Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore - Traditional Skills for Simple Living

Old-Time Country WisdomVoyageur Press sent me  Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore 1000s of Traditional Skills for Simple Living to review and for a while I was uncertain what to say about this publication.

I think the problem was that it wasn’t really what I was expecting. From the title I was expecting something based on Carla Emery’s iconic publication, but the more I delved into the book, the more and more I realized that it wasn’t anything of the sort.

So I have to confess, that my initial reaction was that of disappointment.

The text is also set out as newspaper columns but I realized, as I starting looking into this book on simple living, that the layout really adds to the charm of this quaint book.

Generations ago when people were more in tune with nature they felt that they could predict the weather by watching how their cows were behaving in the fields or the birds in the sky. It was said that when bears started storing food in autumn it was going to be a cold winter, or when a pig farmer killed his hogs in the fall and found his pork hard and solid a severe winter would follow.

However, even the author admits that much folklore and old-time country wisdom was based on hasty observations taken at face-value without taking into consideration other aspects that would make more sense, such as perhaps the quality of the food the pig received would determine the softness or the hardness of the meat rather than a sign for inclement seasons.

It is these sorts of inclusions that make this book on old-time country wisdom interesting reading because it highlights the simple living our ancestors had and the simple beliefs and folklore that helped them explain the world around them.

This country wisdom book then is an historical exploration of the life of our ancestors how they made everything by hand from start to finish; soap, candles, bread, leatherwork, wine, country herbal cures, cheese, wines, beer, pottery, clothes, knitted items and dyed fabrics. How they fished and planted by the moon, had detailed knowledge of country creatures that visited their gardens and orchards daily, hunted for their food and foraged for spring greens and herbs to eat.

This is one of those publications that cannot be read from cover to cover, but is something that you pick up and read for entertainment as well as guidance on living the simple life. The publishers have added a caveat that they don’t stand by some of the country wisdom cures advocated.

A very wise move when there is one that advocates that to treat a snake bite the best course of action is to cut open a freshly killed chicken and place it on the wound. The mind boggles! Is that feather-side up or blood and guts side down? Do you wrap it up in a bandage or do you hold it there for some time? Or there is another cure where you can rub the spine with garlic for whooping cough, or rub cow dung into an open wound. None of these I would advocate! When you read these folklore remedies it is surprising that so many of our ancestors survived at all.

Even today, people will tell you that there is only one way to plant and fish, and that is by the moon. This book has a large section on moon lore, as well as a section on moon sign medicine where treatment and procedures should be carried out during the right rhythm and the phases of the moon.

I love the section on country pastimes that details entertainment before the age of computer games, the Internet and television. Good old pastimes like hoedowns and horseshoe pitching, harness racing, the coming of the Chautauqua, and the husking bee to get friends and family to help with a farm chore bigger than one could handle.

Another novel section in this country wisdom publication is that on children’s playthings from times past. Bean bags and cloth balls, disc tops, sock dolls and puppets, and rubber-band sailing boats are explained in detail.

This is a country wisdom book where one steps back into time to see what it was really like in the days of our great-grandparents. It examines their simple beliefs - some based on good logic which still hold true today, and others groundless, but believed at the time because they didn’t know any better. A gem of a book for those interested in times past and for those who want a window into our ancestor’s lives who didn’t live all that long ago.

Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore 1000s of Traditional Skills for Simple Living by Jerry Mack Johnson, Published Voyageur Press

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