Using traditional skills in a modern home

We all work in different ways in our homes.  Some of us have babies, children or elders to care for, some produce fresh food in the backyard, there are readers with cows, goats, chooks, ducks, geese and bees, many of us make laundry liquid and soap, we have candle makers, quilt makers and producers who, for necessity or love, make all sorts of things. We also have people who go out to work and who are part-time homemakers, doing their chores after their paid work and on weekends. There is no doubt about it, there is always something to do in our homes and homemakers, both full time and part time, are the ones who get things done.



The idea that is sometimes floated in magazines, or gossiped about, that homemakers sit around drinking coffee with their friends or watching TV is laughable. I'm sure there are some women, and men, who do that but it is not the group defined as homemakers.  We're busy creating the life we want to live and we do that by working at a thousand different things in our homes.



Here at our place, Hanno has been busy harvesting and juicing oranges and lemons. I've been picking herbs so I can freeze them before they die off during winter. We look after grandchildren. Hanno has deep cleaned the chook house and tidied the yard. I made up a ten litre batch of laundry liquid a few days ago. I've sown seeds, cleaned cupboards and washed curtains with Hanno's help. I don't know what we'll do tomorrow, but it will be very similar to what we did today. And yes, we sit down to rest and drink tea, we have conversations about work and life and then we carry on.


As I was thinking about all this yesterday, it occurred to me that it is the traditional work that most of us love doing. It's the harvesting, the slow cooking of food, the jam making, fermenting, soap making, sewing, mending and reusing, over and over again, what we can. They are our pleasures. If we can do our work using a traditional method, that is what we do. I can't say I've ever thought how wonderful it is to use a tea bag but I love making tea in a pot so that I can pour that properly brewed tea into cups standing on saucers. I've never celebrated paying through the teeth for a bottle of laundry liquid at the supermarket but I adore opening my plastic bucket to scoop our a tiny portion of homemade laundry liquid. Do you know of anyone who looks forward to a store-bought frozen meal heated in the microwave?  I don't, but I know many who want to eat the food I cook from scratch. Beautiful handmade soap is such a tender treat and sleeping under a homemade family quilt surely brings the best sleep.  It's the keeping of old ways that make these tasks remarkable and significant.



I'm always motivated to work when I see or read about others working in their homes. I feel like I'm part of a big working bee and that if we all pull together, everything that needs doing will be done. Most of us aren't part of a community that takes part in barn raisings or working bees but we have one going here. You in your home making bread and biscuits this morning, me starting to prepare vegetables for our lunch at noon, Hanno out the back fixing a fence, Kate who has been knitting beanies and gloves, Jack who moved his bee hives yesterday, and I've seen those gorgeous photos of cakes and slices made by our local ladies for the recent show. No, we're not part of a real life community who does those things but we're doing them nonetheless and we're reaching around the world with our photos and words. Let's celebrate our work and what we do at home. We're keeping traditional skills alive and supporting each other in the work that others seem to have forgotten. And that's worth celebrating. ❤️


53 comments

  1. Oh what a lovely post! Yes! I needed to hear that. We had friends visiting a while back, and I was showing her my bunad that I had been sewing, and she said that she did not have lots of free time, like I did, since she had to work. And I felt so put down. Just the way she said it. I also notice a lot of my friends with paying jobs, have also told me they have no time due to job, family, etc... and that is all well and good. I know folks are busy. I remember back when I worked long hours as a nurse, and I had very little time too. But, now that I am not working, folks seem to think I live a life of ease! And I have to laugh. I spend anywhere from 5-6 hours helping my husband with the milking, then I have 3 hours in the middle of the day to call my own. They are often filled with other tasks, today laundry and ordering a hospital bed for my father who will be visiting us. Other days I work in my vegetable and herb garden, which yes has flowers, but also puts food on the table and flowers for our enjoyment. And then I make dinner for 3pm so that we are not eating too late after the evening milking. And then there is milking after dinner and a coffee, and a small nap, but the evening milking does not finish until 7pm, so I figure a wee break to close our eyes is well deserved! And some evenings in the summer, there are other chores, cutting grass, watering the garden or preparing dinner ahead since we are cutting hay. Things like that... and the winter evenings are similar, except that we get to relax during the evening. So, when folks assume I have a lot of free time ... I know they do not understand. But you are spot on, I ENJOY what I do. My husband is a farmer and he is his own boss, and we can organize our days as we wish. We work together and we discuss our plans and goals, and we help each other with different projects. I do have a nice life, and I do enjoy traditional tasks! So, I think I needed very much to hear this today. I need to value my own life, because it is a very nice one! And I do enjoy the cows... altho it did scare me at first, learning to milk them. It took a long time to read their body language! But now, we have a sweet group and I enjoy loving on them and chatting to them as I milk.

