Saturday, March 8, 2014

Who Is In Your Network?

It’s true.  I have been telling my friends (those few who will still stand still and listen) to buy a monster box, sealed from the mint, of 500 Silver Eagles to preserve wealth.  But today I would like to focus on taking stock of our intangible assets, our friends, our neighbors, our knowhow, the sunshine that falls on our little patch, etc.  My friend David Martin calls this an audit, a taking stock of all resources that we can utilize in some way.  By doing so we can better appreciate our strengths and perhaps catalog our vulnerabilities.

In my fantasy world I would live close to the source of a pristine spring on fertile tillable land, backed by a woodshed and surrounded by sympathetic self sufficient neighbors.  Oh, with a south facing passive solar house and a cavernous root cellar.  Having dispensed of that fantasy let’s move on to the real world.

The internet is replete with lists of things to stockpile for the coming apocalypse: water, food, toilet paper, batteries… you know the drill I am sure.  Some rightly put the focus on food production as opposed to hundreds of cans in the basement.  But I would like to explore the less obvious resources we have at hand, the things around us that will matter greatly in a time of crisis.  Let’s start with family.

Family is a many splendored thing where Thanksgiving debacles and discussion minefields abound.  But for some this can be a rich resource.  A family cabin, tillable land, mechanical skills, hunting skills, canned food, a guest room far away from the big city… the list of potential resources is very long and exploring it can be illuminating.  I concede that just bringing up the subject of how to prepare for the coming challenges can open up rancorous debates, but the time will come when everyone will be more receptive and it doesn’t hurt to know what you will have available to you when the time arrives.

Another very important resource is neighbors.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find there if you dig a little.  On my country road I can find farmers and machinists and mechanics, all with tools and gardens.  My neighbor usually plows my driveway with a smallish tractor, while I help do the shoveling on the edges of his driveway.  But recently we had a 16” snowfall and a nearby farmer went up the road opening up driveways with his big green machine (nothing runs like a Deere) and it is a comfort to know that neighbors not right next door can still be neighborly.  What skills do you have to share with neighbors?  What skills can you be taught?  What can you do to foster a sense of community with those around you?

Sunshine, air, rain and space are all resources to be reckoned with.  Notice that I said space, not land.  Walls, rooftops, balconies, patios, yards, windowsills… we have more space than we think we do.  Get creative with the spaces you have available to you and look for ways to leverage the spaces of family, friends and neighbors.  (counting lawns and other spaces Joel Salatin claims we have 70 million acres of land that could be devoted to growing food in this country alone)

What skills do you have that matter in a local economy?  Gardening, sewing, fixing, electrical, canning, building, mechanical… are just some of the things to put on this list.  Maybe you have little to contribute but a strong back and you will need to offer that to supplement the projects of those with more tangible skills.  Maybe you need to look for courses that will better prepare you for the future.
What else do you find in your area?  What about gravity?  Falling water can grind grain and generate electricity.  What about wild berries, firewood and mushrooms?  Rocks and trees for building?  Abandoned buildings for providing workspaces for making things?  Scrap metal and junked cars?  Ponds for growing fish?  Look around and see what you see.

Yes, it can be a smart thing to stock up on dry food and Silver Eagles.  But that alone will not do the trick.  Understanding your network and taking steps to improve your network could go a long way to securing your future.

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