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 Those who scoff at the past or at those who would maintain outdated customs show an alarming absence of wisdom.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.