There’s a viral meme that keeps popping up in my feed year after year.
The idea behind it is really quite nice, I think we’d all like to think that our ancestors were gardening, canning and being resourceful and clever during difficult times.
The truth is, this isn’t entirely true. Not all of our ancestors were self-reliant. When we look to the past there are valuable lessons woven into the gritty real life challenges that people faced. Not all families made it through the great depression through resourcefulness and skill. Many were dependant upon government systems. Those systems were often short on resources and completely inadequate. Some barely survived those harrowing times. You won’t find many people that look back on that time in their life with fondness or nostalgia.
How does this help you today?
With a pragmatic and honest view of the past we are able to learn from it. We can focus on developing skills that will provide real security during times of upheaval or uncertainty. All it takes is a small shift in priorities.
One part of me loves that meme with its empowering message of self reliance and strength because yeah, I intend to be that grandma some day. The other part of me knows this is never true for the majority of families living thorough difficult economic and societal upheaval. When we look at times of war, scarcity, instability, disaster relief, financial collapse and so on, we can see patterns.
Those that are completely reliant on the “promised” government systems struggle far more than those who take control and prepare themselves for hard times.
Those that plant a seed will almost always fare FAR better than those that don’t.
My mother grow up in a family that was not self reliant. My father grew up in one that was. Their childhood stories are dramatically different as a result. My father was healthy and robust and never knew a day of hunger. He tells tales of his mother making ginger beer and sharing excess produce with neighbours. She would sit on the door stoop singing while plucking one of the chickens she raised in their tiny town garden.
Miles away my mother’s family struggled to put food on the table. They had the same sized front yard but no food was planted and no chickens were kept. She and her siblings were thin, malnourished and life was difficult.
This is a very important thing to consider. Being reliant on others for our basic needs is never an ideal situation. How will they care for you when times are bad? What happens when resources run low or the shelves become empty? Wouldn’t you rather be able to depend on your own skills to thrive?
One only needs to read the news to see that more and more people in the developed word are struggling these days. There are a lot of people who are dependant on government systems such as subsidies. What happens if those subsidies are taken away?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay called Self Reliance that is as relevant today as it was in 1841. In this text he writes, “Self sufficiency gives one the freedom to discover one’s true self and attain true independence”.
I am not suggesting that you become an extreme prepper or isolate yourself from community. Rather, I am suggesting practical self reliance where you make small changes, and see where that leads you. Don’t look to your peers for encouragement in this endeavour as you are unlikely to find the encouragement you are hoping for. Instead, follow your instincts. Take stock of what’s going on in the world, and empower yourself with practical skills and resources that will serve you today and in troubled times. Grow some food. Stock a pantry. Learn how to can. Repair your own vehicle. Build a shed. The choices are endless.
The beauty of self-reliance is that it can be achieved from the comfort of your own home, on your own terms. You can reap the benefits of a more self-sufficient lifestyle while also continuing to enjoy all the comforts of this modern age.
It’s never too late to learn a practical new skill (or old as the case may be). Those vintage skills are truly quite timeless.
We invite you to browse through the pages of this site for resources that you might enjoy pursuing. We’ve got a fascinating collection of free downloadable vintage homesteading books, tutorials for beginners on canning, a wealth of gardening resources, from scratch recipes and so much more.
Photo credit for ration book: main image (source)