Last weekend I was walking through the woods here in eastern Massachusetts. The woods in this area are filled with old stone walls. Now, and even as a kid, I would walk through the woods near our home and imagine how hard life was back in the "old days" (18th and 19th century) when the land was being farmed. I still wonder about this whenever I see an old stonewall and imagine the people who were walking this same spot one or two hundred years ago.
The stone walls were built by farmers clearing the land for crops (and pastures, I guess). As I understand it, this was an ongoing process. Due to the seasonal freezing and unfreezing of the ground, rocks actually migrated up to the surface.
|It is quite obvious that it has been quite some time since this land was farmed or cleared.|
As I walked, I wondered how these early farmers kept warm in winter. Fireplaces don't give off much heat, unless you stand close to them. I see old farmhouses built in the 18th century with more than one chimney. I guess that was one solution. I'm thinking an upgrade would be a "Ben Franklin Stove”. These metal inserts made fireplaces more efficient; but a google search finds that it was not invented until 1741. Thank you, inventor Ben Franklin. Many of the old farmhouses were big and all were uninsulated, so I'm thinking a dozen or more cords of wood were needed every winter, not to mention wood in the kitchen year round.
I am so thankful for what we have now. Yay for insulation and double pane windows. And a big yay for central heating. Our home is heated with gas. It comes from the street, so there are no propane tank to fill. It is so easy and clean with gas. And if we get cold, we just turn the heat up. No coal to shovel. No logs to throw into one or more fireplaces. We even have two gas powered fireplaces… no mess, no fuss. I feel warm (enough) with our usual inside temperature hovering around 60F at night and 67F during the day, but my guess is that colonial farmers did not even dream of such warm inside temperatures, and if they did it would never be imagined that the temperature could be maintained throughout the entire house ... and with no effort.
In fact, I take for granted even the programable thermostat that allows me to set the temperature to go from 60F to 67F thirty minutes before we get out of bed in the morning. And I'm not even talking about the hardware and software that some others have to do all of this remotely. Hey, want the house warm up in time for your arrival home from work? Well, just bump up the thermostat remotely from you cell phone.
What about hot showers? My guess is that those colonial farmers who cleared the land never even imagined that one day we would have domestic hot water pouring over heads. A bath may hardly have been in their vocabulary. I doubt they even imagined that there would even be cold water in the house. Or indoor bathrooms and no need for chamber pots.
I'm thankful for lots and lots of things today that go far beyond the scope of this posting. But the stone walls beside which I walked last weekend made me feel thankful for a warm house and a warm shower.
(In another six months I’ll be thankful for the central air conditioning we added to the house three years ago. During the summer months, I will be grateful for a cool house. I’ll always be grateful for a warm shower.)