Can you think of something that doesn’t exist on the market? It seems in this day and age, there is a product for anything and everything. Consumerism has taken over the world so much in contrast to former days, that you practically can’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing an advertisement making big claims. Always buying the latest and greatest thing, recent generations have developed a sense of dependence on products and have lost a degree of self-sufficiency.
In fact, certain skills that were so critical to survival are markedly forgotten among the young. For instance, cooking, sewing, plumbing, carpentry, farming, hunting and fishing are not skills that a good percentage of the U.S. population can say they are proficient in. Sadly, some don’t even know how to sew a button on or scramble an egg! Instead, products that can be bought to satisfy the consumers’ needs in the quicket way possible seems to be fulfilling the means instead of laboring over the tedious details of how to make bread, stitch a blouse, fix a leaky bathtub, build a house, plant corn or track down a wild turkey. Urban homesteading is something that society could positively acheive; however, with so much reliance on the market to meet all our needs, we very well may be losing more than we are gaining.
America loves food, and upon looking around at all the fast food chains, it could be argued that Americans love eating food more than they love making it. Opting for the drive-thru or microwaveable meal may be the consequence of the long working days so typical in the United States that leave a person feeling overly tired and unmotivated to work up a sweat in the kitchen for dinner or prepare a lunch for the next business day. However, it doesn’t just stop there because when it comes time to host a party or share a sweet delight with someone special, I have seen many more people race over to the bakery and buy a pie than roll out dough and fill it with fruit that they canned themselves. Although there may be nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it just demonstrates that if it can be bought, then it will be bought.
The unfortunate reality of this is the demand it has on our resources and on our health. Unless the food is locally grown, it probably has traveled long distances to reach the supermarket shelf or restaurant counter. Delivery trucks and freight trains use fossil fuels in transport and it is better if their mileage is cut down in order to save on oil and minimize air pollution, which can be done when people support their local farms and ranches.
In regard to health, pre-made food products tend to contain preservatives, artifical flavorings, food dye, and more sugar and fat than food that is prepared at home by scratch. With Type 2 Diabetes on the rise as well as food allergies and intolerances, it is more nutritional to prepare a meal at home in lieu of sitting down to a meal that has a shelf life of 40 years. Twinkies, anyone? Additionally, the packaging of premade meals may pose a health risk, especially if the package is plastic that you heat up in the microwave.
Sewing isn’t just for Renaissance ladies or the hipsters of the 60’s and 70’s; however, it isn’t quite as popular nowadays with all the department stores and thrift stores selling either high fashion clothing or dirt cheap threads. Perhaps, this isn’t entirely surprising since many grade schools and universities no longer provide sewing classes as part of their home economics courses. However, if more people learned the art of sewing, they could rely less upon store bought merchandise and attain a greater sense of personalization within their wardrobe and home.
By sewing your own items, it is possible to pay about 50 percent less than the cost of a store bought item, while having more flexibility in the choice of fabric. For instance, fabrics derived from renewable resources such as hemp, organic cotton and bamboo would be options available to the seamstress, in addition to fabrics that have not been sprayed with chemicals like flame retardants. With that in mind, instead of going to K-mart for your household linens, you can make your own towels, bed sheets, pillows, curtains, table liners, napkins and more! Moreover, if you see a skirt you just got to have at Nordstroms, but you don’t have the pocketbook to fit, then you can recreate that item for pennies on the dollar.
-Plumbing & Carpentry-
It’s not expected of us to build our own house, but if it was, some of us may have homes instead of studio apartments! However, not all of us have the talent to become a master craftsman like Dick Proenneke from Alone in the Wilderness, but it should be reasonable to have programs that teach furniture and tool building skills along with home repair skills in case a pipe breaks or a chair leg falls off in our home. Sadly, many of us don’t possess the know-how when it comes to building and repair and this may be due to the fact that we can hire someone to do it for us. Although, this creates more jobs, it creates dependence that isn’t always viable when we have an emergency but no finances.
Farming may be more important than the other skills I have mentioned, however, it goes hand-in-hand with cooking. Farming includes growing your own food crops, composting, harvesting fruit and raising chickens and goats. Some may think it is limited to having acres upon acres of land, but urban farming is totally possible when it is learned. You can grow your own lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, herbs, etc. easily in small spaces around your patio, on your deck, in raised beds, in your kitchen and even on your rooftop! By growing your own food, you will know exactly where your food is coming from oppose to picking up a Beefsteak tomato that might have come from Mexico or Chile, but you aren’t sure.
Additionally, when you take care of your own veggies and fruit trees, you will have control over what types of fertilizers are put on your plants, and hopefully, organic and pesticide free options will be chosen. You also safeguard yourself from contracting salmonella, which all too often is a problem with packaged lettuce, spinach and sprouts. Moreover, with GMO foods on the rise and the lack of labeling on these, there is much to be gained by learning how to grow your own food. Having chickens and goats also allows the home to always have eggs and milk, which are excellent sources of protein. They say “you are what you eat,” and unless you want to risk your health, the best protective measure you have is to begin farming.
-Hunting & Fishing-
There are many benefits to becoming vegetarian or vegan; however, many more people in the U.S. eat meat, so learning to fish and hunt can help a family provide for their food needs. Although some may argue that hunting is not a very green practice, neither is eating ground beef with Pink Slime in it. By hunting within the constraints of what your family eats, you protect yourself from being wasteful and inhumane to the animals. There is a big difference between hunting for sport, which is not advocated, and hunting for the purpose of feeding a family. A family that hunts for rabbit, deer, turkey, elk and other game actually appreciate the animals for what they give, much like the respect Native Americans have always endeared upon animals. Additionally, the fur, hooves, antlers, and other parts of an animal can be utilized in projects to ensure that nothing went to waste. Fishing is also a skill to be learned that many a poor islander has mastered in order to eat.
Jobs are scarcer, money is tight and people lack the nutrition they need for their bodies that they can only get from farm fresh food. All of this can be combated when urban homesteading skills are learned; and thereby, set a person free and instill in them the confidence that they can attain health and happiness because they are in control instead of what the market feels is right for them and their family.