Appalachian Resourcefulness

granny gazzies family

Granny Gazzie’s family – The Truetts 

You can’t turn on the tv, pick up a magazine or go on-line without being bombarded by advice on “being green” for the environment. I’m all for taking care of the Earth-but my top priority is taking care of my family. Thankfully there are many ways the 2 can go hand in hand.

Back in the day-folks were “green” not because they were trying to be good stewards of the Earth-but because it was a way of life. Some of the “not green” things we face today (think: plastic water bottles, plastic bags, paper towels, cleaning products) hadn’t even been invented yet. In those days you either had a reuse-recycle-repurpose attitude or you pretty much didn’t survive.

Our ancestors were self sufficient because they had to be-no one was going to come along and ensure they were fed or clothed and they most certainly couldn’t jump in the car, drive to the local Wally World, fill up a buggy, pull out the credit card and charge what they needed.

Since the beginning of time folks have had to figure out how to make do with less than what they needed-it would be impossible to think of all the examples but a few that came to mind:

  • Repurpose clothing-take mother’s old dress and cut it down in size for sister Ann
  • Handed down clothing/shoes that were to small for a growing child but perfect for the next child down
  • Resoled shoes-have any of you ever resoled your shoes? I haven’t-truthfully I’ve never had to wear a pair of shoes until the sole was wore out
  • Save all fabric scraps/old clothing to make quilts-sometimes called crazy quilts-my favorite kind of quilt-seems there is such history and meaning in the fabrics
  • Rain barrels
  • Hanging out clothes to dry
  • Chickens-for eggs, for meat, feathers for pillows and beds
  • Vegetable gardens for the food they ate
  • Meat-when an animal was slaughtered an attempt was made to use every last part of the animal-a friend Jackie told me: “When we slaughtered a hog we used everything but the oink.”
  • Preserved every bite of food they could-while I can and freeze stuff-I don’t even come remotely close to preserving the amount of food our ancestors needed for survival

I didn’t even skim the surface on the issue of how past generations were “green” without knowing it. In all the hoopla about saving the environment and reducing our carbon footprints-the money saving aspect is mostly overlooked.

Often being “green” can help your family save money-you save money by not using as much-as much of anything. By instilling the waste not want not attitude and the make do mentality in your life you will not only save money-but be a little greener too.

If any other old fashioned “green” ways come to mind-please leave me a comment.


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  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    June 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Tipper I have had lots of shoes resoled if we didn’t have the money to do them I have been known to put heavy cardboard in my shoes after I wore a hole about the size of a quarter, I had to do this even when I was in high school. When I was in grade school we couldn’t buy me a new pair my sister had outgrown a pair of the black and white shoes and mom polished them black but she could never make them look like black shoes so I got a lot of teasing about wearing girls shoes I didn’t like that part but it sure felt good having a pair of comfortable shoes, that made it worth it but at the time I kind of wondered. About using all the hog, Mom used to cook the brains but I don’t know what she mixed in but they were delicious as were the sweet breads, you ask anyone about sweet breads on a hog they think you are nuts. Mom boiled all the meat off of the heads and made real down to earth mince meat, the last time she made this was in 1988, we had Thanksgiving at our house and she brought some of the pies the neighbor’s daughter ate a piece except for two bites when Mom ask her how she liked the mince meat pie she quit eating it and would not eat any more.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 17, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Yes, I used to always have shoes re-heeled and repaired but now it is hard to find a shoe repair shop. I finally found a shop in Asheville only to be told that the heels on my shoes were plastic and could not be replaced! When the soles separated from my walking shoes I tried to glue them back but with no success. This same repairman hand sewed them back together giving me several more years use from them—walking shoes are expensive!
    I have always used rags in place of paper towels—I can wash them.
    I have recently started making my own laundry detergent. It is great, gets my clothes cleaner, is biodegradable,easy to make, inexpensive and worked in my dishwasher!! also!
    Now if I could just find a way to make cat litter!!!
    Thanks for the great post!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I have resoled shoes. I used to know a very good shoe maker who was wonderful. I would buy good shoes with sturdy uppers, and he would help me get a lot of use out of them. A lost art, perhaps.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    We did all the things you mentioned, Tipper, and probably more. When Mom & Dad butchered chickens, they even boiled the feet and nibbled around on them. When they butchered a hog, Mom cooked the brains and ate them with scrambled eggs (I know, it’s really gross). Then she boiled the whole head to get the rest of the meat off. She would make scrapple out of the meat and broth. Only we called it by the German name–pawnhass (pon-hoss). I still make it occasionally, but I cook neck bones. Don’t know too many people giving away hog heads!
    Mom didn’t waste a bite of food, literally. If there was one bite of something left, she would save it for a snack later.

