Category: Frugality of the Old West

Gina Danna: The Frugal Housewife

The Fillies welcome historical author Gina Danna to the Junction. She has a giveaway at the bottom so leave a comment to get in the drawing.

 

Last winter in Texas, it was cold enough I pulled out my favorite Polo sweaters to wear and found holes! Moth holes! I pulled a couple more & the little buggers were chomping on most of my Polo and Izod sweaters. They love wool and here they’ve got good – expensive – taste but oh I was sooo mad! What do people do today when this happens? After muttering a few colorful metaphors, the sweater gets tossed, as we’ve become a throwaway society. Broken, buy new! But that’s not how people used to be…

For centuries, many people did not have the wardrobes we have today. Unless you were rich, the majority had a few articles for everyday and one dressy piece for church. During the time of the American Civil War, a great deal of men’s clothing was made of wool. Pants, frockcoats and waistcoats were wool. Why? Because wool is a great durable fabric. Made of tightly woven fibers, it held dirt, mud, and anything else on the surface unlike cotton, which absorbed it. If mud got on wool trousers or skirt, it’d be allowed to dry then a fabric beater, like a carpet beater, would be struck on the item and the dried wool would flake off.

For ladies with those long skirts that hit the floor, what did they do to make them not fray or mar with dirt? Many put a ruffle around the bottom and it took the filth off the streets, sidewalks and home. If it didn’t wash out, the ruffle was torn from the skirt and a new one attached. A new ruffle made of another color or new trims, made the skirt look new. Or they lined the bottom with twill-tape, sewn on the inside so only a glimpse of it showed on the hemline. Colored to match the skirt, this piece saved the hem from dirt and once it was beyond redemption, it was an easy to remove and cheap to replace.

During the Civil War, Southern ladies had to become the Frugal Housewife and find alternatives as the Union naval blockade kept imports out. Therefore, fabric from the North or England wasn’t available, neither were many notions such as stays for corsets, etc. So they redesigned what they had. Fixed their hoops by narrowing them or reverting to corded petticoats. They streamlined their skirts, cutting fabric to repair another area, thus making the skirt not as wide as fashion dictated. Pagoda sleeves were made narrow, cuffs and collars made from other scraps and they reversed the fabric to give it a ‘fresh’ appearance. Women already used shank buttons on their bodices. These buttons were not truly sewn on but the shank went through the slit at the buttonhole and was held there by a ribbon that ran the length of the bodice. To give a change of appearance, they pulled the ribbon, releasing the buttons and they threaded different ones in their place. Quite the ingenious way to make one outfit look like five.

Surprisingly enough, The Gone With The Wind portrayal of using curtains for material wasn’t that far off the norm.

During this time, ladies changed clothing many times a day. During the winter, it may be 3-5 times, summer 7-9 depending. They had their morning gown, working gown, cooking dress, traveling outfit, day dress as well as one for evening supper, evening party and ballgowns. It might sound insane to change but it was a way to keep the outfits cleaner than wearing one all day.

Laundry was a nightmare – an all day affair literally. Washed by hand with a scrub board and soap, it was a task assigned to Mondays. Whites were done in boiling water, colors in cold. Dresses were roughly 7-8 yards of fabric. A big piece to wash so they deconstructed it – bodice from skirt, sleeves from bodice – so smaller pieces to scrub and to dry. Drying was on clothesline outside. Whites placed in sunlight to bleach them whiter; colors turned inside out and hung in the shade to keep from fading. Ironing was with a cast-iron iron like we see for decoration today. It had to warm enough to iron but not hot enough to burn. Regardless of societal class, when they could afford to, they hired a 12 year old to do it for them. I read an account of a lady who wore a new dress in May and didn’t wash it until August! Yet some had to be done and it was much easier to wash collars and cuffs, which get noticeably dirty.

But what about those moth holes? They FIXED them. Women learned how to sew – whether they were good or not didn’t matter. They learned it enough to be able to repair things. Knitting was also a skill majority had. With that knowledge, and using things like cedar chests, they could keep most of their woolen fabric safe.

So what about my moth-holed sweaters? When my mother was alive, she fixed them. My mother was a Depression era child. These children were educated about getting by on nothing and making things last. My mother was great at sewing. Made all my childhood clothes. I remember wishing for store bought clothes…difficult being the one with the pretty – and unique – outfit. She also knitted and for these, she knew how to get into the sweater and reknit the holes closed. Alas, I never acquired those skills…

So, I did the best I could – I used needle and thread to sew them close.

