Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and FreshFood
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
VI. Water, Hot Water, and WasteWater
VII. Education--The Schoolof Living
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence
FOOD, PURE FOOD, AND FRESH FOOD
IT IS a mistake, however, to thinkof our experiments in domestic production purely in terms of economics. Particularlyis this true of food. For ours was not only a revolt against the high cost of food.It was a revolt against the kind of food with which mass production and mass distributionprovides the American consumer.
In common with the overwhelming majorityof people, we suffered the usual run of digestive and catarrhal ailments. We allhad colds several times each year; constipation was something every member of thefamily had to fight; between periods of biliousness, headaches, fevers, and similarvisitations, we enjoyed only what might at best be described as tolerable health.I would not give the impression that we were a sickly family. On the contrary, sofar as health was concerned we were probably better rather than worse than the averagefamily. Our ailments were almost never severe enough to keep us in bed. None of ushad ever been confined in a hospital. But saying that our health was slightly betterthan average is not saying much.
Partly as a result of an accumulationof accidents and coincidents, and partly because of our own efforts to find the answerto the riddle of good health, we finally arrived at the conviction that most of ourailments, and probably most of the ailments of mankind, were caused by wrong foodsand incorrect eating habits. I remember how amusing this idea sounded the first timeit was propounded to me. Mrs. Borsodi and I, happening to meet Hereward Carrington,just as we were on our way to lunch in the city, asked him to join us.
"I'm sorry," he said, "butI seem to be catching cold, so I am eating nothing at all today."
I looked at him with astonishment.The old adage about feeding a cold and starving a fever came into my mind. What inthe world, I thought, could eating have to do with a cold? "Join us, anyway,"I said. "You can watch us eat, and the sight of food may tempt you to ordersomething yourself. And besides, I'm curious to know upon what theory you cut outeating when you have a cold."
Carrington accepted the invitationand in the course of that luncheon Mrs. Borsodi and I listened for the first timeto a disinterested exponent of the theory that improper eating is the cause of mostdisease. Up to that time I had always dismissed the idea as the vaporing of vegetarianand physical culture faddists. But I was by no means convinced by what Carringtonsaid. I still argued valiantly for the orthodox medical explanation of disease interms of germs. The luncheon failed to convert us to the extreme position which hemaintained and which we have since come to accept. But the incident prepared us forreal conversion shortly thereafter.
Among the books published by the corporationby which I was then employed were a number of volumes by a Dr. R. L. Alsaker. I hadnever read them, principally because they had seemed to me the works of a dieteticcrank. But I brought some of them home after the Carrington argument and Mrs. Borsodiand I both read them. Alsaker's arguments seemed to us quite reasonable. We saw noreason why we should hesitate about experimenting with diet as a means of maintaininghealth, the medical profession having signally failed to keep us healthy. But wedid not find this as easy as might be imagined. Indeed, it was only after a periodof years and after we had moved to the country that we completely changed our dietfrom the conventional pattern to our present one. During this period Mrs. Borsodimade quite a study of the chemistry of food; we dug up what we could about the fightfor pure and unadulterated foods which Dr. Harvey W. Wiley had waged back in PresidentTheodore Roosevelt's administration, and as a result developed a thoroughgoing distastefor the commercialized footstuffs which up to that time we had eaten.
One after another we gave up predigestedbreakfast foods, white bread, factory-made biscuits and crackers and cakes, polishedrice, white sugar. But it wasn't easy to secure suitable substitutes for all thefoods which we believed unfit for human consumption. What should we do in order tosecure clean, raw milk, fresh vegetables, and decent chickens? The pasteurized milkwhich we had been drinking for years was a crime against the human stomach even thoughthe germs which got into the milk in the course of its progress from the cow-stableto our back doors were all embalmed and thus rendered harmless. The fresh vegetablesand fruits in the city markets were of necessity of inferior qualities; they hadto be picked green, before they ripened naturally, in order to make it possible totransport them without too much spoilage. In addition, they withered and dried outwhile being shipped, stored and displayed for sale. Meat came to us from a spickand span butcher shop, but we could never forget that it had first passed throughthe packing-houses which Upton Sinclair had called "the jungle." Afterwe moved to the country and acquired the habit of eating fresh-killed chicken, wecould hardly force ourselves to eat chicken in the city. Nothing which a cook cando to a chicken in the kitchen can disguise for us the flavor which develops in achicken after it has been kept for weeks and possibly for many months in cold storagewith all its intestines intact inside. In the course of our studies of diet we becameconscious for the first time of the fact that all these things were part and parcelof city living and of the factory packing of foodstuffs to which industrialism seemedto have irretrievably condemned the consuming public.
