Thursday, September 18, 2008

Doing things the Old-Fashioned Way

I love to do things that just aren't done anymore. I can (some of) my own food. Well, truthfully, I did a lot more canning when I lived in the midwest because we had a gigantic garden. Now, I have grass on a slope, so the only food source for canning would be the farmer's market. And I could, indeed, go there to get the fruits and veggies for canning, but my other reason to preserve food by canning, besides that I just enjoy it, is to save money. Going to the farmer's market, then buying all the preserving supplies, well it all adds up and I end up spending as much if not more than if I bought the products at Albertson's.

I also love to sew. I would say I'm an intermediate - I can sew (and have sewn) curtains, clothing, dolly dresses, Halloween costumes, bathrobes, pajamas, as well as doing alterations on just about anything. I can NOT, however, sew a garment by eye without a pattern. I think that is pretty hard. Or else it just takes a person with that kind of intuition, like a gift - they can just see the garment and how it's put together. My mom taught me how to sew, but I never really got interested until I saw a shirt at the Limited in 1994 that I LOVED and wanted so badly. But it was $34. I was not going to pay that much for a shirt. I knew it would eventually go on sale, but it was May and I wanted that shirt right away so I could wear it all summer long. That desire fueled my drive to figure out how to run a sewing machine. I made my first dress all by myself, then quickly set out on that shirt. I finished it by mid-June and I loved wearing it. I also loved the fact that if it didn't fit quite right in the arm holes, or the waist, or the bust, I could just alter it instead of passing up a beautiful piece of clothing or paying too much for something that didn't fit well.

One thing I do, but don't particularly love, is to hang my laundry on the line. I do it to save money on energy. I do it because I stay home and I figure, I have the time so I should try whatever I can to help the family save money. I also do it because I love spending time outside and it's a good way to enjoy the nice weather. Hanging out laundry isn't exactly rocket science, but I'm going to do another post soon about all that I've learned about hanging laundry on the line. There are good ways and bad ways to do it. There are things that can make it work and things that can make it fail. I'm gonna share my trade secrets, God help us all.

I think a lot of these activities are like a lost art-form. There are many others I can think of but I don't do myself - quilting, vegetable gardening (oh, I do that but I'm not very good at it), using cloth diapers, woodworking, I could go on and on. My mother taught me many of the things I can do now. And her mother taught her. The skills I have were passed on to me in the same way things were passed on from mother to daughter for years and years. In some cultures, this is still the practice. But in today's fast-paced world, where everything is simpler the modern way, these old-fashioned ways are fading from popularity.

Another place I learned many skills was in the rural community my husband and I and our family were placed for 4 years. We lived in rural Illinois, surrounded by farmland. The "town" in which we lived had about 25 houses/farms, a grain silo, a grain weighing station (for the grain silo), and a church. The dairy cows outnumbered the people 2 to 1. Pets and children ran without barriers, the roads were made of gravel, and every summer closed with an ice cream social at the church. One month later, every fall opened with the members of the town cooking apple butter in a 60-gallon copper kettle over a wood fire, stirring the beautiful burgundy consistency with the same wooden paddle that had been used for 50 years. When we were first asked to come to this church, my initial reaction was "No way in hell." I told my husband to tell them no. But after the Lord worked on my conscience a bit, I decided to follow my husband wherever he felt the Lord needed him. Off to rural America we went.

It was a shock to my system. There were no women my age nearby. We lived next door to a dairy farm and had to get used to the constant flies and the strong smell when the wind was coming from the north. I had to drive 10 miles just to get basic necessities like gas or milk. Our kids had only 1 or 2 neighborhood friends, neither of which were very close in age to our kids. I missed going to Target. I missed shopping at a 24-hour supermarket after the kids had gone to bed. I missed having choices of where to shop. Basically, if Wal-Mart didn't carry it, you were SOL. (sh** out of luck)

I would say, I actually grieved. I was pretty depressed for about a year. Then, by no small miracle, I met a wonderful friend named Joni. She saved me. She showed me around the county and told me where to go for fun with my kids. She and I would meet for coffee or soda. We became so close. And I also began to discover the beauty of the world around me. My children could explore without my fear of being hit by a car or kidnapped. They dug in the dirt, played on a swing that hung from a tree, and ran through a cornfield like it was a maze. Everyone knew everyone else's business, which meant that everyone was watching out for your child. We received some of the best beef we've ever tasted from a friend who butchered a cow. We received homegrown goodies from neighbors who had too much to eat for themselves. We enjoyed the experience of walking our dog around town, with our kids on their bikes, and people sat on their front porch and waved to us, shouting "Hi! How's that garden of yours coming?" or "Hey, want to come in for some iced tea?"

