Thursday, May 7, 2009

Grandma's Washing Machine

Bonjour from Campagne Maison

Or is that kettle, pot, or tub? Depends on what part of the country you were raised in, I suppose. All I know is that this one belonged to my paternal grandmother. From verbal history I have been told that she used it to boil water to wash clothes in, with the help of a scrub board and lye soap-- that would be homemade lye soap, made in this same kettle.

Grandma would make lye soap when they killed a hog because the “rendering of that fat” was one ingredient necessary for making the soap. She saved bacon grease throughout the year to add to the soap making recipe. That may have been her secret ingredient, or “fragrance”, I don’t know. I’m not sure where she got the lye. I do know that some people made it from the wood ashes cleaned out of their heating and cook stoves. They would filter the ashes with water to get the liquid to mix with the hog fat. It was a “science” of trial and error to get the recipe just right. She cooked that mixture in this pot over an open fire all day and the kids would help stir the pot. After it cooked, I assume she poured it out and let it cool and then cut it into bars. I do not remember hearing anything else about the procedure after the cooking. I do know that some of my older siblings said it was strong enough to “take your skin off”. It must have been if it could take stains out of work clothes.

I love having a piece of MY family history to share with others. Unlike my grandmother, I cannot use the kettle to wash clothes in or make lye soap--THANK GOODNESS- but I do display it proudly. Last year it held California poppies. This year it’s petunias.

If anyone has any more details on the making of lye soap or the use of these old cast iron kettles, I would love to hear about them.

Please leave a comment if you stopped by the farmhouse today. We love having company.

Au revoir,


Jenny said...


You should learn to make lye soap as a prepareness item. We all need to have a good food storage so plant that garden! A good water supply so save some bottles of water, (although Campaign Maison does has a spring) Put your self a beef and pig out to graze / wallow AND learn to make lye soap, only now you can make it in a crock instead of using the soap making you need "lard" for it. You generally make that for you laundry but you can also make nice glycerin beauty soap. (the bacon grease goes in the laundry though) My church group is planning on soapmaking for an activity so I'll let you know how it turns out....we have done it before years ago but with the economy the way it is even the "French population" needs to know these things.


Jacque said...

WOW...can I come up to PA and take that class? I sure would love to learn how to do that! I am not sure about the lye soap for bathing, but the glycerin soap sounds pretty nice. I know...i just can't seem to muster up the energy to plant that garden this year. The guys across the road sure does look great. I hope he lets me "pick" it again this year! OKRA...yum-o!