Tuesday 20 September 2011


As I'm spending more time around my home, planning projects, crafting and preserving the produce from my garden, I'm thinking a lot about the women who lived here before me.  I'm canning, pickling and freezing by choice.  I want to have organic food as a health option and as a return to a more natural way of living.  I'm enjoying the aromas that emanate from my kitchen and the comfort of rows of filled jars and a rapidly filling freezer.  For nearly 200 years some woman has done the same in this house.

Those earlier women did this as a matter of survival.  The original pioneer family would have starved without the effort and ingenuity of the woman of the house.  Laura Ingalls Wilder described the preservation of food brilliantly in her Little House on the Prairie books.  I love to reread Farmer Boy, the story of Almonzo's childhood on a New England Farm.  Nothing was wasted.  A full root cellar and groaning storage shelves ensured the family would have adequate nutrition during the winter without the benefit of lettuce, oranges and kiwi shipped from thousands of miles away.  They didn't need to embrace any new fangled concept of eating local.  There was no other option for the the Georgian Era country woman.  Everything was done, laboriously, by hand and in a fireplace!

The Victorian Era woman did have the advantage of proximity to a rail system.  Still, managing the home well was considered a virtue.  She had equipment that helped lessen the load;  hand turned washing machines, ice boxes and coal/wood cook stoves.

The Depression Era woman resurrected those skills to make ends meet when work was scarce and every penny counted.  Gas lights were in this house then and probably a gas stove.  Electricity wasn't installed here until the 1940's and running water not until the 1960's!

All of those women would have been amazed to see the equipment I have from appliances (Imagine what they would have done with a freezer!) to lighting and transportation.  They would have been equally appalled at the waste of today.  Linens and clothing were recycled into children's wear, quilts and cleaning cloths.  What couldn't be eaten by humans went to livestock and compost.  Household goods and tools were repaired, not replaced.  Handles, spouts and lids were repaired or replaced on creamers, mugs and teapots.  Cracks were mended on bowls.  Holes in tin pots and pails were plugged by travelling tinkers.  Socks were darned and tears skilfully mended on clothing and linens. Fancy work often disguised patches on coverlets and table cloths.

I like to collect pieces with obvious sighs of repair.  This beautiful Majolica bowl, made in the late 1800's, has the handles glued and then held with staples.  This stapling technique hasn't been done in over 100 years so the repair is antique as well!

I use it to display soaps in the bathroom.

This Majolica basket has the side glued and the handle stapled.

A bowl set inside holds water for the roses.

If we did not live in a world of mass produced, readily available goods, we would not have to think about land fill sites, blue boxes and green house gasses.  I won't turn down a strawberry in January and I don't want to sew my clothes by hand.  But, I can try to be more conscious of the value of everything I purchase.

After all, the women before me had it all figured out.  Kudos to the real inventors of recycling and conservation!!!

Note:  Silhouette and water ladies courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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