This week I had the opportunity to visit my family in my hometown in the depths of Southern California and it’s quite a change from our quiet little life in rural Idaho! My family lives in a very large city, on-the-grid and buys most of their food from the grocery store (with the exception of a CSA box and some farm-fresh eggs from a family member)… how could spending a week in Southern California strengthen my skills as an aspiring off-grid homesteader? Well, let me tell you!
Let me start off by stating that living off the grid and building a home from scratch is difficult. It’s not the endless work that is hard, but it’s not having a foundation of this type of knowledge to make projects go smoothly. While Jesse has a great foundation in construction, home improvement, plumbing, electricity, water and mechanical stuff such as car engines, I didn’t know much of anything so to this day, seemingly small projects are a challenge for me.
That said, I choose not to be a victim of my lack of knowledge. Prior to a few years ago, if I was presented with the opportunity to learn a new skill that I likely may never use (like learning about how engines work), I would run the other way towards something I did like.
Since we decided to embark on this journey a few years ago, I have decided to rewire my brain to be a student of life, learn new skills, and more often than not be working on things that would help me to have a better future. For example, I quit rock climbing three times a week and traded it in for something that was still fun yet would open the doors to a potentially better future – making money online. In the end, I was still doing something enjoyable yet one only resulted in buff arms where the other eventually resulted in complete location-independence and ultimately self-employment.
Catch my drift? All activities are not created equal.
Finding Opportunity to Better Yourself Wherever You Are
What I really want to share about this trip is that I more than ever realize that there are endless opportunities to grow as a person wherever you are at. We frequently hear people say “I can’t wait until _______ so that I can live a simple life and maybe start a homestead of my own”. What not all may realize is that anyone can start today at working towards their dreams.
Believe it or not, I can learn skills in the middle of a large neighborhood in one of the most populated areas of the United States that help us on our sleepy little remote property in rural Idaho. The biggest discovery of all is that I could have been learning skills all along to help us on this journey and had I started opening my mind to new knowledge even earlier than I did, this journey would have even fewer headaches.
When you feel further from your goals than ever, ask yourself the question “What can I do TODAY, wherever I am at, that will help me take one baby step closer towards achieving my dreams?” You just may find that there is something you can do, big or small, to make progress.
Southern California Project #1: My First Canning Project
One thing I’ve been wanting to do for months is learn how to can food. We bought a Presto canner at Goodwill for $15 months back, but still have yet to use it. There are a few reasons why we haven’t started canning and they are as follows: We haven’t yet found a really awesome deal on bulk food that needs canning for storage, we don’t have an outside cooking station, we don’t have THAT much water to conveniently play with, and there are more important projects to worry about for the time being.
That said, spending time in California is time completely away from our property with endless water, electricity, CSA produce and my loving mother that loves kitchen and food projects! Why not take advantage of the circumstances and take on my first canning project with my mom (and her second canning project I think)?
We looked through some recipe books and decided to tackle blueberry jam together. Water bath canning really is straightforward, but it’s one thing to read about it and another to do it. It was as easy as I thought, we shared a lot of smiles and laughs, we made a couple rookie mistakes and in the end not only did I spend precious time with my mother, I learned a skill that will help Jesse and I to preserve food for our family!
There is an endless amount of food prep to be learned and practiced just about anywhere you are, and some of these skills are probably easier to learn with endless water and electricity, hah!
Project #2: A Fun Electrical Project With My Dad
The next opportunity I found to strengthen my homestead skills while in the big city was fixing my flat iron. I was using a flat iron to curl my hair when the cord touched my leg and shocked me – getting shocked by 110-volt AC electricity hurts! But I’m kinda happy that it happened because now I know what it feels like!
Instead of getting frustrated, I asked my dad who is an electrical engineer if he would be interested in helping me fix it. He loves electrical projects and I knew he would also love to teach me a new skill.
My dad happened to have lots of cords lying around and he helped me use an electrical tester to figure out how to wire the new cord to the old, how to use an awesome new wire stripper that we may have to add to our homestead toolbox, how to twist and solder the wires together, and then how to use a shrink tubing to cover up our work.
Even though small electrical work isn’t new to me, it’s still something that intimidates me so I look for small ways to practice and strengthen my skills. Electrical work big and small is surely something we will continue to do for years to come on our homestead and this one project boosted my confidence, even if just a little bit.
Project #3: Germinating Sunflower Seeds
Believe it or not, food is one of my biggest passions in life. Although I have spent an extreme amount of energy on food in the past trying to find the perfect diet for myself, we don’t spend a large amount of our energy on food at this moment in time. However, there are a lot of things I’m passionate about doing one day food-wise so when I’m visiting my family, I use that as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen!
This trip, I happened to see the cookbook Nourishing Traditions on my mom’s bookshelf. I’ve heard lots about this cookbook as it focuses on a more traditional, old-fashioned, NOT politically-correct diet, so I decided to take a peak.
I was reminded how healthy sprouted nuts, beans and grains can be and also how easy it is to sprout things, so I started a science project in the kitchen since my mom already had a sprouting jar.
This is something I could do in Idaho on our homestead, but again, we have very little bandwidth for new projects at the moment. Being away from the property gives me time to focus my energy on different projects that may not help us today but may help us in the future.
Spend Time Wisely & Learn New Skills, Starting Today
I think many of us would agree that it seems we never have enough time to do what we want to do. Work gets in the way, chores, errands, eating, sleeping, relationships, exercise and even entertainment. What I really want to share is that it’s critical to be both a wise investor of your time and to continue to be a student of life.
Wherever you are, ask yourself “Can I learn anything from this? Can I benefit from this situation in any way?” and many times, the answer is yes. I’m not suggesting that we need to be learning new stuff 100% of the time as that gets exhausting (trust me, I know this more than anyone!) but for me, it’s critical that I be mindful of opportunities to learn rather than turn a blind eye to them otherwise great opportunities will pass me by.
There is no better time than the present to take action because the future never gets here – it’s always the present! Don’t start learning new skills to help you achieve your goals tomorrow – start today!
What do you think? Do you look for opportunities to learn everything you can from whoever you can? Do you consider yourself an excellent student of life or do you feel it is a struggle to constantly learn new things? Is there a time when you’re really happy you took the time to learn a skill that came in use later on down the road? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts!
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