Daylight Saving, A Rant

Did you remember to turn your clocks back last night? Or have you been spoiled by your cellphone like I have? I haven’t used a proper alarm clock since college. Back then I actually liked daylight saving time (DST), at least the falling back part. I lived for that extra hour of sleep. For someone who loves sleep as much as I do, gaining an extra hour was better than Christmas.

Now that I’m farming, daylight saving is not my friend. As with holidays, animals don’t recognize DST. They expect breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and don’t care that 7:30 a.m. suddenly became 6:30 a.m. They don’t like waiting and make sure we all know it.

DST was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin as a joke. His wrote a satirical essay in response to the invention of the oil lamp. He claimed the amount of light produced by the lamp did not justify the amount of oil it consumed. While he never proposed altering the time as we do today, he did have some clever suggestions for how to best utilize available sunlight. He also proposed that a tax be levied on all windows with shutters as they hinder the use of natural light, that the number of candles sold during the summer months be strictly rationed, that travel after dark in the summer be limited to emergency personnel (doctors, midwives, etc.), and that church bells be rung and cannons fired every morning as soon as the sun rises to make sure people wake to make full use of the daylight. Can you sense the sarcasm? The essay is an amusing read.

The idea behind DST is simple. During summer months we gain more light in the morning than evening. The sun rises well before most people so several hours of light are wasted while people sleep. By jumping forward an hour, making 4:00 a.m. 5:00 a.m., people gain an extra hour of light in the evening when they are up and active. New Zealander George Vernon Hudson and Englishman William Willet pushed the idea of DST so they could better enjoy recreation pursuits after work (collecting insects and golfing respectively).

Farmers don’t like DST, especially those of us with animals. It is worst for dairy farmers. They milk their cows on a 12-hour cycle, say 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The cows don’t know or care that 5:00 a.m. is now 4:00 a.m. They won’t wait and extra hour because several decades ago the government decided we needed extra time for golf in the summer. In the end it is the farmer, not the animals who adjusts. Many argue that DST was implemented for farmers when in reality farmers fought it. In the spring time artificially jumps from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Say a farmer starts her day at 7:00 a.m. After DST, she is effectively starting at 6:00 a.m. even though the clock reads otherwise. At 6:00 a.m. (which arbitrarily became 7:00 a.m.) dew hasn’t evaporated from the pastures. That means she can’t start making hay until 8:00 a.m. when the pastures have dried. Her farm hands still expect to leave at regular time, say 6:00 p.m., so she has effectively lost a productive hour. It was urban businesses who benefited from the later hours of light as shoppers are more inclined to meander the city when it is bright.

Conveniently, Hawaii doesn’t recognize DST so when I move there to start my own pig and pineapple farm, I won’t have to worry about it anymore!

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