About time

Ever wonder why it’s called Savings Time? Ben Franklin, America’s first  inventor/publisher/scientist/states-man/postmaster proposed the idea back in 1760 as a way to save money. You see, his father had been a candle maker so little Ben realized from an early age how expensive it is to light a house at night. Instead of “early to bed and early to rise” making a man wealthy, Ben Franklin figured pushing the clocks ahead could do the same trick without requiring new sleeping habits. So, he invented Savings Time.

It should be easy to remember – “Spring Forward; Fall Back.” Easy, unless you are Toronto’s part-time mayor and full-time clown. Rob Ford’s Twitter-feed mistakenly advised Torontonians last night to set their clocks back instead of ahead. This might be a good plan if you want to fall into Ford’s tactless, homophobic, drug and booze-crazed world. The rest of us will spring forward, if you don’t mind.

Hutterite girls three monkeys

Saskatchewan Hutterites – photo by Miksha

Maybe you are not moving your clocks at all? When I was a beekeeper in southwestern Saskatchewan, I was proudly sticking to Standard Time year-round, just like the rest of the province. Saskatchewan is one of the few northerly places that doesn’t bother with Savings Time. It’s a cow thing – the cows don’t wear wrist watches (or any jewelry or Rob Ford-ish bling) so the cows of Saskatchewan vetoed the idea when it was proposed in legislature back in the old days. Saskatchewan does have a sub-population of timely dissenters: The Hutterites. These good people were among my friends when I was their Honig Mensch, many years ago. But I was cautious not to show up at their huge communal farm during daily prayers, which were offered at 5 – slow time. This Mennonite-type group set their clocks back an hour from the rest of Saskatchewan, so they could coordinate church times with other Hutterite colonies across North America. This also put their clocks at the same time as the Eastern Time Zone, i.e. Toronto Time. (So perhaps Rob Ford was trying to put Toronto on Hutterite time. I think that city’s mayor would benefit greatly if he were to spend a year or two on a Hutterite colony – farming, learning to do real work, learning to share, maybe authentically having the “Jesus Moment” he claimed to have had six months ago.)

Saskatchewan is not the only place that keeps its clock fixed.  There are numerous enclaves of other-time peoples. Arizona does not change to Savings Time when the rest of the United States does. However, within Arizona, the Navajo Nation does move clocks ahead to Savings. However, within the Navajo borders, the Hopi Reservation does not change its clocks. However, living on a ranch in Hopi country is a family where the mother works on the Navajo Reserve, so that house moves its clock. Resulting in a complicated situation where a family’s clock is ahead of the neighbours’ clocks which are behind a surrounding community which is ahead of a state that is behind a country that moves ahead.

If you are among the shifters, rather than the shiftless, enjoy your extra hour of evening sunlight. It is a gift that will dramatically cut your candle-consumption. If you live near the western edge of your time zone, the savings will really pile up. However, considering Saskatchewan bees have the highest annual per colony honey production in North America (about 180 pounds per hive) we need to consider that keeping the bees on a stable clock has its advantages, too. So maybe let them keep track of their own time.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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