If you’re Rhinebeck-bound, we would love to see youย at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night–details here.

The Great Muskrat Uprising

Dear Ann,
Apparently my memory is completely gone. If you had told me, as a child, that I would ever mix my muskrats and my badgers, I simply wouldn’t have believed you. But now I’ve gone and done it.
As readers were quick to point out, badgers had no role in predicting the long winter in The Long Winter:
Pa was shaking his head. “We’re going to have a hard winter,” he said, not liking the prospect.
“Why, how do you know?” Laura asked in surprise.
“The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses,” Pa told her. “I never saw a heavier-built muskrats’ house than that one.”

There it is, right on page 12. Muskrats.
To make myself feel better, I tried to figure out how I could have made such a grievous error. Then I remembered the Badger Story in On the Banks of Plum Creek. This story terrified me as a child.
Laura has disobeyed Pa and is on her way TO THE SWIMMING HOLE.
She came into the path that Pa had made, and she trotted faster.
Right in the middle of the path before her stood an animal.
Laura jumped back, and stood and stared at it. She had never seen such an animal. It was almost as long as Jack [the Ingalls’ pooch] , but its legs were very short. Long gray fur bristled all over it. It had a flat head and small ears. Its flat head slowly tilted up and it stared at Laura.
She stared back at its funny face. And while they stood still and staring, that animal widened and shortened and spread flat on the ground. It grew flatter and flatter, till it was a gray fur laid there. It was not like a whole animal at all. Only it had eyes staring up.

Oh. The. Horror. Can you believe they let 9-year-olds read this stuff? Anyway, Laura later confesses to her horrible-animal-thwarted disobedience, and Pa tells her it must have been a badger. (Did I mention that “a frightful snarl came out of it. Its eyes sparkled mad, and fierce white teeth snapped almost on Laura’s nose”?)
I will divert you from my inexcusable sloppiness with this photo from a friend in the East End of London, which experienced an 18-year snowfall yesterday:
Wot’s that, luv?
Why, it’s a snow geezer, innit?
(Note handknit scarf.)
And wot’s that on ‘is ‘ead?
I think it’s a badger.




  1. Thank you for the lovely Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes – they bring back such fond memories, I’m off to the second-hand bookshop to see if I can dig some copies up!

  2. Kay,
    You would love a trip to the Wilder home in Mansfield, Missouri, then, which is where Laura and Almanzo lived after they moved there. There is a museum next door to the home with all sorts of Ingalls Wilder family artifacts, including Pa’s fiddle, and the little blue and white ceramic figure which Ma used to put on the mantlepieces of their homes. I was so stunned at my visceral reaction to seeing, in person, objects that I had read about, over and over, at such a formative age.

  3. I’ve always identified a badger by what it isn’t.
    If it isn’t a raccoon, or a beaver, or a hedgehog, then it’s a badger. But I forgot about
    muskrats, which I’ve only ever seen by or in the water. So if it’s not by the water it’s a badger.
    Thanks for the delightful quotes.
    Saw an interesting adaptaion of your pattern on another blog where the knitter made a swiffer cover–clever in that it can be washed and reused rather than tossed and rebought. I may make several.
    Thanks for the continuing entertainment and inspiration on your blog.
    Marlyce in Windsor, Ontario

  4. I’ve always identified a badger by what it isn’t.
    If it isn’t a raccoon, or a beaver, or a hedgehog, then it’s a badger. But I forgot about
    muskrats, which I’ve only ever seen by or in the water. So if it’s not by the water it’s a badger.
    Thanks for the delightful quotes.
    Saw an interesting adaptaion of your pattern on another blog where the knitter made a swiffer cover–clever in that it can be washed and reused rather than tossed and rebought. I may make several.
    Thanks for the continuing entertainment and inspiration on your blog.
    Marlyce in Windsor, Ontario

  5. Gosh – It must be the winter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve an inkling to re-read the entire series. It might make the state of the economy seem like nothing. At least I don’t have 4 year olds churning their own butter.

