Monday, December 13, 2010

Pictures of haircuts

This picture was taken of Katie last week, she doesn't wear make-up every day but is here. I think she looks so beautiful (I'm admittedly prejudiced though) I can hardly believe that I'm old enough to have a daughter this old. Gulp!

I finally got Mr. G to agree that I could cut Asa's hair. It was down to his shoulders and he looked so girly, a lady asked what her name was in the store. Ugh. He looks so boyish now, I love it!
I got my hair trimmed up and offered to any of the girls that they could get their hair trimmed as well. Out of the 5 only Elisabethe and Abigail took me up on the offer. Here is Abigail, 5 years old.
And Elisabethe, 7 years old. Their hair is still below the shoulder, layered, with bangs. They can brush it themselves and it wears so much nicer now. I love long hair on girls but not when it's a ratty mess; I never seemed to manage to get it put up a lot of the time. A Mom has to know her limitations and when to concede that they can't do *everything*.

Elisabethe and Abigail got matching Middleton babies for their birthdays. A blond baby to match blond Elisabethe and a brunette baby to match brunette Abigail. Matching haircuts now too! :-) They practice their "mommy" skills daily, it's endearing to see.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

God's Provision

This isn't actually a Thanksgiving post but rather one that I wanted to write 2 weeks ago, however our computer died, was resurrected, died again and has been hopefully brought back to life again for a while. Never a dull moment. :-) Anyway, I was thinking about being thankful toward God for His provision, not just about material things but for the people He brings into our life. I was considering the marriage relationship, the oneness of a husband and wife and how often I let myself get sidetracked from the mystery that is marriage. A relationship, by the way, that God uses to illustrate His relationship with us, isn't that amazing? But I'll dwell on the things that Mr. G does that irritate me instead of being thankful toward God that He has allowed me to be loved by this wonderful man. Are you thankful to be loved? I'm not always. Shame on me.
I have also been blessed to be the mother of 9 gifts given to me directly by God in order to see Him more clearly. Nine little souls entrusted to me. I am very unworthy, I shouldn't even be trusted to do the laundry let alone be steward to human souls, and yet God has and does. Sometimes I see through the glass darkly and the way seems pretty unglamorous. I feel tonight that I want to encourage everyone to look around them at their families and press it upon your hearts that God placed these people in your life intentionally. It wasn't a fluke or happenstance. And we should be overflowing with thankfulness to God for loving us enough to give us all that we need to grow in godliness. Amen and amen!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A haircut gone awry

I got a haircut today, my first honest-to-goodness professional haircut in a long time. I have had long hair for decades, I *like* long hair. But, what started as a homegrown "just trim the ends off" spun wildly out of control, when I saw it I felt like throwing up. :-) So, first thing this morning I called and got an appointment to try to fix the damage. The result is this.

It barely skims my shoulders and I feel somewhat like a shorn sheep. Mr. G loves it and said all kinds of nice things about it but I feel So like this isn't me. I needed the catharsis of a blog post, the need to throw it out into cyberspace to see what the consensus is.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wassail Apples

Today we are canning Wassail Apples. This is a recipe that I came up with as a healthier alternative to Spiced Apple Rings which I like, but not the corn syrup content. They cause one problem (diluting the appley-ness by using water) and then "fix" the problem by adding lots of corn syrup. Yuck! My recipe is healthier and yummy besides.
Wassail Apples
*Bring to a boil 2 quarts of water, 1.5 cups white sugar, 1.5 cups brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and a pinch of cloves (optional)
*Fill quart canning jars with apples (I like Empires) cut in eighths or twelths (apple rings waste space and so require more cider to fill the jars)
*Add cider to apples, leaving 1/2" head space
*Can for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner
These are a tasty compliment to ham or sausage and are delectable atop pancakes or waffles with whipped cream!

We are making pulled pork sandwiches for supper tonight and the whole house smells good. It's chilly today so the fire is going in the living room, adding the wood smoke smell to the sweet scent of the spiced apples and spicy smell of the pork. Mmm!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Of commanding generals and tasty cakes

Just a couple of quick things on this brisk Saturday evening. After a few years of being dogless we amended that situation and brought this

home today. Our neighbors raise Black Labs to sell but have a few from a recent litter that didn't sell due to the economy. We bartered a grassfed Tamworth ham for him, a good deal I think! The boys now have a hunting dog and the girls have a pet. He is fairly calm and easy going, even when Asa bit him. :-) I have to protect the dog from the baby, ha ha. We haven't settled on a name just yet, but I think it will be either Ashby or Patton.

