From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Five Steps of Home Improvement

Ideas from 1923 for making your home place look and function better



These five steps to a convenient and attractive home place are from a 1923 Agriculture textbook, (The New Agriculture for High Schools by Kary Cadmus Davis, Ph, D.) Dr. Davis's five steps are listed below in the order that they should be undertaken:

1. Clean up the place and put it in order as much as you can.

2. Study the current situation and think how it could be improved by re-planning or by adding new features.

3. Carry out the proposed improvements.

4. Add trees, shrubs and other plants to shade, beautify, delineate, and disguise.

5. Install modern conveniences.

Dr. Davis was writing about the improvement of a farm's home place, which would include barns, barnyards, chicken house, orchard, house, etc. However, his steps could be applied to any sort or size of home, anywhere.

I like his recommendation to make the most of what is there, first. Before you start spending money, put some elbow grease into it and really clean up the place. That can be a big improvement!

The "re-planning" he mentions in step 2 might include some "re-purposing", as we say today -- that is, simply thinking about the best way to use what you have to meet your needs and to improve the appearance of the place where you live.

I've watched Mennonite families set up farming operations in old farm buildings that weren't in the best of shape. It is interesting that they proceed much as outlined above.

First, they clean up the place, get the grass mowed, take care of the fences, nail down the loose boards, etc. Then, as money permits, they add the most necessary improvements first.

In the case of one of our Mennonite neighbors, he built a big machine shed for his tractor repair business as soon as they moved in. The old house looked pretty rough for a few years, but now they have put vinyl siding on it, and are in the process of building on a few rooms.

The modern conveniences that Dr. Davis suggested for step 5 were running water, bathroom equipment, electric lights and irrigation. That was in 1923. We think of most of those as necessities 85 years later!

In 2007, the modern conveniences we'd like might be a refrigerator with ice and water in the door, a home theater, or a hot tub. They're not necessities and everyone doesn't have them, but they'd be nice. I imagine that Dr. Davis would like us pay cash for our modern conveniences rather than purchasing them on credit, too.

The benefits of home improvement? Dr. Davis lists three:

1. For the members of the family -- better satisfaction with home surroundings, improvement and conservation of health, a valuable education for its younger members.
2. For the community -- good example.
3. For the place itself -- enhanced value.

Source: The New Agriculture for High Schools, by Kary Cadmus Davis, Ph.D. (Cornell). Published in Philadelphia by the J.B. Lippincott Company, in 1923. From the chapter titled "Improvement Projects" (p. 303).


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6 comments:

Pondering Pig said...

This sounds so simple even a pig could do it! I'll just start with the first one. That should take me all year.

Genevieve said...

Yes, it sounds easy as presented there in the textbook, and it is interesting to analyze the process of home improvement and break it down into steps.

In real life though, isn't it an ongoing process in which you revisit the various steps again and again?

Trixie said...

I'm stuck on step one after my most recent move earlier this month. I will count it a success to be able to get the boxes out of my house, off my screened back porch and out of the garage!

I love what you've done to change the look of your blog. I'd say you've put
Dr. Davis's advice to good work! I'm happy I can visit again now that I'm hooked up once more. Well, sort of hooked up. I still need to improve that situation too...

Genevieve said...

Trixie! It's great to have you visit.

You must have found a house to buy. I've nearly given up reading other blogs this summer because the computer I've been using is so slow.

Moving is hard, but it has its benefits. It does force you to evaluate what you have and re-organize it.

Mourningdove's Serendipity said...

How refreshing! I think I haven't been able to see the forest for the trees! I have to remember this, the next time I am overwhelmed by my house...

Genevieve said...

It really is a pretty good set of suggestions. I think sometimes we get focused on what we wish we could build or buy. We forget the place could be greatly improved by just putting it into good order and possibly doing some re-purposing and small modifications.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.