Comments On Article: The Diary Of Sarah January 31 - February 6
I am personally in awe of how much work she does in one day. Also the pie baking - she made 10 pies one Saturday, and then next Saturday makes more pies. This is in addition to other baking she does all week! I'm not sure how many people this woman is feeding but this is amazing to me. Personally I make pies at Thanksgiving, Christmas and once or twice some other time of the year. Pie must have been a staple food in her household.
I love your thoughts at the end of this entry.
I think Sarah does way too much baking and cleaning. Who eats all of these pies? That family must weight 400 pounds apiece ; o) I know pies go a lot quicker than cakes but 8 or 10 at a whack? That's definitely overdoing, although those could have been for a bake sale at church or school, who knows? As to cleaning could those rooms really need cleaning that often (straightening yes, cleaning, no) and cleaning the porches and walks? Too much! Either she is OCD or is trying to proof something to someone.
I think by doing something often, unless it s something that we just enjoy doing, we will come up with more efficient ways of doing it which will take less time to complete.
Yes, I think we have become lazy and soft. But for women who work there is less time and energy to expend on household duties and so I give them a break there.
Memorizing recipes surely does help since it takes less time to turn out whatever it is that you are making.
Making bread each week certainly must lead to better organization in the kitchen since having all the implements and ingredients all near each other and easily pulled out for use would make for a more efficient bread making experience. It might also lead to attaching another kitchen job that needs to be done weekly and so form a habit of both of those activities getting done on a routine basis.
Well there you go. I do like to speculate.
She really does not mention why she bakes so many pies, it is my idea that she might make some of them for other people or a bake sale or something. Or she she has a very large family! I make bread usually every week; it does not take much time and I tend to stick to the same recipe. Learning something would take one a bit longer; once you have it down it tends to become routine. Sarah does a lot of baking though; anyway you look at it. I would bet that those people live better than we do health-wise. This morning I read an article that shocked me to no end: Simply Orange orange juice has known carcinogens in it and of course the parent company, Coca Cola, is not commenting on their product. At least when Sarah bakes, she is not using too many chemicals and wrapping all the goods in plastic, which we have far too much of today.
No doubt about it, Sarah works hard.
I don’t know about anyone else but know for a fact that I am lazy. The thought of baking that many pies and then baking other stuff would have me taking a nap. Not doing a special clean.
I am not sure they have electricity I am assuming they do not so in the morning I bet she has to build a fire before she does anything. Clean lamps and trim wicks. Empty chamber pots if they use them in the winter.
I am guessing but I bet the reason she has to do a special clean is because of the winter mud. I bet she sweeps every single day to try and keep it out. That is also the reason for the porch cleaning. She may have a small rag rug by the door but it would be difficult to clean. Especially in a wash tub and hanging out to dry. And laundry, heating water, washing the loads and hanging them out. Oh my. Heavy work.
Right now I am praising God for electricity, running water and indoor plumbing
Indeed, as others have mentioned, Sarah does work hard.That said, I don’t think she necessarily has OCD or is trying to prove something to anyone.I think the type and amount of work she does is not atypical, at least based upon my great grandmother’s diaries from this time frame.She, too, wrote of the sort of housework she did on a daily basis, as well as every single penny she spent and on what and every penny she had coming in to the house.
My great grandmother raised three children on her own (her oldest was born in 1918 and her youngest in 1925 – she lost her husband soon after her last child was born) and did things like baking pies, cakes, etc…. to sell in the local store, selling peonies to be placed on graves on Decoration Day (Memorial Day), taking in sewing, selling eggs from her hens and selling the dressed hens when they stopped laying, growing all sorts of vegetables in a garden in a lot at the other end of town to feed not just her and her children but to sell to the local stores, doing taxes for people during tax season, filling in when a shop keeper in town (a town of under 1,000) had to leave for a doctor’s appointment, playing her saxophone in a band with her sister and a couple of friends in neighboring towns on Saturday nights, all of which earned just enough money to squeak by.My grandfather (the oldest of her children) used to talk of how he would walk the railroad after the coal trains had gone through town, carrying a pail to pick up coal that had fallen on the ground to help heat their home.He also shared how he went hunting from about the time he was 7 or 8 years old and he’d bring home squirrels, coons, pheasants, etc…. to help put food on the table.They would also go fishing after school and on weekends, with the same results.He shared how he and his sisters would go mushrooming, berry picking and hunting for fiddlehead ferns, as well, as another way of not just feeding their family, but earning money.
In terms of the questions asked, I can only speak for myself – I am certainly lazier and softer than generations past – a prime example is me sitting here writing this when I could be doing housework or baking myself!I do believe the more you do something, the easier and quicker it becomes and memorizing frequently used recipes is a great way to do that.
