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A Resource or a Liability

January 24th, 2012

Risa, from Stony Run Farm, brought up a great thought in the comments a few weeks ago when we were discussing why you grow your own. If your neighborhood/community got together in tough times to categorize people as liabilities or resources which would you be? Do you think the resources in your community could support the liabilities?

The biggest problem would probably be that many people would consider themselves resources. While that may be true in good times, their skills/talents might not be what is needed to survive during the tough times. I’ve thought about this as I strive to learn to grow some of my own food. Mainly, I do it for healthy food, because I enjoy it and to save some money, but I also want to have the skills necessary should a time every arise when we need to for survival.

Being able to grow food is a skill that most people should cultivate, whether you believe you will ever need it or not; sadly it’s not a skill many people see as necessary. On the most basic level, to survive you need: food, water, and shelter – everything else is really a luxury. Many of the skills we posses and use for our day to day jobs are for luxuries and not for necessities. This is true of my job, I produce a luxury. As a result, I feel the need to be able to produce my own necessities so I don’t have to rely on someone else. If things ever go pear shaped, my job/skills/income would be gone. No one needs a photographer/writer/videographer/blogger to survive, you can’t eat those things – so I would be considered a liability if I didn’t have any other skills.

Luckily, I have worked hard at learning/developing a lot of skills and I’m continually striving to broaden my skills that will come in handy should things every get rough.

Here are some of the skills I have:
growing food
foraging for wild food
winter gardening
seed saving
plant propagation
dehydrating, curing, canning
maple sugaring
cooking/bread baking
herbal remedies
rain water harvesting
Mr Chiot’s hunting is also a good skill

Some skills I’d like to learn:
keeping & breeding chickens
dairy & beef cow husbandry
meat rabbit breeding/rearing
pasture management
butchering meat
smoking and curing
hone my knitting/crochet skills
root cellaring
cooking with wood heat
first-aid & herbal healing
foraging, wild harvesting

Taking some time to think about what would happen in tough times and working on learning a few skills that will come in handy for you family and your community is something we should all do. It’s kind of like having a spare tire in your car, you hope you’ll never need to use it – but you want it around just in case. Learning a few basic skills will give you a sense of peace knowing that should you ever need to, you could survive.

What can you provide/bring to the table when times get tough?

Great resource books to keep on your shelf:

30 Comments to “A Resource or a Liability”
  1. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife on January 24, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Gavin wrote a post about skills during his Be Prepared Challenge a year ago and I remember that jolting me a bit — and giving me a to-learn list! I thought it was very interesting that he included things like “negotiation”, “counselling” and “music” in the list in addition to practical ones.

    My can-do list looks a lot like yours, without maple sugaring and hunting skills, and I have chicken rearing/butchering experience and can spin yarn as well as knit/crochet it.

    I’d like to have more experience of raising (and butchering) different animals, learn to fish, improve my canning/preservation skills and generally improve my foraging & growing capacity. I find it a lot easier to learn skills I can “grind” in quick succession but I think the enforced slowness of seasonal foraging and growing our own food has helped teach me an equally valuable skills – patience.

    Reply to louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 10:08 am

      There are definitely different skills needed during different phases. Immediate skills needed for survival, skills that would be needed once basic necessary needs are taken care of (food, water, shelter, protection), skills that would provide emotional/psychological relief (music, art, humor), skills that would come in handy when things are organized (bartering, organization, negotiation).

      It is interesting how our society currently works and to think about what would happen if knocked down to our most basic needs and then see how it would need to be built back up again. Have you read One Second After? You might find it interesting!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife on January 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

        Thanks for the recommendation – I’ve actually been playing with an idea for an EMP-destroys-civilisation story myself so I’m sure it’ll be interesting on many counts :)

        to louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife's comment

  2. karlin on January 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

    I can cook on an open fire, forage the woods for edibles, use plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, build a basic shelter, chop wood, fell trees, sew, crochet, embroider, cook for 12 or 2, grow gardens from seeds, save seeds, can, store, and preserve food, root crops and berries, propagate plant cuttings and use the layering method to propagate plants also, make a rooting hormone from willow, weave baskets, make rag rugs, quilt, compost, and manage most small household repairs.

