Great Pioneer Projects You Can Build Yourself by P-IndependentPublish


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									Great Pioneer Projects You Can Build Yourself
Built It Yourself series

Author: Rachel Dickinson

Age Group: 9-12
Table of Contents

How It All Began

Chapter 1: Mapping the Way
Chapter 2: The Decision to Go West
Chapter 3: Wagon Trains
Chapter 4: Hardships on the Trail
Chapter 5: Popular Routes
Chapter 6: The Transcontinental Railroad
Chapter 7: Building Homes
Chapter 8: Frontier Farming and Food
Chapter 9: At Home and at School
Chapter 10: Fun and Holidays
Chapter 11: Cowboys and Indians
Chapter 12: Documenting the West


Build-it activities connect readers to the people who built their homes and communities on the frontier,
enhancing this first-hand look at the history of the American West and pioneers. Readers will discover
their own mapmaking skills while learning how and why people traveled west and will replicate the tough
chore of building a house when creating a log cabin out of edible materials. Other projects that help kids
better understand the hardships of life on the frontier include typesetting newspapers with alphabet pasta,
making models of covered wagons and prairie bonnets, and making the quilts and candles that would
have turned a house in the wilderness into a home.

The first year of life as a homesteader was very difficult. After making the long journey in a covered wagon
pioneers were absolutely exhausted, but they still had a lot of work to do. There were no stores where
pioneers could buy groceries or supplies, so whatever they needed, they had to find in nature or make for
themselves. First
the pioneers cleared an area of land and built a house of
some kind. If pioneers decided to settle in the Northwest or California, in the first 3 years a pioneer would
clear about 22 acres of woods for farmland. That work included cutting trees, clearing bushes and vines,
and pulling the stumps. Clearing the land was so hard that pioneer families would often get together to do
the work as a group, which they called a bee.Pioneer families tried to have their fields and farms ready for
planting by the first spring after their arrival in the West. It was important to plant as soon as the ground
dried out from the winter so that the crops could grow as large as possible. Pioneers often planted
potatoes first because potatoes didn’t need a perfectly plowed field to grow. They could even plant
potatoes around tree stumps that the
farmer had not pulled out yet.Working in the fields was back-breaking work that began before sunup and
lasted until sundown. To grow crops like wheat, barley, and corn, the farmer had to plow the fields. In
some areas of the Great Plains this was virtually impossible
without a steel plow. The sod was so thick with roots that it was difficult to churn up. Before the steel
plow was widely available, settlers broke the sod any way they could—sometimes they even chopped the
sod with an axe!
During planting and harvesting time everyone in the family worked in the fields. At other times of the year,
mothers and daughters did household chores like cooking, cleaning, making butter, mending, and
sewing, and only the father and sons worked outdoors. After the crop seeds were planted, pioneers had
to battle the birds who liked
to eat them. It was usually the children’s job to try to keep the birds away by chasing them and yelling
and screaming.Times of extreme dry weather, also known as drought, happened off and on periodically
throughout the 1880s and 1890s. The crops withered in the field as the prairie soil turned to dust. Fierce
winds whipped
up dangerous dust storms. With so much dirt swirling in the air, sometimes the settlers couldn’t see to
their barn from their houses. Pioneers found that the fine dust got into everything. It worked its way into
houses, down chimneys, and through cracks in the walls. Another danger during dry weather was prairie
fires, which were often started by lightning. They were impossible to control and everything a family
owned could be turned to a pile of smoking ash in a matter of minutes. Then there were the grasshoppers
and locusts that sometimes swarmed through the prairie. They ate everything in their path and left crops
stripped of their leaves and seeds.Pioneers had to grow most of what they ate. Even if they didn’t
have large farms, families planted big gardens and grew vegetables like beans, peas, squash, pumpkins,
turnips, cabbage, potatoes, beets, and anything else they might like. They also planted apple or pear
orchards so that they could have both fresh and dried fruit.
Author Bio
Rachel Dickinson
Rachel Dickinson is a travel, nature, and science writer whose articles have been published in Audubon,
The Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and USA Weekend. She is the author of
Tools of the Ancient Romans, Tools of Navigation, and The Witch's Handbook.

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