Feb 3, 2014

Off the Grid...

(Bonus Points for catching a couple of extremely obscure 80's TV and movie references)

Sometimes I think about living off the grid. Every so often I get nervous about the state of society...or I watch an episode of "Revolution" with the Cat Daddy...or someone in the family experiences a first-world problem...and I think about what it would look like if we somehow had to revert to a pre-infrastructure way of life. What sort of work and planning would we have to do (a lot of both, apparently), how would we get food, shelter, and supplies, that sort of thing.

And actually, I vacillate between eras--sometimes I put myself in the shoes of Frontier/Pioneer Mom (not Pioneer Woman--she's in a category all her own), and other times it's Cavemommy, or Abigail Adams (yes, that one), or even a 19th-to-early-20th-Century homemaker from that one Modern Marvels episode. Most recently we've been watching "The Legend of Mick Dodge," so I've tried to work out the logistics of the five of us becoming mountain people. Obviously.

Regardless, we're not doomsday preppers, or homesteaders, or anything (I'm not even quite sure what a homesteader is, so don't yell at me, Homesteaders), so there are no shelters or bunkers brimming with canned goods, army blankets, and a transistor radio (which, let's be honest, will not help you if it all hits the fan and communications are knocked out).  But still, I have made it a practice over the years to be mindful of skills which would come in handy if I were suddenly (a) left in the wooded wilderness, searching for my father who had gone off to find work as a logger, or (b) standing amid smoking piles of rubble in a t-shirt and ripped jeans, my smeary-faced children resignedly at my side as we turn toward the sunrise knowing we must find aid for the Cat Daddy, who has been gravely injured but will regain health in time. If we can just penetrate the army encampment and get the typhus antidote, dangit, or (c) Mick Dodge.

Admittedly, there are some serious holes in my plan (LOVE showers, and not much for camping, to begin with), but I like to think it's one of those things where, if I pay attention, then when the time comes I'll be able to draw on experiences along the way to cobble together an existence that will put me a step ahead of the nature-phobes and those who think meat originates in the grocery store. Will I be able to slaughter and butcher the cow? Who knows, but if not I'll know to call the mobile butcher for help, and then maybe barter some cheese or woolen mittens for his efforts.

This is all to say that a friend recently hosted an afternoon get-together where we gathered to eat and talk, and she taught some basic crochet skills to those of us who had few to none.  I'm not really a crafty person, but I have the spiritual gift of hanging out, and the company & conversation did not disappoint. We pretty well covered the gamut in woman/mommy topics--husbands, kids, scumbag renters skipping town, living off the grid, organic vs conventional produce, and even gun control because, who doesn't want to talk controversial topics among friends and acquaintances??

I brought along my trusty H needle--back in junior high a friend taught me to do a chain stitch and my attention waned after about 5 minutes, but since then I've used the needle numerous times for re-stringing drawstrings so I find it a useful item to keep around--and got reacquainted with the chain stitch. I even managed to pay attention when she explained how to produce subsequent rows, and as we worked we talked about our various states of craftiness and overall skills. Generally we were charmingly self-deprecating; our hostess encouraged us, explaining that she was actually not a "real" crocheter but had sort of picked it up along the way (she knew fancy words like "gauge" and "skein" though, so I'm pretty sure she was sandbagging). 

She showed us her first project--with lots of purported "mistakes," which of course I call "character," but I played along and muttered insulting remarks about her subpar first crocheting effort. By the way, it was an entire blanket which, even with all the pieces of character, is beautiful and, presumably, warms at least adequately.  

She referred to our chains of knotted string as our "work," which I thought was cool. It reminded me of that same Modern Marvels episode where they talked about the pre-sewing-machine housewives and how they were always working on clothing their families, either by sewing new garments or mending old ones. Much like we bring stuff along with us to occupy our brains in waiting rooms and such, they would put their materials and supplies and whatever in a bag and "bring their work with them" wherever they went. 

Before I knew it I had crocheted a piece the size of a Band-Aid, and it made me feel important and useful to be producing a piece of work with these fancy knots in my borrowed yarn. After a short flirtation with knitting several years ago I came to a quick realization that I should never knit, but I decided that crocheting is something that could be feasible for me and I could add it to my bucket of useful skills should a time and/or need for it arise.  Since I can only do straight rows of single crochet, this will produce scarves and blankets, and I can use my rudimentary sewing skills to fashion tunics for basic clothing needs (I later amended this to include basic PJ pants; I think I can pull that off, especially since I have the crochet hook to put in the drawstrings).

The ladies, ever vigilant, said "But if there's no electricity how would you run your sewing machine?" to which I replied, "Geez, this will be tedious!" But if a kerosene generator is an option, you'd better believe I will plug in my late 70's era machine and be the quickest sewer on the block. This is also quite possibly the only situation EVER where I would be in a position to sell something I had made myself, because we are not talking lovely color-coordinated patterns and fancy chevron designs, or even nicely-edged seams. Strictly utilitarian here, all the way. But let's face it: in a post-apocalyptic world everything will probably be strictly utilitarian for quite some time. 

Now even with these textile skills and fishing, I'll still need quite a bit of help, so I'm thinking some kind of commune may be in order. I'm now taking applications, just in case.

What are some of your sweet survival skills??


Elizabeth said...

I love this. The spiritual gift of hanging out.... Hee Hee.

Martha said...

Oh! Oh! I can wield a mean axe!

Wait. Was that comment a bit too creepy for the internet?

LU said...

II can make profoundly lame jokes, sing, draw, and cook just about anything. Also, long division on paper, if I have enough time. May I join your post-apocalyptic team?