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    1. Absolutely beautiful, I grew up on a dairy farm, and a dairy cow gives it all. they are fantastic animals. you should start a blog, you have the most interesting days.
      Anne.

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    2. Lynne I hear what you're saying and your words brought peace to me. Thank you!

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  2. Reading about what other homemakers are doing day to day also motivates me. Part of a big working bee is great, love that thought and will be thinking of it now.
    I'm home full time however busier than ever. It's a good busy doing things in our home. It's the busy which gives me a real spring to my step and gets me up early every day as I just can't wait any longer to start another wonderful day.
    Kylie

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  3. I always read your posts, Rhonda, but have never commented before. I'm finding the recent ones so moving as you express so well the individual satisfaction and sense of community in what we all do in large and small ways - thank you!

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  4. It is lovely to think of others working away in there homes as I do, thank you for your inspirational posts, and your books I am always dipping into.
    Sue

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  5. Beautiful post as usual, Rhonda. I, too, value making my own foods, growing things in raised beds and in the ground; and that includes eye candy like lovely summer flowers, too. I sew and make quilts (am making two at the moment!), and this is valuable work; at least to me. It is something that I appreciate when others do it as well.

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  6. Good morning Rhonda,
    Beautifully written and so very true. I love doing all those little jobs that make a house a home, well maybe not the dusting, but mostly everything else. I love baking bread, being the garden, quilting, making breakfasts, lunches and dinners for my little family, sleeping in sun dried sheets, steeping my herb teas for morning tea and lunch in an infuser, eating homemade treats and just being in my home. Have a lovely day.
    Fi

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  7. Oh Rhonda, well said! I look forward to each post you write, your words are always sound so warm and comforting. Hope you're having a lovely warm winters day, Frankie from Perth

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  8. Barb in South GippslandJune 20, 2017 7:22 am

    What a lovely post today Rhonda and yes I love the old ways and often wish I could stop the world so I can get off for a while. I am retired but my days are full of what's happening around here, the garden, homemaking and the tiniest bit of socialising - dinner with friends, more often than not at each others' houses and a fortnightly craft group - I'm just finishing off making your famous orange cake to take to our group today - baking before 7am in my pjs!
    Your blog is a place of such calm, it soothes my soul. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. Barb

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  9. I love so many things about this post Rhonda. 'Reaching around the world',oh that is so lovely.
    Your photos are real and touch my heart and motivate me.
    My question is how do you and Hanno keep the grout in your tiles clean? I had to resort to exit mould and cringe when I use it.
    Ingrid

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    1. Your grout should be sealed when it's new, Jamie. If mould gets into the grout, you can't get it out, you have to regrout.

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    2. Well that makes sense! Thank you for answering. I hope I don't confuse you but I'm Ingrid and this is my husband Jamie's account.

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    3. Hi Ingrid, yes I do know that but only remembered your name just after I hit 'reply'. Oops, it's one of the mysteries of ageing to me. How did I go from a photographic memory to forgetting very simple things? I just hope everyone understands. xx

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  10. Hear hear Rhonda....loving doing as much as I can myself! Thank you for your words of inspiration!

