Hand Crank, Human Powered, Off-Grid Gadgets
Nestled deep in the back roads of America are factories still making the old fashion products used before America became electrified.
Some of these factories are second, third and even fourth generation family owned businesses that started making these products before electricity ever reached some of the rural areas of America.
Others are owned by families that began to reproduce new products needed for an off grid sustainable living culture. This occurred after certain types of products were abandoned in favor of electrical and gasoline powered gadgets.
This sustainable living culture mostly still lives day to day off the land or sharing with their neighbors just as their ancestors did before them. Many work together to harvest and store food as neighbors and families did during the Great Depression.
They are mostly Amish, but surprisingly there are many others living off the grid or making a substantial impact on reducing their reliance on modern day grid powered conveniences.
Fads and trends come and go often being revitalized after decades of falling out of favor. The drive to move back to simpler times with less reliance on the grid and the food chain is being revitalized by many current movements for various reasons.
A Simpler Life
Some just want to regain the simplicity in life that many of us baby boomers grew up with. It was a time that many remember as simple pleasures without the stress and financial burdens of today’s lifestyles.
Many of us who grew up in this generation often dream of escaping the rat race to go deep into the country and once again live a simpler lifestyle.
As a kid simple dolls made from a corn cob or a cardboard box fort would keep us occupied for days. We just didn't seem to have the need, marketing and social pressures for more material things.
Safer Food Safer Products
Some just want to know what they are serving or exposing their families to. They have lost trust in the food and supply chain and for good reason.
Many are reverting back to home gardens and practicing more organic growing practices steering away from GMO altered foods.
Less Dependency on the Grid
As electricity has advanced so has the vulnerability of our modern day grid. The grid is largely controlled by computers. Just one computer glitch either an electronic malfunction or intentional sabotage can knock out large sections of the gird for extended periods of time.
Intensifying storms and natural disasters have demonstrated large scale power outages lasting for weeks and even into months.
Our electric grid is also very vulnerable to solar storms and terrorist activity.
Less Carbon Footprint
Global warming and declining natural resources are gaining people’s attention. Going “Green” is socially more accepted today than ever before. This allows people to escape the social persecutions of what might not have been considered as a good fit for the neighborhood just a few decades ago.
Even in the most discriminating neighborhoods rain collection systems, solar panels, back yard gardens and even chicken coops are becoming trendy.
Hanging up the laundry outdoors to dry still has an uphill battle in most organized neighborhoods.
Whether you subscribe to the most radical doomsayers or just want to provide for your family in a disaster some level of self-sufficient preparedness is probably a very good idea.
Instead of running out to buy a bunch of stuff to sit on the shelf consider off-grid alternatives that can be used daily to reduce the carbon foot print while providing the family a more wholesome and healthy lifestyle.
This doesn't mean that a family has to go cold turkey and pull the plug to modern day conveniences. Instead look for simpler ways and products for the family to become less dependent on outside, infrastructures, services and support.
These types of changes then become natural should the time come when grid power is interrupted for short or long periods of time.
Small changes don’t need to be a major investment. Just a small solar charged battery powered LED lamp can be used daily in the place of a regular table lamp.
Exercising the battery daily is also much better than storing a battery away only to find it dead and useless when it is needed the most.
Hard To Find Self-Sufficient Products
Cooking for large families doesn't mean the Amish sacrifice modern day appliances. They just become more creative and adapt them to use without electricity.
Most think of the Amish as making great homemade baked goods and quilts. The fact is they are also very much industrialist with a refreshing old fashion focus on making products that will last a lifetime.
This type of American made thinking was lost somewhere between the beginning and the end of the 20th Century.
In the early 1900s things were American made to last. Products were passed down to generations and are still proudly used or displayed as antiques.
As the 21st Century began in 2001 planned obsolescence, and cheaply made imports dominated consumer products.
While some may think of the Amish as being stuck in a time warp. Their back-to-basics perseverance became most respected during the Y-2K scare.
This is when people scrambled to the countryside to find Amish off grid products they felt they might need in order to survive a potential computer shut down and loss of grid power.
This grid scare stemmed from the highly publicized potential that all computers would shut down not recognizing the rollover at midnight into year 2000.
