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!
M T McGuire
PS, I’m going to have giggle backs about the placenta for weeks. Oh my lord, placenta stew…. yeeek! Still, nobody was going to have to eat it so at least she could pop it back in the freezer again without guilt.
MT, Lorna didn’t say what happened to it when it was defrosted. You are assuming …
As far as I remember, they went out and bought a tree and did the tree planting the next day 🙂 I don’t know if they had a meat-free dinner that day or went out for dinner 😉
M T McGuire
Mwah hahahargh! Anyone who has time to polish a light bulb needs to get out more. That said, I could imagine spraying mine with polish so the smell of beeswax permeates the house and fools visitors into believing I’ve done some housework. Phnark.
I’ve done that too – partly too to hide the smell of cleaning fluid I used hurriedly in the bathroom. I’m sure my house was a lot cleaner before I started blogging and tweeting 😉
I can remember a friend with 4 young kids saying to me that she hated not being able to offer visitors a cup of tea (visitors who just popped in) but she didn’t want them to have a cuppa and then need to visit the bathroom as she wasn’t sure what state it was in!!
Yep I do none of that! I do put a box of Epsom salts through when I remember. My machine wouldn’t pump out and I thought I’d killed it! I decided to try a box of salts and not only did it start pumping again, the $5 that had blocked it popped out!
I use vinegar to lift burnt off the bottom of my pots and pans. Soak using vinegar overnight,pour all but a tablespoon out then add 1/4c bicarb soda and scrub gently.
I also use vinegar in place of fabric softener in my washing machine.
Other than that, I fail too!
Thanks for the heads up. Now I know!
I put salt and water in the saucepan this morning – will try your method for the next one! I was cooking up some potato peelings for the hens a while ago and totally forgot about it – it was simmering away with no water for ages!
I would have thought the clothes would then have smelt of vinegar – but no?
It’s a great book but you have to read it with humour in your mind for some of it or you’d feel a complete failure – well, that’s my take on it.
When we were in scholl we used to rear a lot of bucket fed calves. so our school books were always covered with the brown paper from the inside of the bags. They smelled of Golden Maverick for weeks!
Lovely! ;0) Gosh, do you remember when Maverick and Nilverm were advertised heavily on TV? Those were the days!
I was nodding sagely and smiling ruefully at these tips (actually, very little nodding going on), but I now can’t remember any of them as all I’ve got in my head is ‘she defrosted her placenta’. :-O Will read again when I’ve got over this – definitely need the bit about the burnt saucepan, whatever it was.
I just thought of that when I was writing about the freezer and thought I’d pop it in. It was her 4th child so I suppose she was more relaxed about it and also with 4 young kids, it had taken her longer to get around to organising the purchase and planting of a tree for him with the placenta to be placed under the tree! 😉
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