Today the missions primarily consist of a restored church (which sometimes serves as a parish church) and few additional buildings. The only mission which has most of the workshops where products were made is La Purisima, which consists of over 20 buildings. They give demonstrations there of candle making (made from the tallow of cows), weaving (using wool), woodworking, a blacksmith shop (where they forged products like nails and tools).
Daily Life and Food at the Missions
In 1815 the Father President of the mission chain, Jose Senan compliled a report for the Spanish authorities that included this detailed description. At the time he was at Mission San Buenaventura.
As you probably have already learned, the missions varied in size. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was one of the most prominent missions but the neophyte population was smaller than the average. There were only 876 neophytes at Mission Carmel in 1795, twenty five years after the mission was founded, and this was the peak year. By 1832, the population had declined to 185 (this was the year the mission was secularized). Unfortunately the Europeans introduced many diseases (like small pox) to which the Indians had no immunity.
The work didn't vary a lot from mission to mission, although Santa Ines had one of the largest networks of ranches and agricultural fields in the mission chain, where they grew wheat, barley, corn, beans etc. Even today the Santa Inez valley is rich farming country.
The Spanish had rules for almost EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY . They had what we would call today big manuals describing how a mission should be founded, how the mission should be built and how it should operate.
The padres were governed by the rules of their Franciscan order (for example they couldn't own anything) and they had to sign a contract with the government to agree to stay in California for ten years.
The soldiers, like the soldiers in every army had rules of governing their behavior, dress and relations with the natives.
Please look at what is posted on our website (www.missionscalifornia.com ) under Ask The Expert. The are explanations of why they rang the bells, the work performed by the neophytes, what daily life was like and other facts you can use. The short answer is that daily life was very regimented. It started with religious services. Everyone was very busy all day long working. They ate three times a day.
The best source for recipes is a book written in 1984 by Bess Cleveland, entitled "California Mission Recipes". It is available in most libraries and in used book stores for under $10.00. There are also two pages of recipes near the back of the Sunset publication The California Missions.
By the 1800s most of the missions were firmly established. They had large herds of livestock – there were some cattle and sheep at all of the missions. The largest herd was at San Luis Rey which, in 1832, had 26,100 cattle and 20,100 sheep. Each mission also had large fields of crops - wheat, barley, corn, beans and peas mostly. They ate this food, cooking it according to recipes the padres brought with them. These were mostly Spanish and Mexican dishes.
My understanding is that there were no sweathouses on the mission property. The missions did have elaborate water system and water was available to wash. In the early years there were still Indian villages in the area near the missions and I am sure that neophytes returning home for a visit used the traditional sweathouses, particularly in the Chumash territory. There were hot springs near some of the missions and these were frequented by the Spanish and others.