We haven’t been in our tiny home for long. But already, rustic living conditions are opening my eyes. I’m beginning to understand the pioneer woman in a new way. As my eyes are opened, my respect deepens.
You see, I’ve been thinking about women of the frontier because I had a crash course just before making the move to our little farmstead.
A Crash Course on the Frontier
When we were packing up our rental home for the big move, I needed a distraction, something to get my mind off of how bone-weary I was. I found several Laura Ingalls audio books online and proceeded to occupy my ears while I worked.
While packing up the cold room, I listened to stories of Indians, buffalo wolves and Mr Edwards.
As the living room boxes filled up, I found myself experiencing the wild, untamed west with Laura “By the Shores of Silver Lake.”
And I felt the family’s struggle to survive in “The Hard Winter” as I clean windows and mopped floors.
And then? My packing was done, and I suddenly realized when the moving chaos was over, I would be heading into a (mildly) similar situation!
Seems I’ve been in it ever since the last box found it’s way to storage.
Oh, I don’t have the hardships of -40 winters, of food shortages and prairie blizzards. And though my tiny, 8×12 home doesn’t have indoor plumbing, it’s snug and well built, is always toasty and warm with it’s electric light and heat.
But now that I’m living in such a tiny, rustic space, I begin to understand the pioneer women in a new way. Here is what I’ve learned.
Lesson 1: Household Order Was Necessary
The pioneer woman was the keeper of the home. I’ve always wondered at her faithfulness with daily routines. Beds were made every morning, the dishes were done after every meal and floors were swept (at least) once a day.
Household order seemed to be as intuitive as breathing and eating.
Since moving into a small space, I suddenly understand why.
When living in a tiny home, you can’t let the dishes sit for a day, or you won’t have room to fix the next meal. Leaving your bed unkempt means you can’t comfortably sit on it…and it might be the only place to sit. If your dirty clothes remain on the floor, it means you’ll have to walk on them to move about.
There simply isn’t space for disorder. Keeping an immaculate home was a matter of pride for women of old, yes. But it was also a matter of maintaining their sanity.
Now, I get it!
Lesson 2: Meal Planning Was Important
The pioneer women were meal planners in the simplest sense of the title. With whole food ingredients and wood stoves (or open campfires), they couldn’t pop out a full meal in 20 minutes.
They were always planning ahead, preparing sourdough starters and setting bread sponges. And there were beans to soak for the next day’s meal and tough cuts of meat to be slowly simmered until tender.
Cooking took time and these women had to adjust to their reality.
I understand it now. Living without an oven and cooking solely from scratch, I meal plan not because it makes things easier or because it saves money. I plan because if I don’t, we won’t eat. It’s as simple as that!
Lesson 3: The Place of Handwork and Reading
Pioneer women did their own sewing. We also know they excelled at other types of handwork: knitting, crocheting, embroidering and the like.
Reading was also a big part of life.
As a gal who loves the outdoors and activity, it always seemed like a boring existence to me. Why sit and sew if you could be doing something else?
But when the cold and snow drove me inside and there wasn’t space to move about, I needed “sitting activities.” I’ve never cared for crocheting. But since moving into a tiny home, I’ve actually taken it up again. And learned to knit. And am working to improve my hand sewing.
Suddenly, I understand!
Lesson 4: A Desire to Look Pretty
Pioneer women were still women. They cared about their appearance, to an extent that always amazed me. Even when living in primitive conditions, they still had one ear in tune to the styles of the east!
I readily confess I never understood it. Why would “poor” folks bother with extra expenses? Like hoop skirts and the extra material it took cover them? Why keep up with the latest styles if you didn’t have to?
However, after moving out to our farmstead, I find an interesting change taking place.
I’m discovering there’s something about living in rustic conditions that makes a girl want to spruce herself up.
Somehow, beautifying myself makes me feel that I’m more than a by-product of my rugged living situation. There’s more to me than the smell of cooking and sweat, than the tough skin and callouses brought on by hard work! There’s a living, breathing, beauty-loving woman under the roughness and dressing up is acknowledgment of that important fact.
I’m no longer amused at the pioneer woman’s desire to beautify herself. Because I get it.
Minus the corset, that is!
Lesson 5: The Need for Music
Longer ago, everyone sang. Music was a way of passing time, capable of giving pleasure to the listener and the musician. It was a way of breaking the great silence that was always present. And it was a wholesome way to escape the reality of the moment, like a breath of fresh air.
We haven’t been here long, but already, I’m feeling the need for something in my ears besides the silence. I want to forget myself for just a moment or two. Find something outside of myself that has expression. And music seems to be the natural choice.
Good thing we brought my fiddle!
I’m Beginning to Understand the Pioneer Women
As time and experience unfold, I find myself better understanding women of the past, these brave souls who helped settle and tame the land in their own way. And as my experience deepens, so does my respect.