Tuesday, January 5, 2010


"My mother was a housewife. ... She cooked and sewed, cleaned house, and
did laundry. She darned socks, canned peaches, and pickled cucumbers. With
my father, she bought used furniture at auctions and sacks of potatoes and
bushels of apples from the farmer. She kneaded bread, cooked roast chicken
and two veg for Sunday dinner and fancied up the leftovers for Monday. She
baked apple pies and chocolate cakes." (The Canadian Housewife, An Affectionate History, by Rosemary Neering

Ten years ago I would have read that and thought "Poor woman!" Now I think I'm becoming that woman by choice. That woman with electricity and a car, of course.

I've been reading a lot of books on homesteading, farming and housewifery skills. The internet is full of it too. Some of it is simply nostalgic and talks about the trend towards learning the fun skills that our mothers and grandmothers had before us. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, gardening. All good things.

A whole lot more of it is about food - growing it, making it, eating locally, finding farmers to buy directly from, knowing where your food comes from and what it's gone through before reaching you, raw ingredients and what our bodies can digest.

I'm going to try a few new things this year. To start the process, I now have a grain mill and wheat that I'm going to start milling myself. From a few sources I've found out that flour loses almost all of it's nutrients within 3 days of being ground. So what's the point then of eating it? It does make a handy plate for cheese, but is that it's sole purpose? Or maybe it just tastes really good fresh from the oven with butter melting into it?

That might be reason enough to keep eating it because it really does taste good, but I thought I might be able to get nutrition and good bread if I just grind it myself. I have started a sourdough starter as well because soaked and fermented foods aid your body in digesting all the good stuff. As an extra bonus, I love sourdough! I've also read that common skin ailments (re: excema) can also be caused by unsoaked grain. As my knuckles painfully crack on a regular basis, I wouldn't be able to express my ecstacy if my excema would clear up. Worth every minite of the extra time spent pre-planning meals.

I've been better about eating locally and in season last year, but probably only because I actually like to garden and have enjoyed canning and freezing and "putting up" fruit.

Mom gave me an old book called "The Homesteader's Handbook" and I've been making my way through it. It deserves a post all of it's own because it's quite humourous, but there are some valid things in there too. I laughed when I read the recommendation to put away 25 pints of fruit per person in the household to get through the winter. Sounds like a lot. "And how many did you do in the fall?" Yvon asked. Oh. Probably that much actually. Maybe he's not out to lunch and too old fashioned to make sense. This guy also talks about what is in season a lot. He eats dandelions, purslane, cattails, squirrels and willow. He roasts dandelion roots and grinds it into "coffee".

I am growing my own dandelions (who isn't?), but I'm not ready for that. And I can't build a log house out of the two trees on my property and two pages of instructions. But a proper root cellar would be really nice. Crocks for soaking grains, beans and rice would be good. Learning some electicity-less skills would also be nice.

Much of what people did in the past was done out of necessity, but it usually made good sense for the wallet and the environment and for the communities they lived in too.

I just wanted to share some thoughts that I've been mulling through. This is going to be another year of learning and trying to incorporate new things into my life.


Unknown said...

Your plans sound absolutely fabulous to me. :)

Living closer to home is a good thing - it *feels* good, in that way that says "yes, yes, this is RIGHT." I think there is something about being more fully engaged with life that happens when we pay attention to the 'little details' that are so easily masked by modern culture and conveniences. Having direct contact with your food, your clothing, your house, your yard, your family, your friends - it's not that the Internet and phone and the grocery store are horrid things, it's just that if they are the only things, we miss out on so much.

I don't think you will regret choosing to be the Chatelaine of your Household. It's a great job to have! :)

Patty-Jean from LittleQuiver said...

what a great post! have you read 'nourishing traditions', that is a keeper! although presently we don't have a grain mill - i'm on the search for a manual one - thought it would be good exercise for the kids (as they get older).

i have to give sourdough another shot - i followed the starter and bread instructions out of nourishing trad. but it WASN'T a family fav...but i intend to work at it again!