“We Took To the Woods”

My favorite places to go shopping are used book sales and stores. One of the books I found was “We Took To the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich.

Written in the 1930’s, the book would seem to be very outdated. Except it isn’t, at least for me.

Not everyone has electricity and running water, two of the great innovations of civilization. The Riches were tucked into a lumber company’s land in what was once a lodge for fishermen coming to the wilds of Maine. Only a dozen or so people live in the area year round. Mail comes in by boat in the summer and must be retrieved by hiking out two miles on snowshoes in the winter. Groceries are a similar proposition.

"We Took To the Woods" by Louise Dickinson Rich
The family lived in the small house over the winter as it was easier to keep warm. Summers were spent in what was one a lodge. One advantage to moving twice a year is how well you pare down your piles of possessions.

This would be an interesting challenge. Try to make out a grocery list for a month’s meals. Remember bread doesn’t keep that long. No, you can’t freeze it as you have only an ice box using ice for cooling. You make it. If you forget something, you must do without until the next month.

There are places where this is the norm. I read once about a place in Wyoming where access to stores was once or twice a year. How much flour? Did you remember the salt? The leavening? Canned vegetables? Paper products?

Cooking and heating are done with wood. Lights are kerosene with glass chimneys and wicks. Snow is waist deep for months. Temperatures drop to ten or more below zero.

Would you be tough enough?

“We Took To the Woods” is done as though answering questions people ask about living this way. How do you make a living? How do you keep house? What about the children? Do you get bored? Do you get frightened?

For me it brought back memories. We lived without electricity and running water for a time. I learned to cook on a wood cookstove. Snow was waist deep for six months up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At least we could get out by car during the winter although driving on a snow covered road between snow filled ditches is a challenge.

“We Took To the Woods” also mentions about the logging. The lumber company still had logging crews staying the winter in the woods, piling the pulp wood near the lakes, ponds and rivers for the spring when all of it was floated down to the sawmill. These men were not Paul Bunyon types, no matter what the movies portray.

I enjoyed reading this book. It brought back memories I’m glad are now memories. Electricity and running water had their luster restored as I’ve gotten complacent about them. Complacent until the next time the electricity goes out.