Welcome Melissa Jagears! “The Good Ol’ Days of Doing the Same Thing Over and Over…”

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With my first book, A Bride for Keeps, one of the things I wanted to focus on was actual homesteading—the day to day, dawn to dusk november 9 headshotlabor. I think in many prairie romances, it’s easy to miss the daily toil homesteaders endured.

My husband and I bought 14 acres because some day we want to practice subsistence farming, basically homesteading. The dream of living off an acreage felt really romantic . . . until we started doing it.

Time! Homesteading takes so much time, doing the same things over and over. And we’re very lax homesteaders at the moment with my husband’s extraordinary amount of overtime and me with a newborn.

And just the thought of taking care of a newborn while having no choice but to milk a cow, make bread from scratch, cook three meals with a woodstove, wash clothing by hand, preserve food, and keep my soddy clean daily with no vacation to look forward to makes me grumpy.

And becoming cross at enduring such toil isn’t just a problem modern women face. This is one of the “Commandments for California Wives” written for the women who came out to marry men lured to California by gold.

Thou shalt not substitute sour looks for pickles; nor a fiery temper for stove-wood; nor cross words for kindlings; nor trifling talk for light bread; nor tart language for dessert; nor excuses for anything. Neither shalt thou serve up cold looks or cold meats for breakfast, nor scoldings and hard potatoes for dinner, nor what remains of the other two meals for supper – no, not even on washing days. Neither shalt thou allow hard feelings or unwashed dishes to accumulate; nor withhold either secrets or shirt buttons from the bosom of thy husband; and NEVER omit LITTLE KINDNESSES of any kind.

Thinking about how easy I have it, getting to sit with my baby while frozen pizza bakes in the oven, having a dryer when I’m behind on line-drying, choosing to butcher one of our chickens or buying one from the deli, forgoing a garden to concentrate on writing instead . . . I’m convicted over the times I let unwashed dishes AND hard feelings pile up.CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), default quality

Some people have it better than me, but plenty have it worse. There were times I wanted to shake my characters in A Bride for Keeps for letting their hard feelings and secrets pile up….but then, I look at myself and realize I need just as much shaking sometimes for not doing the things I know ought to be done and treating my family poorly. All the while I have air conditioning, grocery stores, household appliances, Jane Austen movies, and chocolate to ease the toil.

Have you ever gotten mad at fictional characters for not fixing their faults fast enough and then realize you’re worse? What modern convenience would make you the grumpiest to lose?

A Bride For Keeps

Guest Blogger
Updated: November 8, 2013 — 1:40 pm

33 Comments

  1. Hello Melissa. I enjoyed this article. So, you don’t think it’s much fun to homestead huh? One thing for sure the weak didn’t survive back then. I was small when my mother had to do some of the things the homesteaders did. She was a 15 year old girl when she married in 1921. And she raised 8 children. All of us were born at home. I’m sure she went through many rough times for being the 7th child, I remember the iron cookstoves, iceboxes with blocks of ice in a compartment. Bread made from scratch, having to learn how to make do when food was low. Seeing by lamp lights, outhouses, washing outside with clothes in a wash pot over a fire, then in wash tubs with a scrubboard and homemade soap. starching good clothes, hanging on a clothes summer and winter, then days of ironing. Tending a garden to have food. going places in a wagon. My dad walking miles to work when no farm work to do. Trying to stay warm with a wood heater in middle of room. (I burned my leg many times getting too close. Mother would heat bricks and wrap in towels and put in bed for our feet to warm us until our beds got warm from our bodies. Canning for days to have some food for winters.When they were lucky, some chickens for eggs and to cook on special occasions. No tissue paper. Everyone kept Sears and Roeback catalogues in the outhouse to use. Sometimes a radio. I can remember of times when we sat on the floor on Sat. night listening to the Grand Ole’ Oprey. Oh yes, and no air conditioners or fans. Still we had lots of love and a happy family with lots of good memories. Even I at 16, starting my own home, had to make-do with what gro. was in the house to make a meal. And, we got by with no government help and low wages. I even had to wash clothes by hand many times, because couldn’t always go to a Washateria.with old wringer washers. But as my husband was able to get more wages, things got better. We raised 4 children. I wonder about this generation would survive if they had to make do without our modern conveniences. Not sure they could. But i loved that we had a quiter life back then and more quality family time. Life s so busy always now and families going in all directions. I would love to win your book. I think the A/C would be hardest now that we are used to having the cool where ever we go.
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. I actually have gotten upset with characters taking to long to find and fix their faults. The modern convenience that I would be most lost without would be air conditioning. It gets way too hot during Texas summers. But, I could say washing machine since I went into a panic Thursday when mine broke and I couldn’t finish my washing.

