April showers evolved into cold rains with a threat of precipitation almost every day. The greenery has flourished, with meadows and fields rife with verdant growth. The airy, white blossoms of the white ash bush flutter in the breeze, scattering its sweet fragrance through the air. The wild azaleas are blooming, bright orange and pink bushes that are scattered in the woods and hang over the road banks. We always called them “honeysuckle bushes,” but true honeysuckle is a vine.
Honeysuckle is blooming now. Covering banks, climbing up trees and bushes, it is considered a pest by many gardeners. To me, it is a symbol of graduation time, sweet summer, and youth. Its nostalgic fragrance brings so many memories of time gone by and teen-age years that passed too fast.
This cool weather has delayed the annual spring-cleaning for many housewives, including me. I like to open the doors and windows wide, allowing the warm spring breezes to rout the stale atmosphere of winter.
Hanging blankets and quilts on the clothesline in the sunshine is another spring pleasure. Nothing smells any better than freshly laundered bedclothes that have been dried out in the sun and air. I am still waiting for the warm sunshine.
At one time, housewives waited to spring clean until the wood stove was discontinued for the season. It is almost impossible to clean until the ashes and wood smoke are finished for the winter. Then soap and water, plus elbow grease can be vigorously applied.
I love to hear Mom reminisce about spring-cleaning down on Big Laurel Creek when she was a girl. Their house was heated by a big fireplace, and when the cold May rains came, the winter’s supply of wood was sometimes exhausted. She remembers following her mother out in the pasture field and collecting pine knots. They would carry them (sometimes covered with ants!) back to the house to burn in the fireplace.
They would take the split-bottom chairs down to the creek and scrub them in the clean waters of Big Laurel, and let them dry in the sunshine. The wooden floors would be scrubbed white with lye and homemade soap. As a finishing touch, they swept the yard with a “besom” made by Grandpa. This was a broom made of white oak splits, sturdy enough to sweep the bare yard of winter debris. Criss remembers brooms made of broomsage (sedge), but these were probably used in the house.
What I remember from childhood were the old curtain stretchers. These were wooden frames with rows of sharp nails all around the edges. After the curtains were laundered and starched stiff, they were stretched and impaled on the nails and let dry. It was a painful, finger-pricking job. Thank goodness for modern materials that comes out of the dryer looking like new.
My friend Don Cross loaned me a book that was copyrighted in 1910, called “The Peoples Home Library.” It is actually three books in one — a home medical book, home recipe book, and home stock book. I was particularly intrigued by the chapter on Domestic Science.
Listed as laundry equipment were: wash tubs, two medium, one large. Washboard, medium, clothes pins, clothes line, boiler, wringer, wash tub bench, bluing, starch, soaps, clothes basket, ironing board, irons, clothes stick, clothes pole, clothes horse, and a small vegetable brush (for fringes.) And we think we have it rough?
The household hints on cleaning were fascinating. For instance, to clean carpets, dissolve one cake of Ivory soap in a gallon of hot water. When cool, add a bottle of ammonia and five cents worth of ether. Scrub one small space at a time and wipe dry with a soft cloth wrung out in warm water. To clean mud from clothing, use a corncob and then brush well. To clean linoleum or oil cloth, wash with sweet milk instead of soap and water. The milk makes it look fresh and bright instead of destroying the luster.
This hint I loved: articles of clothing that have had bad-smelling substances on them may be freed from the smell by wrapping them up lightly and burying them in the ground for a day or two.
There are hints for ridding the home of household pests, including ants, mice, roaches, ants, fleas, etc. If you are having a problem with bed bugs, apply kerosene oil freely wherever the bugs are found.
As I read these helpful hints, it makes me doubly thankful that the Lord has permitted us to live during this age, instead of yesteryear when housework was pure drudgery.
As I begin my spring housecleaning, I am grateful that I don’t have to make the hard soap and cleaning supplies that my great-grandmother did — or eliminate the bed bugs.
Cousin Alyce Faye