If my 1930s character, Carol, of my stories Pocketful of Pinecones and sequel Lessons of Blackberry Inn, were to make a list of frugal tips - this might be some of her advice.
Pack a Lunch
I enjoyed my date with Micheal. He insisted, in his gentlemanly way, of driving to Bridgeton on Saturday, just the two of us. The day before, when she heard that her dad and I were having a picnic - my little Emily told me that she wanted to have a picnic, too, with her friend Sarah, so we worked side-by-side to prepare food for our baskets.
As Michael and I set out by car I felt an unexpected pang of apprehension at leaving the children so far behind. But I reminded myself, the next instant, that they would be enjoying their own special day with the pastor's children. I've heard it said of a mother:
"She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn't take them along. "*1
I knew of a peaceful spot just a few blocks from the shops on Main Street, and choose that place for Michael and I to share lunch, between our shopping errands.
|The view from the end of our road. Do the clouds look sleepy?|
Appleton, where we live, is an hour's back-roads-drive by car to the city of Bridgeton. We needn't frequent the shops in the city. But when we decide it is time to shop for what we cannot find in the village, we group our errands. How did we end up in Appleton? Jobs are hard to come by in the city. Thus we found ourselves living back near family. I was skeptical about moving back to my home town. In the country one is troubled by stubborn weeds, muddy roads, and a backwardness in some of one's neighbors. But there are moments when nature fills one's senses with unbelievable loveliness. And watching the children's energetic games, the calling, running, and climbing in the apple orchard is helping me to accept our life here.
Because it was just the two of us in Bridgeton that Saturday we accomplished lots of stops. Lastly, we stepped into the book shop. Even though it was a purchase with another year of home education in mind, I decided we should hide away a couple books for the children for Christmas. Michael knew it would flatten his wallet. But we never buy on credit. Buying with cash we spend carefully and spend less. I wasn't to worry about his wallet, as he said he had stuffed some dollars under the mattress.
|A page from Famous Paintings that Carol displayed for the children.|
An ancient saying goes, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." While I miss walking to the public library in Bridgeton I am very happy to avail myself of our good friend (and the children's adopted grandmother) Emma's expansive library - and my brother Bob's shelf of books - apart from our own collection.
"Make do" is what we did in the Depression years. Emma's copy of Famous Paintings - Selected from the World's Great Galleries and Reproduced in Colour, with descriptive notes by G. K. Chesterton, is very welcome. To follow Miss Charlotte Mason's plan exactly, would be to display at least six of one artist's work during one semester. If I could make arrangements for for a collection of pictures to come to me from various museums, mostly likely, our tight budget would only allow for postcard-size black and whites - so I am content with Famous Paintings.
|My pot of soup shown here is plain vegan summer vegetable.|
From Blackberry Inn we walk to the village, easily. Emma takes her bicycle. On a walk to the butcher I bought a large soup bone. This less-expensive piece brought me a palm of pennies and nickles for my change purse. My plan was to "stretch" a meal with vegetables from the garden. Though the amount of beef in the soup would be minimal, I knew that the broth from the bones was good for us. A visitor to Blackberry Inn gave me an unexpected compliment. "This is the most wholesome nourishment I've eaten all week," he praised.
After several "stretched" meals I had saved up enough change to purchase a skein of red wool at the general store. With it I was able to knit a new pair of mittens for Emily and Donald. Making good use of the remainder of the wool I knit a small pair for a little boy who is needy. Which brings me to another tip.
Use it Up
In the 1930s - reminiscent of grandmother's previous century, scraps of fabric cut away from dress-making were never thrown away. Scraps were used for quilting. And girls made doll quilts out of scraps cut away from their mothers' quilting-making. I haven't attempted quilting yet with Emily. But without giving away too much of the story of Lessons at Blackberry Inn, I'll tell you that Dora, my sweet-mannered sister-in-law, was eager to shows us how to make fabric yo-yos from pieces in her scrap-bag. Afterward, Emily and I made more yo-yos, enough to for a Christmas gift-pillow for someone we esteem.
