A House Made of Dirt

People use many different kinds of materials to build homes. Some people use wood to build their homes. Other people use bricks made of clay. Some people even use ice! A long time ago in the United States, people used sod to build their homes. Sod is topsoil that has a lot of roots running through it. The roots help to hold the sod together.

When people moved out west to the great prairies, they had to build homes. There were very few trees. So people cut pieces or bricks of sod from the ground. Many of the sod bricks were about 24 inches long and 18 inches wide. They were heavy. They were usually so full of roots that removing them from the ground was hard work. A family had to cut a lot of sod bricks from the ground to build a house.

People stacked the sod bricks with the root side facing up. This way the roots could grow into the next sod brick and help hold the wall together. In fact, sod houses were very sturdy. They were also fireproof unlike wood houses. But sod houses were not very clean. The floors were made of dirt. Some people put wooden boards over the dirt floor. Dirt fell down from the ceiling and into the house. Sometimes pests dug through the walls. Imagine waking up to find a mouse or a snake in your bed!

After a family became settled on the land, the family might order lumber to build a wooden house. When the wooden house was finished, the family moved out of the sod house and into the wooden house. Then they used the sod house to store equipment or to house farm animals.

Vocabulary

prairie:
A wide area of flat or rolling land with tall grass and few trees.

sturdy:
Strongly made or built.

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Activity

  1. Why did people use sod to build their homes?
    [anno: People used sod to build their homes because there were few trees on the prairies.]
  2. Draw a picture of your home. What materials were used to build the outside of your home? Label your drawing with the names of the different materials.
    [anno: Drawings will vary but should show the outside of the students' homes. The materials of the outside of the home should be labeled.]