In many ways, that small town did things the old-fashioned way. And now that we've moved back to suburbia, I have to admit that I really miss it. Right now, I would trade almost anything for some homemade strawberry jam, on top of some vanilla ice cream made by the church youth group, served along side some sponge cake from my neighbor Norma.

All photos are courtesy of Google Images

11 comments:

Power Up Love said...

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The Nice One said...

I miss the old fashioned way.
I live in suburban hell. We're not allowed to hang our clothes to dry. The soil here is too hard/whatever to garden. If I move, it's gonna be to the middle of no where!

Bridgett said...

Nice one--my parents lived in a community like that, and they defied it all the time. Now they're here in the tired inner city with me and nobody cares.

I can't wait for your tips on hanging laundry.

I cloth diaper out of, well, at one time out of financial necessity. It's fine, actually, just the same except for a trip down the steps, for the first 6 months. From then on, I envy disposable-using families. (And yes, it is cheaper to use cloth where I live--we pay a flat rate for water and dry them in the sun, and all my diapers and covers were hand me downs or gifts).

I quilt, but that is not a frugal activity most of the time...but maybe that's not the point...

Baby Favorite said...

I admire people who do things like you do! My mom, sister, cousins, aunt -- they all sewed, quilted, crocheted, knitted, canned, cooked, gardened, baked... the list goes on and on.

Somehow with me? I only got the shopping gene. Okay, and I cook and bake pretty well, but I don't enjoy it a whole heck of a lot, unless I have a whole lot of time on my hands. I want to be a homemaker type (it's how I was raised!), there's just something seriously lacking somewhere inside of me. Weird, huh?

Anyway, I bow down to you. :)

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Thanks, Baby. I never in a million years thought I'd be doing half the things I do now. I now understand why the Lord had us go to that small town - to show me what I could do! The only way I learned everything was from watching other people. And asking a LOT of questions.

And Bridgett - I agree about the frugality. My mom used to sew to save money on clothes. Now with the price of fabric, I never end up saving money unless a comparable item is overpriced at the store (like the Limited shirt) or I can get some nice fabric on sale or clearance. However, the one area I always save is making curtains. Buying window coverings from the store is SUPER expensive and I always have a coupon from JoAnns Fabrics for 40% off.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Crazy to think that LaBaron convertible driving lifeguard from 1989 would be CANNING and missing applebutter, eh? God's plans for us - so NOT our plans.

KEEP BELIEVING

binks said...

That sounds so nice and simple. I am ready to leave this rat race behind.

However, I am not good at doing any of that crafty, gardening stuff.

Bridge said...

Nice post. I have ONLY lived in small towns mt whole life. I love it. I can agree with you on doing things the old fashioned way, especially in relation to saving money. I grow my own veggies and have canned jams and salsas. I make our own bread quite often. I cannot sew at all and its one thing I just cannot fathom learning. My husband will mend our shirts or repair buttons so I just have not learned. In fact, I have a pretty funny story about being scolded by a Native American Elder woman who was shocked by my lack of sewing skills when my sleeve got caught in a sewing machine.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

And here I just wrote a post about how I am slave to technology.....I do cook most meals from scratch though; with the help of fancy machines---does this count? ;)

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Bridge, that is too funny! I can totally picture it - very much like an "I love Lucy" scene or something. Can you believe my mom has caught her finger in the sewing machine and driven the needle straight through her finger MORE THAN ONCE??? o-u-c-h!!! Once it went straight through the thumbnail. yuck.

Lisa - YES that counts. You go girl!! I am terrible - many nights now it is "Hey kids, do you like Chef Boyardee ravioli or Kraft Mac N Cheese? And hot dogs or chicken nuggests?" I like to do from scratch, but I am working on my organizational skills so that "from scratch" does not mean "marathon dish washing session"

luis said...

Doing things the old fashioned way is easy with Joann Fabrics coupons.