"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mop Philosophy Monday: 19th Century Edition

 We're just back from a trip to Amherstburg, Ontario, my hometown, which involved a visit to Fort Malden.
Growing up we were frequent visitors to the Fort, it was a great place for bored small-town kids to go kicking around.
As a child I loved visiting the historic buildings which were filled with accessories particular to the 19th century, all of the tools of domesticity used in days past fascinated me.  I loved the look of scrubbed surfaces and rudimentary military organization, the lack of plastic and modern appliances.  It seemed like a simpler, more beautiful world to me.
Need some new socks?  Target didn't exist, you'll have to knit your own.
 Of course I still see the beauty in it but now that I run a household of my own I see the hardship in it as well.


Imagine ironing with this thing!

Gardening wasn't a past-time, it was necessary for survival.
I'd be in trouble!

It looks like the loo but in fact it's a smokehouse.

How about this outfit?
I liked the linen apron very much but the student wearing it said it was hot as anything.

Blue and white.

A teapot?  A water jug?

Neatly rolled bedding, flannel and ticking-stripes.

The bathroom area.  

Pegs for organizing clothes and bags.
 Even though I wouldn't trade in my Miele dishwasher and vacuum cleaner I still find these images so inspirational and soothing.  Everything seems useful and clean, there is a lack of excess and ornamentation which I find calming.
The cookhouse smelled terrific but it was boiling hot.
I would definitely end up crying in this kitchen.
 This week will involve some serious Mop Philosophy:  I've set it aside as a week of de-cluttering and cleaning.  After engaging in normal household routines for the last few months I find the mess creeping back in from the edges of the house: the storage areas, the donate bins and the closets all need an emptying followed by a good scrub.
Simple pottery and wooden surfaces: so attractive.
 I'll be clearing out and scrubbing and maybe I'll be inspired by these images of simpler times which caused so much daydreaming when I was young.
 I have a scrub brush just like this one!  
If you are ever in the Amherstburg area I encourage you to visit Fort Malden.  Parks Canada does an excellent job maintaining the site and they hire students to re-enact the chores and military routines particular to the time.  You can visit the site which lists special events right here.

What are you up to this week?  Are you heading off to holiday or are you at home?  Anyone engaging in a little de-clutter like I am?
Are you equally fascinated by old-time household tools and routines?
Hope all is well in your world no matter what you're up to.
xoxDani

34 comments:

  1. "SIMPLER" TIMES Dani, I love your photos and the idea of more spartan, beautiful but useful choices (the Quakers come to mind.) But I am also a highly practical romantic, happy to live in the 21st century when all your ironing and your hair doesn't have to reek of wooksmoke, you aren't boiling lye for soap, trying to dry sodden wool, or dealing with weevils in the flour etc.

    Mostly, I think our sense of inspiration and the appeal of a bygone era comes from when things were made-for-life, handcrafted, sturdy, even if not always adorned. And there was a real connection between people and what they used, ate, wore. The synergy of purposeful beauty, plus patina and history, which is harder to find in our largely "disposable," plasticized age. Happy scrubbing, don't forget garden breaks, summer is short.

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    1. Forgot to say that part of appeal was probably more "blank" space, room to appreciate the outdoors. Back then things were also automatically curated, used up. We weren't battling with, or dusting, quite as much stuff, unless you had the means to have someone to polish it etc. (Cue Mr. Carson's ancestors, please.)

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    2. GF yes I think it would be preferable to have a Mr. Carson in the "simpler" times!

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  2. I always wonder, simpler times? who for?

    I visited a reconstruction of an early Cajun community just outside of Lafayette, LA, looms, spindles, a spinning wheel, pots on hooks in fireplace, pigs, chickies, duckpond (p.u.), Little House in back of the Little House, candle dipping equipment, skinny horse, early farm tools, preserving equipment, skinning knives, ham hanging in rafters. I was tired even before the explanations.

    But I fell in love with the goofy lady who was listening diligently, snapping everything on her little camera... and finally she asked, "With all these activities, when did they have time to do their jobs?"

    Still cherish the vision of farmer in straw hat sitting on skinny horse on his way to the accounting firm where he's hoping to be made a principal...

    I do not think I would do well at subsistence farming, but I strongly support the rights of others to try it.

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    1. Fred that's pretty funny! Yes it all looks simple to us doesn't it. Farming is incredibly difficult even now, we've been to some events organized by a farm-start organization and so we've witnessed first hand city kids turning to a life of farming, they can't believe how much work it is. No breaks.

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  3. I am sure I could have survived, I would have had to. It wears me out just thinking about how hard that life was, how much work was involved in simply staying alive. I do appreciate the emphasis on having what was necessary. It is easy on the eye, isn't it?

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    1. DF certainly easy on the eye but the work must have been backbreaking and relentless!

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  4. I love this sentence, Dani: "Everything seems useful and clean, there is a lack of excess and ornamentation which I find calming." I wish for my own home to have more of that feeling!

    I also grew up going to historical homes (mostly in Toronto, but across Ontario as well). Now that I've lived elsewhere for a while, I realize that Ontario, and perhaps Canada overall, does an excellent job of maintaining the homes, staffing them, and having them serve an educational purpose. If you want my list of Toronto favourites for future visits, let me know! I sense I have found a kindred spirit in this domain :)

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    1. Abby I'd love to know your Toronto favourites, we tend to go into the city for concerts and theatre but beyond the ROM and AGO don't really do much in the way of tourist stuff. We should!
      I'm going for that feeling in my home too.

