Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Mere Survival Was Good For Society

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So we got a wood-burning stove.  Our power bill has always been through the roof so a while back I suggested we get a stove, though my first suggestion had more to do with the economy collapsing and leaving us with no power…but mostly I’m optimistic.

I’ve had an epiphany through our short life with our wood heater:  the world is crazier now because everyone was too busy keeping the fire going to get into trouble before.  (That and milking the cow–a project I’m so grateful my daughter happens to love as I am not even tempted–though I love the milk–to head out in the cold at dusk to milk–“my sympathies, dear Buttercup“.)

And while my epiphany is a little in jest, mostly it’s not.  Before technology made our lives so much easier, think of all that merely surviving entailed…

This one little fire has taken center stage in our home and all the children feel equally responsible for keeping it hot enough to heat the house.  It’s a full-time job!  And boy does it eat wood!  (Of course we’re experiencing our lowest temps of the year.)  My husband is going to have to come up with some extra time in his day to cut it.  (Or I suppose he could calculate the money we should save on the electric bill and subtract that many hours from his work week ;-))

So I cooked a pot of soup on it last night. (The kids got excited when I told them they’d have to get the fire hotter to cook the pasta.) I’m very excited about this because now I can save more money not using the stove to cook beans for hours.  My neighbor brilliantly suggested that we cook beans and rice on it frequently, saving them in the freezer just to utilize the heat.  Good thinking, Jane!

But I do seriously ponder the irony of our “improved” lives due to technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology.  I love hot showers when I want them, indoor toilets and all the ease of a dishwasher.  But I wonder if, on a large scale, the comforts outweigh all the repercussions of a life with so much more time on its hands; that time snowballing into a monstrous lot of negative consequences.

If we were busier–as a society–just trying to survive, I just think it would be better.  We have it all backwards so often.   *Shrug*

Food for thought.

28 Responses to “Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Mere Survival Was Good For Society”

  1. As it happens, Kelly, I am reading a book right now about the hazards, diseases, and stresses that are plaguing society as a result of all our “progress.” It’s called Margin if anyone is curious. The book more accurately documents our lack of margin, since we have developed the habit of filling our lives so that we live on the physical, emotional, and financial edge almost constantly.

    The reality is that when our lives are overly complicated, overly busy, and overly stressed, it is virtually impossible to have any kind of fruitful spiritual life, which should be our greatest concern, no?

  2. Tara B says:

    Congrats on the woodburner! We only have wood heat in our little cabin and we love it. Of course that’s easy for me to say because it’s not me out there chopping wood!

    Some of our best family times have been when the power goes out and we’ve huddled around the fire or oil lamp and read aloud or played board games. Once the power is back up everyone is off doing their own thing again.

    I’ve always said I wanted to go live like the Amish, or take it a step further and head out to the woods like Grizzly Adams or the Wilderness Family. Truth is I’d be complaining the first hour about not having internet, or some other luxery I’ve become so accustomed to.

    Off to search for the Margin book mentioned in another comment.

  3. Word Warrior says:

    Terry–Oh I think I heard Richard Swenson (is that him) on Focus on the Family years ago talking about Margins. It was brilliant!

  4. Diana says:

    Terry – I’ve read the book, Margin also, got a used copy off Amazon to keep.
    Pretty neat that it comes from a Christian doctor’s perspective of what progess has done/is doing to our families, relationships, health, etc. Awesome book!

  5. amy hester says:

    I SO wish we could get a wood stove! But, unfortunately, my husband’s sinuses wouldn’t be able to stand it. His parents had one when he was a child and he and his mother used to have the worst sinus suffering until they finally got rid of it. I do not think it is a mere coincidence that we are not only the most entertained and amused generation, but it seems we are also the most depraved as a whole. The ancient Romans had it good, all things considered, before they fell…

  6. Ace says:

    Hi Kelly,

    I had to laugh because more recently of late their are couples divorcing left and right from adultry and gambling and anything else you can think of and I have often said to The General..” I am sorry, WHEN do these people have the TIME to do these evil things? I can barely make sure the bathrooms are clean, the food is all made and I get a shower EVERYDAY let alone have an affair, spend our savings and whatever else. These people need MORE KIDS!”