  3. We have talked about homesteading here too. I know I would be a very grumpy person. I don’t think I could have followed those Californian rules! OH yes, I have yelled at and rolled my eyes at characters I’m reading because I think they should have it all figured out by a certain time. Unfortunately, I know I’m even worse – fighting something I know I need to change. 🙂
    I think I would die if I had to hand wash clothes. I can live without a lot of stuff – but don’t make me scrub clothes. lol

  4. Hi Melissa! Welcome to P&P. We’re thrilled to have you. Hope you enjoy riding with us today. I cannot imagine living in the old West. Just be too hard. Those poor women. They had it worse than the men. It was going steady from the time they got out of bed to the time they fell back into bed at night. I’d definitely miss my refrigerator and microwave. And the washer and dryer and coffeemaker.

    Your book looks great. Congratulations on the release!! You have a very pretty cover.

  5. Maxie, I grew up pretty poor and did a lot of things the “old fashioned” way. Never had AC until college dorm life. I share your concern about people not knowing what to do (though I figure some of us could help if needed. 🙂 But I remember listening to the Japanese tsunami news and people not knowing what to do because there were no diapers to be had, and I was like, give me some fabric and a plastic grocery bag and I could make it work.

    Also, when I was in China, the foreign college dorm got a real toilet and a washing machine. But this wasn’t a “real” washer. It was a step above a wringer washer (which I had as a child too) It was that washer that was a cube with 2 compartments and the one side was a cylinder spinner. ….I don’t know if that thing had a proper name. Well, out of 30 college students, I was the only one who knew what it was and informed people how to use it and then went to take a nap…….

    They woke me up from my nap and told me that the dryer was broken. They’d put the clothes in 3 times and they still weren’t dry! Um, it’s a spinner, you still have to hang the laundry up! LOL

  6. Janine, I’m thankful for the time savings of a washing machine. I only use my dryer on weeks where it’s raining every day and even inside is humid, but drying doesn’t need me to be active to get done, love my washer and I just got a new front loading one. I can wash SO MUCH at a time now! Can you tell I’m excited. 🙂

  7. Susan, if you ever find yourself needing to wash by hand, you could get a washer plunger! I use it for some of my handwashables, a lot easier than my washboard, but I use that too sometimes. Keep your eye out at flea markets! But yes, so time consuming!

  8. Linda, yes, all day work, very little time for leisure.

    And I just love my cover!

  9. Hi Melissa,
    I enjoyed reading your post! Mmm, the modern convenience I couldn’t live without would probably be refrigerator. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been without one.
    Congratulations on your book and I too love the cover!

  10. Melissa, so excited for you about your book…can’t wait to read it..thanks for the chance!
    Homesteading would not be for me…..love my conveniences and am too old now anyway…lol. Followed all the news about your baby on Seekers….glad all is well!
    jacsmi75 [at] gmail [dot] com

  11. Melissa, like everyone else, I am super spoiled with modern conveniences, but I think running water and indoor toilets would be the hardest for me to do without. I don’t like roughing it 🙂

  12. I get frustrated when the heroine (it’s typically her) willfully misunderstands the hero – he says something and means well, but what comes out can be construed as hurtful or an insult, so she goes off in a huff. I wish I didn’t do it too, but it still happens. Since getting married, I have learned such poorly worded sentences by my husband are commonplace, so I try to have grace. But when something has already irritated me, it is so tempting to take those gaffs the wrong way and claim insult . . . even though 9 times out of 10 I know exactly what he meant. Watching fictional characters give into the impulse doesn’t make my struggle with it any easier.

    Regarding modern conveniences, I’ve done enough serious backpacking to be okay without toilets and running water, but I should hate to lose the ability to keep food preserved in a frozen state all year long. Beef and venison are an asset in winter when that volume is easy to preserve, but they are significantly less practical in summer. And that would mean butchering chickens. A lot. I hate butchering chickens. Rabbits too – they have a terrible squeal when they’re dying.

  13. modern plumbing

  14. Sharon, Jackie and Cheryl. I wonder if they wished for our conveniences or whether they couldn’t even fathom them so didn’t feel wishful.

    Rachael, what an interesting observation. I know that I’ve done that sometimes to my husband just to continue being mad since I was in such a fit. Bad me. And I know that I have my characters misunderstand each other but I HOPE that it’s written well enough that it’s a true misunderstanding rather than a willful one. Because it sure isn’t an attractive quality is it? Sometimes I wonder why hubby thinks I’m so great…..

  15. Did the man have a list of commandments too?! I’d be interested in reading those as well…

    I love all the modern conveniences, grew up poor, and don’t feel the need to go back to ‘simpler’ times. They weren’t any simpler for me 🙂

  16. I would miss electricity, because without it we wouldn’t have air conditioning, washing machines, refrigerators, dryers, or any number of other things. My first instinct was air conditioning, but then I thought about if we didn’t have electricity, then there would be no AC.

  17. Interesting Sherri, I grew up poor and a lot of the time I feel trapped by the stuff I have now (not all of the time, mind you 🙂 and I’m by no means rich! But not having to use the wringer washer or driving 45 minutes to a laundromat is nice. I used to love the laundromat because I’d get so much reading done, but with 3 little kids that sure wouldn’t happen.

    Ah, yes, Amy, Electricity is the key to it all!

