Working Alongside Some Mennonite Women, Part 3

22 01 2008

My interest continued to grow in helping Rebecca and her family.  The next time I went to help Rebecca, I worked more on the actual washing of clothes.  Rebecca had a large caldron of hot water that she would pour into her wringer washer.  She only used regular detergent sparingly.  Sunday clothes were always washed first.  I kept wondering why she didn’t change the water very often.  This was just part of her trying not  to waste detergent or water.  The last batch of clothes to be washed was always the men’s work clothes.  When we finished washing–Rebecca simply emptied her wringer washer and her rinse buckets onto the floor.  There was a drain for it to run down into the basement. 

This wash room was attached to the house.  She also had another wood burning stove in her wash room.  It was the stove that she started housekeeping with as a young bride.  She called it her summer stove, because in the heat of the summer–cooking in the washroom would not cause the family discomfort.  Her big wood burning stove in her kitchen was her pride.  It was apparently the state of the art in wood burning stoves.  Jake like to talk about about how nice it was to sit near the stove and read on cold winter nights.  The family depended on this stove not only for cooking but also to keep the house warm.  It was their only means of heat.

The layout of their home was interesting.  The front door led into a huge room that was their all purpose room.  They had their large table and chairs .  Furniture was sparce.  They had a bench covered with cushions and one other chair.  The floor was covered with linoleum.  Their kitchen cabinets and sink were rescued out of a house that had being torn down.  There was a large wooden cabinet/desk where Jake kept his farming records and Rebecca kept her cookbooks.

Off to the right of this large room was a small family room.  It had Rebecca’s sewing machine, a small couch and a bookcase.  This room led into Jake and Rebecca’s bedroom.

Upstairs were four nice sized bedrooms.  Off of the washroom was an in door outhouse.  They didn’t have modern plumbing.  This was nice because they didn’t have to go outdoors in the cold of the winter. 

Rebecca or Leah were always up way before breakfast milking the cow.  Rebecca then would begin a process of making a type of cheese similar to cottage cheese.  Some of the milk was kept for drinking and the cream was saved to make butter.  Making butter became one of my chores.  They saw it as a real drain on their time and were more than happy to teach me how to churn the butter.  They didn’t have a churner such as I’ve seen in frontier books.  Instead, they had a very large glass jar with a tip that had a mixer attached to it.  On the outside of the jar was a gadget that I could turn round and round.  Now, they didn’t want me to spend all of my time churning butter.  Thus, I would churn awhile, help with the wash some and also cut up vegetables. 

When the butter was made–Rebecca showed me how to drain the buttermilk off and take the butter and wash it.  I simply ran the butter through several rinse cycles of water and then I would salt it.  Rebecca let me take butter home only once because it was such a precious food item to them.  I did enjoy eating it on their homemade bread.

The only meat this family had was what they killed.  A hunter had given them a deer.  Rebecca canned much of the venison.  She also made a type of sausage from the deer.  The chicken that Maria had beheaded was cooked and canned.  They used this canned meat to make soups.  Leah made a pizza with the canned venison during one of my visits there.  She used their own canned tomato sauce. They topped the pizza with Rebecca’s soft homemade cheese.  They also loved applesauce.  In the fall, they bought apples from a nearby orchard and made about 200 large cans of applesauce.  The applesauce was served at each meal.

I continued to bring them food items that were a luxury to them.  I began shopping at the Mennonite store where they got their monthly supplies from.  This store was in the back of a home.  It was private.  However, Maria’s reputation had reached across the county.  When the store mistress found out I was Maria’s mom–I was more than welcome.  She bought her supplies from a big warehouse out of Pennsylvannia.  The store was stocked with all kinds of goodies that were hard to find in a regular store.  I could also buy large quantities of food.  I bought raisons, dates, dried pineapple , peanut butter and sweet carob chips for my friends.  It was such a joy to see how much they appreciated these food items.

Leah would always made a large batch of cookies with the carob chips.  Often I would help her mix up the cookie dough.  I would spoon the cookies on the baking  trays.  However, I didn’t have a clue how to time cooking them in the wood burning stove.  So Leah or Rebecca always had to time the baking of the  cookies. 

While eating with them, I was a bit afraid to drink their raw milk or well water.  I sipped the water very slowly, consuming very little.  I never told them of my fears.  I hope they never noticed.  Enjoying meals with them was special.  I would tell them about my world.  I also told them stories about substitute teaching.  They were horrified at all the workings of a public school.  This community had a little school house in which one of their people taught the children through the 8th grade. Jake would always remind me that although they had to work a little harder–they were spared of all the monthly bills like mortage payments on homes, utilities, car gas, etc. When Maria was with us–she would debate  with them about their religious beliefs.  She had more guts than I did.  I just left them alone about those kinds of topics. Maria has always liked a good debate and somehow managed not to fall out of the good graces of Jake and Rebecca.

There is still much more to share.  I hope you stay with me.

God bless each of you!




4 responses

22 01 2008

Hello again! I am still so amazed with this lifestyle!! It must feel so satisfying at so many levels 🙂


23 01 2008

These people have strong bonds in their community with each other. Although, they enjoyed me helping them–if need be–they would have found someone in their community to help. I’ll be writing more, hopefully this evening.


20 05 2008

Reading your story brought tears of homesickness to my eyes for my grandmother’s place in Idaho. She had a wringer washer with homemade soap and a clothes line. Then in winter the wood fire was always so homey and inviting in the living room. The people who bought the house from her took out the wood stove then realized you can’t keep it warm evenly with electric heat so had to buy another one but it didn’t work as well as the one she had.

21 05 2008

I’m delighted that you found my blog and enjoyed this series. Your grandmother’s home was the kind of place I would have loved to visit. You are so blessed to have such memories.


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