A Day in the Life of a Homesteading Mama

by brenda on March 31, 2012

There’s a poem in the beginning of The Encyclopedia of Country Living about the life of a homesteading woman. I want to share it with you:

Mama’s Mama

by: Anna Rees Henton

Mama’s Mama, on a winter’s day,
Milked the cows and fed them hay,
Slopped the hogs, saddled the mule,
And got the children off to school.

Did a washing, mopped the floors,
Washed the windows and did some chores.
Cooked a dish of home-dried fruit,
Pressed her husband’s Sunday suit,
Swept the parlor, made the bed,
Baked a dozen loaves of bread.

Split some wood and lugged it in,
Enough to fill the kitchen bin,
Cleaned the lamps and put in oil,
Stewed some apples she thought might spoil,
Churned the butter, baked a cake,
Then exclaimed: “For Mercy’s sake,
The calves have got out of the pen!
Went out and chased them in again.

Gathered the eggs and locked the stable,
Returned to the house and set the table,
Cooked a supper that was delicious,
And afterwards washed all the dishes,
Fed the cat, sprinkled the clothes,
Mended a basket full of hose,
Then opened the organ and began to play,
When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day.

I read this poem, wondering “how did she do all of that??” My husband laughed at me and said “you see this as a challenge, don’t you?!” 🙂 So, I took the time to break it down (something this woman never would have had the time to do!).

Breaking it down:

Ok, so she milked the cows and fed them hay. Depending on how many cows she had, that could have taken 30 minutes to an hour. Since “cows” is plural, let’s say 1 hour.

She slopped the hogs and saddled the mule, I’d guess that took maybe 15 minutes.

She got the children off to school (see, now here’s the big difference in my life–besides the absence of some good milking cows, that is! I homeschool my children!). I imagine this meant getting them dressed, fed, their stuff ready to go, etc. Let’s say 1 hour (she was speedy!).

Did the washing (like washing all of the clothes? She didn’t have stackable front loader machines back then, she was hand scrubbing those clothes!) and mopped the floors. Let’s give 1 hour for all of that.

Washed the windows and did some chores, 30 minutes.

Cooked a dish of home-dried fruit, 25 minutes. Maybe less, maybe more, really depends!

Pressed her husband’s Sunday suit, let’s give that 20 minutes and assume that her iron was heating up while she cooked the fruit dish.

Swept the parlor, made the bed, 20 minutes. Maybe less.

Baked a dozen loaves of bread, let’s give that 1 hour. And note that she probably had to be doing things with the bread all along through the day.

Split some wood and lugged it in–30 minutes? I don’t know, I’ve never split wood!

Cleaned the lamps and put in oil–30 min?

Stewed some apples she thought might spoil-20 minutes.

Churned the butter, baked a cake-1 hour.

Then exclaimed “For Mercy’s sake, the calves have got out of the pen!” (meaning, she took 5 minutes to look out the window and notice this!).

Chased the calves back in again, 30 min.

Gathered the eggs, locked the stable, 15 min.

Returned to the house and set the table, 15 min.

Cooked a supper that was delicious-1 hour.

Washed all of the dishes after dinner: 45 min. (Maybe more–she didn’t have a dishwasher!)

Fed the cat, sprinkled the clothes (to get them ready for ironing the next day), 15 minutes.

Mended a basket full of hose, 30 minutes.

Played the organ: 15 minutes.

So, just for fun, let’s see what her schedule was like! I worked from the end of the day backwards, assuming that she started playing the organ around 8 pm, by candle light, and was in bed by 8:30.

 

Her schedule:

7:15 am Milked the cows and fed them hay

8:15 am Slopped the hogs, saddled the mule

8:30 am Got the children off to school

9:30 am Did a washing, mopped the floors

10:30 am Washed the windows, did some chores

11:00 am Cooked a dish of home dried fruit

11:25 am Pressed her husband’s Sunday suit

11:45 am Swept the parlor, made the bed

12:05 pm Baked a dozen loaves of bread

1:05 pm Split some wood and lugged it in

1:35 pm Cleaned the lamps and put oil in

2:05 pm Stewed some apples that she thought might spoil

2:25 pm Churned the butter, baked a cake

3:25 pm Peaked out the window and saw the calves

3:30 pm Chased the cows in

4:00 pm Gathered the eggs, locked the stable

4:15 pm Returned to the house, set the table

4:30 pm Cooked dinner

5:30 pm Dinner time?

6:30 pm Washed all of the dinner dishes

7:15 pm Fed the cat, sprinkled the clothes

7:30 pm Mended a basket full of hose

8:00 pm Played the organ

8:30 pm In bed

 

This schedule is lacking a few major things, of course: eating breakfast and lunch (and cleaning those dishes), spending any time with her husband or children, going to the bathroom, personal care (like a shower in the morning!), reading her Bible, reading her e-mail, checking Facebook, pinning a few things on Pinterest, making sure to charge her iphone, or working on her website. 😉

Are you a homestead Mama? What does your winter’s day look like?

Butter Churning photo by TerryBallard

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy (aka Mrs Dull) March 31, 2012 at 8:20 am

Brenda, Loved this! You’ve inspired me to write my own poem to a modern granny woman 😉 I love Carla Emery and had forgotten all about this.

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Guest March 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

wow…all those years of reading laura ingalls wilder and I never realized…

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Somethings Cookin April 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Do you really think she could have hand washed clothes in an hour? I’m imagining this to be an all day task done once or twice a week.

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Brenda April 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

You could be right! I’m guessing it took quite a while, also! 🙂

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Denise July 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

it’s a cute poem, but it’s not accurate. There’s a little verse in the Little House books that’s in many other pieces from that time in history. I can’t remember all of it off the top of my head but it starts with “wash on Monday”. Washing clothes was an all day chore. Water needed to be hauled & heated, clothing needed to be scrubbed, rinsed, rung out & hung out. It was done on Mondays so that any soiling on the Sunday Best clothes wouldn’t have a chance to stain. Ironing was Tuesdays chore, and again this took the bulk of the day to accomplish. I forget the rest of the week, but churning butter had its own day. Saturday was reserved for baking as it ensured fresh baked goods for Sunday when no work could be done. Pioneering homemakers definitely worked hard and long hours every day, but this list could not be done in a single day- even if you had modern appliances to help you.

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Sharon Matthews October 9, 2013 at 9:22 am

It may not be very accurate (time-wise) but they did work from dawn to dusk and then some by candle or oil light. And chances are the bath was once a week. There’s a part of me that is a Pioneer or early Homesteading Mama, but at the same time, I’m glad that my schedule doesn’t look like that – except during power outages! 🙂

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Linda Marie Finn December 7, 2013 at 8:21 am

I don’t mind the busy, can we enjoy a book being read from the kindle while we darn socks and do dishes ? I use my kindle to have it read books to the kids while I work on things. this way we get more reading in while we work on things.
we allow the oldest two girls to use mp3 player to listen to godly music and books.
Blessings
Linda Finn
Faithful Acres Books
http://www.faithfulacresbooks.wordpress.com
Faithful Acres Academy
http://www.faithfulacresacademy.wordpress.com
Faithful Acres Homestead
http://www.faithfulacresfarm.wordpress.com

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