Breland: ‘Making do’ with what is available

Published 12:06 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

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Two broom-straw brooms are hanging on the wall of the carport just for the sake of reminding of times when people had to make the things they needed.

At least once a year, old broom-straw would be gathered from a nearby field, and formed into a broom, using strong cord to hold it in place. These were necessary to have for the home in old times.

In later years, when commercial brooms were available for the house, these brooms might have been reserved for sweeping the porches or around a fireplace.

I watched my mother-in-law make them once, a process she has used since learning as a child to make straw brooms. She could hardly keep house without her trusty straw broom, even in modern times. It was something she was used to.

I am sure my paternal grandmother also made broom-straw brooms, but sadly she passed away before I could see her. It was just a needed thing done in old times. Not everything was available at the store … if there was a store!

Looking up the broom-making process on the Internet, I could find no examples of the ones I had seen used in Washington Parish homes, only ones with straw formed like a fan, held in place at the bottom of a long stick. I suppose these were popular in some parts of the country.

Perhaps the making of straw brooms and limb rakes came by early settlers from some countries to various areas and the processes different, according to their own style. However, it was necessary to make items to keep the home and property clean.

I do remember when my grandfather would make rakes out of long narrow stripped limbs bound together, tied and used for raking the yards and even the barnyards.

Some may recall when yards around houses did not have lawns, especially in the country. Yards were purposely kept bare, with any growing weeds or grass stripped away to keep the yard bare.

Some even had guinea chickens in the yard and gardens to purposely pull up the scattered grass.

Once I tried to use such a rake at my grandpa’s, although I was too small to use it for real work.

What would the old folks have done with lawns as we have today? There were no yard mowers of any kind at most homes. It was easier to keep the earth bare, as it hardened almost like cement with continued use. The yard was a place of use and not just a pretty landscape.

Grandmother had a yellow rose bush in her yard and some vines that grew upward at the end of the porch to provide shade. Porches were a place of continued use, not just something to make things look nice. The straw brooms could clean behind the continued going and tramping across the porches.

I look at the straw brooms and think about the hands that gathered, cleaned, formed and tied the outside straw to form a cleaning implement. Not to mention other chores like hand-sewing clothes and putting away food grown at home, just to be able to exist.

Our ancestors could teach us a lot about “making do” with what is available. It is enough to make us thankful.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at