Working on the Miner’s Cabin

DSCN1245.1Now that we’re getting settled in to our new home, now that we’ve gotten the log cabin organized and looking like a home, Sarah and I have been able to spend some time in the Miner’s Cabin getting it ready for residents. The beautiful old shack has been used as a storage cabin for the past fifteen or more years, and my goal is to get it back to roughly how I remember it being, back when I was little. Add a little pure imagination, some historical instinct, and I’m hoping it will be a lively, beautiful little place.

DSCN0177.1When Dad was in his early twenties and working on the Burlington-Northern Railroad, he lived in this old shack, and even through the winter–So rest your minds, it is livable. In spite of there being no plumbing. It needs new wiring and the wood burning stove needs maintenance, but the roof is new and the structure itself is surprisingly weather-tight.

DSCN0172.1My project this afternoon was to get my sewing cabinet set up. The cabin has three rooms–A living room, a bedroom, and a lean-to. The lean-to is where I am hoping my sewing things will get to live. Although it is a little hard to see in the picture, there is a glass-front cabinet against the wall to the left. DSCN0079.1About two weeks ago, Mom, Sarah and I boxed up all the old jars (you’d be amazed how many there were!), and separated the keepers from the pitchers–Or, rather, the ones useful for canning from the ones we probably wouldn’t want to use for canning. Of the ones we wouldn’t use, I confiscated some and now can use them for sewing organization!  With all the extra jars cleared out or put to use, and with the interior dusted and wiped down with oil soap, it works nicely as storage space for sewing notions.

DSCN0074.1The shelves are the perfect depth for my overlock thread, as well as my normal sewing machine thread. There is an old spice rack and a curio shelf that I’m hoping to put to use for sewing supplies as well. DSCN1243.1Jars and baskets help organize buttons, sewing needles, machine needles, thread, sewing tools, and ribbon and trim. I’m looking forward to getting my sewing table set up, a gift from a dear woman back in Champaign for whom I did quite a bit of sewing work, and being able to sew away out here!

Such a cozy little cabin–A cozy cabin needs people to live in it.

Laura Elizabeth

A Little Rain

DSCN0022.1Every time I drive to work, whether to work in the foothills herding cattle or to work in the heart of the Hills cutting fabric, I’m thankful for being here. But today, the drive was really a joy. The wet and mist and the low hanging clouds cast a spell over the Hills. Familiar landscape was shrouded and obscured, and the breath of clouds was heavy in the trees.

DSCN0030.1Unfortunately, South Dakota sort of lives in a perpetual drought. Maybe there have been a few years of plentiful moisture (last year, for instance), but drought is nothing new to this region. You’ll know that if you’re familiar with Laura Ingalls and her family’s struggles in the eastern part of the state. Up until this weekend, we’d gotten very little moisture this year. My uncle said that Rapid City is currently about two inches short on precipitation. However, this weekend has brought at least enough moisture to green things up. Ranchers had been getting worried about hay production and summer pastures for their cattle–Hopefully this is putting us on the right track.

DSCN0023.1But regardless of how much precipitation we have gotten over the past few days, the scenery has been more brilliant, and the low-hanging clouds are mesmerizing, thanks to what little rain we’ve gotten. DSCN0027The damp brings out the richness of the greens and browns and greys, and the frogs were singing loudly in this little pond when I drove by today. I’ve always loved fog–this is simply haunting.

Laura Elizabeth

Think Small

When a family of six moves from a four-bedroom, 2100-square-foot home to a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot home, some serious downsizing must occur. For months leading up to moving, our packing was as much figuring out what not to take as it was figuring out how to pack what to take. It turns out it really is possible to live a) out of boxes, b) with most of your books packed away, and c) with significantly fewer things. I have come to not really like things. Yes, I have my selection of special things, but so often, things are just a cheap way to spend hard earned money.


With two (small) bedrooms and six people, there was already a math problem. We’re planning on utilizing the Miner’s Cabin across the driveway, as soon as it is cleaned out, and currently one of the six is still in Illinois. One of the bedrooms is being used as an office, which leaves…well, one bedroom, and a very spacious loft.


So Sarah, Anna, and I have turned the loft into a surprisingly workable bedroom and living room. It still needs a little work, but with the beds tucked away under the eaves (we learned quickly to instinctively duck when walking around the loft), the whole middle of the room is open and airy.


An old double bed that was apparently built into the loft (it isn’t coming out without the help of a chainsaw) was turned into a day bed, and we’ve already used it for some cozy girls’ movie nights. Our clothes are still in boxes in the one remaining corner, and concealed behind an accordion screen.DSCN0015.1 We had plenty of book-sized packing boxes which Anna and I turned sideways and stacked to use as makeshift bookcases, since it isn’t standard to make ones to fit under the eaves. Some people might not like the idea of sleeping with the mattress on the floor, but all of us have found it surprisingly pleasant. Our corners are cozy and quite personalized. And there is really nothing more pleasant than falling asleep to the sound of rain pattering on the tin roof, just a foot or two away.

It reminds me of Laura Ingalls. That’s fine with me.

Laura Elizabeth

Sew, a Needle Pulling Thread

DSCN0277.1While in college, I (obviously) had relatively little time to devote to non-college pursuits. That’s as it should be, I suppose, but I’m rediscovering some of those interests that either were put on hold or put off all together while I was getting my undergraduate degree. The past few weeks (and months), I’ve gotten out my crochet hooks, bought yarn, and whipped up some various projects, while most recently I’ve turned my attention to smaller items. For instance, this shawl I actually just finished crocheting to be the size for an American Girl doll. Those who know me well would know that I have a weakness for American Girl dolls, and this shawl looks quite beautiful on my Felicity doll. While I don’t have a picture of the shawl on Felicity, here is a picture of the almost-finished garment. The fabric with it will turn into doll dresses. I made a pattern from a store-bought doll dress, but I have yet to find a good place for my sewing machines, so my sewing is still somewhat on hold.

DSCN0003.1It turns out the Black Hills area is quite an artsy community, with lots of participation in what might be termed “traditional” or “folk” arts. Yesterday, Mom and I went to the Black Hills Fiber Arts Fair, where I visited with a number of women who are skilled weavers, spinners, dyers, and some who raise their own fiber animals (someday!). I got a ten minute lesson on using the drop spindle from the “Godmother of Drop Spindles” (as her colleagues dubbed her), and promptly purchased a kit. 4629024Even though it isn’t very good, the finished thread is so pretty! This is another one of those interests I’ve had for what seems like eternity, ever since I read Little House in the Highlands. Martha, Laura Ingalls’ great grandmother, is given a drop spindle and some wool. The part of the book where she is learning to spin used to fascinate me.

DSCN0005.1There were so many vendors and so many beautiful products–Hand-spun yarns, woven shawls, dyed fabrics, beautifully carved spindles, etc. With a few more doll-sized projects in mind (other shawls, which will hopefully be sold eventually), I gave myself a budget and found some beautiful 100% wool yarns. Unfortunate, the hand-spun yarns were a little outside my price range, but these were beautiful. Can’t wait to see what the projects look like when they’re finished!

Laura Elizabeth