  18. I would certainly miss air conditioning especially in the Florida summer heat. I don’t think I could do without it for long.

    I’d love to read A Bride for Keeps.

  19. I think I would miss having a bathroom in the house, I wouldn’t want to have to trudge far to go to an outhouse in all kinds of weather. When I went on a mission trip to Mexico, we had to use an outhouse at a home where we were staying. I never knew how much I appreciated a running toilet!

  20. Lis, doing without certainly let’s us know how blessed we are!

  21. I think I would mind losing out on the modern bathroom what with the shower, the toilet, running water, tiles on the floor and some wall, electric iights in walls, and the sinks.

  22. Living in SC I think I would miss AC the most! Of course that assumes I have electricity!
    I think most of us today really have it pretty easy.

  23. Wow, I am certainly thankful for all that I have today. When I first married, I went from small town living to a farm. We had running water and indoor plumbing but we had wood heat and an old wringing washer. .Many things have change in our 50 years of marriage. I have automatic washer and dryer now(but wish they weren’t in the basement). I would love a dishwasher but seems a waste for just the two of us. Have only had air conditioning for a couple of years and would miss it but I think I would hate scrubbing our dirty clothes. What a backbreaking job that would be.

    Looking forward to reading your book and yes, I have lost my temper with a character when they seem so slow at figuring out the solution to their problem but I also cry at their sorrows.

  24. Melissa,
    I now know why I never went to California! Too many rules! LOL

    As to modern conveniences, with the exception of a refrigerator, I have done without all of them at different periods of life, but there was always the knowledge that we could work toward those things.
    On my worst days I would think of my grandmother who lost her husband by the time she was 30 and had 8 kids to raise (in all she gave birth to 17 children -five sets of twins)as a widow who could not read or write English. She was often heard saying. “I’mma no do, whosa gonna do?” And she did so with no modern conveniences. She will always be my hero but I sure don’t want to repeat history. I like being spoiled!
    BTW, I already read “A Bride for Keeps.” I loved it.
    I hope you find the time to keep writing.

  25. Melissa! What a delight to see you here! I tell folks that I like to write about the 1880s in Texas, but I’m delighted it isn’t from first-hand experience … I would miss too many modern conveniences to list … and probably some I wouldn’t even think of until I didn’t have them. Majorly looking forward to reading your book!

    Nancy C (Chill N)

  26. P.S. Thanks for the free download of Love by the Letter a while back … And I already have A Bride for Keeps on my iPad 🙂

    Nancy C

  27. I am so spoiled by all things electric. Electricity is critical here. We have a well so when the electric is off we don’t have water either. I have talked to a few characters in books when they were a bit dense. LOL

  28. Connie, I think laundry seems to be the winner! And think of the amount of fabric in an old dress compared to what we wear, goodness.

    Rosie, that is a good point, if we saved we could have a fancy dishwasher if we wanted a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the taking if we wanted, but they’d never be able to do anything but handwash. And “If I do do it, who’s going to do it” seems to be my mantra at the moment, though my littles want to do it, but they just take extra time to make the mess worse of course. 🙂

  29. Hey “Chill N”! Fancy seeing you here. 🙂 And you’re welcome for the free novella, but you should thank my publisher, they made me write it. 🙂

    Jan, if you’re giving the characters a talking to, that’s good, if you’re giving the author a talking to, that’s bad.

  30. I do that all the time! I get mad at the characters in a book for missing something that is obvious to me, as the reader. Then i put myself in their shoes and relize I would have missed it too if I were in their place!

    I would miss indoor toilets, electricity, wi-fi, electronic books, and ready-made and packaged food.

    So excited for your book to come out! 🙂

  31. About the only fictional characters that I might loose patience with might be those of privilege who complain about how tough they have it when someone else is stuck doing the work.
    It is a toss up about which I would miss the most, clean running water or electricity, but I would have to go with water. We have had several storms when we lost power and were able to manage quite well without it. We have a wood stove, so heating and cooking were no problem. We have oil lamps and lots of books and games, so no problems there. In one storm, the power was out for 5 days. We had no problems for 3 days. On the 4th day we lost the water and that is when things became difficult. We were without water after the power came back on, but it didn’t help much.

    We can and have lived in a modified subsistence manner. I know we could do it, and do pretty well if we had to, but it is a lot of work. Outside of the day to day life, medical care is the one thing I would not want to go backwards with.

  32. Kaylea, it’s sometimes difficult to be patient with fictional characters since we can see things they can’t!

    Patricia,you’re right, it’s much harder to go without water than electricity. Electricity cuts off convenience, water is a necessity!

  33. I think I would hate to loose the washing machine, although we have been there too… ie. move to tn, went sorta plain/homesteady and since we have come back to NY we are heating with wood still and dealing with water issues as they arise… Wish I had a garden this past summer as it would be nice to have homemade jellies, jams, chilli sauces and such.
    We have oil lanterns still and candles ! I cook on propane but have cooked over a campfire for three weeks at a time…
    Linda Finn
    faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

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