My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren...and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren…and many great- and great-great grandchildren.



A picture of Grandma's five children, lined up in a row on the farm.  My mother is the middle child.

A picture of Grandma’s five children, lined up in a row on the farm. My mother is the middle child.


I recently saw a “Helpful Hint” newspaper article devoted to salt. In addition to being worth its weight in gold for many centuries because of its medicinal, cooking and international commerce importance, it’s also recognized as an inexpensive and effective household cleaner today. For instance, to clean a grimy garbage disposal, pour 2 cups of ice into the disposal and add ½ cup of salt. Turn on the tap and run the disposal for 20 seconds. The gunk will be gone!  Or if a drain is clogged, pour in a mixture of ½ cup salt and 1 cup baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours and then pour in a quart of boiling water. Swish!

Reading the short article made me smile at memories of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen. If they were cooking vegetables that tasted too salty, they added hunks of potatoes, let everything simmer, and then removed the potatoes before serving. Out on the farm, Grandma taught Mom to kept a tin can filled with salt within arm’s length of the stove, not as seasoning, but for putting out grease fires.

At our house, my mom combined equal parts of salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set it at the back of a refrigerator shelf to absorb smells, and she and Grandma could both be counted on to stir a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water to make a gargle for sore throats.

Salt is used in many expressions: Don’t rub salt in a wound: Take that advice with a grain of salt; Never throw salt on a dream; She is the salt of the earth. The last one is my favorite because when I was a child I heard it used to describe both Mom and Grandma. I knew it was a compliment about the kind of women they were, and it was always said with a smile.

Sugar is sweeter, cayenne pepper is spicier, and saffron is more exotic.  But when it comes to being associated with goodness, reliability and necessity for well being, I still think of my mother and her mother as the “salt of the earth.”

morton salt containers     I wish for all of you the blessings of bread, salt and wine.

In the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home:  "Bread, that this house may never know hunger.  Salt, that life might have flavor.  And win, that joy and prosperity may reign forever."

In the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life might have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”





Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, special quotations

75 responses to “SALT OF THE EARTH

  1. Lovely family photos. Unfortunately, most of ours were thrown out by mother as when she was in the early stages of dementia. I am making sure that any I do have are kept for my children and grandchildren.

    • Oh, Judith, I am so sorry. When I moved my parents from their home of 52 years into the asst. living, every picture I found I saved. My dad’s Alzheimer’s had been diagnosed, and Mom’s dementia was just getting started, and I sensed that anything needing to be preserved had to be carefully stored immediately so the grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have them.

  2. I have a file on my desktop labeled Household Hints. This post and its salty suggestions will find a home there along with suggestions on the various uses of vinegar.

    Yes, the women in your family are the Salt of the Earth variety. I can see it in your Grandma’s kind face. Before we were “friends” online, I posted a piece about my Mennonite Aunt Ruthie receiving The Salt of the Earth Award from Lutheran Social Services for opening her home for 25 years to immigrants and refugees from all over the world:

    How blessed you are to have such a heritage too, Marylin.

    • Marian, we both truly are blessed to have such heritages, and your Aunt Ruthie sounds like a wonderful, generous woman.
      All those Household Hints are worth saving. Our German neighbor is in her early 90s and says that using salt, vinegar, lemons or bleach has saved her enough over the chemical cleaners that she could take a cruise. And her house is spotless.

  3. Your posts never disappoint, Marylin…they are filled with kindness and goodness, flavored with humor and wisdom. I feel like I know your mom and grandmother because of all the things you write – without a doubt, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. 🙂
    And I loved all the salt hints…I went through a period of years when the kids were growing up and I made my own cleaning products using ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and salt. It was fun, cheap, environmentally correct…I should do it now.

    • I think I’ll do more of the basic cleaning products, too, Vivian. My mother always did it, but I think I got away from it because the professional chemical products seemed so much easier and faster. But actually, they weren’t.
      Thanks for the sweet compliments. 🙂

  4. My parents were also often called “The salt of the earth”. It is indeed a compliment. We are fortunate to have come from a long line of strong practical women.

  5. Marylin, I loved that part in the movie when the family was given the blessing on their new home. Your salty handy hints remind me of cleaning glass coffee pots (after they’ve cooled off) using some salt and crushed ice. You add both to the pot, swirl it around, and, presto, you have a coffee pot that sparkles. A bartender in a restaurant I worked at taught me that years ago.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    • I’m going to try your solution for cleaning our glass coffee pot, Wendy! Bartenders often have the best and easiest suggestions for getting things done.
      The blessing Mary offers to the family ready to move into their little house–with all the children and the goat looking on–is one of my very favorite parts of the movie. From the first time I saw it, I thought it was a wonderful way to welcome a family into the neighbor.

