As a historical writer, I spend a good bit of time in a world with no electricity through story. I’m always curious–what was it like? Looking back over the Cadence of Grace series, I wondered–did I get it right? So in the spirit of research, I thought it might be fun to get the family involved and when I threw the half-crazy idea out to my husband, he happily agreed. The kids seemed to like the adventure of it: an evening of no-electricity and nothing modern.
It’s amazing how the simplest of things–like turning on a light, can be taken such for granted! So before our non-electric, modern-free evening even began, I knew I needed to get the kerosene lantern in operating order, including fresh kerosene and a new wick. While making my to-do list for that, I mused to my husband about needing to buy kerosene and in his adorable way, he gave me a mini breakdown on all things oil and gas. I have no idea what he said, but the gist of it was that the kerosene was fine. I’ll tell you, the guy knows his fuels. ;) So off to town I went with my trusty sidekick for a lantern wick (that apparently made a very nice forehead wrap) and some more candle sticks that took much prompting to not be used as drumsticks on the edge of the shopping card.
Back home, and feeling quite like Ma Ingalls, I decided to put in the wick. It took several minutes worth of attempts before it was made clear that I got the wrong size. So I called my husband who at this point had been nicknamed Lord of the Flame and he happily swung back by the hardware store. The smaller size went in like a dream.
Lighting. Check. Now…on to dinner.
I’d thawed some deer meat which seemed very authentic and would be easy to cook on the wood burning stove (since using the propane stove was quite off limits.) We use cast iron anyway for all our cooking, so it was easy-peasy to simply grab my favorite pan and start some taco meat. Per his usual nightly routine, Lord of the Flame built the fire. The stove would only take about a half hour to heat up enough to cook supper, so in the meantime, I prepped the ingredients.
To my surprise, about an hour before sunset, the house turned quite dark. This is where the benefit of many windows was apparent. Our living area only has two windows and before long, I had to light a few candles. Note to mothers everywhere: As soon as the kids saw the effects of not turning on the lights, they all dashed outside (that was easy!). As I was cooking dinner, they were in the front playing basketball with my husband and riding bikes (which my 7-year-old was pleased to declare that those were appropriate activities as they don’t require electricity.)
Supper cooked like a dream and everyone hailed it delicious. After the dishes were washed, we had some time on our hands. Really, we needed something pioneerish to do. I was going to read to the kids as usual, which was destined to be epically cool with the presence of only lantern light, but that was still an hour off and seeing as we didn’t have any traps to grease or melted lead to mold into bullets, I thought we could make butter.
I know… an all time high in the history of family entertainment.
At this point, Mr. 7-year-old, who had begun using air quotes for the word “electricity” helped keep the little ones on track with the toys they could use. Our 4-year-old was clearly made for an electric world and the 2-year-old was just happy to be in the midst of it all.
A quick how-to on homemade butter:
Pour some room-temperature heavy cream into a quart mason jar (about 1/2 full is great)
Shake, shake, shake. Once you have a lump of butter formed (which we had in about only five minutes!), strain the buttermilk well. I let our butter drain over some cheesecloth until it finished dripping. It’s very soft and pliable and easy to spread. We dedicated a few muffins for the occasion and it was a delicious treat!
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The evening, I’ll tell you, was a delight. It was one of those times that I wished I could bottle and keep forever and I know the memories will stay with me a long while. Because of the candles and the need for nearly a dozen to get dim light, we kept everyone in the living room together. It really drove home the fact that people would have congregated to a common area if there was a need to conserve oil or candlesticks. To fill the hours, my husband played checkers with the kids, we all laughed about how none of us could see and the kids almost all dozed off in the living room while I read the last few chapters of our book, Dr. Doolittle. Before long my husband was carrying a sleeping 4-year-old to bed while I helped tuck in the other two.
A few whispered “goodnights” and we plugged in the nightlight. :)