Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mama's Mama

Did you grow up listening to your grandparents tell stories about life in a simpler time?

I think most people did.  All around the world, listening to our grandparents' stories of life "back when" is one of the common experiences we share as humans.

My mama's mama, Mabel Strong, was born in 1902.  I loved listening to her stories about life when she was young.  This poem by Ann Rees Henton really sums up life in our grandmothers' day:

Mama's Mama

Mama’s Mama, on a winter’s day,
Milked the cows and fed them hay,
Slopped the hogs, saddled the mule,
And got the children off to school.
Did a washing, mopped the floors,
Washed the windows and did some chores.
Cooked a dish of home-dried fruit,
Pressed her husband’s Sunday suit,
Swept the parlor, made the bed,
Baked a dozen loaves of bread.
Split some wood and lugged it in,
Enough to fill the kitchen bin,
Cleaned the lamps and put in oil,
Stewed some apples she thought might spoil,
Churned the butter, baked a cake,
Then exclaimed: “For Mercy’s sake,
The calves have got out of the pen!”
Went out and chased them in again.
Gathered the eggs and locked the stable,
Returned to the house and set the table,
Cooked a supper that was delicious,
And afterwards washed all the dishes,
Fed the cat, sprinkled the clothes,
Mended a basket full of hose,
Then opened the organ and began to play,
“When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day.”

That's a list of chores that would leave a whole team of people exhausted at the end of the day, but my grandmother never seemed tired and I never saw her stressed or harried.   In comparison, my life today should be much easier, I have a house full of time and work-saving devices. I can cook a meal for my family in 10 minutes, or even have something delivered.  All my writing is done on a computer which also broadcasts it all over the world.  I put dirty clothes in an automatic washer, dirty dishes in a dishwasher; and yet at the end of each day I feel completely worn out and can't wait to fall into bed.

I've decided to try living my grandmother's life.  

I want to try to learn her secret.  Was it the lifestyle that made her so content and happy?  This has been in the back of my mind for several years.  It was something I was to "get around to" at some point, until the power went out one day.  It was during Christmas break, so all the kids were home from school...all day long...when, without any kind of warning, the whole house went dark and silent.  We decided to go to bed early, certain we'd have power by morning. 
We didn't.
We didn't have it that day, or the next or the next.  For two solid weeks we had no electricity.  That didn't just mean the TV and the Xbox didn't work, neither did the washer or the refrigerator, the phones, or the water (we had a well with an electric pump).  
After the first 24 hours, I knew I needed to get creative.  I thought about my grandmother and her stories, what would she do?  I took the food out of the refrigerator and put it in the backseat of my car, it was 40 degrees outside, so that would keep the food from spoiling.  Since the stove was also electric, we cooked outside on the BBQ.  That wasn't an ideal situation, though, because it limited what I could cook.  Things that need to cook for a long time, like beans or potatoes used too much fuel.  
The critical thing was the water.  We bucketed water from a nearby creek for washing but for drinking, we had to rely on a kindly neighbor with a generator. 
It was a very long two weeks. 
During the time we had no power, I tried to use what I had learned from my grandmother's stories, but the memory was dim and I didn't have even the most basic tools.  I realized I had only shared a small portion of what I had learned with my own children so all that wisdom was in danger of being completely lost with the next generation.  We work really hard to preserve animal and plant species, but I had never really considered that knowledge could become extinct. 
So here we are,  this blog is an attempt to gather and preserve the wisdom and skills that sustained our ancestors and carried them safely from generation to generation.  Please feel free to share skills, recipes, and tips you learned from your grandparents here.  Keep an eye out for contests and drawings and other fun stuff too!
The second part is the practical application.  We need more than just a theoretical knowledge of these skills, so I recently purchased 20 acres with a single-wide mobile home. As you post tips, tricks, recipes, how-to's ect., I'll test them in the real world and put up a video of it.   The property is 15 miles from a little town with a mercantile store and 30 miles from a larger town with a Wal-Mart and Home Depot.  It's completely off the grid as far as services like gas, electricity or water and sites a 5700ft elevation.   The goal is to make it completely self-sustaining, including producing enough income to pay for items that have to be purchased.  It's a big goal, but with your help, we can do it.  
Right now it's January 2016 and the farm is buried under 3 feet of snow.  We bought it too late in the year to be prepared for a hard winter, so we will be staying with family until early spring, that's when we'll start working on it using your ideas and posting the videos of the results so start posting your ideas and stay tuned!

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