Click through to see pictures of a soddy’s interior and exterior outside of Gaithersburg, Kansas.
Since I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about soddies lately (first-round edits=lots of research review), I thought I’d share a few with you:
The grassy mid-section of our country, the Interior Plains, is actually made up of two very different environments: the wetter, cooler prairies of the east and the drier, hotter plains of the west.
Pioneers who settled on the prairies built homes from the wood available along riverbeds. Those who settled on the plains worked with what was most readily available: sod.
Kansas, where MAY B. takes place, happens to have both prairies and plains. Much of May’s story takes place inside a soddy, like the one above (except she had a papered window instead of fancy glass).
The typical dimensions for a soddy were 20×16. Some soddies had pitched roofs made of wood or a combination of wood and sod. Older soddies had roofs of sod, supported only by twigs and occasional branches. Because of this, it was not unusual for ceilings to collapse after heavy rain.
Sometimes snakes and mice made homes in soddy ceilings and walls.
Before starting MAY B., I’d only heard of sod homes from the books ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK (the Ingalls family lived for a time in a dug out, a home bulit into the side of a hill with one sod-brick wall) and MY ANTONIA (optional reading in high school).
Did you learn much about the frontier in school? How do you think you’d fare in a home like this?
AND…Stop by Anna’s and congratulate her on her book deal!
OMGosh. It’s like camping…in a really rural area. I’d probably fare well. I’m not really a picky person/girl. LOL.
I learned a little about the frontier in school, but I wish more. Little House on the Prairie was my most fond memory.
Jennifer Shirk says
No, I really don’t remember learning anything like that in school–or the frontier in general.
I don’t know if I could live in that (mainly because of the snakes and mice thing) but I guess you do what you have to.
A.L. Sonnichsen says
All this research review you’re doing is making me more and more excited to read your book, Caroline!
I only knew about soddies from the Little House book you mentioned. I read My Antonia in high school, but forgot there was a soddy involved. I think it’s on my bookshelf … maybe it’s time for a reread! 🙂
As for how I’d fare in one, I think it’s the same as most historical contexts. I have this romantic idea in my head about what life would have been like, but if I was actually thrust into one with all my awareness of modern conveniences, it would be really hard! If I were a true frontier woman, however, I’m sure I’d be thankful for a roof over my head, even if it was prone to collapsing. 😉
Valerie Geary says
Little House!!! I will admit to having prairie fantasies when I was a little girl. I may have even worn a bonnet once or twice.
Jemi Fraser says
This period in history is fascinating – but it always makes me glad I live in modern times 🙂 So much work!!
I love the photo you’ve chosen to go with – beautiful!
Fascinating research. The log building reminds me of Native American Long-houses. (Hugs)Indigo
Great pictures, fascinating glimpse into the past. No, I didn’t learn much in school about the frontier either, except, like others, through the Little House stories and Caddie Woodlawn. But somehow I came away with a great curiosity about the pioneer days in the Ohio River valley. I’ve visited there a lot in my mind’s eye through the writing of my WIP…
Designs by JoLea says
Any knowledge I had about the frontier came from reading Louis L’Amour and the like.
I think I would do well living on the frontier, but not necessarily on the prairie – the wind drove a lot of women crazy. I would be one of them :-0
Loving seeing your research materials, very excited about your book. Can’t wait!!!
Natalie Aguirre says
Your pictures are so interesting. I never knew they built homes from sod.
Catherine Stine says
Great info on the sod houses. I loved the Little House books. Yours sounds cool too!