We seem to be enjoying prosperous times right now, with an economy strong enough to provide employment and pay increases to many Americans, but it’s important not to lose sight of some fundamental survival skills. There’s nothing like an economic downturn to remind us of what’s really important in life. A family that can grow its own food will always weather tough times and come out stronger, the same way a plant comes back after a hard winter.
Some of us are old enough to remember when country families provided most of their own food. Not so long ago, the “womanly arts” included home canning, scratch cooking, sewing, and tending the family vegetable patch. Farm boys learned animal husbandry, how to raise crops, and the many trades required to maintain farm buildings and equipment. Our Adams County neighbors have a long tradition of stubborn independence and self-sufficiency.
When this country was founded, the majority of Americans lived on small farms, growing most of what we needed ourselves and selling the surplus for cash to buy hardware and dry goods. The boom-bust cycles in big-city financial markets didn’t have much impact on family farms. Times could get hard, but there was always enough to eat.
My own grandparents came to this country during the Great Depression, an experience that fundamentally shaped their own lifestyles and those of their children (my parents). Thrift, frugality, and “waste not want not” were unshakable principles in their lives and their households. My Oma had a big vegetable garden, an apple tree in the front yard, pigs and chickens, and a stock of home-canned vegetables and fruit. Most people today were born during more prosperous times. Have we lost something really important?
2020 is a good year to dedicate ourselves to teaching traditional life skills to our children and grandchildren. What better gift can we offer to future generations than the gift of life, the confidence and capability to “shift for ourselves”? Plants and nature offer us a timeless solution to the challenge of survival. Modern technology can help us understand and harness natural forces, but it can never replace them.
We are truly fortunate and blessed to live in such prosperous times. Technology and modern transportation allow us to live better than did the richest kings, only a few generations ago. It’s easy to become complacent about basic survival, when you’re living in comparative luxury, but there’s a danger in becoming too comfortable. Nature and plants have a message for us: survival of the fittest remains the guiding principle for all life on earth
This year, commit yourself to pass on your love of plants and gardening to a new generation. Understanding, learning and then teaching the basics of survival to our children and grandchildren is a sacred duty, a tradition dating back to the beginning of man’s existence.