Friday, January 29, 2010

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a woman named Cheryl Lindsey who was the editor of a magazine called Gentle Spirit. The magazine promoted homesteading/head covering/home birthing/home schooling/back to the land gardening etc and I enjoyed reading about their big family and their lifestyle. Well, to make a long story short, when the "truth" of the matter came out it was discovered that the family was falling apart and they no longer did many of the things that they wrote about. And the readership was outraged. They were incensed because somehow the Lindseys had deceived them, had disappointed them, didn't live up to the ideal that they had promoted.

I have enjoyed writing my blog, I like telling about our lifestyle, but I'm afraid that somewhere along the way the point has been lost that I'm a real person. I didn't wake up from a hundred years sleep, stumble into this life and decide to blog about it. I *do* have an antiquated life that I *have* chosen because I enjoy it, but I don't exist to serve the "lifestyle". Rather, the "lifestyle" exists to serve me. I have no intention of living in a living history museum and the minute that I don't love what I'm doing or another idea seems better, then I will drop this lifestyle and do something else. I'm not a slave to it. I don't have to (or want to) make sure that everything is period correct, I live in the 21st century. I want to take what I perceive as the best of the past and sculpt my own life from then and now.

I have posted nothing that isn't the truth, but just because I grind wheat to make bread doesn't mean that I always do. I (or somebody here) cooks the majority of our meals at home, but that doesn't mean that we never eat out. I like Chinese as a matter of fact. I do sew a lot of what we wear, but that doesn't mean that there aren't store bought clothes here. We have and use kerosene lamps, but not always. I have an automatic washer and an electric stove.

I admitted that I sent Mr. G out for a Mountain Dew (and drank it for breakfast no less) but let's keep it in perspective, It's a MOUNTAIN DEW for crying out loud, I didn't become a crack ho for a day.

I'm just a real person, living a real life, with real temptations and struggles. Don't deceive yourself by thinking that, somehow, I have all my ducks in a row more so than you do. Yes, you can probably learn something from me, just as I can and have learned things from you and your life. I love my life and I'm glad that you like to read about it, but I don't want it to turn into a prison sentence. I hope you can read this in the sense that I intend it (which is nicely and humbly) because I'm dismayed that my day yesterday provoked such disillusionment in some readers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Daily Labors

My day begins around 5:30 when I dress in quaint, old fashioned garments and slowly walk to the barn to milk the cows. I skim the cream immediately and grind some wheat to mix with the freshly rolled oats to make a homemade, farm fresh breakfast. I gently awaken the children and we sit down and lovingly gaze at each other over our morning's repast.

Ha Ha Ha, not really. :-) What actually happened is this:
Asa is a complete crab, I don't know if he's teething or what but he's up every hour and a half all through the night. I feed him at 5 and fall back asleep. The boys come in from milking at 7 and I wake up then. Mr. G takes crab-o and I must have fallen asleep again because when I next look at the clock it says 8:00. But not to be misleading, I'm *not* a morning person anyway, I never have been.
The children eat baked oatmeal with apples and cinnamon, I, however, eat peanut butter/chocolate cookies and drink a Mountain Dew. Seriously. Your whole image of me is blown now isn't it? :-)
9:00- I start a load of laundry and run a bath for Elisabethe and Abigail. Since we don't have central heat that means that the bathrooms are unheated. I never wash the girls' hair in the evening because it's just too cold in their bedrooms. In Summer though I like to wash their hair right before bed because they stay cooler that way.
10:00-12:00- we start school and I don't do much else during this time but help, explain, check answers, listen to their reading, prod the unmotivated etc
Lunch- Mr. G makes burgers and fries and while he's cooking and Asa is napping I fiddle with the undershirt pattern that I drafted.
1:30- the mail comes and in it is the undershirt that Mrs. B made for Asa! I try it on him but he will *not* act cute so I can take his picture. :-/
The original undershirt from the Wisconsin Historical Society is pictured below. It's knitted wool with straps.
I tried the undershirt on Abigail and it fits her, so this seems to be a garment that he can wear for several Winters! Woo Hoo!

