Saturday, June 27, 2009

26 June 1955 “Frugal Fridays and Gardening Saturdays”

I was thinking as we have Talking point Tuesdays, Frugal Fridays might be fun. Then, with me still feeling a little swoony yesterday and with my playing catch up on my housework, I found I hadn’t time to finish the blog.
Feeling sad about it this morning, I went out to my gardens with my camera.

We have had much rain here in New England of late. I haven’t had to water my garden the entire month of June! Last night we had the most wonderful thunderstorm and I awoke this morning expecting the usual: more rain. But, the sun is out and everything is fresh and dew soaked.

Here are some of the shots from my gardens:Here are my little grapes actually growing this first year. Perhaps there will be a few bottles of 50’s gal vintage 1955, set aside this fall.grapes beginning 1grapes beg 2 Here is my new clematis. close up clematisI bought it for these striking blooms. I have another that trails along my rustic picket fence, but that blooms later and is covered in little delicate white flowers, that look as if a sea of fairies are aloft above the garden. foxglove Here is a close up of my Digitalis, or Foxglove. These are so tall this year early because of all the rain. This plant is almost six feet tall, and its majestic pink and white heads bob over the fence waving to passersby.hydrangea This is a shot of one of my many Hydrangea bushes. These are often seen here on Cape, as our soil has the right PH to make them the most unreal blue you can imagine. I love this chartreuse green of the early buds. You can see in the close up shot how Hydrangea flowers are made up of so many tiny little four petaled flowers. Lovely, indeed. hydrangea blossom close tickseed upclose Here is a close up of one of my tickseeds. So pretty and bright this time of year.kale n cabbage Just look how my kale and cabbage is getting on. I think I may be able to make some kale and sausage soup this week!

Look how well my snow peas are doing. I love the light through them, as you can see the painterly like pattern of their little ‘veins’.snow peas closeup Don’t you want to pop one of these into your mouth? I have to say, when I pick them it is often, “One for me, one for the bowl”. There is nothing to compare to eating a fresh food straight off the vine, grown by your own hands.snowpeas bowl

So, I thought, “Well, why not discuss gardening (vintage and other) on Saturdays?” Certainly it is a day many of us may find ourselves in the garden. So, today I have melded these two together, but hopefully as I get my strength back and my momentum, we shall have these as two separate posts.

Now, frugality: though certainly going out of style here in 1955 somewhat, an older wife such as myself might look amazed at my fellow housewife in her early 20’s at the market. She could easily fill her new metal push carriages full of frozen ‘TV dinners’ prepared foods, endless pre-made sugar sweets and cookies. I, at least I like to think I would, would have WWII fresh in my mind.

During my illness the past week, I spent a lot of time reading. I was able to get back into novels, but I found myself really pouring through the 1940’s war time magazines.

As I have mentioned before, as part of this project, I didn’t want to feel as if I was just ‘plopped down’, as it were, in 1955. I wanted some back story. Being in my late 30’s in 1955 would have made me be a very real participant in WWII here in the Home Front. Though we American women did not suffer as greatly as our European and particularly English sisters, we had our own fears and certainly rationing. The magazines of this time are really full of such ideas and articles. It got me thinking, why shouldn’t I be even more frugal today? I should!

Every time I think this project has led me down a road and I think, “well, yes, now I see that is the best way” another road opens to show me even more paths lie ahead. For example, with my coffee, I already have lessened the amount I used to drink, why? It is expensive, really. I used to drink it throughout the day, particularly when I was in my studio painting, I would go through pots and pots, so much so that I had to decaffeinate myself. I am back to caffeinated now, though they did have caffeine free in 1955, because it would be silly to buy both kinds, as I used to. So there already is a savings. I buy less coffee and use less coffee, as I make a pot for hubby and I in the morning and he takes the rest in his thermos. For the remainder of the day I make due with a pot of tea.

Now, for both the coffee and the tea I have found a very frugal solution and perhaps many of you do this already, but I have just started this past month. Here is how it happened.

Hubby had left with a kiss on the cheek and I returned to my morning routine, dirty kitchen, dining room to clear and so on. I put on my apron, grabbed my ole’ faithful percolator and took out the metal basket to toss away the grounds. ( I am just going to interject here, that here is another ‘green’ solution that was the norm in the past. No paper filters! A metal basket that holds the coffee, you rinse it out and thoroughly scrub it once a week. No paper waste!) I stopped myself.

“Wait a minute”, I thought. “Why on earth am I going to toss these?” It is true that they go into a compost container that ends up in the garden for mulch later, but still, one pot of coffee? I thought, if this were the 1940s and we had coffee at all, a rare treat then, I would not be so willy nilly about it. So, I refilled the pot with cold water and set it to work while I tidied up the kitchen and dining room. Then, as I was done, so was the pot. I grabbed a cup and took to my little corner chair in the kitchen. What do you know, it was wonderful.