  6. Great tribute to wonderful women. May your own salt never lose its savour, Marylin.

  7. Larry Kitzel

    Marylin, I don’t think I have ever seen that picture of Grandma. Your Mom realy looked so much like her. I have always thought that, but this picture REALLY shows it!

    I have seen the picture of the siblings. It shows the stairsteps of their ages.

    Love you, Sandee

    • I think that’s why it’s one of my favorites, Sandee, because they do look so much alike. I found the print in Mom’s jewelry box when I was moving them to Presbyterian Village. The picture was bent at the corners and had stains on the border, but it had been one of mom’s favorites, so she’d kept it in her jewelry box.
      Love you, too, cousin! 🙂

  8. Janet Armstrong

    Many used the “salt of the earth” to describe my grandparents. Your article brought back great memories. Thanks for your great blogs.

  9. I never had doubts about you being the salt of the earth Marylin and from your stories I knew your mom to be so, now I can see it spreads even further. If your mom were well again, I wonder if she’d be having a giggle with you about how well known she’s become worldwide.and maybe celebrating a little about how her common sense strikes a chord with so many. Perhaps she’d be glad that stories of her kindness have struck a chord with people so that maybe they’ve found it within themselves to spread a little kindness.
    You in fact are the chronicler responsible for much of that too as well as carrying your own kindnesses forward.
    xxx I send you Massive Hugs xxx

    • David, I’m touched by your comment. Thank you so much. I think my mom would have a giggle about how she’s now has friends worldwide who appreciate all the kind and helpful things she’s done.
      If this post inspires others to spread kindness, I’m very grateful. I know it would please my mother.
      Massive Hugs to you, too.

  10. Nancy Parker Brummett

    A creative spin on something we use every day and take for granted!

  11. Claudia

    Great info! I remember salt commercials on TV when I was a child. The girl walked in the rain but the salt always poured! I don’t think I have seen any salt advertised on television for years…guess it sells itself!

    • I think it does sell itself, Claudia, and now the price is so low that sellers don’t make a big deal about it. But I don’t think all the expensive chemical cleaning manufacturers would be thrilled if everyone started using common salt, baking soda or vinegar in place of their products.

  12. Fascinating hints and history, Marylin. The cleaning propensities of salt seem very powerful and it makes me think twice about gargling with it!

    • We’ll hope its powerful properties are just hard on the germs of a sore throat, Andrew. And of course you won’t hold it in your mouth for hours or mix it with baking soda. 😉

  13. For years, I’ve used salt and baking soda to unclog the shower drain. It works like a charm every time. Oh Marylin, I love the photo of your mother and her siblings.

    • Thanks, Jill. These are two of my favorite pictures, too. The five children were very close in age, and my grandfather was 20 years older than my grandmother. When he died, she stepped up and ran the farm and raised the children, and helped many people. She was an exceptional woman.
      Unclogging the shower drain! Of course. I’m going to go do that now!

  14. Salt is also used in religious cleansing ceremonies. Lovely article. You are salt for the earth Marylin (yes for not of, biblically correct 🙂 ).

    • I never realized the biblically correct reference, Rod. Salt ‘for’ the earth. And I’d always assumed that salt wasn’t good for the earth–I guess because we used to mix salt in hot water and killed grass growing up between the sidewalks and eliminated ant hills with it, too. But I’ll take your word for it, Rod, and thank you! 🙂

  15. Your posts are terrific and I always learn something new. I’m describing “the salt of the earth ” phrase to my German niece. There is nothing like that in Germany my niece informs me. I think it is a wonderful expression that describes you and the women in your family very well.

    • As you explain to your niece, Gerlinde, you might tell her what Rod commented. I’d always heard it being ‘salt of the earth’, meaning it came from the best of the earth.
      I always knew it was a compliment, but I’m not sure why. 😉

  16. calvin

    Now, aren’t you a chip off the same salt block? 🙂 I think so. No, I know so.

    Grains of salt to the grain in old photographs, more than a compliment, more endearing than a memory. And like you, connecting the two is paramount to connecting and touching their hem, I would never have felt nor understood the flavour of either one of my grandmothers. Both had a sweet and salty side. One always found cause to smile, one had a devilish grin. Both had grit. Both passed away when I was young. Yet, I feel I know them quite well. Their respective qualities and quarks shine in old photographs, in stories told over an over, in the attributes they passed on to my parents, an so it goes right down the line; fingers and tossed crossed.

