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. :-/