When we decided to start this blog it was the result of over 15 years of working to build resiliency into our lives. Of course we didn’t call it that at first. We were just called ourselved homemakers and then later in the process homesteaders. Maybe I had a stronger than normal self reliance bent based on years of being being a Boy Scout when I was young. So what lead me down this road?
During the mid 70’s, I had my first exposure to resource scarcity when the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 hit while I was in college. I sat in long lines, like so many others, waiting to fill my little Volkswagen Karman Ghia with gas. For the first time in my life, I suddenly realized just how quickly things could go from “the Land of Plenty” to strict rationing of a commodity we all depend on for our way of life.
I began reading news articles and magazines like Mother Earth News (no Internet back then!) which talked about building solar heating panels, wind generators, growing your own food and developing a little thing called “Self Reliance”. I was so intrigued with the concepts of alternative energy production that I started a company, with my first wife, in 1975 called Eternal Energy Company and for 10 years we sold and installed thousands of square feet of solar thermal heating panels, hundreds of wood burning stoves, performed energy audits of homes and businesses and installed energy conservation products. I spoke at dozens of conferences, trade shows and civic groups to explain the topics of alternative energy systems and energy conservation.
But then a funny thing happened… Oil started flowing form the Purdhoe Bay oil fields in Alaska in 1977 and while energy prices continued to increase, they peaked in 1981 and then began to fall and everything got better!… or did it? I sold my alternative energy business in 1985 as low fuel prices dried up demand for our products. I began working in the computer technology field and getting farther from my alternative roots.
Fast forward to 2007. We were living The American Dream. But it was becoming a nightmare. We were heavily in debt with cars, student loans and consumer credit card debt totalling nearly $100,000. The interest aone was over $700 a month. We were living the life but wondering how we were going to make even the minimum payments. What we were REALLY doing was living way beyond our means. We were living today with tomorrows money. We were the consumers that society wanted us to be, and we were enjoying the ride!
One night my wife sat down and asked how we were going to pay off the bills we were racking up. I had no response… but she did! She handed me a book. It was Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover“. I read it like a thirsty man who just found water. We started “the program” that week and never looked back. It took 2 solid years and a total reprioritization of our life but by 2009 we were DEBT FREE! We had done it… and it felt great! But because of who we are, we began looking for the Next Mountain to Climb! It wasn’t too hard to find.
Resilience is defined as “The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, setbacks or misfortune.” Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual. We see resilience as the process of making our lives more secure and structurally sound; learning and practicing the skills we need to support the livelihood of our family; and securing the tools and supplies we will need in case there is a significant disruption in the socio-economic systems that support us every day. Resilience is not paranoia, it is not becoming overwelmed by focusing on only the negatives that could happen. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a slow and purposeful structuring our home and our lives to become secure and flexible in the face of certain change.
Certain change? Yes, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have change in their life. We have had our share and so has our extended family. We have gone through divorces, loss of jobs, sold a house, remodeled another, starting and lost a business, financial trials, battled cancer, natural disasters, car accidents, sickness, injury and the untimely deaths of parents, spouses and children. I am not fishing for sympathy, God supported and delivered us through it all, but I list these simply to make a point. The most likely “disaster” that will befall you is of a personal nature. While we can joke about the Mayan Calander predicting the end of the world, or soberly listen to the drums of war beating yet again in the middle east, I believe that resiliency is what we need for reasons that are much more likely to affect our daily lives.
Will the cost of food and fuel rise faster than your income? Based on the following table it seems that the trend is for higher food costs every year.
Annual Food Inflation Rate
2011 Year . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.7%
Last 5 Years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3.2%
Last 10 Years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.8%
Last 20 Years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.6%
What would happen if you were hit by an inattentive driver on our way to work? A few days of insurance hassels and repair shops or several months in the hospital with no income… or worse.
How about job loss in an economy that is currently flat lining at a 22% unemployment rate. (No it is not at 8.6% as the government is reporting. Check out John Williams Shadow Stats website if you want the unvarnished truth.)
You see the point of resilience is to create a buffer of TIME between you and ANY potential disaster. Can you keep problems from happening? Of course not, but you CAN make them easier and less stressful to resolve and come out the other side stronger and more at peace than someone who makes no plans and has no financial, food or energy buffer to fall back on. So what does it mean to be resilient? Start immediately to get out, and stay out, of consumer debt. (We will write more on this in later posts.) Build reserves that can help support your basic needs should you loose your income through job loss or illness. This includes both financial and food reserves. How much? Start small with a $1000 Emergency fund and later build it into 3-6 months of “Life Change reserve. With food start with a few cans of tuna or stew, a box of Mac ‘n Cheese and build it into several months of food that you normally eat and which stores well. Start a garden and grow as least some of the food you consume. This can be as simple as a tomatoe plant in a pot on your porch or as ambitious as a full garden. You will now be more self reliant than 95% of your neighbors… and far more tranquil about life!
Want to go to the next level? Pay off your mortgage, raise chickens or other livestock, or build a green house. Develop multiple income streams to reduce sole dependence on any one. Add solar panels to your house or a wood stove; you will love the charm and warmth! Become connected to other resilient persons in your community. Check out the farmers market! Take a class to learn a new skill. The sky is the limit!
We plan on using this blog to share our experiences and ideas as we become a Resilient Home and invite you to join us in the quest for personal satisfaction and security through a prepared lifestyle.