Human beings are diurnal, which is to say that we are active during the day and sleep at night. Throughout the history of "civilization", we have been forcing ourselves into a manner of living that is not natural for us - attempting to extend daylight when we should all just go to bed.
In the latter part of the 19th Century the idea of changing the clocks to make better use of daylight hours was proposed, and by the end of WWI, most of the Western world had adopted Daylight Savings Time.
Reading about Daylight Savings Time is fascinating. I found statements like, the longer days nearer the summer solstice in high latitudes offer more room to shift daylight from morning to evening so that early morning daylight is not wasted very interesting ... perhaps a little disturbing, because the article went on to argue that it was better to change the clock than to have people get up earlier during the summer so that morning hours weren't wasted. Very sad that our culture created this kind of mindset, and that we are so out of touch with the rhythms of nature that we need to manipulate "time" in order not to waste daylight.
Of course, light, during the summer, isn't an issue. The sun rises by 6:00 on most mornings and doesn't set until 20:00 or later. It's during the winter, when the sun doesn't peek out until 7:00 or later and decides to call it a day at 16:00. Most of us aren't done for the day, and so we want some sort of light to help us navigate through the darkness.
At the moment, my home is illuminated during the dark hours with electricity. We replaced all of our incandescent bulbs with CFLs, and with a small solar-powered or pedal-powered generator, we could probably keep the electric lights blazing. The problem is that we will, likely, only have a small system, and the question is, what do we want to keep powered? I'm not sure keeping those CFLs burning is my answer - not to mention the fact that at some point, they will stop working, and I'll have to find a way to safely dispose of them, and also the fact that once they stop blazing, there is a possibility that I won't be able to replace them, and then, what?
My answer to "then what?" is to revert back to some older technologies. I have several oil lamps. We have bees so that we have access to beeswax for candle making. In the book Gone with the Wind during the war when everything was scarce at Tara (the plantation home of protagonist, Scarlet O'Hara) they used rags soaked in bacon fat for lights. I, actually, thought that was a pretty clever solution.
But not as clever as my incredibly clever husband ...
Last summer, Deus Ex Machina was experimenting with different lighting options. After testing several vessels, wicks and fuels, he made an olive oil lamp using an old canning jar. First, he found a piece of cotton twine that he unraveled so that it was looser. Then, he poked a hole in a used canning lid and filled the jar with olive oil. He lowered the wick into the oil, and pushed it up through the hole in the lid, and then screwed the lid into place. It worked like a charm.
We discovered a couple of things, though ... in case anyone else wants to try out the experiment.
1. The distance between the wick and the oil needs to be very short. In ours, we filled the jar, and there is only a inch or so of air space between the wick and the oil. The oil can be lower (about halfway down the jar) and the lamp will still work, but our regular kerosene lanterns, where the fire on the wick is as much as three inches from the oil level, don't work as well when fueled with olive oil and tend to sputter and not stay lit very well.
2. As Deus Ex Machina mentions in the posts linked above, olive oil doesn't smoke or smell bad, like kerosene. It is also not combustible. You can drop a match right into the oil, and it won't catch fire.
3. As long as the wick is in the oil, it will continue to "wick" the oil up, and so if the lamp is not used regularly, you'll need to poke some holes in the top of the jar lid so that the oil can go back into the jar. If you don't put holes in the lid, the oil will puddle on the lid, and eventually, spill all over the table ... ask me how I know ;).
As a special treat for today's giveaway, Deus Ex Machina has offered to make a canning jar olive oil lamp for one lucky person. And just as an aside, the oil lamp isn't just for light ;). As usual, leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.
AND THE WINNER IS ...The winner of the book Your Goatsis Kimberly.
The winner of the book Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces is patricialynn.
Congratulations to you both! Please leave a comment with the address to which you would like your book mailed. Comments are moderated, and I won't post your address. Be sure to leave your full name :).