Bucket Baths

When you don’t have running water or an automatic water heater you make do with what you have. You can take a perfectly good bath using only three gallons of water, even without a bath tub.

Summer  Time Baths

When I first lived without running water, back in the early 1970’s in West Virginia, I had to go down to the creek and fetch all our washing water in buckets. I learned pretty quick that it was easier to haul two at a time than just one because then I could walk without being lopsided. It is a good way to build up arm muscles. It is also a good way to learn how to conserve all the water you can, if for no other reason than saving yourself some hard work.

In the summer, taking baths in the creek was no problem. We used Dr Bronners Peppermint Soap, which is fairly benign, but we still hauled a bucket of water out onto the bank to rinse most of the soap off, so it would not go directly into the creek. Cool creek water and peppermint soap is refreshing on a hot summer day.

Even after we had a pitcher pump and a well around the back, we still had to pump it by hand and haul it inside. Plus, you always had to remember to keep enough water saved back to prime the pump.


Doing laundry and diapers by hand was the most challenging water job. That required hauling lots of water- 6 gallons for wash and 6 for the rinse. I had to heat water for the diapers and they got done separate from the main wash. Every thing else got washed cold. I had these great aluminum wash tubs out near the clothesline (with drain plugs!) and I used an old time wash board to scrub really dirty denims and such. To conserve water, I washed all the lightly soiled stuff, like sheets and shirts, first, then did the socks and saved the denims for last.

Fall Bucket Baths

In the fall, when it started getting colder outside we hauled the water in the big blue granite ware cooking pot and heated it up on the stove. That took almost 30 minutes on the gas stove or a little longer on the wood stove, unless it was cranking hot.

bath bucket
Bath Bucket on Stove

We would carry the bucket outside to the porch, and squatting on the stone step and using a small saucepan, pour a little over our heads, lather in the shampoo, and then do a partial rinse onto the ground. After that, we did a whole rinse with our head over the bucket so we could re use the water for a body wash. Standing up we’d pour some nice hot water over ourselves, soap up, pour some more to rinse off and then- for the best part- dump the whole rest of the bucket over our heads. The sudden rush of hot water felt so good at the end.  Even better than a real shower. We had to wait for dark for this kind of bucket bath because our porch was visible from the road.

Kids did not have that problem and they could entertain themselves for a good while in their little tub.

Tub for the Little Ones
Tub for the Little Ones

Winter Time Baths

When winter set in, our baths had to come inside where there was heat from the stove. Our living quarters consisted of one room that measured 16 by 24 feet and we had a lot of stuff in there. A double bed, a single bed, a crib, a couch, treadle sewing machine, wood cook stove, gas cook stove, kitchen sink cabinet, and a table. It was kind of crowded. We didn’t have a drain system for the sink, just a bucket underneath that we had to empty by hand. No bathtub. So we improvised, using a wrought iron coffee table that had a removable glass top.

Coffee Table Bath Tub
Coffee Table Bath Tub

We would start heating the blue enamel bucket on the stove, take the glass top and set it aside, and then drape a shower curtain all around the edges, held up with clothespins-the two piece wooden kind with the spring clamp. When the bucket was the right temperature we’d set it down inside the table and then climb in with it.

You had to hunker down and be careful not to splash water out the sides of it but it actually worked really well and also caught most of the cold drafts.

I remember one really cold, snowy day, some friends arrived unexpectedly while I was taking my bath in the table. The door was only about 6 feet from me and I hollered,

“Quick! Come in and shut the door. ”

They were standing there with their mouths open,

“What are you doing? Are you inside a table? Taking a bath?!”

“Sorry. Didn’t know you were coming. Give me a second to finish up here.”

They walked over to the other end of the room by the stove to warm up while I toweled off and got dressed.

“Well, now we know how you guys take a bath in this place. Wasn’t really wondering, but I have to say, I  never would have thought of climbing inside a coffee table. How do you empty the tub?”

“Watch this. It’s easy.”

