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Margaret is giving away two books today. For a chance to win a copy of either  Frontier Belle or Fiery Possession (PDF downloads)  all you have to do is leave a comment.

Life on the American and Australian frontiers have a strikingly similar history. For example, take the American Homestead Act, and the Australian Act of Selection, which is the basis for my novels, Frontier Belle and Fiery Possession.


America: The original Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20th, 1862. It gave applicants freehold title to up to 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River. The law required only three steps from the applicant – file an application, improve the land, then file for a deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, including freed slaves, could file a claim on the provisions that they were over the age of twenty one and had lived on the land for five years.Tanner-FrontierBelle200x300


Most of us visualise the frontier home as a rustic log cabin nestled in a peaceful mountain valley or on a sweeping green plain. But in reality, the “little house on the prairie” was often not much more than a shack or a hastily scratched out hole in the ground. In the treeless lands of the plains and prairies, log cabins were out of the question so  homesteaders turned to the ground beneath their feet for shelter. The sod house, or “soddy,” was one of the most common dwellings in the frontier west.


 Of course, there were drawbacks to sod-house living. As the house was built of dirt and grass, it was constantly infested with bugs, mice, snakes. The sod roofs often leaked, which turned the dirt floor into a quagmire. Wet roofs took days to dry out and the enormous weight of the wet earth often caused roof cave-ins.


A typical American log cabin measured about ten by twenty feet, regardless of the number of inhabitants. Typically, frontier cabins featured only one room, which served as kitchen, dining room, living room, workroom, and bedroom.


Australia: In the colony of Victoria the 1860 Land Act allowed free selection of crown land.  This included land already occupied by the squatters, (ranchers) who had managed to circumvent the law for years and keep land that they did not legally own.


The Act allowed selectors access to the squatters’ land, and they could purchase between 40 and 320 acres of crown land, but after that, the authorities left them to fend for themselves. Not an easy task against the wealthy, often ruthless squatters who were incensed at what they thought was theft of their land.


The first permanent homesteads on the Australian frontier were constructed using posts and split timber slabs. Early settlers learnt from the aborigines that large sheets of bark could be cut and peeled off a variety of trees and used as sheets to clad the roof.

Anyone ever live in a log cabin or soddy?



 Margaret Tanner is a multi-published Award winning Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically accurate. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia.

Margaret is married with three grown up sons, and two gorgeous little granddaughters. Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.




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  1. I have never lived in a log cabin or a soddy. I have seen them and been in them before though. We went to Pepin, WI; Walnut Grove, MN; and DeSmet, SD on a Little House on the Prairie vacation awhile back. In Walnut Grove, we got to go inside a soddy similar to the one the Ingalls’ lived in.

  2. Hi Margaret! Welcome to P&P. We’re so happy to have you come visit. You posted such an interesting blog. I never thought Australia was so similar to us. You’ve convinced me otherwise. I’d love to visit Australia some day. I have a friend in Tasmania. She used to live in Perth.

    I’ve never lived in a log cabin but I always dreamed I would some day. I think it would be nice. No soddy for me though. I couldn’t share my living space with creepy crawlies and things like that. A dirt floor would be horrible, especially when it rained. I’ll take my modern house, thank you very much.

    Your books looks wonderful. You have some very pretty covers. Wishing you much success.

  3. Hi Margaret!

    Welcome to the junction. What a fascinating blog. I live in Nebraska, but thankfully not in a soddy! With the winter we had this year I can’t imagine how horrible that would be (I’m not a camping gal). I’m grateful for all the pioneers who forged the way before me. 😉

  4. I have seen a log cabin before, but not a soddy… I could not imagine living with the dirt and bugs…

  5. We have stayed in log cabins, but never lived in one long term. Have seen a soddy, but not stayed or lived in one. Visiting one was enough. It is hard enough to keep my house clean. Sorry the floor is dirty, Dear, but it is dirt.”)
    I have lived in a bamboo hut which isn’t too bad. They are built on platforms with bamboo floors, so little worry about flooding or dirt floors.

    Thanks for the info on the Australian version of Homesteading.

  6. Goodness gracious – no thank you! I’m a farmgirl born and bred, but I need my four wooden walls. I can’t deal with snakes, so that thought alone makes me cringe. Thanks for sharing this info!

  7. Hi Renee,
    Thank you. Yes, I am afraid I would not have made much of a pioneer. I actually saw a photgraph of my grandparents home, it had a roof made from sheets of bark and they cooked outside over an open fire.



  8. I have not seen a Soddy. And nor could I have lived in one! Yikes! Bugs and snakes! The weather. Pioneers who forged the way really have my respect.

  9. lol… no and probably never. I couldn’t imagine living in a shoddy. Log cabin… maybe… thanks for sharing!

  10. I can’t even begin to imagine what living in a soddy would be like. It creeps me out just thinking of the bugs, mice and snakes. My husband would say no to the soddy also because of the snakes. He is not fond on them.
    I would love to go to Australia one day as I have friends there.

  11. I can remember a wattle and daub hut with a bark roof tied down with fencing wire. It had solid uprights at each corner and either side of the doors. It had an internal wall and all the walls were lime washed white. The floor was packed earth raised above the outside by foundation logs and packed so hard it looked polished. The roof had so many layers of bark that it was close to twelve inches thick. It was the original farmhouse in South Australia and we stayed there while my father did some seasonal work on the farm. It was much more comfortable than many of the places we lived in at that time.

  12. Margaret, this was a very interesting blog. I had wondered how you could write books about the West in American and now I know! I love all of your books and I’m sure these are equally good reads. All best wishes.

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