Preparing To Be A Help Meet: Knowledge – House, Gardens and Cheese Making

Preparing To Be A Help Meet: Knowledge – House, Gardens and Cheese Making November 3, 2014

Yogurt making is actually pretty easy, so you don't have to let Debi scare you into thinking it is hard to learn.
Yogurt making is actually pretty easy, so you don’t have to let Debi scare you into thinking it is hard to learn.

by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide

In between sections of terrifyingly inaccurate information on reproduction and general health, Debi start throwing in random cautionary tales and tips on house-keeping….kind of.

Shock Training
I married a preacher. Actually, he was the pastor of a church at the time we married. That could happen to you. Learn now. Just two short weeks before we married, I was just a crazy 20-year-old who was peacefully enjoying the easy life that most 20-year-old girls enjoy.

If I remember correctly, Debi had dropped out of Bible college when she got bored and was working at a local church while following Michael around like a puppy-dog as he used her thanklessly to fulfill his “mission”. Oh, and Debi had been pretty important in getting his job as a preacher at her home church.

Sounds like a heap of fun.

By comparison, I was taking a full-college class load while working part-time at a local grocery store to pay for college. I was learning a ton about science and teaching while having fun with people my own age.

I had no idea I was about to be married. (You can read the rest of my story in Created to Be His Help Meet.)

Or in the first chapter of this book….

To be fair, no one knew you were about to be married. Michael accepted your proposal to prevent you from potentially leaving him for another man. He really hated the idea of you getting away from him – after all, to Michael, everyone else is expendable.

Now that I was a pastor’s wife, I was expected to know all, do all, and be all. I was suddenly responsible for keeping a large house clean, doing all the laundry, washing every dish, cooking every meal, entertaining large groups of people at the drop of a hat, and stretching money so thin the grocer couldn’t see color.

Welcome to adulthood.

Most people go through that when they move out on their own. My apartment was small and no one expected to entertain random people without advanced notice. On the flip side, I was in my first year of teaching in a challenging environment and was responsible for supporting myself financially – a problem Debi has never fully had.

Besides that, as a pastor’s wife I was expected to know how to counsel women, teach Bible classes, and generally be a wise, discerning woman of God.

I hope Debi is using hyperbole about what Michael’s (and her) church expected of her. She’s freaking 20 and dropped out of Bible college. What kind of counsel could she dispense to the women of her church? She hasn’t LIVED and isn’t particularly educated.

In the midst of all of this responsibility I had to learn how to live with and serve a messy, demanding husband!

Touche. Living with Michael Pearl would make everything else really, really, really hard because living with an entitled, self-important jerk would make life miserable.

I came into marriage missing a few spokes in my wheel. Don’t let it happen to you.

Agree to disagree. I think Debi had most of her spokes before she married Michael and lost spokes over the intervening years.

You spend your time pining away for your one true love and suddenly….voila! You’re married and it’s a lot more than you bargained for. Now is the hour you should be preparing to be a help meet.

Debi proceeds to (ironically) explain how hard that is to actually do in the absence of knowing your future husband’s career.

Help Meet Food Preparation 101
Every girl should know how to prepare different kinds of meats.

If you think you might marry Michael Pearl, I’d recommend learning to hunt and trap. When following a lunatic randomly around the country with children, a good rifle or set of traps could keep a variety of meats on the table.

You should know how to buy and prepare fresh vegetables.

Surprising fact: Nutritionally, low-sodium canned or frozen vegetables are better for you. Fresh vegetables at a store have been shipped – at some distance depending on the season – and have lower nutrition values than canned or frozen. Canning/freezing plants put a premium on moving produce rapidly from field to finished product since that cuts down on their overhead. Plus, canned and frozen veggies have already been cleaned, skinned and chopped which is a great time-saver.

It is really important to know how to use dried beans. Using dried beans as a base, you can feed a lot of people healthy and tasty food with just a little money.

I agree with Debi on this one. My husband and I use dried beans in about half of our meals. They add a nice punch of flavor, protein and fiber while being really cheap.

The down side is that they require a bit of planning. The “rapid” method I know takes about 3-4 hours to re-hydrate and cook the beans. I find it easier to soak them overnight in enough water to cover the beans + 2 inches over top. Be sure the pot is at least 4 times as large as the amount of beans or beans will spill out of the pot and get everywhere. In the morning, I change the water and change the water once I get home from work. I toss a piece of dried kelp in the pot (or baking soda) and get them boiling. They’re ready to eat in about 90 minutes and wonderfully tender.

Another important piece of information is where to purchase healthier food at a better price than at the corner grocery store.

Like where, Debi?

I live in the middle of agricultural land, so I can get great deals on fruits and veggies from local farm stands that people put up along the side of the road – but those farm stands would be horribly expensive if you had to drive from the city.

