Thursday, December 4, 2008

Keepers of the flame...

The stories of the land and the past lives of old houses have whispered to me since childhood. I have been captivated by the magic of the days of old for as long as I can remember. I love to read how people, especially women, lived in the past. I am fascinated by the material culture of yesterday, the tools, the buildings, the utilitarianism of their everyday objects…and the beauty of simplicity. I long to feel the rhythm of a day without modern technology. I am not a Luddite purist at all, I am typing these words on a computer, but I do think it would be incredible to feel the silence. We are trying to do as much as we can with human hands on this quiet farm. We are so grateful for the advice we get from our neighbors and friends as we start this journey here. Moving to a new region is exciting and foreign. We are learning the forested landscape, the edibles, the culture, the roads, everything is new. We just jumped in feet first not knowing a soul.

But life unfolds; we find our feet, share our voices, raise our hands and look up and out.

I wanted to share this bit from an old diary....

"Public Thanks giving Day Morning Nov. 21, 1793. as I was
Musing on my Bed being awake as Usual befor Day-light;
recollecting the Many Mercies and good things I enjoy for
which I ought to be thankful this Day; Some of which I have
Noted after rising as follows, viz.
The Life & health of my Self & family, and also of so many of
my Children, grand Children, & great grand children; also of
my other Relations and friends & Neighbors, for Health
peace & plenty amongst us.
for my Bible, and Many other good and Useful Books, Civil
& Religious Priviledges, for the ordinances of the gospel; and
for my Minister.
for my Land, House and Barn and other Buildiings, & that
they are preserv'd from fire & other accidents.
for my wearing Cloathes to keep me warm, my Beds &
Beding to rest upon
for my cattle, Sheep & Swine & Other Creatures, for my

for my Corn, Wheat, Rye, Grass and Hay; Wool, Flax, Syder,
Apples, Pumpkins, Potatoes, Cabages, tirnips, Carrots, Beets,
peaches and other fruits.
for my Clock & Watch to measure my passing time by Day
and by Night
Wood, Water, Butter, Cheese, Milk, Pork, Beefe & fish, &c
for Tea, Sugar, Rum, Wine, Gin, Molasses, peper, Spice &
Money for to bye other Necessaries and to pay my Debts
& Taxes &c
for my Lether, Lamp oyle & Candles, Husbandry utensils,
& other tools of every Sort.
&c &c &c
Bless the Lord O my Soul and all that is within me, Bless his
holy Name, Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his
benefits, who Satisfieth thy mouth with good things &c
psal. 103. 1, 2, 5.

Samuel Lane

This was found in a journal from 1793, when Samuel Lane was 75 years old. He kept a journal every day for 60 years except the month that he was sick. He lived in a part of New England that in 1793 was wilderness. He was a self-taught tanner, a shoemaker by trade, a self-educated surveyor, a farmer, and a trader in Portsmouth. In his accounts journal a lot of what he earned was barter, "a bushel of corn, a half day of plowing..." Brown, Jerald E. 2000. The years of the Life of Samuel Lane, 1718-1806. Unvi. Press of New England, Hanover, NH, pp. xv, xvii

His thankful prayer once again confirmed to me that we are not going to make it in this world knowing only "one" thing or having only "one" commodity, that is a modern view of existence. We need to diversify, to know many things and to be responsible for a lot of what we consume. We need to trust in ourselves and remember that control is just an illusion, also a modern perspective of life. We do not need to buy everything, we can instead reuse, redux, rejoin the local economy. We can all take a lesson from the journals of the past, to be thankful for the simple things. One way to embrace a simpler life is to support our local farmers, weavers, seamstresses, furniture makers, potters, and dairies. To look more closely at our local economy and be willing to pay a little more than the Boxstore prices for handmade items and by doing so support your neighbor, a healthier planet and hopefully begin to decrease our human footprint on the earth… So I believe, handmade, homegrown lasts longer, feels better and tastes sweeter. It actually has soul because it was raised or made with care and attention by a human hand. My hope is that we consumers realize in mass that we can actually do well with less. Less is more.

I write this from a dust covered room, the dust from our kitchen floors is over 150+ years old. We have just found our sill and it is over 14" thick. The floor boards we have just removed haven't been touched since Levi D. and his family put them there sometime around or before 1830. His family lived in this house for almost 100 years. We saved the one inch thick spruce boards that were cut by hand and run through John D. Sr.'s mill at the bottom of our hill in the brook. Local wood, made from White Pine that is not allowed to grow that big anymore. Sills and sleepers that were cut with an adze. It is history in motion, we are the grateful stewards of this land and this beautiful old house. Keepers of the flame......

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