The greater part of our population are waiting till they can afford to have pleasant homes, forgetting that they can at no time afford to have any other. We take the color of our daily surroundings, and are happier, more amiable, stronger to labor and firmer to endure, when those surroundings are pleasing and in good taste. To possess these important qualities they need not be expensive. True beauty is cheaper than we think.
The first charm of a home, within and without, is thorough neatness, and this is the result of habit, not outlay. It is oftener cheaper than filth. Paint the house if you can; if not, whitewash: but in any case let it be in thorough repair.
Let there be no loose shingles or dangling clapboards, or gates hanging by a broken hinge. These hints favor thrift as well as taste.
Let the house be sufficiently shaded. This will pay in comfort, wear of furniture, and lack of flies. If you cannot afford green blinds, you can always afford a green tree or two, that costs nothing but labor and patience, and will shelter you from the sun in summer and the wind in winter.
Let your turf be smooth and firm as velvet, and enforce the death penalty upon weeds with an unsparing hand. No man, rich or poor, can afford to raise weeds. They choose the richest spots, where flowers, or fruit, or vegetables might grow, and send abroad their seeds as missionaries of evil into every nook and corner.
Ill-kept places always have their vegetable Five Points, where sin and misery are mimicked in pigweed, burdock, and nettles. A very few flowers will suffice; a monthly rose in the window, a morning-glory over the doorway, a bright border between your kitchen garden and the street; these add to the picture just those touches of color that make it pleasant to the eye. With half a dozen cheap and common kinds, your wife will take care that something is always in bloom.
But flowers are gross feeders, and if you keep no domestic animals, you fancy, perhaps, that you have no manure. You were never more mistaken. Every human dwelling is a centre of fertilizing agents, mostly wasted as times go, rich enough to make the whole plot around it blossom like the rose. Tell the soil that you have nothing to give it! Give it what you have and it will laugh in your face.
The suds from the laundry is a store of liquid wealth. Never waste a drop of it in drains or sewers. It is a floating currency, promising to pay roundly in grass, and vegetables, and fruit. Invest it in your home bank, which never suspends payment. These grassy slopes are greenbacks, whose issue is as good as gold. Carpet sweepings are manure in a concentrated form. Dug into your flower-borders they weave a richer pattern than the one from which they were worn. Those old bones that deform the premises, if buried beneath the grape vine, will be “health to the bones” of all your friends. Old boots and shoes, those most unsightly wrecks, are the favorite food of the raspberry and all its palatable kin. Tainted brine, if such unhappily is yours, is a treasure for the plum-trees and the asparagus bed; slacken lime with it, and it will make a rich dressing for any garden soil.
Every household should have its compost bed, be it only an old packing-box, where woollen rags, bits of paper, apple-parings, refuse of vegetables, slops from the kitchen, chips and sawdust, are storing up the elements of a glorious growth. Let not yours be one of the homes where all these bright possibilities arrive only at “burning instead of beauty.” We have named but a part of the, fertilizers of every household. Generally speaking, whatever is offensive to sight or smell is urging the appeal to our revolted tastes— Bury me, and I’ll do you good.
Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book August, 1865
Top Image: Aline Dassel, Nederland.
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