Crofting: In the Garden

Just an average day on the job

We are still preparing our garden plots. It is still within reasonable planting season here. This is what I look like when I am adding soil amendments. In our garden this year, those are wood ashes and composted manure. These are not things one wants to breath. And because the manure often has mold spores, I have to be doubly careful not to breathe it unfiltered.

Yes, it is hot, although it is rarely sweltering at this latitude. It keeps the black flies out of my ears and nose, as well. I have a piece of white tulle which is going to be sewn into a veil to go over the sunhat seen here and over bonnets. I think I will make it a tube with drawstrings at either end. I am very much covered from head to foot while outdoors. I wear long sleeves, a high necked dress or blouse, or a kerchief over the neckline, and leggings under the skirt. I wear long socks and at least ankle boots. I have gardening gloves, as well. I cannot wear sunscreen or insect repellent.

In a century past, it wasn’t unusual for women to wear veils while riding in open buggies and automobiles, or to protect their complexion while gardening.

Crofting – Finally, A Dry Day

Landscape with Man and Goats

Sunshine, finally! Weeks of rain and cool temperatures, and finally a day over 20C. The hsuband took the tiller for a spin as the garden had drained off enough by afternoon to run through it. the goats – two here – were out for a nibble. Tara, who is dark brown, got herself into the vapours quickly and had to be returned to a shady barn. She resented it a lot, and stood in the stall, calling her head off. Vanilla would snicker at her now and then, but the grass and leaves were so lovely…She soon forgot Tara’s problems.

Starting to look like a garden plot!

The first plot has been tilled three times now – I will rake it tomorrow and start adding some amendments, ash and manure. Then work it over again, and start planting.

Clean and dry clothes!

My work today – lots of laundry. It was blowing a gale at times. Taking in wash was like furling sails on a squarerigger rounding the Horn. It certainly dried fast, except for the aprons and shirts that blew into odd nooks of the lawn.

Selfportrait in prairie bonnet

I am not actually as red as I look here!


Why a Bonnet?

Amish Bonnet, Pennsylvania

If any one article of women’s Plain dress says, “I am not of this kingdom,” it is the bonnet. It is the public declaration of being different. It covers the hair, a source of vanity. It shadows the face, a clear boundary of privacy. It is the symbol of feminine identity as a Christian: Quaker, Amish, Mennonite, Anabaptist, Brethren, Salvation Army worker, Plain Anglican.

Amish bishop and wife

The bonnet is unmistakeably a way to say,”I am a serious Christian.”

It is anti-vanity, anti-lust, anti-world. It says that the wearer intends to guard her femininity.

It also says, "No foolishin' around."

I described wearing the bonnet as having the monastery on one’s head. It is a place of security and grace when one takes it on with the understanding that under it, one is in the Kingdom of God.

my bonnet

Crofting – Goats Outside

The slat bonnet as worn

This is what I’ll be wearing this summer – my slat bonnet and work apron.

Goats like green grass

It is the first sunny, clear day in a week. I took the goats out for a few hours of grazing on the (dandelions) fresh grass. I attach lines to the fence rails with clove hitches, put the goats on leads, and clip the leads to the lines so they have some range but don’t get tangled together. The clip slides along the length of the line. I am always concerned about animals getting tangled in long picket lines, so this keeps the lead short but lets them move around, get to the water bucket and lie down.

Uncle Buck


The buck takes good care of his girls; I take him out first since the girls will always go to him. But he stands there, looking back at the barn, knickering and calling to them. The goats are much quieter than my sheep were. They sound more like lambs.


Vanilla is very friendly. She likes to have her nose scratched. She and the buck walk on leads like dogs.


Vanilla is very round in the belly. She hasn’t bagged up yet – that is, her udder isn’t full. That usually happens a couple of days before birth.

Tara is a little alpine, and she is seriously opposed to being on the lead. She made her escape from the stall as I took Vanilla out, but she didn’t go far. I caught her with a handful of grain, and got her out on the fenceline, too. She kidded a few months ago. The seller thought she might have been “caught” again, so we might see another kid in August or so.


She is small, lithe, agile – and a wee bit headstrong. She is Goat with the capital G.

Witness: To Peace

Quaker, 1866

As we discussed Plain dress recently, I think a number of us offered all the usual reasons for it – conformity to Biblical precepts, practicality, denial of self. These are all good personal reasons for Plain dress; I say it is my Christian witness. When people look at me, they know they have seen a Christian. But couldn’t I do that with a cross necklace, a modest skirt and blouse, a kerchief instead of a prayer cap? I could wear a t-shirt even, with Bible verses and great fish graphics. Christian. I could wear my clerics – Christian.