Like some of the comments above, I think there was just a certain amount of work, especially if they are living more rural.
I get the feeling that they are rural in that Sarah had to wait for her husband to return from town with the yeast she needed for baking. Living rural creates a lot of dust and muck easily gets dragged in. Way more dirt then what is generated in a subdivision.
In regards to all the baking. The pies tend to be made on Saturdays which makes me think she may be taking them along to Church on Sundays, often after Sunday school many rural Churches had a fellowship time, coffee and tea and baked goods brought by parishioners. This was when much of the weekly news was exchanged and when all the guests who were visiting were greeted. I think that this is were Sarah collects the news that she then submits to the paper. If you read older newpapers you often see whole articles on who was receiving guests and from where or who was going away to visit and who. As well it would often say who was ill, in hospital or recovering at home.
I have to agree though that I am a complete sloth in comparison to Sarah, her work ethic amazes me. But that was a generation of people that just rolled up their sleeves and got on with things.
I imagine that those who self-identify as "lazy" actually aren't. I don't do anywhere near as much housework and baking as Sarah wrote about, but I'm at work half the day and am constantly on the go; like Sarah, I only sit down for leisure in the evenings after all my work (including household tasks) is done.
I bet most of us are the same. If you wrote down everything you did in one day, you might be surprised.
Could Sarah be baking pies to sell? I'd think she'd mention the sales, though. Making them for the church to take to home-bound people? I agree, she is making a LOT of pies.
I used to bake all of our bread, buns, biscuits, desserts and rolls. Now I have to be gluten-free (it is medically directed) so that has mostly stopped. I clean on a schedule - one or two rooms get really cleaned per week and I do light housekeeping on the other rooms until it's their turn for a deep clean. I wonder if Sarah is doing something like that. I have to admire someone who cleaned three porches on a day she described as cold.
People worked hard back then, women and men, unless they were wealthy. But I also remember hearing and reading that many women in the home usually did one major task in a day along with the minor daily tasks, such as all laundry on Monday, all ironing on Tuesday. Today we do so many differing tasks in a single day and I'm not sure that's the best way to do things. I have no research to support that; I just wonder about it. I think, if as Galadriel F says, we listed all we do in a day, we would be surprised at how much we do.
I don't know why Sarah did all the baking, but I'm sure there were a lot of happy eaters. :) Antibiotics weren't in common use in the thirties and I think that was why all the cleaning was done. We may have to go back to that with the increase in antibiotic resistance. At least we have better sanitizers today.
Oh, yes, definitely. I am so slow when I learn something new and it takes so much mental energy. Once it's a habit, it feels effortless.
A lot of us are lazy and soft today. Most of the time it's fine that we have all the conveniences that make us soft, but sometimes, like in an emergency, it leaves us vulnerable. That's why I want to build my endurance walking. If something happened, I want to have the stamina to get to the grocery store (3 miles away), or wherever I needed to go. I want to build the strength to do things to save money too.
I have been cooking from scratch long enough not to need recipes, unless it's for something like cake that I don't make often. I can look at ingredients and know what to do with them. I think gardening makes you like that because you have to use what's ready for harvest, not necessarily what you want that day.
Making homemade bread each week has made me more organized. I used to make bread whenever (we don't eat store bread, though) and would often be out when I wanted some. Now we always have bread on hand.
I know it's not Friday :) but the aggregate of my time online is getting so low I am rethinking my once a week idea.
I have so many tasks that I could be completing right now ;) that said, I don't think Sarah was OCD, she was of her time. We so often source-out so much of our home related work. Gardening, lawn mowing, window washing, housework, dog duty ( walking and picking up waste), etc. etc.... I'll bet we would have more money if we did all of it ourselves, and be that much more fit physically and fiscally. It sounds as if she was quite involved with her Church and Sunday School, it wouldn't surprise me at all if that's where most of the baking went. I need to get offline now, and be a Sarah :)
I think it's about priorities. I definitely wouldn't call myself lazy or soft (for example two years ago I built a log cabin single-handedly) but I'm much better at throwing myself into a really big project like that, than staying on top of tedious household tasks that will just have to be repeated in a few days anyway. I know things like sweeping and dusting are actually a lot less work if you just stay on top of them - cleaning a room before it looks dirty - but I often push them off longer than I should anyway.
I really enjoyed this weeks diary entries. Sarah was very industrious! It must have brought her a sense of joy and accomplishment to be so productive. I think she must have been quite community minded as well, judging by her baking.