Actually our moving to the countrywas inspired less by the notion that we could reduce the cost of living than by theconviction that we could live better than we had in the city. So far as food wasconcerned, better health was more in our minds than saving money. We sought purefood and fresh food rather than cheap food. The discovery that home production madeit possible for us to enjoy better food at a lower cost than we had in the city,came later.
We landed in the country on April 1st,a little late in the season, we have since learned for starting chickens. But sinceraising chickens was almost the first item in our food raising program, we went ahead,anyway. Eggs had always been an important factor in our dietary, we wanted to haveplenty of them, and the supply of fresh chicken which would accompany egg productionwould, we felt, cut down what we had been in the habit of spending for meat of allkinds.
We knew nothing about chickens. Forinstructions we turned to the bulletins of the Department of Agriculture in Washingtonand of the state agricultural university. We pored over bulletins dealing with incubation,with raising chicks, with feeding hens for egg production and fattening poultry forthe table. We followed in a general way the instructions in the bulletins about equipmentand housing them. But we nevertheless decided to feel our way and to try out ourbook-taught knowledge before venturing on any considerable investment in our poultry-yard.Unless experienced personal guidance is available, no amount of mere reading canprevent the beginner from making mistakes. If the initial venture is a large one,the mistake may prove financially disastrous. Some years after we moved to the country,a small, completely equipped farm near us was purchased by another city migrant.Ill-health and inability to keep up his work in the city (he was a newspaper man)had forced this move upon him. It was his idea to raise chickens for a living. He,too, started out knowing nothing about chickens and having to rely upon book knowledgefor information. But unlike the Borsodi family, he started out on a large scale,buying 100 day-old chicks from commercial hatcheries to begin. The poultry bookstold him that the chicks were to be fed grit and water before they received theirfirst regular feed. To a countryman, the word grit would have been self-explanatory.No doubt the author of the bulletin upon which this man relied did not feel it necessaryto explain what grit was, or, if there was such an explanation in the book, its significancedid not register on our neighbor. At any rate, what he did do was to go to his barnsand look for a sack of grit. Having found what he thought was grit, he proceededto feed it to his chickens as instructed. Within a short time the chickens beganto die right and left. He began to lose chicks in batches of fifty in a single day.And he had hardly any of his original loo chicks left when he discovered that whathe had thought grit, in reality was linseed meal. Here was the first of what proveda series of catastrophic losses for this family. Precious money and even more precioustime was lost, owing to this mistake. Before this man learned enough about livingin the country to produce with any degree of efficiency (though I believe nothingcould have enabled him to produce profitably for the market), his losses were sogreat that he had to abandon the place he had purchased and to return to the city,broken in pocket and even more broken in spirit. I cannot, therefore, make this pointtoo strongly--the only alternative to experienced guidance is experimenting on asmall scale. Mistakes then can be considered part of one's education.
It is difficult today, when the careof our poultry-yard takes so little original thinking on our part, to realize howbewildered we were when we first began with chickens. There was, to begin with, theproblem of breeds. Roughly, all the various breeds of chickens fall into three categories:egg-laying machines, like the Leghorns; meat-making chickens, like the Jersey Giants;and all-purpose breeds, like the Plymouth Rocks and the Rhode Island Reds. The Leghornsdo lay more eggs than the other types, but they are small and wiry birds, hardlyfit for the table. As we wanted plenty of eggs, we decided against the Jersey Giants.To secure both eggs and decent meat, we finally decided on one of the all-purposebreeds, Rhode Island Reds, a decision we have never regretted. The Reds are probablyno better than others of the same general type; there was no special reason for selectingthem unless it was that it was easier for us to get hens and eggs of this breed inour neighborhood than the others.
