Autumn was over, it was winter in the forest, where Laura lived with her family. Laura was a little girl living in a big forest about a hundred and fifty years ago. At that time America was an undeveloped (poor) country without modern factories, electricity, roads or cars. Unlike in our modern world, Laura and her family faced difficult challenges to keep warm in the forest winter.
The grass was dry and dead. The cows must be taken out of the forest and kept in the barn, or animals’ house, to be fed. All the bright-coloured leaves became dull brown when the cold autumn rains began. There was no more playing under the trees. But her father was in the house when it rained and he began again to play the fiddle1 after they ate supper.
Then the rains stopped. The weather grew colder. In the early mornings everything sparkled with frost. The days were growing short and a little fire burned all day in the cook-stove to keep the house warm. Winter was not far away. The attic, under the roof, and the cellar, under the house, were full of good food. Laura and Mary had started to make patchwork quilts2. Everything was comfortable.
All day her father was busy, making the little house and the barn warmer. He used dead leaves and straw, held down by stones, to keep out the cold. He put the dead leaves and stones on the ground outside, next to the wall. The weather grew colder all day. That night there was a fire in the fireplace and the windows were shut tight to keep out the winter cold. There was no gas and no electricity. They would need to burn wood all winter long to keep warm.
1. A fiddle is a violin, but used to play ordinary people's music.
2. In Hong Kong quilts are two sheets sewn together with warm stuffing inside. These are called duvets in American English and continental quilts in UK English. Instead Laura had a patchwork quilt, which uses many small pieces of cloth instead of a whole sheet. Cloth used to be more expensive than today, so every small piece was used.