Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Curse of Modern Conveniences

The other day I was listening to a radio host talking about the good old days, one hundred years ago.  He mentioned there were only 8000 cars in the world and 144 miles of paved road in total.  I got to thinking, life must have been so much simpler without all the modern equipment, machines, motors and gadgets.  I'm not saying it was easier, not by any means, but it had to be simpler.

I thought about all the equipment that makes up the trappings of modern society.  As I started to list all the modern conveniences, my thoughts were, the more we have, the more we have to go wrong

Maybe what sparked this whole vein of thinking was the snow-blower, with the leaking gas line, that the king of procrastination has to get fixed.  Oh yes and there's the water softener, that is flooding the brine tank and not really softening the water. The three wheeler that won't start, and needs to be disposed of.

But then I also also remembered all the things that are working and working well and making my modern existence comfortable.  Let's see there are the two vehicles, the lawn tractor, the push mower, the rototiller, the washing machine, the dryer, the dishwasher, the microwave oven, the oven, the fridge, two freezers, the air conditioner, the pump, the pool pump, the sump pump,  the furnace, the dehumidifier, the stereo, the TV's, VCR and DVD players, the computer, the printer, vacuum cleaner, chain saw, whipper snipper, hedge trimmer, chop saw, garage door openers and the hot water tank.  Whew, I'm tired out just thinking of all the labour-saving devices I actually own.

Any one of these items begin to malfunction and our lives slide into major inconvenience mode.  We probably can't go more than a couple of days without vehicles.  A week without the major household appliances would be reasonable grounds for divorce in this day and age.  A season without the lawn and garden equipment, would have us reclassified or maybe just certified as red necks.

But then what about all the little gadgets: camera, cell phone, hair dryer, curling iron, hair straightener ( I wouldn't miss that one), dust buster, toaster oven, coffee maker, tea kettle, can opener, circular saw, electric drill, jigsaw, flash lights, answering machine, remote controls, clocks, phones, electric toothbrush, clippers, and razor

If any of these smaller items go on the fritz, we don't really panic.  We just toss the offending item, rush out and buy a new improved version with ten times the capacity or speed, complete with all those useless bells and whistles, that we'll never need or take the time to learn.

We all complain about the 'busyness' of our lives and the stresses of modern living.  How many of these same dilemmas faced our forefathers? 

Tranportation: well you had to keep the horse fed. You had to grow your own. Hence your plough and scythe had to be kept sharp. Shoes and boots were hard to come by. You either had to make them yourself or get a cobbler to do the job for you.  And there wasn't just you, your significant other and your 1.8 perfect children.  There was a whole brood. You had to grow enough food to keep them all somewhat healthy, and hand sew every stitch of clothing they had on their skinny backs.

Gardening: you had to keep your hoe and axe sharp.  Everything from the garden had to be preserved for winter. Wood had to be chopped, split and carried home, and you were probably never truly comfortable from November to May. 

Household appliances.  You had to keep your lantern chimneys clean and wicks trimmed. If you had the foresight and storage space you might have cut ice blocks in the winter for your summer icebox.  The scrub board saw a lot of skinned knuckles and red, chapped hands.  The clothesline wasn't just an energy-saving afterthought.  Central heating was the fireplace in the middle of the room, which fought valiantly to stave the frost from the doors and windows. 

As for the gadgets, well lets see: if you were wealthy you might have an apple parer, so you could at least have a bit of dried fruit in the winter. A straight razor gave you the smoothest shave once a week, albeit you did risk the possibility of a slashed jugular vein.

Communication: well you visited regularly with the neighbours.  You dropped in on people and shared Sunday dinners.  Bees were neighbourly gatherings, where barns were raised or quilts were quilted.  Blackberries were wild fruit that you picked alongside bears and raccoons.
"How many of our problems are a result of abundance and plenty?"~Boyd.  Thus started my sister-in-law's Facebook post the other morning.  Obviously we were tuned into the same wavelength.  So I got to thinking about the things on my to-do list, right now.  You know the things that are nagging away at the back of your mind -- round-to-its so to speak.

My great grandfather didn't worry about the gas line on his snowblower.  He just hoped he could somehow get the horse and cutter through the storm to fetch the doctor to attend his sick child.  

Soft water wasn't even a concept he was aware of.  Just make sure there was a bucket of drinking water in the house, and the waterhole chopped out for the livestock to drink.  

So I guess I'll quit my whining, load the snow-blower on the back of the truck and take it to someone in the next county, who better understands what he's doing.  The water softener toll-free number is right beside the unit. I better grab the cell phone and give that fellow a shout.  And since none of the neighbours can translate smoke signal lingo anymore and the Pony Express does not pass by our door, I best blog these thoughts your way.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. I used to think I was born in the wrong century, but that was just nostalgic fantasy. I would be in better shape, no doubt, but I do love my gadgets. When I make my 5 loaves of fresh ground whole wheat bread, I have a grinder to grind the grain and a mixer to do the hard kneading part. All I need to do is "know" the dough, shape it, and cook it, then eat it! When we lived in Georgia, I bought a non-electric grinder. It seemed the earthy thing to do, and besides that, we could grind grain if we lost power. I gave up fairly quickly. It took Kelly and a friend and hour of hand grinding, switching off, and they were tired at the end!

    Yay, for gadgets, but I will keep some of the values we've lost along the way. :-)

  2. By the way, that hour barely produced 5#!!!!


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