We started operations that first springwith a broody hen and a setting of eggs which we purchased from a neighbor. Later,we repeated this purchase three or four times. But the first hen had not finishedhatching out her setting (it takes three weeks) when we decided that hatching eggsout nature's way wouldn't give us enough chicks for our needs. We purchased a sixty-eggincubator, heated by a kerosene-lamp. While we still set hens, perhaps because "breakingup" broody hens each year is almost as much trouble as setting them, we believea good, small incubator an essential part of an ideal homestead. We purchased eggsenough to fill the incubator twice that year from farmers who had flocks of Reds.And we managed to hatch out an exceptionally large proportion of them. My recollectionis that we started our poultry-yard that first year with about 150 chicks.
This number dwindled down, as is tobe expected, to about 100 chickens--half of them pullets and half of them cockerels.The first year we killed a good many of the cockerels for fries in the course ofthe summer. But the second year we came to the conclusion that this was a most wastefulproceeding, and ordered a set of instruments for caponizing. Eventually every memberof the family learned how to caponize the cockerels. The operation is rather interesting;it need never be bloody; and by fattening the capons for six or eight months, wehad eight- and nine-pound capons to eat--a luxury which we had never enjoyed at homein the city. Indeed, when I came across Philadelphia capons on restaurant menus,I hadn't the least notion what a capon really was; vaguely I thought them some particularlychoice breed of chicken.
The annual food contribution of ourpoultry-yard, after it was once established, usually averages twenty or twenty-fivecapons, an equal number of old hens, and all the eggs we can eat. There is alwaysa surplus of eggs in the spring. Sometimes we sell them or turn them in to our grocer,but usually we prefer to put them down and preserve them in water glass, which keepsthem fit for cooking purposes for the fall and winter when the production of fresheggs falls short of our needs. However, if the chicken-house is of warm constructionand especially if it is electrically lighted in the winter so as to give the hensa full day at the feed-boxes, a plentiful supply of fresh eggs can be secured theyear round.
A small flock of chickens, kept upeach year by raising about seventy-five chicks, is all that the average family needs.The dividends per dollar of investment are really enormous, even if all the feedfor them has to be purchased. Owing to the fact that land in our section is not adaptedto grain farming and the fact that we have had to clear every bit of land for gardenpurposes, we have purchased nearly all of our chicken feed. There is no reason, however,why the feed should not be produced on the homestead if the soil is suitable. Thissimply increases the dividends earned and proportionately reduces the family's dependenceupon income and purchases from the outside. The labor of feeding and caring for sucha flock of chickens is not great, especially if good equipment and housing is provided.A large poultry project, from which money is to be made, is an altogether differentaffair. The poultry business seems to have a universal popularity. It looks likean easy way to make a living. But it takes much more experience and much more abilitythan the average man possesses to make money at it. We tried it one year and, whilewe lost no money on the project (on the contrary, by ordinary standards it mighthave been considered a success), it was one of the experiences which made us decideagainst the home production of anything for sale.
A few years after we moved to the countrya brother of mine was ordered to the country by his doctor. We invited him to cometo "Sevenacres" and suggested that he make his expenses by raising eggsand chickens for the market. So that year we had the opportunity of watching whathappened when the flock grew in size to something like commercial proportions. Theeggs raised sold well and at high prices. The cockerels were all caponized and inthe fall sold to a restaurant in the city. Yet when we were all through with theyear there was precious little to show for the labor which had been put into them.
By the time that feed and supplieswere paid for, pocket money was all that my brother had to show for his summer'swork. The experiment was well worth while, however, because it proved one of thethings which helped us to decide that any extra time which we could put into productioncould be more profitably used raising other things for our own use than by raisinga surplus of one thing, such as eggs and chickens, for sale.
