HackSpace magazine

How low do you go?

By Dr Lucy Rogers. Posted

Do you remember school biology lessons, and learning about the food chain? A leaf gets eaten by an insect and the insect then gets eaten by a bird. Every time you go along the ‘chain’, there is a loss of energy.

Over the past few months, many of us have been doing things that take us lower down the food – or purchasing – chain, by making things. For example, making meals from the raw ingredients rather than buying ready meals, baking bread, making cakes etc. There are those of us who have grown vegetables. I even bought a SodaStream so that I can make my own fizzy pop.

There are many who have made their own clothes, masks, or other textile items. Many home haircuts. Many DIY projects.

It got me thinking about how far down the chain I could go. Self-sufficiency has always appealed to me, but I also know there is a lot of ‘grunt’ work involved – hard manual labour that can get monotonous. And that puts me off. I have made string and rope from stripped willow and lime bark, and also from stinging nettles. I have lit a fire by rubbing two sticks together. I have made a shelter using branches, twigs, and leaves – and slept in it.

But that kind of life, for me, would mean I wouldn’t have time to do all the other things I enjoy – and I am far too lazy. So it seems I like to know that I ‘could’ do these things if I had to – but I’d rather not have to. There’s a line. How far down the chain am I prepared to go? Which things do I enjoy doing, and which will I pay to not do – which things do I depend on others to do? What things can I not do, even if I wanted to?

The last few months have made me appreciate the things I do depend upon – particularly water, electricity, gas, and internet connection. But also the ability to get food when I want it, and purchase everyday items, such as light bulbs and toilet rolls, when I want them. But I hadn’t really considered my health – until I was stung by a wasp. I’ve been stung before and, after the initial ‘ouch’ and applying vinegar, I’ve generally ignored them and forgotten about them the next day. This time I had a reaction. I went to the chemist to get an antihistamine cream. The next day I went back to see if a tablet would be better. The pharmacist took one look at the sting – the swelling and the hot red patch and told me to see a GP immediately. After an e-consultation, where I had to send photos of the reaction, I was given antibiotics.

Although I like to think I am pretty independent and self-sufficient, and can turn my hand to most things, I rely on others much more than I had realised. And I now appreciate them all a lot more.