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  11. Rhonda this post was just beautiful. One that wrapped itself around me like a warm hug.

    You have brought a few thoughts that have been niggling me to the front of my mind.

    Xx

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  12. Beautifully inspirational writing as always ☺. I have always been a homebody but as I get older (60 in 6 days), I love my home and my private space even more. Your stories where you say that you "closed the gate for the day or weekend" make so much sense. Many people around our age live simpler and interesting lives. We have friends in their 80's living nearby who can almost exist from their vegetable garden. The wife is an absolute gem with her ipad, laptop and social media. They have family and are involved in community.I always tell hubby that they are almost perfect role models. Then, of course, I found you. Now I feel that I have perfect examples to continue learning about the good life and the good things in life. Thank you. Brigitte ����

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  13. What a moving post. It is refreshing to visit with this wonderful online community who doesn't look at me cross eyed for having chickens or canning my own veggies or making my own soap 😁 Have a fabulous day.

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    1. I agree Lady Locust, I get negative comments from others too - but I love growing all my own veggies and preserving.

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  14. Yesterday I went to the farmers' market for rhubarb (can't garden where I live) and made 2 batches of jam that turned out beautifully. That will be such a treat on upcoming mornings as our summer turns to fall and winter. Have been thinking I'd like to also make cherry and strawberry preserves, and will make orange marmalade in the winter.

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    1. Bonnie, your story shows us that we don't need to garden to make preserves. Buying from a good farmers market does as well. Peach jam and cherry jam are my favourites and when I make them myself, the jam is the perfect mix of what I love. I hope you continue to enjoy your jam making and your jams.

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  15. Wise words as usual Rhonda. Yesterday a friend started to teach me how to crochet. She provided lunch, l provided a homemade chocolate treat. Today l am making soaps for my sister's birthday. Like you, l love how we are all working away at skills that make a happy home, and by extension, a happy community.

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    1. Hello dear Rhonda, my computer won't let me make a new comment, but will let me reply to a comment, so here goes. This is such a soothing post, I was nodding in agreement all the way through. I'm noticing our traditional tasks are becoming more valued in the past few years, with folks eager to learn the skills for themselves. So many workshops now happening, teaching the traditional skills. It's this that gives me great hope for the future of our planet.

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  16. Rhonda, I love when you say: "I feel like I'm part of a big working bee and that if we all pull together, everything that needs doing will be done" YES, I feel that way too! We'll soon be harvesting our very first honey from our hives, and our garden is in full swing. So far we've been keeping up but soon it will be time to begin preserving the excess. I love this simple life, and I love coming together with other like-minded folks doing the same!

    ~Taylor-Made Homestead~
    Texas

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  17. Lovely post and what do I smell in the oven as I'm reading it? A homemade chocolate cake, yummo!

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  18. well what everyone has said here in reply to your post is also what i was thinking to say, just wonderful & heartfelt!
    have a great week Rhonda & Hanno!
    thanx for sharing
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  19. I enjoyed reading this post. The tasks at home ARE beautiful and should be celebrated and enjoyed.

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  20. It's nice to belong to this little community, I find that most people I meet don't really understand why you would want to make & do for yourself when you could just go to the shops & buy what you need, so I usually just keep my mouth shut. They're the ones missing out on the satisfaction you get when you make it yourself. A lovely post Rhonda, thank you.

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  21. Enjoyed reading this post and I agree with you. I also think that for me the traditional things I love to do keep me thinking of my grandmothers, and great aunts who taught me things as a little girl. I hear their voices as I make a bed or pour homemade jam into jars, It's comforting. (I probably should say I have a memory of their voices, don't want the mental health people after me!)

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  22. Hi,
    Such a lovely warm feeling you create with your words. I couldn't agree more that all the home arts being kept alive around the world does go into creating beautiful homes that anyone would want to live in or visit.