We have applied this principle to thepoultry-yard itself, keeping the number of chickens down and raising other fowls.We have raised Peking ducks and found that the Peking duck furnishes almost as manyeggs as do many breeds of chickens, and in addition furnishes a welcome variationin the diet. We also raise turkeys; we plan to raise at least one bird for each monthfor the table, and a flock to be used as Christmas presents. This particular experimentin the home production of gifts has been among our most successful; the sentimentsurrounding the turkeys savors of Christmas much more than factory-made gadgets usuallybought in crowded stores. We have also raised pigeons, principally because they weredecorative, and have hatched pheasants principally for the sake of romance. It ispart of our yearly spring thrill to watch for the first appearance of the cock pheasantsand to see them in all their finery as they begin their courting dances.
A few words must be added on the subjectof fresh eggs. We used to buy so-called fresh eggs in the city, but in the very natureof things it was impossible for them to be really fresh. Even near-by eggs rarelyget to the city before they are two weeks old. True, the palate of the city man isso little cultivated that the finer flavors of all sorts of foods have lost theirimportance to him. Industrialism and urbanism have combined to blunt his taste. Asto fresh eggs, the Borsodi family consists of gourmets. The fact that the humbleegg has developed a new value for us is typical of the transvaluations which havecome to us from our return to nature.
Milk, cream, buttermilk, butter, cheese,ice-cream--all the various milk products--constituted one of the large items in ourfood budget when we lived in the city. Our fluid milk supply consisted of grade Amilk, delivered daily in glass bottles. This milk was pasteurized. We used creamerybutter which at that time was made from raw cream. Since then efforts have been madeto compel creameries to use only pasteurized milk. Buttermilk we drank only occasionally.After we moved to the country it became a part of our regular diet; it proved a mosthealthful and nourishing foodstuff. Ice-cream we ate in much greater moderation inthe city than we do today, perhaps because of some Puritanical inhibition about eatingtoo much dessert. But probably the notion was actually correct, at least with regardto commercial ice-cream, which is what we used to eat. Certainly the bulk of commercialice-cream, often made from rancid cream, artificial coloring, and synthetic flavoring,is not a desirable food. But even the best commercial ice-cream cannot be comparedwith home-made ice-cream and frozen desserts made from clean, sweet cream, fresheggs, and real fruit juices. Much of the cheese now consumed in the city is synthetic,made from something which the breweries invented and which ought not to be calledcheese at all. We ate little cheese before we left the city; after we went to thecountry we began to eat all the pot cheese we could enjoy, and when we learned howuseful a part of the diet cheese can be, we began to buy the kinds of cheese whichwe could not make at home.
Our revolt against commercial milkproducts was helped by one of those fortuitous incidents which shape all of our lives,though we are seldom conscious of their importance at the time. Mrs. Borsodi, beforeshe gave up business, had occasion to visit one of the largest creameries in thecountry to secure information for an advertising campaign. Her disillusionment aboutthe dairy industry and creamery butter was complete. Modern science, she found, wasbeing used to produce a tasty and attractive-looking butter from raw materials whichoften came into the creamery only fit for slopping to hogs. Of superficial cleanlinessthere was plenty, but underneath the scrupulous surface was the fact that the systemwas so perfect that no matter what sort of cream was used, a product which had theappearance of quality was produced. No doubt in a perfectly organized industrialstate, in which the profit motive has in some way been legislated out of existence,the technicians who will operate the creameries will eliminate some of the worstof present-day mass-production evils. We, however, were not only somewhat cynicalabout the benefits of unlimited government supervision, but saw no good reason whywe should postpone the eating of pure and fresh foods until the distant day whena social revolution would wipe out all the blots on present-day industrial production.Besides, contacts with state institutions--hospitals, for instance--prevented usfrom sharing the sanguine hopes of socialist friends about the quality of foodstuffswhich would be produced in a socialist heaven.
