Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Ordinary Arts

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

~ Thomas Moore




Honestly, I don't find the ordinary arts simple, and from what I read there are many others like me. After all, if it were simple would we have to "practice" every day at home? πŸ˜‰  Firstly I find it hard to find the time to practice the ordinary arts. Secondly I don't find cooking, baking, sewing etc. simple, (definition " easy to do, not complex or fancy",) but I do find them very satisfying. Nor do I find cleaning and dusting without their challenges. I do agree though, that these activities are important to our souls. Many people find carrying out household tasks therapeutic (though they may be loath to admit it) and a home that is tidy, clean and well-provisioned is a source of security and comfort for those who live under its roof. 

It was only two or three generations ago that family traditions differed very much from today. It was not uncommon for families to have chooks and to grow their own some of their own fruit and veggies. Less refined and processed foods were eaten, and more family activities were carried out together.



I know my Great Grandfather tended his vegetable garden into advanced old age - not because he had to, so why would he have done so? Was it because it was important to his soul - did this activity nourish him as a person?

Baking is an ordinary art that nourishes me. My father was a baker so perhaps that has something to do with it, perhaps it is in the blood so to speak.

 I am on a journey,  learning how to make my home increasingly productive and discover how to better manage and conserve my resources. I want to discover more about household traditions that have been used by previous generations in the management of their households. Not just from my own Anglo Saxon background but the home caring traditions of women from other cultures. I want to learn how they conserved their resources and made their homes the centre of production, supplying many of their own needs through their exercise of thrift.   At the moment I have a fascination with French, Italian and Native American Traditions.  



Some examples of household traditions practiced by families:
Tomato sauce making
Grape harvesting
Wine making
Sausage making
Raising pork
Keeping chooks
Reusing or re-purposing items rather than throwing them away
Making and mending clothes
Making Jam

I remember reading a story regarding my Great Grandparents and their children making jam together as a family.  I am always impressed by families working together to create a self-supporting household.

Do you know of any household traditions did your family practice in past generations?

17 comments:

  1. It's great that you're exploring new ways to connect to the home. I find I'm doing that more and more, too. I only have the stories of my mother, who grew up on a farm. They regularly hunted for rabbits, to put in the pot. They ran a vineyard too, so seasonal picking was a big deal.

    What I found interesting was how they tended the chickens. They lived in real ramshackled accommodations. Mostly outdoors. They free ranged and bred themselves, in the wild. No such thing as an incubator or broody hen box. They fed the chickens there scraps (oh, yes, no bags of feed either) and they basically found their own food.

    Every now and then, they'd have to kill some chickens, to keep the numbers down. But eating chicken meat was a rarity. It was mostly rabbit from the wild, and beef they grew themselves. Corning the beef was a big deal back then too, as they didn't have much refrigeration. It came from blocks of ice, they kept in a meat locker.

    Definitely a lot more work in those days, and a lot of child labour. No-one escaped the work, and strangely enough, no-one got sick. So they couldn't even take time off for that!

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    1. Chris I too find it interesting that there were no incubators or broody hen boxes used. It prompted me to ask my husband about his experiences growing up on a chicken farm. They did have an incubator. Then he went on to reminisce about the neighbouring farmer who had fruit trees used to come and collect the chicken manure for his crops.

      I too remember (though my childhood was mostly suburban) that chicken was considered a special occasion meal.

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  2. I grew up in mainly a German and Polish community. Making sauerkraut was a yearly event that almost every household did. Every family had a garden and it fell to the children to keep it weeded. I think children had a lot more responsibilities back then. When I read of a mother so proud that her teenager has learned to do the laundry, I just about have a fit. We helped with the laundry before we started school. Helping hang it and back then everything needed to be ironed. At around age five we started out learning to iron by doing the handkerchiefs, then moved on to pillowcases, by the time we were twelve we could do a professional job f ironing a dress shirt.

    ANother yearly chore was canning venison. Almost every father hunted and that meat was an important source of meat for the families.

