Saturday, July 20, 2013

Valuable Lessons

As I sit here drinking my coffee this morning I am lost in a sea of frustration. Frustration over a project where I know I could have purchased something similar and comparable to the end result for less money. It is very evident in this case that the cost of the raw products needed, yarn and material, has exceeded the cost of purchasing a pre-made store bought item. In my frustration over this project with the material costs and altering my desired pattern to fit my allowed materials budget I find myself wondering if I am compromising the overall goals of self sufficiency?

My answers could be simple. I could say my yarn crafting and sewing are essential life skills that are necessary should TEOTWAWKI occur. I could say these projects are my hobby; they keep me happy and entertained for hours. After all not every minute can be taken up with gardening. I could make it all very complicated. I could say it keeps my mind productive and working at a higher level by computing the mathematics of material usage and proper cutting layouts to maximize both the life of the finished product and any remaining raw product thus preventing Alzheimer's and saving me money on doctors later. I could say it keeps my hands busy during times I would otherwise be unproductive thus making me more productive and evening out the cost to productivity ratio. I could say the value is all making and receiving a handmade product will without a doubt make the creator and the recipient very happy. I could say it’s essential to my very being as it provides a method of meditation that allows me to reduce the overall stress in my life while exercising both body and brain. I could say it is offset by money saved elsewhere in the budget by things like gardening. All these things are true to one extent or another yet when the rubber hits the road I still find myself feeling frustrated over the raw materials costs. I find myself trying to justify the cost of the materials far too often and yes I even sometimes have trouble justifying the amount of time and effort I put into some of these projects. I could just as easily pick something up in town or order it online.  So why bother? At what point do you surrender?

In this particular case I'm making an oversized blanket for a queen sized bed as a gift for someone who did me a huge favor. It is worth every effort and bit of care I put into it as I am very grateful for the assistance and work done by this person. It is a fact however that I could have purchased a similar item for less money than the cost of the materials required to make it myself. Now I fully realize that most of us choose this life style with less consideration for monetary gain than most folks do but it is still a part of this modern world that the money equation has to somehow work. At what point does cost enter in to the self sufficiency equation and at what point is homesteading/self sufficiency considered to produce adequate value if it is exceeding the cost threshold of breaking even?

As far as other projects go I do have a lot of re-use projects that help cut supply costs. I shop sales, thrift stores, use coupons, and do what is within my power to reduce the costs of raw materials for everything not just my crafting, including thoughts of spinning my own yarn. I think we would need more than just one lonely rabbit though and animals often require more feed than grazing can provide so I'm not sure it would really be cheaper given the quantities of yarn I use. The frugality of re-using items or picking from sales items and left over yarn stash can occasionally limit my design choices. Having a materials budget that doesn't stretch as far as my imagination can also produce not altogether unexpected frustration. Sometimes just when I think there is no good solution that is when I learn how self sufficient I truly am. It’s when I work through the challenges and limitations of making do with what I have to produce a pleasant result that I realize my own abilities, skill and creativity; for me this produces value!

Value can be judged in many ways. Value can be personal such as pride in a job well done or the awareness that you are capable of providing for yourself. It can be aesthetic coming from the uniqueness or artistry of an item. Value can also be societal or worldly such as a skill or specific knowledge, material worth like raw unmanufactured goods, and monetary worth. Value can also be largely perceptual and based only on how it is received. There are many facets to each of these and just as many ways to use or trade within the 'value' they represent. I guess in the end however it doesn't really matter if your self sufficiency comes out as an ability to use the money available to shop the best bargains, a talent for creating interesting solutions and designs, the ability gather raw materials and refine them, or the ability to manufacture finished goods in so much as it is simply being able to achieve your end goal through your own means. However that may look to you the value in it is the value you choose to find in it. So, yes, I'm frustrated over materials costs and changing my design plans but there is much I find of value. I value the knowledge of the craft and my own abilities. I value what I learn each time I have to adjust my plans and the pure challenge of making it work. I value the time I've spent in an enjoyable manner and the joy and appreciation I know the recipient will usually have for my work.

I have one other thing I have valued very much during this process as well; that is the people around me. My husband who has listened to my frustration and offered suggestions though he had no idea what I was talking about was a great help and sounding board. My oldest kiddo who knowing the recipient better than I do offered suggestions for designs and eased some of my worries by verifying the correct sizing. Lastly and perhaps most importantly my youngest child who has given me the chance once again to pass on my knowledge by choosing to learn a skill from momma. Thanks.


