Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
My grandmother Esther was a notable farm wife. She raised 8 children, including two with physical challenges, on a small dairy farm in the middle of Wisconsin. She was capable, hardworking, cheerful, and productive. She was also seldom idle, but rarely was she not relaxed. We can learn from her methods for productivity.
Grandma knew the value of single tasking. Not only was it easier for her to remember what she was doing, but in some cases it was necessary for health to single task.
When Grandma went out to collect the eggs, she only collected the eggs. When she washed her hands and moved onto the next task. By not mixing the chicken-tending with other tasks, she prevented people from getting sick from anything the chickens might pass on (such as salmonella).
Grandma also knew that by devoting her attention to a single task, she wouldn’t leave any steps out. This is important when you are canning your own food – forget a step and lots of people can become very ill.
Grandma had certain days set aside for certain tasks. She would do the wash on one day, the ironing the next; she would bake on certain days and get all the baking done for the week. Certain times of the year brought other types of tasks: August was the peak of the harvest and canning season; spring and summer were gardening times. Winter was reserved for handcrafts.
Grandma knew that by putting tasks that required effort together, she would save time overall. For instance, baking meant firing up the wood stove to a certain temperature. By doing all the baking on one day, she would only need to heat up the kitchen one day a week.
Batching also meant that more could be produced at one time, effectively lowering the effort per item. Making 8 loaves of bread at once is little more effort than making 1, and saves the effort and cleanup of doing a single loaf 8 times.
Complete What You Can
Grandma didn’t always complete projects at once. She loved to crochet rugs out of strips of colorful rags. These rugs take time to make, though, and it wasn’t possible to work on the rugs when there was other work that needed to be done. So she worked on the rugs when she had a free moment here and there, and produced some beautiful items in her free time.
Make Use Of What Is On Hand
Grandma knew that she needed to use up what was on hand so it didn’t go to waste. At the same time, she also didn’t want to use too much of things she had to purchase, because money was scarce.
Her recipe book is a testament to her methods of doing this. Most of her cakes call for 9 to 12 eggs. These were plentiful on the farm and saved the eggs from having to go to the pigs. Sugar was purchased and consequently used sparingly, so the baked goods were not overly sweet, but more rich from the eggs.
There Is No Shame In Not Upgrading
Grandma was frugal, and she knew the value in keeping what she had. New-fangled inventions were purchased sparingly. My father was almost out of high school before the farm had a flush toilet. The cost and alterations to make a bathroom were such that she preferred to keep the outhouse. In fact, it was more for convenience for my wheelchair-bound aunt that the bathroom was installed at all.
Backups Make Sense
Of course, once the plumbing was installed, Grandma insisted on keeping the outhouse around for a few years as a backup. Pipes and sewage fields can and do freeze in rural Wisconsin, and In fact, they didn’t get rid of it until it was time to dig a new one. She always had backups; her oil lamps were kept in an accessible location should the electricity fail, and she always had food on hand to make a meal, even through the worst of storms.
Grandma knew how to live a simple life and make the most of her time and efforts.
What can you learn from your grandparents (or great-grandparents) and their way of life? Share below.
Photo by roger4336. I wish this was a picture of my grandparent’s farm, but alas, pictures of my grandparents and the homestead have disappeared.