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    2. Dani, have you ever been to one of the annual Doors Open Toronto (May 24/25, 2014)? If you have not, think it could be right up your street. I would recommend Gibson House (farmhouse with Georgian exterior, Scottish immigrant who helped map early Toronto and was exiled for a while after 1837 Rebellion). Think you would also really like the restored Victorian and Edwardian gardens at recently re-opened Gibson House (1920s/ Spa)dina Museum (next to Casa Loma.)

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    3. GF that would be a perfect event to see a few things!

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  5. Thanks for the lovely photos! Considering how humid it was, I can bet that student was boiling over in that outfit. I can also see the hardship. Nearly every hour of every day must have been taken up with cooking, cleaning, preparing food and clothes, all the necessities of life. I am happy we have such things as refrigerators, dishwashers and laundry machines. I think the real appeal is the spareness of everything - it is a great inspiration for decluttering, that is for sure! My husband did a major decluttering sweep this past weekend and will do more as the week goes on.

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    1. Louise it was so humid in Amherstburg, there's nothing like it, we don't even approach those levels, though the breeze off the lake is cooling.
      I find these photos really inspirational for de-cluttering, we have so many more things now to make our lives easier, but more cluttered too.
      Well your husband sounds like a darling doing all of that tidying!

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  6. That looks like a lovely spot to visit and reminds me a bit of Kings Landing near here. I like to visit those spots, too, but think of all the work and get kind of ill. Not to mention the whole personal hygiene thing and think of other monthly things that would be hellish! Oh lord, I am off on a tangent! Good look on your organizing and cleaning - I am off to do the same before we leave town!

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    1. WMM yes and the lack of bathing... the lack of deodorant, of course they didn't know any different but if we went back in a time machine we would notice!

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  7. Hi Dani - eek, Wendy makes some good points there!

    What a lovely soothing post! We will be doing some more major de-cluttering this summer when my husband is off work - with a move coming up next year, we need to offload some more stuff.

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    1. Patricia I agree Wendy makes very good points! I owe you an email, we took your advice on a place to stay and it worked out beautifully, we loved it!

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  8. Love this place! I visit Shaker sites, same idea I think, and used to think I could be a Shaker except for the lack of , well, you know. Imagine a household inventory that included everything in the house, every item.

    I need to go do my closet floor...

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    1. Lane it's inspiring but the hardship I am sure we can only imagine. I'm doing closets today too and de-cluttering my daughter's room, kids end up with so much stuff!

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  9. Dani, I can see us both in the outfits back in time scouring together! Mum says her mum ironed with that iron, wow.
    Oh Lane, I was alway drawn to the Shaker life, I would be like a duck to water to it.

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    1. Tis a gift to be simple-- that's us.

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    2. Tabs I can't even stand using my steam iron, can you imagine ironing bed sheets and great long skirts and things with those irons...

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  10. I love exploring places like that too. The work must have been something else though back in the day. Even hearing our parents talk about their ancestors living on the homestead and all the back-breaking work they did makes me cringe!

    Lake Winnipeg was absolutely beautiful last week, every day consisted of hot sunny weather and was very humid. We picked the best week to go to the lake! Now that we're home, Hubs and I are refreshed and ready to tackle some home renos (painting and yardwork)...but enjoy summer too.

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  11. I am always fascinated both by the simplicity and by the attempts at ornamentation- needlework, metal work, carving with local materials. I am so busy,and really would love to have the time for a good clean out now!

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  12. I'm on a constant declutter campaign. We've lived in our house for 20 years and you know what that means---lots of things that need to go. A week or so ago, I spent several days on my closet and made good headway.

    I love these photos you posted today. I've never been to Ontario. But, I also grew up in a small town and know what that is like.

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    1. Susan once a small town girl always a small town girl!

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  13. I love the simplicity and lack of plastic toys! I am always astonished by how much stuff my daughter accumulates and find it in all the nooks and crannies in our house. Before she was born our house was a minimalist beauty. Someday it will be again!

    Besides that incredible manual labor of 100+ years ago, I wouldn't want to go back in time because the civil and human rights progresses of the last couple centuries are priceless. When my grandma used to talk about how specific types of people were treated in the early and mid 1900's she always said she wished she'd been born later. Always a yin with a yang.

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    1. LTee very good point... another reason life was so much more difficult.

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  14. I love looking back in time at pioneer life. We have Fort Calgary and Heritage Park here. The Fort is all about the NWMP that were stationed there. Heritage Park is a whole frontier town with character actors dressed in period clothing. My imagination goes into overdrive when I visit these places. If I am ever near Amherstburg I will definitely stop in to the Fort.

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    1. xoxo I have a big imagination for these places too, and I really did as a kid. You'd like the Burg, the people are very friendly and there are many families which are a combination Canadian-American like ours.

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  15. I have to admit, all the hard work scares me more than the simplicity appeals to me, i have trouble managing in 21st century ;)

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    1. ajc me too with all of our machines and appliances for convenience, it's still a load of work...

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  16. Just back from a simple life camping expedition in the Redwoods in California. I'm finding it hard to readjust to normal life.

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    1. Wally welcome back! I must get to the Redwoods. I bet you did some great cooking despite the simple life, I need to trot over and see if you have a new post.

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