Do What You Are Good At, But Work At What You Aren’t, by R.D.

Fear and prudence

I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly knowledgeable on specific things regarding preparedness. I wasn’t in the military, so I don’t feel qualified to give “tactical firearms advice”, but I like to shoot and train as much as possible. I’m not an EMT, but I’ve put together several first aid kits that our family feels comfortable using. I’m not a farmer, but we have learned basic gardening over the last seven years in our small urban garden. I’m not a professional mechanic, but I prefer to maintain our cars and equipment largely by myself. I’m not a politician, but getting involved in local affairs can help liberty in profound ways. I’m a product designer by trade, but I don’t consider myself an artist, which is actually pretty strange.

I think for the average person, we don’t think that there is much we can contribute to helping ourselves and others become more self sufficient, if there is such a term. It’s also a bit confusing for us because we are Christ followers and consider Christ to be sufficient for our needs. Is this a double standard? I don’t think so, but it’s taken some learning and understanding to come to grips with this. It’s easy to be fearful when talking about preparedness, but we have no need for fear. We learn ways to be prudent and creative, which is biblical.

A couple of experiences and casual comments over the last couple of months have encouraged me to share a bit of knowledge or insight into our family’s decisions and dreams for the future and what we’ve learned together.

Influence your local government for liberty

Not long ago I decided to go to a city hall meeting in our town for an issue that I felt compelled to speak up on. It’s really out of my comfort zone to confront city leaders or the police chief on any issue. We are one of several towns in the area that installed video monitored traffic cameras a couple of years ago. It’s been a growing concern that the government has taken too much liberty in their monitoring of our movements and activity. By just doing a little research, showing up at a town hall, and giving an educated opinion on these issues, it actually helped sway the council into removing these cameras this year. It’s a small enough town where the leaders “have” to listen to you. Most people don’t show up to town halls, so it’s a relatively captive audience. Use this opportunity to get to know your leaders and influence them to gain back some liberty. It’s our responsibility. A lot of things aren’t even put to a vote, but they want to know what people think.

During this time, I met some of these city leaders. Though we disagreed on some issues and agreed on others, for whatever reason we started talking about “national preparedness month” and how our town wasn’t as prepared as others in the area. I casually showed them a small trauma kit that I recently put together. They were shocked (no pun intended). One of them is an actual EMT, and she couldn’t believe how complete it was, and even gave me a few ideas on what to add to it (a Halo chest seal). My wife and I like to spend time in the outdoors, so first aid kits are pretty common to us, but one of the city officials asked if I would present these kits at one of their meetings. They made the comment that I was an “expert” in this field, and most of the people they come in contact with in the city don’t have this basic knowledge. I’m an “expert”? I guess it’s a matter of perspective, but they all agreed that maybe picking up some Band-Aids, tape, and gauze would probably be a good start for everyone. I may even be able to present some first aid kit ideas at a city event later this summer. Sharing knowledge that seems basic to you could be invaluable to someone who hasn’t taken the time to learn it for themselves, and this could actually save lives. Most people don’t know where to begin with a basic first aid kit, but the gear available has gotten so easy to use and readily available through online sources.

Work hard at what you are good at and harder at what you aren’t

The second comment came recently when a friend of mine decided to casually start looking for a rural homestead but needed it to be fully set up because he didn’t have my “skillset”. It was my skillset? Again, my trade is a product designer. I sit at a computer or grab a pencil and sketch out ideas for a company to use and sell. That’s not what he was talking about. I’m not a homesteader, by our standards.

About four years ago, my wife and I picked up 10 acres of semi-remote property deep in the heart of the Redoubt. The market had bottomed out, so we picked it up inexpensively with cash.

The property is eight hours from where we currently live. We had this dream to build a small shed cabin on it, but with a few weeks of vacation per year it just wouldn’t work to build it on site. For a couple of years I thought of ways to prefab the walls and possibly drive them up to the site. During this time, we collected doors, vinyl windows, RV appliances, and hardware from craigslist, garage sales, and generally just scrounging around. Last year, I decided to fab the cabin in our small two car garage, one wall at a time. I stacked them outside until it was finished. We trucked it up and assembled the whole thing, minus the roof in two days. Within a week, we had a 16’x16’ cabin in a remote location to go to. It’s slowly getting done, and it’s more comfortable to stay in each time we work on it. I can’t monitor it, and it’s subject to weather, fire, and theft, but the lessons learned cannot be taken away. I can now build a shelter for my family, and I was not a builder. This gives me a sense of security.

We are a long ways from getting to where we want to be as far as preparedness goes, and we’re still learning. My wife jokes sometimes about how 10 years ago when we met, there was no way we would have even considered building a house or growing a garden. As we’ve seen and experienced the economic downturn, our priorities changed to learning some of these skills. They are something we can teach and pass along to our 1-year-old daughter or help friends or family learn. My dad was a huge resource in how to build structures. He learned a lot from my grandfather. Will we ever live in a remote area permanently and commit to being full time homesteaders? I think there is still quite a bit of time and learning before that actually happens, but we press on and keep working at things that we aren’t good at yet.

Car maintenance

Most people bring their cars in for oil changes and basic maintenance. I would encourage you not to do that. The modern mechanic can do things much easier and faster than I can, but you would be surprised at how many basic and semi-advanced procedures are posted online. Youtube is a wealth of knowledge for automotive work. Try at least changing the spark plugs, air filter, and oil. Purchase a simple engine code reader (if you have a modern car); they are inexpensive now and work fine. Some of them literally tell you what component is failing and at a fraction of the price of a visit to the dealer or shop. Keep up with your car’s maintenance and be familiar with it. Feel the radiator hoses for weak spots. Listen for odd noises with the brakes and bearings. Try to be preemptive. There are a million ways for any car to fail, but sometimes simple maintenance will give you better odds. Most of the cars I have owned have had well over 200,000 miles on them. I don’t expect all of them to get this, but you might be surprised. If you can repair a car, you can get a much better price on a higher mileage one. I try to always improve something on our truck every time we prepare for the long drive to the property. Maybe I just replace the shocks or a worn steering component, or I just fix a trim piece that broke.

Basic gardening

I won’t cover gardening too much here, since there have been many great articles on SurvivalBlog about gardening. However, the same thing applies. Learn how to build simple raised beds. They are easy to grow food in, they drain water well, and they keep the soil profile consistent. Someday I want to get a tractor (a ’53 Jubilee) and learn how to clear land to make a real mini farm, but that’s a long ways off. Start small, even with 5-gallon buckets. There are so many books written on this subject. Learn how to rotate crops, practice companion planting, and apply basic organic techniques. If anything, the food grown in your yard will taste much better than what you can get in a store.

Be curious, learn creativity

Keep learning new things, things you are interested in, and things that can help you or your family. I mentioned we are Christians. God values people who are creative. I think we all have creativity in us. Creativity helps us adapt and come up with new ways of solving problems. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised. Pray about new ideas. God values this and knows a fair bit about creating.

One thing that amazes me is that most of the great scientists were largely God-fearing people. Michael Faraday was a devout Christian; this computer wouldn’t function without his contribution to electronics. His life’s work was to understand the connection between God and science. We should do the same. God loves it when we seek Him, and He tends to reveal things at the right time. When things get tough, pray for creativity, among other things. It’s something I continually struggle with, but when I do it things work out.

1 Chronicles 22:15-16 “Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. Of the gold, the silver and the bronze and the iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the LORD be with you.”