Monday, December 5, 2011

Life on the frontier

Thursday, I was a pioneer woman.

Or at least as close to one as I’ll ever be.

First, I arose before daylight to get my daughter off to school. I usually poke up the fire in the woodstove at this point, but with pleasant weather we haven’t needed the heat. I prepared a nutritious breakfast (frozen waffle) and filled her lunch pail (a purple plaid insulated bag). We saddled up our ride (SUV) and rode off to school, eight miles away.

When I returned to the homestead, the chickens needed tending. Usually this is the husband’s job, but he was not available this day. I fed and watered them, then discovered a dead chicken in the coop. After examining it for cause of death – undetermined – I tossed it out in the woods. Returning to the coop, I gathered four brown and green eggs, and trudged back up the hill to the house.

Death is part of life here on the frontier. This chicken was one of our meat birds, however, so I was unhappy about losing the investment.

Next, I consulted with the well digger (more on that in a later post).

Time to bake bread! Can you see me, leaning over a floured board with sleeves rolled up, wearing a white apron, hair in a messy bun, sweat beading my brow as I vigorously knead dough? Oh wait, that wasn’t me. I made pumpkin bread – no kneading required.

My bones and rheumatism told me that rain followed by cold were imminent (those and the local weatherman), so I tied my bootlaces, left the bread baking and ventured forth to gather firewood. We don’t own a mule or horse, despite living in Texas. I really, really wish I could fashion a harness for Iris the dog to help drag loads. Short of these options, I was reduced to using the wheelbarrow. I did not have to cut or split the firewood (though I have wielded an ax before – scary, I know), just trundle my barrow out to the piles located here and there, load up, then return and stack logs on the wood rack.

At one point, logs and brush piles sited to slow water run-off distracted me. I moved a few logs around . . .

. . . only to arrive back at the house and find I had come perilously close to burning the bread.  I rescued it in the nick of time. Just a little burn smell tinged the pumpkin bread fragrance. It dissipated quickly. No one will notice.

Lunchtime. And naptime. And a Facebook check. What? Pioneer women didn’t have Facebook? Lord, they were deprived.

Next, I needed to plant vegetable seeds in the garden before the aforementioned rain fell.  I gathered my gloves and seed packets, collected one of my buckets of worm dirt, and followed the path to the vegetable garden. Usually this is my husband’s domain, also.  This day, Pioneer Woman was in charge.

I turned the soil, pulling out weeds and mixing in dried chicken poop and worm dirt. I carefully placed seeds for mixed lettuce greens, spinach, turnips and Swiss chard. I offered a benediction over the garden, something like this:  “Please grow. Rain’s coming. Good luck.”

In the middle of planting, I saddled the SUV again, retrieved my daughter from school and fed her a picnic supper, and delivered her to an evening commitment.

Final chore of the day was to prepare a home-cooked meal for my hard-working husband who had been out laboring in the fields all day. Or maybe he was riding on an airplane, returning from a business trip. On the menu:  turkey tenderloin topped with pecans, sautéed spinach and salad. Welcome home, honey!

My day of pioneering was fun. When I imagine doing all that and much, much more in a long skirt and bonnet, with no electric appliances, grocery stores, neighbors, gas-powered transportation or indoor bathrooms – jumpin’ Jehosaphat. I’m happy to be a pioneer woman on my own terms, assisted by modern conveniences.

Favorite spot in the garden:

A prior resident planted this Moses’ boat (Tradescantia spathacea, I think!) in small beds under trees, and they are flourishing with no attention from me. They have been doing well with our recent rains, but their days are numbered as surely a freeze is near.

Other names for this beauty are Moses-in-a-boat, Moses-in-a-basket, boatlily or oyster plant. According to Dave's Garden,  it is invasive in Florida, and contact with leaves can cause an allergic reaction.


  1. Cute post! I feel sorry for the women of long ago, too. They were made of strong stuff. Planting vegetables now? I have been lamenting that I hadn't planted kale and spinach yet - I thought the ground would be too cold now. But most of my garden will freeze this coming week (if the forecasts are right), so I just may throw some seeds in there!

  2. @HG, Well, it might not work! Hadn't thought of the cold ground aspect. We had not planned on planting, but with the continuing little rain showers, we couldn't stand it any longer. We shall see what happens!

  3. Haha....good post.
    When I was a kid, I thought it would have been so much fun to live in 'old timey days'. I now know better. But, it's still fun to do a little pioneering, now and then.
    Stay warm....

  4. I've reached the end of your post and I am exhausted. I appreciate your sharing a day in your life -- I'm not so sure I would want to trade places, but I would love to lend a hand. Cheers!

  5. @Linda - I think that's the "Little House" syndrome . . .

    @NGDM - Believe me, I don't usually work that hard. In fact, I've come to believe I'm getting rather lazy as I age. But you're welcome to come on over and chop some wood!

  6. Love those water droplets on the Tradescantia!

  7. Yeah, I don't think mom (Cynthia Pickens) would survive without her FACEBOOK!!!! (she lives on that thing.AS IF!!!)