Thursday, November 12, 2009

Self-Sufficient ... ist

I've decided that I'm not a survivalist. I probably don't fit the definition of a prepper, either, although of the two, I identify more closely with the prepper mindset.

The thing that's markedly missing from my ideology is the notion that we should be stockpiling.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am a strong believer in storing - food, water (if one lives in a drought-prone or flood prone areas), tools, region/weather specific clothes, blankets, tea/coffee ... sugar! For some things, it just makes good sense to have extra.

Plus, I live in New England, where we have winter, which means we have only four to six months to grow all of the food we need for a year, which means, if we want to eat, we have to store food.

I do realize that I can go to the grocery store and get food, even oranges, which don't grow in Maine, but, while I'm not a survivalist or a prepper, I am a "doomer", which means I believe that life as we know it has come to an end. I believe there is going to be less in the very near future. I don't think the grocery store model is sustainable, and I think we'll all need to eat food that grows where we live, and we should start now, because as we slide further into a world where oranges don't arrive daily at my Hannaford distribution center on trucks that run on diesel fuel, we'll need to know that we can get Vitamin C from rose hips, from strawberries, and from tomatoes. We'll need to know where to get all of the vitamins and minerals that we've been getting from imported food.

As such, I believe that we need to learn food preservation techniques, we need to have tools, and we need to make ourselve ready for a future where we can't just head over to the convenience store when we need something. We'll either have it, we'll make it, or we'll do without it.

I don't think we can stockpile everything we'll ever need ... forever.

I do believe that we can manufacture most of the things that we will need in our daily lives. We just don't know how.

And that's where the real difference between my philosophy and a survivalist mentality comes into play. I think instead of stockpiling guns and ammo, we should be learning to repair the guns we have, and to, in a worst case scenario, make our own ammo.

Last year, I advocated getting magnesium firestarters, instead of stockpiling matches, and my rationalization was that without matches, we'd be stuck for fire-building. I was informed that matches were easy to make. I was told that salt peter, the incendiary component in matches, can be made with ordinary human urine.

I was intrigued.

And, then, I found this.

If the concern is marauding hordes and the desire is to have an arsenal befitting a small army, then knowing that one can make gunpowder with urine, charcoal (a wood-based product) and sulphur, probably isn't much use.

But if the desire is to have bullets for hunting or for personal protection from the one or two crazies that will inevitably end up in the yard, then the knowledge will be incredibly valuable.

In the end, my philosophy remains "knowledge is power", and rather than spending all of my extra cash on guns, ammo and wheat berries (at 50# stored per person), and spending my extra time building a bomb shelter, I'm spending extra cash on books that will teach me to find or build what I need, and I'm spending my extra time learning some new skills.

My long-term goal is that neither Deus Ex Machina nor I be forced to have a "job" - that we be self-sufficient, satisfying most of our needs with what we can make, grow, or produce ourselves, and that earning a livelihood becomes secondary to living our lives.

My goal is that someday, instead of answering "He makes money," when asked what Dad does at work, Big Little Sister will give the inquirer a blank stare, because Dad will "make" so many things that she won't know where to begin, but mostly because Dad won't have a "work" that's separate from our daily lives.

And that's what completes the definition. I'm not a survivalist, because I have no desire to survive. I want to live.


  1. Okay, I'm going to coin a term here...Ready? Maybe we're "thrivalists." Think it'll catch on?

    I mostly agree with you, as per usual. I also am working on building up a store of food, so far as possible homegrown and home canned. My view is that if there is a moment in time at which, perhaps from a historical perspective, TS can be said to HTF, then I want a cushion at that point. I know I can't store enough to feed us the rest of our lives. But if I have three or six or twelve months' worth of food to feed two people, then that buys *some* time to figure out how to make things work from there. Yes, you and I and some other people are already trying to figure out how to make things work. But I still rely on business as usual in a lot of ways.

    I'll probably aim for more storage since I have family nearby and none of them are doing squat about anything. A year's supply of food for two people will go mighty fast if six relatives come knocking. And my family is TALL.

    Oh, and btw, my uncle the gun nut made his own ammunition for a while. He got lead poisoning, and then gave that up. He's going to give me and husband a gun safety course (he's licensed for that by the NRA) over Thanksgiving so we can decide if we want to get guns, and if so, which kind.

  2. Labels are funny, aren't they? None of them has ever fit me well. I was told some time ago by a person who no longer loves me that "peak oil" had made me nuts. I just look at this and think, it cannot continue. And I think, what's the contingency plan.

    I may purloin the term "Thrivalists"!!!!

  3. Ok, I admit it, I have wheat berries. But we eat them;) We have stored some food. Hubby is an educator and we look at it as insurance in the event he becomes unemployed. It will supplement what ever income we may have or may not have in that event.

    As for prepping, we have made sure that we have a few good sturdy hand tools, cooking tools instead of appliances, craft supplies that do not require a cord.

    We were already on the path to more self sufficiency when we learned about peak oil. We just wanted to live a country life, we were excited by the knowledge we were acquiring. And grateful that we had chosen this life when we learned about Peak Oil.

  4. I like the "Thrivalists" term as well. I'm doing much the same thing - trying to teach us how to live without the system, so that if it stops we'll be ok, we'll be able to take care of ourselves.

    So far, we still live in the city, so we do 'book farming' while I try to grow things on a balcony :)