Sunday, May 20, 2018

So I Shall Forget Me; 1923

When I was a little girl at home, I was unsatisfied. I had lots of troubles and disappointments, brooded over them and could never see the bright side of life. An old lady who had lost all her relatives came to live with my folks. She had her share of troubles, the poor old soul. We adopted her and called her Auntie.

She took a liking to me, although I do not see why she should as I often thought I was the most miserable child in the world. I was sensitive and easily hurt and many times I would go off by myself and cry myself to sleep. Old Auntie would come and sit down by me....

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Consider the Garden Huckleberry

The problem with growing your own fruit is that you often have to wait years after planting the trees and bushes to get a decent-sized harvest.  Enter the garden huckleberry.  Garden huckleberries are unique because they are annual plants. The berries are firm, shiny, black, and grow in clusters on bushes approximately the size of a tomato plant.  

(For my "way up north" readers in Alaska and Canada, think of big crowberries.)  This isn't the sweet wild berry popular in the Pacific Northwest that resembles a blueberry, but a completely different berry.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Working Without a Plan--1915

I found out that trying to do too much without planning how best to accomplish it was like borrowing from a loan shark--it meant physical bankruptcy sooner or later. Nature may honor an overdraft for a time, but she extorts pay in the shape of wrecked health, discomfort to the family, and doctors’ bills. -Iowa Farm Woman, 1915

Does anyone in business (including the manager) enjoy working without a clear plan of work that needs to be done, where basic supplies are missing or in disarray, and every day is hit or miss? Would you work for a company that managed the same way that you run your house?

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Be a Real Vamp: 1924

The modern definition of a vamp is a woman who is "striking, exotic, or overtly glamorous" and who is "usually a heartless, man-eating seductress." Oh, my! Such an interesting phrase to describe the ideal farmer's wife!  

Have you a little vamp in your home? Now don’t look so shocked because, I’m going to say something worse than that. You should have one. You should be one!

When you have done the weekly wash and scrubbed the cellar and the porches...

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cuisine a la Can

In my perusal of mid-20th century cookbooks, I've noticed the recipes contain a stunning array of canned foods. It's my guess that when the modern convenience craze began rolling in a big way and homes were being filled with "labor-saving devices," food manufacturers jumped at the occasion with a little too much enthusiasm.  (The very fact that food could be considered "manufactured" should have given someone a glaring clue...)

I suppose housewives, enthralled by the idea of spending an extra hour or two at Mildred's bridge party, thought they could come home, open a few cans, gussy them up, and ta-da! Dinner!

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

"Trees" and "Knees" - Humor From the 1930's and 1960's

Are you familiar with the poem Trees, by Joyce Kilmer? "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree..."?  It's a classic poem teachers have long assigned to their students for memorization.

In case you didn't know that the poem had been set to music, here is an unforgettable version, whose haunting melody will do just that.  Haunt you.  You'll never be able to hum it in key ever again...

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Rest Where You Are, 1925

With the exception of one aspect, I have truly loved my 40+ years of being a housewife. What is my one exception? The following old saying states it best: “A man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s (housewife’s) work is never done.” Since my home is my workplace, my many duties are always in plain sight staring at me, begging to be done! Although I knew that I needed a change of perspective rather than a change of job, I was never able to grasp a solution to my problem until now. A teenage girl from Nebraska, born more than a century ago provided me with the answer.

I am a high school girl and know the meaning of hard work. My mother is an invalid and I have five brothers and sisters and so have housework and school work both to do.

I want to tell you of some magic words I found....

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Making a Household Inventory; 1884

All this time I’ve been running a haven for orphan pillowcases and I didn't even know it!
...And the first want to make a list of all the housekeeping articles in the house, and the condition they are in. Women usually keep the run of such things in their minds; but it is more businesslike, and makes matters clearer to know what you have in writing.” -1884

It’s embarrassing. It dawned on me this spring that I’d never done a thorough cleaning of our linen cupboards. Our house has more cupboards, closets, and built-in drawers than we will ever use. So when we moved here, taking the house over from relatives...

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Her Own Prince Charming; 1920s

"If you had asked me not too long ago, I would have said that he had to be tall and dark with wonderful brown eyes. But he has come and our little home is being built. Just after the New Year, the most wonderful honeymoon that ever happened (to us) will be in progress.

My real Prince is as little like my dreams as anything could be. His light hair and blue eyes (which are always shining with kindness and merriment) are more wonderful to me than I ever dreamed anything could be...

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

In Love With Her Life, 1915

It is dusk. The children and I have just come in from the corral, where I milked seven cows. I am so in love with life that I find a day very short to hold its allotted joys.

First, I awoke a little earlier than usual this morning and lay thinking over the “had-to-be-dones.” It is baking day; but that is a glad-to-be as well as the other, because I love to experiment outside of the cookbooks. At half-past five I arose and by half-past six had breakfast...

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Monday, April 16, 2018

No Dollar Signs on Women's Work, part 2

A couple of months after "Unknown's" first letter appeared, a response was written by a woman from Ohio, who signed her letter “Well-known.” She disagreed with the perspective of “Unknown," the beet farmer’s wife, writing, “I think Unknown and her men do not realize how far a clean, comfortable, pleasant home goes toward getting that beet check.”

Mrs. Well-known went on to say that “it is only through the economy of the homemaker that most taxes are paid, that there is money for beet seed, etc.” She asked Mrs. Unknown, “What would the beet check amount to if there were not three wholesome meals every day? How far would it go if the homemaker did not bake the bread...

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

No Dollar Signs on Women's Work, part 1

I can’t say I’ve ever heard a woman say she chose housewifery as a career for the usual reasons one goes into a particular field-- having the skills required for the job, the earning potential, the incredible opportunities for advancement, or even the prestige and glamour of it all.

In these oh, so enlightened times, when we’re all told to listen to our hearts, be ourselves, and do whatever it is that fulfils us, choosing to be a housewife is most certainly not one of the options that will catapult you to Nobel prize status or into the first paragraph of the family Christmas letter.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Drudgery? Not in Springtime! 1926

Drudgery! It is an old-fashioned word that we rarely hear today, but a century ago, it was used a great deal to describe housework in general, and often Spring Cleaning. In 1926, a woman from Iowa wrote,

“True, we have vacuums, dust mops, electric washing machines, and washable floor coverings...but there always will remain, to the conscientious housewife at least, a certain amount of dread because somewhere, try as hard as she may, there is bound to be more or less of drudgery in house cleaning.” ...

This spring I have decided to work out my own plan of escape from this drudgery. I am going to take a lesson from Mother Nature herself....

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Thursday, April 5, 2018


April is living up to its reputation for showers, except that here in Wisconsin, it happens to be snow showers. Dr. Seuss summed up our spring pretty well. "The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day." We entertain ourselves these days often by looking at a screen of some sort, but don't you ever get tired of it? And haven't you wondered about ways people entertained themselves without technology? They had a rich variety of pastimes, which included solitaire games...

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Monday, April 2, 2018


I have observed that we are now faced with a lesson our ancestors never even dreamed of having to learn--that is the lesson of knowing how to stay at home and enjoy the blessings of home culture. -1905
The writer goes on to mention the early 1900s trends of “rapid transit, cheap rates, and easy theatricals” that have made people “restless, nervous and incapable of self-amusement.”  (“Rapid” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when I think of 1905 transportation…)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Disappointed! Go Outside! 1925

Once upon a time, when I was a little child, there was to be held a splendid picnic on the last day of school. The morning dawned bright and cloudless, a refreshing wind was blowing, but the outlook was not bright for me.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

First Things First, A 1928 Schedule

You’d never think that women a hundred years ago would have a problem fitting everything into their day. Really, how hard could it have been? They didn’t have to find time to update social media, manage digital coupons, schlep children to sporting practices, or watch a single tv show. But they did struggle, which shows that even without modern distractions, this housewifery thing isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows...

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Thursday, March 22, 2018


So there you have it, ladies.  This is our grand opportunity to be secret agents.  By all appearances, we’re mild-mannered housewives working in ordinary middle class homes, fighting a never-ending battle for clean dishes, laundry, and the Organized Way...

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Sunday, March 18, 2018


Mistakes? I make ‘em every day, don’t you?
But no one said "Sailing On" was always easy!

It helps a bit to realize that mistake-making is universal. Only those who profit by the mistakes they make get to the point where they make few--a goal we all long for...

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I prefer using old cookbooks in my kitchen. One of the reasons is that the recipes use common ingredients, many of which I grow in my garden, just like the cookbooks’ readers would have.
Another reason is that the recipes use those common ingredients in creative ways. During World War I, U.S. residents were encouraged to limit their use of wheat, meat, and sugar, and increase their use of fruits and vegetables. A century later, we’re playing the same tune…

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Monday, March 12, 2018


Learn to cook with the simplest, most basic ingredients, which are often the cheapest as well. These include staple ingredients, like potatoes, beans, and vegetables, as well as those foods that are the foundation of other meals, like breads and biscuits.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018


There's not enough singing in this world--of that I'm convinced. I don't mean singing on the radio, in school or in churches. I mean in the family. Before our family grew up, we were always singing. On Saturdays one sister and I might be upstairs...

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Sunday, March 4, 2018


I visited an elderly German lady last summer and was impressed by the simplicity of her little home. It reminded me of European kitchens that I've visited, very practical and not at all modern. I especially liked the beautiful linens...

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Thursday, March 1, 2018


The little neighbor boy who used to catch polywogs with me has suddenly grown up and married, and I’ve written him a letter...

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Sunday, February 25, 2018


Dear Readers:

Our new posting days are Mondays and Thursdays. Please click on the following link and you will be directed to our new blog and the latest posting.

P.S. To receive every new post in your inbox just click on the "Follow by Email" link on the new blog. 

Thank you and see you there!

Laurie Aaron Hird
Amalia B. Clemen

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Dear Readers,

I began this blog many years ago to share the abundance of historical articles that I felt were at risk of being forgotten.

I have posted the articles and stories alone, but beginning today, I will be joining with a fellow blogger who shares my love of history, Amalia B. Clemen. I am thrilled that she and I will be working together. I know her personally and love her writing style. She brings a unique perspective to the topic of home and family that I'm sure you will also enjoy.

Since this is a new beginning, we have created a new blog, A Housewife Writes. The Farmer's Wife Quilt blog will remain right here, but from this time forward, all new posts will include a link to the complete article on our new blog. Amalia and I would be so pleased if you would join us every Monday and Thursday at:

P.S. Please sign up with the "Follow By Email" tab on the new blog!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


To encourage the settlement of western lands, President Lincoln in 1862, signed the Homestead Act. This law gave hard-working Americans 160 acres of land if they could live and work on it for five years. The following account is written by one of these homesteaders, in this case an exceptional one--a fifty year-old widow. 

In the one-eighth acre I planned to plant peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabagas, carrots--oh, just everything! Why not? I had most industriously worked the soil beside the porch of my Homestead where I would plant the morning-glory and scarlet bean, adding a few seeds of wild cucumber, a self-sowing annual that would take care of itself once well started. I pictured the vine-covered shelter I should have from the heat of the sun. Someone had told me that if I would succeed as a gardener I must keep my hoe bright. Bright it was! I worked till every muscle was sore and every joint creaked. I planted my seeds with sweat and tears and the occasional drops of blood. Then I invoked the kindness of God and waited.

