We're digging out from the heaviest snowfall in thirty years. Schools are closed, we've had no mail for two days, almost nobody is on the roads. I haven't had the guts to venture out for groceries. My kids keep ending up stranded face-down and sunk in the drifted-up yard. We keep shovelling, but there's nowhere to put any more snow. All of which reminds me that I would have lasted about three minutes on the frontier.
Life was constantly intense for settlers, and not just in the winter. For clothing and bedlinen, most families had to produce their own yarn from flax or wool, spinning and winding it in their spare time (!), then weaving and sewing. Little girls would run around weaving narrow "tapes" to hold up garters and such. No idle hands.
First Nations and white hunters killed deer for hides as well as meat, skinning, scraping, and treating the leather to trade or make into hunting shirts. In the Kentucky frontier forts, white settlers began to run out of clothes, and went around half-naked or contrived outfits from blankets or roughly woven buffalo hair. Nothing simple.
On the frontier, bear meat was seen as the best eating, but deer, elk, and turkey were staples too. As settlers moved west, they enjoyed the fried tails of the beavers they trapped for fur to trade, and learned that buffalo hump and tongue were the choice cuts. You had to catch one first, though. And to grow food, you had to clear the trees, stumps, and rocks, plow the soil, plant your corn and vegetables and fruit trees, as well as hay for your livestock, and harvest and store it. And start all over again after the soil was exhausted in a few years.
So it's wild frontier lite at my snowbound house today. I'm going to make some killer chocolate cookies and really, really appreciate them.
I'm the author of My Name is a Knife, All True Not a Lie In It, and The Old Familiar.