My daughter was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I made her a cappuccino complete with the foam. She looked on while I steamed the milk. “Where did you learn to do that?” she asked, as if I was taking out a kidney or something equally amazing. Usually she is sleeping when I make my coffee, so she has never seen me use the machine. Since she started drinking coffee in university, her source has been Starbucks or reasonable facsimile of the same. Result: five dollar coffees. On a student budget, that is expensive. It’s all the more reason why I have rarely purchased a coffee from a store in the last decade. The stuff I make at home is much better. It was a revelation for her that you need not be held ransom by Starbucks, and I was happy to provide the teaching moment.
Self-sufficiency is only getting harder as the decades roll along, and technology is the culprit. Too much tech, and the tech you are forced to deal with via call centres in India or Dominican Republic will leave you exasperated. I just went through this the other day trying to power up our security cameras. It’s one thing to wire them, but the tech side…. I had to register for a DDNS and I did not know what that was so I had to find out how they work. In all of these things, there is too much information, and the people who know already (who tend to be young) are not of much help because they think you are an idiot for asking. Turns out their manuals (which already have way too much information) do not list the information in the same format that you enter it into your device, hence the confusion. How was I to know? There is no one to tell me and worse, I hardly know even what to ask.
Of course with the security system, there was an expert who could install it for you if you were willing to pay a price equal to the original purchase. I was not. Hence, that is me on a ladder in the garage with a hammer drill and caulking, scoping out where best to drill holes through my house and run cables. We opted for cables though there is the headache of install, because WIFI is apparently iffy, and there is that annoying problem afterwards of having to climb up ladders every month and change batteries. Choose your poison. The pain up front, or ongoing. All that because we live in the modern world, and chose to forego paying for the outside expert. In the end it will be ok, but it is no treat in the meantime. Every time I try to fix or install something on my own, I feel like an idiot for that huge gap of things I don’t know and things that I don’t even know that I am ignorant of until I run into them. The tech world is swimming with information and my brain just wants to lie on the beach and take a nap.
Working from home is another treat in this department which I am sure has people pulling hair out. There is Zoom to navigate. There are backgrounds you can project if you don’t want fellow workers to see your unfolded laundry in the background. There is navigating the security in-betweens that patch you into the network. My wife’s drives her crazy. Though I have explained it is hard for her to imagine that what she sees onscreen is a facsimile and she is actually working on a virtual platform with mac tools. She may be worse than I am in the tech department, and I know things ONLY on a need to know basis lest my head gets cluttered with too much unnecessary info.
I am not good at this stuff. And yet I try. I don’t want to be overtaken by technology and left behind like an old person. I hate it that I must rely on outsiders for things that are pretty pedestrian in my life. I want to be maitre chez nous, but we live in a world where that arrangement is increasingly difficult. I think of my own parents and I realize why I married my wife. We see lots of people hire stuff out, but my wife pushes me to try to be self-sufficient and it is far better if you can be. She was making bread yesterday, another cottage industry thing that is much better than the store if you can manage it. She has a bit of a glint in the eye but she also is convinced that I should know the “man stuff”. It runs in her family. Once her visiting brother man-shamed me for taking my car for an oil change. “What kind of a man doesn’t know how to change his own oil?” he asked, and I think of my Dad changing brakes and other such rudimentary things that were considered to be quite regular only a generation ago. Last time I had my car in, the mechanic, “ran the computer scan” to determine the problem, yet could not provide me with any kind of info apart from what the scan told him so I suspect we are all in the same soup - reliant upon tech stuff we cannot understand or control.
It’s anti-human to me. I would like to live in a world that is a bit more self sufficient. I have been watching a YouTube channel that covers the progress of a guy making his own cabin in the wilderness. He took a back hoe and spread the gravel for a roadway, cleared the brush, drilled posts and designed a home, and put it all up by degrees. The work is very well done. The guy is in the trades of course, the most practical kind of work to do because doing things for yourself doesn’t scare you. Even if you don’t know there is someone to ask in that network. He put in solar panels, installed his own electrical and even gas lines for a propane stove. The creature comforts are coming along and his wife already likes it up there. Worse, he is doing amazing woodwork with beautiful wood to trim everything up in the most tasteful fashion. I am supremely jealous and I will only ever realize degrees of the same vision. I won’t get my cabin in the wilderness, but I am building a very fine book case downstairs from oak. I made my own dentil moulding yesterday rather than get the box-store version and that was bit of a trick. I was happy when I pulled it off because like everything else, there is a learning curve, and you can only fit so many in during a lifetime.
I also watched a YouTube of two bearded fellows who caught an armadillo using a deadfall trap, chopped it up, and boiled it in a big pot. They sat down munching away at pieces of armadillo head by the fire looking at the camera in a self-congratulatory way. The armadillo did not look so appetizing in process. Not many people would be willing to go down that road, but it did make me wonder what people would do if they HAD to rely on themselves to survive some kind of apocalypse. The preponderance of dystopian movies on Netflix, and the number of people learing some form of survivalist skills makes you think. Something so small as owning a firearm in Canada, we are told is a terrible thing. And yet I read that the reason the Nazis did not overrun Switzerland like other European countries, was that every man kept a firearm in his home and knew how to use it. Their militia was in fine form and it was a preventative medicine. As they say, the best defense, is a good offence. It’s better than being passive.
On that note, I read the news and my blood pressure goes up again. Our government seems to be revelling in the current pandemic, insomuch that it cripples people and makes them reliant upon handouts and government interventions for vaccines and such. I don’t much trust government in general, and I certainly do not believe that our current administration, bogged down in scandal is doing its best by us. They are no doubt filling their pockets while they can, and the wise man understands that he is best self-governed. Do not rely on others more than you have to. It’s the only way to dignity and peace of mind.
When trying to figure out what kind of coffee maker to get, I looked at a cost comparison. Buying your own beans and springing for the highest ticket Italian espresso maker, you would still come out ahead money-wise compared with using a Nespresso machine or one of those pod devices. It’s something to think about, and not only an issue of money. Meanwhile, I was happy to show my daughter that you do not have to be so reliant on outsiders for something as prosaic as a cup of coffee. There is wisdom and dignity in this kind of self-sufficiency. No need for Uber Eats, when you can cook. There is a whole list of things we can do if we take time to figure them out. While navigating this modern labyrinth, I am doing my best to take back my world, if necessary starting with one coffee at a time. It’s a small victory I know, and at best, symbolic. But such skirmishes turn the tide of a war. The battle to be self-sufficient is uphill and difficult, and you will be fighting it ’till the day you die. Buckle up, buttercup.
Mennonite drying rack I made for my wife. It’s looking back to yesteryear for solutions to today’s challenges. Think about it. Using a simple parallelagram made from wood, you can put your clothes out to dry and harness the power of the sun for free. Sometimes in our world of high tech we forget about the basics.