I foresee a lot more MacGyverizing in the future. When people can't afford to hire someone else to fix things, they start thinking about ways to manage on their own. It's nothing new. Our parents and grandparents knew all about managing on their own, but somewhere along the line, we forgot. We forgot all about self sufficiency and independence. When the repairman was as close as a phone call, we forgot how inexpensive it was to repair it ourselves.
I've been working on a time travel novel set far back in the past in northeastern America--up near the Canadian border. In my forays into the past, I've encountered all sorts of roadblocks and detours. No corn. Two varieties of squash. Limited beans. No potatoes. No wheat. No rice. No domesticated animals. No eggs/chickens. No milk.
Well, that's just the food issues. Then there are other things such as textiles, shelter, heat, potable water, sanitary arrangements, weapons, food preservation, cooking utensils... and the list is endless.
In discussions with friends and family about the issue of survival, the misconceptions have amazed me. One example--animal skins. One woman said, "They'll just have to make clothes from animal skins."
Uh-huh. Animals--even a fairly large one such as a deer or elk will not yield that much actual usable material. Once the animal is dead, then you have to deal with preserving the meat (what method are you going to use and how are you going to store it?) and you also have to deal with tanning the skin so it's pliable enough to work with. That would be done using... (wait for it!)... the animal's brains.
So for one piece of clothing, it might take two skins. Two skins equals two animals' worth of meat that you don't dare waste. Ah yes, I forgot. How are you going to trap/kill the animal?
Where is MacGyver when you need him?
In the piles and piles of books that I've acquired for this project and the pages and pages I've printed from survival sites on the internet, I've discovered something. Our ancestors, particularly pre-World War II, were a pretty self-sufficient bunch. They knew how to survive on their own. They knew several ways to preserve food. This was pretty much pre-freezer era. No microwaves. No convection ovens. No dehydrators. As a matter of fact, homes out in the country didn't even have electricity or (gasp!) telephones.
How about soap? Do you know how to make soap? Or simple medicines? Or how to use herbs to season your food? I don't. But I'm learning and experimenting.
I asked a wonderful group of ladies about dyes. It took a couple of posts for me to clarify the time period I was interested in, but they came through like champs with all sorts of ideas for natural dyes and mordants. (Thank you, Brynn, for the url!)
I queried a survival group about using superglue to seal a wound. One fellow sent me pictures of his injury--a ghastly long cut--that he sealed close with superglue while out on a hunting trip. A former medic in the armed services answered all sorts of detailed questions.
There's a lot of knowledge out there, just for the asking. I'm not advocating that you stop what you're doing and go into survival mode, but wouldn't it be nice if we all had something to contribute if we needed to do so? The next time something breaks down, wouldn't it be a life saver if we knew how to fix it?
One of my goals this year is to be more self sufficient in my life. I want to rely less on the outer world and concentrate more on what I can do for myself. I'll let you know how it comes out.