As soon as we were well settled inthe country we bought a cow--too good a cow, I am afraid. When fresh she gave usas much as twenty quarts of milk a day. Most of the time we had so much milk thatit seemed as if we could bathe in it. But what milk it was! In spite of the factthat we drank all we desired, made our own butter and pot cheese, there was stilla surplus of milk to be disposed of. A few neighbors begged us to sell them milk,but this experience, just like our experience in selling eggs and chickens, onlyconfirmed our determination not to produce for the market. We were producing a qualityof milk far superior to that in the market; what we received for it hardly paid forthe labor of cleaning bottles and delivering it. We wondered what we could buy withthe money half so precious as the milk. We needed two or three quarts of milk daily.Twenty was too much of a good thing. We had no intention of living on milk alone,nor of going into the dairy business. For a family of four, the cow was evidentlynot the best solution of the milk problem. With a family of six or more persons,it would perhaps have been different. But for us, using a cow to produce milk waslike using a sledge hammer to drive carpet tacks. We sold the cow and decided totry Swiss milch goats.
The milch goat is still somewhat ofa novelty, handicapped by the fact that the goat is supposed to be funny. In ourjudgment it is an ideal solution of the problem of producing milk for use withinthe family. Its milk is richer than cow's milk in butter fat, and easier to digest.When the goats are properly fed, it is hard to distinguish its taste from cow's milk.We have repeatedly fooled friends of ours who were prejudiced against it. We boughtone pure-blooded Toggenburg doe, and one grade doe. The grade doe was probably ahalf-blood; there is no reason why one should go to the expense of buying pure bloodsunless one intends to go into goat-breeding. Properly selected grade goats will givepractically as much milk and are much less expensive. Two does, however, should bepurchased. Goats are evidently very gregarious; they fret and hold back their milkif they are without companionship. The buck is a smelly and obnoxious animal, andthe does should be taken to a buck when ready for breeding. Unlike a cow, which isa perfect nuisance when in heat, bellowing and carrying on in a most disgracefulmanner, the does are so small that they can be put into any automobile and quicklytaken to a buck for breeding. By breeding one doe so that it kids in the spring andthe other in the fall, two does will furnish a supply of milk the year round. Whenfresh, our does gave us about three quarts of milk daily.
Among the great advantages of the goatswas the great reduction in the labor of milking and caring for them. To milk a quartor two morning and evening proved a trifling job in comparison with having to filla ten-quart pail twice a day. And the goats, unlike the cow, kept themselves clean.As a matter of fact, they are rather fastidious in their habits. They will not eatgrain or hay which has been trampled under foot, though they will eat almost anykind of vegetation and are fond of eating the bark off of trees. This partialityfor bark probably explains their fondness for paper, most of which is made of woodpulp. They will probably eat the paper off of a tin can, but the notion that theywill eat the tin itself seems to me a silly superstition.
One disadvantage of goats has to dowith butter. The fat globule in goat's milk does not separate or rise as readilyas that in cow's milk. If butter is to be made, a cream separator has to be used.With this piece of apparatus to overcome this disadvantage, it seems to me that forthe small family all the advantages lie on the side of the goat. We found butter-making,using an efficient rotary churn, a most profitable activity.
There is simply no comparison betweenfresh, homemade butter and creamery butter. With a good refrigerator to get the creamto the proper temperature, the butter forms very quickly. Most of the operationsin butter-making can be done mechanically with an efficient kitchen mixer.
When we purchased "Sevenacres,"we found ourselves in possession of a small "farm" little of which wasreally suitable for farming. There was plenty of room for garden, though no vegetablesand berries had been raised on the place for many years; there was an old orchardcontaining some apple, plum, and cherry trees; there was a hay-field, and a pieceof woodland suitable for a wood-lot. Actual farming operations for us, when we beganto develop our theory of self- sufficiency, seemed to fall into two divisions--onehaving to do with the growing of vegetables, berries, fruit, and foodstuffs for ourown consumption, and the other with the growing of feed for the chickens, the goats,and other livestock. We have had considerable success with the first; with the secondwe have tried to do relatively little as yet.