Slowly there struggled into warped and stunted being, perhaps half a dozen onion spears, half as many lettuce plants, two or three radish tops which fleas promptly destroyed. By the porch one wild cucumber squeezed itself out of its hard soil and spent such vitality as remained to it in climbing some five feet up a string and then died. And that was all--no, not quite. Over the entire unplanted portion of the acre, following the lines of disk and drag, something green appeared, a lusty weed. When it was a few inches high I examined it and gasped. I was sure it was Russian thistle and there were millions of it. This was too much!

Well I knew what a pest the Russian thistle is for it has made as deadly a record for itself in the peaceful areas of agriculture. I had heard homesteaders “cuss out” men who had abandoned claims where ploughing had been done, for the thistle grew thickly on the unseeded land, came to full growth and was carried by the wind to multiply itself as far as the wind could carry it. I had a hatred all my own for the Russian thistle. I had ridden behind the half-broken bronchos of the plains when they stood straight up on their hind legs or danced a break-down when the big prickly spheres blew against them. I had watched them bound and roll before the wind on dreary days when the clouds hung low and they were the only moving thing on the landscape. I had seen fences flattened by their mass against which the wind flung its weight. I had crossed coulees filled with them. The only time a Russian thistle could make me smile was when my dog Lassie would catch the short root of one of the huge prickly spheres between her teeth and with head up, carry it as sail, the wind bearing them along to her huge glee.
And now, on this beloved land of mine, which I had dedicated to fruitfulness, here was the pest! Could I by any possibility hoe out the young plants before they matured? I estimated the work. Surely I could. “It’s dogged as does it!” I simply would not let them conquer me. So that very hour I set to work, bent on doing so much every day till the last nasty weed was laid low. Heroic task! And not profitable in dollars. And I needed dollars.

One morning, I was resting for a moment on my porch when a cowboy rode in and asked me for water to fill his water bag. I was so tired that I pointed out the barrel to him, begging him help himself and adding, “If you want fresh water, you can get it over there,” indicating my neighbor, Mr. Quinn's place.

“Like some fresh, yourself, wouldn’t you?” he asked genially and taking my two pails, walked away in the direction of Mr. Quinn's pump. He was a handsome, likable lad and as I watched him go I envied the good son he could be to a good mother. He came back with full pails and hunting up a cup, brought me the “fresh drink” I so seldom had and seated himself beside me on the porch, frankly curious to know how I was “a-makin’ it all sole alone.” As hungry for talk as I had been thirsty for water, I found myself telling him some of my troubles and among them this Russian thistle aggravation.

“Too bad!” he agreed sympathetically. “But shucks! ‘Tain’t noways your fault, lady! I wisht none of those who come out here to take up land never did nothin’ no worse to us than that!” I did not need that little “us” to tell me he was western born and bred. “D’y’know,” he went on, “I’m hatin’ like everythin’ to see the little ole plains all messed with fences, tame cows and these here ornery shacks. Reck’n it had to be, though! Spoiled the place for me all right, all right. I’ll be movin’ on one o’ these days. One more round-up and then me for open country! Say, let’s have a look at these here Rooshin’ weeds you been tellin’ me about.”

I escorted him to the scene of struggle, he pulled up a handful of the weeds and looked, then threw his head back in a hearty laugh and patted me on the shoulder. “Shucks, lady! You ain’t wise! Them thar ain’t Rooshin’ thistles--I kinda thought they weren’t--I’ve knew folks been fooled before. Them thar is nothin’ a-tall but a rotten alk’li weed. It don’t hurt none--ploughs out and dies.”

“Are you sure?”

“More’n sure--sartain!

Say, know what I’d do if I was you? I’d let this place go cheap to the first fellow wanted it and buy me a lot in town and build a little house on it and live comfortable. It don’t cost nothin’ hardly to buy a lot in town now. You can cook, can’t you? There ain’t much good cookin’ thar, I can tell you! Think about it! Well, I got to git along! Thanks for the water! So long!”

