I grew up in the suburbs reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series. I started reading it a year or two before the watered-down version showed up on TV (although Michael Landon was good). I often dreamed of myself as a pioneer girl, living out on the prairie and growing a garden and running through the grasses and gathering wildflowers. My mom even made me a long dress with matching sunbonnet. I guess I can count myself lucky I still had a mom that knew how to sew.
I also read "The Long Winter". At the time I could not imagine a family living out a blizzard winter in a building with no insulation, with nothing but some begged and borrowed grain to eat, and furthermore, burning hay in the stove for heat, spending long hours twisting it into sticks so it would burn just a bit longer.
Of course the question never came up: just where and how did they go to the bathroom during the long winter?
Now that I've lived through a few winters under what most would call fairly primitive circumstances, (just see my post on outdoor showers for a primer) I am still amazed. Today we have all kinds of modern miracles like electricity, and generators if you're not hooked up to electric service (been there done that), and fiberglass insulation, asphalt shingles, EPA rated wood stoves, and the like. Today was cold, hardly rose above ten degrees with wind that bit like lightning, and all I wanted to do was stay inside by the wood stove fire. We hired the neighbors to tend the horses and chickens and sheep for the week while The Hermit is at a meeting; I could not imagine doing chores after work, in the dark and cold. But still I took the day off work, mostly to get the laundry done (laundromat) and keep the house warm.
I know Charles and Caroline Ingalls mostly didn't have 8 to 5 jobs to tend to in addition to maintaining the homestead; that cannot be done. But still I am in awe of the fact that they did it. That all of our ancestors did it, and only recently did we invent central heating and grocery stores with deli counters.
I'm in a survival mode here; for the next few days it will be driving kids to school and daycare, tending dogs at work, and worrying about coming home to a cold house, then starting a fire and cooking. I know, we should have purchased one of those oil-filled electric heaters to keep on safely while we're away. Hindsight is 20/20.
But still, my survival mode is wimpy compared to that of 100 years ago.