I had tried this in the past, which of course was the future, but I had an electric drip coffee maker. It always made it weak the second time. The percolator did not. It was as strong as if I had added more coffee and I did not. I also find a third pot can be made just as strong with the adding of one or two more scoops of coffee, thus you get another pot with only a few more grounds.

I have even, on days that I hadn’t realized how low the coffee supply had come, done so with my hubby. I didn’t tell him and he had no idea. It tasted the same and used less coffee. Now, with my tea I do the same. I make a tea pot full with four bags. If I want more later, I simply add only one more bag to the other bags and a full pot of tea and it tastes as fine to me. Of course using loose tea and a reusable tea ball or a strainer is more vintage and more green.

I find by merely using my imagination, a tool I fear may not always be at the ready for some modern people, that I can often find such solutions. Try it. Stand in your kitchen or somewhere in your house and think, okay the war is on and I am not allowed to buy more of such and such, what do I do? Or I can’t get any more fresh fruit for the week, how do I made do? You will be surprised with your own results. Though indelicate to speak of, I even find such things as toilet paper a real luxury. Think of the thin tissue paper you were probably allowed in the past, and before that, they were really green as they used cut up papers, magazines and who knows what else, of course now we are talking about not even having a septic system. But I do recall in the 1900 house program, the middle class family did have a plumbed loo but it was in the back garden as they were scared of germs and cut scrap paper was what they used.

So, frugality is only a fun imagination away. Think of it as playing house or make believe and then be thankful we don’t have to do it for real. But, one never knows what lies in the future, so better to be prepared and why not help shave down your food and household budget? We are all a little strapped now in this current economy.

I read a story of one homemaker in the Depression, that as she could not afford the yeast to make bread, she merely made a version of pan cakes which were easier and cheaper and used those as ‘sandwiches’ with a little butter and sugar sprinkled in.

Sometimes my pantry, if I have not paid close attention to its restocking, teaches me to be frugal. The other day Gussie and I were set on making chocolate chip cookies, but alas, no chocolate chips. So, I invented my own recipe, based on my old standby in my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.

Really, a chocolate chip cookie dough is a great base to go off and create any version. In mine, I made it as usual but in lieu of chocolate chips, I took my bakers powdered chocolate and used three TBS powder and one TBS oil and mixed it into liquid (as you would for a chocolate cake) and added that to the batter. Then I found I had a little spare coconut, so I sprinkled that on top. They were lovely and wonderful tasting.poormans chocolate chip cookies I will make these again, for sure. I call them ‘poor man’s chocolate chip cookies’. Really, if you had any spare bits and bobs of nuts, a few choc chips or even plain, chocolate chip cookie dough really is wonderful and wonderfully cheap. I have a recipe that uses real butter, which I may return to when I am no longer in 1955, but as bad as it might be shortening is a staple in a 1950s kitchen. I believe I have listed the choc chippers recipe before, if not and you would like it, I will post it, but really any chocolate chip cookie dough recipe will work.

1950s overstuffed fridge To me, this image represents what I want to get away from in the 1950s. Certainly, this seemed wonderful and the thing to do, but we have to remember, the threat of the bomb coming and the memory of WWII lead to this stockpiling. But, really, it was the dream of the 1950s advertisers to play on that very fear. Over buy and stock up ‘just in case’. Really, my age in 1955, I don’t think I would have done this and I would have also recalled how ‘hording’ was very looked down upon in the war time years, as there was only so much to go around. Today, the fear of bombs is replaced with the falsehood of ‘savings in bulk’. Such stores as BJs exist on that falsehood. Perhaps it might be cheaper to buy twenty of something, but when it needs to be kept frozen or refrigerated, you are basically paying more money in the energy to run the appliance, when the stores are already doing that for you. The more I look to the 1940s to understand my place in 1950s the more ‘wise’ I become to the way in which, even to this day, advertising has controlled and manipulated our spending and thus the way we live now. But, I digress, you know I have to throw a little ‘rant’ in there now and again, right?

Now, to the garden:

I think growing your own food is certainly something to chalk up to wise frugality. Particularly if you can start many things from seeds. I hope to, as a project next year or possibly this fall, to make a little green house, so I can start my garden earlier and perhaps, even, try my hand at growing tomatoes in winter!

garden book1 I believe I showed this title in a past blog. It is from 1949, so the war is over yet the frugality is still important. This magazine has some great tips.

I am going to share this whole article on growing your own vegetables, as I find it so interesting. You should be able to click on each page and see it full size.veg article 1 veg article 2 veg article 3 veg article 4

The bit about watering young plants with buried cans in very green and ingenious. This saves water and cans from the garbage. The idea of mulching (fog 9.) it with old newspaper is such a good idea. I remember reading about Lasagna Gardening a few years back, thinking it a new idea. Here it is, the frugality of the past. I like the coil spring idea of fig. 14. I assume this has you using your old springs from beds( before box springs) and such, another green reusable idea. It does make me think of this silly old video I saw once.

