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Spring forward

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

Finally last night, long after I should have done so, I laid out the plan for my summer garden and ordered the seeds that I had not saved from last year’s harvest.

After two hours at the computer, and long after dark, I finally had the garden mapped out and the seeds ordered. I climbed up to the loft and was soon fast asleep ... but it seemed to me that I did not sleep for long. Oh, no. There was no time to leisurely linger, and stretch, and lie in bed just a little bit longer on this Sunday morning. No sir-ee. It was time to spring forward and get my sleepy-self moving an hour earlier than I had just yesterday morning.

“Why?” I asked myself as I stumbled down the loft stairs to make a cup of extra strong coffee. Greg sleepily suggested that maybe next year we could try to acclimate ourselves to the change, and get up ten minutes earlier each morning during the week leading up to this particular Sunday. Good idea, maybe.

I have heard the analogy that people are like sunflowers, and we turn our faces towards the sun to soak up that vitamin D, but this could not be so, because obviously, the actual hours of daylight remain the same. So what is the purpose of Daylight Saving Time, also called “Summer Time” by many people around the world? We all know. It is to make better use of summer’s longer daytime hours. And so we change our clocks during the summer months
and move an hour of daylight from the morning into the evening hours.

My hometown of Georgetown, in Brown County, sits at a latitude of 38.87 degrees north of the equator. If I happened to live close the equator, say down in Ecuador, or over in central Africa, daytime and nighttime would be nearly the same length, 12 hours, throughout the entire year.

But the further one moves from the equator, the longer the summertime daylight hours become, and at the North and South Poles, the summertime sun never sets.

Thus, Summer Time Daylight Saving Time, is typically not helpful in the tropics, and countries near the equator do not change their clocks.

But here in Georgetown, we do change our clocks, thanks to Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of bifocals, the wood stove, swim fins, and of course, the man who captured lightening.

Franklin presented the idea of Daylight Saving in 1784, while he served as an American delegate to Paris, in an essay titled “An Economical Project.” Franklin was actually a very humorous man, and he presented the talk, at the age of 78, advising the Parisians about the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting.

He proposed, tongue in cheek, to tax people who used shutters, and to ring bells every morning at sunup and so force folk to economically adjust their days according to the availability of sunlight.

Franklin calculated that if 100,000 Parisian families burned half a pound of candles per hour for seven hours each summer day, between the hours of dusk and what Franklin considered to be the bedtime of the typical Parisian, the equation would be as follows: “183 nights between 20 March and 20 September times 7 hours per night of candle usage equals 1,281 hours for a half year of candle usage. Multiplying by 100,000 families gives 128,100,000 hours by candlelight. Each candle requires half a pound of tallow and wax, thus a total of 64,050,000 pounds. At the price of thirty sols per pounds of tallow and wax, the total sum comes to 96,075,000 livre tournois. An immense sum that the city of Paris might save every year.”

And now, almost two and a half centuries later, people around the world still apply Franklin’s humorous logic to conserve energy and better enjoy the benefits of daylight, even if, they might need to consume an extra cup, of extra strong, coffee to get going. So, I suppose that I will stop my sleep-deprived grumbling, and tip my cup of coffee to Mr. Franklin.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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