2:00- I cut out an undershirt for Asa. The original (pictured below) has no side seams, just that one seam in the left front from where they used remnants pieced together to make the undershirt. It is finely woven cotton, I'm using handkerchief weight linen and it's bulkier.

I'm happy with the finished product all-in-all, but maybe I'll do some in batiste and see if that lays nicer. Also, I shirred the neckline up too much in the pictures, it looks better when left looser.

4:00- I check e-mail and hold the baby while Katie starts supper. I read several stories to the little girls.
4:30- Mr. G messes with the fire and then leaves for work.
5:00- Supper and then the boys head out to do the chores that require daylight. Locking in the chickens, hauling water to all of the animals, feeding the pigs and bringing in wood. I take Asa in for his bath.
6:00- Asa is out of the tub and I hand him off to the younger girls while I make tomorrow's breakfast, breakfast pizza. The boys finish milking, come in and strain the milk and set it away to cool. BTW, you can't skim the cream immediately, it has to rise first. :-)

7:00- I lay down on the couch with Asa and nurse him to sleep, he wakes up around 7:45 and Katie takes him,but before I can get up Elisabethe and Abigail come and climb in the covers so we snuggle for a while.
8:00- I read several chapters of our current read-aloud, By The Shores Of Silver Lake.
8:30- children head off to bed and I rock Asa to sleep and try to catch up in Les Miserables. Mr. G, Aleks and I were all going to read it together,but Aleks liked it so well that he flew through it and is finished already. I read about 100 pages tonight.
10:00- Mr. G gets home, Asa wakes up and starts crying. He settles down around 11:15. I climb into bed, very, very tired and immediately fall sound asleep.

This concludes my very exciting day, now what did you do?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Homegrown Underwear Ad

I'm a wool lover, I think there's nothing better than a body clothed in wool for warmth. We have wool socks, wool petticoats, wool caps, wool gloves and mittens, and everybody has a wool coat. I wanted to buy the boys wool longjohns for Christmas, but the best price I could find was $25 per top or bottom. The thought of spending $150 to outfit 3 boys in wool was sobering and in the end I didn't buy them. My parents had the wonderful idea to check their Army Surplus store and they found wool longjohns for $3 a piece! They bought 6 sets because the price was so good, mailed them out to us and today they came!!!

They also found nice, thick wool socks and sent them as well. Also included were tons of socks for the girls and some hometown newspaper clippings, it's good to have Grandparents to love you! Thanks Mom and Dad!

A New Gown and a Quilted Bib

I had to revise Asa's gown pattern again to allow more room, especially through the tummy. His blue homespun that I recently made is too snug, plus the sleeves are getting tight and short and the shoulders were too narrow. So a new pattern was necessary! This gown is a red/brown Delft print, not period correct but I like it. :-) It is cut *really* roomy, so maybe this will be the last pattern alteration needed before Spring. I had him weighed at 12 weeks and he was almost 17 pounds then, so he is pushing 18-20 lbs by now. He is also getting very drooly and needs something absorbent to catch the run-off. I have admired this bib from the Wisconsin Historical Society and used it as inspiration for my own quilted bib, they date this one to 1830-1869, it's quilted white cotton with tassels.

I hand quilted the one I made for Asa and though I really like how it turned out, it was rather labor intensive.

It was also my first attempt at making tassels. They came out OK, not award winning or anything but acceptable for a first try, I think. I wish he had a whole slew of these but I'm going to need a quicker option, the quilting alone took 4 hours so the whole thing was a 6-7 hour project. Now, if I could machine quilt, that would be a different story........ :-)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rebekah's 1840's Dress

This was another "get it done for Christmas" project. I don't particularly like 1840's fashion but the fabric is an 1840's repro so....... Rebekah had picked the fabric herself and though it's a bit bold, I think it turned out cute! It was supposed to have tucks in the skirt, but she wants it to be long so I left them out. We talked about bretelles but then decided not to, so it's staying untrimmed as-is.

