I Glory in My Job; 1932; Part 1

When the census-taking man called at our home, I parked the babies in the sandpile and sat for half an hour answering his questions. When he came to my occupation, he looked from under his brows in all solemnity and asked, “You don’t do anything, do you?” Without even awaiting a reply, he wrote, “Occupation–Housewife.”

I protest! I refuse to be draply set aside. I demand the title of Homemaker (LOL I like either title but prefer “Housewife.” To each his own!) and defy the world to say that homemaking is doing nothing. It is a profession, and those of us so listed labor at it. It is a labor of love. There is no monthly salary. The pay is merely the little sweetnesses of everyday family life, and I must sift them out of their attendant pains and sacrifices. The business of making a home–an honest-to-goodness home, with cookies and pillow fights and firelit hours and books and beds and joys and tears–that is a job–a great, grand task.

I happen to be not only a Homemaker but a Farm Homemaker. I glory in it.

That I am only one among thousands of others is a point to be stressed. I am representative of my class, and I am decidedly not stooped nor wrinkled. I am sun-tanned and straight two pounds underweight from a summer of strenuous hours in Ye Olde Swimming Hole (I do a rather nice crawl stroke, too.) My hair has a natural wave, and doesn’t string, and I never wear sunbonnets. Instead of drab calico, I make my own house frocks of gay, fast-colored prints with fresh white collars, and I wear happy-looking aprons over them.

While we are getting acquainted, I might add that I have been at my present job for five years, and am still in my twenties. I earned my own living for five years before I married, and at present have two sons–husky young lads of two and three.

From a honeymoon of care free happiness, I came to our Old Homestead, a rambling farmhouse built half a century ago, and typical of the times–high ceilings, plastered walls, no closets, wood heaters, not enough windows, coal-oil lamps. There is a big zinc sink without a drain. Running water has been installed, but drinking water is still drawn from a well with a rope and bucket and pulley. There is a temperamental wood range for cooking, and you raise a door and go down a flight of steps into the dim, dirt-floored cellar.

To be continued…

…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.

Happy Homes; 1913

May I say a word to the wife whose husband prefers some place else besides home. See if you are the cause…

Nothing will send a man away quicker than a quarrelsome woman. Be kind to those around you and you will be thought more of; try to keep your clothes and the children’s clean and tidy, and he will be glad to come home finding you looking nice. When my better half is away for a day I try to have the house and myself and children look as if we were expecting some company, for after all, our own are company and we can depend on them for true friends if we treat them as we should. One rainy day he came home and I had everything slicked up and a white table cloth on table and vase of fresh flowers in the center. When he came in the room he said, “You have everything slicked up and nobody came.” I said “yes they did–you–and that was who I was looking for after evening work was over” and I passed around the little dainty lunch I had prepared. I couldn’t see that the rainy day had made him gloomy because he couldn’t work in the field. He was glad to be home, let us all do what we can to keep our family happy.

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.