Laura Land Tour: Pepin, WI

Sites and Stories

Thanks for joining me for a blog tour of Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites!  Whether you’re an armchair traveler or planning your own road trip, I hope the tour helps you envision the many places Laura called home.

Replica of the Ingalls family cabin near Pepin, WI. (Kay Klubertanz photo.) Replica of the Ingalls family cabin near Pepin, WI. (photo by Kay Klubertanz)

Laura was born seven miles north of Pepin, in western Wisconsin’s wooded hills above the Mississippi River. Many decades later she immortalized the location in the first book in her Little House canon, Little House in the Big Woods.

Little_House_in_the_Big_woods_easyshare 1932 edition. (Wikipedia)

Today Pepin, which marks the starting point of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway (linking Laura sites across the Midwest) is often the first stop for fans.

For those steeped in the setting Laura described, the initial glimpse of the Pepin homesite can be a bit of a shock.  In my new mystery, Death on the Prairie, protagonist Chloe Ellefson…

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Westby Remembered

One of my heart homes is in Westby.  Here is a link to my dear friend Eric’s pages about Westby, including some of my writing.

Welcome to Westby - Version 2

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Purple Significance

Friday, March 7, 2014

Often, during Lent, holy pieces on the altar are draped in a purple cloth.  What can you drape in a cloth, physically or mentally, during Lent to help you focus on your spiritual journey? What is the significance of this for you?

I know someone who actually has a large cross which she drapes with purple as her prayer center during the season of Lent.  As I read this prompt for today, I remember the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31.  It is stated that “She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.”

 As I pictured her, clothing herself, I recalled the Scripture from Isaiah 61:10a, where we read, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

I will focus on that robe of righteousness with which Christ has clothed me, as I sing the 4th verse of “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”by Edward Mote, 1797-1874.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,

Oh, may I then in Him be found,

Clothed in His righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne!

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.



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Blessing the Dust!

Thursday, March 6, 2014


What goes through your mind when you receive the ash cross on your forehead on Ash Wednesday?  Write about the significance of ash and of contemplating the dust you shall return to.  Is this joyful, terrifying, comforting?  How does this ritual prepare your for the Lenten season?

I found this poem from a friend of a friend on Facebook. It says what I always felt and wanted to say about Ash Wednesday.  It makes the ashes glow with life and hope for me.

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday
by Jan Richardson

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial-

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.


Image: Blessing the Dust © Jan L. Richardson

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Ash Wednesday

The word “Lent” comes from an old English word meaning spring time or lengthening of days. We use it to describe the season before Easter, a time traditionally for repentance and learning – a time to be intentional about changing and growing. Some people give up items or acts to create space and time so that new life and new habits can grow. Every writer has their own special light to add to this blog and all of your writing offerings are appreciated, whether poetry, prose, essay, thoughts, lists or comments and encouragement.

Each day during Lent 2014, the writers group at my church posts a prompt that is meant to inspire thoughts, poems, lists, short stories, etc.  I plan to post my response for each day of Lent here.  Perhaps you will be inspired to in a deeper walk in your faith journey.

My friend Clint Schnekloth says, “In order to encourage the kind of repentance and renewal Lent is designed to evoke, the practices have to be shocking enough to call the community out of its torpor. … This Lent, I invite you to make use of … some startling but transformative ways.”

In what way shall I use these Lenten writings for repentance and renewal?  I am not sure I am prepared for “shocking practices” and I have so many things going on in my life right now that I am not sure where to begin.  I am asking God to show me, and to prepare me, for whatever God would do in my life right now. I have read An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and I plan to read it again during Lent.  I intend to commit to writing every day during Lent, although I am traveling a lot during this time so not sure how that will go.

But as for repentance and renewal?  Pray?  Fast?  Give?  I guess I will wait and see how God leads me.


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Finding Grace

Finding Grace is the name of a blog I just found about the prayer labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral.  It is a long article with much information.  I will be meditating on this for a long while.  I hope you find grace here, too.


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357 Colors

Such great thoughts for today…

Poems From Psalms And Nature


Somewhere along the line, as I was re-copying blessings from my gratitude journal last year, I began noting new blessings this year.  I bought a lilac-colored  journal at Target, and the cover says, “He is the Light of the World.”

