Saturday, November 28, 2009

I was too lazy to go to the store

I really needed some bread today, but was too lazy to put on my clothes and shoes and go a block down the street to the store. Instead, I decided to break out the flour, yeast, sugar, milk, salt, butter, and water, and make my own.

Mmm, doesn't that look delicious? Here's a closer shot. The loaf on the right is plain white, and the loaf on the left is cinnamon/sugar swirl. My son is going to love me!

Okay, so it takes 3 hours to make two loaves start to finish. Well, I mean you gotta spend the whole 15 minutes preparing and mixing the dough on the Kitchen-Aid. Then you have to put it into a bowl and let it rise for an hour while you go and do something else. Then comes the arduous 5 minutes it takes to prepare the loaves by busting out the rolling pin and flattening them and adding some sweet goodness to make your kid's eyes wide with delight when he bites down on it. Oh, and then there's another hour to let the loaves rise in the bread pan while you, again, go do something else. And lastly, there is the part where you have to push a couple buttons on the oven to heat it up and then bake the bread. Let's see. That's another 30 minutes while you go do something else (like me finally getting into the shower and getting dressed).

So, I could have gotten dressed and gone to the store to buy some bread. Then again, I would have to deal with people there, picking out the bread that appears to be the least crushed, driving home, and then eating whatever partially hydrogenated corn syrup-laden crap the bread manufacturer puts in it. It would have saved me 3 hours. Or would it?

I wasn't just standing around watching bread rise. There were some other things to do around the house, emails to answer, blogs to compose, phone calls to make, and a gun or two to clean. Besides, I was able to do all that AND wear only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in my bare feet. Can't go to the store in your underwear and without shoes, can you? Well, I suppose you could, but I know I wouldn't want to look at me like that.

Another benefit is this: I know exactly what I put into the bread I baked. Yeah, I baked it. I didn't buy some manufactured bread made in God knows where, which has sat for God knows how long in a pallet, on a truck, on a shelf, and finally in my cupboard. There is no partially hydrogenated anything in it! There is no corn syrup based crap in it! Read the label on your favorite bread the next time you go the store. Unless you are eating organic or low fat, you will know what I'm talking about.

You know what I put into my bread? Flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, yeast and (gasp) water. The sad thing is that 99% of people wouldn't know how to put these ingredients together in the proper proportions even if their lives depended on it. They'd look in their pantry and just give up. "Ahhhh!" they'd say. "I'm so hungry and there's nothing to eat!"

To that I say, "there is plenty to eat, bozo! You just gotta know how to take the raw ingredients and make something!"

It's all about getting back to the basics. What is that? Getting back to the basics, for me, means just that. It's my answer to the self-sufficiency dilemna and the partially hydrogenated lifestyle of today's world. For me, it means forsaking all the gizmos and gadgets, all the trendy things and fashions of the day, and getting back to those core values and things that make people who they are. It means dumping the partially hydrogenated soybean lifestyle and actually making your own foods from your own ingredients... from scratch. It means fixing things rather than replacing them. It means being mindful of debt and getting it under control. It means sustainable self-sufficency found only when you have what you need - not what society tells you. It means getting in touch with whatever belief system you have and magnifying it. It means knowing who your friends are and building a network of relationships that can augment your family.

Getting back to the basics means so many things to so many people. It would be hard to simply give it a one-word definition, but I think the best word is sustainability. That's really what it comes down to. Can you sustain your lifestyle when all goes to the crapper?

I gotta tell ya, as much as I hear about how crappy the economy is right now (and believe me, I've felt it too), I'll bet the white-collar guy who used to make $150K+ a year is crapping his pants. This is the guy who wouldn't be able to fix a broken toilet if his life depended on it. Suddenly he finds that his job was outsourced and he is making minimum wage as a delivery driver because his once useful skill is now in India or wherever. In other words, he has no marketable skill now and is suffering hard because he didn't take the time to learn how to do those jobs that were once below him. Now, instead of sitting all high and mighty, he is delivering my pizza and banking on me tipping him. It's quite ironic because a year ago, he would have been the one tipping me for doing contracted work at his house. Now I'm the boss.

I feel that America is in for a big turnaround. The blue collar lifestyle that ran America's economy was phased out in the last 20 years; replaced by information technology and service work. Now that all that information technology is shipping overseas or isn't paying nearly as well as it did before the .com bubble burst, those who are in blue collar jobs are making a comeback in a big way. Mechanics, technicians, construction, manufacturing, and so forth are the jobs that are here now. While manufacturing does go the way of Asia, I have a feeling that the bottom of that might fall out with impending economic disaster on both sides. Who really knows, right? That's why it's a good idea to get back to the basics and live a lifestyle you can sustain even if your governments fail you.

So, the question is: How do I get back to the basics?

Well, that's up to you and your situation, but a few universal rules apply:

1. Get your debt under control. This is tough even for me; especially since buying power is limited on my budget.

2. Store up food and supplies. I can't stress the importance of this enough. To survive you need to have food and in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle you need to have household supplies.

3. Buy a gun. Your savings and food storage don't do you a damn bit of good if you can't defend them. Oh, and don't treat your gun like a fire extinguisher. Don't hide it away hoping you'll never need it. Use it, learn it, and become proficient at it. Teach your children young and old. Teach your wife. Make sure they know what to do if they encounter it and make sure they know how to react to a situation.

4. Save your money. It's tough these days but it's not impossible. If you can find a dollar a day, then you are well on your way to savings. Sell off crap you don't need anymore and dump your packrat lifestyle. You'd be amazed at how much money you can bring in when you sell your junk to someone who needs it. Don't spend frivolously. I can't tell you how much crap I have in this house just on trinkets and junk I never really needed in the first place. I've either trashed, recycled, sold, or gave a lot of my junk away, and there's still a mountain more.

5. Invest in your future. When you buy, buy smart. Don't buy the cheapest just because it's the cheapest. It's cheapest for a reason. I follow the rule that you need to get the most bang for your buck. If it's something you know you will need often, upsize to the better model. You don't necessarily need the best model, but don't settle for the beginner set. In the end, you'll only spend more money trying to get the better model because the cheapest was... well cheap. Buy things you need, buy things you can use, and buy things that will mean as much to you 5 years from now as they do at present. Don't give into fad items or things that will go out of style when the wind changes direction. Buy stuff for the long term.

6. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. I will never divulge the amount of food storage I have, and I suggest you don't either. Otherwise, you might just find yourself needing that gun you bought. There was a conversation at my church where someone said "I'm just gonna go to James' house. He has everything." To that I said, "That's fine because I'll just pile you up in the front yard with the rest of the bodies." He immediately got quiet. The truth is, you probably wouldn't be so impressed if you actually saw it. Protect your supplies. They are your life.

7. Ally yourself with people YOU KNOW will not cheat you, screw you, or otherwise do wrong by you. If you go into Costco with a friend (to share the expense of buying at bulk rates), make sure it's someone who won't be coming to your house with a mob after their food runs out. You only have one or two of these people in your lives. Don't trust anyone who you may think could hurt you in the end.

8. Get your house into order. It means, simply, to do a lot of the above stuff (getting out of debt, living within your means, etc) and getting organized. What I mean by that is a clean house is essential to a house of order. I don't mean to imply that you should itemize everything you have and buy a label maker for things (though it could come in handy for food storage). What I mean is to have a place for everything and put everything in its place. In our house, we are working hard to do just that. We are finding things we no longer need and are selling them to finance things like bill paying or more food storage, or ammunition and those sorts of things.

Well, that's all out. Time to eat some nice warm, freshly baked homeade bread. Yeah, you are jealous. :)


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