So I Shall Forget Me; 1923

When I was a little girl at home, I was unsatisfied. I had lots of troubles and disappointments, brooded over them and could never see the bright side of life. An old lady who had lost all her relatives came to live with my folks. She had her share of troubles, the poor old soul. We adopted her and called her Auntie.

She took a liking to me, although I do not see why she should as I often thought I was the most miserable child in the world. I was sensitive and easily hurt and many times I would go off by myself and cry myself to sleep. Old Auntie would come and sit down by me and read to me from her Bible. Then she would listen to my troubles and tell me they were very small to what other people were suffering in this world and she always would end up by saying: “Troubles and cares will do you good, my dear. Ask God to help you see the good.”

One day Auntie told me about New Year’s Day. I did not know that it was the day to “turn over a new leaf” and try to be a better girl. I was nine years old at the time and have been trying to change ever since.

I did not marry a rich man but I married a good man. We started out on a homestead in Montana. We were out on our homestead five years and were dried out every year but we proved up and it is ours now. My husband had to work out away from home and leave me to hold down the claim. We had two children then and I would take the two and the rifle and hunt rabbits and sage hens for food. When I would see anything to shoot, I would put the baby down on the ground and tell the other child to stand by him and then I would shoot my game.

One day, my tooth began to ache and I walked the floor for three days and nights and could not find any relief. Then baby got sick and I carried him on one arm and held the hot water bottle to my face with the free hand. I walked the floor this way until I was so tired I could not feel. Finally my jaws swelled shut and I could not eat. Then I took the two children and put them in the baby cart and hauled them three miles over sage brush and rocks to my neighbors’ house. They took me to the doctor, twelve miles away, and I had my tooth pulled. All the time I was suffering so, I could just seem to hear old Auntie say, “troubles and cares will do you good, my dear.”

The did do me good. I see life in a different light now. We came to Wisconsin and here is our great purpose for 1923: to get a farm and make good. And I want to help everyone I can to see the bright and better way, and to remember this: one can never have such great troubles that others have not had worse. So I shall forget me and think of others.

 

Consider the Garden Huckleberry

 The problem with growing your own fruit is that you often have to wait years after planting the trees and bushes to get a decent-sized harvest.  Enter the garden huckleberry.  Garden huckleberries are unique because they are annual plants. The berries are firm, shiny, black, and grow in clusters on bushes approximately the size of a tomato plant.  (For my “way up north” readers in Alaska and Canada, think of big crowberries.)  This isn’t the sweet wild berry popular in the Pacific Northwest that resembles a blueberry, but a completely different berry.
Growing them couldn’t be any easier. It’s not even necessary to start the seeds indoors, just plant the seeds right into the ground. It will begin producing mid-summer and yield an abundance of berries until frost.
You may have read (as I did) that this berry is a great substitute for blueberries and can be used the same way.  Not even close.  Make sure that the recipes are meant specifically for garden huckleberries.  Tossing a handful of these into a batch of pancakes would result in mutiny at the breakfast table and you’d find yourself leading the charge.
It is absolutely essential that they be cooked–boiled, actually–and they need some added acidity, like lemon juice.  When properly prepared, however, you may use huckleberry sauce as an ice cream topping, a layer of filling in a coffee cake, as well as the filling in a beautifully dark purple pie.  Some say that a second round of cooking (baked into a coffee cake or pie, for example) makes the taste milder. It has a unique “wild” taste that may not be liked by everyone.  We have mixed reviews on them around here. But if you’re adventurous, want to try something different, and have a little space in your garden, you should give them a try.
Here’s the recipe that I use.
 
Print Recipe
Garden Huckleberry Pie Filling
Servings
pints
Servings
pints
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, cover huckleberries with water and boil under tender. Drain water, and mash berries using a potato masher.
  2. In another large saucepan, combine sugar and Clear Jel. Whisk in 2 c. water. Bring to a boil and stir until mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Stir in zest, if using, and lemon juice and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Fold in the berries.
  3. Ladle into hot jars, leaving a 1" headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes. Yields approximately 4 pints.
Want to order some garden huckleberries for this summer’s garden?  Seed Savers carries the seeds that I use. (I’m not promoting, just sharing info!) You can find them here.

Working without a Plan- 1915

I found out that trying to do too much without planning how best to accomplish it was like borrowing from a loan shark–it meant physical bankruptcy sooner or later. Nature may honor an overdraft for a time, but she extorts pay in the shape of wrecked health, discomfort to the family, and doctors’ bills. -Iowa Farm Woman, 1915

Does anyone in business (including the manager) enjoy working without a clear plan of work that needs to be done, where basic supplies are missing or in disarray, and every day is hit or miss? Would you work for a company that managed the same way that you run your house?

 

Many of a housewife’s tasks don’t have clear deadlines so it’s easy to become casual about our work and not hold ourselves to schedules. It’s also the beauty of the work, that things are not run on a hard and fast schedule. After all, nothing tragic will happen if the curtains aren’t washed on Tuesday, However, if Junior’s bath keeps getting postponed and the cucumbers aren’t picked regularly, everyone will be sorry. There has to be a plan of sorts to keep things moving at a steady lope, so we’re not overwhelmed but also not living in oblivious denial of a disorganized life

Modern-day research backs up Mrs. Iowa Farm Woman’s opinion that stress is responsible for a majority of cases of “wrecked health” and “doctor’s bills.” Even if we assumed the statistics are exaggerated, it’s still a staggering number. Stress manages to find us in plenty of ways and we don’t need our homes to be another source of it.

