Looking Back 3: Nonelectric Entertainment

We get a lot of questions about the things we did for entertainment in those early years before we had electricity. Believe it or not, boredom was not a problem on our homestead. Even the long evenings of winter passed relatively quickly under the soft glow of kerosene lamps.

It helped that all of our children are avid readers. One major concern we had was the fire danger from the kerosene lamps we used throughout the cabin. Now to those who’ve never used kerosene lamps, it isn’t like the movies. You will not light up a room with one lamp and the light is not that bright either. We do not use the Aladdin lamps with the mantles because we’ve found them prone to carbon build-up in the globe. In our experience, they take constant fiddling and attention and even though they give out a lot of light they aren’t worth the hassle to us. We used the standard old wick-type kerosene lamps.

Our first experience with solar power was when we began using solar driveway and sidewalk lights for reading lights for the children. Those early lights were yellow, but they still worked as reading lamps. We had three times as many as we had people because it took two days to fully recharge them. We’d lay in bed with the light propped against our shoulder or neck when reading. That cut down the fire danger significantly and still allowed the children to read in the evenings.

We played board games and cards, drew pictures, wrote, made and decorated cookies and did school work (we home schooled our children). We even used a laptop computer by charging the battery up when we went to church.

We also do some “homegrown” music. My wife can play about any musical instrument and has taught some of those skills to other family members.

A lot of our entertainment was outdoor activity.

We like hiking and backpacking and spent time camping in the mountains. Several times we rented USFS cabins in the wilderness and either hiked or cross-country skied to their locations.

One cabin we rented in winter required skiing eight miles to the cabin site. One time the snow was so deep we had to turn back. A blizzard had just dumped several feet of snow the night before and even our cross-country skis sank so deep it was impossible to make it in. (And that was after we’d just spent 20 minutes shoveling out a parking spot for our Cherokee!) We called the Forest Service and they gave us extra time to use the cabin.

We tried again the next day and someone on a snowmobile had blasted a path through. Following his trail we made it all the way to the cabin. That was a spring weekend when the temperature was well below zero on the ski in but when we left two days later the temperature had climbed into the 40s. The snow was wet and sticking to our skis making it one of the most physically taxing ski trips we’d ever taken on the way back to the trail head.

We often camped in the winter by skiing down old logging roads. We never used a tent but instead slept between one tarp thrown on the snow and another one over us. Many times we felt the snow lightly falling on our faces as we drifted off to sleep.

We enjoyed ice skating on a small pond near the cabin. Occasionally there would be a neighborhood party at a local lake where we’d have a bonfire with the guys going ice fishing and the children skating on the lake.

We have a couple of good sledding hills on our property. We live on a private road so traffic is never a problem.

Summer activities included hiking and backpacking into the high country. We have hundreds of mountain lakes within a 50-mile radius of our cabin. Some we’d drive to and others were walk-in only. The fishing was always good as was the view.

Hunting is superb where we live, and we always look forward to the big game season each fall. Hunting is not only a recreational activity but also provides our yearly meat supply.

We also have a trampoline and playground equipment that is now being put to use by our grandson who lives with us.

Homestead life, even when lived primitively is never boring. There’s always something to do either indoors or outdoors. In fact, one of the best things about our life is that it keeps us physically active all year long. It’s a trait we still follow today even though I’m now 60 and my wife is …. (Oops! Almost messed up big time!)

I’ll continue our story in future posts.

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far you might want to check into my book, Creating the Low Budget Homestead. (Available in the Grit bookstore.) It’s filled with homesteading advice you won’t find anywhere else. Most homesteading books tell you how to raise livestock, grow a garden and preserve your harvest. My book focuses on how to pursue your homesteading dream on a budget that would make Ebeneezer Scrooge envious.

And visit my blog, Living Life Off Grid.

Published on Apr 15, 2015

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