    And everyone once in a while, both come to life in steam rising from a cup of tea. But after reading this, perhaps that is why, sea salt and bitter sweet chocolate marriage together so nicely.

    • Thank you so much, Calvin. I’m sorry you were young when your grandmothers died. There is something quite special in spending time with grandparents, and as we get older we learn more and appreciate it even more. And I loved recognizing more and more the strong similarities between my mother and her mother as they got older. It gave me hope that I would have more of their traits later on, too.

  17. What a beautiful blessing for a home. I could live without sugar ( I am 99% sure) but not without salt.

  18. Marylin, I see your comment above. You’ll find “salt of the earth” within Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:13. From what I’ve studied, Jesus is telling his disciples that believers are to live lives (as pure as salt) that make a difference in the world. They should “season,” bless the earth through their good works, acting like a preservative of the things of God in the world around them. All of that seems to fit well with your mother and grandmother.

    • Thanks, Darla. It was the reference of being “salt IN the earth” as a compliment that tripped me up. Being from a family of farmers, I had often seen salt added to the earth to destroy voles and insects, etc. But I did research it, and depending on the translation used, Matthew 5:13 and other New Testament scriptures seemed to use “of” and “in” interchangeably. 😉

  19. Smile…when I visit college friend in the summer, she raves on and on about her hubby and his family, how they truly are the salt of the earth. I know them because my visits to her always include spending time with them. She’s right they all are; and, I look forward to that time with them in June. When someone uses that phrase, it tends to catch my attention.

    • I have the same reaction, Georgette. There are just some very special people we can’t wait to see and spend time with because of their kindness and genuine hospitality, and they really are the salt of the earth in our lives.

  20. That’s so true! Salt is a classic. I might try that recipe for clogged drain sometime. Do you know salt has a special place in certain cultures? If I have tasted the salt out of your kitchen, I am supposed to never ever betray you!

    • Ooo, amazing! If you taste the salt of my kitchen, you are supposed to never betray me? I like this. If only we could gather all the world leaders in one kitchen they all were somehow vested in, served a meal with salt… maybe that would be the first step to staying honest and true! Thank you for this cultural salt lesson. 🙂

  21. Great photos…and a nice tie in with the salt. 🙂 And…add a wedge of lemon to the ice and salt for cleaning that coffee pot. The lemon juice and the rind help break down the buildup. I used to tend bar and waitress…it was one of my jobs to clean the pots!

  22. Marilyn … “The salt of the earth” is a high compliment, indeed. From your writings, I have no doubt that description aptly fits your Mom and Grandma. Great photos of your family.

    Syracuse, where I lived for many years, was known as “Salt City” because that industry supplied the nation with salt. Here’s a link:

    I love the tips on using salt for cleanups. It’s also great on icy sidewalks. 😉

    • Thanks for the link, Judy. This is excellent to know. When I was in 3rd grade a girl moved to our town from Salt Lake City, and she told us that was were all the salt for America came from.
      All these years I didn’t realize that Syracuse was the real “Salt City”–and finally I know the truth! 🙂

  23. Tammy

    Marylin, your right, your mom would love to know she’s loved world wide. The more the merry. I am especially grateful for our friendship. Kindness and love to share with all. You and your mom, well let me just say it. I cherish our friendship. Thank you for your kindness and tlc. I saw the picture you posted of birthday visit. And i fixed your mom two Pancakes with peanut butter and syrup, she must have been hungry. Visit soon, Tammy

    • Bless your heart, Tammy. Thank you.
      I’ve called twice since I learned of the death of your sweet mom, so I’m very glad to hear from you. Your friendship means so much to me, and your care and love for my mom has made such a difference for her.
      You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers, and while I’m sorry your time with your mom was so much briefer than they predicted, I’m truly glad her pain is over, and I know she’s watching you and your family with love.
      We’ll talk more later. Love, Marylin

  24. Dad often referred to folk as “salt of the earth” or “good eggs” especially when describing folk in our village community who would always help out at the local school functions.

  25. A beautiful tribute to the special women in your life, Marylin! A true blessing to have such incredible examples of faith, love, and kindness from your youth that you can share with your family and all of us. Wonderful!

  26. Your post made me want to pick up the phone and tell my (just turned 89-years-old!) mother how special she is, Marylin. And then I’m going to go clean my garbage disposal with salt and ice – thanks for the tip!