  6. Dude, now you’ve got me wanting to read the Little House books… again… for the 10th time (easily 10, maybe 15).

  7. I was going to say I only WISH 9 year-olds were reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I’m probably overly negative.
    Marlyce, don’t forget weasels! I live on the other side of the border, in town, and my husband frequently sees weasels on the walking trail.
    Thanks so much for the excerpt. I remembered it as if I’d read it yesterday (probably better if it comes to that) instead of 45 years ago.

  8. Never mind the snowman’s badger, it’s his buttons you should worry about!

  9. Thanks for the Little House quotes! I was just discussing with my Facebook friends how we’d all wished we were her when we were little. Remember the maple sugar snow candy? Man, it’s been probably 25 years at least since I’ve read them. Must pull them out again!
    Happy snow!

  10. My young daughter follows your blog as well. Thanks for the Laura quotes. My daughter wishes she was Laura Ingalls but maybe a reminder of the badger attack story will make her glad she is living in a city the year 2009.

  11. Must check with my 9-year-old about the badger. She usually has a Laura Ingalls Wilder quote for every occasion.
    My Hub will be in your fair city this week. I have shown him your picture and urged him to be on the lookout, but I bet you’ll manage to miss each other… unless you wear the wig…

  12. The snowman’s buttons and eyes appear to be chestnuts. And I bet they’re not burnt like my poor snowman accessories.
    (see stitcharound.blogspot.com Dec. 29, 2008 entry for explanation.)

  13. The unfortunate TV series ruined the Wilder books for my daughters. I read them all a a girl, though, over and over. Jack the dog, the blind sister Mary, the picking up and moving west, yes, the candy (was it ribbon candy)… I lived those things, as children do.
    I have my mother in law’s copy of *On the Banks of Plum Creek* with the charming Garth Williams illustrations.

  14. We here in the Badger State of Wisconsin never mistake our badgers for our muskrats, although we occasionally confuse the latter with beavers when they swim past in the lake. Love the snow geezer!

  15. You can’t have been a fan of “The Wind in the Willows” in childhood– you’d never confuse Badger with anyone else!

  16. I think it looks like Rod Badgergojavich.

  17. I’m reading On the Banks of Plum Creek right now. I’ve never read any of the books but I’m enjoying them beyond reason. I almost cried last night when the grasshoppers ate their wheat crops and Pa couldn’t buy new boots.

  18. haven’t checked in in awhile, and i arrive today to find you quoting from the very chapter my five-year-old asked me to skip a few days ago. (we ended up reading it the following night, while i held his hand.)

  19. also: this christmas, when i was shopping at the bookstore, i discovered that they have re-released the books with *coloured* illustrations. i didn’t think it would be a big deal, but when i opened up the book i started ‘oohing’ and ‘aaahhhing’ helplessly. a new version of plum creek found its way home with me, against my sober judgement. what i really need is a new copy of ‘farmer boy’ – it was a library discard when i got it, 20 years ago.

  20. I loved those books!
    And I think that’s my cat on the snow geezer’s head. That’s pretty much what she looks like fromthe back…not her best side!

  21. Shoot, Kay, I just read The Long Winter with my kids last summer. When I read your post, all I thought was, yeah, I think I remember that part. It wasn’t even that long ago!

  22. But does any of it have to do with “muskrat love” by America? That song has always baffled me, but maybe it’s what they do with the long hard winters?

  23. I am so glad you straightened out the muskrats and the badgers, I had been bothered because I didn’t remember the weather predicting badgers, but was willing to take your word for it. I heard on the radio that the Staten Island groundhog bit the mayor when they tried to force a weather prediction from the critter. Here in Delaware it was balmy enough for the groundhog to have enjoyed some sunbathing, but we rely on a Pennsylvania ‘hog for our official prediction, and he is yanked from his den too early in the morning to want to do anything but run away from his shadow!

  24. or… is it a muskrat on ‘is ‘ead?!

  25. worked for me, kay. linked to it on my blog. along the way learned that ron had seen the movie but not with me? when it was described, sounded vaguely familiar like so much else in life one wishes to get past but cannot.
    showing old TV of “little house…” on netflix here in portland to grandchildren till episode came up where big brown bear attacked man. much blood. too dark for 3 and 6 year olds. “bug’s life” was perfect.