He rode easily away and I watched him disappear in the dust of the road--one of the last of the cowboys. Then I looked at the handful of weeds I still held. “Nothin’ a-tall but a rotten alk’li weed.” I felt let down. My big balloon of trouble and effort was a child balloon, and pricked at that! I thought of the check I could get for writing about this story and laughed. The Russian thistle had done me a good turn after all! I turned my back on the acre of barrenness and weeds and thought about the cowboy’s advice. Was it sound? Could I hold out? Ought I to?

She did stay...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Just before Thanksgiving we had some dear friends visit us,--a "used-to-be" prosperous farmer, his wife and children.

The little lady had always had a cheerful, jolly disposition,--never seemed to take life seriously. Though she had been a hard worker, she never appeared to worry if her plans were upset. But now, since I had learned of their misfortune, I thought probably she might be different. Their beautiful country home,--their life's savings--had been taken from them through a mortgage foreclosure.

If I had expected any difference in her, I was certainly surprised for she was her same dear, jolly self. Only once did she mention their misfortune.

"I know God will provide a way," she said, "if we will only trust in Him and do our best."

So the dear, brave heart had thought more deeply than I had thought, and although she secretly grieved for their lost home, she was ready to begin all over again. She smiled, and in that smile I saw her very soul, the soul of a fighter, one who never gives up, who never knows defeat.

As she was about to leave, I helped her with her coat. It was thin and especially worn at the elbows. Her toil-worn hands were gloveless. I watched her climb into the wagon beside her husband. They now had nothing but the wagon to ride in, having sold their car to pay a note at the bank. She seemed proud of her husband and he of her, and the children of both of them.

I watched them until they passed from sight, then I walked slowly into the house. All that had occurred had "put me under my thinking cap."

Thursday, January 4, 2018

PIONEER DAYS; by Mr. A. D.; 1949

                                 HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

If the following account sounds reminiscent of the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods, it would not be surprising. Mr. Dahlin was born less than a month before Laura, and his home was only 120 miles west of "The Little House" in the big Wisconsin woods.

I was born in Dalsland, Sweden, January 10, 1867. When I was two months old, my parents together with their eight other children, immigrated to America. Our belongings consisted of clothing, tools, food, and a very small amount of money.

After a four week ocean voyage we arrived in Jordan, Minnesota, where father obtained employment on the railroad at $1.25 a day.

In 1869, we moved to Belle Plaine where we purchased 40 acres of land. Here was built our first one room log cabin. With the aid of two oxen and one horse, three acres were cleared the first summer. The winter was spent in making railroad ties and barrel hoops. With the arrival of spring, it was a familiar sight to see buckets hanging on the trees, and to hear the echo of maple sap dripping into the containers. Maple sap was cooked in a huge iron kettle which supplied the family with syrup and sugar.

In 1875, the farm was sold and a 160 acre tract of land was purchased at $6.00 an acre in Hale Township, Mcleod County (about 50 miles away.) Here we built a two-room log cabin, with two windows, and a low slanting roof. Our furniture was made up of home-made benches, a table, and sleeping bunks. The cabin was lighted with candles made by mother. By this light she spun, knit, and made straw hats.

Mcleod County was a “Poor Man’s Paradise.” There was an abundance of all kinds of wild fruit, berries, and nuts; which provided food for the family table. On a moonlight night, one could see several deer in the rutabaga patch. Lakes were filled with fish, and pools were covered with ducks. The pioneer’s alarm clock was the song of the birds. It sounded as though the whole earth were joined together into one choir of song.

My father built the first log school house in 1877. In 1891, my brother and I erected a new building on the same lot and it is still in use. School was in session six months out of the year and attendance was largest on stormy days, as children had to work when weather permitted.

Every Sunday morning we walked six miles to church. Sunday afternoons, I attended Sunday School at one of the pioneer homes.

Spelling bees, square dances, skating, sliding, and husking bees were the main sources of entertainment. Many  hours were spent playing with a rag ball or mouth organ.