practicality vs. luxury
I’ll try to set this up as best I can. I received an e-mail earlier today from someone with a fairly simple question. The question was essentially, wouldn’t it be easier and faster to use a starter log to start my fires? The decrease in time would give me more time to do other things. So I responded…
There’s a couple of points about that. First, would it be easier? Perhaps. But, no it really wouldn’t be any faster. I can generally have a good fire going in less than five minutes. Secondly, taking shortcuts on things like starter bricks/logs (and other things) often have an unintended consequence of making our skills sloppy and we find that on the day when the wood isn’t ideal and we don’t have a starter brick then suddenly starting fire is much more difficult than it would be if we’d stayed in practice. So we find that the path of least resistance isn’t always as beneficial in the long run as we thought.
But not long after, he replied with a great question that seemed to blow a hole through my response. Essentially if not taking shortcuts on things like building a fire aren’t acceptable, then how is it acceptable to use things like power tools, a sawmill or a tractor?
Busted. Because he’s right, or at least his argument makes sense. But at it’s essence it’s a philosophical question and I do love a good philosophical question. I’m sharing it with you, because I think it’s something a lot of us who like to pause or step backward from the advances of the world need to ponder. Here’s my response and I’d like to hear your thoughts.
That’s a fair question. Ultimately it comes down to labor saving devices, what should we use and what shouldn’t we use. It’s a philosophical question on where do we draw the line? To draw it closer, it’s a question of what is practical vs. what is a luxury? In my case, it was an evolution. In my early days of woodworking, I started out using only hand tools. I found hewing logs, while enjoyable was difficult to keep the dimensions accurate. Though I probably would have worked through this with time and experience, for the sake of progress and not building something that had poor quality, I picked up a chainsaw mill. It worked great, except that it really wasn’t very fuel efficient and I was afraid that I was going to wear out my saw, so I decided to go with the portable mill. It was economical, but even with it, I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the amount of logs that seem to find their way to my door. So in this case the mill was a choice of practicality. As it pertains the the cabin, it would have been the equivalent of traveling across the country, sure it could be done by walking or bicycle, but it just wasn’t as practical as driving a car.
The same goes for the tractors. Personally, we need them to operate our farm and for me it’s a requirement to be able to manage the logs. At the house I have for sale, I had to eventually cut up a nice cherry log for firewood because I didn’t have the means (tractor) to load it into a trailer.
This was really what our ancestors did. They did something a certain way until a simpler way was introduced. They didn’t hew logs because of the rustic nature of log cabin living, they did it because it was what they could do with the tools provided. The difference is now is that we’ve taken labor saving to a new level. As I like to tell my students, we’ve turned into a society of people who yell at microwave ovens to hurry up.
All that said, I have a saying I use often around the farm. It’s “Get off the tractor” and it refers to a tendency people have to try and do something while on the tractor (like open a gate) or a hundred other little things that very often lead to tearing something up. In other words, if you’d simply gotten off the tractor and moved said item everything would be fine
As with anything else, it ultimately comes down to personal choice. I try to keep things in perspective and not fall into the “gadget trap.” Have good tools that do the job that needs to be done, but stay away from things that are just pretty things in the tool box.
It’s not a perfect answer, but maybe it clears things up a bit.
In the meantime… live well… laugh often… love always.