Getting ready to start the Little House books with the kids. Originally I was planning on reading it to Samantha, but now I'm thinking about making it a family deal and doing one giant unit study with the kids on it. There's enough details about what Charles does to keep Patrick interested and not too girlified. I suppose we're starting with Little House in the Big Woods, which opens as winter's about to set in. One of the projects is for each kid to determine how much food they would need to last the winter and how much room all those cereal boxes, loaves of bread, chicken, candy, etc would take up. As I was playing around online, I found this recommendation for what to take per person if traveling West by covered wagon:
200 pounds of flour
30 pounds of pilot bread (hardtack)
75 pounds of bacon
10 pounds of rice
5 pounds of coffee
2 pounds of tea
25 pounds of sugar
½ bushel of dried beans
1 bushel of dried fruit
2 pounds of saleratus (baking soda)
10 pounds of salt
½ bushel of corn meal
½ bushel of corn, parched and ground
1 small keg of vinegar
That's assuming you don't carry water but can find enough for drinking, cooking, and washing. And that the horses can graze so you don't need food/water for them. And then you need pans and cooking utensils, too.
With all that food, where do they fit the portable DVD player, cell phone, laptop, and 12 zillion charger cords??? :)
Well, I returned the Sky Sailors book to the library a couple months ago, but I had at least 1 more good story to tell.
A french balloonist named Jean Pierre Blanchard thought he could make an English channel crossing. Needing some funding, he paired up with John Jeffries, an American doctor in London. (Jeffries, incidentally, treated one of the Americans shot during the Boston Massacre and was a witness at the trial.) The two didn't have the best relationship. At one point Blanchard tried to tell Jeffries that he couldn't ride with him (one of the conditions of his funding) because he would make the balloon too heavy. Blanchard attempted to "prove" that the balloon would be too heavy by demonstrating to Jeffries how much just he and his (ridiculous) equipment would weigh down the balloon. Jeffries discovered that Blanchard was wearing a weighted lead belt under his clothes. Somehow, both men made it on the balloon before the other managed to take off solo.
They left England for France on January 7, 1785. It became clear early on that they were flying too low to make the 20+ miles to the coast. Multiple times they threw ballast overboard - sand bags, Blanchard's crazy wings that he thought (wrongly) would help him steer, extra clothing. Each time, the lightened balloon would get a bounce upward, only to drift slowly toward the waves again. Soon the men were down to their undies and cork life jackets, tantalizingly close to the French coast but about to crash again. (Remember, this is in January, in latitude just north of Maine, over water.) All that was left in the balloon (besides the men - as a condition of riding in the balloon, Jeffries had at some point promised to jump out if necessary to save the balloon), were some air bladders to help cushion the shock of landing. Blanchard suddenly realized that he still had something to "throw" overboard, he just didn't have a gentlemanly way of doing so. He took one of the air bladders, transferred the contents of his bladder into it, and tossed it overboard. Jeffries did the same. Whether the weight made the difference or a favorable breeze just happened to come along, the balloon suddenly lifted and easily made it to the French coast. Local citizens clothed and sheltered the cold, but now famous, men.
So...the moral of the story is: listen to your mom, and always wear clean underwear. You never know when you might land on a French beach wearing nothing else. (Sadly, today no one might notice that you were any different than the rest of the beach-goers. Well, maybe in January.)
Like many aerial pioneers, Blanchard had a balloon-related death. He suffered a heart attack or some other malady during a solo flight. He fell from the balloon, survived the fall, but died from his injuries weeks later.
For more interesting balloon stories, look up Blanchard's widow Sophie, or find out how they finally found a semi-effective way of steering the balloon.
I grabbed Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era by David Bristow off the "New Arrivals" shelf of the library last month. Patrick and I have been reading it together and it is so interesting. I thought I'd use my neglected pleo blog to tell a couple of the cooler stories when I have a few minutes. (Or, like today, when I have so much to do that I choose to procrastinate everything and do something unimportant instead.)
The first unmanned balloons flew in France 1783. Those were hot air balloons made by the Montgolfier brothers. They thought burning different fuel might produce different gases that made balloons fly better, so they tried burning everything - including old shoes and rotten meat. Though smelly, it had the positive effect of keeping the crowds a safe distance away.
On August 27, 1783, the villagers of Gonesse (10 miles from Paris) were terrified by the strange creature that flew into their village and lay writhing on the ground. They attacked it with stones and pitchforks, then tied the "carcass" to a horse's tail and sent it running away. The Montgolfier brothers never recovered that poor balloon. After that event, the king of France issued a proclamation explaining what was happening so no one else would panic.
They were soon ready to attempt human flight, but the king would not allow it. He sanctioned the flight of a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. They flew for 8 minutes - rising 1/3 mile and landing 2 miles away. All were safe. The king still wasn't convinced, and suggested sending 2 men condemned to death as a test - if the lived, they would be pardoned; if they died, no biggie. But Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier (who was the first to reach the sheep, rooster and duck and had since set his heart on flying, ascending up to 300 feet in a tethered balloon) did not want "two vile criminals" to have the first glory. He finally found a nobleman, Marquis d'Arlandes, who convinced the king to let himself and Rozier fly instead.
