I love walking in the woods. There’s something primal about the trees and the fallen leaves that make me feel like a pioneer, searching for a perfect spot for my home. Just the right mix of sun and shade, slope and flat, dry and wet that makes me comfortable. The combination was very important to them as it could mean life or death. New England is not forgiving to the unprepared.
The summers can be in the 90’s. The winters can reach 30 degrees below zero. A house in the open will be an oven in the summer, and the wind in the winter can drift snow up and over the roof. If you build your house on a flat area, it can get very muddy in the spring, causing mold and mildew problems. To much slope and runoff can undermine the foundation. It took some thought along with plenty of trial and error for them to get it right.
Those that did, enjoyed a good and long life in what I think is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Maybe I’m a little biased having grown up in Maine. I have traveled a lot, but I always come back. I guess it’s all in where you grew up. I enjoyed swimming in small ponds and lakes as a boy, and I still do. The shallow ponds would warm up quite a bit, maybe reach 70 degrees! As a kid, that was warm for Maine. As an adult, WHOA…that’s cold!
Every time I hear someone talk about how hard they worked today, I think about how hard the pioneers of this country worked. Every stone for the foundation, tree for log walls, sod for the roof, hand hewn boards for the doors…all where done by hand. It could take weeks to set all the stones, each one lifted by hand. How many trees could you cut down, trim to size, debark and set into place in a day?
If you wanted to plant crops, what do you do with all the stones you dig up? You don’t know work until you try to dig a hole in New England! Nothing but rocks! But the pioneers were smart. Build stone walls of course! Some walls run for miles in the northeast. Land boundary’s were marked by them. Every stone moved by hand. Now that’s work.
I think we have it pretty easy today. We walk our dogs with their LL Bean coats on, drive our cars, use our washing machines, order pizza delivery, buy our clothes online, call our friends on the phone. In 1755 our dogs ran free. We had to hook up the horses to the wagon to go to town. We washed our hand made clothes in the nearest stream. If you wanted to eat, you grew it, hunted for it and prepared it, or go hungry. If you wanted to talk to a friend, you walked or rode a horse, sometimes for many miles to see them. But unlike today, if you asked them for help, they came without question.
There were no food stamps, no welfare checks, no WIC program. No mass transit, no soup kitchens, no handouts. People just helped each other. If I came to help you, I know you will come and help me. Those that could not help themselves, they were provided for by all in the community. You brought them food, washed their clothes, fixed their roof, picked them up on Sunday to go to church. Filled their wood shed so they wouldn’t freeze. No one wrote a check to UNICEF, or Save The Children, then wrote it off on their taxes thinking they did their part. People finished their work, then worked for others without question. That’s what a true community is. It’s sad to say, but in many areas of America, I think those days are gone. (Sigh)