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  23. I agree whole heartedly with your post. I love to work in my home and I enjoy creating a place where my family want to come.
    Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could reach a point where we didn't feel the need to justify our life style to people who can't see the value of what we do.
    Also, it is good just to be a human being not always a human doing. Sometimes the very best thoughts come in the quiet moments.
    Jules x.

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  24. Another lovely post Rhonda that acts as a touchstone to take me right back to the important things of life. What a wonderful feeling to be making relish or a quilt or soap and feel myself part of a community stretching across the world of people doing similar things. What an amazing legacy you have given us all. Thank you.

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  25. I find it very comforting to know that there are people like me, all over the world, reading your blog and living our lives in similar ways and when I sew something for the home, or use a pestle and mortar to grind spices, or plant a seed I feel connected not only to all of you, but also to my ancestors who would have done things in exactly the same way. Tracy in the UK

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  26. Hi Rhonda, oh how this post touched my heart and soul! You have a really special gift at saying out loud and in clear sentences what I am feeling and cannot put to words. Just days ago, a friend was complaining how housework is never finished. I tried to reply nicely, but inside I was feeling "yes, and I love it!". As you put it, I'm a part time home maker, and every second week, I look forward to spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday in my home, doing all the inside work as well as gardening, maintenance, etc. I have just repainted the bathroom and Oh! what a satisfaction! for the job well done, the money saved, the compliments from friends, etc...
    Gardening is not my forte but learning slowly, with herbs and flowers, is so satisfying.
    The smell of freshly sun dried sheets, washed with homemade liquid soap... I can rarely talk about those simple pleasures with people around me, but knowing that many people understand around the world is very encouraging and gives me energy to continue in this way.
    Thanks for your blog. I really love every bit of it !
    Corinne in the Blue Mountains

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  27. I love your posts and yes, they do motivate me to do things 'the old ways'. I made your orange cake this morning, but I used lemon, thats what I had. Haven't tasted it yet, though it smells relish. I will post about it later this week. Thanks Rhonda!

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  28. You are so very right--"it's worth celebrating". Beautiful comments--keeping the old ways alive.
    Thank you-
    Linda

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  29. Beautiful written! I am always really moved when you write about how being a homemaker is so much work, and nothing like "sitting around having tea all the time". I'm amazed at how people seem to think that is all there is to do in a home. I read a really good article the other day, written by a Norwegian social anthropologist, where he wrote about how many ways we can live, how many "recipes" for life that exist and that we know of. And he was questioning why most people choose the exact same "recipe"? Why do we "all" choose a life filled with high consumption, little time to be together, minimal "connection" to nature and so on, when so many of us want something else. I am wondering if there is a connection? We are so good at actually believing there is nothing else to do than to si around and have tea, that we just keep going in stead of exploring the options...

    P.s: How do you freeze your herbs? I have SO much mint, I don't know what to do with it. :)

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  30. Oh! You cut your hair. It's like you shed ten years; you look beautiful! My forte is ironing. My mother got me one of those little electric irons for girls (remember them?) when I was six and I have been ironing ever since. There is nothing like the smell of a clean starched cotton shirt. I even iron T-shirts. So many youth nowadays run out the door with wrinkled shirts and pants and head off to school...or work! I worked with a guy that for the life of me made me wonder why my boss never told him to iron his clothes. It is not only unprofessional but also says a great deal about you when you present yourself wrinkled to the world. (Facial wrinkles are a different story - ha!). As far as cleaning goes, I remember asking my 77-year-old mentor once if she was getting ready for spring cleaning. She said, "No, I keep my house up all year long so there is no reason for spring cleaning." She had a point. No reason for spring cleaning if you keep on top of things. I love the old ways. May the generation coming up behind us continue them. Great post, Rhonda, as usual.

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  31. I so enjoy the pictures of your home. My husband has been home for 6 months now recovering from his heart attack and brain injury and we have had an enjoyable time working together each day to get the work done. He said this morning that he will be sad not be here working with me when he is healed and ready to go back to work and I feel the same. But, it will not be too many years until he will be retired and here to work with me everyday.

