I am so excited to welcome Kenna back. She has such a great perspective and I know you will enjoy getting to know her better too!
Hi there, everyone! This is my first foray into the blogosphere. It’s a hoppin’ place, so I’ll try to keep up with you all!
I’ve decided to share with you how I fell out of love with the just-in-time, consumer driven model of our economy. And I think you might find my story interesting.
I grew up in a lower middle class home. My parents were divorced and I was a latch-key kid of the ‘80’s. Raise your hand if you remember that term! I learned early on that it was easiest (and I believed, therefore, best) to buy what I wanted or needed. We were in the white collar world, and there weren’t many do-it-yourself skills among us.
I continued in this thinking on through college. I never gave it a second thought until I met the man I would eventually marry. I was 23 when I met Chad, and I was immediately impressed with his life skills. He grew up in the woods in a hard-working logging family with a do-it-yourself attitude.
Our dating relationship was long-distance. On the weekends I would often drive to the small town where he lived and stay at his parents’ house. They lived 3 hours away from Redding, CA, and 2 hours away from Eureka, CA, high in the mountains. Think of those remote places where people like to go camping, and you are probably imagining this place. There are many things that are done differently when you live so far from town, and I learned that as I watched him, and watched them.
During our dating time, my husband was offered a teaching job in his home town, way out there in the mountains. He accepted the job, and that’s where my real journey began. That’s when I realized that I would have to live there if I wanted to marry him. And I did want to marry him! But in my extreme naivite, I assumed that I would learn quickly, and that it would end up being wonderful fun to live in the remote woods! My mind created images of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House in the Big Woods.” Oh! Eventually, I would be like Ma! I’d garden and Chad would hunt, and we’d build a log cabin from logs he cut down, and………well, OK, I knew it wouldn’t be quite like that, but I was pretty out there in my expectations.
Now, let’s just take a step back from my little story and conduct a skills inventory. Could I cook? No. Could I keep a house? No. Did I know how to grocery shop for more than 2 days at a time? No. Did I know how to preserve food? No. But I did have a college degree in Biblical Studies! I could I could drive a stick shift, and I could do my own laundry, so it wasn’t a total loss. I was totally unprepared.
Chad and I needed a house to live in, and we agreed to house-sit for a missionary lady who was going on a 3 year mission. I was delighted until I found out where her house was. It was a 20 minute drive from the school where Chad was working. But it may as well have been in the remote reaches of Alaska! There were no power lines, no phone lines, no cell service, and no close neighbors. This house was WAY off the beaten path!
So, my darling and I got married and I moved into this house in the woods. People, I can’t even begin to express how unprepared I was for the lifestyle change! We used oil candles for lights at night. We heated the house with a wood-burning stove. Chad would leave for work in the morning, and there was no contact with him until he got home at night. I was so incredibly isolated! It was like going back in time.
I slowly learned to cook, without the aid of a microwave (no electricity) and I learned to make massive and well-planned grocery shopping trips for all our necessities. I’m sure my fellow shoppers thought I was equipping a small army. I would often get asked why I was buying so many groceries. And by the time I left town at the end of a shopping day, my pick-up truck looked like I was in the process of moving. Loaded past the brim, often with straps to hold everything in.
Right about here in my journey is where I initially started questioning the status quo. It seemed to me that I was trying to do the impossible, to live in the past with none of the skills our ancestors possessed for surviving and thriving. Even though I was living remotely, I was just as tied to the grocery store as any person living in an apartment in town. It occurred to me that some self-sufficiency would really come in handy. So I started trying my hand at gardening and preserving. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy gardening and canning. To be honest, I really didn’t like cooking all that much, either. A love of cooking, as it turns out, is not a direct side effect of estrogen. This was disappointing to me, LOL.
During this time, we were also putting aside money to build a house. We did not take out a loan, but rather we would invest money in things we needed for the house, a little at a time. We actually bought our kitchen cabinets long before the house was up and enclosed. That felt a little strange, I admit. And the building team was the family. By this time, they had built several houses together, and building our house was just the next project on the list. Just amazing.
After our 3 years in the little isolated house were finished, we moved into a tiny cabin (with electricity and a phone!) and continued working on our home. We stayed in that cabin for 4 years, investing time and money in the building project all along the way. We had our first child during that time. We moved into our house, unfinished as it was, when our oldest son was a year old. It was a long project, and it wasn’t totally done, but it was liveable.
We built into our house many features aimed at self-sufficiency. Solar power, a wood-burning stove, mega insulation to aid in keeping cool in the summer and warm in the winter, a large garden plot, and gravity fed water from a spring, to name a few. But there were many projects that remained to be done.
I was trying to figure out how to funnel more of our income toward those projects when a friend of mine lent me a book that changed my whole perspective about, well, everything! It was “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn (that’s pronounced just like “decision,” just in cast trying to read her last name tied your brain in a knot )
I could go on and on about this book, but I think I’d better not, given how much I’ve gone on and on already. Let’s suffice it to say that I learned one thing from it that has stayed with me: The money God gives us is a tool, and I actually do have a choice as to how I use that tool. I can choose to do things for myself instead of paying someone else, and I can choose to spend it on something when that something is deemed worthy. It is a choice. And from there, this concept gained steam. I began to see my location as a boon. There are so many things I can do for myself, and therefore, I don’t have to pay someone else to do it! Ding, ding, ding!!!! Lightbulbs above my head and the whole nine yards. After everything I had been through, you’d think I would’ve gotten this a lot sooner than I did. But at least it finally clicked.
Ideas started pouring into my head as this new idea gained a solid footing. My perspective shifted from whether or not I liked doing something to what benefit that activity would bring. In some cases, the benefit I saw and valued was financial, and in others it was nutritional, or spiritual, or any other myriad of benefits that I could think up.
The first idea I acted on, that I came up with all by my big-girl self, was to switch to cloth diapers. That saves a ton of money. By this point, I was pregnant with baby #2, and still looking for ways to finance the house project. Then I got serious about the garden and about preserving what we grew. We enlarged the garden, even, and broadened our plans for food production. Next, we started buying beef from local ranchers and doing our own butchering. Now that’s a job, but it is very satisfying when it’s all said and done.
I can honestly say that I still don’t love to cook, and I still don’t love to pressure can, and I still don’t love to garden. But as I said, my perspective is now focused on the benefit of the activity, and not the activity itself. We still have a lot of projects in the planning stages, but little by little, we are cutting that tether to the grocery store and the general economy. Self-sufficiency is the goal. It’s a big goal, but the journey has been, and will continue to be, worth it.
My perspective has changed so much that I actually catch myself worrying about my family and friends who are completely dependent on the just-in-time grocery store model for their food, and who don’t have any skills that will benefit them in an emergency. I now view that lifestyle as dangerous and risky. And it wasn’t so long ago that it was all I knew.
So, I’d love to know what events propelled you down the road toward self-sufficiency? Have you started your journey? Have you arrived? If so, please share what you know with the rest of us!