Extracts From Mrs McKeiver’s Remedies – @Mrs_McKeiver
Extracts from Mrs McKeiver’s Remedies, to be published this Spring.
Now Mrs McKeiver has married farmer Andrew Logan, she knows she will have to run the seasonal meat market stalls around the Hills. Having lived in the district for twenty years, she has some awareness of Hills’ women’s responsibilities.
“Christmas is around the corner Andrew. What markets will we make a start with?” Mrs McKeiver asked, for she was dreading those days; stuck out on the stalls in all weather. She knew her terms would start again then, even if she’d just had them.
“Five this year, starting at Hillwalden. The villages be piss poor affairs, apart from the few trades’ people; so we takes fat pork, for to give folk some crackling and fat. And pork pies, for Christmas breakfast. Some town folk likes them, as come from the east of England, last hundred, for road work. Usually a bit of cured rough stuff earlier in Christmas week. We do have some oxen cured, for salt beef. I hates doing it, I do. People needs a kick up the arse all over the Hills. Their manners be shocking to Heathens, let alone blasted Christians like us,” he stated. “Give me the water pail dear heart.”
While he was gone, Mrs McKeiver had the chance to laugh out loud, but she knew he was right. Everyone wanted something for nothing now. Poor Relief was the reason, for it was something for nothing. At least there was some work now, for the able bodied and strong. Breaking stone and delivering it countrywide, for the Turnpikes; or hiring and using a stocking frame. Unless shocking bad backs struck Hills’ men. Again!
The Hills’ women never had such backs, for they had to feed and clothe the family, even when expecting the next child, or ill themselves. Married women working all day, away from home, was an accepted way of life in the Hills now. On their return home, wet hungry and tired, they had to feed husband and children without a care in the world; then do housework and all the rest. Woe betide them if they complained.
Farmer Logan knew from bitter experience that if his working people didn’t eat well, they would steal from him, in desperation, or fall sick. He provided bait twice a day, being very unpopular with other local farmers. The men and milkers knocked and entered silently, conscious of their place. Logan poured their tea, anxious that they should be gone as soon as possible.
“Here you buggers. Tea and Spice Doll biscuits. Be Advent, you Heathens. Who brought in shit to this respectable house? Hurry up and bugger off with it. Don’t waste more hay down the banks. Sheep be too spoilt now. Let them finish what’s there. Buggers will have you on all day with their calling, every time they sees a soul. Wasting all their grub too, greedy little sods.”
All eyes in the kitchen were agog. What was wrong here? The Spice dolls were a real treat, as the bakers did their special baking very well, charging over a shilling a dozen for these, the peel ones. Nothing could be gleaned, so they sat in comfort, looking down on those who didn’t receive any bait in the farmhouse, or a happy cursing from the boss.
Soon, the Logan’s were alone and could turn the curing meat and plan the markets. After finding trays and putting cheese cloths outside to air; both enjoyed their meal of streaky bacon, and omelette, followed by a shared Spice Doll. As they sat in their easier chairs, in front of the kitchen fire, Mrs McKeiver sensed her husband’s tension.
Mrs McKeiver, has been called out of the Reverend’s, St Lucy Light Church Service to deliver Mrs Frazer’s long awaited baby. Upon arriving at the Ale Bar, she makes a surprising discovery…
Taking better light upstairs, Mrs McKeiver examined her patient first. To her surprise she felt the head already well down.
“Mrs Frazer! How long have you been in labour gel?” she gasped.
“All afternoon Mrs, but I didna want to waste your time.” Mrs Frazer admitted, smiling what she hoped was confidently. “I just made fresh tea.”
“And me fussing around overfed men. Could you two dear ladies fetch us the tea and bring a kettle of hot water and the largest clean dish.”
The two older ladies squirmed with annoyance, but had to go. They knew the baby had to be born.
“I do hate the old buggers,” Mrs Frazer muttered through clenched teeth.
“Hush gel; for it’s pushing any time now.”
The next few minutes were a trial for Mrs Frazer. She had a fair sized head coming, but a small opening, even after a good long afternoon’s labour. Mrs McKeiver quickly grasped her silver herb knife; it being the best for cutting flesh.
Remembering Mr Alexander Gordon’s advice on cleanliness, she wiped her knife with thyme oil and anointed her hands in it again. Not waiting for another pain to hit the woman, she swiftly cut her flesh at the back of the birth opening. Immediately, the head seemed out a little more. Cursing that she’d not brought her full birthing bag, Mrs McKeiver waited to see what the head did. How she wished her pulling tool was handy; but it wasn’t.
How long had the head been squashed, ready to come?
Mrs Frazer felt she must push again, so Mrs McKeiver put her hand ready for the head and encouraged Mrs Frazer to push again. After a few minutes the head was fully out and the pushing was stopped; allowing the body to snake its way out. Mrs Frazer was exhausted, but had the afterbirth to wait for. It was a girl. Absently, Mrs McKeiver slapped her bottom and pinched her; being rewarded with a terrific yell of protest.