The Long Winter - Weeks 3 & 4 {Prairie Primer}

We spent the week off-grid, so with the exception of one science lesson that we did at home previously, we did both weeks in 4 days and finished The Long Winter this week.

See more about our curriculum and a list of books and resources we are using for links to what we are using.

Week 3

Days 1 & 2

Sunrise our first morning. 

Red sky at night, sailors delight. 
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. 

Our wood cook stove. 

Toast made in the stove, like Ma made. 

We opened a bucket of wheat and took turns grinding 1/2 cup at a time racing to see who could grind the fastest. We have a smaller hand grinder at home (not a coffee mill like Ma used though) for emergency use, but we enjoyed the ease of the Country Living Hand Mill while we could.

We'll go to town tomorrow to buy yeast to make the pancake starter to make Almanzo's Buckwheat pancakes.

We talked about the difference between whole wheat flour and refined white flour (more on this in Week 4 day 1).

We covered the importance of grains in our diet and soaking or fermenting them for best nutrition (not in the manual).

We talked about modern conveniences we've become dependent on like my Kitchen Aid mixer, Vitamix, and electricity. My Kitchen Aid went out and I was so used to it, I didn't want to make anything I used to make in it. Ma would have been ashamed. I did finally make bread and kneaded it by hand, like I used to all the time years ago.

One of the assignments was to turn off the electricity and read or do an activity by candle light or lamp light, which we did by living at our off-grid home without electricity for 8 days.

“If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of a light,” Ma considered. “We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.” 
 “That’s so,” said Pa. “These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves–they’re good things to have, but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”

We made a button lamp, like Ma did.

We used:
  • nickel or quarter (instead of a metal button, like Ma used)
  • coconut oil (instead of grease)
  • square of fabric
  • string

We tied a square of fabric around a nickel then rubbed coconut oil into the fabric. 

We read The Long Winter and selections from McGuffy's 5th reader by lamplight and then turned off the lamp to light our button lamp.

Just enough light to read by!

I can see just how important a little light would have been to the Ingalls. 

The full moon of November 14, 2016 was supposed to be not only the biggest, closest and brightest supermoon of this year, but also the closest supermoon since January 26, 1948. We watched the rising of the moon that night.

I love being up at our place during a full moon because the moon lights up the black night. We were hoping to get up there by sunset the night before, but it ended up being a blessing that we didn't make it up until 7pm - it would have been pitch black at 5pm as the moon had not risen yet. 

Days 3 - 4

We looked up verses on complaining and made Almanzo's buckwheat pancakes using the recipe in the cookbook (with a few substitutions). First we made a starter that we set in a cool place.

But when we checked on it only a couple hours later, the batter had exploded out of the jar! I scooped out the remaining batter and put it in a gallon zippie and then in the ice box and then let it ferment for 8 hours.

We talked about proper frostbite treatment - warming up cold fingers and toes slowly and not rubbing snow on them.

For a part of our weather study, we made a barometer.

We talked about whether or not we could spend a long time alone. The kids all said they would not want to be alone. They were fine being up at our property all alone (not a neighbor in sight), but they would not want to be alone alone.

I wish I would have thought to bring hay to twist into logs! I can't even imagine the work they went through just to stay warm. I was so thankful to have wood and coal - I loaded the stove at night with coal and it lasted through the night.

Malachi made the pancakes and we put them in the wood stove to keep warm. We layered each with raw cane sugar (the closest to brown sugar that we had) and served them with real maple syrup.

His finished stack of pancakes. 

These last pics were taken on a trip to town. Pa would have loved this. 

While in town, we went to the library and bought a 5 gallon jug of water, ice blocks for the cooler, and yeast at the IGA. 

Week 4

Day 1

We covered whole wheat nutrition in more detail (as covered in the manual). 

We talked about God's provision and played a game each night about the goodness in our lives. After I tucked the kids in bed, we took turns saying one thing that is good in our lives. We took turns until we got sleepy and then did one more round. It was wonderful and so sweet to hear all the little things that my kids are thankful for.

And Eliana got her heart's desire. We woke up to snow!

The kids played in the snow, made snow cones with pomegranate juice, and had a jammy day. 

Day 2


We actually did this next part during Week 2 when we covered wind chill factor. I figured we should learn about wind first so I did this on my own, but then looked ahead and saw we were covering wind patterns in Week 4.

So, we did a study on the wind, and I summarized a few key points:
  • warm air expands and rises and cool air contracts and sinks
  • wind is caused by a temperature difference, with warm air which is light, being pushed up by cool air which is heavier. 
We did a balloon activity to demonstrate warm and cold air expanding and contracting.

We put a balloon over the mouth of a bottle and put the bottle in very hot water (far left) and watched to see what happened. The warm air filled the balloon. Then we put the bottle in a bowl of ice cold water (middle) and observed. The cold air contracted the balloon and it deflated (far right). See a video of this here.

Then we learned about global wind patterns in The Weather Report, a suggested resource in the Prairie Primer manual. We then studied wind patterns on an Azimuthal Equidistant map. If you look at the doldrums which are the wind patterns near the equator, the air is calm because there is little change in temperature. The northeast and southeast trade-winds which are just above and below the equator from 0 to 30 degrees, are steady. The horse latitudes at 30 degrees are another area of calm where the air is cooling and sinking. The westerlies which are from 30 to 60 degrees are the prevailing winds over much of the middle and higher latitudes. The polar front is where the warm air of the westerlies meets the cold air of the polar easterlies. Where warm air meets cold air is called a front, and this is what causes interesting weather.

We watched global wind patterns  in real time using this beautiful earth wind map that shows real time wind and temperature conditions around the world on an azimuthal equidistant map. If you click on "earth" in the bottom left corner, you can play around and choose any map to see wind patterns, temperature conditions and ocean currents in real time, but the way the winds blow and the ocean currents move on the azimuthal equidistant is so peaceful and rhythmic.

Day 3 - 4

I explained the properties of baking soda and what Ma called it.

We read from Laura Ingall's Wilder Country and The World of Little House, the later of which is my favorite of the two.

Showing of pic of our barometer we made the other day, because it shot up with the recent snowfall!

It was a bright sunny day, so we got around the making the snow goggles mentioned last week

Later the kids wrote a letter by early morning lamplight. 

Back home, their dad finished reading the autobiography of Samuel Morse. I thought it was so cool that Malachi had to use Morse Code to do one of his lessons in his Veritas Self Paced History. 

and then spell his name with Morse Code. 

Then we took the next week off of school to prepare for a Thanksgiving meal and a visit from my oldest two boys who came home for the holiday. 

Our generals for this unit included a weather study, so I did some activities to include my 5 year old in our study that I will share next!

We have already started Little Town on the Prairie. I will share our unit in one post when we are done. 

Until then... 


  1. That looks like you had a lot of fun - without electricity - and managed just fine. Ma and Pa would be proud! :)

  2. I think Ma and Pa would be very pleased and proud of you! And personally, I'm just a wee bit jealous of your off-grid home. :-) Beautiful location too, to be able to see those gorgeous skies and the mountains.

  3. Thank you! I just keep thinking that Laura would have marveled over our modern kitchens and completely understood. :) It really is nice to get way up there, but I always come home so thankful for hot running water!

  4. Wow! I love the pictures. Such a gorgeous place for the kids to explore and learn in! Thanks for sharing <3