I suppose I’ve always had a bit of a survivalist instinct in me. I remember as a kid, sitting in my room, planning for the end of the world or some other catastrophe and deciding that the bathroom was probably the best room in the house to be. There’s water, you could pad the tub with towels and make a nice bed, and there was toothpaste to eat. I may not have thought that scenario all the way through… My plans have grown in sophistication since then and, while I’m not where I’d like to be as far as disaster preparedness is concerned, it is a lot better than counting on toothpaste for sustenance. The recent power outage brought to light (in the midst of the darkness, ha!) just exactly where we were lacking. I also had plenty of time to reflect on how much knowledge has been lost thanks to our modern conveniences. Face it — we’re pansies. And ignorant ones at that.
The day before the power went out, I had just finished reading “Little House on the Prairie” to the girls. When we first started the series, shortly before moving to the cabin, I had pointed out to the girls the way that the Ingalls did things that are different than how we do them nowadays. More people have lived without electricity in the whole history of the world than currently live with it and the human race didn’t die off for lack of toasters or hair dryers (solution to both: Fire). Rana was ready to smoke meat in a log and wash our clothes in the river months ago. While dipping my hands in glacier water is not my first choice of ways to spend a day, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And there are better “primitive” ways of doing laundry than that, too.
I started making a list of things that would have been helpful during those four days. In the case of laundry, we could put that off, but if we were going to truly prepare for a prolonged outage or a Volcano-Tsunami-Earthquake Trifecta (oh yeah, we get it all in the PNW), a large washtub would come in handy for a lot of things. While I did manage to cook a few meals in the fireplace with my solitary cast iron skillet, it was not an ideal situation. As imposing as that fireplace is, it’s not really set up for cooking. In order to really make it work, the mouth would need to be much larger to accomodate a hook and arm and so I could see what the heck I was doing. My family appreciated the warm pancakes I made, but they came out looking like Othello chips, although I think they tasted better, especially with butter and maple syrup. The cabin would have stayed a lot warmer if it were smaller, like the Ingalls’. If the well had a hand pump, we would have had less trouble getting water. Lots to contemplate for the day we get to move into our own house, whenever that may be.
So what business does all this survivalist-apocalypse talk have on a crafting blog? Creativity is the link. It takes a certain amount of creativity to figure out how to cook, read, and wash up with no power. What do you eat? How do you stay warm? How do you provide clothing and blankets? It’s that can-do attitude that so many crafters possess that has helped progress civilization as we know it. Something that began as a necessity (ie. I need a covering to stay warm), evolved from mere utilitarianism into works of art (intricate afghans and colorful quilts). I enjoy making things for the challenge of seeing if I can do it and also to see if I can improve some aspect of our lives through my craft or innovation, and then bring a bit of beauty to our home in the process. The “simple living” movement has tapped into this growing realization that centuries worth of knowledge has fallen by the wayside. Self-sufficiency isn’t goofy. Maybe you will never need to put up food for the winter or mend a pair of shoes to make them last, but wouldn’t it be good to have that knowledge, just in case?