There actually is a book on how to be a frugal housewife: The American Frugal Housewife, Dedicated To Those Who Are Not Ashamed Of Economy by Mrs. Child, 1833. A fascinating read.

Makes you wonder – could you become a “frugal housewife”? I’m giving away one digital copy of RAGS AND HOPE to someone who comments. The drawing will be Sunday.

* * * *

RAGS & HOPE –
 

Widower Colonel Pierce Duval only wants return to his Union command in Tennessee. A chance and harrowing encounter with a true-blue Southern belle stirs emotions he thought long buried. When her safety is at stake, how can he not help her? 

Cerisa Fontaine ran away for a new life far from her family’s awful secret. But her controversial marriage and southern drawl make her a pariah in the North. With her husband death, Cerisa is forced to seek employment at the only establishment that will accept her: a brothel.

To survive, Pierce and Cerisa embark on a journey to Tennessee posing as a married couple. But as secrets stand between them, passion wages its war within them. Do they  remain loyal to their cause, or give in to their heart’s desire?

 

AMAZON  |  iBOOK KOBO  |  Nook 

 

 

Good Gravy By Crystal L Barnes

Howdy y’all! Thanks for having me back on Petticoats and Pistols. It’s always a treat. And speaking of treats…when was the last time you treated yourself to some good old-fashioned home cooking? I’m talking Texas-style comfort food, y’all. Steak and taters. Sausage gravy and homemade biscuits. Black-eyed peas and cornbread. Mmmmm…I think I’m getting hungry. 🙂

If you haven’t figured it out, I love to cook and bake (just not clean—praise God for dishwashers!). Like many of the characters you’ll find in my historical western romances or other old-time westerns, I was reared, for the most part, on what my family grew, raised, or hunted. Pretty much still am. In my kitchen you’ll find anything from venison to home-grown chicken to home-canned veggies and fruit preserves. Through the years my table and taste buds have enjoyed rabbit, squirrel, wild hog, and even steers from our pasture, to name a few.

                                  

I love to intermingle these types of tidbits into my stories, and I thought some of you authors and history lovers, who don’t delve into these delicacies 😉 often, would enjoy a few fun facts about this type of down-home cooking.

For example, did you know…?

  • A squirrel is all dark meat and tastes a lot like chicken. They are very lean, but go great with dumplings.
  • A rabbit is all white meat. 🙂 Just don’t eat one in a month without an R in the name. (I can tell you why from my dad’s personal experience, but I don’t want to test those with weak stomachs.)
    • In my family, we joke when we eat rabbit and say we’re having “furry chicken.” My favorite is BBQ rabbit. Only don’t smoke them on the pit too long or they’ll be like eating cotton-candy bunny—it practically dissolves in your mouth.
  • When cleaned properly—if no one punctures a scent gland—deer meat actually does not taste gamey. If a scent gland does get hit/cut, you can soak the meat in salt water to remove the gamey smell and taste. Venison is leaner than beef and higher in iron too. (It’s my favorite! 🙂 )

Now that I’ve shared a few tidbits, why don’t you take a turn? What unique or country-style dishes have you eaten? What is your favorite comfort food? Were any of these tidbits news to you? Leave a comment and let me know.

I’ll be giving away a FREE copy (ebook or paperback) of one of my stories to one of this post’s commenters, and I’ll give a second FREE copy (ebook or paperback) to the first person that correctly answers the following question.

What is the most integral ingredient in any country-cooking kitchen?
(I rarely cook a meal without it.)

Winners may select one of the following titles:
(Paperback for contiguous US winners only.)

 

 

An award-winning author, bona fide country girl, and former gymnast,  Crystal L Barnes tells stories of fun, faith, and friction that allow her to share her love of Texas, old-fashioned things, and the Lord—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not writing, reading, or singing, Crystal enjoys exploring on road-trips, spending time with family, and watching old movies/sitcoms. I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie are two of her favorites. You can find out more and connect with Crystal at http://www.crystal-barnes.com

Find her also on her blog, the Stitches Thru Time group blog, her Amazon Author Page, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, or her Facebook Author page.

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Updated: August 17, 2018 — 8:26 am

THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE.

 

DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY.

