In 1916, the poet Robert Frost wrote a famous poem entitled “The Road Not Taken” in which a walker faces a forked path in the woods. One path is well-trod, the other path is overgrown. Which path should he take? The final stanza of the poem reads:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Nearly 30 years ago, my husband and I stood at that metaphorical fork in our lives, and we took the road less traveled. It has made all the difference.
What we did those many years ago was to take a leap of faith and leave behind our well-paying jobs in the city. We walked away – both literally and figuratively – from the solid, comfortable lifestyles our friends were building, and forged our own unpaved path toward a self-sustaining homestead.
This decision put us firmly on the fringe of society. We gave up the security of 9-to-5 office jobs and started a woodcraft business. We had our children and educated them at home. We learned homesteading skills – frugality, gardening, food preservation, animal husbandry. We learned to be self-reliant. Our life has been an unending adventure – some good, some bad – but we have no regrets for taking the road less traveled.
In the last few months, millions of people have been shoved off the well-trod paths they’ve been following. They are being forced to take the road less traveled, whether they like it or not. They’re frantically trying to follow that path without tripping.
Skills such as gardening, food preservation, and frugality are suddenly in demand. Those of us who have lived quiet lives of independence and self-reliance are abruptly finding ourselves cast as rock stars of sustainability. It’s weird.
It’s weird, because “preppers” have often been marginalized by the mainstream culture. Many of us who practice self-reliance have been clumped together in the same “doomsday” light, even though we are anything but doomsayers. We’re just ordinary people who enjoy growing our own food, milking our own animals, and living a simple, self-reliant lifestyle.
But now, we’re being yanked into the limelight and asked for advice. So here’s mine.
Preparedness is not just stockpiling food (and toilet paper). Having suitable supplies is great, but just as important is acquiring skills and cultivating community. These three aspects of preparedness – supplies, skills/knowledge, and community – are like a three-legged stool. If someone concentrates on building just one leg (such as supplies) and ignores the other two, then the stool topples.
That’s why it’s incumbent upon those who have already achieved a degree of self-reliance to build community by sharing their skills and knowledge with others. It’s equally critical for those who aren’t as prepared to learn as quickly as possible so as not to be a burden to others.
The independence and self-reliance formerly practiced by those living on the fringe is becoming enviable as people realize the benefits of a calm, prepared life. For many, recent events have been a wakeup call.
Those of us who have lived this way for decades would like to extend the hand of welcome to the newcomers. Take it from me, you’re in for some adventures on this unpaved path. Some will be bad, some will be good, but in the end it’s all worthwhile.
And of course, you’ve come to the right place – Lehman’s – to get started on this exciting journey toward preparedness.