This is the third post in this blog series adapted from our book The Field Guide for Trailblazing Women – and it’s about learning and resilience. Get your grit on!
Life for early rural prairie women was a multi-layered existence. For most, day-to-day life was focused on keeping the family comfortable with what was on-hand. To say prairie women had a huge workload is a gross understatement. To put a perspective on it, let’s look at the daily responsibilities these women shouldered:
- Daily cooking and baking (from scratch) for family and (seasonal work crews) on a wood burning stove
- Manufacturing, repairing and caring for all the families’ clothing
- Child care and child-rearing, tending to the sick
- House-hold upkeep and construction
- Hauling water for drinking, cooking, doing dishes, bathing and washing clothes (by hand, 1-2 /week)
- Making household necessities like curtains, soap, candles, quilts, rugs and knitted wear
- Planting, tending and harvesting large vegetable gardens, berry-picking too
- Curing meat, pickling, canning and preserving food
- Feeding, watering and administering to livestock
- Clearing land, planting and harvesting crops
- All of the above and more … in a long skirt, with hair swept up in a bun!!
The sheer stamina, strength and resourcefulness this kind of life required is a true testament to the spirit of women. End of statement!!
Early prairie women dug deep within themselves to survive and thrive while building their new lives. They persevered by continuously keeping pace with the changing conditions they lived with. They were constantly challenged by new circumstances and situations they never expected. Life as they knew it demanded continuous learning such as making household necessities with minimal supplies, growing new crops, sod house construction, fighting prairie grassfires, etc – it’s a very long list as we’ve already seen.
Here’s where their lives parallel ours – there is a movement towards living a more wholesome, inventive, sustainable and enterprising life taking place in the world today. We have more modern conveniences and amenities than pioneering generations of women could ever hope to imagine, so we certainly don’t need to live a labour intensive lifestyle. But for many of us there is a deep need to get back in touch with the land, our creative natures, and to nurture a mindset that stays focused on providing for ourselves and our families in resourceful and entrepreneurial ways. To feel the wind on our faces, see the dirt under our fingernails and feel our bodies in motion puts us back into an environment that gives us a feeling of strength and resiliency.
We have named this movement for ourselves – to live this way is to Live Prairie. To live prairie is to slow down and put time and energy into activities and responsibilities that require daily attention, in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling to us, and most often hands-on. It brings our focus back to the small wins, like the day our hens first started laying eggs, or when the tomatoes are ripe enough to pick, or how the fresh herbs from the planter box make a salad dressing that is out of this world. As always the ever fluctuating prairie temperatures and weather add a mix of the unknown into everything we do.
What we know for sure is this – continually walking forward into the unknown and learning new ways to keep a wholesome lifestyle and resourceful mindset has a way of developing our character and keeping us sharp. It’s the way we find out what we’re made of. And it certainly keeps us from sinking into complacency and getting stuck in comfort zones.
The reality for any of us is this – if we’re going to pursue new ways to live our lives that reflect our pioneering natures, we’re going to be faced with learning as we go; with fails; with being really uncomfortable; with ‘not knowing what will happen’ for long periods of time … and we’re going to find our way through them. Remember that! There are women all around us being brave and building their dream lives. Reach out to them. Join up with them. Listen to their stories. It will help you remember that you too are a strong woman!
What are you learning and doing in your life that is developing a wholesome, sustainable lifestyle? Drop your ideas into the comments – we would love to hear them!
Live Wholeheartedly. Live Prairie.
– Jan and Erin
Two Prairie Girls