During the four years we were on "Sevenacres"we did not get around to grain-farming at all, though there was room enough for raisinggrain enough for both feed and for our own table. On the "Dogwoods" wehave not as yet cleared enough ground. We have always managed to produce some hay,and on our new place have usually managed to put away a load of oats each year whichwe fed to the Toggenbergs. Eventually we hope to produce all our own feed, as webelieve it thoroughly practicable and extremely profitable for homesteaders to doso. An acre devoted to corn and wheat, and a half acre devoted to alfalfa, soy-beans,or clover, would take care of the feed for all the livestock needed by the averagefamily, especially if the fields are well fertilized and properly cultivated. Commercialfeed has cost us consistently two or three times as much as farmers in the grain-growingsections of the country receive for corn and other grain. Sometimes it has been fourtimes as high. By the time freight, storage, and handling charges are added to theprice the farmer has received, the price has no resemblance to that in the primarymarkets. Even though it costs the homesteader much more to raise feed than it doesthe farmer who operates a grain "factory" in the West, it would cost himless to do so than to buy feed.
Since we have raised so little of ourfeed, what we have actually done with our livestock operations has been to substitutea feed bill monthly for the milk and butter bill, and the egg and poultry bill, whichwe used to receive in the city. The feed bills, however, have not only been muchsmaller, but have enabled us to enjoy a quality of dairy and poultry products muchhigher than we were able to secure in the city. Some day we shall clear away enoughstumps and roots on our new place so that we can cut out the feed bill as well. Whenthat time comes, it will be hard for the industrial system to starve us out, no matterhow badly business goes to pot.
A completely vegetarian family couldlive entirely out of a kitchen garden and orchard occupying no more than an acreof land. But we never subscribed to the tenets of this dietetic cult, though we areconvinced that the average American family consumes much more meat than good healthrequires. Most of us, so to speak, are digging our graves with our teeth. Over- eatingmeat is one of the ways in which the public generally practices this form of suicide.For this reason we have tried to increase our consumption of fruits and vegetablesand to decrease correspondingly our consumption of meat. This has made the vegetablegarden and the orchard acquire a place of much greater economic importance on ourhomestead than is usual on the average farm, and to correspondingly decrease theimportance of the livestock. For instance, we have never gone in for hog-raising,even though we are fond of pork. Between chickens, ducks, and turkeys, and an occasional"bull" calf or "buck" kid which we did not wish to raise andtherefore slaughtered, we have had plenty of meat. When particularly hungry for hamand pork, we patronized the local meat market. Families hungrier for meat than theBorsodi family should raise a couple of pigs each year, buying the young pigs andfattening them for the fall and winter. This would also furnish a plentiful supplyof lard, a natural food, instead of the chemical fats which people now use. Butterand chicken fat, however, have enabled us to get along without purchasing any fatsexcept olive oil.
The vegetable garden should be largeenough to supply the family with fresh vegetables during the growing season and withenough for canning and dehydrating for the winter. In our garden we go in heavilyfor staples such as peas, beans, radishes, carrots, lettuce, cabbages, turnips, asparagus,rhubarb, potatoes, and sweet corn, but we have always selected the more toothsomevarieties of even these old standbys. The varieties developed for commercial purposesare notable usually for size and color rather than flavor. Sweet corn is an instanceof this. For many years we have raised nothing but yellow bantam corn, which we believefar superior in quality to the large, white ears which we used to get in the citymarkets. Incidentally, sweet corn fresh from the garden, before the sugar in thecorn has had a chance to turn into starch, is a very different foodstuff from sweetcorn after it has been shipped to the city and more or less dried out in the process.Even a dull palate has no difficulty in noticing the difference.
Such a garden is a much larger undertakingthan the usual suburban backyard project. Unless one is content to devote oneselfto back-breaking drudgery, the garden cannot be taken care of with a spade for "plowing''and an old-fashioned hoe for "cultivation." We turned to the wheel hoe,one of the simplest of agricultural implements, for help in reducing the labor tomanageable proportions. This relatively inexpensive piece of machinery reduced thelabor to a point where it demanded no more of my time and strength than should begiven to some form of exercise regularly every day. The investment of $3.50 to $5,in this implement with its set of attachments of plows, weeders, cultivators andrakes, pays for itself over and over again in a single year. Except when plowingand planting, it makes it possible to use our "man" power without abusingit. In the spring and the fall, when planting or harvesting is under way, the wholefamily goes to the garden and the heavier labor at that time is turned into a sortof family game. It is an amusing fact that the garden has furnished me exercise forwhich we had to pay money in the city. There, to keep oneself fit, one has to turnto gymnasiums or to golf.