I have a pile of socks to darn for my hubby. I realized, of course, I have no idea how to darn a sock. No one has ever taught me. I have seen the little wooden mushrooms in antique shops which are used for this purpose.sock darner-5 Yet, I have never attempted it. Then, it got me to thinking that certainly darning for nice hand knit wool socks must be different than a tighter weave cotton sock. I found this link for darning a blanket and socks. Here it is. And here is a great video showing how to darn a wool sock. True, the video itself is not vintage, but certainly the skills are and that is what is important. The article that I linked to said you can darn an cheap cotton sock by using a bit of old t-shirt of old sock, so I suppose one would stitch the patch in. Really, mending is certainly a dying skill. Again, not to harp, but the ability to run down to Old Navy or Wal-Mart to buy a shirt for a few dollars has lead to our loss of a skill set, cost to our pocket books, feeding the consumer need, and contributing to the horrors inflicted upon fellow human beings in communist countries such as China. Is it not true, that by our buying those products we are supporting their horrors? It is so easy when it is not in front of our faces. Any way, besides all that, mending will certainly help in all matters frugal as even if a new shirt is only 10 dollars it is still free (somewhat) to mend what you have and keep the 10 dollars, non?

Speaking of mending and taking care of things, Gussie, Hubby and I had a discussion the other day at the dinner table about caring for things. I mentioned how as a child my own mother (herself from this very generation) would tell me not to sit on the arms of sofas and chairs, don’t lean back or tip in a chair, don’t sit at odd angles etc. I realized at the moment we were discussing it, how such a social behavior, passed down from generations, was as much about frugality and waste not want not as it was about being ‘ a lady’. Certainly, the furniture will last longer and be in better condition if it is treaty kindly. Today’s attitudes of act and sit and be ‘free’ may seem another form of social freedom, but now looking into it, I see how such an attitude makes it a ripe world to continually sell and resell cheap and shoddy things. Think about it. IF we are not taught to care about or sit properly in furniture it will break. If it is cheap we don’t care as oh well we can buy another anyway. The whole mindset of that lazy care free attitude is actually just another element into waste which is counter ‘green-culture’. Again, I really think as we begin to think more about being green, just buying some ‘simple green’ at the store is not the solution. The very fabric of our society and its morays and norms will need to be called into question and realize to preserve and persevere means treating things as well as people with care and consideration. IF we want something to last, we need to treat it thus and perhaps we could and would want a nicer think hand skilled locally that cost more if we realize if we care for it it might be around for our grandkids, which is cheaper overall and means less things thrown into landfills.

Again, the paths the project leads me down often surprises me. In some aspects it can seem scary to have the very basis of your daily life and how we interact and consume called into question. But, when we realize, it is not done to make oneself feel better than another or to feel superior or ‘right’ but in fact to help us all to realize that such changes in behavior and attitudes towards one another, spending, how we treat things and how we care for our homes and prepare and grow our foods and, yes, even how we sit in chairs, is really a means to a better ends. Anyway, isn’t it more fun, ladies, to sit in a nice chair in a clean room with our legs, ankles crossed, sipping tea out of nice china we care about eating home-made treats. And, honestly, it doesn’t have to always be about a tea party. I really think the very way in which we live is not bad, per se, but certainly has come about by the very over-spending consumer culture in which we live. How can we expect young people to respect and treat one another with respect if we show it so little to one another and even our own furniture and pocketbooks. We may all be surprised at how our modern culture is, but we must realize it is changeable and can happen with us one at a time. One thing I have notices is care and consideration is contagious. Without even saying it, others will see it, view it as different and then nice and pleasant and want some themselves.

You never know, you may wear a nice dress and hat somewhere and inspire a stranger to do the same and she will feel the pride of it. Perhaps, a guest will notice how nice it is to dine on homemade desserts eating out of nice dishes in a room without a TV on and think, “Why can’t I do this at home, as well” We don’t need to move to stiff formality at all times, but certainly if we respect things more, when we have that day of relaxation with popcorn on the sofa with a movie, it will feel all the more sweet for the relaxed attitude.

Spreading respect and happiness in self-sufficiency may sometimes get viewed as you seeming ‘holier than thou’ but when others see it is really a form of happiness that they want to share with their friends, they may want to join in rather than ridicule. Even when something is old, if it is new to you and others, it might first be viewed with suspicion, but when done with goodness and kindness at its heart, people will pick up on it and want to be a part of it. I really think our Apron Revolution is needed in these times more than ever.

So, go out there and spread respect, frugality, and self-sufficiency through example. It is the kindest and softest sort of uprising I can think of!

Happy Homemaking.

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