My first thoughts upon reading this were about myself feeling lazy in comparison too. Funny how a few of us have mentioned that. It does seem that she had less leisure time than perhaps we do now.
I do think she was of her time though. My dad's father passed away when he and his siblings were still young, the youngest was still in nappies. There were five children in the family and his mother had to go to work full-time to pay the mortgage on the farm, which was very unusual at the time. He said my grandmother would cook them all a hot breakfast and then walk to work or take the horse and buggy. It must have been very hard work for her, but she never complained.
I also have a very endearing memory of my maternal grandmother. When my grandmother was in her 80's her neighbour rang one of my uncles as he was very concerned because she was up on a ladder cleaning out the guttering. I know it must have been a shocking sight for him, but we all thought it was amusing, including my grandmother. If there was ever a job to do she would just do it. They were a very resilient lot growing up through the depression.
she said he got her eggs ready for town and then started on her pies. I got the impression she was selling eggs and pies in town.
I read these days and was going back tallying what Sarah did each day and am in disbelief. And then we don't even know what her " normal morning and evening chores" are! She is truly a hard worker and makes me feel so lazy.
I'm awed by the amount of housework that Sarah did, and all that baking! I realise that she didn't have the convenience of just being able to 'nip' to the local supermarket, very little money and a family to feed, but even so...
I tend to find that the more I have to do, in the shortest amount of time, the more I get done. I've also noticed that burning candles and oil lamps definitely creates a layer of soot on the metal walls and windows of my cabin - if I wasn't such a lazy mare, I'd clean the walls down (and maybe remove the old cobwebs that have also gathered a fine layer of candle soot- making them much more obvious- but I like spiders...). Maybe that's why (along with the mud), Sarah has to do so much housework.
Familiarity definitely makes things quicker. You get a 'feel' for how the bread dough should be and what needs to be added to a sauce to make it taste, 'just right'. I'm very bad at attempting new recipes though - just because it seems to take so much longer than usual.
I think that was just the normal amount of work people did in a day. I remember spending time with my grandmother later in her life but she would have been about Sarah's age during this time. She had the morning tasks - make breakfast, eat with family, clean up the kitchen from that, tidy up the bedrooms, start baking for that day (she wasn't a pie maker but often made cakes and cookies to take to others), clean that up. Tidy the other other rooms. I think that a quick dust and vacuum/sweep or dust mop was daily. I also kind of remember that mopping of the kitchen was a daily chore. Then there would be laundry (wringer washer and hung out to dry) some days, garden work, shopping, sewing and other regular tasks. Then once a week there was a more thorough cleaning of each room. But her home wasn't that large and there wasn't much clutter or excess possessions which would make the daily cleaning more laborious. Now my mother had six children and she wasn't much of a housekeeper so our house definitely wasn't as tidy.
When my kids were little I needed to learn some of those organizational skills. I still routinely do a quick clean and tidy before I leave for work, have a quick tidy if needed when I get off work, and then cleaning up the kitchen after the last meal of the day. Because my son is on a different schedule than mine, I usually come down in the morning to dishes in the sink and messes on the kitchen counters, but it is pretty clean and tidy when I go to bed anyway. I tend to dust mop/sweep all of the rooms daily as well as the dog hair can really pile up. Because I work full-time, I don't mop and vacuum every day - the dust mop only takes a few minutes though. I definitely don't bake that much but when my kids were little I used to make bread every day as well. I wonder if she was selling those pies along with the eggs?
Such interesting conversation!!! I also think she was selling some of the pies.
The houses back then probably more resembled an Amish home. Much less stuff! Cleaning takes less time and energy when one isn't moving a dozen things from every surface. I remember my grandma's dresser having an embroidered scarf on top, a small wooden box (mine now!) that held a few precious things to her, a hand mirror, a brush, and a bottle of cologne. In comparison, my dresser looks like a Los Angeles traffic jam!!
I know they worked far harder than I do. My older relatives had pristine homes that showed it. But I know that, speaking from my family observation, they went to bed really early. In summer I remember going to bed before dark! No electronic distractions. Even I remember when the TV told you to go to bed near midnight. The national anthem would play and up came the rainbow grid on the screen.
Debby B I agree about people latching onto anything when they're afraid. That's why I think this study and Grandma Donna's blog is so important. It teaches people how to be unafraid when unsettling events come along because you're prepared. As Grandma Donna has pointed out, people who took care in the '20s fared better during the Depression. There is an important lesson for us there with the uncertainty of today's world.
