Tuesday, 25 September 2012


I always love the part, in any Laura Ingalls book, when the family moves into a new home, and Ma places the china shepherdess on a shelf. 


‘Well’, Pa said at the table. ‘We’re settled at last on our homestead claim.’

‘Yes,’ said Ma. ‘All but one thing. Mercy, what a day this has been. I didn’t get time to drive the nail for the bracket."

‘I’ll tend to it, Caroline, as soon as I drink my tea,’ Pa said.

He took the hammer from his toolbox under the bed, and drove a nail into the wall between the table and the whatnot. ‘Now bring on your bracket and the china shepherdess!’ he said.


I think in a million ways, the pioneers had Martha Stewart and a host of other home economic experts beat, on the domestic goddess front.

Think about it. They were the ultimate do-it-yourselfers. Look at the tools they worked with, the things they made – just to keep their families clothed, fed and alive.

But they did all this without their lives becoming utilitarian. Their belongings don’t have a painful sort of simplicity or starkness. In a lot of ways, I think they found the wonderful place where beauty meets necessity.


Says Ma; "I am going to put up the little shepherdess just as soon as the roof is finished over our heads."


Need and aesthetic right on each other’s heels. Usefulness and thrift balanced with the art, to make a house a true home. And the idea that domesticity brings the most joy, when it is necessary, making comfort in chaos.

They were on to something, those pioneers.





Many thanks to sweet Kate, for teaching us all about pioneer life!


  1. Hey, that was my favorite part as well. I loved it so much that my mum gave me a Royal Dolton vesion of my own china sheherdess for Christmas one year(ok, she wasn't actually a shepherdess, but she was china and pretty close to what Ma's would have looked like).
    Thanks so much for helping! It was a very fun day.