Thursday, February 24, 2011

Urban Homesteader Hall of Fame - Aunt Louise

In recent posts, I spoke of the people, the real urban pioneers, who have blazed the path to - uh -(whatever) and made me the urban homesteader that I am today. In coming posts, I will talk more about the people and organizations who influenced me the most.
Today I want to talk about Aunt Louise. She was a great aunt, and while she originally lived in a semi-rural area, eventually, urban sprawl caught up with her. She sold off bits and pieces of her small amount of land to neighbors, who built "modern" suburban-style homes in the corners of what used to be her large garden. Today, it looks like a regular urban street with tons of airport noise, with her little house in the city still tucked away behind the modern brick homes built in the '60's.
Aunt Louise was married to a much older man, a teamster who worked for a haberdashery in the city. So I imagined that originally, the homestead contained a barn and a place for the horses. Aunt Louise never drove a car, but she did accept rides from others after her husband died.
Her little house had only 4 rooms, and was built in a square. It had a living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom. There was a dug-out basement that could be entered only from the outside. (We weren't allowed to go down there.) She had a really cool spool table in her kitchen, made from saving years and years of wooden sewing thread spools. She was a goddess of thrift.
Aunt Louise had some health problems in her advanced years, and during those times, she stayed with us. I just loved these times! She taught me how to make my first yeast bread, which I thought was even more amazing because she had never used a recipe! I was in awe of the process, her seeming lack of care or concern about the ingredient proportions, and the quality and taste of the outcome. We made a couple of "cinnamon coffee cakes" in some pie pans and devoured them both by the end of the day.
Though Aunt Louise had lived there quietly and trouble-free for years, eventually the authorities caught up with her and forced her to install a 5th room in her home, a bathroom complete with a flush toilet and running water. Before the government intervention, we used to go outside the back kitchen door and pump water from the well. If we needed a potty break, we had to walk over to the other side of the property where she had installed a low-water composting toilet. She called it an OUTHOUSE(tm).
Aunt Louise had to spend 5 thousand dollars for the new plumbing and the remodel. The new bathroom took a chunk out of her large bedroom, and one of the windows. She wasn't too happy about this. It was from my Aunt Louise that I learned that where you pee or poop or pump your water doesn't have to define your intelligence or station in life.
When Aunt Louise died, she left me many of her old kitchen tools like a hand-crank mixer; her sewing gear, a really cool lamp, and her full-length mink coat. And, of course, her contrarian spunk.
So here's to Aunt Louise, as we raise a glass of home-made blackberry brandy (her favorite treat that she'd let me try). Cheers!

No comments:

Post a Comment