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  32. hiRhonda. I've been reading your blog for years and it is the first one I check each day. it does make me feel I am part of a community who want to live the life we love at home cooking from scratch, saving, and trying to use what we have you may feel you have said it all but just peeking into yours and Hanno's everyday life is motivating thanks so much

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  33. Your words 'I'm always motivated to work when I see or read about others working in their homes' rings true for me. I love reading my favourite blogs in the morning - especially yours - but there's always a point where I think 'that's it I'd better get started' and I feel like I've been programmed with lots of good thoughts and motivation to work at home. Thanks Rhonda!

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  34. So so true. I have just returned from a couple of weeks in hospital, and my darling husband had made a stew from scratch in the slow cooker. That was the best meal!

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    1. I hope you're on the mend now, Gail. Take care, love. xx

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  35. Today my Auntie commented on a timber birdhouse that I made and painted she asked if I could show her how to make one when I told her that you can buy them ready made online and paint them she wisely remarked that if we all did that valuable old fashioned skills get lost and we need to keep doing them to stop them dying out.

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  36. Thank you for the helpful hints about how to comment ;). I couldn't figure it out so the one time I desperately wanted to comment, I just emailed you....now I will comment more. So as not to waste this comment, thank you again for this blog, I love it! And your new format is fantastic!

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  37. Lovely words Rhonda. It's nice to think of this extended community from different parts of the world, in different circumstances, but still sharing a common thread of taking care of our homes. Honestly, i can't hold a candle to many of them in terms of "homemaking" but i do enjoy the quiet day to day stuff of hanging out laundry, sweeping the floors, tending to the garden, etc. Hope that you have a good weekend!

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  38. Hi Rhonda, About April last year I made a huge batch of your clothes laundry liquid, and am wondering if it is still good to use. After all this time I was wondering if it would lose some of it's omph!! I thought that I would have to use more than I am for the washing. Many thanks.

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    1. First let me apologise for not answering your emails. I kept it on my list but I never got there. Your batch of laundry liquid should still be okay to use. How is it going in the washing machine? If it's still cleaning the clothes, it's fine. :- )

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  39. Yes! Thank you Rhonda for the reminder. We have purchased a home with acreage, my husband is a fulltime nursing student, and I work a paid job from home and manage the children - lately it has felt like all I can do to keep my head above water! I am missing the traditional tasks - and will need to try and work some of them back into our days, to help us slow down a bit!

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  40. I am sitting on my patio drinking coffee and enjoying re-reading some of your blog posts. I LOVE books; therefore, I noticed you pictured a copy of the book Coming Home. I thought to myself, I Rhonda likes that book I bet I would. I went to Amazon (USA). They have one copy. It is only $1,203 plus $3.99 for shipping. Yes, you read that correctly!!!! Maybe you should sell your copy and invest the proceeds. Lol. I wish I could read it, but out of my price range. I have read your blog since 2009. I have never commented mainly because for several years I couldn't figure out how to do it. I finally have it figured out. I recently have noticed your comment in the beginning of the blog regarding bloggers needing/appreciating comments, so it is my mission to comment now. I so hope you never quit blogging. I know it is quite the undertaking. I for one appreciate it greatly!

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    1. Hello Charlotte, thanks for your comment. Wow, I wonder how many books they sold at that price. I don't think it would have be too many.

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  41. Possible inspiration for a blog feature: Could you feature the book Coming Home in one of your blog posts (showing lots of pics/ideas featured in the book)? I understand that it may not be feasible for you but would be nice for your readers who cant afford the unbelievable cost of the book. P.s. I have both of your books on my bookshelf which i refer to quite regularly. I feel so happy that the author of two of my favorite books communicated directly with me. :)

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    1. Hi Charlotte. Unfortunately I can't feature photos of any book here as it infringes copyright. I have shown pages in the past abut then my publisher let me know that I shouldn't. I'm so pleased you enjoy my books.

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