On Walkabout to See What's Out There

Learn Something Old

By: BriarCraft, 11:49 PM GMT on January 23, 2013

Sometimes we get so focused on what's new that we forget the old. It's old, after all. What good can it be? There's something better now to replace it. Right?

Our ancestors often had to make do. They were resourceful, making the most of what they had. A lot of the things they did aren't really practical for us to do today. Who among us wants to make our own leather or make our own soap? No way. On the other hand, we aren't the only ones to want simple solutions to common problems. Those who came before us had some good, practical ideas, too. We've replaced many of those with new inventions. Some better. Others, not really.

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to learn something new at least once a week. I enjoy learning, and I don't limit my idea of learning to textbooks. Learning can happen just about anywhere, any time, on any subject.

I'm lucky enough to have two old books loaded with tips and recipes for other things besides food. The "White House Cook Book" was copyrighted in 1887 and reprinted in 1903. Fannie Merritt Farmer's "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" was copyrighted in 1911.

Looking through these old books has gotten me started on a new quest to learn some old things that are worth knowing today. There are old treasures to be found in newer books and on the internet, as well. Seems like a fun way to spend a cold, wet winter afternoon. Care to join me?

Here are a few old treasures for starters:

Incombustible Dresses
By putting an ounce of alum in the last water in which muslins or cottons are rinsed, they will be rendered almost unimflammable; or, at least, will with difficulty take the fire, and if they do, will burn without flame. Remember this, and save the lives of your children.

To Preserve Brooms
Dip them for a minute or two in a kettle of boiling suds once a week and they will last much longer, making them tough and pliable.

To Take White Spots from Varnished Furniture
Hold a hot stove lid or plate over them and they will soon disappear.

Troublesome Ants
A heavy chalk mark laid a finger's distance from your sugar box and all around (there must be no space not covered) will surely prevent ants from troubling.

To Prevent the Odor of Boiling Ham or Cabbage
Throw red pepper pods or a few bits of charcoal in the pan they are cooking in.

To Determine the Freshness of Eggs
Place in basin of cold water, and they should sink.

A screw drawn across a bar of hard soap will be driven more easily into any wood.

A nail tip dipped in oil will penetrate hard wood more easily.

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