We have experimented with the use ofpower in farming. But power is really unnecessary on the scale we have operated.We have a Fordson tractor on our place, but it was purchased only because we hadto clear the land on which we built our new home. It more than paid for itself inexcavating, in road-making, and in hauling timbers and stones at the "Dogwoods."Even the small garden tractor, which represents an investment of around $200 today,is of doubtful utility unless the homestead goes in for field corn, wheat, and othergrains. Then, of course, either a horse or small tractor becomes a paying investment,with the horse perhaps the better of the two under present conditions. It takes moneyto buy gasoline and oil; the fuel for the horse can be produced on the farm. Thehorse, too, makes it possible to reduce expenditures for fertilizer. No wonder thatsince the depression there has been a decided increase in the use of horses for farmingand a corresponding decline in the use of tractors.
Both on economic and on nutritionalgrounds we have revolted against the commercial cereals and ordinary white flour.A small grist-mill, to which we attached a motor from a discarded dishwasher, hasmade it possible for us to grind our own flour, and to crack cereals for breakfastfoods. We have even managed to cut down the cost of the mash we feed to our chickensby buying whole grains and grinding them ourselves. That this simple piece of machineryshould be in every homestead can certainly be demonstrated on the basis of what itsaves on the cost of whole-wheat flour, which is the only kind we use.
We, of course, have had to buy ourwheat. The wheat is, therefore, our first cost. If wheat and oats and corn are grownon the homestead, this would no longer be the first cost. First cost would be whateverwe had to spend in labor and money to raise the wheat. After paying for the wheat,and adding the value of the labor and the cost of current and similar expenses ofoperating our mill, our whole-wheat flour costs us about 1-1/2 cents per pound. Whole-wheatflour of the same quality now sells in the grocery store for 6- 1/2 cents per pound.The difference between the two is alone sufficient to make the investment in theflourmill pay us handsome dividends. But the saving on white flour is, I believe,much greater, and consists of other savings than those calculable in terms of money.
We use no white flour, except occasionallyfor pastry. White flour, I believe, along with white sugar and white rice, is oneof the most harmful products for which we are indebted to the factory system. Allthese bleached and whitened foodstuffs are made white by the mills which producethem not only for the sake of their appearance, but in order to preserve them duringthe long period of time which elapses between the time when they are ground in themill and the time they are consumed by the public. Dentists will tell you that thesewhite foods soften the teeth; dietitians and doctors that they cause constipation.Personally, I hold them suspect for the great white plague of tuberculosis.
White flour is only one of the threeproducts into which wheat is converted by our mills. The white flour we consume inbread and pastry; the middlings are bleached and sold to us for breakfast food asWheatena of Cream of Wheat, and the bran is sold to us in neat packages to cure usof the constipation which the white flour causes. Dr. Kellogg, of the Battle CreekSanitarium, who first hit on the bright idea of marketing bran for this purpose,has made a fortune out of selling this by-product of modern milling to the deludedAmerican public. Yet as long as they insist upon consuming white flour, the branis an almost essential purchase. All three of these products are present in the whole-wheatflour we use, and which costs us about 1-1/2 cents a pound. When we buy wheat afterit has been split into three parts by our milling industry, we pay about 2 centsper pound for the white flour; about 13 cents per pound for the middlings in theform of breakfast food, and 20 cents per pound for the bran.
What is true of wheat is also trueof corn. The home grist-mill makes it possible for us to grind our own corn mealat a cost of about 1-1/4 cents per pound. But this is whole corn meal and not thepale ghost of the old-fashioned corn meal of our grandmothers. Yet the desiccatedstarchy substance which is now sold in our stores as corn meal costs 9 cents perpound. This corn meal is made from the dregs of whole corn after the best part, thegerm, has been cut out of it to be chemically treated and turned into glucose andcorn syrup. These chemical substances in turn have replaced the honey, the maplesugar, the molasses, and the brown sugar which were consumed in their places yearsago, and which it is still possible for each individual family to produce for itself.Industrial production of these foodstuffs, instead of representing progress, hasresulted in furnishing us inferior food and at a much higher price.