    • And since she’s 89, Shel, she’ll know exactly the compliment you’re paying her, Shel. I’ve already tried the salt and soda solution on my garbage disposal and the drain, and thanks to Jill’s comment, I also tried it on the shower drain. When did we leave the “old ways” behind and think that expensive chemical products were better?

  27. Beautiful family photos, Marilyn. Salt of the Earth- a lovely compliment to your mom and grandma. I also add a few slices of potato if my stew or curry is a bit too salty. I like the other useful tips you included about salt. I wonder if salt will clean shower doors and bathroom tiles?

    Have a great week!

  28. I love the house blessing, Marylin, and from your description of two special women in your life, you are doubly blessed. Your household hints make me smile but I have to add vinegar to my useful list. Vinegar on those nasty red wine stains gets it right out. 🌻🌻

    • I am blessed, Lynne. Thank you.
      Vinegar is a good solution, too. I have to laugh that Jim was “helping” by running a full load of dishes, but he mistakenly added regular dish soap, and suds flooded the floor. He googled how to remove suds inside a dishwasher and the answer was the same as getting out wine stains: vinegar! 🙂

  29. Oh I certainly believe your “mom was the salt of the earth”. That’s also a famous bible quote found in Matthew Chapter 5. I also enjoy your family photos, Marylin. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  30. Wow another inspirational post once again Marylin ….more blessing in your way my friend.

  31. Thank you, my friend Jake. I appreciate it. 🙂

  32. Salt of the earth indeed, and you are carrying on the same, beautiful, loving and life-giving blessings to your own family as your grandmother and mother did before you Marylin. I also remember since very young that anytime we had sore throats we gargled with warm, salt water and funnily enough, fairly recently, my mum told me about adding potatoes to a stock that was too salty. It worked a treat with taking out the saltiness! Thanks for the helpful hints and the measurements, I’ve taken note. Wonderfully evocative photos, your grandmother has such a kind face, her warmth of character shines through her. Thank you so much for your blessing, and may I send the very same to you and your beautiful family dear Marylin.

    • I just love it, Sherri, the way our grandmothers and mothers–separated by an ocean and living in different countries–did the same things to soothe our sore throats and to take the taste of too much salt out of something they were cooking.
      My grandmother was sweet, kind, loving…and very strong about raising her children well after her husband died. She made each of her thirteen grandchildren feel special and quite wonderful, too.
      Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Sherri.

      • It’s wonderful isn’t it Marylin? What a beautiful woman your grandmother was, and what an amazing legacy of love and kindness she left behind in her equally beautiful and amazing family…including one very special granddaughter ❤

      • The lineage of females in this family makes me so grateful for all the special qualities and genuine love and help that now benefit my granddaughter; she has inherited so many qualities from her great-great-grandmother (in the main picture) and her great-grandmother (my mom).

  33. Jim

    Fun to put salt on a pedestal for a change. Love it.

    Seems like all we hear about these days is the importance of cutting back on ‘demon-salt’ for better health. However, we all know that some salt is essential. Here is an unusual story about how important salt is for good health: Wildlife rangers in the San Juan Mountain Range of Colorado warn hikers and campers that herds of mountain goats may stalk them for miles as they watch for humans to urinate on the ground. Then the goats may get aggressive to occupy the area. They want to lick the pee from the ground in order to ingest very scarce and much needed salts contained in human urine. So now you have a different kind of story wherein humans can be the “salt-of-the-earth.” 🙂

    • I love this story, honey!
      And as we know, you don’t want to irritate mountain goats. Hmm…would it help to put out salt licks in the areas where the herds of mountain goats roam, kind of like putting out salt licks for cattle?
      Or hikers could carry containers of salt and when a goat charges, dump the salt on the trail and get out of the way? 😉

  34. This was fun to read about your maternal grandmother. My Mom’s mother was the ‘salt of the earth,’ too. She had energy, enthusiasm and many ways to use natural components to clean and even made a compost pile in her yard, for worms and to help sprinkle into her gardens. Original compost was the way to ‘fertilize!’ My Grandma came from Germany and seemed to be so warm and loving, while still exuding strength. Marylin, somehow I have fallen behind in reading your posts. I apologize and did enjoy this so much!

  35. Jane Thorne

    Marylin, I love your posts and the stories of the wonderful people who have woven into your family. Kindness shnes out from the faces of your photographs…what a wonderful legacy and I just know that you are passing this on to your children and grandchildren. Hugs and much ❤ Xx

  36. Reblogged this on cicampbellblog and commented:
    I thought this was a delightful blogpost by Marylin Warner. Informative, evocative and just delightful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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