So on my way to one thousand, inspired by Ann Voskamp and others, here are a few new blessings:

357. Colors

358. The way colors work together

361. Pastel-colored sunrise

364. Dusting of snow on fields

Endlessly beautiful . . .

Luci Shaw says, “I have vowed never to cut myself off from beauty” (p. 23; Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit; 2007, Thomas Nelson).

And now I will add a new blessing, so I have the reference when I reread another time:

365.  John 8:12a (KJV) “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world . . .”


* Ann Voskamp

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Lost, 1867

My talented friend Kathleen Ernst wrote this evocative poem which won a show at the Pump House “Mark My Words” exhibit.

Sites and Stories

I’ve been compiling a collection of poetry about immigrant women’s experiences in the Midwest. I can’t possibly use in novels all the compelling tidbits I find when doing historical research! When something calls to me, but it won’t work in whatever book I’m writing, I often channel it into a poem instead.

Two years ago one of my poems, Facing Forward, was chosen for an exhibit called “Mark My Words” at the Pump House Regional Arts Center in La Crosse, WI. The exhibit organizers selected twenty poems and twenty artists, and asked each artist to create a piece in response to one of the poems. I was thrilled to be included! (You can see the poem and accompanying artwork HERE.)

The Pump House

Last spring the good folks at the Pump House put out another call for entries. “Mark My Words Again: Artists Respond To Short Poetry” was more of a challenge because…

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Settlers wanted! Immigrants welcome!

“Settlers wanted!  Immigrants welcome!”  Headlines circulated across the young United States and into Europe, encouraging people to settle in the newly formed state of Wisconsin.

The first settlers in Westby arrived in 1848, quickly followed by relatives and neighbors from Norway in desperate need of land, food, and the chance of a better life.  Peder Oleson Hjelstuen from Gudbrandsdal, Norway was among them, coming in 1857 to join his uncle and cousin Johannes and Chris Berg.

Peder staked out his claim, worked his land and lived in his cabin until 1864 when he registered the deed to his property and enlisted in the Civil War.  He was eager to serve his new-found country.  As happened to so many, he contracted dysentery and died at Camp Reno in Milwaukee.

His parents were notified of his death, and they were also informed of their inheritance of a quarter section of land.  In the meantime, the Berg cousins took care of Peder’s farm, even paying the taxes.  When Peder’s parents, Ole and Anne finally came in 1868, their remaining children came with them.  Knud, Marthe, Anne, John, and Karen lived together on Peder’s little cabin on the farm for a time.  The children ranged in age from 15 to 28 years old.

Ole and his boys, Knud and John, built up the farm as quickly as possible.  One of their first buildings was a corn crib, building it just the way they had been taught by in Norway for their storage stabbur.  This corn crib uses a special Norwegian construction technique called notching. It is built with spaces between the logs and without chinking to allow ventilation for drying the corn on the cob. It was completed in time for the 1870 corn harvest.

In 1977 local families envisioned a museum to recognize and preserve the history of this Wisconsin region. In 1982, this corn crib was the first building moved to the newly established Norskedalen Nature and Heritage homestead.  It was loaded onto a farm wagon and entered as a float in the local Syttende Mai Parade.

With American and Norwegian flags flying on the little building, the corn crib drove through Westby and continued straight out to the Norskedalen homestead, where the corn crib is on display to this day.


Photo by John Zoerb for my private collection.

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Mourning Tears as Towers Fall


On September 11, 2001, We were in Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival.

 I began to set out breakfast in our hotel kitchen for two grandchildren and myself.  One of us turned on the TV to check the weather report.  

The picture on the screen showed the smoking tower as it began to fall.  We reeled in shock with fear, questions, and grief.  Then I wrote the following poem: 

Morning news: towers flame and fall in ash.

People panic. Flee in fear the wayward plane.

Why did that pilot fly?  And plan to crash?

And did another do the same again?

Was this a terrorist who struck at us?

But who it is – we may not surely know.

TV news repeats, all the channels fuss,

And stressed-out newsmen help the rumors grow.

The turmoil in our hearts is great, facts few.

Four liners hi-jacked, loved ones wait and hope.

Families cling together when fear breaks through,

And lift their eyes for help with which to cope:

God’s gracious love will get us through this day.

With mourning tears we bend our knees and pray.

9 11 Memorial

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