The Old Ways

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I am educated in these old ways; I was the curator of an historic museum in the north. We had a reel shot in the early 1970s of local men cutting ice on the lake using the tools their fathers and grandfathers used. Cutting and storing ice wasn’t some desperate measure; it was part of the rhythm of the year.

That rhythm is broken, perhaps never to be replayed again. Lakes don’t freeze through anymore, except in the northern tier. The Amish who have moved to the colder areas of North America in search of farm land will do this, adopting it into their annual cycle. Perhaps it would still be practical for small communities in the north, cutting back on the use of electricity and the cost of transporting major appliances long distances.

It would change how food is sold and transported, with more reliance on local crops and agriculture. It would change how people cook and store food. It might revive other methods of chilling food and preserving it. It could change nutritional intake, perhaps for the better, or perhaps not.

When we try to fit an old technology into a post-modern world, we have to account for a changed environment. I sew on an antique treadle sewing machine; I spin wool by hand and weave it on a large floor loom, technologies which do not require power outside the strength of the human body. But buying modern, industrial supplies for these activities requires adaptation. Polyester threads do not feed as well as linen or cotton threads. Finishing work on a garment requires more hand sewing.

My partner wears an antique military overcoat. Recently, a button came off, one made of Bakelite. I attached it again with a polyester thread. It was not strong enough. The original thread was a thick cotton buttonhole twist. I ordered button twist, but it is not as thick or as well spun as the original. I considered spinning my own, and I may yet ply two strands of modern twist together. Our clothes bought in a commercial establishment aren’t made to last three generations.

And our food bought through supermarkets isn’t meant to last long fresh. We are meant to cook it within a week. Vegetables are not grown to be processed into home canned or pickled goods.

We are moving into a new era of adaptation.

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