Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Real Deal: What Can You Count On?

Commenter Cee notes in a previous thread:

I've been talking to friends about this the past few weeks.
I told them they need to find men who know how to do stuff like welding, carpentry, hunting, gardening and survival things. LOL!!
Pretty boys and the unskilled aren't going to make in the times that are coming.

The comment got me thinking (and thinking often leads to blog posts, so there ya go). I grew up in the country, where the kinds of survival skills Cee talks about were non-optional -- if only because our little burg of 5,000 souls had the only stoplight for 170 miles in any direction. (Going east, it was 700 miles across Nevada, all the way into Salt Lake City.)

It was rough, remote country. Everything we had came from Far Yonder by truck, and parts took forever to get. Which meant that if something broke, you had to find a way to fix it. If you were hungry, the food was in the creek or the field. If you wanted something pretty that wasn't in the Sears catalog, your choices were a) getting in the car and driving five hours to the city; or b) making it yourself.

So I grew up in a family full of handy people who sewed their own clothes, beaded their own moccasins, built their own sheds, shod their own horses, grew their own food, and worked on their own cars. And it wasn't just us: it was everybody in town. People who had good practical DIY skills had a higher quality of life. Churches and service clubs were, in large measure, informal barter co-ops within which those skills got shared for both the mutual and greater good.

Remembering what it was like to grow up like that got me taking stock of the essential survival skills I'm taking into this time of contraction. The list so far:

  • Fearless and creative with a sewing machine. Can make coats, hats, and shoes
  • Know lots about preserving food (canning, freezing, pest management, etc.)
  • Competent beginning knitter; better than that with a crochet hook
  • Basic horse sense (that is, sense with horses). Also good with dogs
  • Own good haircutting shears and know how to use them
  • Dead shot with fire rifles, handguns, and semi-automatic weapons
  • Can catch and gut fish
  • Know how to garden. I hate it, but I can do it.
  • Basic outdoor survival skills known to hikers and backpackers everywhere: shelter and firebuilding, finding safe food and water, dealing with critters and weather
  • Can make even basic environments (e.g. campsites) liveable and handsome
  • Encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs
  • Know how to live on country property: drainage, wells, septic, tree removal, erosion control, etc. etc. etc.
  • Can drive a large truck, RV, or tractor

Making this odd little list is an illuminating exercise, and one I'd recommend to all of us as we look ahead to a failing economy and $200 oil. It's related to the Real Deal conversation, in that it's asking the question: What do we possess that will endure? What resources do we have that we can count on when the larger systems that sustain us fail? What can we share with our neighbors in exchange for access to their resources? Only this time, the question is: what do we carry in our heads and hands that will enrich us when the world no longer will?

What's on your list? Add it to the comments. And include a note about what skills you'd like to pick up in the near future. Me, I'd like to get better at gardening, and I'm very curious about how to raise chickens.