    I am 60+ years of age and have done all of the above things and more. No, I’m not a Naturalist, but I grew up on a farm and either experienced all these things or was interested in learning about them as I grew older.

    Do I make the Resource list? I certainly hope I am never put to the task of that kind of survival, but if so I am sure I could be a great resource in my community and I believe that they would all pull together to sustain us.

    Reply to karlin's comment

  3. kristin @ going country on January 24, 2012 at 8:46 am

    How nice to think that all these things I do are actually valuable skills in the right setting. They are not, unfortunately, particularly valued in our present culture, and so the question, “What do you do?” is always a difficult one for me to answer.

    My husband says I should just tell people, “I create life.” He figures that would shut people up. Bet it would.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 10:08 am

      I’d want you in my community!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Melissa on January 24, 2012 at 10:15 am

    What a great post! We recently added rabbits and ducks to our urban farm with the intent of them being for meat and a few other side benefits. But it’s amazing the weird looks we get from people when we tell them we are gonna eat rabbit! In some countries that’s totally normal but in the US it’s considered weird. I want to be a resource, not a liability. By the end of this year I hope we are producing 50% of our own meat from the rabbits, ducks, and fish we grow!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  5. Victoria on January 24, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Participating in the Dark Days of Winter Challenge has brought some of these thoughts to my mind as well. Being in the outer-burbs (between DC & Baltimore) I’m slightly restricted with space but I’m resourceful. Though I cannot maintain my own livestock, I’ve sourced dairy, poultry & meat all within 15 miles of my home.

    My grandmother taught me how to cook & my father always had an abundant veg garden. Over the years I picked up on, composting, seed saving & preservation skills. But knowing where to find local proteins, etc might be the best news kill in my tool belt.

    Reply to Victoria's comment

  6. Denimflyz on January 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I do or have done the some of the above because I have to to survive is some way now and I also love it by being independent from someone else.
    I will be attempting soap making as soon as I get a few days of weather that are nice to be outside to do it in.
    I cannot have chickens but I do butcher the whole chickens I buy into more managable sizes.
    I want to learn more curing meats on my big smoker I bought several years ago, Master sausage making, and making an attempt at bacon curing.
    I mastered my fear of the pressure canner, and now am so proud of myself of getting over that fear that I developed so long ago from an exploding antiquated pressure canner at school. I now do my own broths,veggies etc and love every bite of it.

    Reply to Denimflyz's comment

  7. Annie on January 24, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I’ve always been a big proponent of all women learning to weld and have even considered teaching classes once I got my shop set up. It is fun, handy and completely empowering! and there is welding that can be done with gas so you don’t need electricity, should it come to that. Besides that, I think I have a fair number of valuable skills!

    Reply to Annie's comment

  8. Teresa on January 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Whether I’m useful or not depends on how pear-shaped things truly get. I’m a good gardener and have other useful skills. Unfortunately, I imagine I’d be much more of a liability if the inhalers that keep me from constant wheezing aren’t available. (Healthy living only helps so much.)

    Reply to Teresa's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Medical issues are definitely something to think about and talked in depth about in One Second After. Perhaps a bit of study on how to control & treat asthma with herbs & homeopathy would be a beneficial area of study for you! Then you’d be a huge resource since it’s so common in our day & age.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. risa on January 24, 2012 at 11:22 am

    “If things go pear shaped” that is a wonderful expression … TYVM for this post!

    There’s an amazing old BBC series called “The Survivors” — I think most episodes are floating round the Net. It’s a post-apoc after a high-speed pandemic, leaving a remnant to start over. Our main character, looking for her son at the abandoned private school, meets an old codger, one of the faculty, who has been listening in vain for civilization in the short-wave radio lab.

    He harangues her about how hard it’s all going to be. Picks up a candle and shows it to her. “Do you know how to make one of these? Could you find the materials and process them?” He gives a long list of the skills that are going to be necessary, largely Stone Age.

    She’s impressed, thanks him and invites him to go with her on the search. He adjusts his hearing aid and says, “Oh, I think I’ll stay on here. You see, I wouldn’t make a very good survivor.”

