The History of Light: Part 1

2 lessons I have learned, and learned well, since moving into our shed:  1) we humans tend to gather and acquire stuff-a lot of stuff and 2) living in a small space means you can’t have a lot of stuff.  

2 activities I have repeated, repeatedly since moving to our shed:  1) going through our stuff and 2) getting rid of said stuff.

1 item that made the stuff list today was our oil lamp.  It caught on fire and nearly became a glass bomb last time we lit it.  It was obviously time to say good bye.  

As I wrapped it for transport to the trash I reminisced about the different ways we have tried, by necessity and curiosity, to light this shed.

Here we go:

1st:  Instabulbs and candles.

A package of Instabulbs was the first item I bought for our shed. 

We had seen them on TV and found them at Walmart.  $9.99.  They ran off 2 AA batteries. We placed them, one upstairs above the bed (an air mattress at the time) and one downstairs above the small table and folding chair we had found in the pasture.  

The sticky on their base was not enough to stand up to the pull cord that turned them on. We mounted them by creating duct tape slings, held together at the ends by a big nail, driven into the wall.  Crude, but effective.  (I wish I had a picture.) We found out very quickly that battery operated light bulbs suck a lot of juice.  We’d get maybe, maybe an hour total out of them before the batteries were dead.


First Candle



Dirt in the base


We made these jars, with painted designs on the outside, wire handles, dirt in the bottom and a candle in them for Christmas gifts the holiday season before we moved into the shed.  This one was the prototype.  I grabbed it one day and took it to the shed on a whim.  It became a main source of light at night and in the mornings when our Instabulbs died.

2nd-Oil lamp.  

Oil Lamp

My least favorite solution.  I know they have been in use all over the world for centuries, but it made me nervous every time I used ours. For quite awhile it was for my light source in the morning while making coffee and getting dressed.  It was retired when we moved on to headlamps!


 3rd-Headlamps & Flashlights

Headlamps are handy-have no doubt.  You can wear them, wrap them around stuff and hang them.  They suck a lot when trying to have a conversation with someone wearing one-but for always having light in exactly where you need it-they are perfect.  They use batteries a little better than the Instabulbs.  

We also had small flashlights that we hung from the ceiling with cords-strategically placing them above tables, cook tops, bed and in the outhouse.

These were how we lit our space the first year we lived off-grid in our shed.  We became masters at doing things one handed and operating in the dark.  The were constant discussions about safety from getting down stairs to not EVER leaving any open flame unattended to taking our time moving around the place.

We knew from go that we wanted solar but had to save up the initial investment to get it going. (Our first system cost about $500).  We finally got it in place a year and a half after moving to the shed.  I’ll never forget how excited I was over a single light bulb and a switch! 

I’ll line out our solar light evolution-from the first single bulb to our current, simple but interesting system in The History of Light-Part 2!


8 thoughts on “The History of Light: Part 1

  1. May I ask what caused the oil lamp to catch fire? Was it any one obvious thing? Fairly recently I got on an oil lamp kick only because I wanted to rely less on things we’re used to. I love them and just curious as to what happened. Thanks πŸ™‚

    • I think the globe was dusty and oily and the fire may have licked the side of the globe and caught. I’m not certain though. I don’t believe them to be unsafe as long as they’re monitored (like a candle). I have multiple animals in my home that could knock a lamp over too–that is/was my main concern!

      I’d love to see your collection! πŸ™‚

  2. I won’t know if this image I paste will work until I hit enter but, I’m trying to insert a picture of the lamps πŸ™‚ Thanks for letting me know and I completely understand the concern with them being knocked over.

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