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Cool stuff our Great grandmas would know about.

(95 Posts)
madmomma Mon 21-Jan-19 17:38:00

Just opened my yoghurt maker for the first time and was struck by the thought that before yoghurt makers, bread makers etc etc people would've had so many skills that we now don't have and feel we have to buy gadgets to do it for us. Like, I'm sure if I asked my Pakistani mother in law, she'd be able to tell me how to make yoghurt involving zero gadgets and very little time. So what other stuff along those lines is worth re-learning? Off the top of my head I can think of sprouting beans and seeds for bean sprouts, making bread without gadgets, repurposing old garments... Just wondering if anyone else had any ideas.

malaguena Mon 21-Jan-19 17:49:12

I learn a lot from observing my North African father in law. For instance, he makes some kind of fermented milk by leaving fresh milk out in a covered bowl for a few days. This is very good for the guts apparently. Bread can be made by hand, using sourdough as a leaven. I find this fascinating! I also realised that soaking legumes is not just to soften them, it also reduces the amount of phytic acid in them. My in-laws soak a lot of things such as almonds, it’s supposed to make them easier to digest. They also know how to darn socks and similar. I do worry that a lot of this knowledge is disappearing as my generation is particularly interested in keeping these traditions.

Mumof1andacat Mon 21-Jan-19 17:54:52

How to keep whites white and towels and bedding smelling clean and feeling soft when washed.

madmomma Mon 21-Jan-19 17:57:30

Malaguena those examples are exactly what I'm talking about. Traditional skills. Yes I believe the soaking process gets rid of the enzyme-inhibitors (present so that the nuts can be stored). When soaked, the nuts are much more easily digested. I often soak my almonds, though for taste you can't beat roasting and salting.

madmomma Mon 21-Jan-19 18:01:27

mumof1 yes I rely on vanish which is not ideal! I do love to use vinegar as a softener though. People used to swear by sunlight for stains didn't they, but we don't get a lot of that!

bsc Mon 21-Jan-19 18:06:09

My GGM was born around 1850, and had staff.... she could probably paint better than I can, and do needlepoint. She could definitely play the piano better than I can, as she accompanied her brother, and he was a concert violinist.

madmomma Mon 21-Jan-19 18:10:40

Ah yes so many houses had pianos in those days didn't they bsc Or at least posh houses did.

madmomma Mon 21-Jan-19 18:12:25

Ooh making jam, wine, beer, cider and spirits! People used to do that without fancy equipment didn't they? Not something I could be bothered with personally.

CMOTDibbler Mon 21-Jan-19 18:14:53

My mum and dad had loads of those skills! Mum was a bit of a hippy, and dad was 'proper' country, so my childhood was pretty much self sufficient combined with the countryside black economy (eg, pheasants would mysteriously appear on the woodpile and in exchange dad would drop meat off with people when we slaughtered a calf).
I can make a lot of dairy products from scratch, butcher, grow crops, make soap, preserve stuff in a variety of ways, darn, spin, tan hides, dress make, sort out twin lambs in utero, make silage and haylage, make a variety of rope things (tbf, based on bailing twine), cut sheep/goat hooves, do carpentry - loads more if I think about it, all learnt alongside mum and dad, just as they did.

Racecardriver Mon 21-Jan-19 18:16:07

Well I know she could embroider. Not sure how good she was at practical tasks though. She definitely didn’t heal bread or anything like that (she got married in the 20s so most things could be bought and those that couldn’t were made by servants.

Racecardriver Mon 21-Jan-19 18:17:03

Grand father was skillled with leather though but that was his business so not sure that counts for much.

AornisHades Mon 21-Jan-19 18:18:37

My great gran knew plant medicines. Proper rural healing stuff that worked.

PurpleWithRed Mon 21-Jan-19 18:22:15

Mum could preserve eggs and salt meat to keep over winter. However, she never mastered killing a chicken for the pot.

I can wire a plug, pluck and draw a pheasant (not a skill I miss practicing), make soup and stock, lay and light a fire, sew and knit my own clothes, put up a damp canvas tent that has tent poles and guy ropes.

Oh and I can also tell when fresh food is inedible all by myself without referring to a 'use by' date.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 21-Jan-19 18:23:10

I suspect I can do an awful lot of what they could do, just nowhere near as well.
Eg I have knitted a few pairs of socks, my granny would have knitted all her family's socks for decades. I skinned a rabbit once...etc.

