Month: October 2016



(Pic of my shop.  Can you find the dog?)

My shop is a mess right now, but on Saturday (at the end of the day), I looked around and liked what I saw; I turned out the lights and left it that way.  Sometimes a mess is just what we need.  It reminds us that we’ve worked; that we’ve done something and people need that: we need work.

There were the maple slabs on the bench that I had planed and jointed.  There were the shavings from the jack plane and the tools laying about; the newly stained drawers on the sanding bench and the stack of smaller drawers on the shaper in the corner.  There were the 24″ cherry slabs on the lumber stack and the tractor sat in its place dusty from use.

The pile of slate tile and the tools that go with such things next to the beer fridge in the corner.  The newly installed mud sink was, well, muddy.  The commanding 24″ sander with the stack of newly built cabinet doors on it waiting to be sanded; it waiting to work.  Even the machinery needs to work.

The two table saws in the center of the shop were covered with cabinet door pieces waiting to be built with the cut pieces from the lumber from the stacks.  The mess is coherent: the mess is meaningful.  The sawdust and shavings wafting the smell of newly cut wood; the wood stove wafting the smell of warmth from the scraps that were burning in it.

As I turned to walk inside Saturday I turned for one last look knowing that the mess I now saw would just be a mess on Monday and nothing more.  Turning off the light and grabbing a beer for the evening I felt like I’d done something and people need that: we need to work.



Starting anew with self-sufficiency means renovation.  First, the old habits need renovating.  We don’t notice the habits that we have; the expectations are built in.  Easy is easy for a reason and it is an unnoticeable slide into the acceptance of habits.  Being self-sufficient starts with renovating the habits we have.

Secondly, your body needs renovating.  Our modern society has softened us and no gym or workout schedule will change that.  My father-in-law put in seven day workweeks up until a few years ago (he’s 75).  Now he puts in the normal forty to fifty hours a week.  I’ve always respected his ability to work.  Being self-sufficient leads to the acceptance of soreness, aches and pains and the occasional smashed finger or two.

Third, your mind needs renovation.  Starting any adventure is an education and like all other educations your mind needs to be made up.  Plans and dreams are one thing, planning a 1/2 acre garden, a day of forestry work, running electric for the back up generator or cabinets for a mudroom is another.  Daily schedules change and decision need to be made, sometimes quickly.

Fourth, renovating your skill set is almost inevitable.  If self-sufficiency is your goal then learning how to be self-sufficient becomes your daily task.  Self-sufficiency is the other end of the stick from dependency.  But remember, dependency includes dependency on skill sets that people have, not people.

Whatever renovation you are doing in your life it is important to be ready to change habits, to be ready to work hard, to learn, and not be afraid of trying new things.  We are, after all, human beings with a mind that has evolved to be, well, renovated.


The Community of the Self Sufficient


To be self sufficient is a personal thing, not unlike so many who just want to “get away” and have everyone leave them alone.  I am, and was one of those.  However, things often must change, and do.  NOFA puts on event up here in New England, and I went to a hog butchering class today.  There I realized that to be self sufficient, there must be a community.

It does sound strange, but it is, and always has been, true.  In the cities we often forget this fact of independence.  Often we can live around millions of people and be completely alone.  This is sad, true, but it is only because there are communities of self sufficient communities of people that support such lifestyles.

Aloneness is important.  Being alone we can often find our “true self”, and what we find is often a bit disconcerting.  But the self sufficient ought to be able look that self in the eye every morning and meet it head to head on those nights when we wake up feeling so alone and vulnerable.  One way to do this, is to realize our dependence on healthy communities.

Unfortunately, self sufficiency is often correlated with those who have opted out and see survival as a pile of rations and guns.  This is a misconstrued view of self sufficiency.  Self sufficiency is an education and there are many great teachers out there that are willing and often able to teach those willing to learn.  To realize that the community of the self sufficient are not these radical outliers one only has to reach out to learn, well, to be self sufficient.

At the class, there were seven of us, we each took turns learning to cut the 1/2 hog in such a way that would do justice to the animal, and to those who had, and will continue to create a community of the self sufficient.