News from Stark Raven Studios: Dan and Saga's blog about blacksmithing, art, and daily life and  work on their tiny Wisconsin Northwoods homestead.

In the "Olden Days"

by Saga Erickson


Have you ever wondered how things used to be done in the “olden days?” That’s what I heard the days of yesteryear called by my grandparents. They used to talk about before they were born and how they grew up, back in the “olden days.” Well, I know I was always the kind of kid that used wonder about that and I know Dan was that kind of kid too. I think I can speak for both of when I say, we each had a sense of awe and wonder for how things were done back before there was the kind of technological advances that our grandparents, parents and we, have seen in our lifetimes.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot today. Our chosen lifestyle has been a living experiment in how people did things in the “olden days.” Sometimes it feels like we are triumphant in this experiment and are doing everything we’d dreamed. Other times we struggle with the amount of time, even what seems to be the simplest chore, seems to take.

Yesterday, we had a sunny day, but knew that snow was on the horizon. The past few weeks have been a preoccupation with firewood. Will we have enough? Do we have enough to start a new batch of charcoal today? Can we get into the forest to gather wood today? We cook and heat with wood. We make our own charcoal for the forge. Wood is a crucial part of not only our household survival, but it keeps the forge going too. Plus, you never know when you’ll come across the perfect broomstick or a nice green crook for spoon carving.


When we know we’ve got a couple days, we like to set up a wood gathering camp out in the county forest. The only modern “convenience” we bring with us is the chainsaw. We gather what’s already dead and down and usually haunt timber sale cuts from the previous year to gather large limps and such left behind by the loggers.

This is one of the ways we embrace the “olden days.” If we don’t get the wood in, we can’t cook, heat or even run our studios. This way of doing things cuts out the middle man of modern life and it gives one a sense of awe and pride to know that this is how our ancestors did things and there was a direct connection to your actions and survival.