Friday, January 13, 2017

Staking Her Claim

Publisher: High Plains Press, 2008

Pages: 303

Genre: nonfiction, American history, anthology

Obtained: gift

Summary: In the early 1900's, many single women became homesteaders in the western United States by taking advantage of the Homestead Act.  Here, some of these women's stories are told, mostly in their own words, through letters, articles, and historical records and documents.

Thoughts:  My mother and father-in-law brought this book back to me after a trip across the United States.  When I read the title and description on the back cover, my first thought was that I had never even thought about a woman homesteading on her own during this time period.  Everything I ever read about or watched about this topic involved families or men moving out west to claim land and prove up.  What a wonderful topic to research and write about!
     This book ended up being a wealth of information.  The topic was exceptionally well researched, and I really liked that the author put parts of the original letters and articles written by these women in the book.  I also liked that she used so many different sources and included pictures.  Also, some of the writing included was done while the women were homesteading and some was done after the fact.  So, the reader gets some of these women's perspectives during and some after their experiences.  It felt like no stone was unturned.  The book was very well organized, so I did not feel like it was jumping all around.  It had very good flow.
     In the beginning of the book, the author does an excellent job at explaining the similarities and differences she found among the women that she researched.  Personally, I thought some parts of the first few chapters were repetitive and some of it could have been edited out.  Also, the letters written by these women when they were homesteading, for me, got monotonous to read.  There was a lot of information about the weather, daily chores, the mail, people's health, and the wildlife.  I realize how important all these topics were and loved that the actual letters were there to read, but I tried to read this book like a novel, which was a mistake.  My favorite part of the anthology were the memoirs toward the end.  The stories and memoirs had been written for an audience, so for leisure reading, were much more enjoyable.
     This is an excellent book if you are researching this topic or are very interested in it.  If the interest is not huge, the book would be more enjoyable to read a chapter here and there, rather than all at once.  Also, the book is set up so that you can jump around and pick the woman that you want to read about.  This book shows how strong and capable women can be, so may be an inspiration to women.


Company: French Creek Tea Company

Tea: Annie's Blend

Obtained: gift

     Over the summer my mother and father in-law drove across the United States.  One of their stops was  Annie's Emporium, a unique store selling local items including those of crafters and artists.  The store also launched their own teas under the name French Creek Tea Company.  So, I was lucky enough to get as a gift a bag of "Annie's Blend", a blend of black teas flavored with blackberry, raspberry, and vanilla.  This blend was named after Anna Parks, a 30 year old widow who, around 1894, established "The Palace" in the house that is now Annie's Emporium, although it was then located in Keystone, South Dakota. "The Palace" was a place men, mostly from the "Holy Terror Mine" would pay the madame (Annie) for dinner, drinking, dancing and the companionship of women.  Between 1903 and 1910 Annie sold the house and the new owner moved it to the place it is now located.
     The resealable bag the tea came in was high quality and I loved that it had brewing instructions, ingredients, and an expiration date right on the bag.  As can be seen in the picture above, the package looked sophisticated. The medium black tea leaves had lighter colored leaves mixed in. The scent was of berries with a hint of vanilla in the background.
     I put 3 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and added 16 ounces of water that had been boiled.  I let this brew for 4 minutes.  The amber liquid smelled of a mix of sweet vanilla and berries.  The taste was a blend of berries and black tea with a very faint sweet vanilla mixed in.  There was no sourness to the tea like in some berry flavored teas.  I loved this tea hot and it was even better iced!
     Unfortunately, this tea is only served in South Dakota (click here for a list of places serving this tea) and available for retail sale at Annie's Emporium. So, if you are in the Black Hills of South Dakota or know someone traveling there, keep Annie's Emporium in mind.  I would love to try some of their other blends!


  1. Hello Lisa. We are so happy to hear that yo enjoyed Annie's Blend. You are correct, we do sell the teas around the Black Hills, South Dakota and Colorado. We also have shipped our teas around the country. I have emailed you a complete list of our teas. Please feel free to share it. Our contact information is on the back of the package. Feel free to let us know when you are in need of more.