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Wisdom From Our Elders: Lost and Found

| 6/22/2011 9:43:25 AM

bruch miller pigs and babiesHorsepower, root cellars, slaughtering and butchering of animals — this is just the beginning of a long list of skills that homesteaders from the early 20th century mastered to maintain their self-sufficient lifestyles. Today, many of these skills are on the brink of extinction. These talented family farmers have a lot to offer modern homesteaders looking to go back to the land and live a more self-reliant lifestyle.

Some of these homesteaders from the 20s, 30s and 40s might be your neighbors, grandparents, parents or even you! Have you ever asked your great aunt how she learned to can tomatoes? When your grandfather refers to the fridge as the "ice box," do you know why he uses that term? Did you live on a self-sufficient farm and bury cabbage in an underground root cellar for the winter? If you know anyone, or if you yourself, have any stories, tips or skills to share with a community of modern homesteaders, please send them to us!

The stories can be personal memoirs, down-and-dirty DIY projects, the real ins-and-outs of livestock care and slaughtering, or even cooking and canning over a woodstove. We are collecting this Wit and Wisdom From Our Elders to gain further insight into how people took care of their homesteads in the past as ideas for homesteaders today and in the future.

We plan to collect all the submissions and post them here, in this blog dedicated to Homestead Stories and Wisdom. Check back to see what others have posted, and to get ideas for advice and tales from your own memory. The threat of losing this knowledge is growing as more time passes us by, so don’t hesitate to seek out family members and neighbors who might have good information to share.

Please send email submissions to with the subject line "Elder Wisdom"
or send mail to: attn: Heidi Hunt, Re: Elder Wisdom, Mother Earth News, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609.

Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or .

Marillian Hannen
12/6/2012 10:41:07 PM

I would love to link up with you somehow on facebook or email..I am a 37 year old mother of four and i have always loved living off the land,people say the way i do things is the hard way and a waste of time,but i just think remote controls and video games have made them lazy..I go outside every morning and feed and take care of my chickens and my garden,I am looking to raise rabbits and hogs,i grow most of my food,i made a hand agitated washing machine out of a 55 gallon barrel,I use the sun to cook my food at times and heat my water..I would love to learn anything and everything i can from you..Michelle

Kindle Waya
9/4/2012 12:15:05 AM

i cut and split wood for years and hauled water from a hand dug well most of my life. hoed more long rows of cotten and corn tha a body can shake a stick at. we heated and cooked with wood, and still do still haul water butcher and hunt,fish raise our own foodin the garden and in the fields. not much has changed for me in the past 60 years cept i'm gettin oler and ole athur is in my bones. mi have a trick for that too- yucca root is great for aches and pains, mullen helps swelling and summac brings down a fever quicker than asprine and helps with pain well yunguns remember to say your prayers at night and be thankful for what ya'll got.

Anne Sheldon
6/6/2012 10:04:09 PM

I would love to know more about the pigs in this photo....they remind me of our american guinea hogs which used to be a popular pig on the bruch miller the name of the farmers or is that referring to the pig the older lady is holding and is the girl holding a box with piglets in it? Or is the pig being held a " baby" and we can't see other pigs that were in the picture..Great picture would LOVE to know more about it and the pigs.

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