The working title for my next book is something along the lines of ‘How to be a perfect farm wife’, as a sequel to ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?‘. I feel a bit of a fraud though as there is no way I could describe myself as a perfect anything let alone a perfect farm wife. I was going to add ‘the cheater’s guide’ to the end of it but then I decided I’m not even sure if I could cheat at it. ?As you can imagine, it will be in a similar tongue-in-cheek style to the first book.
My darling husband did wonder aloud if I might learn something while I am researching it, that I might pick up some tips so our household could be less chaotic if nothing else – as if wellies inside the back door might magically stack themselves neatly along by the wall and paperwork files itself.
I decided to buy a copy of the The ICA Book of Home & Family?. I’m thinking of joining the ICA this September if I can find a branch nearby that does things like crochet and patchwork. The book promises practical know-how tips and pearls of wisdom from Irish women.
Oh, my goodness. Yes, it is full of useful tips and it has lots and lots of great recipes, there’s no doubt about that. Scrumptious sounding recipes include old favourites such as colcannon and lemon barley water. The barn brack and Kerry apple cake recipes look good too. But I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry reading some of the tips. Some of them were fairly obvious I thought and I was thinking to myself that if I know of these but the fact that they are included in a book, it might mean that I’m not as hopeless as I thought I was (or maybe they were filling space)! Tips like rotating foodstuffs in your freezer so that things don’t get forgotten about at the bottom of a chest freezer or labelling things as you put them in. Now, I know I should do both of those – it doesn’t mean I do them but at least I know the theory. I do slice chicken fillets or beef steaks when partially defrosted as easier to do it that way (for stir frys) so another point for Lorna.
The pack a picnic tips didn’t have any reference to transporting food to a silage field but they have some useful tips nevertheless, for example, the next time I send dinner to the man in the silage harvester, I might remember to sprinkle the boiled potatoes (for a salad) with a little white wine, followed by the dressing – that way they will absorb less oil and will taste better. Or, on the other hand, do I care about the silage man’s waistline and taste buds? Probably not! No, the picnic tips page is for a family picnic rather than a farmer’s picnic I think.
I keep finding recipes for making country butter (and the ICA book has one too) and they are all very similar but none of them tell me what is the easiest way to skim the cream from the raw milk. They tell me to buy cream. ?I want to make it with my own but leaving the milk to stand in a clean and covered bucket and then skimming the cream off the top doesn’t seem as effective as it should be. ?I did make an enquiry to Glanbia about a separator but they thought I wanted an industrial one and quoted me ?1800! ?If you have a useful tip or tool I could use for skimming cream, I’d love to hear it. Unless I skim it off in a similar way to when I did the clotted cream? Answers on a postcard please or just leave in a comment below. I’m going to a wedding party next week and the mother of the bride makes her own butter – maybe I will get a chance to ask her!
Other useful tips including using white bread or coca cola to clean your gold jewellry. I’ve heard a lot of uses for coca cola including using it to clean blood off a motorway but not for gold! ?I find that I’ve surpassed myself on some of the weekly to-do list activities. It recommends spending one meal a week with the family. One! In Ireland? What do people do for the other meals – breakfast, lunch and tea on farms or surely even the evening meal in other occupations. We share 20 out of 21 meals together in a week(and some weeks, it is 21) so bonus points to Lorna for that one. However, dusting surfaces on a weekly basis – I fail miserably. I wait till the children write something in the dust and then I feel forced to rub them out! ?Hoover carpets weekly – yep, twice or thrice downstairs or daily when the children were small. Another bonus point do you think?
The monthly to do list recommends washing the washing machine once a month. Hmmm, wash what part of it exactly? I do remove bits from the rubber ring sometimes – I could find receipts, fence staples, money, twine, bits of straw, blue tissue from the milking parlour. Having read the book though, I now know I should be rinsing the empty machine with white distilled vinegar occasionally. And to think, I thought that vinegar was just for chips and washing windows.
It also has tips for ironing, for using the tumble dryer (tennis balls will make your towels fluffier – who knew?) and for hanging clothes on the line. I was amused by the inclusion of the care of the tumble dryer as after all, Irish women have a fixation with hanging clothes on the line and judging weather by whether it is good for drying clothes or not! One tip I had heard of (but have never used) is to fold up the duvet cover in the pillowcase when putting them in the cupboard or hotpress, then you’ll never have mismatched bedlinen.
The tip that really made me laugh was the suggestion to add a few drops of essential oils to the filter in my vacuum cleaner to scent the room as you clean. I am definitely going to try this. ?I have a Nilfisk hoover with huge hoover bags. Where I bought it from offers a repair service on Nilfisk hoovers. I tend to kill vacuum cleaners, they last about three years max. I’ve no idea why but they just don’t seem to like me. My daughter was hoovering one day and the smoke alarm went off. I went running into the living room to find the hoover had stopped working and smoke was coming from it. I’m not sure whether she inadvertedly hoovered up a spark from the fire and it sent fire to something in the dust bag or whether the bag was so full it decided to combust but now whenever I hoover (it’s still working perfectly by the way), a very smoky smell permeates the house so some essential oils just might work. I can never do an emergency hoover if someone rings to say they are calling over as I reckon the burnt smell would be more noticeable than a carpet that needs a hoover. Okay, Lorna fails on this one!
Do you have any burnt saucepans? Erm, I do. Apparently, steeping the saucepan in a solution of water and salt and then bringing it slowly to the boil will shift the burnt bits – I will test it and let you know!
There are some great memories ensconced in the tips. One lady recalls covering her children’s school books with the brown paper that’s on the inside of farm feedstuff bags and apparently the books smelt of the feedstuff for weeks. And my children think I embarrass them occasionally! My mum did use left over wallpaper alright – very tame in comparison. It really is a treasure trove for memories from a couple of generations.
The tip that left me wondering whether to laugh or cry was the one on the opening page on ‘making your house a home’. If you polish your light bulbs, they will give off better light but if you rub in some of your favourite perfume or essential oils, they will give off a pleasant scent when they are switched on. Do people polish light bulbs? I know they last longer nowadays but ……… ?I think my darling husband would think a changeling had inherited my body if all the light bulbs in a room worked, let alone if they were polished and gave off a perfumed smell. Okay, Lorna serious fail but please let me know if you do this. I really don’t know whether to admire people who do this or wonder that surely there’s more useful things to do in society.
So tell me – did you know the various uses of coca cola and vinegar? Do you clean your washing machine every month? Do you know how to remove burnt foodstuffs from saucepans? Do you polish lightbulbs? Do you rotate your food in the freezer? Have you ever said that the dinner the next day will be pot luck depending on what it is when it defrosts (although don’t do what a friend of mine did – she defrosted her placenta – she had frozen it after the home birth as she was intending to plant it under a newly planted tree for the child). How many points would you score?
It’s a great book for tips, recipes and memories but my recommendation is to take it all with a liberal pinch of salt. If you try to follow all of the tips, polishing lightbulbs included, you just might combust or you won’t get a chance to do anything else.
It did give me one idea for my own book though – I’ll definitely be including tips on how to pack a farming picnic!