Online stores like Cottage Craft Works www.cottagecraftworks.com provide a great resource for hard to find sustainable living off grid products.
You can find all types of hand crank appliances and old fashion gadgets for the kitchen such a hand push garden cultivators for the garden as well as back-to-basics products for the home, farm, and general homesteading.
Finding these types of Amish products is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The Amish are scattered across the country in various communities. They don’t market on the Internet or have modern day business communications.
Because of their conservative beliefs you won’t find flashing neon lights and bill boards directing you to their stores either. Among the white houses and buildings that you will see when visiting the Amish communities you can drive right by a factory and not even know what they make inside.
Companies like Cottage Craft Works are few and far between. They have spent decades in and around the Amish communities developing relationships to bring so many of these products to the general market place.
It's good for the Amish as well. Like all business's sales is the key to survival. Having a companies like Cottage Craft Works that markets their products across the country and even around the world brings in much additional revenue. This level of additional revenue might never be achieved by just selling within the small Amish community where they are located.
Cottage based industries is what a lot of people refer to the Amish shops and small factories. These are not small home based businesses being run from a kitchen table, rather they are state of the art factories. They just so happen to be located next or close to their homes since the Amish don’t travel long distances to work. The equipment is largely run by hydraulic and pneumatic motors.
The Quality Determines Sustainability
Take a simple egg beater, you can find them at most discount stores for under $20. Take it home and use it a couple of times and in the drawer it goes never to be used again. It’s just too hard to crank and awkward to use.
Now spend about three times that amount and purchase an Amish made Country Egg Beater. This is a reproduction of the original Dazey Egg Beater. Discover just how smooth it cranks and use over the cheaper made imported copy.
The same goes with a garden tool. Purchase a cheap import and find that it is a struggle to use. Purchase an Amish made push cultivator and slice through some of the toughest soils.
What occurred during the 20th Century is a proliferation of cheaply made knock offs to look like the originals but most of them just won’t work and last like the original.
For many who want to try to live more self-sufficient they will purchase the imported items and quickly become discouraged.
Human power tools and gadgets do to take effort, but the old fashion quality does make a huge difference.
Hand Crank Kitchen Appliances
A mixer is a rather important item for sustainable living. Most will bake from scratch their own breads, rolls, cakes, pies, and pastries. Making batches of homemade mash potatoes and other items requires a lot of mixing.
The Amish don’t skimp on mixers either they use the same types of mixers as non-Amish use except modified with a hand crank.
This includes a conversion hand crank mixer or a hand crank mixer base to use with the older Bosh Universal mixer components. The Amish made Little Dutch Maid mixer also accepts the old style Bosh slicer shredder attachment.
Since many of the Amish already have large capacity air compressors in their shops and factories running an airline to the Amish home kitchen is sometimes done in order to use air power converted mixers, blenders, and other food processing equipment that would normally be equipped with electric motors.
Other hand crank appliances and cooking utensils are reproductions of the original items. Some of these items are being imported under strict Amish specifications.
A reproduction of the hand crank cone salad maker is very popular to make large batches of slaw and other chopped vegetables. This was a popular kitchen gadget in the early 1900s called the Master Kut. You may have remembered it being demonstrated in magazines showing the different cutting cones.
One item that you won’t likely see in an Amish kitchen is an automatic dishwasher. Dishes are still done by hand and air dried on large drain boards.
The Stainless Steel drain boards are one of the most popular items sold by Cottage Craft Works. It is great for air drying large pots and pans as well as single households where filling up a dishwasher just is not feasible any longer.
tricomanagement on September 27, 2014:
Agreed - Great Hub! However, 'planned obsolescence' has been around much longer than 2001. Keep the good hubs coming
Ann Hinds from So Cal on September 24, 2014:
This is a crack-up. I have many of the items mentioned but they are not replicas. How old does that make me? It's here I say a lot of them belonged to my mother. I totally appreciate the work you did here. We are dry campers and use many of these items because there is no power. My hand-cranked can opener gets more use than the electric one. There are a couple of things here that look interesting although I do not now nor have I ever used a mixer. I just stir until I'm tired. Great hub!