Frugal Lessons From The Past: Kate Sanborn

History can provide some of the best lessons to help us figure out solutions to today’s problems.

Concerning finances, thrift, frugality and simple living there are tried and true bedrock principals that we should never forget.

This post is part of a series that focuses on some of those principals by going to source materials for inspiration.

Kate Sanborn (1839 – 1917) purchased and moved onto an abandoned farm in Massachusetts in 1888 and wrote about her trials and tribulations in a book entitled Adopting an Abandoned Farm published in 1891. In the following passage she writes of some of the pleasures and advantages of country living.

“I have told you of my mistakes, failures, losses, but have you any idea of my daily delights, my lasting gains?

From invalidism to health, from mental depression to exuberant spirits, that is the blessed record of two years of amateur farming. What has done this? Exercise, actual hard work, digging in the dirt. We are made of dust, and the closer our companionship with Mother Earth in summer time the longer we shall keep above ground. Then the freedom from conventional restraints of dress; no necessity for "crimps," no need of foreign hirsute adornment, no dresses with tight arm holes and trailing skirts, no high-heeled slippers with pointed toes, but comfort, clear comfort, indoors and out.

Plenty of rocking chairs, lounges that make one sleepy just to look at them, open fires in every room, and nothing too fine for the sun to glorify; butter, eggs, cream, vegetables, poultry--simply perfect, and the rare, ecstatic privilege of eating onions--onions raw, boiled, baked, and fried at any hour or all hours. I said comfort; it is luxury!

Dr. Holmes says: "I have seen respectability and amiability grouped over the air-tight stove, I have seen virtue and intelligence hovering over the register, but I have never seen true happiness in a family circle where the faces were not illuminated by the blaze of an open fireplace." And nature! I could fill pages with glowing descriptions of Days Outdoors. In my own homely pasture I have found the dainty wild rose, the little field
strawberries so fragrant and spicy, the blue berries high and low, so desirable for "pie-fodder," and daisies and ferns in abundance, and, in an adjoining meadow by the brookside, the cardinal flower and the blue gentian. All these simple pleasures seem better to me than sitting in heated, crowded rooms listening to interminable music, or to men or women who never know when to stop, or rushing round to gain more information on anything and everything from Alaska to Zululand, and wildly struggling to catch up with "social duties."

City friends, looking at the other side of the shield, marvel at my contentment, and regard me as buried alive. But when I go back for a short time to the old life I am fairly homesick. I miss my daily visit to the cows and the frolic with the dogs. All that has been unpleasant fades like a dream.

I think of the delicious morning hours on the broad vine-covered piazza, the evenings with their starry splendor or witching moonlight, the nights of sound sleep and refreshing rest, the all-day picnics, the jolly drives with friends as charmed with country life as myself, and I weary of social functions and overpowering intellectual privileges, and every other advantage of the metropolis, and long to migrate once more from Gotham to Gooseville.”

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