In other news we are celebrating Tabitha's birthday this weekend. No pictures other than her cake which is *so* good. It tastes like Autumn should taste.

Pumpkin Spice and Pecan Cake

  1. 1 box of yellow cake mix

  2. 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have this so I used cinnamon, ginger and cloves until it tasted good)

  3. 2/3 cup pureed pumpkin

  4. 1/4 soft butter

  5. 3 large eggs

  6. 1 cup ground pecans

  7. 2/3 cup water

Mix ingredients and bake at 350 in a buttered and floured bundt pan until done. When cool frost with:

Honey and Spice Buttercream

  1. 1/2 teaspoon unflavored knox gelatin

  2. 1/4 cup honey

  3. 1/4 cup sugar

  4. 1/4 teaspoon salt

  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  6. 14 soft tablespoons butter

Combine gelatin with 1 tablespoon of water and let set for 10 minutes. Bring honey, sugar and 1 tablespoon water to boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool and then stir a tablespoon or so of honey mix into the gelatin water, mix well and then dump back into the rest of the honey mixture. Add salt and cinnamon and beat until fluffy, add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time while beating, stir in vanilla and use immediately.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Perry Cider

We reached another Fall milestone last week when we pressed apples for the first and only time. Actually, we have "perry cider" not just plain cider this year. Our neighbor brought over 4 bushels of pears which we pressed along with the apples (pressed pears being perry) and the yield was 67 gallons! We use the community press here in our community and the cost for the 67 gallons was $43, over half of that charge was the plastic gallon jugs that we brought it home in, the actual pressing charge is a pittance. I was very pleased with such abundance and as of Sunday evening we have it all canned. A few jugs got a bit of a "nip" to them, the children love this stuff, it fizzes like pop and Sunday morning they were drinking it for breakfast. :-D I have so many half gallon jars full and it makes a very striking sight, but our camera isn't feeling up to par and doesn't want to take any pictures. A have a few of the jugs set aside for vinegar making; hopefully the camera will straighten up before then so I can take pictures step by step. Making vinegar is an important part of homestead life and being able to home manufacture it will be a boon for food preservation should very hard economic times become a reality.
Saturday was my 40th birthday and we spent it rearranging the living room and moving chicken fence in anticipation of getting 30 more layers. In the Winter we bring the dining room table and benches into the living room so that we can eat where it's warmer, it makes a snug fit but it is also nice to have all evening activities center in one room, I like being all together. Our neighbor is giving us their 30 laying hens as they no longer want them so I will be raiding the recipe books for recipes heavy on eggs!
Sewing and knitting are carrying on as usual, but I don't really want to write about something that I can't take pictures of. I hope that situation will rectify itself before long.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excellent speech becometh not a fool

A lot of what I write is the result of conversations that I have with people; whether inspiring, thought provoking or irritating. I was speaking to someone last week and I said that "I told so-and-so that I'd be there in the forenoon" and the person I was speaking to laughed me to scorn for using the term "forenoon". I wasn't trying to be quaint or deliberately old fashioned, "forenoon" is in common usage where I live. It might be the Amish influence, I don't know, but there it is. Folks here also use the word "already" where you would say "before" as in "I've canned tomato soup already and it turned out well......". I do use the word foreworn, it's listed as archaic in my dictionary, but I like it. It means worn out, as in "his coat is so foreworn that it's held together with patches". The English language has such a rich history and I'm afraid that though we add words to the dictionary every year, we are in actuality left with fewer ways to intelligently express ourselves. Vulgarity has replaced the adjective. I overheard a conversation that a man was having to his wife (she was a woman anyway..) they were bicycling and stopped for a rest and his conversation was peppered with like. Since when do grown men speak like Valley girls? It was funny in a pathetic sort of way.
I enjoy listening to F/friends who speak as the traditional Quakers did, I like to hear "thee needs some lunch", it has a beauty of its own. I don't personally speak that way, but I also have no desire to laugh at them for not updating their means of communication. I am also not suggesting that we have a mass exodus back to King James English (though I think we'd be better for it). I don't desire to live in the past, but the flip side is that I don't desire to fully fit in with the status quo either. It is no measure of mental health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. There are elements from the past that we would do well to keep alive and I'm trying in my own small way. Those who scoff at the past or at those who would maintain outdated customs show an alarming absence of wisdom.