I proceeded to remove the clothespins and gather up all the edges of the shower curtain, gave it a slight twist,  hung it over my shoulder and headed out the door.

Five seconds later, I hung the curtain on the wash line out on the porch and I was back inside. All cleaned up.

“Wow. That is such a good idea. Course it would be even easier if you brought your cast iron tub in and ran a drain line.”

“Right. Where would we put it?”

For the six years we lived in Ritchie County, we did our bucket baths according to the seasons, although every once in a while we would take a real shower at a friend’s house. When we first started out, we even went to the little motel in town a couple of times and paid them three dollars to use their shower.  But that was cheating.

I have since lived in other places, in Nelson County Virginia, where we had to haul water and do bucket baths. Wells and septic systems are seriously expensive to install and it took us a while to be able to afford it. Outhouses and bucket baths worked just fine. for quite a few years. When I finally managed to get electricity, running water and a water heater I felt like I was coming up in the world.

These days, I still appreciate the hot running water that magically comes out of the tap when ever I turn it on. I will never take it for granted. It is good to know however, that we can live without it if we need to.

-wendy lee, writing at Edgewise woods gardens and critters





Wild Turkeys

Stepping out onto the porch this morning I saw our resident wild turkey flock. There were four hens, a bunch of young ones and one Tom, cruising around eating in the back paddock. Last week I saw them up in the bee yard.

Two Wild Turkey Hens with Young Ones
Two Wild Turkey Hens with Young Ones

It has been awhile since we have harbored any wild turkeys and I am glad to see them hanging around. I think they might be appreciating that I mowed the back woods the other dayso they could get around easier.. It was getting all grown up in invasive weeds again.

After the turkeys entered the woods I went to the barn to let the chickens out and feed them. I tried to find the turkeys again so I could give them some grain but they were too smart to let me anywhere near them. With all the foxes around here it is a wonder there are any turkeys at all, but maybe rabbits are  easier to catch. And chickens.

How to Freeze Spaghetti Squash

I have volunteer squash all over the yard in odd places from tossing out bad ones last year. The vine out in the raspberry/ buckwheat patch has turned out to be a Calabash, or Vegetable Spaghetti squash.

Squash Hiding in the Buckwheat Patch
Squash Hiding in the Buckwheat Patch

Quite a few of them rotted before I realized they were ripe but I still have a good pile of them to deal with. These particular ones won’t keep because a rabbit injured them in small spots so I need to cook and save them for later. Since I wasn’t sure how best to freeze them I Googled “How to Freeze Spaghetti Squash” and got this great link to the site Pioneer Thinking which has some good recipes. 

So, I will cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake them at 375 F for 30 minutes. Then fork out the strands, let them cool, pack into quart size freezer bags, label and freeze. I save some of the seeds to plant again and if you like you can roast them in the oven to eat. You can even eat the blossoms if you want. Tempura is a good way and Alexandra’s Kitchen has a good stuffed Tempured Blossom recipe.

Squash Blossom
Squash Blossom

I love Spaghetti squash and use it like pasta or rice for our standard “Stuff on Rice” dishes, which varies according to what is available in the garden and the fridge. I usually saute onions and garlic, add sliced mushrooms, then whatever veggies I have- like broccoli or tomatoes-add some broth, thicken it up with a little cornstarch/ cold water paste and spoon it on top of the hot spaghetti squash.

I also have a volunteer Patty Pan squash vine by the garage door, which is producing well, and found some recipes for it here at Delishably 

volunteer summer squash
Crookneck Squash in the Tomatoes

Yellow Crookneck squash volunteered in the middle of the tomato patch in the veggie garden and also mini gourds along the fence. I was hoping for some Blue Hubbard or Butternut but will have to plant them instead- right away, as soon as I dig the potatoes out to make room.

Most summer squash can be used interchangeably in recipes. One of my favorite ways is to slice them and cook them on the grill with a spritz of olive oil and herbs.

