By: Noreen Gastineau-Lambert
Co-hostess of The Homestead Honey Hour
Lately, I’ve been thinking about this question. It seems that this whole “self sustainable” lifestyle has become a niche market. People who “homestead” or people who are “preppers” are pigeon-holed and placed in a category instead of this being a normal way of life. When did this happen?
When I look back on how I was raised, this question is easily answered. I grew up in the desert in foothills of Tucson, Arizona. We did not garden, in fact the whole of our back yard was dedicated to an ‘in-the-ground’ swimming pool or what the Clampetts would affectionately refer to as a “cement pond”. I loved that pool! I have many fond memories of being able to swim on a whim pretty much any time of the year. My mom and dad provided my brother and I a really great childhood complete with Atari, color televisions and trips to Disneyland.
My parents were born during WWII. Their parents had victory gardens, canned their own produce, built bomb shelters and lived a somewhat frugal lifestyle. They had ration books, used margarine when they really would have preferred butter and the women went without stockings for the war effort. They fostered relationships with their neighbors and friends. These are things that seem to harken back to a different way of life and are somewhat foreign to us today.
I remember my Nanny canning jam, and I remember her having a garden that took up the majority of her back yard. My mother never wanted anything to do with it. Still doesn’t. This is certainly her prerogative, but on some level, I think it is sad, not to want to grow your own dinner. We rely far too much on grocery stores and the like, to provide us with quick, convenient goods.
Many years ago, when I decided I wanted to start gardening and canning and jam making and such, it was looked upon as “cute”. As if what I was doing was simply a phase that I would grow out of and eventually return to the world of the living that just go to the market when they need some salad fixings. My love for gardening grew, just as my garden did. I fostered the same love for gardening in my husband, who is by my side in our endeavors. It is hard work, with great rewards.
Gardening led to canning and preserving and that led to a desire to have a more extensive food pantry or “food storage”. This led to becoming more awake to the world around me and wanting to provide for my family in any situation. So we became Preppers/Homesteaders. We really arrived at this place by accident. We showed up to a party we didn’t know was happening and we met all the requirements, so we just joined right in!
Back to the original question though, when did becoming self sustainable become “trendy”? If you ask me everyone should be doing at least something that qualifies as self-sustaining, whether it is a tomato plant in a pot on their patio to having 3 days, 3 months or 3 years worth of food storage to sustain themselves and their families in the event of job loss, natural disaster or financial catastrophe. We should all be “Self Sustainable”! Every single person should take it upon themselves to become responsible for whatever life may throw at them.
I know many people who tell me that they don’t worry about such things happening to them. I can tell you that I have seen some of those same people after Hurricane Irene, tell me that I was right. It is never too late to begin to become more self sustainable. The fact of the matter is, that every single day we have the opportunity to do something small that will further our efforts to becoming less dependent on the system and more dependent on ourselves.
I have people ask me all the time, what they can do to get started. I see the overwhelming concern in their faces and I see the looks of distress because they think that it is far too large a task to undertake. I tell them that the way to begin is to simply buy a few extra things the next time the go to the store for groceries. Buy an extra box of macaroni and cheese, an extra can of green beans. Shop sales and take advantage of buy one get one free or in my area buy two get three free deals. Use coupons, because as I recently told someone, cheap is good but free is better!
Make yourself a plan. Stick to it. Learn something new each month that interests you. Learn to garden simply. Learn to sew on a button or darn a sock. Learn how to make a meal from dehydrated foods. Learn to dehydrate foods. Small steps are the key to become self-sufficient. It is not as if those of us who have been doing it for a number of years emerged from the womb with this knowledge. We learned what we desired to learn. Now we have knowledge that is priceless and we will be able to keep a level head about us should the situation present itself.
Self sustainability is not trendy, it is not cute or quaint or a passing fad. It is life, it is as necessary as breathing. Once you reach a level of sustainability, you will wonder how you got along before you decided to take that leap. At that point, it will become important to pass on that knowledge to others, and there will be others who will want to know how they can help themselves. This world is ever changing and what comes tomorrow is unknown today, but when you are self-sustaining, you never have to worry about tomorrow because you have prepared today.
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