Traditionally this is the time of year to begin complaining about the darkness, to whine about the changing clocks and the short days. I know it’s not a joke. Up here in the north, for many it’s a time of seasonal depression, and getting home from work in the dark doesn’t help any.
But for me, I love the switch from daylight saving to standard time. I’ve always been the one person in the family knocking around before the sun comes up. That means right now, before my body adjusts to the clock switch, I’ve got an extra hour to myself in the morning.
I’m still getting up and walking the dog in the dark, so no difference there except that every day the stars are more brilliant. But the time change means it’s already light now when
I leave for work, and that means more time to attend to the animals or make cheese or study Spanish or knit or wash dishes.
Was that me planting the last of the bulbs on a frosty dawn earlier this week? Possibly. My friend shared some extra tulip bulbs and I still had some daffodils to get into the ground quick, before the snow and deep freeze showed up. And I had that extra hour anyway.
There’s a theory that daylight saving time was introduced to help farmers get in their crops. Any farmer can tell you that’s a load. Farmers’ lives, and farm animals’ lives, are ruled by daylight, it’s true, but not by clocks. So when we switched the clocks last weekend, milking time for the goats stayed at the same time as far as they were concerned — it needs to be done before dark, not by any particular o’clock.
Daylight time was, in fact, introduced to reduce energy consumption, to take advantage of sunlight to lessen reliance on electricity at workplaces and factories. Benjamin Franklin first proposed it as a way to save candles, but it wasn’t actually introduced in the United States until World War I, when the issue was other energy resources. After the war it was dropped until World War II, then abandoned again until 1966.
So does it work? Modern energy savings have been modest — half a percent to 1 percent — which is nothing to sneeze at. But there are more and more regions pushing to eliminate the disruptions cause by the twice-yearly clock change. Arizona and Hawaii stay on standard time year-round. The entire West Coast, from British Columbia through California, is looking at sticking to one time year-round, although they don’t all agree on whether it should be daylight or standard.
This year’s time change came on the heels of a powerful Halloween storm that brought down trees and washed out roads all around us. For us it meant a three-day power outage, so while we were undoubtedly saving energy, we weren’t saving candles. (Sorry, Ben.)
The woodstove kept us warm and cooked up a lovely stew; four candles put together made enough light to knit by; the goats were warm and cozy; and there was plenty of water in the rain tanks for all the animals.
And with no power all weekend, it made no difference to us if the clock said 8 or 9 o’clock.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Nov. 24. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.