Certainly Sarah does a lot of work to keep her home and feed her family. That said, I don't think I'm lazy or soft, and I don't even like the term "soft" as a derogative -- one of my goals in life is to remain as soft as I can. Each week I do the laundry for the home and my husband and I. I clean the house, doing the "special" clean in a different area each week. I feed my family food made from scratch everyday. I plan the meals, make the grocery lists, and do the shopping. I keep our budget and finances. I work with our puppy, exercising and training him. I care for our other dogs, including our senior dog who has only a few months left and requires my physical help to get outside and to come back up the stairs inside. I visit with friends. I sit down to meals with my family everyday, with my husband for lunch and dinner, and with my young adult child most evenings of the week. I work to make my home a warm, pleasant place for my family and for guests. I care for my plants. I clean the fireplace. I send birthday cards and other greetings to loved ones. I knit and sew things for our home.
Keeping a simple 1930s diary has helped me see how much I do in a day. My entry for today will have tasks in it such as: usual morning chores (make bed, quick clean bathroom, vacuum floors, clean sink), emptied and reorganized top freezer, made chicken broth from carcass and saved necks, vacuum sealed frozen leftovers (I am now freezing in Souper Cubes so I can have a more organized freezer and have the stock/broth and leftovers in uniform portions), cooked dinner (lunch), cooked supper with some of broth, cooled and froze rest of broth, planned meals for the week, trained puppy, tidied craft room, talked to oldest in another state after we learned about a death in our community, made donation to family of deceased, tidied desk, and more. And yet I still had time to stop and read this weeks articles, and to make a comment, and the evening is still ahead of me. My youngest has offered to clean up supper, so after we eat we will probably walk the dogs, and I'll use that walk to do an errand, putting books I no longer need into a little free library.
Yes, I am a full time homemaker without an outside paying job, but I also have a chronic illness that limits my ability to go all day long. I take many breaks.
I truly understand what you are saying, Debby B. Indeed, if Grandma Donna had asked me if I was lazy before I started keeping a simple diary of my days, I would have said yes. I think it's easy to forget all that we really do, and to see what others do as somehow more or better than what we do. But life isn't a competition! I'm not competing with you and we aren't competing with Sarah or with Grandma Donna. At the end of our days I doubt we'll be wishing we'd spent more time scrubbing baseboards and dusting ceiling fans.
Kimberly, I honestly wasn't comparing for the sake of comparing lol. But, I couldn't help but notice that your list was eerily similar to mine!! And I was questioning why I would find myself lacking, but not you. That doesn't sound right lol. Like I'm too hard on myself. I have a bad knee so I take much longer to do things than I used to. But my sitting breaks are usually productive. Folding clothes, filing, shredding, etc.
I would much prefer puppy training so I could smell that sweet puppy breath!! My puppy just became classified as a senior dog sniff sniff. But he IS 100% trained. Enjoy those baby years!!
I think I do understand what you are saying, Debby B. I'm usually hard on myself too, but keeping the diary really is helping me see that I do a lot more than I realized.
I should have said obedience training -- our pup is nearly 10 months old now and has been rock solid with potty training since he was 12 weeks. But he will be a puppy until he is 2 years old. We do obedience training to practice what we've learned in classes and he is also is learning not to counter surf, jump on people, etc.
I have enjoyed everyone’s thoughts here!
Sarah may be typical of her time but of course she could indeed be a more productive and organized individual than many of her peers as well; certainly keeping a diary every day without fail is impressive and we know that it is somewhat rare. Additionally, she could also be “typical” AND trying to prove something; maybe to herself (as many of us want to think well of ourselves), and maybe to others (as being respected and admired is generally wanted- and being looked down on or pitied something to avoid). I remember hearing and reading about many women and families who didn’t have much money or possessions but had a lot of pride over keeping what they did have clean and in the best shape they could. If you can’t afford a grand house or a gorgeous outfit then maybe you try to have a enviable garden and tailor your current dress to fit you to a tee. Having both time and motivation can combine to make wonderful things even if you don’t have (much) money.
I agree that keeping account of what you do in a day helps very much with feeling better about yourself and how you spend your time. And just knowing you are going to write down what you did can help you get more done :) That being said, working and being productive is only one part of a fulfilling life and it’s important for me to remind myself to not judge myself and my life mostly by how clean my house is, or the number of chores I did, or the money I earn for the family, etc. I think it’s easy to keep score of what I crossed off my list and it’s harder to “score” attitude, and forgiveness, generosity, patience, being a good friend, etc. And when I’m too focused on keeping things clean then I’m more likely to get upset with my loved ones and pets for making things dirty and scold or complain. I’ve been a very hard worker in the past and now I’m trying to focus more on being kinder and gentler to myself and others as the higher priority
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