Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Resiliency and Community

This journey, what this blog is all about, is an attempt at creating a better lifestyle for myself and my family. I started with a pretty clear idea of what this might look like. I was going to be the guy that could and would do everything. Grow all our food, hunt, fish and extract food from the hedgerows with ease as we walked on the road to a healthier, better lifestyle. An independent, self reliant path. What an ego! But I like the ambition.

If nothing changes though, perhaps nothing is learned.

And loads of things have changed and lessons have been learned along the way. In fact I would say that the biggest changes have been in my thinking about independence, self sufficiency and happiness. I think its normal, at least for idiots like me, to want to do all this stuff. As I've said before, it gives you a degree of resiliency. And who doesn’t want to be more resilient, right?

When we began, creating resiliency was a goal. As we progress, it becomes clear that firstly, resiliency is not an absolute, but rather a sliding value. It is a nuanced idea, and so can't really be a goal as such. Am I resilient to losing my job? My house? Breaking a leg? Dying? I might be a little more resilient to some of this stuff (not dying though) if I grow a percentage of my food, burn firewood, catch fish and understand how not to poison myself with mushrooms. It won't keep us alive in a true disaster, but it saves me money, enables choices, and is probably a better, healthier way to live in a 'normal' situation. So it's a lifestyle choice, right? Pastimes with benefits.

I think I may have mentioned how the arrival of our youngest child has put a strain on any time we've got after sleep and work. Its made it hard to get out there and do much at all in the last year or so, as I said in the 'Ren test' post, you have to understand where the strains are and redesign life accordingly.

This is, it seems where community begins to step in. At least for me. A move from independent and self sufficient to interdependent and collaborative. If this happens with a hard but otherwise healthy baby, imagine how much community becomes important during disaster.....

People have been kind and supportive during this period of time. You get to know who your friends are. From issues with the girls and their schooling (they are doing great by the way thanks), to just simply holding Ren, and letting us eat a good dinner in peace, relax in the back garden. Catching the baby as he climbs out of the buggy (thanks Joe). Even the offers of help which we haven't taken up make a real difference because you know the support is there. Family have stepped in and let us do stuff like have a meal out or attend weddings. Quite simply, no amount of home grown veggies gives you that, right? We all need a break, and a sympathetic ear. Its a matter of sur thrive al versus survival.

Loose barters and favours have definitely kept me going in these months. Months where I can only really do the minimum (work, sleep, hold, work, sleep, hold) have still seen me eating bloody good sauerkrauts and drinking Kombucha despite the fact that I haven’t had the time to ferment anything thanks to the St Leonards Kraut king Scotty Garrett. We get to eat out regularly as a family because of a raw milk barter I have going on. Raw yoghurt and milk also comes our way as part of this. We get fresh eggs and good healthy produce because my work is integrated into my food designs. We have friendly plumbers and friends that happen to be builders. Friends and family, quite simply, rule. Community, more than the desire to do it all yourself, will trump and create true resilience.

So don't get me wrong, I'm off on a herbal forage on Sunday, will be beginning the mushroom season soon, and will definitely be shooting some rabbits as the game season approaches. Its just hard to sell this stuff (as it should be) to your better half when it feels a bit like hell to be left back home with 3 kids for a day while I'm dicking about on a boat. As I've always said, its an incremental process.

So when time unfolds in front of me at some point in the future, I can afford myself the resources needed to forge ahead once again. Independence, and self sufficiency (at least in the strictest sense) however won't necessarily return as a main driver. True resiliency lies in the lap of community, friendship and family. Real progress in creating a better lifestyle for me and my family can only really happen when those around us are involved. Family, St Leonards and Hastings has looked after us this past year, I appreciate that.

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