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Pioneer Household Work

In Alix, Alberta, lye soap making, Pioneer Farming, pioneer food preservation, pioneer household work on May 5, 2021 at 2:57 AM

From “The Pemberton Story – “Things I Remember”- by Ella Jane Jewell

Gleanings After Pioneers and Progress, Alix-Clive Historical Club, 1981

Soap Making

Pioneer wives were too busy to waste time feeling sorry for themselves.  One of their duties was soap making. Any kind of fat would make soap.  Some people used canned lye, but if they didn’t have any, they stirred wood ashes in a wooden barrel of rain water, and after setting for a time the water was the same as the water containing lye.  The fat and lye water were boiled together.  I don’t know if they used a recipe or if they just made it. If not boiled enough, it would just take a longer period of time to harden and cure.  I remember it took a lot of stirring as it boiled over quickly.  When the boiling process was done the soap was poured, after cooling a bit, into a wooden box lined with cloth.  After a few days it was cut into bars and stored for future use with the old corrugated washboard. It was hard on hands, but it turned out clean white clothes.

Making Jelly Glasses

One warm summer day I watched Mom make jelly glasses from empty bottles.  Dad had picked them up from the railroad camp.  String soaked in coal oil was tied around them and lit with a match, and as soon as the fire burned around it, the bottle was dropped into a tub of cold water.  Most of them broke off neatly and were used for years.  Of course, care was needed to wash and dry them, but Mom did that herself.  We were trusted with the other dishes, and any little girl old enough to stand on a chair by the table was old enough to help.

Canning and Drying Food

Before Mom had sealers for canning, they dried saskatoons. They were tough and seedy, but people boiled them; discarded the berries, and used the juice. Dried peaches and prunes could be bought, but usually only a couple of trips were made to town in a year, and several days were needed for the long trip to Lacombe.  Money was scarce and saskatoons were plentiful, so pioneers used whatever was available.

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