Friday, July 24, 2009
Makin' the Bed and Doin' the Laundry
Back before there was a Sleep Center or Laundromat people had to make do with what they had.
Making a rope bed:
If wood and hemp weren't available to make a rope bed, they would make a pallet on the floor. A rope bed consisted of a bed frame made of four posts and four side boards. Holes were bored through the sides every nine or ten inches and rope or cording woven in and out of the holes back to front and side to side making a grid. Then sacking or ticking was used to make the casing for the mattress and it was either filled with straw or feathers from ducks or geese. If straw was used they would take out the old and put in new every year at threshing time. If there wasn’t any grain to be threshed they might take it out and let it air in the sun for a day and then put it back in after they washed the ticking.
If a person found themselves traveling far from towns, the best way to clean clothes would be to beat them on rocks near a stream. Where they could be dunked, the dirt smacked out of them, and then dunked again and hung up to dry on bushes or rocks.
Did you know that dirt was rinsed and beat out of clothes before they were put in the boiling water? They did this to not set the stains with the hot water. One way to do this if there wasn't a washboard around was a rough board raised on legs. The garment being washed was dunked in water, placed on the board and beat with a paddle, shoving the dirt and water out of the cloth and into the grooves in the board. This was done thoroughly, the garment was rinsed, turned over and beat again, making sure the stains and dirt were gone before they were put in the soapy water and boiled. After twenty minutes of stirring the garments to make sure the soap had filtered through it all, they were lifted out with a square, long-handled paddle and put in a barrel or tub of fresh clean water, rinsed and put in another tub of fresh water, then hung up to dry.
A heavy cast iron kettle was usually used for boiling the clothes. A fire was built under the kettle after a bucket or two of water was added, so as not to crack the kettle from the heat. As the water continued to heat, buckets were added until the right amount was in the kettle and the water boiled. Wood had to be kept under the kettle to keep it hot.
The long paddles were made of pine because it was a light wood. The long handled paddle for stirring the garments had a square handle. This kept the handle from spinning in their hands when they pulled a heavy object out of the kettle and less clean garments were dropped on the ground. The paddle end had rounded corners to make sure the kettle could be scraped thoroughly to get all garments out of the water before it was dumped out.
I can say after reading about how they did laundry I'm thankful for my washer and dryer. Research and digging up how people did things in the past is one of the reasons I enjoy writing historical books.
The latest review for Miner in Petticoats has made my entire month. The reviewer gave it a Top Review Pick and had this to say:
"Miner in Petticoats is rich in character and setting and reading it feels a bit like taking a walk through a history museum. I've read a lot of American historical fiction and felt this story was well-researched. The set up was interesting and believable and the conflict was strong. I felt there was good character development and enjoyed the children's characters."