Knitting, kneeling and killing


A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Knitting

Winters were cold in South Australia and knitted woollen jumpers were well valued. I learnt to knit with scraps of wool and probably first knitted squares or a scarf. I also knitted small vests for dolls. Mum’s motto that idle hands make for the devil’s work, meant that it was always wise to have something on the go. New wool was expensive to purchase so I do remember much unravelling of previously knitted garments to be rolled into tight balls before the wool was reused for a new jumper.

New wool came in skeins rather than balls, so several hours involving two people would be spent rolling the skeins into balls. Many women took their knitting everywhere they went. In the waiting rooms for doctors and dentists, it was not uncommon to see all the women knitting. I appreciated having learnt how to knit especially once I was at boarding school. Knitting filled in many long hours chatting with friends.

It is interesting to look back at knitting patterns through the Internet Archive.

Kneeling

Every night after the dishes had been washed, dried and put away we knelt as a family to pray the rosary. The Catholic rosary is a sequence of prayers repeated five times. The belief that the family that prays together stays together was always highly valued. This did not stop us as youngsters getting the giggles or poking fun or nudging at a nearby sibling. At the end of a long day, one person might fall asleep, a quick tap would suffice to bring them back into the fold.

Killing

A sheep was killed regularly to feed our large family. After slaughter and skinning, the beast was suspended high on a meat hook to deter the dog and numerous cats. Dad gutted it then sawed it roughly into joints. The whole collection of parts was delivered to the kitchen.

Mum trimmed the flaps and neck chops ready for stews. All the scraps that could be salvaged from any cut off remnants were then minced. The mincer was screwed on to the end of a table or the kitchen bench. Perched on a chair I took my turn pushing down on that meat to feed it through the mincer while turning that stubborn handle. Other joints were sawn into chops. Meat processing took several hours before it was all packed away into meal sized portions.

Hens that no longer laid eggs were killed for consumption. If one could get the fowl to lay still, neck stretched across the chopping block, a quick strike of the axe did the job. The smell of wet feathers after the bird was plunged in boiling water remains with me. We plucked the feathers before “dressing the fowl,”  cleaning out the innards and saving the giblets for soup. Old hens, the boilers, made great stock for chicken soup and provided cold meat for hot weather and sandwiches. Younger birds were stuffed and roasted, one to serve many.

11 comments:

  1. We didn't have sheep on our farm, but we too had chickens, and I remember watching my Dadwith the old hens on the chopping block and my Mom and Grandma plucking the chickens. Sins they were not ever young, spring chickens, the stock pot was the best way to cook them, and that wasn't too often as the flock was fairly small. Most of our meat was beef. Daddy would always raise a steer or two for beef each year, but he usually sent them out to be butchered and packaged, so we were spared the meat preparation chores that you faced.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We rarely had beef so mutton (lamb) and chicken were our more regular meals. Thanks for visiting again.

      Delete
  2. We didn't raise an serious livestock (though we went shares with my aunt and uncle on a sheep or two, and I think a cow at one point, but the animals lived at their place--and were butchered there) when I was a kid. But we did raise, and eat, rabbits. That was all on my brothers and me, and I'm not sure which put me off eating them more--having to kill them or cleaning their cages (well, it was the latter, actually). Mom had one of those meat grinders, but we didn't use it much that I remember.
    The Ninja Librarian’s Favorite Characters

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rabbits will feature in R but they are a pest in Australia.

      Delete
  3. My mother had a mincer. I do remember her using it but I have no idea where it is now. You have led me astry with the Knitting link....there goes the weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing like the Internet Archive for an endlessly deep rabbit hole!

      Delete
  4. Hi Carmel - I know we had chickens and remember the last of the feathers being burnt off with a match, and we hung our own pigs for bacon ... must have had ham too ...

    Knitting and I did not get on - I can't wear wool ... and I'm afraid communal kneeling wasn't done at home - at Church - til I fainted and need fresh air away from the incense ...

    Now a mincer - oh yes all the different sorts through the years ... and stubborn machinery ... lovely memories - cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/l-is-for-legendary-beasts-of-britain.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. I loved feeding meat in the mincer. It was usually the leftovers of the roast lamb which would then be made into a shepherd's pie the next night. There were only three of us, then two when my father died so food went a lot further than it would have in your house.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My mom talks about her father killing hogs every fall, and every piece used for something. The meal at night would be scrambled eggs and brains... she said it was delicious. I think I'll pass and take her word for it. He cured the ham and sold most of it to support the farm.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I also am a knitter. My mom knitted squares she told me during WWII, they were made into blankets to send to the soldiers.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My grandmother and mom were big knitters when I was growing up. My grandmother taught me to crochet, and I later learned to knit on my own. It's definitely a meditative practice and a great carry-along craft!

    ReplyDelete