  26. …I’ll stand on my head till I’m legally dead
    I want to make friends with the badger…
    just, just got an unabridged Book-on-CD Little House in the Big Woods from the liberry. Am looking forward to the kids discovering pioneer life as i did::

  27. The TV show was an abomination. Laura rules!

  28. Thank you Wendy, for the Blago reference, I had a similar thought but didn’t want to pile on the poor guy ; )

  29. Now I must revise my pome.
    “My muskrat built a house of brick
    in year two-thousand-eight…”
    sigh. just doesn’t have the same ooomph.

  30. I think that’s a groundhog on the snow geezer (or as my husband says “gronhawg”). Maybe we should yank a badger out of his burrow to predict the rest of winter… If the Staten Island groundhog was snappish, I’d like to see the badger version! It’d be a smackdown

  31. i read the the books from my
    long ago younger past cause
    back then i was to young to read them
    i live in florida the snow birds
    came out of the rv saw a shadow
    be here another six weeks
    i had ancestors who lived like ma and pa

  32. The most wonderful books! Especially since I share a name with a certain starring young lady from them. ๐Ÿ™‚
    My husband knows all about muskrats. His dad was a professional trapper, and he was running his own trap lines at age 12, and a muskrat he thought was dead in the trap wasn’t and bit his hand and hung on so hard that he had to walk 2 miles home and have his father cut it off him. Eek!

  33. I should have known that my feeling that we’re best friends in an alternate universe meant that you loved the Little House books. Is it “The Long Winter” where Laura is boarding with the sad family with the crazy (understandably) mom and Almanzo braves cold and snow to give Laura rides home on the weekends? What a guy! But the part about twisting straw to burn in the stove…that was really grim. I credit those books with my feeling that I need to pick blackberries for jam (easily scavenged here in Oregon, if you discount your shredded skin after reaching too far into the brambles), and of course knit sweaters and crochet rugs from torn up fabric and generally work hard to prepare for frontier life. Well, maybe the time has come again for such frugalities. As you can tell, love your blog. Kate

  34. any thoughts on the pattern of the snow geezer’s scarf? i’m scouting ideas and this looks perfect – probably because the chance of finding the actual pattern is small… sigh.

  35. Just so you know, it’s probably good that you are able to mix up your badgers and muskrats. While most readers might react vicerally to the staring badger, I long ago forgot all about it. It’s the muskrats I remember. As frightening as Laura found the badger in her path, for me, winter is scarier. Yeah, cold sucks more than any badger (rabid ones included),and so I read that passage quite a few times before moving on. Predicting how long I’ll have to suffer through winter- priceless (having a military husband who drags me to places like North Dakota and Kansas*- not so priceless).
    *Both great places unless you’re a Texan and it’s winter and the muskrats are constructing like mad.

  36. all this talk about Laura and the badgers and all I can think about is: are those really chestnuts? they aren’t chocolates? what kind of chocolates? cadbury? milka? yum… :o)

  37. I feel responsible for the snow in London. I sent the universe a wish for us not to be a part of every major snowfall this winter. Sure enough, the lastest blast missed us, and poured on a city that never gets very much.
    It could be worse- the winds could pick up and make it drift! That’s really hard to contend with!

  38. You want badgers on heads? The gilded statue on top of Wisconsin’s state capitol building is a woman with a badger on her head. I kid you not.

  39. I always knew you two were inspirational knitters, but to quote from L. I. Wilde–wow! Perhaps your intuitive appreciation of prairie literature led to your fascination with log cabin-ing, ya think?

  40. I love how he has morphed in to the wall. That is how I feel most days. The wall is part of me, holding me up. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  41. I loved the Little House books as a child(and scorned the TV series). You are obviously a blog of quality for quoting them. Although I found that section slighty odd as a child as British badgers don’t look anything like that and could never be confused with anything else!
    Still not really sure what a muskrat looks like, though.

  42. Thank you for the quotes from the “Little House” books. I will, without shame, admit that they are my very favorite books of all times. I have read them at least once a year since I was a child (I admit I’m 50, too). My copies are quite tattered but well-loved. I often wished that I was Laura, or at least lived in her time. Of course, she wouldn’t have blogs and Ravelry and the yummy alpaca yarn that I can’t get stay away from.


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