Back (?) To Simplicity

This time of year we are bombarded with messages that we need more in order to be happy. More electronics, more toys, more food, more decorations, more friends, more parties, more clothes. Whatever you possess could be better, and what you don’t have is out there for the buying. Perhaps you are wishful for a simpler time, like, say, 1916. Back then, people in the countryside still got around with horses. The post office connected you with family, newspapers were the main source of information, and most foods were locally raised and produced.

But perhaps society was not so different back then. I’m reading, “Shelter and Clothing: A Textbook Of the Household Arts,” written by Helen Kine, copyright 1916. This is what she has to say.

A home based on the right principles will be simple. There will be simplicity of living, honesty in the expression of what is offered in the home. No ostentation or living beyond one’s means: simplicty in entertainment in offering freely of what one has to friends, without apology or explanation: simple furnishings, simple, healthful food, simple, artistic clothing, all help to simplify life and give the home makers more time for the family joys and intercourse. It sometimes requires much courage and independence of thought and action to achieve this ideal when one’s neighbors give elaborate dinners which are paid for with difficulty, seek the excitement of moving-picture and vaudeville shows when the can scarcely be afforded, and neglect the allurements of woods and fields and streams, which offer more healthful and simpler pleasures.

That doesn’t sound much different from today, does it? A “simpler” era is never the one you are living in. You don’t have to go back in time to live by the “right principles”, and in fact, there’s no year to go back to. But you can have, as Helen Kine says, the courage to make this here and now the right time for yourself. Simplicity is a state of mind which you can weave it into your own modern life. Every morning, I go out early, these days in freezing temperatures, and am greeted by busy, cheerful, greedy, hungry animals. They get underfoot, they squawk, they chortle, they are grateful for the food. Taking care of their basic needs takes care of mine. Quiet moments, outside, caring for animals, is my touchstone for the life that I strive to create. To make your own simple life, start your day in a coop. If you can’t keep your own hens, I’m happy to share mine at HenCam. I don’t rail against this modern world. Having read about housekeeping in the early 1900s, I am ever so grateful for my washing machine, central heat and electric lights. I’m especially grateful for modern medicine and the miracle of my cochlear implants. But I don’t want to be so immersed in the modern world that I miss out on Mrs. Kine’s fields and streams. The barns in my backyard act as a counter-balance to the technology in my home. My hens provide perspective (and much cause for laughter.) That I can share this simple world through the complexity of a computer is an irony of twenty-first century life. Isn’t it wonderful?


  1. Yes it is! All wonderful points :)
    “Start your day in a coop” …I do!!

    • All of us who read your wonderful writings Terry share your kindred spirit! So true~ starting ones day in a coop sure helps to stay centered…great way to start each day!

  2. This is an absolutely a wonderful post. Sometimes I feel like I had been born in the wrong time but I know this isn’t possible since the Lord above never makes mistakes. I know joy is really a state of heart and mind.

    I’m refreshed to find that there are still other people who value the same things that I do.

  3. “tis a gift to be simple”… An invaluable lesson especially for children who are so over indulged at every turn. Most parents feel like good parents when they give their kids what the want. I am grateful to give my kids horses, barn chores, lambing season, goat milking, tadpole and sandhill crane watching, mulch spreading and oh yes, chicken watering in the freeze of winter!

  4. Love that picture – reminds me of my youth. However, my grandma kept geese and her neighbor had chickens. Your words express the reason I want some hens. Just to be able to kick back and enjoy their company and silly antics.

  5. I forwarded this to all my library friends who, along with me, dealt with hundreds of ill mannered children yesterday and of course..when it rains here….all you know what breaks loose. Thank you for a ray of sunshine in our hectic day! Glad I have my hens to keep me centered.

  6. I can readily identify with the quote you shared by Helen Kine. I, too, want to live a simpler life and have been working toward that end for a number of years now. What a blessing and a joy it has been for me to be able to grow my own food and interact with my chickens. It’s such a shame that there were generations of people who lost touch with that reality for a time. I’m so glad to see the tide turning.

    By the way, congratulations on being a Country Living Reader’s Choice winner, Terry!

    Liz @ The Brambleberry Cottage

  7. Your post—both Helen Kine’s words and your own—are a perfect holiday gift. All I need is right there. Thank you.

  8. Terry, I am extremely grateful for my dishwasher ;-)
    I feel like Lynn at times born in the wrong time or maybe I’m just reicarnated from a time long ago.
    Last Christmas we were all sitting around moms dinner table about to say grace and dig in when my mom said: “oh wait a minute I forgot something” She got up, walked around the table grabbed my 19 year old nephew’s cell phone (he thought no one saw him texting under the table) and she sent it sliding across the dining room floor into the kitchen. She said, we are having an old fashion Christmas with no cell phones blah blah blah.

  9. thank you for reminding us to keep it simple…Sad today as I just found the hen I suspect is egg eating. I start at 5 or 6 am to gather eggs from my 8 hens as I was trying to do my part but losing an egg every couple of days with the evidence all over my black stars feathers. now I am sad as I don’t know what to do next with her. Any ideas I am afraid she will share the news with the other hens soon. I am checking the nest every hour until noon.

    • I haven’t had an egg eater in ages. First, make sure that the egg shells are thick – are your hens getting enough calcium? Also, the older the hen, the thinner the shell. Is she eating her own egg or others? Sometimes a hen with egg laying issues eats their own soft eggs. It does help to collect eggs frequently, as you’ve been doing. It helps to put dummy eggs in – wooden ones work. If she’s unsuccessful a few times trying to break those, she might stop. It helps to keep the nesting box area in dim light. Hen have terrible vision in the dark. If she can’t see the egg she can’t eat it. Good-luck!

  10. Thanks Terry for sharing your thoughts! I have been mulling a similar topic over in my head for weeks for my own blog, you are inspiring me.

    My mornings (and the evening check in) with my chickens make my day, every day. We are leaving for the week with my family and I have a neighbor and fellow chicken keeper that will be taking care of my girls while I am gone…..but I will miss my mornings with them!

  11. Hi all and thanks for the comments. It’s good to hear that others start their days in the coop. It’s centering, isn’t it? In the “good old days” life was more physically challenging, but people were no less complicated. It’s all in the choices we make. Isn’t it great that we can choose to turn off the phone at dinner?

  12. Terry is that an ancester of yours? The picture looks strikingly familiar! Thamks for the beautiful message and reminder of the importance of simple joys just in time for the holidays.

  13. Sweet Peacefulness! The animals keep me grounded as well, and put me in touch with the earth each morning…remnding me to be grateful.

  14. Hi Terry, I couldn’t agree with you more! Another book that you may enjoy is titled: Little Heathens; Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. This book was a joy to read! It’s filled with humor and many good old-fashioned recipes like corn fritters and homemade marshmallows. Imagine how hard it was to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal in a woodstove? Mildred explains it all very eloquently. A good bool to curl up with on a gray January day!

  15. i agree with you…my motto is to simplify life because it`s better to live simple(: