Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Be Self Sufficient - Don't Outsource Your Life

Yesterday I spent the afternoon sewing.  I even attempted to teach my kids to sew.  It was a little weird, I must admit, to be doing that which my mother and grandmother had done before me. As I explained how the sewing machine worked to my youngsters, I remembered my grandmother lovingly telling me the same thing. I will be honest and tell you my grandmother was a lot more loving than I was. oops.

After the project was finished my kids were each the proud owners of a tote bag for their treasures.  These bags will never win any design awards or be considered the most brilliant invention of the year, but they are exactly what my kids wanted and fit exactly the treasures they want to carry.

You may be wondering why I didn't just buy two small bags for the same purpose.  Well, I could of, and I have in the past, but I wanted to teach my kids to sew.  I wanted them to have that skill.

As I was sitting at the sewing machine, long after my kids had lost interest and gone off to play, I realized there are many skills we have outsourced since our grandparent's generation.  Not only do we not sew, we don't cook from scratch, we don't build our own homes, we don't grow our own crops, we don't work on our own equipment, nor do we care for our own livestock.  We may be one of the first generations with fewer skills than our grandparents.  How odd.

I know a few of you are wondering why it matters.  Technology has come far enough that many tasks have become obsolete. It is cheaper to buy clothes than to make them.  It is easier and cleaner to buy meat at the store than to raise it ourselves. It is more practical to have someone else work on our car than to tinker with it ourselves.  In short, it is easier for someone else to know how to do most everything.

As a culture we have become specialized.  We learn one task well and ignore the others, assuming we will pay someone else to do what they specialize in.  While this has been the case for hundreds if not thousands of years, our generation has taken it a bit to the extreme.

Most of us, me included, are very short on knowledge when it comes to basic survival skills.  I'm sure I could start a fire if needed, but could I find a way to feed my family if I wasn't given the resources of the grocery store? Do I know how to provide shelter?  Can I make clothing?  Can I preserve the food I have now for later use?  Do I know how to maintain my car, change its oil, or change a tire? Can I do basic stuff like read a map if my gps doesn't work?

The list of things we should know, and probably don't, is getting bigger with every generation.  In my opinion, being prepared means having a working knowledge of how to survive, and even thrive, without luxuries. I think that can be a tough thing to "sell" to our kids when they have convenience at their fingertips.

Before you get worried, I do not advocate doing everything for yourself.  Brain surgery, for example, is better left to the experts.  Where possible however, it seems like a good idea to learn the skills you need to provide food, shelter and water to yourself and family.  From there, it is a good idea to develop skills to stretch household goods and replace/repair new items as needed.

You will not see me wearing a floor length skirt and bonnet any time soon, but I do think my pioneer ancestors had a few points in their favor.  Being self sufficient, as it relates to taking care of yourself and family, is a good idea. Having a working knowledge of tasks like cooking, sewing and basic construction can be the difference between success and failure during an emergency.

So here I go, I am on a quest to fill in knowledge where I am currently lacking. I want to be confident I can take care of my family and outsource because I choose to, not because I have to.

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