MillicentSnitch Mon 21-Jan-19 18:24:08

My grandfather fished and hunted for birds and rabbits. My grandmother gutted and scaled/plucked/skinned them as a matter of course. She also made all her own clothes, curtains & rugs while my grandfather made a lot of their furniture.

Troels Mon 21-Jan-19 18:30:25

My GM was born in 1894 and she could make lace (taught by nuns I'm told) Also knit, darn and sew. She couldn't cook worth a dam as she was from a well to do family and had people for a lot things (cooking, cleaning, washing) My other GM wasn't born till the 1920's she used to make jam, chutneys, pickled onions, clothes, knitted, sewed, flower arrainging, gardening and vegetable growing and make meals from next to nothing and could cook and bake like a pro. All this and she worked full time raising a load of kids on her own.

Ceara Mon 21-Jan-19 18:30:30

Knit a sock. Darn same, invisibly.
Sew a frock or a pair of curtains.
Make the second best Cornish pasties ever (surpassed only by grandma's).
Make fabulous hats (the one who was a milliner).
Do the laundry and keep a house clean in an age of coal fires and no washing machines or hoovers.

Suffragette great grandma did all the above (except making the fabulous hats) AND went on protest marches.

Ceara Mon 21-Jan-19 18:32:26

Forgot plucking a chicken.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 21-Jan-19 18:53:49

Nursing people in the absence of penicillin or a national health service...

rightreckoner Mon 21-Jan-19 18:55:18

None broth beloved of clean eaters is basically beef tea beloved of Victorians.

rightreckoner Mon 21-Jan-19 18:55:32

Bone. Not none.

pudding21 Mon 21-Jan-19 19:01:37

I live in Portugal where people still live in the country with Very little. Where I live is considered a city but it’s like it’s 30 years behind in many ways. Up until the 70s it was a communist country and most people didn’t have TVs or cars etc. anyway my point is a lot of what is mentioned on the thread is still practiced here. My boyfriend is amazingly skilled at lots of different things and always has the most simple solution. He says his grandma who is still alive taught him a lot. It’s a poor country therefore people are very resourceful. It will probably be lost on the future generations which would be tragic!

DeRigueurMortis Mon 21-Jan-19 19:16:23

My paternal GP's were keen gardeners and preservers.

They had a pantry full of chutneys/jams/pickles and preserved veg.

They also kept chickens and non layers got put in the pot.

Aside from (non chicken) meat, milk and butter they were pretty much self sufficient.

Fish my GF caught was eaten or smoked to preserve it (they also smoked their own bacon - meat supplied by GF's cousin who was a farmer)

Clothes were repurposed when worn out eg if a cuff went on a shirt it because short sleeved and worn until it was fit for the cleaning rag pile. Homemade Jumpers were unpicked for the wool and remade into other garments or multi colour jumpers.

Literally nothing was wasted.

Looking back they'd probably put a lot of today's eco warriors to shame.

On my Maternal GF's side, not so extreme but definitely a focus on not wasting food. However my GM was a very accomplished seamstress and made nearly all the clothes for the family.

My DM used to pick dresses from Vogue and her mother used to make them for her (making her own patterns etc). GM was always beautifully dressed - she re-modelled clothes she'd made if they fell out of fashion and obviously everything fit her perfectly.

I've a few pictures of me as young child dressed in clothes she'd made for me and my DM's saved quite a few (I had a DS so they will have to wait another generation!).

Sadly arthritis took hold in her hands and ended her sewing ability so she used to out source it to a local dressmaker (telling her exactly what she wanted and how it was to be made) saying she hadn't worn "off the rack" for 50 years and had no plans to start in her 70's grin

Justgivemesomepeace Mon 21-Jan-19 19:22:42

My grandad would re heel and resole all our shoes and grow food. My Nanna could make clothes, sloe gin, and knew weird cures involving things like comfrey leaves boiling on the stove.

DeRigueurMortis Mon 21-Jan-19 19:27:40

Oh and my paternal GP's were also keen foragers.

So things like Alexander's, elderflower cordial, dandelion and burdock, rosehips (made into syrup) wild mushrooms (often made into mushroom ketchup) were all in the pantry.

They never went for a walk without a basket and always came home with something they'd found in the wood/local hedgerows.

Tbh I used to hate going out walking with them but now I really wish I'd paid attention - so much knowledge lost sad

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