Real World update: 7.2 magnitude earthquake, just outside Anchorage. As I keep saying, don’t prep for the “End of the World;” rather, prep for what could happen where you are. Anchorage, unfortunately, gets hit in lots of ways. They’ve got the potential for earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, and blizzards–and, I’m sure, more, depending on particular circumstances. So think about what your area is prone to, and prep for that–if you’re ready for anything, then a “big collapse” is the least of your worries.
I’ve recently read a couple of articles on, for lack of a better term, “Prepping like the Amish.” The principle, I think, is sound–the Amish live, for the most part, without modern conveniences, and have largely (in the words of John Michael Greer) “collapsed early and beat the rush.”
The two articles I have in mind are “Learning from the Amish,” and “5 Lost Survival Lessons I Learned About the Amish.” I’ll give my thoughts on them individually here.
The first, “Learning”, seems to focus on how the Amish live without electricity. The article itself is light on details, though. They start with a handful of questions: “How do they do their laundry? What is Amish Friendship Bread? Where do they get water? How do they stay warm in the winter?” Then they almost answer the question of laundry, and veer off into starting to describe Amish shopping habits… I’m left curious, though: after buying grains and legumes, powdered milk, and sugar in bulk, what else do they buy?
The page itself has a number of links to relevant items (galvanized tub and wringer for laundry; a book on “Living Without Electricity,” oil lamps, and the like), but I found I had more questions at the end than answers. I haven’t delved deeper into the “Happy Preppers” site–but if it’s all like this, I’m not particularly impressed.
The second site, “5 Lessons,” was a bit meatier. Again, the focus was on living without electricity, which slightly misses the point about the Amish (I won’t claim to be an expert, but I’m aware that there’s more nuance to their belief system and lifestyle than that).
The first lesson was the use and care of non-power tools. While I agree with the principle–I’ll try to learn the “manual” way to do something, before I break down and get the power tool for it–I’m not sure I see the “point” of the lesson. Particularly when they begin to emphasize the Amish’ use of horses. If you, as a prepper, don’t have and use well-trained horses before a collapse, you can hardly be expected to have them afterwards… The earlier point on maintaining your tools, and keeping them in their place (which I have a problem with) is well-taken.
Lesson two was homeschooling. I’m afraid I mostly have to disagree, here. While I’ve met a few homeschooled individuals who were well-adjusted, well-rounded, and seemed quite functional, the vast majority of the ones I’ve met were anything but. Of course, I’m of the opinion that we have experts in various fields for a reason, and we should let them do their jobs. A majority–not all, certainly, but most–of the schoolteachers out there are more than capable, and their job is providing educations for our children… We should let them do that. (It also must be said, however, that one of our jobs as parents is helping that education, and instilling respect and willingness to work in the kids…) Any of the education in “household stuff” (how to manage various of the things around the house) can, and probably will, be taught in less formal surroundings, yes, but there’s more to education than either book-learning, or “practical application of a limited set of skills.” (Why limit the set? Give the kid both types of learning–help them learn how to learn–and they’ll be set for life…)
Lesson three is handsewing. In my opinion, this is one of those “household things” that probably should be taught, but I’m not sure I’d hold it up as one of the five pillars of learning. I do believe that everybody should be able to sew on a button. Patching a hole in your pants is helpful–but it doesn’t have to be pretty, so there’s that. Should we be able to make full sets of clothes by hand? I mean, while I certainly could, again, it wouldn’t be pretty… But even in a “big collapse,” scrounging and/or barter should be fine for the big stuff, at least for a while. (And in the event of a “big collapse,” I’m not going to be worrying about my sartorial splendor…)
Lesson four is “primitive farming,” which the author presupposes the Amish do without benefit of any modern tools and conveniences. I’m pretty sure, however, I’ve seen them using steam engines; also, the height of horse-drawn equipment is really very nearly as effective as the smaller modern stuff. (They won’t be farming the tens-of-thousands-of-acres of monocrop that is today’s “modern farming,” but they can certainly cover quite a bit…) I’d downsize this lesson to plant husbandry–gardening, if you will. You don’t need a huge plot to make a whole lot of wheat for flour; likewise, if tended well, you can (in theory, at least) get a huge amount of food out of a surprisingly small area.
Rounding things out with lesson five is plant identification. I’m not certain that I’d go to the Amish for this one; it seems more a bushcraft thing to do. I will say that I take time to learn the plants that grow in my area–trees, bushes, and all the flowers and weeds and such. Scavenging for food is one purpose; finding medicinals is another possibility. Mostly, I’m just curious about it–and I like learning about the local diversity. I don’t know, off hand, what I’d replace this one with, necessarily… Maybe animal husbandry? Getting, maintaining, slaughtering and butchering livestock (or even game–deer or hogs, perhaps) would be worthwhile knowledge. Or, perhaps, cooking and baking–knowing what to do with the harvest and such…
I’m digging in to a few more “apocalyptic” prepper-style books, lately; maybe I’ll have a review or two, in an upcoming post. Anybody have any good reads, outside of the “classics” of the genre? I’m always open to suggestions–and to questions from you, my readers. Let me know in the comments!