The American housewife tends constantlyto buy more prepared or partly prepared food, and to cook and preserve less and lessin her kitchen. After we moved to the country, the Borsodi kitchen showed an exactreversal of the general trend. It was not only the room in which we cooked or heatedprepared foods for the table--it became the family cannery and packing-house andcreamery. And in such a kitchen, we have found that the average woman could earnmuch more than most of them were earning in the factories, stores and offices forwhich so many millions of women have abandoned home-making.
One of our first extravagances whenwe began to reequip and redesign our kitchen for production was the purchase of asteam pressure cooker--price in 1920, $25. We justified this seeming extravagancewith the hope that it could be made into a profitable investment. Today pressurecookers of the same size with many improvements over the type we installed can bepurchased for $8.50. This piece of domestic machinery enabled the family to cut thelabor of canning to from one-quarter to one-third of that necessary with old-fashionedmethods. Its sterilization proved as reliable as any job of processing in the largestcanneries of the country. Without the pressure cooker, canning a sufficient supplyfor winter would have been as great a labor for us as trying to garden with a spadeand hoe. With the pressure cooker it became quite practical to put up four-hundredquarts of vegetables and fruits--an ample supply for a family of our size for thewhole winter. In addition to the staples usually canned, the pressure cooker enabledus to can veal, chicken, mushrooms, and gelatine. It made it possible for us to gointo the winter with jar after jar of delicacies such as chicken breasts, veal gelatine,and genuine mint jelly. These cost us so little, aside from labor, which the pressurecooker and the kitchen mixer reduced to a minimum, that we soon abandoned the taskof making detailed comparisons between the cost of the home-made product and thehigh-priced and inferior canned goods we formerly consumed.
Canning-time in the Kitchen at "Dogwoods House."Note the Pressure Cooker and the Electric Mixer, Which Is Being Used to Shred Vegetables
As time went on we kept adding to the kitchena good many appliances which are usually considered luxuries. I have mentioned thatwe purchased an electric range for use in the country. There was no gas availableon "Sevenacres"; to cook with oil seemed out of question, while the old-fashionedkitchen range, however desirable in the winter, made kitchens an inferno in summer.Our old electric range, which cost us $75 ten years ago, was finally replaced bya $250 range a few years ago--a range equipped with all the modern controls developedduring that period of time. But even here we refused to concede that we were goingin for luxuries; we were merely bringing our productive kitchen machinery up to date.A test made at the time the new range was installed confirmed us in our belief thatthe new range, the $200 kitchen mixer with all sorts of attachments, and the electricrefrigerator were all dividend-paying investments. Two complete meals consistingof chicken, string beans, diced carrots, prunes, and chocolate cakes were preparedby Mrs. Borsodi and a demonstrator sent up by the General Electric Company, and servedto a group of friends. One of the meals was completely factory made from "boughten"products, with nothing added in the kitchen except heat to the product as they camefrom the packers, canners, and bakers. The total cost of this meal was $3.46. Theother was exactly the same as to menu but completely home-made. After figuring thecost of materials at market prices, electric current, investment on machinery andequipment, and making allowance for the difference in the weight of the two meals,the total cost of the home-made meal was $1.59--a saving of $1.87 on a single meal.This proved a saving of $1.40 cents per hour for the time used in cooking the meal--prettygood earnings in comparison with what most women received in industry. Multiply suchsavings by the more than one thousand meals which are eaten every year by the averagefamily and it is easy to see why we feel that a well-equipped kitchen is no luxurybut an absolute essential to the productive home.
It is, however, possible to stressthe economic argument unduly. The kitchen is not only a place in which the averagewoman can earn money. It is even more one of the places in a home in which she canexercise her creative and artistic faculties. Cookery is an art. It is one of thosearts much neglected today because we have so generally subscribed to the fallacythat only that is art which has no utility.
But cookery is even more than art.It is science as well. The chemistry of food is a fascinating subject. And if womenbut knew it, health is more apt to be maintained by what is done by them in the kitchenthan by what all the doctors and druggists can do for their families.