There’s currently an increasingly popular (albeit counter-cultural) movement towards building self-sufficiency. More bloggers are writing about self-reliance, traditional skills, and prepping. Chickens are popping up in yards all over the country, and folks are trying their hands at gardening, canning, or chicken-keeping. Even if they aren’t building full-on homesteads, they are certainly adapting a homestead frame of mind.
I can see why. It seems we can hardly go a day- much less a week- without relying on far-removed sources for our food and energy needs. It’s no wonder that basic self-sufficiency skills have great appeal at a time in which the vast majority of us would have no idea how to survive without our modern way of life.
I would consider myself to be pro-self-sufficiency. Developing our own self-reliance helps us to know what’s in our food, to be more frugal, and to take greater responsibility for the way we live. We love trying to build our little homestead. There’s not much more satisfying than seeing your food start to finish and knowing that your hands had a part in much of what you consume and use each day.
But I’ve also come to a realization over the past several years: you can’t do it all yourself.
Something I think we’re frequently missing in the conversation on self-sufficiency is the value of community. Think about it. Did westward pioneers make it across the country alone? (Think Oregon Trail, people- you’ve got to trade with other travelers and call on help from the doctor, right?!?) Seriously, none of us (that I know of) can be builders, gardeners, ranchers, goatherds, doctors, cooks, preservers, and seamstresses all at the same time.
We couldn’t easily own a goat if it weren’t for our neighbors allowing us to use their field. Our other neighbors have let us use their garage with a lift multiple times to make repairs on our car. We trade goods from the garden with a man who lives a few miles down the road. We buy our hay from an old farmer up the hill. We get meat from a local butcher. I bake for the folks on our road and my husband’s school events. We tap maple trees both in our yard and on our neighbor’s property, and are sure to share some syrup as thanks.
That’s not to mention all the other great people in our lives beyond our immediate neighbors. Our parents help us with babysitting and house projects, and we help them with theirs too. We often exchange meals with friends, and our church is fantastic at stepping in to help when any member has a need. Everywhere I look, I see my life filled with people without whom we couldn’t get along very well. Even our community library helped put together a great book donation for my husband’s classroom!
The list could go on and on. The point is this: we couldn’t live, eat, and work the way we do if we didn’t have so many good people around us who were willing to- essentially- be good neighbors. Very few of us can do it all, but together we can accomplish much.
Community also brings a richness to life that I wouldn’t have as a sole survivalist. Through working and spending time together, we get to form strong friendships with our neighbors. (We usually learn a little bit of area history too.) Our kids will grow up knowing the families who live around us. We know that we are there for each other if ever there is a need. Plus, we get to learn from and value all the skills and experience that they bring to the table. How cool is that?
So, go ahead and keep building your self-sufficiency skills- we will too! But don’t forget the value of the people around you from whom you can learn and to whom you can contribute. Life, when its said and done, is more about our relationships than what we accomplish, is it not?