    LOL, but it is sad. Honestly, all the ME time is turning into EVIL time..

    Many Blessings 🙂
    Ace

  7. Liz says:

    Ace, that is too funny. I also have wondered aloud many times, where do people find the time to do all this bad stuff? Not to be all “idle hands are the devil’s playground”… but it really does give you pause to think! I am too tired to get into THAT kind of trouble.

  8. Anita says:

    Wow, Kelly! Since my mother got her wood stove, about 1 1/2 years ago, I’ve been preaching from my soap box about how central heating has distroyed sociaty. If little boys (I have 4 so far) needed to find wood, chop wood, stack wood, bring in wood…just for the survival of themselves and their families…our world would be much differant.

    There are so many tangents I could take from here. Work ethic, self-worth, sence of accomplishment, to name a few.

    Congratulations on the stove!

    Anita

  9. Huh? Talk about romanticizing the wood-burning stove days of yore. Crazy is cutting off people’s ears or banishing them from the colony in the middle of winter. Hello, Plymouth! Crazy is the President of the United States owning slaves. Good afternoon, Thomas Jefferson! Crazy is the oft-revered Andrew Jackson and his Indian-relocation policies.

    Dude. Give me central heating any day!

  10. aimai says:

    Well, I lived for years in Nepal where we had only open wood fires. Women–it was always women–spent hours walking up and down the mountain to distant sources of wood because the areas around where people lived had been utterly deforested, partially to replace forest land with rice planting fields. Seriously cooking and heating with wood is, ultimately, not an option for any moderately dense population and, of course, people suffered terribly from smoke inhalation, asthma, and burns from the open fires.

    But aside from that, I was going to suggest that Kelly get a pressure cooker for beans and to cut down on the amount of energy (whether gas stove or fire) that is used to boil the water. My nepali friends loved their pressure cookers and it really speeded up all cooking all those lentil meals.

    Also, perhaps you could bake some potatoes in the ashes of the woodfire, overnight? I understand that you can also make your oatmeal that way, if you aren’t using the rolled kind and you need a prolonged slow cook the night before.

    You can also make your own soap from the ashes, and use the ashes in your garden as fertilizer, I believe.

    aimai

  11. Lori says:

    Wow, Elizabeth, talk about off-topic!

    Another handy way to use your wood-burning heater is to put a kettle of water on top to steam and add moisture to the dry air. (My uncle who did that used a cast-iron kettle – don’t know if that makes a difference)

  12. Word Warrior says:

    Lori,

    Yep…looking for a really cute kettle–a pot suffices for now 😉

  13. Linda says:

    Wow, while it is true that wood stoves are not a good option for everyone, I think that the crux of this post is very relevant. Physical labor is good for us in many ways. There are so many Proverbs that attest to this truth. It does keep us out of trouble, it keeps our bodies healthy and strong, and more importantly living simply keeps us aware of our dependence on God as our provider. I think all these modern conveniences make it way too easy for us to fall into the deception that we are self sufficient (not to mention our kids complain of being bored!)
    I could write a lot more, but I won’t. 🙂
    Kelly, you just articulated what I have been rolling around in my head since summer. Thanks!

  14. Word Warrior says:

    Linda,

    Thank you for seeing the point 😉

  15. Word Warrior says:

    Ace–it’s true…you know what they say about idle hands…

  16. Belinda says:

    Kelly,
    We were out of propane which heats our home and gives us hot water and, of course, use of our oven. We gahered around a fireplace over Christmas and it was a very sweet time. We had to shower in the barn(electric hot water heater) and cook with only electric appliances. But, it was a Christmas we will remember!
    One thing I noticed was how bad central heat is for my sinuses. I get headaches very morning in the winter from my head being so “dry”. This did not happen when the heat was off and I felt so much better. In fact, everyone did. So, we now turn the heat way down at night and because heat rises, the children upstairs stay warm even if they squirm out from under their covers. My husbands’ parents turn their heat completely off at night and when it kicks back on in the morning those covers fly off and, by golly, it is time to start your day!