Proverbs 17:7 Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Little boy and Big boy have a birthday

Today is Asa's very first birthday! It is so unbelievable that we've had him for a whole year, the time certainly flew by. He isn't walking yet, but gets around very well. He pulls up on everything and is all boy. I don't know if he really is a "boy's boy" or if it's just the difference is more noticible after 4 little girls, but let me attest that boys play different and communicate different than do little girls. It's been such a pleasure having his rough, loud self to love. I suppose now that he's officially a big boy I should try to get him to nurse less and sleep more during the night, he still nurses 3 or 4 times at night, I am beyond sleep deprived!

Tomorrow is Aleks' 20th birthday, I find the whole notion of me having a son that old to be a bit absurd. :-) We will celebrate both birthdays together today since Mr. G and Aleks both work 2nd shift. I know it seems like a cliche' to say "it seems like only yesterday..." but it really does, how could 20 years fly by that swiftly? In some ways I wish that I could just stop the clock right now, right here, with everybody still at home. But it isn't to be, a Mother has so few years to teach and train her babies. I want to cherish every single minute that I have with them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

An Abundance Of Fresh Meat

Today we went to pick up the meat from the pair of pigs that we had butchered this month. These were grass fed Tamworth pigs, born right here on our farm; they had an ideal piggy existence with one very bad day. :-) Because Tamworths are an old heritage breed they don't reach market weight in 6 months, they were also slower growing than pigs that are exclusively fed grain. We could have butchered them last Fall, but we held them over for another year and consequently they were huge. We ended up with well over 400 pounds of meat! We have 8 large hams, 70ish pounds of bacon, spare ribs, 100 pounds of sausage and about that much of pork chunks to can. I am going to be very busy getting as much as I can into jars because we have chickens to do next. For the curious, our butcher's bill was $336, I have no idea what we would pay for that much meat if we had to buy it retail. I'm pretty sure it would have been more than that though. :-)

I stopped at my friend Anna's house on our way home. They have 10 children and haven't butchered yet this Fall so it has been a while since they've had fresh meat. I left some bacon with them and got a box of zucchini to turn into pickles. Anna is the one that I have make shirts for Mr. G and the boys, she charges $10. When we gather apples in the Autumn and have cider pressed we always take some over to their place because they don't have apples to turn into cider. I enjoy the rural give and take friendship that we have, it is the "community" that is largely lost in our modern world. Both Anna and I live in a world that has more similarities to the 19th century existence than it does to the 21st century. So, anyway, for Supper tonight there are fresh porkchops and homemade baked beans. And tomorrow we will have ham! Which, as a matter of fact, is another vestige of a by-gone era. What I mean by that is what was once common place, plain rural food such as: maple sugar/syrup or organic fresh meat is now a high priced specialty food that is beyond the means of most people. Only by creating an underground, homemade economy can I enjoy the life that I do. Of course the downside is that there is an awful lot of hard, unromantic work involved. :-) I don't know if you envy me or pity me, I hope that I paint a realistic picture of my life showing both the good and bad.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September Means The County Fair!

I know a lot of people are celebrating the end of Summer and delighting in the cooler temperatures that September brings. There is a charm in the change of seasons and a calm associated with the slower pace of Autumn and especially Winter. I will eventually join you, but for us the pace has yet to slacken. The cooler temperatures are a starting gun in the race between a killing frost and us. Many, many things are still in the garden and are yet to be harvested. On the farmwive's porches are makeshift tables sagging under the weight of bumper tomato crops. They will finish ripening and then be put to rest in the larder dressed as spaghetti sauce or salsa, barbecue sauce or perhaps plain tomato juice. My own porch has the requisite tomatoes as well as white peaches and pears. Most of the dry beans are out of the garden and strung upside down from the barn rafters awaiting shelling. The men shell about a bushel a day and have many more days work ahead of them.

Amidst the press of work comes the quintessential rural experience of the County Fair. Our county has held a fair every year since 1849, a chance to showcase the hard work that is a farmer's lot, a change to renew acquaintances and perhaps sell some breeding stock.

