- By Sandy Neilly
- When this editorial was first started, it was a day in the
middle of April and we had been tossed another of those proverbial
"curve balls' of life, courtesy of the weather.
- While we should have been industriously working away on the
issue you are now reading with our assorted electronic devices,
instead we were listening to freezing rain violently pelt our
windows and we were without power.
- The world outside was encapsulated in thick ice. We could
hear the limbs of large trees moaning under the weight of it
and loud cracking noises like reverberating gun shots as limbs
split from the trunks, succumbing to the burden.
- In one way, it was awesome to behold, but it was also worrisomely
dangerous as we went from window to window (the ones not covered
in ice) to see which trees had fallen, how large they were and
how close they were to the office, vehicles or hydro lines. Some
were precariously close, but we were spared any damage, aside
from a multitude of trees that came crashing down or have been
stripped of their limbs and branches.
- Two years ago, also in April, we experienced a tremendous
amount of damage from a wind storm that literally uprooted three
90-foot poplars before our very eyes.
- That was an eerie sight, watching the earth around the roots
undulate and gradually rise up, bringing sod and roots to a vertical
position reaching up a dozen feet or so. And that was just on
the east side.
- Our property was a tangle of huge trunks and branches and
roots lying helter-skelter and we lost a large outbuilding that
was crushed on one corner.
- When events like this happen in the country and we lose power,
it makes us acutely aware of what our forefathers endured prior
to electricity and how much we take it for granted.
- For example, water
without power we also lose the
use of our water because we are on a well and the water is supplied
by way of a pump which, of course, runs on electricity.
- Water is the most precious of commodities, but we don't realize
that until it stops coming out of our taps. As the pioneers knew
so well, it's something that has to be on hand at all times.
Water for drinking, for bathing, for washing up dishes - water
for the privy; we go through a tremendous amount of water.
- When you have to haul it from one location to another, you
certainly appreciate it a great deal more. We now understand
the use of wash basins and jugs and how functional they were.
We understand why no one would have been without a rain barrel
to gather water. We have concluded that hot beverages, like coffee
or tea, were likely a rare treat since it would have been a great
deal of work to get the fire going (if it wasn't already), heat
the water, prepare the beverage from an unprepared state and
then have to clean up everything. Who had time for that?
- Most settlers had limited kitchen utensils. These items were
used over and over again and were well cared for (think treenware)
- they weren't easily replaced and storage space was extremely
- "A place for everything, and everything in its place"
wasn't just a suggestion. It was a necessity. Clutter would have
been dangerous, impeding the steps of folks with candles or lanterns,
or those with vessels of water, perhaps just boiled. And while
we struggled here with the concept of what, exactly, to do with
our time without power, the pioneers would have made use of every
minute of daylight, despite the weather.
- Women, I'm sure, would have been washing, sewing, knitting,
mending clothes, preparing meals over fire, cleaning and tending
to a family non-stop without the aid of any of our modern appliances.
- The men certainly wouldn't be lingering around inside, not
even during an ice storm - there was always work to be done if
you wanted to survive, have a half decent roof over your head
and food on the table.
- The entire process involved in living a life without any
electricity could fill a huge book - and I'm sure there are many.
We just don't stop often to think about it until we're in a vaguely
- When our house and the office essentially "gasped"
back to life and electricity pumped through the veins of the
building after more than two days without, we were thrilled.
- The first thing on the long to do list was a
proper shower, then laundry, dishes and vacuuming. (I did utilize
some of the down-time by cleaning windows, so hence accomplished
something at least.) Getting back to the computer to resume work
was a relief. (We were starting to consider printing blocks.)
- Our ultimate conclusion after the power outage? It's the
same one we always come to when we go through a power outage:
we are terribly spoiled by our modern conveniences.
- We are also dreadfully wasteful, especially in our lavish
use of water, but also in many other aspects. We have too much
"stuff", and we cherish very little of it since everything
is so easy to come by and much of it is mass-produced.
- I am realistic enough to know that I would make a lousy pioneer,
but over the years, especially in this business, I've come to
enormously appreciate the work and effort that was involved just
in the plain everyday living of our ancestors, no matter where
they were from.
- It seems to me that we all need things in our lives that
come from our collective past. Things we can look at that remind
us of the journey that brought us all to this place in time;
things that make us appreciate real workmanship and time that
was well spent, never wasted.
- Many of us have outgrown that stage of instant gratification
where we purchase cheap things on a whim and nothing more. The
entire antique industry is making more and more sense to us.
It's not just a retail business, it's much more than that. It's
a responsible way of living. It's connecting to the past and
making use of perfectly wonderful items that have years and years
of usefulness still in them.
- Well, we are almost sure that summer is coming. (Honest!)
Resolve to bring some history into your life. Become a hunter
of green things at the multitude of shows, shops
and auctions that are out there waiting for you to discover them.
You'll find all kinds of them in this (and every) issue of the
- Thanks for reading.
- Photo: An early 1900s farm family. They probably had
no electricity, no running water and were wearing their Sunday
best for the photographer. It makes you stop and think about
our very different lives today, doesn't it?
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