Monday, April 21, 2008

Green Living

The Tyrconnell Heritage Society will be participating in the local Earth Expo with an information display at the Dutton Dunwich Community Center. This is the first year for the area Earth Expo (coinciding with Earth Day and Earth Week here in Canada). This week long schedule of events has grown from the desire of local residents to support environmental conservation practices.
The Tyrconnell Heritage Society has chosen to explore a small number of ways that the lifestyle of a Talbot Settlement inhabitant would have worked well within the growing practice of resource conservation. Granted the activity of a settler was not “carbon free”. Comparatively speaking, the 1850’s individual had a much smaller carbon footprint then his contemporary counterpart.
For those who don’t know, a carbon footprint is really a measure of the effect we have on the climate in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases we produce (measured in units of carbon dioxide). Your carbon footprint is calculated based on the amounts of electricity, heating oil and natural gas you use as a household.
The average Canadian household creates about 11 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. That’s about 3 Olympic sized swimming pools of carbon dioxide each and every year going out in to the environment.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 30% since pre-industrial times. Obviously the low carbon levels of the 1850’s were the result of the level of societal and industrial development. What was mandatory behaviourally for a Talbot settler could make a great deal of sense as an option for contemporary individuals concerned about environment conservation and resources. So why not try ….


Do you think about the cost of gas when you buy tomatoes in January? Many fruits and vegetables in supermarkets are shipped or flown in from far-off countries, even if it can easily be grown locally. This requires the burning of fossil fuels for transportation.

The 1850’s family in Upper Canada ate a diet consisting of very few imported items. The staples of the Talbot Settlement dining regiment consisted of the seasonal crops grown on local farms supplemented by native plants, local game and farm livestock.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by eating local and eating foods that are in season in the manner of the Talbot settlers.

A settlement resident had several sources of energy available to bring comfort to both work and home. Households were heated by wood from nearby woodlots. Taking only what was needed allowed reforestation at a sustainable rate. Livestock based products like tallow were rendered from fat to make candles or soap ensuring that no part of an animal went to waste. Wind power played a part in the settlement as well with water being pumped up from deep wells by windmills.

You can reduce your carbon footprint by reducing your use of electricity. Dry your clothes on the line or enjoy a candlelit dinner. Take only what you can use and use all of what you take.

Craftsmanship flourished in the 19th century as can be attested to by the longevity of household and agricultural items from that time. Handmade cloth, furniture that is functional and attractive as well as innumerable household and farm accoutrements that still serve in contemporary households are a testament of a commitment to quality and the conservative nature of the Talbot Settlement homesteader. By creating or purchasing quality objects, built to last, the local residents limited their impact on the level of resources available to them.

You can do the same by making sure you purchase durable goods. Buying quality products and taking some care in the maintenance of your possessions will reduce demand on product resources as well as decrease the amount of fuel used to transport the multiple number of inferior items that would be required to take the place of one good quality item

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Give us this day our daily bread....

Bread in some form has graced the human diet since the Neolithic period (approximately 8500 BC). Evidence suggests that leavened bread (as we most usually see it today) probably hit the proverbial table during the era of early Egyptian culture. There are as many kinds of bread as there are nationalities in the world today. Each recipe has evolved based on the agricultural materials available. The families that landed in the Talbot Settlement would have brought their own recipes with them and adapted those to the local crops and resources.

Leavening of bread dough was facilitated in a number of ways. Baking was usually done on a schedule and a bit of dough saved from the week before could be used as a “starter” for the next week’s batch. Cakes of compressed dry yeast could be ordered from back home. Mixed and unbaked dough could be left out overnight to rise with the help of airborne yeast spores.

The living conditions of the very first settlers would have been quite primitive. This recipe for griddle bread could have worked well in those kinds of surroundings as the ingredients would have been easy to bring along and no oven would be needed to cook the bread. The leavening in this recipe occurs as the soda reacts with the lactic acid in the milk to form carbon dioxide bubbles thus causing the dough to rise.


1 pound flour
1 tablespoon sugar (sugar could have been available in pressed cones)
½ teaspoon soda
Pinch of salt
Sour milk or buttermilk as needed

Knead ingredients into a stiff loaf and then flatten out on a floured griddle. Cook slowly on top of a low fire, 1/2 of an hour each side or until done.