Letter Re: Self-Sufficiency–How Do We Do It All?

Dear Memsahib and Jim,
I am a daily SurvivalBlog reader and contributor, along with my husband. I am very interested in learning more how Memsahib and other retreat women manage to do all that they do. How does a day or week in your life go? How do you can, bake, cook, shear, spin, weave, knit, sew, teach, et cetera and get it all done?
We are moving to our retreat soon. I have baked, cooked, knit, learned to spin and weave, and have canned in the past, but not all at once. I forgot to mention clean, wash, take care of a garden, etc. etc.
We need a blog [post] about how to accomplish everything and remain sane. Not to mention home school and run a family, continue church life, etc.
For those of us who have been working and raising a family in a large town and are moving to a retreat life, we need some how to’s!!!
The order of things is of the most importance or we will never accomplish all our tasks!!!

Memsahib, does your work every stop? Do you feel like you have no personal time?

I also work as a registered nurse and will try to continue with my specialty in teaching young mothers how to breast feed and care for their newborns.
Thank you for your input from all of us women who will try to “do it all” on our retreat sites. Thanks again, – Kathie

The Memsahib Replies: Thank you so much for your huge vote of confidence. How nice to think there is a woman out there who thinks that I do it all! 🙂 First let me say first, no I don’t do it all. And secondly I don’t worry about doing it all either.

I’m writing this reply specifically to married women with children. The most important thing is to keep your priorities right: I believe the correct order is: God, your husband, your children, and then everything else after that. Also remember it is not up to you to insure the survival of your family. God is in control of everything. And after God is your husband. I hope this will lift some if the burden that you are feeling. Don’t shoulder the burden of the family’s survival yourself. That is not your role. I think that is usurping your husband’s role of provider and protector of the family.Your job is to be a helpmeet to your husband.

Okay, that said, I have acquired a lot of skills that could be put to use in TEOTWAWKI, but I do not try to do them all now. I think to attempt that would put me in an early grave like my pioneer great grandmothers! I think this is time for learning preparation skills, but if you tried to actually do them all there is no way you would have time to learn any new skills. For example I have a lot of food preservation skills. But at this present time most of our larder is full of mostly purchased foodstuffs. For the satisfaction of it, I have fed my family entire meals from food I personally raised including the milk that came fresh from our cow. It feels great to know I can do it. But I don’t try to do it on a day to day basis.

There are some things that we do that allow for extra time in my schedule. We don’t own a television. I think I get a lot more done for the lack of watching television. Also, I do not have a full time job outside the home. Not having to commute saves a lot of time. Another thing I attribute to getting more done is the fact that we are out in the middle of nowhere, so I don’t shop. There is no place to shop. Every two months or so we stock up to top off our supplies. I also know the capacity of our larder well. I’m very strict with my family about sticking to the list! This saves time and money when we are out shopping. Also we only shop for clothes twice a year when we visit family in the big city. My sister knows all the great thrift stores. And, she knows which department stores have the best sale prices on shoes socks and underwear. If we didn’t have growing children we probably could go several years without buying clothes! By the way. I do know how to sew clothes. And I know how to knit sweaters, hats, socks, mittens, and such. But I don’t make my family’s clothes because I don’t particularly enjoy sewing. (For now, I go to the thrift store. I often can buy down jackets, Merino wool sweaters and nearly new blue jeans for $3 each, and shirts, slacks, blouses, skirts, dresses for less than than that.)

Another thing is that our family does which frees up quite a bit of time for me is cleaning up after themselves. Our children for example clear their places after meals, take their dishes to the sink and putt the scraps in the chicken bucket, and rinse their plates and glasses, and put them in the dishwasher. When there are clothes to be folded at our house all the children fold and put away their own clothes. Our children also have an individual chore based on their age, such as setting and clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, keeping the wood box filled, and feeding their pets. And you may have realized by now I make use of all the modern appliances which make household chores quicker. In the past, we’ve lived without running water and without electricity. I know I can survive without them, and I may have to in the future. But I sure enjoy the luxury of having them now!

The “survival skills’ that I do practice daily are the ones that I personally really enjoy. I practice them as recreation and relaxation. For me personally that is raising small livestock. I really enjoy going out to the barn and feeding my critters. I especially enjoy my sheep because I also enjoy the fiber arts. I also really enjoy gardening. So my hobbies dovetail nicely with my husbands desire to be well prepared. So what hobbies and interests do you have? Which ones could you cultivate as prepping? Just because I don’t care for sewing doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a great dovetail for you.

You might say another one of my hobbies is acquiring “life skills”. Some people have a personality that is suited for focusing on one skill and developing that skill to a master level. My personality is more suited to trying everything. I try to make the most of each situation in which we’ve lived to learn what I can. My motto is: when God gives you zucchini take the opportunity to experiment baking, drying, frying zucchinis! The older women of the communities we’ve lived in have been wonderful teachers. They have taught me how to can pickles, make grape juice, milk goats, make soap, knit socks as well as sharing the abundance of their gardens and orchards. But I in no way feel compelled to now makes all the food we eat from scratch, knit all our clothes, make all our soap, and neither should you!
I would be remiss if I did not say that I think it is very important to use this time of liberty of ideas and travel to attend Bible studies. Yes, you can and should read and study the Bible at home. But, I find that the commitment to do a study with other believers disciplines me to stay in the Word even when life gets hectic. And our pastor has many valuable insights into the Scriptures. If you have the ability to attend a good Bible study, then do it! You may not always have that opportunity because of poor health, high gas prices, lack of transportation, or lack of religious freedom. Reading the stories of prisoners of war, I am struck by how their knowledge of God’s word helped them endure. As the Bible says, “make the most of time, because the days are evil”.