As soon as the settlers arrived at their homestead, they needed a place to live. Some people slept in a tent. They kept their food, furniture, and clothing in the tent until their house was built.
Their first homes were built of logs, lumber, or sod . On the prairies, there weren't many trees and lumber was expensive. Homes were small with one or two rooms. Later in the year, a stable was built for the farm animals.
Building a sod house was the easiest and cheapest way for settlers on the prairies to make a home and a barn. First the sod (a layer of grass, soil and roots) was cut into strips. The sod pieces were piled one on top of the other like bricks. That's how the walls were made. Logs or lumber were used for the door, door frame, and window frames. When glass was not available, greased paper or canvas covered the windows. For the roof, logs were placed across the top and covered with sod and hay. Sometimes the floor was made of boards, but often it was just packed earth. When it rained a lot, the house leaked , but these houses were cool in summer, and warm in the winter.
BUILDING A SOD HOUSE
Spring was the best time for a settler to arrive at the homestead. Then a vegetable garden could be planted and the land could be worked for planting crops.
On the prairies water was not always available nearby. Sometimes fresh water came from a nearby pond or slough. Some settlers dug a well. The well was covered with a wooden box that had a pulley and a rope with a pail attached to pull up the water. If they were unable to find water on their land, they had to haul water in barrels from the nearest water supply.
SETTLERS IN EASTERN CANADA
There were more trees in eastern Canada, so settlers were able to make their first home out of logs . The roof was made from bark (shingles). The floor was made of split logs. A plot of land had to be cleared of trees so the cabin could be built. The trees that were cut down were used to build the log cabin. Later a log barn or shed was built for the animals.
When the settler was clearing his land, first the smaller trees were cut down with an axe. Larger trees had to be chopped down and dragged away by a team of oxen or horses. It was very hard work to clear the land, but it had to be done so crops could be planted.
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graphics - credits
photos from Sask. Archives
"home in the woods" - Lycos image gallery