I was especially interested in the displays of canned goods, I'd like to enter next year and it was instructive to see which jars the judges favored. There are categories for cookies and decorated cakes, knitting and sewing, quilts and wood working, all signalling the effort to be the best in their class.
There were tables and tables of produce, giant pumpkins, wafers of hay, ear corn, dry soybeans and wheat.

We toured the dairy barns (mostly Holsteins with a few Jerseys and a very few Ayrshires), the pig barns (all of the same boring variety that can survive the stress of a confinement hog facility) and the poultry barn where there were some interesting varieties in addition to the far over represented Cornish Rock Cross (these are the brainless white chickens that you eat and spent their pathetic lives in chicken concentration camps). The only turkeys were Broad Breasted Whites. :-(

The fair used to be the place to witness innovation and see new breeds, but it has unfortunately become a showcase of what works in confinement. Still, I am glad to be a part of the rural heritage that is part and parcel with living here. It was nice to take a day off in the middle of the week and enjoy being with other farm folks. We came home, ate lunch and tried to fit some work in this afternoon. Most of the children want to enter produce in next year's fair, I want to enter some canned goods and perhaps some sewing. It refreshes and revitalizes us to remember some of the entries and think "I could beat that!"

Supper is waiting and there are tomatoes to can yet tonight. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A New Dress Styled in 1850s Fashion

To obtain clothes was an even more difficult matter. Mothers of families sometimes said in despair that they supposed they would have to black their own backsides and go naked. They never quite came to that; but it was difficult to keep decently covered....
Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

Well, I can almost concur with that though blacking children's backsides had never occurred to me before reading this. :-) I began Tabitha's first dress on Friday and finished it over the week's end, she has had the fabric waiting for almost a year so it was about time. The print is an 1850s reproduction that is loud, she really loves bright prints though (more so than my other girls) and she's happy that it's finally made up.

The bodice has 3 diagonal tucks on each side that meet in a "V", smooth elbow length sleeves set in the armscye with very little ease, though this is offset by them being cut on the bias, ruching at the elbow and a full skirt supported by 4 petticoats.

This is Anna Emerson Bowditch, she was 10 years old in 1850. I love her bodice construction. The bodices for 1850s are cut longer than they are for Civil War era clothes, can have a "dip" at the center front and the sleeves are relatively tight.

Sleeve ruching detail.

I never actually finished Rebekah's 3rd dress before starting this one, so much for that resolution. :-/ I am furiously knitting something in my "spare" time that is very needed before the mild days of Autumn pass, I can't wait to show you!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Antebellum Baby Shoes

Asa is ready for his first pair of shoes due to the cooler weather we've been enjoying. We are attending an auction tomorrow and I wanted to be assured that his little toes were adequately warm, so I made these shoes this afternoon. They are a proper shape for the Civil War era but the pattern is a modern one that several reenacting Moms have adapted, it can be found here.
They were cut from the bottom of a brown wool blanket that the boys use, they are unlined and the edges are stitched with embroidery floss. I *think* the embroidery is period appropriate but I'm not positive (Sarah Jane, do you know?). The main difference between the inspiration pattern and these are the squared off toe, modern shoes have rounded toes but shoes in the 1860s have square toes. I squared the toe portion of the sole and then cut the toe portion of the "upper" to match. The hardest part was getting the pattern tweaked to where I liked how it looked, the actual sewing can be completed in a jiffy. I'd like to make him a silk quilted pair so these served as my test run and will be his "everyday" shoes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

When my family doubled in 14 minutes

14 years ago today I had the wonderful experience of watching my family double in 14 short minutes. It went like this:

Once upon a time in a land far, far away (it was North Carolina actually) there lived a husband and wife with their perfect American family of one boy and one girl. They lived in a palace (not really, it was a log cabin with bad chinking) and thought that a third child might be nice, instead God gave them twins. The wife mistrusted Doctors (the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn't think he's a doctor) and the Doctors said she was a difficult patient and non-compliant to boot, so she decided to have the twins at home. With a midwife who had never delivered twins before.

