Imagine if you were suddenly told that your electricity would be cut off for the winter, you would have to use an outhouse for your bathroom, and all internet access would cease. Most of us today have a hard time living without the Internet - to live without running water and electricity would feel impossible.
When I had the opportunity to visit Mt. Vernon last fall, I expected to see the beautiful gardens and the stunning home. What I didn't expect to encounter was George Washington's surprising frugality. And to think of all he accomplished without the amenities I listed above!
Take, for example, his home. When he first moved there, the home was just a small part of what you see in the picture. Slowly he expanded the home upward and outward. The brick facade you see is actually wood that was beveled to look like stonework, and then painted with sand thrown on top of it. They only way you can tell it's not stone is by knocking on it. In his foyer, Washington also used pine stained a deep color instead of more expensive woods.
What I loved the most, of course, was his gardens. I have read before of his obsession with agriculture in The Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf. What I appreciated in this visit was his commitment to saving his own seeds. Take a look at this quote I found in his seed saving garden:
“It is miserable for a farmer to be obliged to buy his seed; to exchange seeds may, in some cases, be useful, but to buy them after the first year is disreputable.”
In all of this, I was reminded that many of our nation's founders were not men of extravagance, but ones who used their time and resources wisely. It encourages me in our own home improvement efforts as well as how I seek to use my time.