Homesteaders' Cookbook

A Cookbook with a Little History Baked In


Recently, I finally found a weekend to spend some time typing-in the recipes of this very old, well-used cookbook into my computer. This tattered book contains the recipes of homesteader ladies from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. I don’t know exactly how old it is, but it was probably published some time between the 1940’s and the early 1960’s. My best guess is somewhere close to 1950, but it could even be from the 1930’s. I imagine the women who made this book as fairly isolated, hard-working women, who were always busy doing something necessary.

This cookbook is unique for several reasons. First, it is typed out on a typewriter, complete with misspellings, little mistakes, and all that goes with the use of a typewriter. Another thing that makes this a special book is that the recipes come directly from the mouths of a large group of women who lived rather rough lives on the Olympic Peninsula. They probably rarely saw each other, except for special occasions, like putting a cookbook together. I have no idea how many copies of this book were made, but that is the third thing that makes this book stand out: it is completely handmade.

When I took a real good look at this book, I was very impressed with such a detailed, handmade volume. It was hard to see at first because it looks like a museum artifact from a hundred years ago, but, no, it got messy and worn from use in the kitchen. In order to get this book collected and published, the ladies first had to meet with each other to dictate or type out their recipes. This would be between milking the cow, and putting out the laundry, or maybe right after splitting a cord of firewood to keep the cookstove going. Before that, they had to spend some time choosing which of their recipes they’d want to represent them in this special cookbook. If you think about what recipe you’d want to put into a cookbook your neighbors would use, you better have a good one. I do not know if my Great Aunt Olga made just this one book, or if several of the ladies made a number of copies. I suspect there are more copies out there somewhere. I also haven’t figured out why my great aunt didn’t put in her recipe for oyster stew instead of the one she offered up. Maybe I should try it and find out.

  • homesteaders' cookbook

Once the recipes were collected and typed out, the pages had to be cut to fit. The heavier brown paper (where the binding was to happen) had to be cut, and folded in half lengthwise. Then each recipe page had to be pasted to a brown strip, and collated. I’m not sure if there was a specific order they were looking for. Most of the recipes are near others like them, but not always. The order is sometimes surprising. At times, alarming even. But it all works together, and would have been a time-consuming endeavor for the homesteader ladies. Once collated, the wallpaper cover would have been cut to fit, as well as a more narrow strip of wallpaper that wrapped around the spine, with short flaps on front and back, and another wallpaper strip just like it on the inside. The book was then collected with the covers, strips and pages assembled. Then an awl would be needed to make holes necessary for the thread to go through. Finally, the entire book was sewn together with bootlace-thick “thread” in side-saddle fashion.

  • stub-binding example

So then, the book was done. But the cooking had hardly begun. The following images are just a few samples of over a hundred recipes these ladies collected. Who made this book? I do not know for sure. But I am sure it took an entire community of homesteaders to make such a book.

There are many, many more recipes. They tell a story about the ladies of the Peninsula, too. There are rarely any oven temperatures or baking times listed, and who knows what pan you’d use. But these ladies often used wood-fire stoves and ovens. There is a process for making things like cake compared to bread, and since they’ve been making these foods all their lives, everyone knew what was expected of the recipe.

While I was typing the recipes, I could often hear the voices of the women telling the typist about their special cookbook recipe. And sometimes, I could hear the typist asking a question. Sometimes, there are little notes somewhere in the typed recipe that are out of order, since the typist couldn’t simply cut and paste like we do today. When you read these recipes, you’ll hear them talking, too. One will suggest a garnish for a dish, or what to do in case the butcher won’t cut to order, and, oops, maybe someone forgot to mention the amount of baking powder that goes into a recipe. If you learn to cook from this book, you will learn more and more about cooking, but you’ll have to be resourceful and patient. Make notes. This is the way things were cooked back then. The notes you write may be read in another seventy years by your own great niece. We can all learn to cook with the cleverness and creativity of a homesteader.

The pdf file I created is a “duplicate” of this book, except that it is like an e-book, not a handmade one. Anyone who would like a copy is welcome to download it. I have written an introduction that is intended to explain several details about this book. If you read the recipes closely, you’ll see this book shares the historical, social, cultural and psychological perspectives of these homesteader ladies of the Olympic Peninsula. When one of these recipes is cooked, it’s like smelling the aroma of a culture from the past. The recipes are all public domain by now, and I dare you to try either of the corned beef recipes. I just dare you to try.

Here is the pdf file.

Remember, cook like a homesteader.

—Anita K. Boyle


“Story of a First Year Hive”




The front cover is made from two types of handmade paper embossed with beehive foundation.

“Story of a First Year Hive” is currently part of a virtual display titled NWCRAFT20, which is coordinated by, and in support of, the Bellevue Arts Museum and the artists of the Northwest Designer Craftsmen. You can visit this show at your leisure, or even right this minute, by clicking here.

I refer to this book as an art-book for two reasons:

  1. The book is handbound with papers made by the artist.
  2. The book is illustrated with collages of natural materials, lightly inked.


All the papers in this art-book are made by the artist from both natural and manmade materials. The interior pages are made from the fibers of retted iris and daylily leaves. The cover papers are made from cotton rags, and embossed onto the frame of foundation that was once inside a working hive. Some of the propolis the honeybees left behind is deposited onto the embossed papers, along with the honeycomb grid. The binding is made with a coptic stitch, and hand-sewn using waxed cotton thread. A coptic binding allows for the book to be flexible and to open up flat.