    Hugs
    Jane

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    1. Sauerkraut is something I would like to make. I don't know anyone who makes it but I will chase up a youtube video. As a youth I remember visiting Italian friends when they were making passata in their garage. At the time I found it more of a curiosity than an inspiration.

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  3. The biggest thing I remember about my Nana was that she was very particular about waste. Water, electricity, food. She made the best apple pie and she left the skin on the apples, they looked pretty on top of the pastry. The skin was rarely removed from any fruit or vegetable. Water was saved from the shower/bath, dish washing, laundry and put onto the garden and the lights were never left on. I have inherited her prudent ways, maybe not as strictly but I see the importance and teach that to my children now too.

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    1. Wow, your Nanna must have been such an inspiration for you. Just reading what you have written about her is inspiring. I even got up to check that I hadn't left any lights on. One of my goals is to continually reduce waste until I waste next to nothing.

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  4. Sewing is a great tradition in my family. It was literally sewing that saved my Grandmother's life and was the catalyst for a better life for her and her family.

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    1. It sounds like sewing was a very important skill in your family. Sewing can save a house hold money, and provide a creative outlet. When someone learns how to sew well they can shape clothes for the perfect fit. That is something we just can't obtain from off the rack clothes.

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  5. My grandparents owned a farm in a lush, green area on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. My grandmother told me stories of milking cows (many farms in that area were dairy farms). Chopping wood, for the wood stove, was something that my grandparents and parents did too. The stove was for heating, cooking and boiling water. I remember learning how to use an axe to cut "chips" to start the fire with. Meg:)

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    1. I visited the Atherton Tablelands many years ago and fell in love with the area. Our lives have largely changed from a rural agricultural lifestyle to urban/suburban lifestyles. No wonder we have lost many of the skills our forebears considered basic and necessary.

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  6. Family traditions and domestic goddess activities were not something learnt ar my mother's knee. She did teach me to sew,knit and crochet, for which I am forever grateful. As far as cooking and homemaking goes, we were well fed and clean. Gardening was not something that was done beyond mowing and edging the lawn. These extra skills I have learnt or taught myself. My son happily cooks and asks specific recipes. My daughter asks for my cleaning product recipes. They both see the economic benefits of making their own. Perhaps this is the start of family traditions.

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    1. Being the originator of a tradition within a family is a praiseworthy example of being a good influence in my opinion.

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  7. The resurgence of "Granny Skills" is a big thing here in the Barossa Valley Sherri. After many years of city living in various parts of the world, I'm grateful to return to this more basic and simple way of life, and now have fond memories of where I learned to bake, make jam, light and cook with a wood stove etc, not ever thinking in a million years that I'd be using them all in my daily life some day. Let alone teaching younger people how to as well..!! Everything old is new again and it gladdens my soul to meet young folks who want to learn these skills.

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    1. Your right Sally, people are more interested in learning the old fashioned domestic skills that were largely neglected for many years. Still I find that people who keep chooks, make their own bread and grow veggies are rare in suburbia.

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  8. I completely agree that simple is not easy. It definitely takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth it. In my family, I have to go back to my great grandmother to find inspiration for the way of life I want. I remember she would never throw anything away, always finding a way to repurpose things. I also remember her little city lot filled with vegetables and pecans and grapes. She had a bright and sunny laundry room filled with seedlings. She is my family inspiration, but I regret not getting to spend much time learning her ways.

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    1. My great grandparents have been an inspiration to me too. Not that I have any direct memories of them just family recollections.

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  9. I remember my mother making tomato sauce, in the HEAT of late summer. Oh my, I was very happy, to escape that hot kitchen.

    All those things you listed, give one a happy feeling. Bitter/sweet as well, because they aren't that much practiced, today.

    then again, more are trying to go back to ways-of-the-past, and to learning how they were done... Before Big Business took over all of our sustenance.<--A bane of modern living!!!!

    Luna Crone

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