I've been asked, "How do you write so realistically?" A reviewer for Affaire de Coeur said, “vivid descriptions of time and place.”
Growing up with horse-and-buggy ancestors provided me with experiences of everyday life before labor-saving devices. I lived with an out house, a great aunt who had a root cellar, hand-pumping water, an ice box, wash boards, home-made lye soap, canning and growing our own food, feeding chickens, plucking feathers, reading and embroidering by candlelight, and Saturday night baths in a metal tub with water heated on the kitchen stove (with wash basins for sponge baths during the week).
Today, technological change happens rapidly. Centuries ago, changes were slow. My youthful experiences aren’t that far away from those daily household chores needed to add realism to my historical settings.
Can you describe some of those experiences?
Take lye soap, for instance. It’s caustic. It sears your lungs and burns your skin if you don’t handle and mix it just right. Once it’s made, you still have to shred it into detergent flakes by scraping the bar of soap across a metal slicer. When the soap bar gets small, there’s a good chance you’ll shave your fingers.
Then there is plucking chicken feathers. The headless chicken is dunked in scalding water to loosen the feathers. The bigger feathers are easier to pull. But the little ones! Besides being hot to the touch, the pin feathers just didn’t seem to want to come out. If you leave them, they become part of your dinner.
Beating dust out of rugs was fun. Grandpa would hang the rugs over the clothesline on a spring or fall housecleaning day. We kids grabbed the wooden handle of a woven-wire tool with a head about as wide as a shovel blade and beat the hell out of the rug. Dust would go everywhere. Being outdoors, it blew away. One catch—we didn’t have dust masks in those days.
It was hard work, but we didn’t know better at the time. To us, we lived in “modern” times.
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