In order to "use up" our bumper crop of tomatoes in the garden I spent some hot hours with Emma canning tomatoes to put by.
|The little one has Emily's dough rolling, and is ready for filling.|
My brother Bob brings us milk from the diary farm regularly, with his sly, "I just happened to be out this way." The very day of bottling our tomatoes, basking in the happiness of our completed efforts, my brother brings us a bushel from his bumper crop. Oh my, Emma and I had another day's work cut out for us in a steamy kitchen. But we are grateful for Bob's offerings. And the hours of cooking and canning with Emma has a way of building our friendship. We seem to speak more freely when our hands are busy.
To show our gratitude, Michael, and our son Donald, lend their helping hands to Bob on Saturdays. I can't tell you who chopped a winter's supply of wood in return for meals eaten at Blackberry Inn. But you'll discover this when you read the story. With the autumn chill in the air I was relieved to finally see a stack. Wintertime waits for no man. My guess is that wood heat will be around for a long time out here. Every winter storm brings at least one downed-tree at the wood's edge that, when cut and cleared, is good for nothing better than a free warm fire. Coal costs.
The pair of argyle socks I knit Michael were already worn at the heel. I commented that it's a wonder how he can fray socks so quickly. He cast me a quizzical glance which momentarily changed to a smile when he replied in his defense, "It must be one of my hidden talents." I should have listened to the wise advice of my mother. "Knit a strand of hair from your head into the toe of your sock [or heel in Michael's case] and you'll mend less often." Perhaps there should be rhyme about a stitch-in-time that includes a strand of one's hair. In the country, however, we are used to keeping things until they are beyond repair. Clothes wear out until they are not even decent for cleaning a horse stall. Such clothes are cut up for patching.
Michael had been harboring romantic notions of country life - city born and breed as he is - for a long time without me knowing it. I am well aware of the strong backs needed of country-folk and also how folk have to "wait-it-out" and "do-without" until spring's first asparagus sprouts are spied and the chickens start laying again.There are only so many recipes to fall back on, for cabbage and potatoes - the lion's share of what's left in the root cellar. Yet, the strawberries preserves, blackberry jam, and apple butter we women put by, do keep breakfast and tea-time palatable and varied, at least.
Frugal people buy used. And they know the value of a hand-me-down. Michael startled me by digging up the copiously cabled pull-over I knit him in the earliest days of our marriage, to impulsively hand it down (without his left hand knowing what his right hand was doing) to a needy new friend. My sentimental attachment to it dissolved, however, and my wrinkled brow softened when I saw how well it was received by its over-joyed recipient. What Michael had worn to rake leaves, this man is wearing for Sunday-best.
What's the difference between a penny-pincher and a thrifty homemaker? The thrifty are not stingy. They consider the lilies and how they grow. Placing her trust in God's provision, the thrifty homemaker can take joy in giving as well as receiving. One by one, she casts her cares, money worries, and list of anxieties, to her Heavenly Father. Therefore, she is willing to live with less and/or economize, to be God's instrument in adding to the happiness and well-being of another. -Your story-friend Carol
*1 Quote by Margaret Culkin Banning. While browsing a book shelved at a B&B I jotted this quote down on a scrap of paper I retrieved from the recesses of my pocket-book because I felt a kindred spark alight. Here, someone was describing, in simple terms, a feeling that matched my own experience - every time I would travel by airplane to a speaking engagement, leaving my children behind.
For your convenience I link Lessons of Blackberry Inn directly to Amazon. It is also described on this blog in "Karen's Books."
The pencil drawings are by my son Nigel Andreola and are illustrations in Blackberry Inn - though seen here with watermarks.
In the spirit of hand-me-down the photographs in today's post are re-used from a sundry of previous posts.
Rather than the tangled mess of knitting (with three colors) that you see above, to see the finished vest I knit for a grandson click here.
Here is my original post on making fabric yo-yos.
Here is a post with an introduction to Picture Study with the Gentle Art of Learning.
Writing Carol's 10 frugal tips was fun. If you read between the lines there are actually more than 10 here. I hope the advice is of some benefit to you. So nice to have your visit. Write anytime,