Skills to Rebuild a Micro Economy
I’ve been reading up on a peasant’s life surviving in the early to middle medieval period. Up until 1100, maybe a little earlier, it seems to have been as you would expect focused largely on subsistence agriculture. As we all know life was nasty, brutish, and short, although they probably took more vacations than you get to enjoy (The church mandated many of them). However heading into the 1200 and 1300s we witness a much more specialist economy and what surprised me is that the average person would have been wearing professionally made clothes.
The most common non agricultural job of the period was a tailor and I put that at the start of it’s own paragraph because it just reminds me of Emmanuel’s broken shoes (Yeah technically that’d be leather work historically). There is always a demand for textiles and unlike a lot of modern goods you don’t need long supply chains and billion dollar specially cleaned laboratories to build them (I was thinking of smart phone internals). It seems to have morphed from peasants making part time money on side businesses next to farming into people going full time into an urban lifestyle manufacturing goods. The most surprising part of it all for people who think of the middle ages as a bunch of oppressed peasants toiling on a farm all day is that everyone was handling money. Some of the peasants were rich and buying small arable land holdings as well as outsourcing building work for cottages etc.
In terms of industries they couldn’t do without we have a rough overview:
- Tailors and Weavers for clothes
- Pottery for cooking pots and pans
- Smith for higher end tools and supplying an army, this is probably more specialist
- Peasants who farmed often kept their own poultry, sheep etc and would sell the eggs and wool at market.
- Tanners to make the leather
- Towards the end of the 1200s people were building windmills and taking customers who needed their wheat milled cheaper than using animal labor.
- Builders and roofers. No matter what time you live in, life is easier if your house doesn’t leak water over you.
So during a crisis the demand for these products doesn’t go away but you don’t need expensive modern technology to enter the market. You just need to have worked on the skills pre crisis as a hobby. Obviously these industries are currently impossible to enter commercially if you live in a developed country, as they are subsidized by massive energy inputs from fossil fuels and borderline slave labor.
I have decided that this blog will focus mainly on the skills of weaving and whittling because they both produce highly functional goods and they both need minimal tools and the skill level to enter as an amateur is lower. Also if you’ve never weaved you have no idea how strangely meditative it is. Below is a sling I wove from paracord, this thing is very functional and can potentially kill someone at 10-20 yards (probably further tbh) in skilled hands. The only drawback of slings is the insane amount of practice you need to use them effectively. Any tribe/civilization who used them grew up with them from toddlers. I wouldn’t even bother trying to hunt with one even though the ft/lb they generate is more than enough to take down pretty much anything that isn’t a bear.
The cool thing about weaving is you don’t need much in the way of raw materials. I am currently weaving a bag from used crisp packets and I think this is the key mindset to help survive a crisis. If you can take things people are throwing away and trade them back to them as useful items you have an easier time sourcing materials and you are able to use any downtime to remain productive. In non crisis times it’s just an environmentally friendly thing to do.
The other nice thing about weaving is the range of things you can make, from garments to baskets and bags and of course that sling. Probably other things if you got creative. It’s not exactly an xbox or anything but if you need a bag the only thing that works is a bag, same goes for gloves. You can buy everything pre-crisis of course but then you have to worry about will it get stolen, broken, and what can I trade. Doing something repetitive like weaving or whittling keeps you focused on working with your hands without having to pull a big chunk of time out of your day and keeps your creative juices working for when you need to build something that is a bit more advanced in a crisis such as a tin can wood gasifier. Sure the skills don’t directly translate but you have more confidence getting into the right mindset if you already do something that involves physical manipulation as a hobby. Once you have those skills in place next thing you know, if you do need shoes you feel a lot more comfortable attempting to cut some rubber soles from an old tyre and stitch woven leather to it. I know a lot of you probably already have some of those skills, but cut some of the nerds like me some slack whose only attempts at making things are typing numbers into a CNC machine.
Also woven products look a lot nicer when made from waste than duct taping some inner tubes together and calling it a day. Tight weaves look fantastic even when made with junk. The motto for this blog is “things can be stolen, skills can be shared”. Of course some stuff you just need to buy. I mean, don’t die because you didn’t buy a water filter because you planned to make one if the SHTF.