How to do Things Thursdays

how to do things farmhouse blacksburgI don’t know about you, but it’s been on my mind to learn how to do more things for about …. oh…. maybe decades. At least since I lived here in this tumbledown farm in 1976. Well, actually, I did learn plenty of  things back then, but as you can see, home maintenance was evidently not one of them (you can read more here). Anyway, here I am, some 40 odd years later still wishing I was more “handy.” Turns out, lots of others I know are in the same boat, so if I’m also talkin’ to you, then come along with me on a How To Do Things adventure!

how to do things, 1919 book cover

How to do Things Thursdays launches this Thursday, March 1st. Every week or so, I’ll share my trials and tribulations (and yours) en route to  becoming a “handy gal.” Guest posts are welcome and, as you can see, we have a textbook

Almost exactly 100 years ago, Farm Journal magazine published this fab “compendium of new and practical farm and household devices, helps, hints, recipes, formulas and useful information” culled from their monthly magazines. Turns out this wonderful book still contains some quite useful advice for getting by in life. While some of the info is dated, like how to hitch your telephone to the fence or controlling vegetable pests with toxic poisons, (and yes, it’s rather sexist) … there are some real make-do gems here. Cheese-making, a hot air fruit dryer, games, a hinged garden veg trellis and you know you need this watch compass:

watch compass

Farm Journal magazine has been around since 1877, born of a need to share “common sense information to farmers and their wives.” The early issues included up-to-date information on agriculture and rural politics as well as household hints, recipes and advice on raising kids on the farm.

Fast forward to 1919. As the How to do Things book went to press, America found itself smack-dab in the middle of a full out and rather messy country life movement. It’s my favorite period of history, the first two decades of the 20th century. Agrarian politics aside, Americans threw off their collective corsets and plunged into an era of transformation that makes my head spin. Child labor protection, agricultural extension and land grant universities, farmers moving to cities, city folk buying farms, the simplified spelling movement, a bohemian passion for vegan and raw foods. And the arts, oh my! The horrors of WWI united us for a spell, but the corset-flinging would pick up where it left off well into the 20s.

And as it turns out, things haven’t changed so much in the last 100 years. We Americans are still flinging all manner of stuff, and common sense farm & home skills never go out of style. 

farm magazines 3

So open your How to do Things textbook, a vintage farm magazine or find a do-things mentor and let’s get some order into our tumble-down lives.

a tumbledown farm
A Tumbledown Farm
a how to do things farm
A How to do Things Farm 

We’ll see where this goes, and if you’d like to share a How to do Things tip for kitchen, garden or home, leave a comment below or contact me about including your project with photos in a guest post. 


farm magazines 2

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Email


  1. Lyndell L Wisler

    I am looking for a copy of the how to do things book for oceana county Mi, it has my family in the census part and my copy was lost in a recent wildfire in Wyoming it had the green cover and was probably around 1919

  2. John Harley

    This farmhouse brings back memories. I don’t know if this was a “standard floorplan” or not during the day, but it is exactly like my Uncle Arthur Harley”s house in Gallatin, Tn. I was raised in Dayton, Oh . My sister and I spent summers in this house. I am 87 yrs old now. This back porch was for “washing up” before eating, this part of the house was the dining room and the kitchen (with the old wood-burning stove). Thanks for the memories.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *