An interesting article appeared on SurvivalBlog recently entitled What the Locals Really Think in which a fourth-generation homesteader related how newcomers to his rural area know everything. “I just find it funny because a lot of these folks come here and just do what I've done all my life,” he relates, “and then they squawk about it like a chicken that just laid an egg.”
(Ahem. For those unfamiliar with chickens, when a hen lays an egg, she cackles about it for long minutes after her deed is done. “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done!” It’s quite comical.)
As I start working on our garden this spring, it occurred to me that the best experts on almost any topic are those who have never done it. The people who know the most about gardening have only grown potted tomatoes on their patio. The people who know the most about how to raise kids have never had any. (This is particularly annoying/ tragic when these people are CPS workers.) The people who know the most about caring for cattle derived all their knowledge from watching YouTube videos. We’ve all been at the mercy of those who share with us their most profound wisdom on subjects they have never experienced.
Often newcomers to rural ways feel they must reinvent the wheel when it comes to learning what does and doesn’t work. They prefer to apply their book and video learning to whatever task is at hand – and fail, as often as not – rather than seek out the advice from experienced long-timers who have “been there done that” – sometimes, in the case of the SurvivalBlog article, for four generations.
Please don’t misunderstand, book learning is critical in the initial stages of any task. If someone has not yet had the opportunity to move rural, then book knowledge is often ALL they can acquire until they have a chance to put things into practice.
My gripe isn’t with these types of people. My gripe is with people who think their book knowledge supersedes an experienced homesteader’s real-life experience. In other words, when they become armchair experts.
This SurvivalBlog article was so comical that Don and I both laughed out loud in parts. For example, the newcomer – who has decided that the world is coming to an end and the government is out to get him – decided to give a party for his neighbors to discuss how to handle the apocalypse. In the words of the 4th generation homesteader, “Too often the guy calling the meeting assumes that everyone should, of course, listen to him – the guy who moved in a year ago and is stupid enough to be a vegetarian in beef country.”
If there’s one thing you’ve doubtless learned from this blog, it’s how many times we’ve screwed up when it comes to rural endeavors. The predominant thing we’ve learned over the years is what DOESN’T work. There’s no reason to reinvent the square wheel. (We’ve already tried it. Square wheels don’t work. Except in specialized circumstances.)
Those who are experts in something are experts because they’ve already gone through the square-wheel stage. They’ve learned through trial and error what doesn’t work. I wouldn’t trust my surgeon if his only knowledge came from book-learning; he needs hands-on experience as well. He especially needs to know what doesn’t work. I trust gardeners who have huge and flourishing gardens, not those with a single tomato plant on the patio. I trust livestock breeders with a herd of healthy livestock, not an active account on Farmville. I trust someone with a dozen wonderfully-behaved children, not someone who took college courses in child psychology.
Okay, rant over.