The pages are divided into six signatures (or sections), each joined together with a strip of strong paper made from a tan cotton rug yarn, which can be seen along the spine. This paper is actually made from the remnants cut from the looms of a local rug weaving company.

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On each of the right-hand pages (recto side), I pasted a small paper made from cotton bed sheets using the archival glue most often used for binding books. On each of these papers, I made a collage, that was created with a combination of all sorts of things, including sunflower and evergreen pollen; lichen; honeybee, hornet, and ladybug parts; birch and grass leaves; gold leaf, silk string, and old cloth electric-tape, as well as ink diagrams. The ink drawings are detailed and minuscule, perhaps as drawn by a honey bee. These collaged pages carry a story “as told” by honeybees, which has been “translated” through the artist’s collages.


2019 was the first year I kept honeybees. They are fascinating, miraculous, and surprising creatures in more ways than I can say. The creation of this art-book is a way of honoring the bees who kept me company, and taught me many things while they were here. I regret to say that, though I did care for them, treated them for mites, and protected them from other hazards, the hive died that September. Varroa mites bring with them a variety of viruses to honeybees. In a way, they have been fighting viruses like our novel coronavirus for several years, and beekeepers are making some headway, but there is still no real “cure” for this invasive species. Beekeepers currently protect their hives from the varroa mites and their viruses by testing often and treating with care and a thoughtful schedule in a similar way that we are approaching the Covid-19. There is no vaccine for the virulent varroa mites or the infectious Covid-19, so it is seriously important that testings and treatments are effective and timely. 

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In early March, 2020, this art-book had its debut at The Schack in Everett as part of a fabulous show called Northwest Designer Craftsmen 2020 Symposium. The exhibition was full of the artwork of over 100 NWDC members that hung from the walls and stood on pedestals on both floors of beautiful and spacious gallery space. The Covid-19 safety precautions were put in place not too long after the opening on March 5, so the show closed down after about ten days, leaving hardly anyone with the opportunity to see the show, and causing some hardship for The Schack and the artists. For a quick run-through of this show, follow this link to a YouTube video.

collage in art-book

Here is one of many small collages within the book. Each has tiny drawings meant as a kind of translation of what the bees said. The collages are made up of bee-related materials.

As I continue to create assemblages and hand-bound books, I tend to experiment and stretch what I do as I go. In the near future, I’ll be making more books with collages and printmaking, often using items I find in the natural world, juxtaposed with those from our manmade ones. I love making paper because of the hands-on process, and the variety generated in the results. Through experimentation and curiosity, I’ve discovered that failure is not an error, but an education.

—Anita K. Boyle
&Artist. &&Poet.

Why Horses… published by MoonPath Press… Hot off the press

Poetry, Writing Creatively

Today, MoonPath Press is announcing the publication of my new book: Why Horses. A few days ago, two boxes, filled to brim with books, were sitting in the shade on the front deck. Woohoo!! This book is exciting for me, not just because it found its way to my porch. But because there are a lot of poems in this book, over 200 pages of them, and many years of work, writing, editing, revising. Also because Lana Ayers of MoonPath Press, publisher of Pacific Northwest poets, has truly honored my work, and I will always feel awed by this gesture. Sorry the photos are a little blurry. I was so excited, I couldn’t focus. Neither could the camera in my phone.

The title, Why Horses, is a good one for this collection. Not because the poems are all about horses, because they aren’t, though a number of them are. The title asks a question as a statement, and there isn’t a single answer for it. Instead there are hundreds of answers. Some of them are direct, and some more abstract, but always the poems are a horse: the real, the surreal, the metaphorical; the unspoken, those in spirit only, those in absentia; the humor, the trickery, and the innocence, and those that may replace a horse, if that’s even possible. That’s why.

This collection of poems is dedicated to the two horses who shared their lives with mine for more than 20 years—Flicka and Moby. It’s kind of funny that they both came here with literary names—Flicka, whose name I always wanted to change, but never did because she was so full of spirit there wasn’t a name in the world that would fit her right; and Moby, named after Moby Dick by a prior owner because she was wildly unbroke when I got her, and was really freaked out by things like a loose cinch as it barely touched her belly, and even by my chickens. You could say she was chickener than chickens, but you’d be wrong. She was wary and smart. I took my time training her, and she turned out to be a very steady horse with a good sense of humor.

For most authors, the arrival of books on the porch is cause for celebration, and I am no exception in this. Fortunately, Jim was willing to celebrate, too, so we had this colorful salad along with a glass of wine.

I won’t be doing a regular book opening reading for awhile, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the book is currently available on the MoonPath Press website. In the near future, I will try to record a few poems aloud and post them in video form. I’m also thinking of doing small readings for six or less people here at Egress Studio. I hope to start during late August or September. If you’re interested, let me know, and I’ll see if I can set something up that is both safe and comfortable.

Here is a photo of the cover…. The saddle is one of my old ones. It’s heavy. Like a Cadillac. Usually, I like to use a light one, one that is the next best thing to bareback, because you can ever only go as far as the horse will take you, so it’s good to give them any breaks possible.