I am currently working on a family history project, culminating with a book that includes genealogy, photos, and oral stories of our ancestors. To that end, I am spending almost three weeks in Virginia, gathering stories from family members.
One highlight so far has been visiting with my great aunts, Lois Jean and Dorcas Elaine. My grandmother had eight sisters who survived to adulthood, and Lois and Dorcas are the youngest. (Granny died in 1998.)
Lois Jean insisted on having refreshments for my mom and I during our visit. She made Butterscotch Pie from Granny’s recipe. The pie was heavenly, and reminded me of all the yummy things Granny made when we came to visit. My favorite was her canned grape juice… she had to teach me moderation with that!
Another special treat this afternoon was Fried Dried Apple Pies. Lois Jean related that her mother dehydrated apples each year and saved them for winter. Then she would reconstitute them and fry pies with them the next day. I remember these delicious confections from gatherings with another one of Granny’s sisters, Aunt Pearl.
I had fun admiring Lois Jean’s strawberry collection, and Dorcas Elaine’s dolls. In fact, there were many items to admire in their house. However there was one item that completely blew me away: a crocheted doily made from feed sack ravelings. Ravelings are the white strings that you pull from the top of a feed sack to open it. In other words… trash. Yet, my great-grandmother took these bits of string and made something beautiful out of them. It must have taken quite a few sacks to have enough string for the doily, and Lois Jean said that there must be knots all the way through it, but I couldn’t see or feel any.
In April, we visited a Goat Farm in North Carolina, and bought a fun re-usable bag made from half of a feed sack for pigs. I thought that it was very clever and a good re-use of something normally thrown away. (We have greatly enjoyed using that bag for grocery store visits!) However, it would never occur to me to make something out of the small string that holds the sacks together!
I suppose that this is the kind of thing that many frugal homemakers did during earlier time periods. Still, it seems incredibly creative, and a tangible glimpse into the woman my great-grandmother must have been. I never got to meet her in person, but I do aspire to be like her… I want to bring beauty to those around me through ordinary things.