September 6th, 2010
I grew up living on a farm without electricity, indoor plumbing, or an automobile. We did not know we were “living poor” because this is all we had ever known. We did what we had to live. We raised a garden and canned and dried whatever we could. Cabbage, turnips, winter squash, potatoes (Irish and sweet), beets, carrots—all the root vegetables were stored in the root cellar. My father hunted for squirrels, rabbits, and deer, and fished for fish and turtles. We children hunted duck eggs along the creek bank and hunted for wild mustard and “branch lettuce.” We hunted for “dry land fish” (mushrooms) during the spring and canned these. We also learned to fish, cleaning fish and eels at an early age. We had free-range chickens and searched for their nests to get eggs. We learned how to kill and clean a chicken, duck, or turkey early in life. We had fruit trees, and either canned or dried the fruit or made jelly and jam.
We also helped when it was “hog killing time.” My dad and his brothers would kill and clean (dress) the hog, then my mom and grandmother would “work up” the meat. We children kept the fire going through this process. We were also responsible for saving the ashes from the wood stove to be used in the soap making. We sifted the ashes to get out the “clinkers” and saved the fine sifted ashes for the soap making. The hog fat, ashes, and lye were used to make soap. It was made in big pans, and when it cooled and hardened, it was cut into blocks that were used for everything from bathing, washing hair, cleaning floors, and doing laundry. Every piece of meat that could was prepared, salted, and hung in the smoke house. Hams, shoulders, side meat, and bacon was smoked. The liver and cornmeal was used to make liver mush. The rest was made into sausage and canned, or made into “souse meat.” The covering fat was cut off the entrails and cooked down to render the fat, which was stored in cans for the lard. The rest used to make soap. The cleaned, sterilized entrails were fried and made into chitterlings and these were canned to be added to the cornbread. The skin was cut into small pieces, salted and baked. The pig feet were pickled. Everything was used but the “squeal.”
We carried water from a spring up the hill from the house. There was a chopping block, axe, saws, and a sharpening grindstone near the wood yard to get wood in for the winter and to cook with in the wood cook stove year round. We children were responsible for finding “downed trees” in the woods to drag to the house to be sawed or chopped. We also hunted for pine trees that had been either struck by lightning or blown down by a storm. We stripped out the splinters to use to start a fire. The pine knots made a really hot fire and burned for a long time. We also got our toothbrushes from a black gum tree, where the twigs were chewed and made into a reasonably good toothbrush. This and baking soda worked really well. We found wild cherry bark to boil down and use for cough syrup. We found black walnut and hickory nuts and these were stored for winter. We found ginseng that dad would take into town and sell. The only things that I remember buying from a store was flour, coffee, salt, sugar and dad’s chewing tobacco. We raised corn and there was a grinding mill not too far from the house to grind the corn into cornmeal. We had a goat for milk because my younger brother had a stomach disorder that goat milk was supposed to be good for.
Mom made our clothes from the sacks that flour and meal was bought in. They were bleached out, and made good, sturdy clothes. The laundry was done in a wash tub and with a scrub board. A fire was built within a circle of three sturdy rocks and the tub was set on it. We children had to keep the wood up for the fire and keep the water in the tub when mom was washing clothes. There was a second tub for rinsing and “bluing” the white clothes. (To add to the “List of 100”—tubs of varying sizes, and drying frames for drying fruit and vegetables, along with cheese cloth to keep out the insects while it is drying, and small mesh bags to store it in.) The number three tub was used for bathing, to do laundry, and to can food outside in the summer. (Not the same tub, of course!) The same three rocks that supported the tub of water were used to can the food. Mom wrapped the filled jars in old cloths to keep the jars from bumping together and breaking while they boiled. It took about 2 hours of boiling for the green beans. We kept the fire going so the water would boil steadily. We also carried water from the spring in the smaller sized tub.
I could go on and on but will stop. Your article made me think back to those days. I am encouraging my children and grandchildren to begin to prepare for hard —times—I feel they are coming! For the first time in my many years (I am a great-grandmother) I fear for our country.
Thank you for this site. I am spreading the word!!
Best wishes and prayers coming your way!
Thanks for the story and the ideas. You’re “the real deal”.
As a horse owner, I have a few words of concern for those considering a horse for transportation, etc. Few horses today would be able to handle the hard conditions they would face without regular visits from a farrier (horseshoer). Trying to trim a horse’s hooves without knowing what you are doing could well cripple the horse and cause them great pain. Many horses cannot go without shoes, and without a farrier, would quickly go lame. (They need a farrier’s attention every 5 – 6 weeks.) A large area of good forage (a few acres) would be needed as well, in order for the horse to stay healthy. How would you feed them during winter, or would they then become your next meal? When the Romans traveled with their horses and mules, much of the baggage they brought with them was to care for the animals and keep them in good shape. Unless you are, or have been, a horse owner, you won’t know or understand the needs of the horse. They could be more of a burden than a benefit; and each person would have to make that determination.
A donkey is a hardier animal and would not need shoes, although they would need to be trimmed. They can browse as well as graze. However, please don’t try to ride a miniature –donkey—they can pull carts, but they’re not big enough to carry a rider.
Please consider carefully before taking on the responsibility of a horse that needs a lot of care. I worry about my own animals should the world be turned upside down, as I know I couldn’t properly care for them on my own.
You’re not the only one who suggested mules over horses. We’re working on some mule-related content for the very near future.
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