As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Drudgery is um... errrr... Good?

My world mixes modern life and rural homesteading with a disability to create something no one quite gets. Recently I had a moment created by this weird triune when I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. Unfortunately this was created solely as the result of speaking to someone else. I was explaining my life, our family choices, etc..., when they said "so drudgery is um eeerrr good?” Well um excuse me! My life is not Drudgery! Well I suppose some people would find it to be full of dull, irksome, and fatiguing work that is uninspiring, menial, and laborious. Doesn't that describe just about everyone’s life at some point though?

Frankly it sounds a lot more like our life before we moved than now but yes I suppose it is hard work at times. We sweep and mop the floors. We hand wash dishes. We compost the kitchen wastes. We line dry clothing. We shovel dirt, hay, poop, compost and snow. We chop down trees with an axe. We prune bushes by hand. I sit on the ground in the garden and pull weeds by hand. The lawn mower is an old fashioned reel type push mower. We cook from scratch. Attempt to home can jellies, pickles, and other foods. Animals get fed, cages get cleaned. I crochet, knit and sew. Books are more important than TV. I suppose the fact that we prefer it that way can be a bit much for others to absorb sometimes.

It’s no secret; we moved to small town America because we wanted to! Honestly though we are nothing but city folks with minimal experience in things of limited practicality. We were trained to sit in cubicles, work a manufacturing line, and to specialize in specific areas. Those jobs are now gone. There is definitely no American call service center or manufacturing job in our area of rural America. Truth be told not being people of business or doctors or lawyers or some other highly academic profession we were sub-par in the city. Now of course we are far below the scale of knowledge of long term 'old time' country folks and most of our neighbors as well. Trust me the road to adjustment can be steep and winding. We have a little footing having grown up with elders who gardened, crocheted, knitted, cooked, painted, built things, made things from leather and being far from monetarily wealthy taught us how to make do with what was available. We are slowly making friends, trying new things and being willing to learn by trial and error has helped a lot too.

In this case I'm sure it's not the first time someone has looked at it as DRUDGERY. In fact I'm certain had you asked me when I was nine I would have said it was the ultimate in drudgery. However, I've realized after giving this particular conversation a lot of thought that Most of the Adult U.S. Population is lazy....and that they don't want to be reminded of how lazy they are....this includes the author of this least sometimes. I have missed a few modern conveniences and/or questioned the merits of things like kitchen composting, line drying clothing, or the non-use of power tools. I have not really thought of those things as drudgery though.

We choose to do them voluntarily. We balance things as much as we can. I line dry clothes but we have a dryer. I compost kitchen scraps and readily admit there are days I would give anything for a garbage disposal.  I can guarantee the MR. would love a riding mower and snow blower. We really aren't that different from anyone else except we made a choice to try to use as many human powered tools as possible. It doesn't mean we oppose chain saws it just means that they are not the first go to tool in the shed. It also doesn't mean we hand sew all our clothing; we do have an electric sewing machine. Being converts we don't completely have the old time skills needed for homesteading or self sufficiency at this time. We are still learning and gathering basic supplies. Heck we don't even have the proper tools to shovel manure really....or umm fork to pitch hay...our knowledge and experience are lacking enough in the rural arena we couldn't even really barter for goods and services in a meaningful way at this point. Never mind the fact that bartering hasn't taken hold here as form of commerce. All we have is a goal to pay the bills, keep plugging away at the learning, help others when we can and prepare in the best way we can for the worst with no idea of what the worst could even be.

I find it odd though that we generally catch more flak from the people who live in the city. The People who are uninformed and tend to view it as drudgery. I have been told that we are too old, too broke, don't have enough viable skills, are over qualified, or that we are simply physically unable to live the life we have chosen. Apparently to some folks no matter what we say or how carefully we work to create a blend that mixes modern life, rural homesteading and a disability with small town life and a family to create a unique world that creates harmony and happiness in the best way we know how it will be seen as a life not worth living. You know I think that may be ok with me because today I saw a rainbow for at least a full thirty minutes and sadly even if the folks who sparked this blog noticed the rainbow I doubt they really took the time to fully appreciate it in all its glory and wonder.  It's true: this life is not for everyone.

As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.