Happy gardening and eating

– Wendy lee at Edgewise woods, gardens and critters

Swarmy Weather

Swarmy Weather

The swarm of bees that landed in our Walnut tree back in June seems happy in their new hive box, with larvae and eggs developing nicely. That is the only way I know if there is a queen laying. I have not managed to actually find a queen visually yet.

Where is the Queen?
Where is the Queen?

The other five hives have been slurping down a gallon each of sugar syrup  every two to three days. It seems I am constantly heating up big pots of syrup on the stove. It takes one pot with  a gallon and a half of water (12 pounds) and three bags of sugar, and another pot with two gallons of water and four bags of sugar, each feeding. First I heat it up to melt the sugar, then I have to wait while it cools down. I hate feeding them white sugar and would like to try Maple tree sap, or something else, instead. I have to do some research on that to see what would be healthy for them. The beekeepers I mentioned it to, did not think it a good idea. I don’t see how white sugar can be good for them. The only reason I am  feeding them this far into the season is that they are still building wax comb on the brand new foundation  and that requires a lot of carbohydrates to produce. Next year they will get an earlier start and have the foundation already built when the nectar flow comes in. They also get protein and probiotics in the form of pollen patties, to help them feed the brood.

The bees are continuing to build out their double deep hive bodies (two ten inch deep boxes with ten frames each) and until they get them all filled up I cannot add a super (shallower box for honey storage) to any of them.  A screen goes on under the honey super to prevent the queen from moving up there and laying eggs. Otherwise the frames would be all mixed up like they are in the rest of the hive- a little brood, pollen and honey on each frame.


I will have to treat the bees for mites in September, so any honey I get will have to be collected in August, when there is maybe not that much nectar available, although this link may help so I can plant more for them.  I would love to get some honey for myself this year but I may not. It kind of depends on what is available out in the surrounding fields and woods when I finally add the supers .

I have to check the hives at least once a week to be sure they still have a laying queen as evidenced by brood and larvae in the cells. Last week I found the number two hive with no larvae and very little brood left. This made me think that the swarm I caught might have come from this hive. They absconded with the queen without leaving me one behind.  I called Eversweet Apiary, which is only about seven miles from my house, to see if they had a new Carniolian Queen available, so I install a new one.  Heading out the drive the next morning, I glanced over at the bee yard and saw that the number two hive was now covered with bees on two outside walls. This was different than the bees  “just cooling off on the front porch”, as Ed Forney of Geezer Ridge likes to say, when they congregate on the walls above the entrance to cool off. These were covering the back and side of the hive. They were dripping off the bottom and not flying through the air, but huddled as if in a flat-ish swarm, or maybe about to take off. Not again!

Bees Plastered to the Back Wall
Bees Plastered to the Back Wall

I hurried out to Eversweet to get the new queen, hoping the bees would stick around long enough for me to introduce her to them. When I asked the guy there what he would do, he said, “All you can do is try. Put her in there and see if her pheronomes will lure them back in. ”

As soon as I got back, I suited up and wedged the queen cage in between two frames. Then I removed the entrance reducer and canted the top feeder box off to the side to give the bees an easier way to get back inside and check her out.

Canted Top Box
Canted Top Box

I looked out there every hour or so all day  and they seemed to be moving back in. By nightfall, they were all inside and I straightened up the box again.

Bees Cooling on the Front Porch
Bees Cooling on the Front Porch

The queen comes in a tiny cage that has a sugar plug in one end that the bees have to eat through to release her.

Queen Cage
Queen Cage

It takes the bees a couple of days to eat through and allows just enough time for them to get used to her smell. There is always the chance that they will not accept her but when I checked two days later they seemed to be feeding her through the wire mesh, not trying to sting her, which was a good sign. There was a bee in the tube and almost though the sugar plug so she she should be released by now. I am going out to check…and there is a bee meeting tonight l that I will need to  attend. There is so much to learn.

-Wendy lee, writing at Edgewisewoods, Gardens and Critters


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