Some cities have decent community-supported agriculture or CSA’s, but I don’t know how cost-effective they are compared to shopping prudently at the local stores. Ditto for co-ops.

“My mother doesn’t know all this stuff, and she’s done all right!” I hear you saying. Yeah, well, it depends on who you marry whether you can do all right with ten percent knowledge. My mom knew a lot, but she was never married to a pastor, and that adds a whole new list of responsibilities. If you marry a doctor, or a lawyer, or a farmer, then you’ll have another list of responsibilities.

I can’t believe I need to write this but…. YOU get to CHOOSE who you MARRY.

Even in a “parent-lead courtship” or as I like to call it “CP arranged marriage”, you should have veto power.

If you don’t, you have far larger problems ahead than knowing how to cook beans.

Unrelated thought: Way to insult your mother, Debi. That’s classy.

Thinking about a farmer brings up another list of things you need to learn.

Oh, heavens. This is gonna be bad.

You should have already learned how to make butter, cheese, yogurt and kefir.

Kefir? The “champagne of milk” kefir? I don’t like milk or champagne so I’ll pass, thanks.

Most of you think you’ll never have the opportunity to obtain raw milk, so you will not need to know how to make yogurt. But what if you marry a farmer?

*raises hand*

I married a dairy farmer, Debi, so I have a surprising insight for you.

Knowing how to make cheese was NEVER mentioned at all prior to marriage. EVER.

Ironically, I do know how to make cheese and I question Debi’s cheese-making skills.

See, you can make perfectly fine cheese out of milk from the store as long as it is not ultra-pasteurized and you add a 30% calcium chloride solution. You can buy rather overpriced calcium chloride from a cheese making supply site OR you can buy PickleCrisp (in the canning section at grocery stores) and dilute it yourself. You can also save a heap of money if you’ve taken enough microbiology classes that you know how to propagate a bacterial culture in milk you sterilize at home.

Hmm. It’s almost like those college classes I took made me MORE able to save money at home. How strange.

I also learned how to do probability problems. What is the probability of someone marrying a dairy farmer who is under 45 years old? 2% of people in the USA are in production agriculture (not counting agribusiness like feed stores or processing plants). 2% of agricultural workers are in dairy production. Of dairy farmers, 28% are under the age of 45.

151.4 million men x .02 in production ag x 0.2 dairy farmers x .28% =16,957 men total. Let’s assume the population follows the 30.1% marriage rate nationally. That would leave 11,751 dairy farming men available for marriage. If 10% are gay, that takes us down to 10,576.

In terms of percentages: 0.009% of single men under 45 are production dairy farmers.

Takeaway: Don’t make learn to make cheese to impress your future dairyman husband. A) You aren’t gonna marry a dairy farmer (statistically) and B) that’s not something a dairy farmer would care about anyways.

(Side note from my husband: “If someone wants to marry you so your cheese-making skills can save their farm, RUN AWAY!”)

Now, a couple of business classes and an outside job with benefits….that’s a nice addition to a farm 🙂

Would you know even the basics on how to grow a garden? Learn how by offering to help someone with their garden. Read gardening books.

She makes it sound so easy. Why don’t most CP/QF families have a garden, then?

Gardening is fun – if you like plants – but it takes a crazy amount of time and energy. During the summer, I keep a 700 sq. ft. vegetable garden. It takes me around 20 hours a week from April through September to keep the garden going and put up the food I grow.

Oh, yeah. Debi left that tidbit out. You need to be able to store the food you grow if you live in an area where the growing season is limited. Once produce from the garden starts coming in, I’m in the kitchen peeling, chopping, blanching, pickling, canning, freezing and drying until well into November.

What does canning, drying and freezing all have in common? They all require fairly expensive supplies to start with.

Drying is probably the cheapest IF you own a gas stove so you can just dry using the pilot light (a trick my mom uses) or you live in a warm, low moisture climate that you can outdoor or sun dry the food. I have neither, so my parents gave me a dehydrator as a present when I lived at home and I saved up to buy more trays. You also need to buy jars to store the dried food in – which can be expensive.

Freezing is pretty cheap as long as you have a strainer, a good size pot, freezer bags and freezer space. The more you try to freeze, though, the more expensive it gets since freezers have a large up-front cost.

I love to can, but the upfront costs are large. For basic boiling bath canning, you need a boiling bath canner, Mason jars, a food-safe funnel and a jar lifter along with a food safe canning recipe book. I had gotten most of those before I married by buying a bit at a time. When I married, we used some of our gift money to buy a pressure cooker so I could can in large batches and put up low acid foods. Honestly, those are way outside of QF/CP family budgets since they cost around 100-150 dollars each.

Does Debi really think most CP newlyweds have 20 hours a week and at least $200 dollars for preserving supplies and $50.00 worth of seeds?

I don’t. That makes me sad, actually.

AntiPearl: It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.
B. C. Forbes


Read everything by Mel!

Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide

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