Thursday, May 15, 2008

"The Canadian Settler's Guide"

Society is hanging by a thread. As the movies keep reminding us, all we need is a nuclear war, a viral outbreak, a terrorist strike, or a polar bear attack to bring all of our modern machinery to a shuddering halt. We are literally inches away from the stone age, and I don't mean the kind of stone age where we wear fur bikinis and fight dinosaurs. I mean the kind where we all die because we're too stupid to know how to make our own bread.

I picked up Catherine Parr Traill's "The Canadian Settler's Guide" because, after the zombies bring down our entire fragile infrastructure, I want to lend a helping hand when the time comes to reconstruct the world. I want to offer more practical knowledge than just how to boil Kraft Dinner and accentuate a lip-line.

The fact that you can't grow insulin in a garden sort of makes my whole plan moot anyway, but I want to AT LEAST build a whipsaw and plant some cabbage before I die.

So Traill's book -- written for the new 1855 Canadian immigrant -- has proved helpful. I now understand the importance building a veranda around even the meanest hovel, and I know one should keep the chickens in a coop while one is planting the crops. I have learned the best way to prepare fried corn (boil it first) and how to make a tasty beer out of beets. I could, if pressed, make a rag rug or a candle or a delightful pigeon pie, and I could tell you how many bricks a yard of clay will make (460), and I could even recite a verse of "The Scottish Immigrant Song":
The little gowans tipped wi dew
That 'mang the grass shone brightly;
The harebell waving in the breeze
That bowed its head sae lightly.
When Mrs. Traill devoted a section of the book to "the ague," however, I had to chuckle. "Oh those simple Victorian people, mistaking food poisoning or a tight corset for some mysterious vapor-disease." Little did I know that -- holy cow! -- malaria was a serious problem in Ontario throughout the 1800's. No wonder a spoonful of Epsom salts didn't help.

So when the world comes crashing down, feel free to stay with me for a little while. We'll have a quilting bee, clear some land, and dig a pit to put the potatoes in. But now that I know where rennet comes from, YOU can make the cheese.

1 comment:

Syd Midnight said...

Reminds me of the "Foxfire Books".. a college student gathered compendium of Appalachian wisdom, 1/2 crazy useful stuff (How ta make a hawg inta eats) and 1/2 crazy (How a virgin chikken bone scares off tha haints).

It's so easy to laugh, but diabetes aside, we are all about 5 days away from barbarism. It ain't gonna happen.. lets vote and tell ourselves.. it ain't gonna happen...