    I’m in my sixties and slowing down, and I’m beginning to realize my own time of becoming a potential liability are arriving. Maybe the kids will come back in time and pump me for the rest of what I know. Otherwise I will probably just sit here with the laptop and listen for signs of civilization …

    So, Suzy, do ya ever go hunting with Mister?

    Reply to risa's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I don’t go hunting with Mr Chiots – but coming from a long line of avid hunters – I grew up hunting. Was learning gun safety & shooting when I was a wee girl and got my hunting license in the 7th grade. I’d much rather cook the game than hunt it, but I’m pretty sure I could hunt down some to cook if necessary!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. Joshua on January 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

    As I think about the organizations I’ve been involved with, it seems like what makes a person a liability versus a resource goes beyond what they can do. So often, what makes or breaks the group has little to do with the people’s skills and a lot to do with their ability (or inability) to work together. Once the initial flush of excitement passes, politics, power struggles, egos, and so forth tear the group apart before very much can get done. Now is the time to start cultivating a good relationship with your neighbors, and a good attitude within yourself.

    Reply to Joshua's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      You’re right, it’s important to find a balance and to consider all the areas. A pantry full of food won’t do you any good if you don’t have a community of people with the other skills. But a good relationship with your neighbors won’t get you far if no one has food or skills to procure food. Cultivating a network of people in your area is also important because you can draw on the variety of skills and strengths within the group. We have a friend that reloads ammo – a worthy skill to have. He doesn’t grow food, but he can help protect the group and provide the means to hunt! Spending some time getting to know your community and the strengths and weaknesses would be of great benefit!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Songbirdtiff on January 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I have a lot to learn, but I think I’m becoming more of a resource than a liability. Certainly growing has become a huge part of my life and I can sew, crochet, etc. I can cook without recipes and make a lot out of a little. I’m getting there…it just takes some learnin’.

    Reply to Songbirdtiff's comment

  12. Grace on January 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    I have long believed it is our duty to prepare ourselves and to be useful, and not a liability, in emergencies. “They” won’t necessarily be able to swoop in and fix everything for everyone like magic. We have seen that in recent years and we can’t really afford to be that naive anymore, can we?

    Living in a crime-ridden suburb of a big city, however, I’m flat out afraid of what the liabilities might do to the resources once they get good and hungry and thirsty and cold. I would like to think that my neighbors would work together and not prey on each other, but I just don’t believe it.

    I’m well down my to learn/skills to develop list, but still have a way to go. I hope, when it comes down to bad times, that I can at least take care of us.

    Reply to Grace's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      And part of being prepared is having the necessary things on hand to protect yourself. Having guns and knowing how to use them is a valuable skill – especially if the end of the world involved zombies :)

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. Rick on January 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I’m like you, I garden for the healthy food. But I have to admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I also consider the fact that I could feed my family in an emergency. There is some peace of mind in knowing that if the food system ever fell apart I could dig up some more grass and expand my own food production.

    Reply to Rick's comment

  14. Marcia on January 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I can make bread, cook, preserve, grow a garden, cellar, weave(with an old fashion loom),sew, make fire, sharpen knives on a sharpening stone ,
    story-tell, lay traps, build fencing, fish, slaughter poultry, use a gun,and use a bow and arrow. I also grew up in a community that was built by coops so I know how to work with others for the common good and prosperity of all. I also know where to find the people that can do what I can’t.

    Reply to Marcia's comment

  15. kaela on January 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    If you haven’t read James Howard Kunstler’s, “A World Made by Hand,” I think you would enjoy it. The basic premise is the scenario you discuss; government-supplied power fails and communities are forced to provide for themselves. But it is a novel, with well-rounded characters, drama, etc.

    I like the writing style; not doomsday-y, just sort of matter-of-fact: this is the new reality. The storyline focuses on the day-to-day adjustments of living this lifestyle, but also of the (increasingly distant) memories of the ‘old’ life. Well worth a read.

    Reply to kaela's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations – can’t wait to read it!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  16. holly on January 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Susy, great post. You have good variety to your posts, I find a lot of times that you put words and photos to my thoughts. A great gift to have, even if it won’t sustain your basic needs in difficult times.
    I started a journey towards organic, natural, self-sustaining living for my husband and 2 toddler girls a little over three years ago. Your post encouraged me to make a mental list of the tasks I have “mastered” since then, as well as to refocus on some of our goals for the future. This year I would like to master sourdough, lacto-fermentation, and expand my flock of 3 hens to 6. Thank you!

