Lately I’ve been studying what the pioneers packed in their wagons when they made that long trip across the country to start their new lives in unsettled land. Whatever they packed they had to survive on for a very long time, and they really only had room for necessities, with a few exceptions. I want to know what they thought was absolutely essential. And I want to make sure that I have a similar item as well, just in case it ever comes down to bare bones survival. If it was enough for them, it could be enough for us.
One item that almost all pioneers would have had was a large cast iron stew pot. Not only did they cook in them, but these pots were also good for:
- boiling water for baths and laundry
- rendering fat
- making soap
- dipping poultry to loosen feathers, or scalding carcasses
I started thinking about how essential these stew pots were. If I didn’t have electricity, I would have no way to heat up a large amount of water at once. The biggest thing I had to boil water over a fire in was a four quart dutch oven. I realized it would take me forever to fill a tub for baths or laundry with what I had.
I started looking on Craigslist for “cast iron stew pots”, but everything I found was around $200 for a 20 gallon pot- and wasn’t exactly in the best shape. I did some more searching online and found a place called AgriSupply which sells large cast iron stew pots for a very reasonable price. I settled my heart on the 25 gallon Carolina Cooker Cast Iron Stew Pot with a price tag of $179.99. Still expensive, but definitely a much better deal than the “antiques” I’d been considering.
I just had to sell a few things first. After clearing out some junk and stuff we didn’t need anymore, I had enough money to buy my pot. Although there wasn’t a store locally, the extra drive was worth taking compared to having the super heavy pot shipped.
When my husband brought my new pot home I couldn’t believe how big it was. It was huge! Much larger than I had imagined. Even our 10 year old could fit in it. I’ll be able to boil a ton of water in this thing!! Wow.
It came with carrying hooks to help us haul it around. Which my husband and little ol’ me were barely able to do. We also picked up a large wooden paddle to stir whatever we put in the pot.
I also realized that if I was going to be doing laundry by hand, I really needed some wash tubs! My first inclination was to go buy some cheap plastic tubs and scrub clothes in them, but I realized that they’d surely melt as soon as I’d poured hot water into them. And it would take forever to fill our bathtubs with enough hot water to do a load of laundry in. I needed something smaller than a bathtub, and stronger than plastic.
AgriSupply had these 15 gallon wash tubs for $18 each, so we grabbed them as well. They’re very similar to what the pioneers would have used. I got two so that I could have a wash tub and a rinse tub.
So now I think I’m set for doing some major off-grid laundry. I’ve got my massive stew pot, my wash and rinse tubs, a washing board, and of course the clothesline. Now I just need to keep an eye out for a clothes wringer!
Do you have a huge stew pot? What’s your favorite way to use it?