But as I thought about it I was inspired: my Plain witness is a Witness to Peace. I am a Peacemaker.

The Quakers are, throughout their whole Plain history, notable Peacemakers. The Anabaptists who followed Menno Simons were pacifists. that white prayer kapp, apron and long blue dress say “Peace be with thee.”

My husband’s beard and long hair, as well as his Plain coat and hat, are symbols of Peace. The early priests in the apostolic church grew out their beards and hair as a way to disassociate themselves from the Roman Empire, whose male citizens were shaven and shorn, a symbol that they were eligible to join the army.

Most people know about the Amish mostly from popular fiction like the movie “Witness.” The witness is a young Amish boy, but the “Witness” is the Amish witness to Peace throughout the movie, over against the kill-or-be-killed ethic of the corrupt police force that the protagonist works within.

The white kapp and the black bonnet, the beard and the broad-brimmed hat, are symbols that we, Nicholas and I, are dedicated to that same Witness. We live that non-violence, and we let people know that. We are witnesses – and hostages – to Peace.

Quaker woman with bonnet, ca. 1890

More Bonnet Styles

These are not bonnets I have made, but I will try to describe them for you.

Ohio Amish bonnet

A traditional Amish bonnet, the sort a young woman gets at her baptism. The brim is stiff and shaped. Shellacked bonnet board (heavy cardstock) was used in the past, but flexible plastics and plastic mesh are used now.

Old Order Amish bonnetSame Old Order Amish bonnet, side

This bonnet was described as an Amish slat bonnet, but I think the owner was mistaken, and it is just a stiff-brimmed bonnet, again of the typical “outing” bonnet style worn by Old Order Amish women in different districts.

Lancaster Amish sunbonnet

 The collector called this a Lancaster Amish sunbonnet, and described it as vintage. It has a vintage look to the fabric and what I can make of the stitching. Quite possibly it was a homesewn sunbonnet for field work, saving the outing bonnet for “nice.”

Black slat bonnet

I would think this slat bonnet was machine sewn and not old. It was described as Amish or Quaker; I’m thinking it is a recently made bonnet for the re-enactor’s market. A slat bonnet has slim pieces of ash splint or heavy cardboard sewn into the pockets on the brim. It lies flat when not in use, so it can be put in a drawer rather than requiring a peg or shelf space. The long cape in the back covers the neck and upper shoulders, and has a tie in the back ot sort of pleat the excess fabric together. The brim hides the whole face. I wear one working outdoors as I am very allergic to sunscreens. One of the reasons I think this is for a more sophisticated buyer than the average farm woman is that it is in black, which is too hot to wear in the field. A friend made a beautiful slat bonnet in dark wool that I think would be perfect for someone who walks a lot in winter, rather “Jane Eyre”-esque.

Amish-made child's sunbonnet

 A child’s sunbonnet found at an Amish auction, I would hazard that this is made from a man’s shirt or even a remnant bought at an “Englisch” (non-Amish) shop. I’m dating it from the forties or fifties. A windowpane check is a bit wild for most Amish households.

flour sack slat bonnet

 The collector who posted this photo thought it a strange shape for a bonnet. Well, it is, because she has it the wrong way round. The neck ruffle is at the front, the slats facing down. She called it a flour sack bonnet. Cotton flour sacks were produced in chintzes, florals, and other  patterns for the farmwife to turn into aprons and bonnets and even children’s dresses.

Amish women in Lancaster, vintage postcard

A vitnage postcard from Lancaster County, Pernnsylvania, shows three Amish matrons chatting on the street. The bonnets look to be more of the field style rather than the more formal and stiffer outing bonnet one would wear to church.


These are the bonnets I mentioned on facebook.

Seafoam green toddler bonnet

 This is more green than blue as it looks here. It would fit a child between 18 months and 3 years.

Pink gingham baby bonnet.

This has a brim that stands off the face, so it is pretty but may not offer my coverage. It would fit a child up to 2 or 3 years.

Blue floral baby bonnet

The same bonnet, in a pretty light blue floral fabric.

Prairie sunbonnet

This is a standard sunbonnet, which I can make in any size and in any colour of light cotton fabric. The ones I prefer to make now have a neck ruffle to keep the back of your neck from getting burned. I have some pretty Ozark style bonnets to sew that are similar to this, but with fancier ruffles.

Traditional slat bonnet

A slat bonnet has battens in the brim to give it some shape while still lying flat  when it is off your head. It has a wide cape across the back and shoulders.  It is the best protection from the sun, but it has rightly been described as feeling like you have your head in a mailbox.

Bonnets obscure the side vision, and while this is fine working in the yard or garden, it’s best to remove it when driving or crossing busy streets.