Once a year (actually twice) I want to defy time. I pretend daylight saving time doesn’t happen.
I wake up at the same time. My body wants to work in my fields when the sun tells me. I still eat whenever I come in from work — earlier in the winter because it gets darker sooner and later in the summer with long days.
I honor my internal clock. I operate by farmer time. I work according to the sun, not some mechanical instrument telling me when to wake up, eat, stop work and go to bed.
Time, an afterthought. Or am I old, stubborn, out of sync with the modern, urban world?
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The idea of daylight saving has been around for centuries. Ben Franklin wrote about it in his letters from Paris and the economical advantage of adjusting clocks to take advantage of sunlight and use fewer candles.
Countries like Germany and Austria in 1916 sought to conserve fuel needed to power electricity — possibly motivated by war — and channel such savings to their advantage.
Of course, rural communities had no need to change their clocks since they were driven by nature’s clocks. Only the advent of railroads (and train schedules) forced standard time to be adopted, but not without resistance.
During World War II, “War Time” was introduced to conserve resources and increase productivity. But from 1945 to 1966, there was no federal mandate; states and localities were free to choose their “local time,” which often created confusion.
For example, the expanding television broadcast industry was challenged while trying to create a national programming schedule.
Finally in 1966, Congress established a uniform time-keeping model (some states like Arizona still refuse to participate). Ironically, protest came from the outdoor theater industry, which could only show movies when it got dark. That was late in summer and sometimes excluded family participation.
Farmers protested, part of staunch individualism and perhaps the stirrings of anti-big government sentiment. But dairies did have a justified issue — cows were used to routines and ignored clocks with their daily milking rituals.
A shrinking rural population and acceptance by urban America institutionalized the change. The urban workforce had steadily adopted an eight-hour day. Longer daytime meant more opportunities for recreation and commerce.
I cling to a farmer’s rhythm no matter what the clock says. I try to honor the seasons: sunrise, sunset; winter’s short days means more time inside; and summer’s long days compel me outside.
Peach trees go dormant in the cold; they want long nights to rest. Am I any different? I try to catch up on rest when there is less natural sunlight (although sleep specialists claim we can’t store sleep hours like bank deposits — but tell that to my body after a rough harvest year).
By summer, I’m excited to be out in the early morning, with a light that shines on the trees as if individual spotlights strike the ripe fruit, beckoning me to come pick. Greener fruit are not as brilliant; they need more days to acquire radiance.
Likewise I enjoy working in the summer evenings, sometimes too long. Longer days mean more time to labor and satisfy expectations of demanding fruit. Occasionally and foolishly, I believe I have night vision and can see the dark outlines of a tree or vine and pretend my disk blade doesn’t strike them.
But I do pay attention to the clock for my advantage. In the middle of summer, the sun doesn’t set until 8 p.m., and I can work much later. I pat myself on the back for working such long hours, seeking support and extra sympathy from family.
Playing the “hardworking martyr card” can gain favorable kindness, especially when clocks amplify the sacrifice and commitment.
But farmer time carries little meaning outside of a small circle of sympathizers. A few weeks following daylight saving time, the world seems to have adjusted.
My “libertarian anti-establishment leanings protest over imposed time schedules” campaign ends as I recognize the world functions on time — clock time, not natural time.
I fondly remember as a kid that fantastic time of the day: a second round of playing outside after dinner. As an adult, I love it, too. Long days are still play time.
I know it’s supposedly not best for digestion, but I love eating dinner at 8 p.m. or even 9 p.m. in summer. Truly the end-of-the-day meal. We celebrate work. We gather at sundown. Pass me the time.