Before I wrote my novella for Be My Texas Valentine (several years ago), I had to do some research on how laundry was done in the late 1800’s, so I went to my bookcase literally filled with reference books not only on the craft of writing, but books about everything anyone would ever want to know about the 1800’s. I’d totally forgotten about a CD I’d purchased with a number of works on it, including a piece written in 1832 and simply titled The American Frugal Housewife by a woman only identified as Mrs. Child.

After reading a while, I decided in today’s economy it might be fun to visit some of Mrs. Child’s philosophy and guidelines from yesteryear.

The author’s premise is simple: “The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost … Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be … every member of the family should be employed either in earning or saving money.”

Here are some of her tips.  Please note that I left much of the spelling, punctuation and length as it was originally written to truly reflect her authentic voice and the era.

•           In this country, we are apt to let children romp away their existence, till they get to be thirteen or fourteen. This is not well. It is not well for the purses and patience of parents; and it has a still worse effect on the morals and habits of the children. Begin early is the great maxim for everything in education. A child of six years old can be made useful; and should be taught to consider every day lost in which some little thing has not been done to assist others.  They can knit garters, suspenders, and stockings; they can make patchwork and braid straw; they can make mats for the table, and mats for the floor; they can weed the garden, and pick cranberries from the meadow, to be carried to market.

•           Provided brothers and sisters go together, and are not allowed to go with bad children, it is a great deal better for the boys and girls on a farm to be picking blackberries at six cents a quart, than to be wearing out their clothes in useless play. They enjoy themselves just as well; and they are earning something to buy clothes, at the same time they are tearing them.

•           ‘Time is money.’ For this reason, cheap as stockings are, it is good economy to knit them. Cotton and woolen yarn are both cheap; hose that are knit wear twice as long as woven ones; and they can be done at odd minutes of time, which would not be otherwise employed. Where there are children, or aged people, it is sufficient to recommend knitting. Run the heels of stockings faithfully; and mend thin places, as well as holes. ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’

 •           Patchwork is good economy, but it is indeed a foolish waste of time to tear good cloth into bits for the sake of arranging it anew in fantastic figures; but a large family may be kept out of idleness, and a few shillings saved, by thus using scraps of gowns, curtains, &c.

•           In the country, where grain is raised, it is a good plan to teach children to prepare and braid straw for their own bonnets and their brothers’ hats.

•           Where turkeys and geese are kept, handsome feather fans may as well be made by the younger members of a family, as to be bought. The sooner children are taught to turn their faculties to some account, the better for them and for their parents.

ODD SCRAPS FOR THE ECONOMICAL

  • Look to the grease-pot, and see that nothing is there which might have served to nourish your own family, or a poorer one.  Look frequently to the pails, to see that nothing is thrown to the pigs which should have been in the grease-pot.
  • See that the beef and pork are always under brine; and that the brine is sweet and clean.
  • Preserve the backs of old letters to write upon. If you have children who are learning to write, buy coarse white paper by the quantity, and keep it locked up, ready to be made into writing books. It does not cost half as much as it does to buy them at the stationer’s.
  • The oftener carpets are shaken, the longer they wear; the dirt that collects under them, grinds out the threads. Do not have carpets swept any oftener than is absolutely necessary. After dinner, sweep the crumbs into a dusting-pan with your hearth-brush; and if you have been sewing, pick up the shreds by hand. A carpet can be kept very neat in this way; and a broom wears it very much.  When a carpet is faded, I have been told that it may be restored, in a great measure, (provided there be no grease in it,) by being dipped into strong salt and water. I never tried this; but I know that silk pocket handkerchiefs, and deep blue factory cotton will not fade, if dipped in salt and water while new Keep a coarse broom for the cellar stairs, wood-shed, yard, &c. No good housekeeper allows her carpet broom to be used for such things.
  • Suet and lard keep better in tin than in earthen. Suet keeps good all the year round, if chopped and packed down in a stone jar, covered with molasses. Pick suet free from veins and skin, melt it in water before a moderate fire, let it cool till it forms into a hard cake, then wipe it dry, and put it in clean paper in linen bags.
  •  An ox’s gall will set any color,—silk, cotton, or woolen. I have seen the colors of calico, which faded at one washing, fixed by it. Where one lives near a slaughterhouse, it is worth while to buy cheap, fading goods, and set them in this way. The gall can be bought for a few cents. Get out all the liquid, and cork it up in a large phial. One large spoonful of this in a gallon of warm water is sufficient. This is likewise excellent for taking out spots from bombazine, bombazet, &c. After being washed in this, they look about as well as when new. It must be thoroughly stirred into the water, and not put upon the cloth. It is used without soap. After being washed in this, cloth which you want to clean should be washed in warm suds, without using soap.
  • The covering of oil-flasks, sewed together with strong thread, and lined and bound neatly, makes useful tablemats.
  • Never leave out your clothes-line over night; and see that your clothes-pins are all gathered into a basket.
  • After old coats, pantaloons, &c. have been cut up for boys, and are no longer capable of being converted into garments, cut them into strips, and employ the leisure moments of children, or domestics, in sewing and braiding them for door-mats.
  • An ounce of quicksilver, beat up with the white of two eggs, and put on with a feather, is the cleanest and surest bed-bug poison. What is left should be thrown away: it is dangerous to have it about the house. If the vermin are in your walls, fill up the cracks with verdigris-green paint. Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared. One pint of coarse salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water. If there be too much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs; and if there be a single egg cracked, it will spoil the whole. They should be covered with lime-water, and kept in a cold place. The yolk becomes slightly red; but I have seen eggs, thus kept, perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years. The cheapest time to lay down eggs, is early in spring, and the middle and last of September. It is bad economy to buy eggs by the dozen, as you want them.
  • If feather-beds smell badly, or become heavy, from want of proper preservation of the feathers, or from old age, empty them, and wash the feathers thoroughly in a tub of suds; spread them in your garret to dry, and they will be as light and as good as new.
  • Feathers should be very thoroughly dried before they are used. For this reason they should not be packed away in bags, when they are first plucked. They should be laid lightly in a basket, or something of that kind, and stirred up often. The garret is the best place to dry them; because they will there be kept free from dirt and moisture; and will be in no danger of being blown away. It is well to put the parcels, which you may have from time to time, into the oven, after you have removed your bread, and let them stand a day.

