Self-sufficiency Gone Wrong

I get a lot of reader e-mail and I read absolutely every one of them. I also get a lot of e-mail from friends and family who love to challenge me with interesting bits of information. I love it all! This past week I received an e-mail from one of my correspondents with a link to an article entitled, “The age of loneliness is killing us.” It actually talks about an issue that readers have asked me about in the past—the meaning of the term, self-sufficiency. Some people confuse this term with independence. The problem is that self-sufficiency has nothing to do with either independence or dependence. The terms aren’t actually relevant to each other.

You’ve seen from any number of posts that I practice self-sufficiency in grand style. However, my self-sufficiency ensures there is wood for the fire, food in the larder, clothing to wear, and a roof over my head. It ensures that my animals are all well-fed, happy, and productive. Everyone has work to do in my household, even Sugar Plum (my cat), whose main goal in life appears to be stealing my dog Reese’s bed. Practicing self-sufficiency has improved my health, made me happier, and increased my productivity.

I’m far from lonely. I counted today and I rely on no less than 40 animals and people to make my self-sufficiency work (the list is likely far larger). Including the animals is necessary because each has an active role to perform in my self-sufficiency. I could list off the jobs each animal and person performs, but I think the point is that I’m incredibly dependent on others to be self-sufficient. In fact, it’s always been that way. There are dependencies that must be maintained in order to create a happy and productive life. To say that I’m dependent on certain people is simply to say that I’m human and have deficiencies that others meet—it doesn’t make me any less of a person to admit this fact. Rather, it demonstrates an understanding of how things work and makes me a better person as a result.

The biggest reason for this particular post is to put into words precisely what I mean by self-sufficiency. I don’t want anyone out there to ever use self-sufficiency as an excuse to be lonely or to feel excluded. Far from it. Most people who are self-sufficient are fully engaged with the animals and people that surround them. In fact, it’s the animals part of the equation that sets us apart. I recently provided a post entitled, “Hugging Your Animals” and a number of people wrote to ask whether I actually do that. Well, yes I do. My animals are a big part of my self-sufficiency and I’m quite dependent on them.

Our society’s ever growing fear of depending on others is a problem. It creates loneliness, decreases productivity, makes us less efficient, and most definitely makes us less happy. Creating relationships does involve risks. Someone really could say they don’t like you or decide they really can’t tolerate how you do something. Rejection, arguments, and upsets of all sorts are the risks we encounter with dependency, but the benefits are ever so much greater. Take time to hug someone today and tell them how much you appreciate them. Let them know you don’t mind being dependent on them and that you hope they’ll depend on you too. Send me your questions about self-sufficiency and being dependent on others to John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Dealing with a Rainy Summer

It has been a rainy summer so far in Wisconsin. Thank goodness it hasn’t been the kind that sees lots of flooding, as we had in 2008 when the entire town flooded out and I was locked in the house for days at a time. No, this has been a lighter, steady sort of rainy summer. It has rained often enough that the young lad mowing my lawn has had to work hard just to find days to do it and sometimes needs to come back another day because it starts raining right in the middle of cutting the grass. However, the things that tell you most that this has been a really rainy summer are the mushrooms and the mosquitoes.

The mushrooms are interesting because they’re growing all over the place and are of such diversity that they’re simply fun to look at. I’ll often wander around in the early morning hours looking at mushrooms before the dogs get out there and rip them up (yes, Reese and Shelby can get quite frisky during their morning game of Frisbee). If I knew a bit more about mushrooms, this would be a year to stock the freezer. As it is, I’m only positive enough about button, morel, and puffball mushrooms to pick them for eating (and even then I’m extremely careful).

The mosquitoes are a bit more of a problem. There have been notices on the radio that many of them carry West Nile Virus, a disease I’d prefer not to get. So, I’ve stocked up on the usual remedies and make sure I spray myself before I go out to work in the flower beds or gardens. I’ve also been reading articles such as, “10 Signs You May Have West Nile Virus” so that I know what to look for.

The rains have had some interesting effects (other than the mushrooms) in my salad garden. The cherry tomatoes are already to the top of their cages and they’re producing blooms like crazy. At some point I’m going to be eating cherry tomatoes a bit more often than I might like. My plan is to collect enough up that I can dry them for later use. Dehydration is always a good way to preserve food for later use. Likewise, my green peppers are getting quite large. In fact, I picked my first green pepper (a tad small) the other day. The extra rain hasn’t seemed to affect the taste or quality of the peppers so far.

What I do worry about is my herbs. So far they’re growing like crazy, but I’m concerned that they won’t dry well and that they’ll lack some of the oils that they normally do. I tried some lime mint in tea the other day and it seemed a bit weak. The rest of the summer will determine just how the herbs do. I know they’ll definitely be usable, but it may require more of them to get the same effects as normal. Fortunately, none of the herbs seems to be rotting or having other problems so far.

Did I mention that the weeds absolutely love the rain too? It seems as if I can’t pick them fast enough and the nearly constant rain causes them to grow quite large, quite fast. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep up well with everything except my personal garden, which is a little weedier than I’d like at the moment. Let me know your thoughts about rainy summers at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.