One for the Ladies: Suburban Housewife Fail

The following is a rebellion against the modern structure of suburbia. It was originally written in 2012 as a long rant, and is first published here with editing. This article relies heavily on stereotypes, because I lived those stereotypes for so many years. Oh, and the above woman is not me, but isn’t she adorably retro?

Doing housework all day can be a drudgery, but many housecleaners I know really enjoy what they do because they get the variety of different homes every day and can see the value they bring. Dusting the same tables day after day and ironing tablecloths is a shame and total waste of time. However, the idea that being a wife and mother is the problem is a false leap in logic.

Being a wife and mother can be incredibly satisfying, but the current suburban housewife model is very artificial and suffers because the law of “form follows function” has not been observed. An artificial illusion is created whereby the husband (often with a wife’s encouragement) wants the largest home they can possibly afford with a 30-year mortgage. Then the husband proceeds to work longer and longer hours due to the pressure of that mortgage and the wife effectively becomes the ‘maid of the manor’ because constant maintenance is required to keep up appearances that the family is rich. All the other neighbors are doing the same thing, so husband and wife assume this is correct and ‘go with it’ while having several children who also treat mom as a maid and dad as a taxi driver and ATM.

We have become a nation of maids and maintenance men in order to keep up this artificial facade.

Perhaps 50-100 years ago we had a more logical set-up:

The mother, as a “Family Manager” trained each new ‘associate’ how to do small tasks in line with their physical and mental abilities, enabling them to become more and more satisfied with their contributions to the family. The wife, also organized the household not as a show piece to impress strangers, but as a mini-farm where organic food is raised for improved health and to save money. Today the financial value of a stay-at-home mother who just performs the ‘façade’ function is well documented as very financially beneficial due to the cost of child care, but the emotional cost is draining. However, the Mini-Farm Model is a win-win-win situation on the financial health, “job satisfaction” (mental health), and physical health benefit front. If a wife chooses to involve her husband it can strengthen the marriage and give the couple common goals and points of interest, but she was/is free to take the lead and direct that area of the family. If the children are taught new skills and responsibilities along the way, then it may become clear to a new generation why our great-great-grandmothers loved their jobs as ‘house wives’. The deeper we look, the more we will realize the term never applied to that generation in the first place.

If you read “Farmer Boy” from the Little House on the Prairie series you will see the role a mother played in the financial well-being of the family along with all the other things she did. One of my favorite quotes from the book is Laura Ingalls’ husband speaking about his mother making so much money from her superior butter, “I was so proud of her”. Really warms the heart. There is something to be said for tangible work and concrete results that a family can actually hold in their hands.

Like many of our Great-Great-Grandmother’s, Almanzo’s mother was quite capable in all the areas. She did interesting and useful things like weaving the family tweed even though she dropped a few of her past activities: “Mother didn’t card her own wool any more, since there was a machine that did it on shares. But she dyed it. Alice and Eliza Jane were gathering roots and barks in the woods, and Royal was building huge bonfires in the yard. They boiled the roots and the bark in big caldrons over the fires, and they dipped the long skeins of wool thread that Mother had spun, and lifted them” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

In 2011 I was a ‘façade housewife’ that felt like a bored Chihuahua…trembling with fear that I might mess up some insignificant detail while maintaining a uncomfortable illusion. Our great grandmothers where like powerful Alaskan Malamutes that knew their worth, had goals and loved the freedom of ‘getting after it’. I hope to someday achieve that level of intense confidence.

Today (2012) I’m working through the process of turning over the most repetitive housework tasks to my growing children. The tasks that bore me are a challenge for them and the few dollars that they earn help the kids learn to save money, give and spend on things of value. Every onion and asparagus I plant between the roses is my little statement that the façade is crumbling. My husband may not concede to a dairy goat in the three-car garage, but the garden will expand and the children will learn more useful skills and will train their taste buds to distinguish between a garden tomato and grocery store one. In just the first year of gardening, I caught the kids eating the cherry tomatoes off the vine just an hour before I could harvest them for salads. Oh well….wasn’t that the point in the first place?

