During the holidays we had been watching American settler re-enactments on TV and my eldest daughter said 'we could do that easily'. So we decided to do our own pioneer re-enactment in the week before school went back.

As we live on a family farm, we still had a lot of pioneer stuff about so perhaps we were able to go about it in greater detail than most.

A day's program was: get up at 6.30 am, collect wood and start a fire outside to cook on. Cart water from the rainwater tap to a basin in the bathroom for washing hands and self (with Velvet soap only). Another bucket of water for tea and cooking was carried into the house. While the kids fed the chooks and geese, I cooked scones in a camp oven and boiled the billy. Once the scones were cooked, I dropped eggs in the camp oven to cook in the remaining heat. We used homemade butter and golden syrup on the scones and salt on eggs, because pioneers didn't use flavourings such as pepper, herbs or tomato sauce. After breakfast we washed up with Velvet soap (rinsing well), first dishes, then face and hands. Teeth were brushed with an index finger dipped in seasalt.

During the day we hand-sewed bread flour bags with cotton from the tops of rolled oat sacks into place mats and embroidered them. We spent one whole day washing clothes and sheets with Velvet soap and Lux flakes in a copper heated by a fire outside, hand wrung and hung on a rope line between trees.

We also baked biscuits in the camp oven from a family recipe given to my Grandmother. She would be 110 now if she was still alive.

Mrs. Cattle Biscuits: 8oz SR flour, 1 egg, 4oz sugar, 3oz butter. Mix all ingredients and shape into small balls, put onto tray and bake in a moderate oven for 10 to 15 minutes. For variations, mix in coconut or put an almond or a drop of jam on top or add cocoa to the mixture. This mix was also pressed in trays and covered with golden syrup and crumble mix on top and cut into slices before cool.

For lunch and tea we ate fresh chops or chicken (dressed that day) with Laucke bread baked in the camp oven and vegetables which were growing in the garden at that time (silver beet, parsley, carrots, potatoes, shallots) or poached eggs on toast. I cooked the chicken in golden syrup and water then after the cooked chicken had been removed from the pot, we cooked golden syrup dumplings in the water. They had a fantastic flavour.

We removed all plastics from the kids' rooms (such as Barbie and bits), leaving them with only a chair, desk, beds, four books, paints (not acrylic dry blocks), pencils and a skipping rope. Their clothes were two sets of simple dresses and jumpers made from cotton or wool, leading to a complaint that they were 'dumb things to wear carting water on cold mornings, Mum, give me jeans.'

We ate at night by candlelight and played old board games. We played my daughter's Suzuki violin CD over and over as the pioneers only had one record. We gave the kids a torch for going to bed as they had not lived with candles and we felt it was not safe.

The result was amazing. The kids became more agreeable and instructions didn't have to be repeated until shouted to get a response, which had happened frustratingly too often before our Pioneer Week.

My youngest became less grumpy and the eldest less fragile and teary. Both stopped being picky eaters and ate with relish. The eldest's singing which was usually flat became tuneful because her hearing improved. They anticipated and showed more thought about what they were doing instead of being 'Tigger with Rabbit worries'. Life became gentler at home. The background frustration and noise decreased a lot and they took on new things faster. This change persisted for a while after school started then reverted as we reverted to our original diet.

I was diagnosed with salicylate/amine/additive intolerance 20 years ago, so I have never had a diet full of additives or the rest. But as the kids were getting older, I was bowing down to peer and social pressures, arguing in my head that their bodies were bigger so could handle additives better. I was wrong. We are now doing the elimination diet after two weeks of a take-away, additive binge, to make sure of all our symptoms. The kids are loving it and it is easier than the pioneer week because we use modern conveniences such as electricity and running water. A modified Pioneer Week would be a fun introduction to the elimination diet which sounds ominous and is not the current retro trend. - Rosy Hill, South Australia

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