I don’t know about you, but I became exhausted by just reading about the do’s and don’t’s of a frugal frontier housewife.  Many of her tips are still used today. To follow up on Tracy’s blog on Monday, based on the chores I selected from by-gone years and those of today what chore do you find the least pleasant and which one might be fun?

For one lucky winner, I will give away a copy of any of my books or anthologies from Amazon.com!

Out of the Texas Night

Here’s a sneak preview of the cover of my second book in the Kasota Springs Romance series due out later this year.

Updated: May 2, 2016 — 8:55 pm

FAIRS and FARES and a Giveaway!

 

 

Travel Town in Southern California Travel Town in Southern California

Right after Christmas we took a little trip to Travel Town in a well-known park in our area that houses locomotives from the earliest days of travel.  It was thrilling to see the steam and wood-burning engines attached to railcars that once barreled down the tracks with intent to reach the next city on the route in due and expected time.

We peeked into dining cars and strolled inside of rail cars that once accommodated many a traveler.  It really got me to thinking about the cost of things way back when.  What could the average American traveler afford?  How much have costs changed over the years?

In 1869 Railroad First Class Fare from coast to coast including meals cost $250 to $300 round trip.

Wow, that’s sounds like a small fortune to me for most folks.  Yet, coach fare (squeezing everyone into a crowded, smoky car) from Omaha to San Francisco was a more affordable $32.20.   First Class Airfare today, is probably equally as costly in relation, whereas coach fare being more affordable.  Yet, by 1886, less than twenty years later, First Class Rail fare between Kansas and California dropped to $12.00

A coal-burning locomotive A coal-burning locomotive

I suppose fluctuations have to do with supply and demand.  Just like today when a product is new and innovative, the cost skyrockets.  The very first video camera/recorder we owned cost close to $800.00 whereas today, more than twenty years later, we can buy a much more advanced camera for less than $100.00

Here’s a list of some other costs I found interesting:

In 1874 Doc Holiday charged $3.00 for a tooth extraction in his Dallas dental practice. (I’m going to the dentist this week…for him to just look inside my mouth is about $100.00)

In 1875 Wyatt Earp earned $60.00 a month as police officer in Kansas.

In 1880 Pat Garrett earned $10.00 a day as special deputy US Marshal.

In 1869 admission to a concert at a fair in Lincoln, Nebraska cost fifty cents.  (compared to the last Tim McGraw concert ticket I purchased at $125.00 … okay Tanya Hanson knows that’s not true…it was more like $150.00)

In 1880 the standard price of an infant delivery in Madison, Nebraska was $10.00 with an additional charge of $1.00 for a house visit outside of town.  (We all know how much it costs to have a baby these days)

 

About $8.00 worth of staples  today About $8.00 worth of staples today

In 1878:

Butter was 18 cents per pound

Sugar was less than 1 cent per pound

Cheese (who doesn’t love cheese?) was 7 cents per pound

Rice was 6 cents per pound

Eggs were 20 cents a dozen.

