While there's a lot of buzz and jokes going around about the end of the world as we know it coming up soon (someone pass me that tinfoil hat over there!), homesteading and all the things that go with it are essentially hopeful practices, which is why I will be participating in the 13 in 13 challenge.
Let me explain. Homesteaders, makers, survivalists, preppers, permaculturists... all these people believe in their heart of hearts that the world will go on. They believe that no matter what the world or society looks like that they find themselves in, they will do their utmost to have a good life in that reality. They - or more accurately - WE believe in living in a sustainable way, apart from the dependence on others or giant, faceless, fragile systems for the most basic ingredients for our survival. We believe that fortunes change and that sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust and that you have to do things that mitigate the risk inherent in just being alive. If you've been really paying attention to what goes down in a time of crisis or reduced supply of anything important (Katrina, Sandy, Haiti, the drought in the US right now), it's hard to say that a government or even your family, friends, or neighbors will be able to be there for you. Therefore, it seems logical that you would take that security into your own hands to whatever extent that you can. That said, there is a certain joy in giving someone a holiday gift that you've made with your own hands. There's more life and flavor in food you've raised yourself. There's a level of satisfaction in knowing that you will have a minimum amount of comfort and security as long as there is a beautiful blue planet to live on. How do you put a value on the entertainment you get from watching a chicken's antics? Can your heart really be in anything that doesn't directly support this kind of lifestyle?
December 21 is the shortest, darkest day of the year. Otherwise know as the winter solstice, it is also - to my thinking - the true solar new year. From this day forward, the days grow longer and the promise of a brighter future is fulfilled. For me, this time has always been about "coming out the other side." That's why I tend to make my resolutions at this time instead of at the Gregorian new year. The patterns in nature have always made more sense to me I guess. So on the 21st this year, I will not be waiting for a bunch of Mayans to jump out of their graves or for the wyrm living in the center of the Earth to hatch and devour us all. Nope. I will do as I do every year and set new goals for myself.
This year will be a little different though. A wise man once said, "the more you know, the less you need." This should be a homesteader's mantra. If a tool breaks, could I fix it? Could I keep myself and my loved ones warm in the cold, fed in a famine, and safe in a disaster? While I continue to save money to buy a little slice of the planet for my very own, there are a lot of skills I could develop to make this transition smoother. And once I learn them, I will need practice. The knowledge part is easy for me. I read like a starving man eats at a banquet. The practice of this knowledge has always been harder for me though. I am ashamed to admit that I find myself a little bit of the "teacup generation" mindset. I was validated a lot as a child - told I was beautiful, smart, etc. and while that has given me a lot of self esteem, I feel such a need to be successful at everything the first time that I often just don't try it at all. This has been at the heart of the majority of the failures in my life and I intend to fix that. As another wise person once said, "anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first."
So rather than the standard weight loss and going to the gym types of goals, this year, I will learn AND practice thirteen new skills. The inspiration for this effort comes from the site 13Skills.com. This site lists skill categories that particularly appeal to people with this self-reliant streak. On this blog, I will commit to updating my progress for anyone interested and I'd recommend that any like-minded independence loving folks out there join us in our efforts to preserve skills so vital to our existence but which seem to be disappearing quickly in our modern drive-through, instant-gratification-centric age.
Here are my 13 goals for 2013:
Fermenting: make something tasty that uses natural fermentation methods.
Pickling: Make something pickled that my hubby will eat
Canning: Put up at least 10 cans of veggies using hot water bath method
Hunting: Kill and eat something
Woodworking: make something useful out of wood and get the tools to do it right
Sewing: Make something that someone wouldn't be ashamed to wear.
Dehydrating: make biltong
Alternative Energy: Make a battery backup system (solar or otherwise).
Camping: Figure out how to get sleep while camping.
Curing Meats: make jerky
Gardening: Double the food I get out of my garden this year from last.
Dairy: Make a batch of cheese
Bonus fun one: Make a batch of mead
If you'd like to follow my progress on the 13Skills website directly, here is a link to my profile.
Join up or just help out by rooting me on! :)