Aleks holding Micah and Katie holding Levi, 3 days old

The woman had lots of confidence in herself and her body (which she has sadly lost) and was sure that things would turn out well. She ate lots of protein so that the babies wouldn't be premature and she made it to her due date. And a week after her due date when there was absolutely no sign of an impending birth she told the midwife that enough was enough already, let's get this show on the road. The midwife said that she could try castor oil but didn't know how much to recommend so the woman drank 5. stinking. ounces. of castor oil. Well, let me tell you, that'll clean the sand out of your wicket! So after hours and hours of diarrhea the woman feels so incredibly cruddy that she heads to bed, she gets up an hour later and her water breaks. She calls the midwife and wails, "I can't do labor now, I'm so sick!"

Micah ahead and Levi behind, 14 months old

Well, labor it was and a fast one too because a little more than 2 hours later Levi James was born weighing 6 pounds and 14 ounces. And then 14 minutes later (his cord was partially prolapsed so we had to get him out *now*) Micah Jonathan was born weighing 7 pounds 15 ounces.

Levi and Micah at 3

It has been a whole different experience to have 2 at every age. Easier in some ways and tougher in others. They can't imagine life without each other. They do chores together, sleep in the same bed, beat on each other, shoot their guns together, and like the same things. I think it seems just perfect. I think they do too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Am In Canning Paradise

We have a lot going this week in the canning kitchen. Over the weekend we canned tomato juice-21 quarts, salsa-10 pints, chokecherry/peach jelly-10 half pints and the Cowboy Candy that I blogged about before. This week we have more of all of the above to can as well as pears, more peaches (hopefully),

and Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash (that's it above, they're huge) and Pie Pumpkin. I'm canning both the squash and pumpkin in a sugar syrup, the pumpkin will have cinnamon and nutmeg added, then you can open a can and voila'! pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, steamed pumpkin pudding, pumpkin bread, the list is almost endless. I will can some pumpkin plain because we like it in Winter Vegetable Chowder (that has parsnips, carrots, beets, squashes and pumpkin). I'd like to can beef tips this week, but I might not get to that. I love canning but the sewing suffers when I'm busy putting things in jars and the canning suffers when I'm sewing a lot. Such is life. There isn't enough "me" to go around some days. :-) I put an advertisement in our local newspaper to purchase canning jars and over the past few weeks I have acquired about 600 more jars, there are jars *everywhere*! We have hundreds of jars filled already and plans to fill most of the rest. Life is busy, work is good, I am happy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cowboy Candy

On the canning docket today was Cowboy Candy, a yummy blend of hot peppers in a bread and butter pickling sauce. It's good on hotdogs, burgers, scrambled eggs or poured over cream cheese as a cracker dip. I am a complete wimp about hot peppers but I do like this!

Cowboy Candy
12 cups of pepper rings: bell, jalapeno, sweet banana, chili, any peppers that you like or if your name is Reber or Shumway then add lots of habanero or cherry bomb. :-D
4 cups of onions of onions
2 1/4 cup vinegar
1 1/2 cup or water
6-8 cups of sugar (8 cups if you like it sweet)
2 TBS of mustard seed
2 tsp of turmeric
2 tsp celery seed

-Wash and cut peppers & onions into thin slices and put in a large pot with the water and vinegar...bring to a boil
-Reduce heat & simmer until tender, about 10 minutes
-Add remaining ingredients
-Bring back to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes
-Pack clean, hot, sterilized jars and lids leaving 1 inch headspace, adjust lids.
-Water bath can for 20 minutes
Yields about 7 pints

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

1830's Child's Frock

This is the 2nd of the 3 dresses that I am sewing for Rebekah. I asked her what she'd like and she wanted an 1830's dress with gigot sleeves, I'm always happy to comply with their wishes provided that I actually know how to sew for the era that they want. So far so good, nobody has yet requested a flapper dress! I'm doing the dressmaking a bit differently this year, instead of sewing a gown for each girl and then going around again with a dress for each girl etc, this year I'm sewing all of Rebekah's dresses and then I'll do all of Tabitha's and so on. I have the last of Rebekah's already cut out and a small bit of progress completed.
Rebekah's gown is actually an aqua and brown woven cotton but it "reads" green. It has an open neckline, but not so wide as to be immodest; across the bodice is a shirred piece cut on the bias and held in place by 3 fabric loops.
The shoulders are slightly dropped but not as much as would be the fashion 30 years later. I drafted the sleeve pattern for the gigot sleeves, but they are of a moderate size. Sleeves in the era could be enormous, but these are a practical and functional as well as historically accurate size.