  17. Belinda says:

    Oh,yes, and we did stay busy keeping that fire going at all times.We also had to stay close to home to keep the pipes from freezing and the house getting chilled.I was a really good time of togetherness and being respectful of other people when we could not retreat to our own rooms. Imagine that at Christmas!!

  18. Tricia says:

    Anita: Good points. And I don’t suppose anybody worried about those little boys being “hyperactive”, do you? Much less figured they needed dangerous pharmaceuticals to “calm them down”!

    And to confirm your point, Kelly, what comes to mind is that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, the consequence was a life that would require a lot more hard work—which is what they needed to help keep them out of trouble. That and a realization that they needed Him, of course.

  19. Civilla says:

    Keep a kettle of water on the stove, too, to use the moisture to humidify the house (makes it feel warmer), and always available for coffee or tea, or hot water for dishes, etc. (We lived in Korea, and the Koreans always kept a pot of water on their kerosene heaters.) Don’t let it run dry, though, and start a fire or anything. We’ve had 28-below zero here this week!

  20. Brandi says:

    I live in Florida, but we are experiencing some very cold weather (18 degrees) right now. I like the few weeks of cold that we get here. We have a wood burning fire place, and it is full time work to keep the fire burning. At all times, somebody is chopping, stacking, or adding wood to the fire.

    Like you Kelly, the electric bill is too much. So, we are trying to be proactive in doing what we can to get it down. It makes good farm work for the children to collect and stack the wood. Always looking for useful age appropriate work for my children. My husband just finished building a chicken coop. We used the design from “teaching good things”. Soon, we will be getting some laying hens and this will be another useful farm chore.
    So far, no use of electric heating this year. I’m hoping it reflects in the utility bill!

  21. Margaret says:

    Wow, I’m jealous of that stove!! I soooo want to have a wood-burning stove.

    We will probably never have wood heat. Someone mentioned Nepal, but my dh has a similar experience from Ethiopia, the deforestation, terrible burns, etc. When he was 6 he actually burnt down the family’s grass hut (took a stick out of the fire and started waving it around, out of curiousity), and his baby sister only barely escaped. Fire is not his friend, lol.

    But we would agree with you about the underlying point. Physical labor and the need to pull together in order just to survive is something our society has lost and that has come with consequences.

  22. Diana says:

    Love this post. Grew up where the power went out, with ice-storms. We had a wood-burning stove. We cooked/slept in front of it. We had relatives/friends come over during this. <3

  23. brenda says:

    My 10 year old has been having deep thoughts about this very thing lately. She was watching a commercial for some chopper and she said she thought that made people lazy. We talked about fanning ourselves vs. sitting in front of a fan. Why I don’t always use the dishwasher. How technology has helped and how it has hurt…..deep thoughts for a 10 year old!

  24. Civilla says:

    I’ve talked to old-timers who say that kids didn’t get in so much trouble when they had chores to do.

  25. Bernice says:

    After reading your post yesterday I decided to warm supper on the wood stove. hehe. Now today I have a pot of stew cooking. I have thought of doing this in the past but you gave me the push. Thanks. Now I can save propane and since it is cold here the heat is nessasary anyway.

  26. Kelly L says:

    Linda, my daughter has learned not to say she is bored (and she is an only child with no siblings to play with). When she says she is bored, I give her an extra chore to do around the house….dusting baseboards, cleaning light switches, vacuuming blinds. I actually like it when she says it! *WINK*
    But I agree, idleness is not from the Lord.

  27. Charity says:

    Kelly, I agree completely with the point of your post. When my husband lost his job, chopping wood for our stove helped him feel like (realize) he was still providing for his family. Hard work can be therapy 🙂

  28. Becca says:

    Another great use for your stove is to put a pot of water on top to let evaporate into your air to keep things from being so dry and static-y during the winter months.

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