Hints for Housewives
Useful and diverting advice taken from Grandmothers' Lore, a book by Simone Sekers; a collection of quaint ideas, rural customs and tips past and present on all aspects of home care.
The Perfect Housewife: 'Chaste of thoughts, stout courage, patient, untired, watchful, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good Neighbourhood, wise in discourse, but not frequent therein, sharp and quick of speech but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affairs, comfortably in her Counsels, and generally skillful in the worthy knowledges which do belong to her vocation' Gervase Markham, 1615 (English poet and writer. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gervase_Markham.)
Beneficial teas, tonics and infusions can be made from herbs:
Beneficial teas, tonics and infusions can be made from herbs:
- Blackcurrant tea made from the leaves relieves hoarseness and sore throats, best sipped hot.
- Elderberry wine is good for colds.
- Mallow tea made from the flowers with a little added honey soothes an infected throat or mouth.
Bee stings are said to be cures for rheumatism and arthritis. I have also heard it said that nettle stings help relieve symptoms.
For a hangover cure mix the juice of a freshly-squeezed orange, or lemon, with a large spoonful of honey, add two ice cubes and repeat every hour.
Cold weather liniment: mix 1 part oil of cloves and 9 parts camphorated oil and rub into aching muscles, especially after gardening on a damp, cold day.
Rheumatism - carry a potato or a nutmeg in a hip pocket, or wear a cast-off snake skin as a garter.
Chilblains - rub with a raw onion, or methylated spirit, or apply a poultice of raw turnip. Or mix 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp glycerine, and the white of 1 egg with enough cornflour to make a paste. Apply after bathing the feet and allow to dry.
Lemon juice is a good nail strangthener and cleaner - use an orange stick dipped in lemon juice to clean under the nails after doing vegetables or gardening.
For hiding scratches on furniture try rubbing the scratch with half a freshly cut Brazil nut.
To clean decanters. There are several remedies for removing the deposit from the bottom of decanters and water bottles, all equally effective. All involve adding the substance to water in the decanter and swirling it around until the deposit is removed: crushed egg-shell; grated raw potato and a little vinegar; lead shot; sand (effective but not always easy to rinse out); mustard seed (which absorbs any stale smell as well), but never use detergent of any sort.
Wicker baskets last longer if scrubbed every so often with soapy water or salt and then dried outside.
Rush matting will last longer in a centrally heated atmosphere if it is sprayed about three times a year with a fine garden spray.
Cracked stone hot water bottles (or ones with no washers) can be re-used with salt instead of water. Fill the bottle with kitchen salt and heat in a low oven; as salt retains heat well, this tip is particularly good for invalids, and far safer than using an electric blanket.
To revive the bounce in old tennis balls warm it gently in a low oven overnight (especially useful for those with Agas).
A 17C polish. Melt beeswax and infuse crushed sweet cicely seeds in it for several days. Strain out the seeds and allow wax to harden. This involves a great deal of rubbing as the polish is sticky but the smell is lovely.
Victorian weather-proofing for boots and shoes: Mix neats'-foot oil (from saddlers) with melted beeswax to a cream, colouring it with drawing ink to match the shoes. This is a very good way of protecting children's shoes from getting scuffed.
Shoe trees can be made from old socks. Put the socks into the shoes and fill with sawdust or bran, packing well. Cut off the tops of the socks around 3/4" above the tops of the shoes, and sew or staple them together firmly. These are very useful for drying out damp shoes, as both sawdust and bran will absorb the moisture; dry out the shoe trees before re-using.
Linen can be bleached by the light of a full moon, as well as by sunlight.
Try making up mustard powder with sherry when serving it with roast beef, or steak and kidney pie.
Dried bay leaves will keep better if stored in an airtight contained with a piece of cotton rag dipped in olive oil.
Old gardeners are supposed to have removed their trousers and sat on the soil to see if it was warm enough to sow. To avoid embarrassment in town gardens, testing for warmth with your elbow, as you test a baby's bath water, should be as effective. The reason for this is that the temperature of the air is no indication of the temperature of the soil.
A large vase of marigolds on the kitchen table is supposed to absorb cooking smells and stop the smells permeating the house. (Pic from: http://gardenersblog.jerseyplantsdirect.com/?p=3779)
Milk keeps quite well in hot weather if the bottle is wrapped in wet newspaper, although the newspaper should not be allowed to dry out. This is a useful tip if you find yourself without a fridge.
To keep bread fresh, store a well scrubbed dry potato in the bin with the bread.
To keep cake fresh, keep an apple in the tin.
Rhubarb leaves and apple or potato peelings are all useful to clean burnt saucepans. Boil up a handful of one of these in the pan to be treated, then leave the whole panful to stand overnight. The burnt bits should be very easy to clean the next morning (NB Not recommended for enamel pans).
Southernwood, tansy, feverfew and lavender will all keep flies out of the kitchen and larder.
Bottled fruit can be made particularly good by adding extra flavourings to the bottled syrup. Try:
- Elder-flowers with gooseberries.
- Cinnamon sticks and cloves with damsons.
- Grated orange peel and brown sugar with rhubarb.
- Madeira or sweet sherry with plums.
- Currant leaves with the currants, black, white or red.
- A Vanilla pod with apricots.
If the sun shines through the apple trees upon a Christmas Day: When autumn comes they will a load of fruit display.
Snow pancakes: make your usual batter and, just as you are ready to make the pancake, whisk into the batter a handful of snow (made powdery by a hard frost - not damp snow). The pancakes will be particularly light and crisp. (We probably don't get enough snow here to try this out, so it'll be interesting to ask someone who lives in snowier climes.)
If you walk over frosted lawns it kills the grass and you will have a train of brown footprints in the spring.
A green Christmas will make a full churchyard by spring.
* some of these are from Grandmothers' Lore by Simone Sekers (Hoddern & Stoughton).
Lots of ideas for cleaning are at this site: http://www.instructables.com/tag/type-id/category-living/channel-cleaning/
Must try this!!
For cleaning carpets use one part ammonia and one part hot water. Spray this liberally on the stain, lay on a clean white towel on top and iron. Within literally seconds the stain will start to come away - on to the towel.