"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Chatelaine" - New Recurring Feature

In trying to keep better track of the products of the homestead, I've decided I should invent a new category here on the blog. It will include all aspects of food production - garden, meat and eggs and milk, honey, and orchard products. It will also detail what I am doing with said products - processing for home consumption, trading, selling, et cetera.

In the past, all this sort of thing has been chopped up into the categories of self-sufficiency, preserving, finances, gardening, and the like. I will still use those tags so that people can search by them, but I think I will add a new tag called "Chatelaine" (Thank you Sharon Astyk- The Chatelaine's Keys). I love the concept of the chatelaine - the word is so much more romantic than "housewife" though the duties are actually much the same.

A chatelaine oversees the stores. She supervises the garden, the orchard, the apiary, the coop, the stables, the dairy, and the kitchen and pantry. She keeps the books describing what supplies are on hand and what are needed. Such supplies would include, for example, not only human food but animal fodder. They would include preserving supplies such as salt, jars, sugar, pectin, and cheesecloth. Also fertilizer, garden tools, wire and rope and all the various necessities of farm life. The chatelaine knows the state of health of every animal on the spread, when it is time to turn the compost pile, how many bean seeds to order, and how the chickens are laying.

She maintains the trade network. She knows the neighbors, and what each of them needs, wants, and has to offer in trade. She walks the pastures and knows the state of them. She inspects the barn and knows what repairs need to be made. She maintains contact with the veterinarian, the farrier, the orchardist, the guy with the big tractor, the mechanic, and the butcher. She oversees the state of the kitchen equipment, maintaining and replacing as necessary pots and pans, sieves and colanders, brooms and mops and soap and dishes and silverware. She shops for the staples of dry goods (pulses, grains, canned goods, and spices). Whatever is needed, she knows if you have it, how much, and if not why not and how to get it.

I believe I may have already combined the office of chatelaine with that of overseer or foreman, but even so, I have not yet begun to describe the duties of the housewife (which is to say, my duties). The housewife, in addition to being responsible for procuring the supplies necessary to the baker, the cheesemaker, the cook, the maid, the gardener, and the governess, does in fact actually perform all of those duties herself - myself.

I am the chatelaine, the accountant, the goatherd, the flock-keeper, the beekeeper, the cook, the gardener, the baker, the housekeeper, and not to even mention, the freakin' mother of the children and the wife. I am responsible for everything I have described above, plus the education and well-being of my children, the satisfaction of my husband, and possibly the survival of civilization as we know it.

I feel I have strayed into sarcasm, which was not my intention. I actually do admire and aspire to the office of chatelaine. It is a pretty good word to describe a large part of my job. I'm going to claim it and use it. I'm actually going to to try and fulfill the office - well, I have already been trying to do so, and let me tell you, it's not an easy job. Especially when you your other job is "housewife."


LilacCottageGoats said...

I like that word too. I think it suits you very well. I have heard of that word before. I do 18th century reeacting, and some of my friends wear a large pin or broch the has thin chains attached to it, and from the chains the lady of the house would attached thing like keys to all the doors in the house, small scissors, needle case, pin cushion, things like that. Then she would wear it at her waist on her skirt. I just thought you would like to know that too.


My Edible Yard said...

Great post. Love your blog. What I wouldn't give to have a little bit more room, but we're trying it on our little less than 1/5th of an acre. Chatelaine is the perfect word.

polly's path said...

I love it. I personally call myself a greenhorn, or a farm chick.
A friend of ours who carves wood recently made me a walking stick with a tiny bell in it, and called it my goatherd crook.