Monday, January 21, 2008

Prudent or paranoid?

This is something I've been asking myself a lot lately, especially after reading Wendy's post about living in 2 worlds and how hard that is. Am I being prudent or paranoid? I really believe that we are heading toward major peak oil fallout. I think, although I know many don't agree, that things will go back to being like they were in the pioneer times. I think we are going to have to be pretty self-sufficient but that there will be small stores that will sell some things. But I find it very hard to believe this and live in this world where no one else seems to think anything is going to happen.

So, I go back and forth between thinking I'm being smart to prepare and thinking I'm being paranoid. A few examples:

Last week, JoAnn's Fabrics had bolts of fabric on super sale, so that it was $1.50 a yard for the fabric I make all of Logan's clothes out of. I bought a bolt of fabric and put it away in case we need it someday. I go back and forth between thinking that was a totally paranoid thing to do and thinking I should have bought 2 bolts!

My husband works in the chemical industry making soap on an industrial scale. They buy a lot of cooking type oils. He said the price of these oils have gone up a lot recently because of countries stock piling them to make into fuel since crude is so expensive. It is just a matter of time before we will see the price increase in the grocery stores. I belong to a food buying club where I could buy a case of canola oil and olive oil at last months prices. Would it be smart to stock up now while I can still get them at lower prices or is it paranoid?

I really want to get a grain mill but I go back and forth on whether I should get the more convenient electric version or the hand version that will still work after all the peak oil fall-out? I am honestly unable to make this decision. I got a Kitchen-Aid for my birthday mostly to knead bread. This is convenient in the world right now, but will I regret not building up my kneading muscles in the future?

Should I get an electric dehydrator or learn to use the sun to do it?

How far is too far?


Chile said...

We're on the same page, Christy. I haven't bought a bolt of fabric yet, but I've been collecting "useful fabric" as I see it at thrift stores. Wanna get really weirded out with cooking oil possibilities? Check this contraption out. Oy vey! ;-)

hillbilly2be said...

Christy -

I think we are certainly headed towards tough times, whether due to peak oil, climate change, inflation, or other reasons. Buying some extra clothing at the thrift store (or cloth if you are handy that way :)), or stocking up on water and food are definitely prudent things to do and don't require much extra effort. Learning self-sufficient skills is always a good idea... it removes many variables.

Yet, as we found out while living in a barn this past summer, we humans really don't need all that much to live. I think one can rest assured that the massive amounts of cast-offs and waste from our culture will support those who survive the initial wave of tough times for many many years.

That's how I look at it anyway. :)


farm mom said...

Oh, I know how you feel. Especially when it comes to buying the electric appliance or going hand crank. One thing that usually tips the scale for me is the children. I just don't have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do without the help of electricity at this point. So, that's the decision I make. Someday I too hope to learn how to sun dry things and build and use a solar oven. And someday when I no longer need the dehydrator I'll freecycle it and hopefully help someone else down this path. Of course, you'll notice my view of the bigger changes in the world is that they won't happen tomorrow. If I'm wrong, I'll have to learn to adjust fast, won't I?

Kathryn and Ari said...

These are such important questions. I'm all for getting off the grid whenever you can: it's really hard, since non-electric sewing machines and the like went out of favor years ago, but it seems like reducing a carbon footprint isn't as much paranoid as it is practical.

Wendy said...


I'm sorry to have pulled you into my hell with my post :). It's something I've been trying to write for a long time, and I'm still not sure I really expressed what it is I feel, but as you pretty much nailed it for me here, I guess I did. That's the question I've been asking myself - am I being paranoid or prudent?

I guess what it finally comes down to, for me, is the money issue, and I blame all of my paranoia on wanting to be frugal ;). So, a bolt of cloth at $1.50 per bolt is a GOOD DEAL - frugally speaking, especially if you actually use it, but if it sits in your closet for the next ten years while you wait for the lights to go out, not such a good deal.

Same with the appliances. Personally, I would buy the handcrank model, because it saves electricity, saves money, and if the lights go out (which they do here, at least once a year due to bad weather), I can still use that appliance.

In the end, even though my concerns are about the bigger picture (peak oil, climate change, economic collapse ...), the fact that being more self-sufficient means I don't have to have as big an income to support myself, my family and our comfortable life is more of a reason to do those things than any worrying about the impending collapse of our culture.

So, I guess I answer that question with the former - I'm being prudent with our finances, and when I'm debt-free, it will all be worth it, and if the worst happens in the mean time, I'm prepared.

Christy said...

Chile - I can see making my own cooking oil someday with things I grew. Another thing to start looking into.

Ron - I try to look at it the way you are saying here. It is just a good idea and most of the time learning the skills is fun. I'm trying not to fill our whole basement with extra food and water LOL.

Farm Mom - My kid is older so I do have more time to do things by hand. I'm just lazy sometimes. I don't believe things are going to get bad tomorrow but I do believe it will be in the next 5 years, possibly less. Hopefully, I'm wrong but I am planning like I'm not. And this is the source of my angst about not moving. I feel I don't have much time to get moved and established.

Kathryn - Good point about lowering our impact by going non-electric. I don't have a non-electric sewing machine. May be another thing to look into.

Wendy - Don't worry about it, I was already there ;). It is actually nice to find others that think the same way I do. Another good way to look at it all. I'm being more frugal as well as kinder to the environment.

See, I'm not paranoid at all!

Erikka said...

it's a fine line between paranoia and preparedness...but to whom does it really matter, you or "the rest of the world?" It does feel paranoid to be ready but think of people who live in the tornado alley or in a hurricane area, they are constantly paranoid and ready for the worst to happen. Why should the end of crude oil or electricity and the current way of living also be something considered extinct-able?

You may feel crazy, but maybe set some sort of limit for yourself if that would help. Like, you'll only stock pile half of the cellar instead of the full cellar :) My friend's mom thought like this and had their basement FULL in case of the worst happening.

Danielle said...

Not weighing in on the crux of your post because it would require a more thoughtful reply, but....

Something to consider in terms of the non-electric vs. electric appliances are the number of hours in a day vs. the energy available. Living in suburbia, there are lots more empty hours to fill than there are when homesteading to whatever degree. Add to that the potential that some form of electricity will likely be around for a while even on a rolling blackout scale, and running a few well-chosen electric appliances may be a godsend, especially if they're pretty efficient and useful time savers.

I don't think the equations are simple, but more a weighing back and forth of the pros and cons.

Christy said...

Danielle - Good point. I will be much busier after we move so the convenience of electric will be more important. As long as there is electricity sometimes I can use all my appliances then. I'm also researching the idea of a small solar panel to run small appliances.

Christy said...

I don't actually have that much stocked in the basement. I haven't even reached the 90 days of stuff that is recommended for a flu pandemic.

On related news, I scored a dehydrator on freecycle today! So that answers that question.

Wendy said...

Yay! For freecycle! We scored an electric juicer and used it when we made cider this year. Good cider, too. Still, I think I'd rather have a hand-crank cider press :).