Friday, February 5, 2010

Take Time to Learn New Skills for Greater Self-sufficiency

Stop by my home any given evening and you might find a two-year-old looking at web images of Volkswagen Beetles (the boy is obsessed) and two other children talking on their toy cell phones. It struck me the other night that so much has changed in a single generation that it’s almost mind-boggling.

I grew up in a rural home where we went to town just once a week when we weren’t in school. My parents had a large garden, and we hit u-pick fields to gather additional produce for canning. There was no such thing as pre-washed lettuce in bags, and I doubt we ever bought boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk. Home computers were still a luxury and cordless phones were all the rage.

In many ways, technology has made our lives better and more convenient, but it has also made us less self reliant. We’ve all become accustomed to getting things fast, and we often don’t mind paying a premium for it: think fast food and so-called “instant refunds,” for example. The unfortunate thing about this convenience is that it’s typically bad for our health and our wallets.

I’m not advocating for a back-to-the-land attitude about life, but I do think it’s significant that with each passing generation we’re losing a kind of wisdom in the name of progress. For years, I didn’t buy bone-in chicken breasts because I didn’t know how to remove the meat from the bone. In fact, the idea of dealing with a whole chicken breast kind of freaked me out. And forget about a whole fryer, where I would actually have to reach my hand inside the cavity of the bird to extract who knows what.

If you’re a generation ahead of me, you might be chuckling about my whole-bird phobia. The generation before that probably raised and slaughtered all their own chickens. As for my children, they tend to prefer chicken that comes in strips or nuggets.

The fact is that technology won’t stop changing, but you can if you want to. The pace of life isn’t apt to slow down, but you can. You don’t need to overhaul your life, but can you embrace a “slow approach” to some things? Or perhaps you can devote time to learning a new skill to help you become more self sufficient.

The slow approach for me means getting the beans out to soak overnight when I make soup. I make brown rice ahead of time and freeze it so that I don’t have to wait the agonizingly-long 45 minutes for it to cook when I need it. I plant and tend to a garden that gives me fresh produce well into the winter.

Technology and greater self sufficiency don’t have to be mutually exclusive, either. I recently watched a YouTube video to learn how to sharpen my knives. The slow cooker isn’t exactly a new invention, but it has revolutionized the way I prepare meals for my family. We just e-filed our taxes and are awaiting a direct-deposit into our savings account.

Next up, is finally getting our own chickens. There’s a brooder to arrange, breeds to pick, and a coop to build, all things which will require me to learn new things. I hope six months from now that I’ll be frying up my own farm fresh eggs. Don’t expect me to be frying up any of our own chickens, though.

Carey Denman

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