Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alberta - Sod House at Morrin

What if...? is a common question writers often ask themselves.  It is a great way to develop plots and characters.  But what if you needed to find out about a place or a way of living?  Like, say: What if my character lives in a sod house?  What would it be like?

Well, guess what!  You can visit Morrin, a small town in Alberta, and find out.

Sod houses were common in the pioneer years on the prairies. There is a reason they call this area the grasslands.  So, our industrious ancestors used what they had and built houses out of dirt and grass - at least until they could build a house that wouldn't deteriorate in the weather.

The source I've linked to says these houses were in use mostly "before WWI" - wow, to me that seems to step right into modern times!  It is the same as the era shown in the first season of Downton Abbey!

These houses were not meant to last.  The Morrin sod house is a replica, which was originally built in 1980 to celebrate Alberta's 75th birthday and later rebuilt in 2009.  Unfortunately, the house was closed the day we visited the site, but we did check it out from the outside.  Inside, there are supposed to be items that would have been common in pioneer households, so I'm disappointed to have missed that opportunity.

Here is the sod house.  Isn't it cozy?

This is a close up of the wall.  Yep - sod really means sod. 

Can you imagine moving from a big city in Europe to live in a place like this?  A bit of culture shock, hey?

If you are a writer, how do you research times you can't visit? 


Anonymous said...

I love stuff like this! I once wrote a short story that referenced sod houses in the American west in early days. It was amazing to think homes were built this way. I bet the Morrin replica was great to see!

I'm planning a novel set in an actual town in West Virigina in the U.S. and plan to do a research trip there this summer to collect data. There's a lot available online, but also a lot I need to know that isn't. Fortunately, it's within driving distance (about 7 hours). My first research trip BEFORE the fact, LOL. Normally, I write a story based on somewhere I've been, not the other way around.

BTW, I've tagged you for the Reality Award on my blog post today if you'd like to check it out!

patonlorraine said...

Visiting places like this gets my creative thoughts sparking, but I haven't written a book where I could use this particular info yet.

I loved the research you incorporated into your book "Weathering Rock" - I love history and research, so seeing it blended into fiction is so much fun for me!

Thanks for the tag, Mae, I'll need to give some thought to that first question. ;)