 

Seeing these prices and how costs have gone up, don’t you wonder what a loaf of bread will cost in the year 2099?  How much will it cost to have a baby or buy a car? What have you noticed lately that’s skyrocketed, ie: the cost of movie tickets these days?  To offset these costs, post a comment here and be entered to win a FREE book.  

You have your choice of my printed book, Secret Heir of Sunset Ranch or the Kindle/Nook version of The Cowboy Contract.  And be sure to look for my next Harlequin Desire, the conclusion to the Texas Cattleman’s Club titled,

Available for Pre-Order

Available for Pre-Order

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Updated: April 14, 2015 — 3:33 pm

The Kitchen Garden


In my current work in progress, I have placed a large, modern, garden just outside the kitchen door of the ranch house. In the days before refrigerators and all-night grocery stores, nearly every settler planted a kitchen garden once the house was finished, be it soddy, cabin or a mansion. But what exactly is a kitchen garden?

It’s just what the name implies: a garden planted near the kitchen in which you grow all the vegetables needed for every-day cooking, as well as a variety of herbs to add sensational flavor to every recipe.

“The bulk of homesteaders’ diets were harvested from their claim or gathered from the wilderness that surrounded them. “Store-bought” items consisted of those few items which could not be grown, shot, picked, or made on the farm… the homesteaders…often lived a prohibitive distance from the nearest store, and “trips to town” were few and far between.

“…Many families planted two gardens a year: one in the spring, which would supply greens, peas, and radishes, and one in the summer, which would provide heartier vegetables such as pumpkins, beans, potatoes, and squash. Settlers brought seeds with them to their new homes, bought them once they arrived on the frontier, or wrote to relatives “back East” asking for a hasty shipment. Creating bountiful gardens required constant vigilance against gophers, deer, bears, crows, and a host of other “invaders.” A successful garden was critical to homesteaders’ ability to feed themselves and their families; a single heavy storm or an unexpected frost could, in fact, destroy half a year’s supplies.
[Christopher W. Czajka, PBS Frontier House Essays, ]

Here’s an example of the plantings in a recreated 1800s kitchen garden at the NEW HAMPSHIRE FARM MUSEUM:

“…Peas, snap and shell/ Onions, sweet, yellow storage, red, and red storage/ Leeks, early and late types/ Scallions, purple and white/ Cauliflower (some spring, mostly fall)/ Celeriac/ Lettuce/ Mesclun mix (mixed lettuces and other greens)/ Spinach/ Herbs: Basil, Dill, Parsley, Cilantro, (Cumin?)/ Bok Choy/ Cabbage/ Broccoli/ Fava Beans (trial size planting)/ Swiss Chard/ Kale, green curly (Winterbor), red curly (Redbor), Red Russian, Lacinato/ Collards/ Beets/ Carrots/ Hakurei (Salad) Turnips/ Radishes/ Beans, green and dry types/ ParsnipsTomatoes, red types, cherries, heirlooms/ Husk Cherries (Ground Cherries)/ Peppers, sweet and hot types / Eggplants/ Cucumbers, pickling and slicing types/ Summer Squash, yellow, Pattypans, Zucchinis/ Potatoes, early, mid, late types, (fingerlings, reds, whites, blues, golds….)/ Corn, sweet, ornamental, popcorn Brussels Sprouts (fall only)/ Muskmelons/ Watermelons/ Winter Squashes/ Pumpkins, Jack-o-lantern, pie, mini types, and gourds/ Fall Turnips/ Rutabagas (for storage).“ http://www.farmmuseum.org/farm.html

The lady of the house might also plant herbs and flowers in her garden, for cooking and for medicinal use. And just because they looked pretty on the table. I remember my grandmother, who grew up on a North Dakota homestead, telling me which plants in her extensive kitchen garden were to eat and which were there to ward off pests, both insects and deer.

When I was growing up, we had a garden, though it was planted more with an eye toward supplying our favorite fruits and vegetables rather than a balanced diet: strawberries, melons, sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes… Mostly I remember it was hard, hot work.

Do any of you have a “kitchen garden?” Did you grow up with one? What was it like?