Mama at Work

I have great admiration for hardworking women of the past.  Past days long before dishwashers and washing machines.  Long gone times before grocery stores and fast food.


Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like my dishwasher and washing machine.  I like my indoor plumbing and hot water.  I like my electric stove and bread maker.  But I also love learning about real life outside of the last 100 years .  My life now wasn’t “real life” for thousands and thousands of years and I am intrigued about that old fashion “real life” my ancestors lived day in and day out.  It inspires me to pull back from my ultra dependence on “stuff” and rethink how I live and practice.

The fact is…if something happened to the grocery store and the electricity for any extended period of time…people would die…literally.  It’s just a wise and prudent thing to examine our extreme dependencies!

In examining my dependencies, one of my greatest concerns is growing, preparing and preserving food for my family.  I’ve met women who have experienced emergencies, such as Katrina, and saw the stark empty grocery store shelves…no food…no water.  I’ve been to the store right before a Tennessee snow storm and seen the grocery runs people make for a possible inch of snow.  Many people dismiss such possibilities as rare and unlikely.  Many people do not believe that the all-American easy life will ever fade, diminish or pass.  That’s fine…believe what you want…the facts remain…we are a spoiled rotten, dependant society who will not survive in real crisis.

I have been enjoying reading the old time wisdom and learning about canning and preserving food from the book, The Farmer’s Wife Canning and Preserving Cookbook.  The book is based on a monthly magazine, The Farmer’s Wife,  that was published between the years 1893 and 1939.  Here’s a little bit of “encouragement” for you from the book…

In an era long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, the magazine aimed to offer community among hard-working rural women:  to provide a forum for their questions and concerns and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm – everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs to managing scant funds, dressing the children, keeping house, and running the kitchen…..

On no kitchen topic was the magazine’s expertise more critical than on preserving… A farmer’s wife had plenty to preserve.  She put up myriad stores from her gardens, fields and orchards–not just the niceties of jams and jellies and pickles but the fundamentals of plain fruits, vegetables, sauces, and soups that formed the backbone of meals during the long, cold months when nothing grew.

Nothing would have signified a greater failure of Farmer’s wifery than a scantly-stocked canning cupboard.  Unbountiful stores would have indicated a failure of crop raising, or a failure of thrift, or a failure of time-management (or, most horrifying of all, a failure of all three!), resulting in a winning-out of the greatest of all sins:  sloth.

How many women know how to can their own food?  How many women grow or manage any food out of a garden or field?  How many women are at home preparing their pantry stores for winter?  It was once common place.  It’s rather rare these days.


  • joyful homemaker says:

    wow. sounds like a great book! we are so barbarded with what typical americans value today… you know, really “important” things… clothes, homes, cars, status, our basic right to have fastfood whenever we have a craving… we take for granted the basic and truly important staples of life! i shudder to think what our nation will look like in crisis. sadly, i am far from being prepared. i’m am slowly learning the art of homemaking and preparedness. I, too, am in awe of the hard working women of days gone by. thank you for spurring me on. very encouraging 🙂

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