Any human deprived of work that actually contributes will become dissatisfied, so go ahead and deride the modern housewife façade. Don’t assume that being a drone at someone else’s company will fill all your needs. We are incredibly complex. Maybe it’s time for we ladies to take control of our lovely homes and turn them into Fine Little Farms.

One last quote from that great book Farmer Boy:

“A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather. If you’re a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber. You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come. You’ll be free and independent, son, on a farm.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder, quote from Farmer Boy

Originally written 9/17/2012. Edited 2021.

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How To Fix a Broken Aloe Vera

There are lots of articles about how to use Aloe and how to propagate more plants, but I’ve yet to find how to rehab one. I’ve killed my share in the past, and I want to learn the secrets. It would be special to give my grandkids the aloe my mom and dad used when I was a kid. I need to quit messing up so much before risking another one of my dad’s original ones.

I’ve already killed three aloes from my mom and one from the local garden club. I picked the latest one up at a big-box store so no one would give me that disappointed look when they asked how it was doing. It was growing fine all summer. It had survived the early Spring inside, slowly been adjusted to direct sunlight while the Greenhouse was being built over the summer and then moved into a 5 gallon pot the morning I broke my leg. Then I forgot about it completely. It grew very large in direct summer sun.

The week before Thanksgiving, fall frosts began to kill back the tomatoes and the aloe began to succumb. The bright green spears where turning dark, limp, even mushy where they had frozen overnight and burst open the cell walls. I had already pulled the Rosemary out of it’s pot and threw it into a bag. Grabbing the Aloe and yanking it by the stem wasn’t an option, so I thought I would tip it out of it’s pot. I misjudged and the whole plant slipped out with a sickening ‘crunch’….three feet from where I broke my leg. Hope my garden isn’t bad luck!

All the major spears where broken in various ways. I had remembered that as a kid the plant wanted to heal straight across cuts. In other words, the spear always ‘died back’ to the point of damage closest to the base. So I trimmed all the damaged spears straight across with a butter knife.

Day 1-November 20

My dad always made a point to only harvest one spear at a time. He wouldn’t break a tip off this one, then break a tip off that one. My dad was a regular user of Aloe for cuts and burns, so the spike he chose would eventually be completely used up. I just thought Dad was tidy.

Day 3-November 23

When the broken edges began to dry up I wasn’t concerned. When they began to seal shut on their own I thought that would be the end of it.

Day 5-November 25

When the edges turned pink I figured it was close to being done. The assumption was that each broken spear would stay plump and we could just harvest them the next sunburn that came along.

Day 11 – December 1

It turns out, that any damaged spike continues to die back to the base until it dries up and falls off. I could have saved myself two repottings by simply trimming off all the damaged spikes the day I crunched it.

Day 19- December 9

Within 20 days it was obvious that all the broken spears would slowly dry up and rot off. Another 4 weeks went by to get photos to prove the theory.

Day 47-January 6

Before repotting for the third time, every damaged spear had to be trimmed off. This time I used a paring knife to get a closer trim near the stem/root.

The Aloe had to be set nearly 4 inches deeper than it had grown in the full sun of the garden after all the damaged spears were removed.

The only undamaged spears from the original “crunch” are now gangly and unbalanced.

The roots of this Aloe are shallow and sparse. Four inches of space had to be found so it could be planted deeper, so as much dirt (clay) as possible had to be removed. While teasing the clay out of the roots I discovered two earthworms.

There is no male/female with earthworms, so it only takes two to start making babies. The Aloe will be moved back to the farm in 3 months, so it isn’t a problem to have them live rent free for awhile. I put the breeding pair together and added some coffee grounds as food. That should hold them for a while based on what I’ve read about vermiculture.

