Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew

nifty things your grandmother knew

By  Gaye Levy

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

A few weeks ago I was looking for some books that address old fashioned, tried and true ways of doing things. When I found “How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew” I knew I was on to something.

After reading this little book of quirky wisdom cover to cover, I knew that I had to share it with you. It is witty, informative and told in its own way sweet.  Not only that, the tips it shares are from ten real grandmothers who lived through the Great Depression and contributed their knowledge to the book. Charming and timely, it is filled with good-natured humor and the loving spirits of grandmothers everywhere.

Things Your Grandmother Knew

Reading through the chapters of  How to Sew a Button  is like paging through a depression-era manual on self-sufficiency. It includes all sorts of do-it-yourself advice and – no surprise here – tips on how to get by with very little money by wasting nothing.

Here are some of the chapter headings (but there are a lot more):

Be a Good Catch: How to Filet a Fish

Keep Away Pests: How to Naturally Protect Your Garden from No-Good Insects

Save Your Shirt: How to Sew a Button

Get Stoked: How to Build a Fire

Take the Cheese: How to Rid Your House of Mice

Chill Out: How to Save on Energy Costs

… and one of my favorites:

You Might as Well Dance: How to Do a Basic Waltz

The author, Erin Bried, has started each of the chapters with a direct quote – more of a musing, really – from one of the Grandmothers. Here’s one:

“We had a washtub, a big yellow bar of soap, and a rub board.   So we’d rub our clothes on that board and hang them on the line to dry.   We felt proud of our clean clothes or I wouldn’t have done it.”

My guess is that the big yellow bar of soap was Fels Naptha!   Now these days I would use my  mobile washer  instead of a washboard but the same principal applies.

One of the topics that was of particular interest to me was dandelion wine. As a number of readers so aptly pointed out awhile back, I should harvest dandelions and not kill them with my home-made weed killer. Here is how the recipe starts:

“Kick off your shoes, go outside on a sunny afternoon, and pick 2 quarts worth of fresh dandelion blossoms. You need only the flower petals, so   pluck them from their heads and give them a good wash. (The leaves and stems will bitter your wine.)”

See what I mean about quirky wisdom? Do you detect the bit of fun as you envision kicking off your shoes and stepping outdoors on a nice sunny day?

How to Unclog a Drain

My bathroom drain is constantly clogging up.   I refuse to use harsh chemicals and getting out the snake thingy is a lot of work.   Here is a tip from  How to Sew a Button  that just works!

1.   Sprinkle 1/2 cup baking soda down your slow-running or clogged drain.

2.   Wash it down with 1/2 cup white vinegar. It’ll bubble like your fifth-grade science experiment, but put a stopper over it and let the fizz work for 15 minutes.

3.   In the meantime, put on a full kettle to boil water.

4.   After your 15 minutes are up and your kettle whistles, unplug the drain and pour the boiling water down it.   Repeat if necessary.

This really does work great! And to keep things flowing, sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain weekly followed by hot tap water. This keeps thing sweet smelling, fresh and clear!

The Final Word

This little book is definitely not something to be read once and put back on the shelf. As much as I love Clara (Clara’s Kitchen), I also love these ten grandmothers and the author who brought their wisdom to life. It is perfect for anyone who wants to go back – in spirit at least – to a time when technology and modern conveniences did not dominate our lives.

And more than that, it is like having your own personal nana right there in your kitchen, offering over 100 tips for living your life in a simpler yet smarter and happier manner.

Check it out  and let me know what you think!

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Updated August 2014

Further articles by Gaye Levy:

About the author:

gaye levyGaye Levy, also known as  the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State.

Gaye lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at  At Backdoor Survival, she speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.  You can find Gaye through her website, on  Facebook,  Twitter  and  Pinterest.

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