of the brine and let drain on a towel for 10-60 minutes. 
19. Wrap in wax paper and store in the refrigerator. 
20. Enjoy! 

I've made mozzarella twice at home since. I had the kids help me through each step the first time. Each time it seemed like it wouldn't work, but each time it did. It was so stretchy and wonderful.  Making mozzarella is very forgiving, thankfully. 

I like it soaked extra long in the brine and eating it as a snack... 

or in lasagna. I made this lasagna with the queso blanco (vinegar cheese) and mozzarella that we made at the college plus a batch that I made at home. Yummy! My teen boys wouldn't eat it because it was made with homemade cheese made from raw milk. More for us! :)

Did you know you can only make hard cheese, the kind Ma made, from raw milk?   

Day 2


Pa and Uncle Henry are trying to harvest the oats before the rain comes in chapter 11.

We examined oats in different forms - oat groats, oatmeal, and extruded oat cereal.

We made these really good oatmeal pancakes.  

Of course, we talked about how naughty Charlie was, the consequence of his behavior, and how to treat a fever naturally.

Day 3

The Wonderful Machine

Next day Pa cut the heads from several bundles of the oats, and brought the clean, bright, yellow straws to Ma. Ma braided the long strands together - for days all her spare time was spent braiding straws to make hats in chapter 11. We tried braiding raffia today while I read aloud.

We weren't as patient as Ma. Elli braided raffia, adding in strands as she came to the end like Ma did, but it was hard.

Ma hulled corn. I once bought dent corn for storage. I didn't know about hulling it before cooking. It was edible, but the hulls are tough and had to be peeled off before eating. It took Ma three days to make hulled corn. I can't even imagine. I bought a can of hulled corn from the store.

Pa had a machine come to thresh his wheat. The machine did the work four men would have taken weeks to do in a single day. Ma cooked a meal for the threshers, which included johnny-cake.

We made Johnny Cake to eat with our hulled corn. Bo liked the Johnny Cake with butter and honey, but he did not like the hulled corn. I told him Laura and Mary had to eat every thing on thier plate. He pouted, tried to crawl under the table to excuse himself and wrapped his arms around his knees in a huff. I asked Eliana what Pa did when Laura pouted and complained that she did not want to keep the Sabbath, and she said he told her a story. So I told her and Bo a story. When I was in K and 1st grade, I attended a private school, and at lunch we had to eat at least half of everything on our plate. I didn't like canned peas, so before it was my turn to have my tray inspected, I pushed all the peas to one side of the compartment and smashed them down. Then I scooped up half of his serving, and he was happy to eat half his hulled corn and then finished his Johnny Cake before drinking his milk.

I bought a can of organic pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie but the can is still sitting in my pantry. I was going to make mini pumpkin pies with canning jar lids. :)

Day 4

The Deer in the Wood

Pa couldn't bring himself to shoot the deer he attracted to his deer lick in chapter 13. When he told the story to Mary and Laura, Laura said she was glad he didn't shoot them. Mary said, "We can eat bread and butter." 

So we had bread and butter for a meal today. 

The Ingall's family would not have meat for awhile. We talked about the nutrients meat provides and how we can provide proper nourishment for our bodies without meat. So we talked about how to make a complete protein and I used my sprouted bread as an example.

We sang "Oh Susanna" from the songbook and CD, read from The World of Little House and Laura Ingalls Wilder Country. A perfect ending to Little House in the Big Woods. 

Of course, we are still plugging away with Generals and reading our autobiography of Louis Pasteur. And I am reading By The Great Horn Spoon to Eliana (Malachi read it on his own so we read it while he is at soccer practice or before bed).

We're all excited for our Gold Rush party next week



Science continues with our study of the Skeletal System.

The premise for the following demonstration/activity is to understand that minerals give bones their strength.

Bones in water on the left/in vinegar on the right. 

Bones in vinegar on the left/water on the right
Look how well the vinegar preserved the bones. The water cup was stinky and full of bacteria, I'm sure. 

And the vinegar dissolved the minerals in the bone. 

Malachi wanted to look at the marrow inside the bones under the microscope. I gave him some slides - including red blood cells to look at.

In other news...

Since, I'm blogging behind time, I decided to start adding in a few photos of what's going on in our life at the time. Jordan turned 20 this week. He picked Subway and a dirt cake for desert. He will graduate and be ready to move out in just a couple months. 

Jordan's birthday is special to me for it is a reminder of how many years I've been a mom - my anniversary of becoming a mom. 

This week is March 27th-April 1st. 

In real-time... 

I want to add a quick note that as soon as we hit Plum Creek we go into full summer mode, which is a very relaxed (and enjoyable) pace! We drop Anatomy and are just doing the science in Prairie Primer... and there is plenty to do! 

Until next time...


  1. i just wanted to drop by and say that i have had had so much fun browsing your prairie primer archives. I will be starting this with my daughter soon and it has been such a blessing to see the ways you incorporated the activities. It's also shown me i can include my son at the same time. please keep sharing, i just love the insight into other's homeschooling. I love all your pictures also! Was wondering where you got the lab coats? they are cute!

    1. Hi Kelly, thank you so much for your encouragement! I appreciate knowing you are reading - I'll keep sharing! I got the lab coats on Amazon. They are soft and wash well. Here's a link to them:

    2. Oh thank you so much. Yes absolutely going to be reading. Love it!