Simply splitting open the aloe and using a butter knife to cut the gel free from the skin in one long and wide ‘fillet’ makes it easy to stack Aloe into a zip-lock bag and freeze it for future use. Aloe ‘fillets’ freeze well and give soothing relief from sunburn or acne breakout.

The Mayo Clinic recognizes topical sunburn, acne and psoriasis uses for Aloe, but warns against ingesting it in it’s ‘unprocessed’ form because it damages the kidneys. My dad ended up on dialysis the last years of his life, so the fact he drank Aloe Juice may have been a contributing factor.

Our doctor recommended a processed Aloe pill for my husband, but you aren’t supposed to use it every day. I’ve included the directions and warnings here. I’m not a doctor of medicine and this isn’t medical advice. All I can say is my husband likes this and it works when other products haven’t.

The new growth will come from the center and in time the Aloe will fill out. Next year the Aloe will start in the greenhouse even before frosts are over. It should grow very large by next winter after a summer of sun at the farm.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Update: Best Homemade Flytrap – DIY Bait Comparisons Side-by-Side Indoor Test

Couldn’t resist this photo of a lovely Venus Fly Trap, even though they are no where near as practical and fast as the fly trap baits we are going to compare today. Especially since they only eat one fly/prey every other week and after 3-5 captures the trap stays shut until it falls off. Neat, but not enough for real fly problems.

November of 2020 my new greenhouse was attacked on a biblical scale by house/barn flies, so I desperately created several bottle traps (visit that post here), and in the process accidentally created a side-by-side experiment. Now, 3 months later I can tell you hands down, the winner was the sugar and yeast mix. That is great news because the sugar and yeast mix is the cheapest mix for me because I buy yeast by the glass jar instead of by the envelope. If you really want to save, a pound costs about the same as a 4 oz jar. The sugar/yeast lure is also the easiest to mix up because I can put the dry ingredients together in my tool bag and mix it with stored water when I get to the greenhouse…I don’t have to worry about spilling vinegar along the way to the greenhouse. It is convenient because it keeps my yeast fresher (sometimes I get too busy to bake) even though the yeast is stored in the fridge using it up faster means fresher yeast for the next loaf of bread.

Lastly, the nasty dead flies and the yeast/sugar bait can go straight into the center of the compost bin. The sugar and yeast give a big boost to the compost pile and kick-start activity. In contrast, when I put the used vinegar bait into the compost bin, we add them to the edge of the compost. Even though we want the flies to be thouroughly composted (to destroy any bad bacteria they carried), we also want to keep the vinegar away from the center of the pile to avoid affecting the wild earth worm population that is busy there. By not using any bait with vinegar I can avoid the vinegar/worm conflict and instead have a compost booster.

You catch more flies with Sugar than Vinegar.

My Mom Talking About Boys

As a recap, the three lures were:

  • Left: 1 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 cup of Sugar and 1/2 cup of water
  • Middle: 1 cup of Sugar, 1 teaspoon of Baker’s Yeast, 1 cup of Water
  • Right: 1 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 teaspoon of Dish Soap

It may appear that the left lure was a tie for the win, but that lure was mixed up 4 days before the Sugar and Yeast Bait. It had been somewhat effective on it’s own, but as soon as the Sugar/Yeast lure was set out, Sugar/Yeast quickly overtook the head start the Vinegar/Sugar bait had and stayed ahead. The mixture on the Right is the common lure used for household fruit flies that I’ve used about a dozen times to great success. I can only say that it didn’t appeal to my barn flies/black flies and I might even mix up this Sugar/Yeast Bait next time my kitchen bananas are attacked by nates to test it out.

To further test the lures, the Vinegar and dish soap lure (Old Left Lure) was dumped out, the trap rinsed well, and a second Sugar/Yeast Lure added (New Left Lure) to see if the passage of time made the bait more or less effective. It was a little hassle to un-tape the trap and re-tape it, so I am eyeing a nice hanging trap like this one. The greenhouse temps are reaching 70 degrees on sunny days in early March, so we should have some results soon.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.