It’s less difficult than you think

Some of our harvest

When we got married, both the wife and I had some skills that are less common today they they used to be. My wife was an accomplished cook, baker, and seamstress. I knew how to weld, do general construction, and work on cars. But there was plenty that we had never done and didn’t know how to do. No matter how much you were lucky enough to learn from your dad, its likely that you to have things to learn if you are trying to live in a traditional and self-sustaining manner.

Months before we ever got chickens, I checked out Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens at the library and read it cover to cover, and some chapters twice. I read stuff about keeping chickens on the internet. I talked to people who had chickens about it. Finally, we got chickens. A few months later, I realized that I had way over-prepared. It really isn’t that difficult. Sure, it takes work–locking them up at night, letting them out in the morning, feeding them, watering them, collecting eggs, shooting the occasional possum–but its not difficult work. Its fairly straightforward, simple, and often fun work.

When I brought home a big tub of lard and a big bag of lye, and told the wife it was for her to make soap with, she went through a similar process. She had told me previously that she wanted to learn to make soap, but for a couple months after I brought the supplies home she didn’t touch them. She read about soap making, she watched YouTube videos about soap making, but she didn’t actually try soap making for quite a while. When she did, the result was good, and she happily told me that is was less complicated than she expected, and actually a lot of fun. A few days later she was experimenting with an olive oil and coconut oil soap, which also turned out well.

I hear the same mentality sometimes when people tell me they’d “love to have a garden” but “just don’t have a green thumb.” Usually, more questioning reveals that they have never tried to grow a garden, or often anything else. I see it in people who have sewing machines and know how to use them (at least to make potholders) but tell my wife that they could never make their own clothes as she does, even when she offers to give them the pattern. I see it in people who love our homemade bread, but say it would be far too much work to make their own.

These things are not that difficult. They aren’t terribly complex, and neither are they terribly physically demanding. In fact, they are often enjoyable. If this is the life you want to live, don’t scare yourself into thinking its more difficult than it is–people have been doing these things for thousands of years, and you can too.

8 thoughts on “It’s less difficult than you think

  1. Good post, and I have to agree. We moved from a small city house near a downtown area, into a house on a rural plot about a year ago. A bit more than half the land is trees and scrub. It includes an area that was already used as a garden, bordered with nice railroad ties. Despite not having little experience in planting and tending to a garden, my wife simply weeded it, planted tomatoes, cantelope, and green peppers, and away we went. We had such a surplus of tomatoes, I learned how to can thanks to a friendly neighbor. We determined we have wild raspberries on the land, after becoming more skillful at identifying wild berries. We’re already planning crops for next year, which will necessitate improving our canning skills. Maybe we will get chickens one day, or bees. Also required to learn: skillful chainsaw use to clear deadwood on lot; how to trap moles and pocket gophers.

    To me, it’s just a matter of slowly building up a good skill set. I will not become Charles Ingalls overnight, or even in a few years. But I can add layer upon layer to my skills.

  2. Fear of failure is often fear of success.

    When it comes to lifestyle choices I think it is important to consciously make the choice repeatedly. Sometimes you work on a homesteading project. Sometimes you work on a side-business. And sometimes you buy stuff at Wal-Mart and don’t work at all.

    Said another way; I like to think of myself as a farmer. But my primary crop is people. The tree-farm and the garden and the chickens (future) are just there to help develop virtue in me, my family and my people. That’s the goal. Not laying up a big supply of canned food. Lord willing the labor is a means to that end.

    In other news, I’ve resurrected my blog. It might be of interest to you.

  3. @ Cane,

    I have mixed feelings about YouTube. On the one hand, you are right: I can quickly find a YouTube tutorial on how to gut a deer, frame up a staircase, or remove the timing chain on a 1991 Nissan pickup. On the other hand, if YouTube did not exist, I would be forced to forge more real-world relationships with the men around me, and to tackle more projects without knowing how to do them ahead of time.

  4. @ Alamo,

    Sounds like you are well on your way. Maybe I’ll put a post up on what we’ve found useful for canning.

  5. @Moose

    On the other hand, if YouTube did not exist, I would be forced to forge more real-world relationships with the men around me, and to tackle more projects without knowing how to do them ahead of time.

    That’s truly no different than saying without books you’d have more relationships with the men around you, etc. Is that true? Perhaps. I don’t know what I would do if reality was not what had really happened. I mean, the things that impede real-world relationships are distance and temperament.

    YouTube (and similar technologies) have brought back the oral tradition which had been supplanted by the printed tradition. There are pros and cons to each, but everybody learns to learn by watching and listening to people, aka oral tradition. That’s literally how we learn to walk and talk.

  6. @ Cane,

    That’s truly no different than saying without books you’d have more relationships with the men around you, etc

    I don’t know about others, but for me at least, there is a significant difference. Let’s say I want to learn how to butcher a hog. I know right now that I have a book on my shelf with instructions for hog butchering, complete with illustrations. However, I am not in the least tempted to rely on that book instead of learning from someone who knows what he is doing. On the other hand, I would be much more tempted to rely on YouTube rather than learn from a real-life mentor.

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