NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Alyce Faye BraggA lone crow calls from the hillside above the camp, the only loud sound on this drowsy day.  The low hum of crickets makes background music, while an errant breeze blows through the pines. There is change in the air.

Premature brown leaves drift from the ancient maple tree, scuttling across the yard before piling up at the trunk of the big pine tree. It is a prelude to coming autumn when the full-blown green leaves will gradually change to the glorious colors of fall.

Gardens are dwindling now, with dry cornstalks that rustle in the air, and scrappy tomato vines that are hanging with fewer ripe tomatoes. Half-runner bean vines have taken on new growth and provide tasty meals with the late tomatoes. It has been an excellent gardening year.

Meadows and fields look ragged and untidy with scraggly weeds and tall wildflowers dominating the scene. Purple ironweed looms above wild sunflowers, and goldenrod is beginning to appear.

Elderberries are ripe now, glossy black clusters hanging heavy on drooping limbs. They make a tasty jelly when combined with lemon juice, somewhat resembling black raspberry jelly. If the rattlesnakes scared you out of the blackberry patch, a few jars of elderberry jelly may fill the gap on the cellar shelf.

Recipes fascinate me, and I have been reading an ancient book called “The People’s Home Library.” It was published in 1920 by The R. C. Barnum Company, and was loaned to me by Don Cross. It consists of three sections, a home medical book, home recipe book, and home livestock book. It is filled with practical hints covering every phase of homemaking, and makes a person appreciate our way of life now.

“Good cooking means the knowledge of all fruits, herbs, balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in fields and groves, and savory in meats. It means carefulness, inventiveness, watchfulness, willingness and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your great-grandmothers and the science of modern chemists.”—Rushkin.

This is quoted in the section “The Housekeeper’s Science of Cooking.” Does this sound like our housekeepers of today? I had a letter from a dear friend whom I grew up with, and now lives in another state. She writes, “I don’t know what is wrong with our young wives of today—they can’t cook and they don’t clean . . . “ Maybe they just need this book.

The laundry equipment listed for home use consisted of two medium and one large wash tubs, medium wash board, clothes pins, clothes line, boiler, wringer, wash tub bench, bluing, starch, soaps, clothes basket, ironing board, irons, clothes stick, clothes pole, clothes horse (?), small vegetable or nail brush (for fringes.) Doesn’t it make you tired just to read the list?

Oh, I will remember the ironing board and clothesbasket. Mom starched the clothes stiff then sprinkled them down with warm water. Remember the sprinkler top that was stuck on a soda bottle? Then the clothes were rolled up neatly and stacked tightly in the clothesbasket. At least I didn’t have to use the old sad irons which were heated on the stove, but ironing work pants for three brothers and Daddy was a hated chore—plus clothes for four girls and Mom.

That is why I gave my ironing board to Patty and hid the iron. If it isn’t permanent press, I don’t want it.

This book is chock full of household hints and recipes for cleaning. Now that fall cleaning is upon us, these may prove helpful. To clean carpets, use one cake of ivory soap, one bottle ammonia, and 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 a brush and wipe dry with a soft cloth wrung out in hot water. Easy?

There are hundreds of household hints in this book, covering everything from pest control to washing different types of clothing. One I like is how to remove soot: Should soot fall upon a carpet, cover it with dry salt and it may be swept up without leaving smears.

One recipe is for preserving eggs—one quart of salt, one pint of slacked lime, and three gallons of water. This liquid will keep eggs for years. That reminds me of the recipe Mr. Ingram sent from “The Orange Judd Cookbook.” I really would like to try this.

To Salt Down Whole Ripe Tomatoes

Ripe and perfectly sound tomatoes may be kept for winter use by simply packing them carefully in large stone jars and pouring over them a very strong brine. Cover tight to keep out the air. When wanted for use, take out the required number of tomatoes and soak them 24 hours in cold water. They can then be peeled and sliced, and will taste as though they just come from the vines.

We need to thank the Lord that we live in a more modern time, with labor saving devices and an infinite variety of food at our fingertips. Great-grandma really had it hard.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer