CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We are wrapping up the tag ends of summer, hurrying to finish warm weather tasks, getting ready for the colder weather ahead. Just as the woodland animals are storing their food for winter days, we are also filling the potato bin, stocking the cellar shelves with glass jars of canned vegetables and putting away food in the deep freezer.
Fall butchering is now done; the animal carcasses hang in the cooler waiting for the cutting and wrapping before being put away in the freezer. It is a comforting thought knowing that we are prepared for winter. It is the same feeling when the firewood is cut and stacked, knowing that you will be protected from the cold winds of winter.
I like to think of the furry little animals preparing their burrows for cold weather, lining the walls with soft leaves and mosses and curling up for their long sleep. We winterize our dwellings, put away the summer clothes and drag out the warm sweaters and coats. Our beds are covered with soft, wooly blankets and flannel sheets. We like to make our own little dens snug and warm.
There is much to do in putting away summer. Garden tools have to be rounded up and put away, grass mowed and trimmed for the last time and flowers trimmed and mulched. Then, too, housewives like (?) to do some fall cleaning while the weather is still mild. It seems that every spider in the county is looking for a place to call home right now. Between the stinkbugs and spotted lady bugs, it is a constant battle.
I found some household hints in "The People's Home Library," a book published in 1920 by The R.C. Barnum Company. It makes me glad that I am living in this century instead of during those days. Here are some of the items: To clean carpets, take one cake of Ivory soap, one bottle of ammonia, five cents worth of ether; dissolve soap in one gallon of hot water; when cool add ammonia and ether. Scrub small space at a time with brush and wipe dry with a soft cloth wrung out of hot water.
Here are some more hints: To clean linoleum or oil cloth, instead of using soap and water, wash with sweet milk. The milk makes it look fresh and bright without destroying the luster. To clean kitchen floors, tables and wooden articles: Use sand or bath brick to scrub floors, tables and wooden articles. To clean lamp chimneys, hold chimney over the steam coming from a boiling kettle, then wipe it inside and out with a soft muslin cloth.
There are even hints for food preservation: To keep cranberries, put them in a keg of water and they may be kept all winter. To keep celery, bury it in dry sand. To keep onions, they best way is to spread them over the floor. To keep lemons, they will keep and also be more juicy if kept covered with cold water. The water should be changed every week. There is some beauty aids mixed in with the household hints. To remove wrinkles, melt and stir together one ounce of white wax, two ounces of strained honey and two ounces of the juice of lily bulbs; apply to the face each night and it is said your wrinkles will disappear.
Now, who really wants to go back to the good old days? There are hundreds of household hints in this book, and a multitude of recipes. Most of them are time-consuming, and were prepared without the labor-saving utensils we use today. There were no temperatures given other than "moderate" or "moderately quick" oven, as these recipes were prepared on wood cook stoves where the cook had to just guess at the right temperature. I have a lot of admiration for these old-timey cooks.
I was searching through some of my old papers and found a treasure trove of letters and poems that I had stored. One letter (unsigned) recalled that back in the '20s, '30s and '40s, their family made jams, jellies, and preserves to go on their delicious homemade buttered biscuits for their school lunches -- toted in a three pound lard pail to school. She included a recipe for pear honey that is seasonal right now.
Pare, core, chop and measure hard-ripe pears. Add a little water if needed to start cooking. Boil ten minutes. To each quart of chopped pears add three cups sugar, juice of one lemon, grated rind of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Boil until thick, pour into hot jars, seal at once.
She remembers picking huckleberries to sell at 25 cents a gallon to have money to order material from Montgomery to make dresses, shirts, slips and bloomers on the treadle Singer. I would love to know who wrote this letter; she identified herself as "your anonymous friend -- a misplaced hillbilly." She was born in 1918, the oldest of nine siblings. She grew up in a Christian home, was sent to school, and was accompanied to church on Sunday -- "all starched and ironed with our patent leather shoes greased with unsalted butter."
She ended her letter with this, "Surely God has been my helper and Jesus my soul Savior all my 90+ years. This letter was postmarked Richmond, Va. She is my kind of person.