Levi & Micah's hats

I'm trying to catch up on my backlog of things to post that I've been sewing. I made these caps for Levi and Micah for Christmas, they are corduroy on the outside and lush, ultra thick checked flannel on the inside. Inside they have a quilted (100% cotton of course) layer for extra warmth. They have quilted earflaps too that can be tied over the top. They aren't actually pointing guns at each other, by the way. :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Abigail's 1820's gown

Abigail was first on the list for getting a new gown as she has the fewest, although Elisabethe did nicely offer to give Abby all of her old gowns and then she could have a new one instead. :-) I wanted to make the gown as a companion to mine but with somewhat smaller sleeves. It has the wide neckline typical of the period with some cotton lace basted in, I wanted to make a lace frill but the lace was too clunky to frill well so it's just basted in flat.

For this era the armscyes aren't dropped very much compared to the 1860's and the sleeves are set in without rotation, matching the sleeve seam to the side bodice seam. The waistline is still fairly high and the skirts are long, lower than mid-calf. The outer waistband is cut on the bias, whereas the inner waistband is cut on the straight grain to minimize stretching. The sleeves are gigot, although very tamed down and they too are cut on the bias. This is an exceptionally simple style to sew and I'm very pleased with how graceful and feminine it looks.

It's always a great event when someone gets a new gown, everyone admires the lucky recipient and then the discussions start on who will be the next one to receive a dress. They like to watch while I sew and note the progress, a sure incentive to make haste! I'm amused (I *am* easily amused I should note) that it never occurs to them that dresses can be purchased. Here it's a great flurry to choose fabric and trim, they are conversant on armscyes, the merits of silk or cotton ribbon, soutache braid, bias trim and the differences in sleeve styles. I think it's great but then I did confess, I'm easily amused. :-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Elmer Fudd in the buff

Fashion is a funny thing.

I'm sorry, I can't resist. I've been envisioning this picture for a while, but our camera has been under the weather, today it mysteriously resurrected itself and I jumped at the chance to capture Asa in his "work coat and cap". :-) Katie made them for him for Christmas, the cap matches Levi & Micah's that I made. The coat and cap are flannel lined and the coat fronts are cut on the bias. The flaps tie on top of his head for the true "Elmer Fudd" look.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Need To Provide

The snow is falling fast and thick this evening, big snow flakes that drift slowly down because there's no wind. It's supposed to be quite a blizzard, maybe we'll get snowed in! There's a certain romance to being isolated from the world by a thick blanket of snow. :-) I love Winter, I love the stillness and the slower pace, I love the smell of soups simmering on the stove mingled with the wheaty smell of fresh baked bread.
I love the peaceful evenings around the stove reading aloud to the children. It's the time set aside to regroup and plan for the coming year, to pore over the seed catalogs and laugh that we ever could have considered Summer to be hot. It affords the opportunity to help the children develop skills that they will need as adults. A time for every season.........

It's about this time every year, after the holidays are over, that the drive to provide for my family really kicks into overdrive. I'm engulfed by the desire to sew and spin and knit, to assure myself that my own are covered and clothed. Mrs. B is knitting a wool undershirt for her baby and I'm enthralled with the idea of handmade wool undershirts, I want to bring forth the knitting needles and knit myself into a frenzy with undershirts streaming into my lap one after the other. Of course then reality rears its ugly head to snidely remind me that I can't knit.
Well, at least not well enough to actually make something. :-/

My inepptitude is really starting to mess with my self respect. How can I be a real woman if I can't knit wool undershirts? But seriously, I feel the weight of responsibility upon me in this area (as in so many others) because we've chosen to be responsible on a different level than a lot of other people are. If I don't sew, we go naked. If we don't keep a fire going, we freeze to death. If Katie or I doesn't cook, we starve to death. If the chickens aren't cared for or don't lay, we go without eggs. There isn't a back up readily available to fall back on. And don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have it otherwise. I love not being dependent on the outside world anymore than we are. But it does add a certain urgency to the situation. :-)

So, I'll renew myself and think and plan what needs to be sewn and what can be remade or mended. I'll vow to manage my time better and all the while I'll give thanks, really and truly tears streaming down my face thanks, that I have the family that I do and have been blessed beyond measure with the ability to care for them.