Urban Homesteading and Self-Reliance, Philosophy, Disaster Preparation

Let’s Pretend

I did a lot of pretending when I was a child.  My little brother and I used to wander the hills on the ranch and pretend we were pioneers, gathering squaw berries, gooseberries, and raspberries for our dinner.  We used to play Swiss Family Robinson in the multilevel house we constructed in the old willow tree, designing fantastic structures and eating our meals among the slender green leaves.  We were soldiers, living in the old Army tent my dad put up every summer.  I remember lying amid the warm scent of the olive drab canvas listening to the song of crickets in the night, while I buried my head in the sleeping bag to get away from the drone of the mosquito that always managed to get in somewhere.

I didn’t know it then, but I was fortunate to spend so much time away from television (we only had 3 channels), the telephone, and all the distractions of civilization.  My imagination got a very good workout and grew to impressive proportions.  I still play “let’s pretend” today, but with much more serious subjects.  I use this game to help us design our homestead toward better self-reliance. Even though a lot of these things are still in the planning or construction phase, in an emergency they could be put into use in a reasonable amount of time.

Here are some of the scenarios I pretend:

Let’s Pretend: There is no electricity for a week in the summer.  I use this one to determine the things we really need to use.  Right now, everything in WeeHavyn is electric, so this is a big deal.  I have to figure out how to cook, get water and heat it, light the house, preserve food, keep us cool, and entertain my very screen addicted family.  The summer version of this is probably the easiest of the “let’s pretend” scenarios.  We have an outside stove to cook on and plenty of downed branches for fuel.  I have plans for an earthen oven for baking as well.  We have city water that might work even without electricity, but we also have a 750 gallon water tank that is going to be set up to catch rainwater from the roof.  Water can be heated on the outside stove.  Lighting is candles and oil lamps, but there is plenty of daylight in summer, so it isn’t a really critical consideration.  Most of our food is fresh.  Milk will be made into cheese and kefir do keep it usable.  Meat can be dried or smoked and kept downstairs where it stays fairly cool.  WeeHavyn is well shaded most of the day, so if we open the windows at night and cover them as soon as it starts to heat up, preferably from the outside, it would stay reasonable.  As for entertainment….we have lots of books, cards, and could always take Jack out for a drive.

Let’s Pretend: There is no electricity for a week in the winter.  This is a much more difficult scenario and, unfortunately, much more likely.  Every element of the summer setting applies except for needing to heat instead of cool.  It’s also not going to be very pleasant to cook or heat water outside over a fire.  Then there’s the added joy of pipes freezing and bursting with no heat.  There is less daylight in winter, so lighting is much more important as is entertainment since going outside to do anything may be unpleasant or downright dangerous if there is ice.  I just bought a large Warm Morning stove and hopefully we’ll get it set up this summer.  Our current electric heat is not very efficient anyway.  It has a flat top to heat water or cook on, and I’m planning on switching out our electric range with one that runs on propane.

Let’s Pretend: We don’t have a car or truck.  The joy of “let’s pretend” is you don’t have to know why.  We would actually not be in too much trouble here.  The biggest issue would be hauling hay.  We would definitely work on improving the hay shed so it would be able to keep as much hay as possible dry which would allow us to get it lest often.  I would imagine I could pay the farmer I buy hay from to deliver it every few of months.  It’s about a 15 minute walk from the house to Walmart and a 10 minute walk to Dollar General.  We’d need some sort of handcart to bring back groceries or packages as we would probably try to keep store trips to a minimum.  There’s always Jack as well, although we’d have to put a basket on the back of the two person cart because two people would need to go; one to shop and one to stay with the pony.

Let’s Pretend: We have to live on local food and materials.  This is kind of an End of the World scenario.  It’s not one I worry about constantly, but it’s a good mental puzzle and a lot of ideas come out of it.  If the trucks stopped running, we’d have to change our eating habits fairly dramatically and I’m sure we’d all lose a few pounds.  We have enough food storage that if this happened short term, we wouldn’t notice much.  But if it was long term, that would be a different story.  We have livestock to produce some food for us, and the Garden Barrels, if well managed, can grow an amazing amount of food in a very small space.  I have four barrels now and am planning on building four more this summer.  The strawberries might have to go in favor of more productive veggies, but they also might make a good item for trade.  We are also planning on adding a raised bed in front of the fence and more raised beds where the lawn is.  It would be a lot of hard work to grow what we need, but I think, along with trading for the things we can’t grow, we could do it.

As you can see, my “let’s pretend” days are far from over.  I imagine things all the time.  The funny thing is; this is actually a fun game for me.  Sometimes I even wish it would actually happen so I can put my ideas to work. Knowing I can look at and solve the problems I invent gives me a lot of confidence in my ability to solve those I haven’t even thought of yet.  And just planning, even if I don’t have the actual elements of the plan yet, puts me miles ahead if something untoward does happen.

Do you still play Let’s Pretend?

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