The dress closes down the back, however in these pictures it is only pinned, I'm undecided on whether I want to make dorset buttons for it or opt for mother of pearl. She is wearing it with 3 petticoats to give her skirt the support that it needs to look well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

There's No Time Like the Past

Katie was away this weekend to the Hale Farm Civil War Reenactment. When we went to pick her up we had Bob Szabo take a wet plate image of Katie and Asa. I'm pleased with how it turned out, Asa wasn't unhappy he was actually smiling and kicking his legs so he's a bit blurred. I think it looks "real", do you? The image of Katie and Asa looks like it could be Aleks and I 20 years ago, how eerie is that?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life Stripped Down to the Basics

We went to Malabar Farm over the weekend, it's the home of the famous Louis Bromfield that he immortalized in Pleasant Valley. I was glad to finally be able to go, but was also somewhat disappointed in the condition of the buildings and the emphasis that is placed on everything being eco-friendly. I already knew that Bromfield had Pinko Commie tendencies, his dream was for the State to take over after he died to preserve what he had done. Well, his dream came true in the 70's and the State of Ohio had managed to run it into the ground; such is the legacy. There is a tractor outside of the visitor center that has a Police line around it and a hand written "Bees" sign taped to it. Why? Because hornets have nested in the tractor and they don't want to kill them. Hornets!!! Oh for crying out loud......

However, this post is not about eco-nonsense or even about Malabar Farm per se.
Though before I do get to what it's about I have a cute anecdote; the children liked Malabar and had a nice time though the bathrooms were gross, dirty and had no toilet paper so Abby opted to hold it. We did eventually find a "real" bathroom with flushing toilets, electric lights and a few chairs. Tabitha flopped down in one of the chairs and remarked on how nice it was, this is a bathroom mind you. And Abby's great comment about the famous Malabar Farm? Well, it too was said in the bathroom and was "are you allowed to go both kinds in here?" Oh dear, I laughed and laughed. :-D

While there we went to the pioneer cemetery, it's the original cemetery where the first settlers in that valley are buried. We like to visit cemeteries, I feel peaceful in a country cemetery. There was the stone of a little boy named Silas Baughmann, he was 4 years 8 months and 26 days old when he died. The old stones always have the life counted out in years, days and months, child mortality was so common that perhaps life measured out in this way made it seem longer. Or more meaningful. It's a poignant thing to see the stones and think about the people, that they were real, live people. Very much like you or me with hopes and dreams and fears. And they are long since dead and mostly forgotten, whatever was the biggest issue in their day is now relegated to a paragraph in a history text to be yawned over by today's scholars. I didn't always love history but at some point it became real to me and that has made all of the difference. I own just a few pieces of original children's clothing but each one is hand sewn, labored over by some Mother or Grandmother for a special little one and then packed away. I wonder about those women, who they were and what they were like. I'm so glad to be a woman, doing the things that are a woman's province, continuing to serve my family as women have traditionally done.

Though I am fond of many aspects of the past, there are some that I'm glad are behind us. I don't wish that I could live then, I am thankful that I live today. The birthrate in the 1850's was 5.4 children per woman for whites and for 7.9 blacks. The life expectancy was 39.5 for white men and women combined and 23 for blacks. 23. I can hardly fathom that. The infant mortality was 21.7 per hundred whites and 34 per hundred for blacks.

The chances that I would have nine healthy children in that era are almost nil. The illnesses that they dreaded: croup, scarlet fever, measles and others are so benign that we hardly bat an eye at them. Yet they were great stalkers of children. It was commonplace in the early 1800's to have a post mortem image taken of the deceased, many times for children it would be the only image the parents would ever have of their little one. The photographer would come to the home in these cases so that the bereaved family would not have to carry the dead child to the studio.

