Things that Make the Housewife Thankful, 1930s

This is an actual list from the early 1900s of some of the inventions that readers of Today’s Magazine, a magazine dedicated to housewives, made them the most thankful.

Baby’s own bathtub— a miniature bathtub that was much more manageable for frequent bathing and saved mothers from having to haul water to the full-sized household bathtub.

Dustpan with a long handle--to avoid frequent bending and to reduce back strain from daily (or more!) sweeping.

New stove trimming, made of scratch/crack/scuff-proof enamel–It was easier to clean than the sooty iron stoves that needed periodic blacking and didn’t rub off and stain clothes, pots, and pans.

Hot water heater— (You don’t say!)  In addition to the obvious advantage of instant hot water, the article pointed out that a constant supply of hot water could be maintained during the summer with no excess of heat, a double win in days without central air conditioning.

Dustproof Clothesline reel–I think we can all agree on the advantages of a clothesline reel that repels dust. It so revolutionized the clothesline reel industry that following generations have never been subjected to the embarrassment of a dusty clothesline.

Vegetable pot–I believe this is an enamel pot with a smaller strainer pot that fits inside. No more draining a kettle of piping hot vegetables with steamed faces and scalded hands.

Are you grateful for any of these?  I think most of us take even the hot water heater for granted these days and never give a thought to the other, more “minor” inventions. But at one time, these were like the Instant Pots and the robotic vacuums of their day. Our lives are so abundant that we can’t even see many of the ways we’re blessed.

From Laurie and me, we wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Keeping Life Balanced (or at least trying to!)

Hello folks!

Laurie and I have had some discussions lately and both felt that we need to prioritize some projects we have going on. Because of that, we will not be adding any new posts for the next few weeks. Never fear, however, we will return on Nov 5 with more housewife-y stories and inspiration!

 

…too busy to blog!

There have been several times recently when I’ve felt I didn’t have time to write any blog posts. It feels a little ridiculous to find a comfortable seat  and wax eloquent about anything, knowing all the work that badly need to be done this fall.

So instead of a philosophical ramble, here’s just a sampling of my week on the housewife side of my life, beyond all the usual housework, cooking, laundry, etc.:

Gardening work. We had the slightest touch of a frost, not even enough to kill the basil, but I feel justified in cleaning out the garden and calling it quits for another year. There comes a point every fall in which all my gardening enthusiasm has disappeared and I struggle to be grateful for the produce that is still flourishing.  I’m salvaging all the little bits of produce here and there–a handful of broccoli, a meal’s worth of okra, one cucumber, two jalapenos.

We harvested our ONE apple tree this week….. Oh. My. All the apples we could want and more. We’ll have plenty to share. This doesn’t count the bushel or so of windfalls we’ve been collecting and eating for the last 6 weeks. Before I do anything with the apples, though, I have to pickle my beet crop.

Mending clothes.  It’s not that my husband is especially hard on his work clothes, but in the course of a shift, he occasionally loses a button or a seam splits. His supply of good uniforms had dwindled to the point that I was washing the same few over and over. I finally finished mending the last piece so he now has more than a week’s worth of uniforms. Whew. As you’d expect, it was faster to mend them than it was to keep up on the laundry this summer, but…

Drying herbs. I realize I should have been working on this project all summer but the job never feels urgent until fall is imminent. I’m drying lemon balm, mint, and lemongrass for tea, plus sage and basil.

Bullet journaling. My planner for the last 10 years has been a spiral notebook, with each page divided into 6 sections, one for each weekday with an extra space for miscellaneous notes. Adequate, but cramped and uninspiring. I’d heard about bullet journaling for years but only recently understood the concept. The flexibility fits my style better than any planner I’ve ever found. I just need to remember this is about organization, and design is secondary. (But on second thought, it’s the designing that will keep me motivated to continue staying organized…)

4 o’clocks blossoms and seeds

Saving seeds. This year I’m saving seeds from my okra, amaranth, muskmelon, tomato, and three varieties of heirloom beans. I’m also harvesting flower seeds, like zinnias, cosmos, 4 o’clocks, balsam, sunflower, and marigold. The initial seed cost is usually slightly more through a mail order heirloom seed company than buying hybrids locally but saving my seeds means my gardening costs decrease every year. But beyond that, it’s just plain nice to have seeds on hand. Since I’m woeful at estimating seed quantities, I make endless rounds to the store every spring, picking up “just one more” seed packet to finish a row.

So there you have it. I’m looking forward to hibernating on some lazy January days.

The Fireless Cooker, 1909

The fireless cooker. It was invented in the 1800s but reached the height of its popularity in the early 1900s. I came across the concept awhile ago and it had me curious. Basically, it’s the original slow cooker, a non-electric way to cook meals while conserving fuel.

There are many different versions of this cooker, also known as a haybox. The simplest homemade cookers were made using boxes with hay or sawdust as the insulation and eventually were manufactured and become more sophisticated, but kept to the same general idea. The basic concept is very simple. Food is brought to boiling, then the pot is insulated and the residual heat finishes cooking the dish.

Besides being a fuel-saving appliance, the fireless cooker keeps a kitchen from getting too hot, perfect for summer cooking. It also contains the cooking odors that can turn you off. after awhile. And if that isn’t enough, a fireless cooker solves the “servant problem” and free up the cook or housewife’s time. According to a book written in 1909 on the fireless cooking, “When cooking no longer ties one to the kitchen, is no longer a labour that monopolizes one’s time, dishevels one’s person, and exasperates the temper, the cook may go. We shall save her wages, her food, her room, and her waste, and have more to spend in ways that bring a more satisfactory return.” Really, what can’t this handy dandy little gadget do?!?

I think it’s still a useful cooking method. I have an electric pressure cooker that I use all the time, but if I’m not in a hurry, why not save the electricity or gas and use a (mostly) fuel-free method?

 

I’ve used this method several times to cook beans. After I soak them overnight and bring them to a boil, I tuck wool blankets and heavy quilts around the pot. Hours later, the pot will still be hot to the touch. It can take anywhere from 8-12 hours to cook the beans, but you don’t have to worry that the water will boil away and burn the beans or that they’ll overcook. It’s really handy if you leave the house for the day or want to cook overnight.

getting tucked in!
soft, cooked beans

I’ve also used the method for cooking beets so the skins slip off easily. Instead of boiling them for half an hour and making the kitchen hotter and steaming up the windows, I bring them to a boil before I go to bed at night. In the morning they are perfectly soft and no longer too hot to handle.

You may not need to conserve fuel or use alternative cooking methods, but it never hurts to have another skill if an emergency ever happens.