As a youngster, when our grandparents entertained us with their stories of life *back then*, we shrugged them off as just old people tales. What do they know about modern stuff, I thought?
Oh, how I wished I had paid attention years ago. On occasion my dear grandmother volunteered ancient stories about the life of her grandparents also, as my sister and I helped her clean up the dishes after the wonderful meal Grams had prepared. Life by the kerosene lamp and a warm fireplace, sounds cozy doesn’t it?
One of Grams stories explained to us how her grandparents were carpet makers by trade, before carpets and rugs became the trend. Now mind you, we are looking at about the 1900’s, turn of the century. My Grandmother’s loving memory of her grandparents creating handmade rugs by kerosene lamps was a family history lesson I wish I had written down. The making of a room sized rug was tedious at best as I remember, but the stretching part was loads of fun for my Grams. She and my great-grandpa would put on boots and stomp across the rug starting from the side that had been nailed to the floor and continue stomping until they reach the opposite wall. Once they had sufficiently stretched the rug it was nailed to the floor on the that side and left for a few days. When great-grandpa felt the rug was ready for the customer, it was rolled up and put on the wagon for delivery. And the process would start again. One rug at a time. Lots of hard, heavy work, eh
What can we learn from human history about life without electricity
We know that our ancient ancestors used ingenuity and steadfastness which kept the species progressing and alive. For instance; have you given any thought to how ancient Cro-Magnon man of the Upper Paleolithic period of 40,000 to 10,000 years ago kept themselves warm at night while sleeping? Scientists have this guy eventually migrating into northern Russia. Leaving the warm climate of Africa and moving north would present him with a need to keep his body warm at all times. Once he had learned to use fire the whole world opened up to him. Tallow candles were all the rage.
I would imagine, (since I wasn’t actually there, although my kids think I may have been) that Mr. Cro-Magnon used heavy animal hides and campfire coals buried under his heavy hide to keep him warm at night. So did he have a source of heat for his body while traveling to Russian Siberia? One paper I read stated that he heated flat dry rocks and put them into a leather pouch and hung it around his neck under his tunic. Heated rocks also served as the means to heat his food and drinks when using an Antioch stomach for a cooking pot. Dropping a hot rock into a grass cup for heating tea saved his cup from burning over an open flame. Our primitive ancestors were amazing!
Many modern disasters on our horizon
So we learned that staying warm is paramount to survival in the northern hemisphere. During more modern era pioneers used hot coals in metal pans to heat their horse hair beds. My Grams used hot water bottles, but today, we have forced air heaters along with the use of electric blankets to stay warm at night. Any guess where the term “three dog night.” came from?
I think most of us at one time or another have lived a time without electricity, either by choice or a weather related issue. But what happens to us when the lights go out for a long, long time? As a modern electric civilization, about 85% of us have lost that survival know how and skills.
As I got into my late teens and early twenties I began paying more attention to my older family members daily habits and their stories. My dear mother, who wasn’t normally a seamstress, could take one of my childhood dresses and make a pattern from it, then sew a brand new dress from the pattern she had made. She learned the skill from her mother who made clothes for her and her two brothers, along with my Grandfather, during the depression years, on a treadle sewing machine, no less!
Other things I’ve learned
Grams always kept a pan of water in the kitchen sink. It was handy for washing hands while cooking meals. She continued this practice even after they had electricity in the house.
Left over coffee from the mornings brew was poured into a thermos to keep hot for later.
Raw honey was available at every meal, keeps one healthy.
To freshen blankets after a long winter, hang outside early in the morning. You will have fresh smelling bedding by evening.
Rancid olive oil and a wick in a jar make a good, but smelly candle.
Fels-Naptha soap can be used for the treatment of poison ivy, sumac and oak rash. Scrub the area with the soap; it helps to dry up the rash. Also, works well as an insect and aphid control in the garden. Fels-Naptha works wonders in the laundry to help remove stains.
Use talcum or baby powder to kill fleas. Sprinkle the powder on the dog and rub into the skin to smother fleas. Your puppy should poof when patted. Put bay leaves or mint under his bedding. These will help repel bed bugs for human beds too.
Saving vegetable seeds from one year to the next wards off starvation. Saved seeds will tend to acclimate to your location over time. They are also a wonderful barter item.
Rub soap on a zipper to keep it running smoothly.
Melt beeswax or candle wax to water proof boots. Petroleum jelly works for a short time.
Grandma kisses heal everything.
To learn more; How to Survive and Thrive when the Power is Out