You can still feel this Mother's grief 170 years later. Life was more closely tied to the home then, births and deaths occurred there and were an expected part of every person's experience. We have distanced our self from both of these life events, relegating them to someplace apart from where we live. I think that we honor our ancestors and our heritage when we treat their customs and beliefs with respect and retain what we can. Just as we show respect to our language by speaking it properly, so too do we show respect to our foremothers by treating their little ones' memories with love and care.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

1863 Child's Wrapper

Rebekah's tenth birthday is this week. Every girl gets at least one new dress for her special day, it's a great matter of discussion and debate about what will be found hanging from their peg board or hooks on their birthday morning. That's generally how we do it, you awake to find your special frock made just for you to spend your special day in. I decided to make Rebekah a wrapper trimmed in a style I found in the "Children's Fashions" section of Godey's Lady's Book from February 1863. I don't know if a wrapper might have been worn to milk the cow but Rebekah wanted to show her brothers how she looked. :-D

A wrapper was worn for breakfast and other times when one might not want to be fully attired in the many layers required for the 1860's. It was also worn for times of sickness and invalidism.
The bodice closes with 6 original calico buttons that I've been saving for a special occasion.
It is piped at the neckline and armscyes and has coat sleeves cut on the bias with cuffs cut on the straight grain.

Since this wrapper is designed to show off the petticoat I wanted to make her something other than an ordinary, plain affair. I decided on a tucked petti, this one is made of cotton sateen and has 11 quarter inch tucks; one for each year we've been privileged to have her as a part of our family and one to grow on.

I will have other birthday photos later this week but it's supper time and I need to run. Have a lovely evening.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1860's Knitted Baby Vest

I have been working, for about a month now, on a knitted baby vest. I know that knitted vests were common in the Civil War era and it seemed like a wonderfully warm addition to Asa's winter wardrobe. Previous to beginning this project I could: cast on, knit and purl so I had many new skills to learn if I wanted to knit this vest. I learned how to increase and decrease, make buttonholes, crochet an edging and attach two knitted pieces together. And finally, today, the vest in finished!!!
And, wonder of wonders, it doesn't fit. Wow, oh good. I was hoping to have spent all that time for nothing. :-) Actually, it isn't quite that disastrous. You see, for the belt I tried knitting on circular knitting needles (something I had never done before) and the stitches looked wonky. I don't know, maybe there's a trick to making your knitting look neat on them? Anyway, I chucked the circulars and did the belt on regular needles, doing rows of 12 stitches. However, that made the buttonhole sit vertically instead of horizontally like the others. The belt is a bit snug (I didn't block the belt, by the way) and it makes the button pop out of the hole. I suppose the next step is to remove the belt and knit a new, larger one and then crochet new edging for it and re-attach, but I'm not really up for that right now so I guess I'll put it away and sew for a while. :-/

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Busy Day in the Kitchen

We've had a busy week in the kitchen putting things into canning jars. Hot, tiring work to be sure, but I know the reward will be worth it. Katie canned a canner load of Rattlesnake pole beans this morning, our first of the year. I was working on Rebekah's birthday presents while she did that and then we canned blueberries and pickled heirloom beets this afternoon/evening. Our beet varieties are: Chioggia, Golden, Lutz Winter Keeper. I don't think I'm a huge pickled beet fan, but they will add variety to the dullness of Winter's protein-heavy repast. I think we're about finished with the blueberries, I ought to make more syrup since what I did make is making its way to New York before long and I have none left for us. We'll see, I know we'll be elbow deep in peaches tomorrow and/or Friday and I don't want to bite off too much. This is our Pickled Beet recipe, it's from 1911.
Pickled Heirloom Beets
1. Wash beets and trim off beet greens. Dispatch a child to feed the greens to the pigs; meanwhile leave roots and 1 inch of stems and cook until tender, about a half hour more or less.
Drain beets, cool and peel. Next, admire them on the plate.
2. Cut into slices or cubes, place in jars and pack them in but don't crush them. Then admire them some more and call all of the children in to remark on the pleasing aesthetics that beets entail.
3. In a separate kettle combine: 4 cups cider vinegar, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups water, 1.5 teaspoons canning salt, and in a spice bag put 2 cinnamon sticks, 12 whole cloves and 1 teaspoon whole allspice. Add spice bag to vinegar/sugar and boil for 5 minutes or the amount of time that it takes a 4 year old to tell you about the presents that she wants for her birthday which is still 4 months away. Remove spice bag and ladle syrup over beets in jars.

4. Put bands and lids in place and can in a boiling water bath canner for a half hour. Watch the storm roll in as you frantically grab the laundry from the clothesline with clothes pins flying every which way. Let it occur to you at 5:30 that you have nothing prepared for Supper and call for pizza.

Be thankful for everything that was accomplished in a day's time and doubly thankful that every day isn't like today. :-D