The Iowa Farm Woman continues:

I realized that rather than feel sorry for myself when the work pushed me, I should be ashamed of my bad management. Anyone can putter around all day with little to show for it, but it takes a smart woman so to manage her work by labor-saving methods that she can do all that is required and have leisure for the development of her better self and for acquaintance with her family.

Did it ever occur to you that an excessive workload is due to mismanagement?

Some days I have a clear plan and actually take the time to look at what I’ve written in my planner. On those days I amaze myself. I get all my errands done, cook an extra meal for the freezer, return emails, and weed the herb garden.

On days when I don’t have a plan and approach the day willy-nilly, my list of accomplishments looks a lot different. It consists of making a dessert recipe that caught my eye on Pinterest (but don’t need), stalking a friend of a friend on Facebook, watching a tv show that really didn’t interest me but I couldn’t turn off, and sorting through half-done craft projects without working on any of them. I can putter with nothing to show for it like the best of them. Even on days that I have plans, but can’t get them done because other things came up, I still feel successful because I didn’t waste my time.

The article mentioned that not every woman could afford “an electric iron, a power washing machine, or a vacuum sweeper.” We have infinitely more ways of saving time and effort than the women of 1915. But using them to our advantage so they truly save us time that doesn’t immediately get filled up by more work and responsibilities involves skill, planning, and of course, relentlessly refusing other time-absorbing options.

Housewifery done poorly is one of the most difficult, unfulfilling jobs there is. But a systematic plan that works for our own lifestyle will bring a measure of peace into our homes. More importantly, it will enable us to participate in one of the most sacred, well-known rituals in all housewife-dom, sitting around eating bon-bons. That’s what we’re known for, after all. It’s high time we found a way to live up to the stereotype.

Be a Real Vamp; 1924

The modern definition of a vamp is a woman who is “striking, exotic, or overtly glamorous” and who is “usually a heartless, man-eating seductress.” Oh, my! Such an interesting phrase to describe the ideal farmer’s wife!  

Have you a little vamp in your home? Now don’t look so shocked because, I’m going to say something worse than that. You should have one. You should be one!

When you have done the weekly wash and scrubbed the cellar and the porches, besides your daily dozen (which includes the dishes, cooking, sweeping, chickens, beds and–Oh! Why mention them? You know what all I mean, and sometimes it seems more like a daily thousand than a daily dozen) and you have had baking, and perhaps churning too, thrown in for the day and you are tired but you still have a half hour before you need to start supper. Don’t change the papers on the pantry shelves. I know they need it but you are so much nicer than any pantry shelf you ever saw. Let them go and give that attention to yourself instead.

Wash face, shoulders, arms and feet (of course, a complete bath would be better if you have time.) Cold cream your face and then lie down and relax for three minutes or five or more. Depends on how much time you have. I mean relax completely. Not a tense muscle in your whole body. Not a solitary wrinkle in your face. Chase that pucker out of your forehead and rela

This period over, put on your white shoes and stockings, wipe the surplus cream off your face and put on some powder, fix your hair prettily and top all with a clean dress. Nothing fussy.  A blue percale bungalow apron will be just fine.

Now look in the glass. Did the pantry shelves with clean paper ever look prettier than you do? No. They did not. Now we’ll get supper.

My! How John watches you. Really good to look at. Had almost forgotten how pretty you were. Supper tastes so much better too and although you were so tired an hour ago you feel rested now. And it has a soothing effect on John’s tired body to see someone pretty and cheerful opposite him instead of a tired, bedraggled old farm woman.

The woman in the home is the real home-maker and the morale of that home is raised or lowered just so many points by her daily appearance and her outlook on life and its problems.

Finally John says, “Why are you all dolled up tonight?” And when you tell him, “Oh! Just for you,” don’t be surprised if he doesn’t take you in his arms and pet you a little because he probably won’t. He might, of course, but more likely he’ll reach for his pipe and say, “Golly! I hope that rain holds off till I get the West Forty done. I stepped right along today.” Don’t feel slighted because he takes more interest in the Forty and what he is doing than he does in you. He noticed you, didn’t he? And, way down inside he feels flattered because you did it for him. He’s just a child grown up and he is as susceptible to flattery as any child. Tell him, “Yes, I noticed that you were working pretty steady.” Doesn’t make any difference whether you really noticed it or not. You know he was. Take an interest in his accomplishments. More flattery. And a vamp never overlooks the possibilities of flattery. Never carry it so far as to sound insincere. Just be interested.

If he jollies you or teases, don’t fail to jolly back. Flirt with him. Vamp him. If you don’t, somebody else will. And men like water, traffic and other things too numerous to mention, follow the line of least resistance. Make it easier for him to be with his cheerful pal, his chum, his wife, than to be away from her.

Through your comradeship and the resulting wholesome atmosphere of your home, your family will gain a prestige in the community that nothing else, not even wealth, can give. The result will be well worth your effort. Start now.