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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Famous Last Words: Karl Marx

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“Go on, get out – last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” To his housekeeper, who urged him to tell her his last words so she could write them down for posterity.

Karl Marx, revolutionary, d. 1883

Everyone has last words; Karl Marx blew his last opportunity to go down in history with something intelligent…

Karl Marx, 1875.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia

Karl Marx, 1875. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Famous Last Words: Major General John Sedgwick

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Killed in the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania by a sharpshooter, his ironic last words were:

“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—.”

General John Sedgwick. Source: Wikipedia

Major General John Sedgwick. Source: Wikipedia

Building a hut with a kiln-fired tiled roof, underfloor heating and mud pile walls.

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You can’t get much more “History Undusted” than building a wood, stone and mud hut, complete with a heated floor! Check out this blog, complete with time-lapse video.

I built a hut with a tiled roof, underfloor heating and mud and stone walls. This has been my most ambitious primitive project yet and was motivated by the scarcity of permanent roofing materials in this location. Here, palm thatch decays quickly due to the humidity and insects. Having some experience in making pottery I wondered if roof tiles could feasibly be made to get around these problems. Another advantage of a tiled is that it is fire proof. A wood fired, underfloor heating system was installed for cold weather. A substantial wall of mud and stone were built under the finished roof. It should be obvious that this is not a survival shelter but a project used to develop primitive technological skills.

Time line: 102 days (21/5/15-30/8/15)

Chopping wood, carving mortises, putting up frame:  10 days (21/5/ 15 -31/5/15)

Using a celt stone axe I had made previously (

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Just for Fun

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I don’t know where this is, or who took the photo, but someone’s got a great sense of humour!

Nothing Happened

The Personal History of a Household Apron

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Apron - Dancing-girl-Levitsky-Dmitry-G.-1735-1822

Dancing Girl, Levitsky Dmitry, 1735-1822

Aprons have probably been around since the dawn of clothing; up until the Industrial Revolution, most people only had the clothes on their backs, or at most one change of clothing – in which case they were considered either very well off or thieves; a large number of the thefts reported in the 17th and 18th centuries had to do with clothing articles; the clothes made the man or woman, and if they could upgrade their wardrobe through “five-finger discounting” they might have a better chance at finding a good job with better wages.  The style of aprons has changed through the years, and while sometimes their function was little more than a fashion statement such as the photo to the left, their main purpose has never been lost:  To carry out every imaginable chore in and around the homestead.

My paternal grandparents, the Herrings, were a generation older than my maternal grandparents, the Kuhns, though my parents were born in the same year; the former grandparents had lost several children before my father came along when they were in their 40s.  They were Kansas pioneer farmers, my grandmother (nee Higbee) heading west in a covered wagon with her parents as a baby; she grew up on the prairies of Kansas, met my grandfather, and the rest is history.

Great-Grandmother Christine Aaroe-Higbee's Parents, from Denmark, ca 1890

The Aaroes, immigrants from Denmark, taken ca 1890.

Grandma Herring's Apron Quilt, Hand-Sewn between 1920 & 1970s

The Apron Quilt

Most of my childhood memories are of their farm; we spent many weekends there helping out, and I spent a week or two every summer with them.  My grandmother was always in an apron, except for Sunday mornings and holiday events – and those are the times when photographs were taken, so unfortunately I don’t have a photo of her in aprons.  But I have something much better:  A hand-sewn quilt, made lovingly by her from around 1920 to the early 80s.  The materials used for that quilt are her old aprons, Sunday dress scraps, and other spare cloths; and I remember seeing her in several of them.  The old photograph above is of my great-great grandparents, the Aaroes, immigrants from Denmark; the photo was taken around 1890, and shows my great-great grandmother in her daily apron at the spinning wheel.

1950s Housewife Chic vintage aprons

1950s Vintage Fashionable Aprons

Being a farmer’s wife, my grandmother’s aprons weren’t as fancy as these vintage patterns; they were plain, simple and hand-made; they did what they were needed for, and no more, no less.  But as simple as they might have been, those aprons were worth their weight in gold on a farm:  They protected her scanty wardrobe – she didn’t need much, didn’t want much, and was satisfied to take care of what she’d been blessed with.  They carried chicks, chicken eggs, kittens, flowers, herbs, apples, firewood and wood chips, baby birds fallen from nests in a wind storm, and the occasional sugar cube for the horses.  They wiped away tears, cleaned dirty faces, dusted furniture if guests were walking up the path, took delicious things from the oven, cold things from the freezer, and helped open canning jars.  They shaded a cold pie on her lap in the old Chevy truck while we bounced across the fields to bring my grandfather a picnic for lunch break in the summer heat (she could have used an old quilt for that, but it was being used to cradle a large mason jar of ice cold water, the best thirst-quencher I know). Those aprons helped gather grains, and stones to move from the garden or to the flower bed.  They carried chicken feed, broken eggs shells, potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, sweet peas, strawberries and squash.  They warmed her hands on a cold day as she dug for the last of the potatoes before winter’s freeze, and hid her dirty hands when guests arrived unannounced.  They polished cutlery, fanned her face to cool her down on a sweltering hot day, and were the perfect place to hide for shy children.  One never knew what that apron would do next.

I can’t imagine any other piece of cloth carrying so much history, authority, importance, humility, common sense and love.

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