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Monday, December 28, 2009

Making Due

It's still freezing here. Which probably isn't such big news considering that a large part of the country is in the deep freeze now. My problem, however, is that my home weather station shows that humidity levels in my house are now down around 40% which is a big drop from our usual balmy 70% humidity. And I really don't like the electrical shocks, dry skin, and parched air that comes with such low humidity. Anyway, this post isn't about the weather, but it is about my response to the situation.
My first thought after determining that all of this dry weather was becoming distressing, was to ask "what can I buy to fix this situation?" This is often my (and obviously most everyone else's) reaction as well. You have a problem, and you immediately run out to buy a fix for the problem.
Then I stopped and thought, what would my grandparents have done? They didn't have much money and decades ago, most people didn't run out and buy something to fix a problem. My memory of them and most others in their generation was that if there was a problem, the last thing they wanted to do was buy something to fix it as money was tight for most people back then. Often they would try a dozen different homemade remedies to fix a problem before breaking down and buying a solution which would kind of mean they lost the battle with the problem--it was a pride thing along with a financial thing.
To make a long story short, the answer to my humidity problem was not to run out to Walmart and buy a humidifier. I remembered that during the cold winter months when the combination of cold air and the use of indoor heat created really low humidity levels in the house, grandma always left a pot of water sitting on the wood stove. The wood stove was hot, the water became heated releasing steam, and the house remained pleasantly humid. Now there is a pot of water sitting on my wood stove and the indoor humidity levels are slowly creeping up to a more desirable level. Problem solved.
Here's some other "old-timer make-due" solutions to common problems:
  • No gloves and you want to play outside in the snow? Put a pair of granddad's wool socks on your hands like mittens. If it is really cold, wear two pair at a time.
  • Small hunk of meat out to feed the family and unexpected guests show up? Make soup or stew instead. This is an easy way to stretch a small piece of meat to feed a group.
  • Kids come home hungry after school and need a snack? Back then there was no such thing as running by McDonalds on the way home from school. Things like popcorn, fruit in season from the garden, or biscuits with peanut butter and jam would be served to quell their hunger.
  • Really old, thin window glass that easily lets the cold air into your home? Cover them with plastic for the duration of the winter.
  • House really cold even with the heater/wood stove going? Since most homes didn't have very good insulation back then, the heat would go straight up and out through the roof. Blankets were hung in the doorways that separated the living room from the rest of the house and everyone stayed in that one room where the wood stove and TV was. Blankets were on hand to provide extra warmth. Amazingly back then there was only one TV in the house (complete with a total of four TV stations) and everyone watched TV together!
  • Clothes taking forever to dry? Back then most had washers but no dryers, so they used an outdoor clothes line which wasn't very useful in the middle of winter. Instead people hung their clothes in the attic to dry if it was warm enough, if not, the clothes ended up hanging by the wood stove to dry.

Anyway, you get the idea. There is usually a low-tech, common sense, low to no-cost way to fix any problem you run into, it just takes a bit of creativity and thinking outside of the consumer box.

1 comment:

  1. I keep a teakettle on my woodstove all of the time. It adds humidity to the indoor air, and it gives me hot water for my tea, which I drink constantly in cold weather. It helps keep me warm ... and it tastes good ;).

    I also dry my clothes using a wooden drying rack in front of the woodstove. The clothes dry really fast and add moisture to the indoor air. Humidity problem solved :).

    Great post! All of us need to be thinking more about how we can fix problems without buying the solution.