    Reply to holly's comment

  17. Shannon on January 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I have totally had this conversation with my friends. It is nice to know that others talk about this kind of thing too.

    Reply to Shannon's comment

  18. KimH on January 24, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    I’ve been thinking on these things for at least the last 25 years.. I’ve been busy learning all sorts of skills over the years, things Im really interested in knowing. I never could figure out exactly why I was interested in them, other than that they’ve always pulled at my soul.. and so, I move where Spirit takes me. I’ve always been interested in the American Indians and their skills , and for some odd reason, right now, Im on an Amish kick, gleaning all the information about them & their way of life I can..

    If things got really bad, Im sure I’d find my way home, and by that, I mean Texas. Where I am now, I could survive for a little while, but probably not long term, at least not where I currently live. I could in Texas.

    I was raised in the country, by an avid sportsman, we hunted, fished, used all sorts of guns, bow & arrow too.. We were taught many woodsman’s/fisherman’s skills as well including how to field dress our kills. I’ve butchered small animals and Im sure I could large ones if need be.
    Im a bit rusty at all of that since its been many many years since I’ve hunted at least, but if a need came up, it’d be like riding a bike. Animals dont change much. ;)
    I didnt finish college, but I am just shy a few hours of a farm & ranch management degree, heavy in botany, environmental biology, animal and pasture sciences.. I have a pretty diverse knowledge of plants & animals, domestic & wild.

    Both sets of grandparents were farmers, one a rancher, all gardened & preserved their own food, and been around cattle, goats, donkeys, horses, mules, hogs, chickens & I raised rabbits. I was very close to them all & spent much time with them.

    I can grow all my own garden starts and garden. I know many wild foods & medicants to forage, more in Texas true, but many here at well. I know how to prepare many different herbal medicines and those I dont/cant remember, I have plenty books on hand.
    I know how to preserve them as well drying, canning,& freezing. I can cook just about anything common.. Smoking & curing I’d like to learn more of. I have head knowledge, but not hands on.

    If I had to, I could tan hides, I sew quite well and can make my own patterns & clothes, I knit & crochet, but not well..and macrame’ too. I know how to make all sorts of things, and am good at thinking outside the box, which is always a great skill to have.. I also know how to quilt, would probably be able to figure out how to make thread with wool and figure out how to make a loom & use it. Maybe not. ;) I’d hope someone else could do that though.. not my idea of fun. haha

    I have many years of training in First Aid/CPR, I have a HazMat background, understand & use basic electronics & mechanics daily. I also have a cool head in an emergency and have pretty good strategic skills. Im a middle child, so I learned the skills of the middleman bright & early and was a trained mediator as an adult.
    Im a communicator by birth, and seem to have an ability to inspire & lift people up emotionally when they’re down and reason with them when they’re irate or irrational. I also seem to have healing hands and have been called a natural healer many times in my life.
    I also am pretty good at reading/feeling people (energy of others). Im sensitive to energy.. some I understand, some I dont.

    I probably have more skills that would be useful if needed in a survival capacity.. I also have books on survival, animal husbandry, herbals, and all sorts of other would be necessary skills.

    I have a food storage system.. Im sure we could survive at least 6 months on what we have now, much longer if it were well rationed. I’ve started working on long term food storage too.

    I’ve often wondered what would happen in the neighborhood if our food system failed. I know there is a group of us neighbors that would band together, but I dont know about others.

    I’ve always said I could survive if we were left in an apocalyptic situation and I believe it. I hope I never see that day, but you never do know.

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Sounds like you’re ready, you can come live in my community :)

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • KimH on January 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

        lol.. Thanks! :)

        to KimH's comment

      • Susy on January 24, 2012 at 11:03 pm

        Love that you took the time to explain all your skills and the history of how you got some of them – just what I love to read!

        to Susy's comment

  19. Sofie Dittmann on January 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    I am building rabbit hutches as we speak, and today hauled home 3 cu. ft of peat moss and a bag of cow manure. So, there! :)

    Reply to Sofie Dittmann's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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