Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I think life is all about learning and lessons. For every situation I find myself in, I ask, "What am I supposed to learn here?"

I don't think of myself as an "experience junkie," but I do try to push my boundaries. That was a physical thing when I was younger - I went rock climbing even though I have a gut-wrenching fear of heights. I galloped race horses for a living for a while, even though speed terrifies me. And I took a meats class in college, even though I respect all life and find it physically painful to kill an animal.

I learned many things about myself and the world from those parts of my life. I'm sure I'll share them when I am older and have more time to reflect. Now I tend to spend more time pushing mental boundaries and trying to make myself learn things that I am resistant to. Anybody have suggestions for making book keeping easier?

Sometimes the lessons are simple.

In my new position as a craft interpreter I am demonstrating old-fashioned soap making, cooking on a wood stove and driving a mule. I spend the day explaining what I am doing as I do it, why it was important to the hill people of the Ozarks in the 1890's and listening to people's memories.

I've had to learn to adapt many of my usual techniques to doing it the old fashioned way.
Now I am a big (almost 6-foot), strong woman. I make soap at home in stainless steel 5-gallon pots and only recently realized they might be heavy (about 60 pounds when full of soap). I cook with an 18-inch cast iron frypan and pick it up to scoop eggs on to our breakfast plates.

So, when I made my first batch of old-fashioned soap in the giant cast iron cauldron over the open fire, I tried to figure out how to pick up the kettle to pour the soap into the mold.
Now, the cauldron weighs about 70 lbs and it had 8 lbs of soap in it.

Not only that, it was steaming over an open fire. Bit of a reality gap there.

But the soap needed to go into the wood mold over on the table... Matie Bell came to my rescue with her handy ladle and scooped the soap into the mold. I don't think she even realized I was confuzzled.

The next day, I was heating water in a big cast iron pot on the wood stove to wash dishes. How to get the water to the sink? I knew how heavy the pot was - I had put it on top of the stove. And now it was steaming.

Gabby lifted the ladle from its hook on the side of the cast iron stove and began scooping water into the dish pan. Oh!

But it still didn't sink in until last night. I was trying to figure out how to pour the whey off of the new batch of cheese that I had just made in our giant family-sized rectangular electric skillet (cravings are the mother of adaptation!) and I was having a heck of a time lifting the skillet in such a way that the contents would pour into the mold that I had put in the sink.

Suddenly - ok, no, Finally! - the lesson hit home. I set the fry pan down on the counter, laughed loudly and heartily at myself and got the ladle out of the drawer.

The cheese scooped happily out of the whey in the pan and plopped soundly into the mold. I laughed the whole time.

What if my whole purpose in working at the Folk Center was to teach me to use a ladle!?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Want another laugh? I'm very much a creature of habbit, especially spacially. We are at last staring to use the new kitchen. No water or floor yet, but stove and some electrictiy are in. Nothing is in the same place it used to be. Imagine me going around in circles trying to find the right light switch and guess where I or someone else "put something away". I think I'll go see if I can find the ladle!