Rozier and d'Arlandes flew on November 21, 1783. The balloon caught fire, but with the bucket of water and sponges they brought, they were able to put it out. By that time, they had floated over Paris and had no safe place to land. Luckily, the balloon was not heavily damaged, so they stoked the fire (with the non-putrid choice of straw and alcohol-soaked rags) and landed safely in the country after a 5-mile and 25-minute flight.
Meanwhile, Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles was busy creating a hydrogen balloon. On December 1, 1783, he and a companion flew 27 miles before landing just after sunset. When his companion climbed out, Charles decided to go up again. The lighter load caused him to rise more quickly than intended. He rose 2 miles high - so high he was able to see the sun set again! A sharp pain in his ears and jaw caused him to open the valve and he landed safely. It was his last flight.
People soon came up with the idea of "hybrid" balloons - one chamber for fire-fueled hot air, and one chamber filled with hydrogen. Not one of humanity's more brilliant ideas. Rozier was one of the victims of these balloons - he died after his balloon caught fire and crashed while attempting to cross the English Channel.
It is fascinating reading about people's reactions to a feat we find so commonplace. To a people that knows space travel and frequently flies miles high in airplanes, floating a few hundred feet in the air seems trivial. While you easily understand the ingenuity and bravery needed to construct and test the equipment, you don't realize that that was a whole new frontier. They weren't even sure we land animals could safely endure air travel. I think it would be much like our reaction to a Star Trek-style transporter beam. That's just not something people are meant to do!
Stay tuned for the next installment to learn why your mother always wants you to wear clean underwear and discover a unique way to lighten the balloon's load when you've thrown out all the ballast and are still about to crash into the waves below.
I went to a homeschool convention today. I heard Steve Demme (Math-U-See dude) give a talk. It was about how to have a blessed family. One of the points (where the title came from) was that a family that does things together is stronger. Even simple little things like getting inside jokes from books read together or movies seen together helps a family bond. (Of course, sometimes the trick is to enjoy the time you spend with your family instead of fighting.) Anyway, he gave a good talk - a surprising number of scripture references, great ideas, and several amusing stories. I enjoyed the talk and hope I can apply some of his ideas.
I cut my trip a little short today. I had grabbed Jack out of bed and put him straight in the van, so I didn't realize til I got to Irving (2 grandmas for free babysitting) that he wasn't acting normally. No appetite, no energy, and a little warm. The grandmas convinced me to go anyway, and he's hanging in there, although he's clearly not himself. I had a nice time, although I cut out a second talk in the interest of getting home early. But then I spent half that time talking to moms from co-op about my plans for Latin class next year. It looks like I'll have several students next year, assuming we can work out the schedule so it doesn't conflict with Chemistry, Chess, or Self-Defense. It should be lots of fun. (For me at least.) :)
I restrained myself admirably and only made one purchase today. (So tempting to be a homeschool book fair!) I got a book called Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends: How to Fight the GOOD Fight at Home (give or take a few words). Let's see if it works... I was very tempted by the Accountable Kids system, especially since a mom from co-op is selling it. But I just started a new chore chart system so I really should give that a chance to catch on first.
My deepest apologies for not getting a May the Fourth be with You pun out this year. I also let everyone down on pi day. I'll try to clear my schedule for the next nifty day. :)
(But 5/6/11 is pretty cool since 5+6=11.)
Some interesting facts we found in our library books:
When Congress changed the day from 2/22 to 3rd Monday in February, they rejected the proposal to change the name to Presidents' Day. So the federal holiday is still Washington's birthday.
Abraham Lincoln was not a great dancer. He once went up to his future wife and told her he wanted to dance with her in the worst way. After the dance, she told a friend, "He certainly did." Lincoln was also considered homely. Someone once accused him of being two-faced. He said, "If I am two-faced, would I wear the face that I have now?"
Someone once threw cabbage at William Howard Taft. He noted, "I see that one of my adversaries has lost his head." Taft was the last president to have a mustache. (His term ended in 1913.)
No president has been an only child.
William Harrison was so thrifty that he walked to the market every morning with a basket over his arm. (This is less impressive when you realize he was only president for a month.)
Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to leave the country while in office. He went to the Panama canal. Roosevelt's son once sneaked their pony Algonquin up to a sick sibling's bedroom using the elevator.
Woodrow Wilson kept a ram and 20 sheep on the White House lawns. Their wool raised more than $100,000 for Red Cross.
Calvin Coolidge is the only president born on July 4. Adams (1826), Jefferson (1826) and Monroe (1831) all died on July 4.
James Madison was 5'4" and weighed 100 pounds.
Gerald Ford once worked as a male model.
LBJ bought his wife's wedding ring for $2.50 at Sears.
Andrew Johnson didn't learn to read til he was 14 and couldn't write until after he got married.