Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Still Cold!

(factoring in the wind-chill this morning, it was -54 -- the coldest it's been here in a very long time!)

Something Bunnygirl said in my comments section yesterday set me to thinking. She remarked that people lived in this area years ago, before the advent of electricity and all our modern conveniences, and wondered how they fared. They must have been made of tougher stuff than we are nowadays!
The Bag Lady was fortunate that by the time she was old enough to pay attention, her parents had moved to a city. So the Bag Lady didn’t experience first-hand the hardships of living in the country without the amenities we all take so much for granted now. But the Cowboy (who is a little older than the Bag Lady, tee hee) did grow up without electricity or running water.
His father built a square-timbered house on the land that he homesteaded in the 1940’s, and that house is where the Cowboy grew up. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, square-timbered houses are built of logs cut on all four sides to make them fit together more uniformly. Lots of homesteaders built these kinds of homes – my grandfather built one, too (in 1929) that is still standing, and is just as solid as the day it was built.
Before the advent of electricity and forced-air furnaces, one had to be well-prepared to face a long, cold winter. You had to ensure you had a big pile of dry wood cut and stacked in order to feed your woodstove. You used a woodstove for cooking and for heat. Woe betide the poor homesteader who didn’t lay in his wood supply.
You used your woodstove to melt snow for water, too. Most wood-burning cookstoves had a reservoir somewhere at the back to hold water, so you had a ready supply of hot water.
Having never experienced any of this, these are stories the Bag Lady has heard from her cowboy and his mother. His mother was a tough little woman. She fed cows and took care of all the day-to-day chores of running the farm while her husband was working in a logging camp. She was usually alone for weeks at a time, tending the animals, taking care of her children and keeping everything in working order. She had to make the trek to the dugout that supplied the animalswith drinking water everyday in order to chop an opening in the ice. She chopped wood, carried square bales of hay to the animals morning and night, melted snow for water, did all her cooking on a wood-burning stove, and did laundry by hand, heating the water on the stove.
Storing food was a challenge. Most homes had some form of root cellar where they kept things like potatoes, carrots and onions that they grew in their gardens. Some meat could be stored in an unheated area in the winter. A lot of meat was either canned or salted to preserve it
Life in those days was a lot of hard work. Women worked from sun-up to sun-down. In the winter, they worked to keep the house warm and clean, and to put food on the table; in the summer, they worked in the fields alongside the men, as well as in their gardens, and still worked to keep their homes clean and the meals cooked. They planted their gardens, harvested their gardens and preserved the food from their gardens. They kept a few chickens for eggs, a few pigs, had a milk cow (that had to be milked morning and night) made their own butter, made their own bread, cooked every meal from scratch (no drive-thru at McDonalds!), did laundry by hand on a scrub-board, and in their spare time, did their sewing or knitting or crocheting.
There are probably things that the Bag Lady has forgotten to mention, but that will give you an idea of what our ancestors did in order to stay alive. We should all take a moment to give thanks to all those tough, hard-working pioneer women, without whom this country would never have been settled!

13 comments:

Sarah said...

-54???? Wow. Poor you.

Leah J.Utas said...

Sometimes I think we have way too much time on our hands today. Not that I would want to have to work as hard as our grandma or your MIL, but your words reminded me of how good fresh milk is(and cream and butter)and farm-raised meat and veggies.
We're missing out on so much in our convenience-laden world.

the Bag Lady said...

Sarah - It has warmed up a little because the wind died (thank heavens!), so it's only -43 now.

dfLeah - you are so right! In a way, it's sad that subsequent generations will benefit from all the inventions the pioneers came up with, without ever knowing what it was like before they were invented. (somewhat convoluted sentence, there - sorry, must be frozen brain syndrome!)
Oh, and don't know what was up with Blogger this morning - took all my paragraph breaks out - just refused to allow them!

Hilary said...

Great post Baggie!

There are many things I'd have liked to have experienced firsthand, and "roughing it" certainly has its appeal at times, but I don't ever want to feel that cold without being surrounded by modern comforts.

Paragraph smooshing.. Blogger often does that to me. I find that if you go into the html mode, they still appear normal in there. Then when you go back to compose mode or preview, they've righted themselves. Failing that, you should still be able to recreate the spacing in html mode. This part you can probably still do with this post. :)

the Bag Lady said...

Hi, Hil: Well, if you ever want to experience 'roughing it', come on out to Alberta! We can arrange it. We'll drop you in the middle of our cattle lease and let you build a shelter, forage for food, etc. But only in the summer. We would never do that to you in the winter. Of course, in the summer, you might not freeze, but there are bears and cougars to watch out for... ;)

The Bag Lady is mightily afeared of HTML!! She doesn't know how it works, and - much like those pygmy tribes in darkest Africa afraid of cameras - the Bag Lady worries that HTML will steal her soul! Everything looked okay in the compose section, and even in the preview section, but when she published, it smooshed. Sigh.

Reb said...

Oh, good post sis! Last time I felt windchill that bad was just before that flight to Phoenix when we got off the plane there it was +50 F.

Uncle M told us last year that they all lived in a TENT for two years while the homestead by Doris was being built. I thought you would have mentioned that.

the Bag Lady said...

The Bag Lady had to leave out so much stuff...she could have written a novel. Hmmm, there's an idea...

Geosomin said...

I feel the chill too. It's frozen out here too...so much that our car wheels are frozen solid, so my husband is stuck waiting at work for a tow so the car can thaw somewhere!
My grandfather would tell me stories of living in a wooden shack with paper windows and surviving winters with a friend, in their joint shack over their property likes so they could claim the land they were clearing, by living on it 1 full year. I can't even imagine...
I'm a wuss in the cold...didn't go to work today. I'm not willing to risk freezing to death for my job...:)

the Bag Lady said...

The Bag Lady doesn't blame you in the least for not going to work! She spent as little time as possible outside today. Had to chop a little wood, and fill the bird feeders. Poor little birdies.
The Cowboy was home, so he fed the cows.

Crabby McSlacker said...

I am SO glad I'm not a pioneer woman. I'm a spoiled creature of my own times and have no desire to work hard all day.

But who knows, perhaps in a few hundred years our cushy lives now will seem tough.

the Bag Lady said...

Crabby - yes, when the human race has evolved into talking heads with computer slaves, perhaps they will pine for the "good old days" when humans actually roamed the earth...

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Bag Lady,

What a fantastic post. It is amazing what people had to do for survival just a couple of generations ago.

I consider myself a feminist, but freely admit I am nowhere near as strong as the women who came before.

Terrie

the Bag Lady said...

dfTerrie: Good to hear from you! The Bag Lady knows what you mean. When she starts thinking about how tough those women had to be, she feels pretty wimpy!