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    May 14, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    This is a great post. I do recall these things growing up. We never wasted anything. We took our shoes to the shoe shop and got them resoled, never threw them away, they were still good to wear. Also, I’ve worn many hand-me-down clothes. Then when they wore out, Mama cut them up and made quilts. I also recall Daddy and my brother butchering hogs around Thanksgiving. Yes, the good old days! Thanks for this wonderful article that brought back a lot of childhood memories.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 11:25 am

    i always had my cousins ‘cast-off’s’ and my sister had mine!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    May 14, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Tipper: You are right about reusing things in the past. Since we had three girls the clothing could be used through three atages. I never resouled a shoe but my shoes do go from wearing for good to wearing when working in the yard or garden. When those times are done the shoes are worthless.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I have actually had shoes repaired/resoled before. I think moving out to our farm and made us more conscious of things. We grow more of our own food and use alternative heat sources. We reuse many things around the farm. It is just too expensive to constantly buy items.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 10:10 am

    My Grandma washed a reused her aluminum foil.
    She didn’t waste anything. She had things stuffed in corners and the cabinets in the kitchen were full of reusables.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I have never resoled my shoes, but have had a shoemaker do it when I was younger. We also had our shoes re-heeled many times, as I’m great for wearing the heels off my shoes.
    On the farm, we slaughtered animals and fowl in the fall. Everything was used. Grandma made head cheese. Hers tasted nothing like the head cheese you buy today.
    We hung our clothes on the line, winter and summer. I wore many dresses and shoes that were handed down from my aunts or cut down from one of mother’s.
    Grandma and Mom made quilts that were beautiful. Mom still makes them and uses fabric from clothing that’s worn out.
    Both families had big gardens and this year when I tore up an overgrown flower bed, the boys and I planted veggies.
    Many families don’t even eat leftovers anymore. Many suppers at our house were stews made from leftover meals.
    Both families also had rain barrels. Water was a precious commodity in those days. No turning on the tap. Water was carried across the field from Grandma’s pump or from the spring.
    Thanks for the memories, my friend. I certainly enjoyed my visit.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Stewardship. A great idea in any era. I still have shoes re-soled. However, as I have grown older, both my feet and my ears have gotten longer. I am being forced to give up on some of my older shoes (with good new soles) to accommodate the increasing length of my feet. We still eat left overs creating new dishes with them to keep them from being boring. Some of the old ways are still very useful. Pappy

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    May 14, 2009 at 9:08 am

    My brother and my sister and I wwere children during WW2. I remember shoes were rationed.
    My mother would cut the toes out of the shoes for my sister and Me in the summer, to make a sort of sandal, and also our toes were getting kind of cramped because we were growing.
    I had forgotten what the world without plastic bottles and plastic bags was like. Thanks for refreshing my memory. I guess we were green by necessity and not by choice, Thanks for the great memories.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 8:10 am

    We are of the “waste not want not” philosophy here…Gardening has been a way of supplying for our family. I like raising my own vegetables.
    My Grandmothers quilted but I never picked up the art. I knit instead.
    Those of us who depend on the grocery store for supplies should find other sources. I believe that the state of our economy may be such that either things will become too expensive or product won’t be available. I hope I am wrong.
    I like the music. 😉

  • Reply
    May 14, 2009 at 2:48 am

    along side the waste not want not, my dad’s favorite line on such things; “make do or do without.” Sometimes I just shake my head at what passes for “green” these days.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    May 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    I used to be eccentric. Now I am “green”. I was taught well by my grandmothers and my mother. I don’t know, but I kind of liked being eccentric. ; )

  • Reply
    May 13, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    I have been so frivalous. I am now making a conscious effort to be more green and reuse items. My grandparents never threw away anything nor did they feel the need to buy alot of things. I am trying to take on more of this attitude and pass it along to my girls.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    As a young adult I had several pairs of shoes repaired but never resoled. Are there any shoe repair places left? We still peg our laundry, even in winter. We use too many paper products these days and need to rethink that. I know from the letters I’ve been transcribing from the 1800’s that many quilts were made and nothing went to waste.

  • Reply
    May 13, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Annie talking about “Leather Britches” makes my mouth water.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    May 13, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I not only have re-soled favorite shoes, back in high school when the heels would start wearing on my loafers, I’d get taps put on the heels of my shoes. I’d feel so cool walking down the hallway with the clicking of the metal taps accompanying my stroll.
    Lordy, I’d forgotten all about that, Tipper. Thanks for bringing back that memory. I was so cool… back in the day…

  • Reply
    May 13, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    My great grandmother had great big white rabbits. She’d comb them, card the fuzz and spin it into yarn. Woe to the rabbit that wouldn’t cooperate though!

  • Reply
    May 13, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    When I was a little girl, visiting Grandma and Grandpa was a real treat. In the winter Grandma would pull out the apples she had dried in the fall, soaked them in water then make the best winter apple pies. “Leather Britches” was another great treat for us. We would help Grandma string the green beans from her garden with needle and thread, hang the long ropes of beans on a nail on the porch where they dried. On cold wintry days, Grandma would cook a big pot of dried green beans and make a pone of cornbread. It was delicious.

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