December 21, 2012

Every Yuletide season, I think about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year. Some years see more success than others, and those more successful years typically have a couple of things in common.

  1. A specific plan to attain each goal
  2. Making a declaration, even if just to myself, that a goal will be achieved

This year, I’m participating in the 13 in 13 Challenge, created and sponsored by The Survival Podcast. The challenge is simple: choose thirteen skills to either learn or improve upon in 2013. To view my personal page  for the challenge, click here.

This is more than just ticking off a list of thirteen skills. This is about increasing independence, self-reliance, accomplishment, and the confidence this brings. This is an opportunity to stretch ourselves, and become more equipped to handle whatever life throws our way. It’s time to relearn and reclaim our skills.

leaf line

We have become compartmentalized specialists, dependent upon other compartmentalized specialist. Sometimes, this is a good thing. I wouldn’t want a hobbyist mechanic designing the next space station. However, what if the specialists that we count on in everyday lives are not available or are delayed? Ever wait two hours for assistance from AAA for a flat tire ? Ever have to pay a $50 dollar minimum-one-hour charge for a plumber to change the kitchen sink washer which took under 10 minutes? This is why expanding our skill sets is so valuable.

Change Tire

The thirteen skills I chose include both improving existing skills and learning entirely new ones. Two of the skills that are most important to me fall under the Fitness and Writing categories.

The fitness goal I have, and it’s something I would consider a “new” skill, is running a 5K using the Couch to 5K (C25K) program. Click here for more info on C25K. While most of the goals I selected are things I know that I will enjoy, I fully admit that I loathe running. I always have. I’d rather hike or do kickboxing any day of the week over running.

portrait of a mid adult woman jogging in a park

Why would I select it if I hate it that much? I could say that it’s because it’s practical, that being fit enough to run is clearly useful in emergencies, or that it’s a good quantifiable measure of one’s fitness, and so on. But that’s not it.

This is a character-building challenge for myself. It’s overcoming an obstacle. Proving to myself that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. This skill will give me a lot more than just the capability of running a certain distance. It will develop in me the confidence to meet any other challenge head on. That’s invaluable. I’ve already started the program in a modified form (indoors on an eliptical), and I’ve already noticed this change happening.

working at computer in bathrobe

The writing goals that I’ve set for myself aren’t just about the writing itself either. It’s about time and resource management, which has been a weakness of mine for many years. I can have a hard time saying “no” when others need help, and my own projects and work often fall to the wayside. Reaching my writing goals, much in the same way as reaching my fitness goal, is so much more. It is about factoring myself into my own day. I think a lot of moms out there can relate.

Specifically, I am writing two books based on my herbal training, research, and experience. The first book will cover herbal supplies for emergency preparedess. Beyond the common remedies with which people are familiar, like ginger for a sour stomach, or slippery elm for a sore throat, this book would explore what if modern medical care were simply not available for a few weeks or maybe even a few months (major weather events come to mind). The second book will cover how to grow and prepare your own  herbal medicine cabinet and first aid kit.

Flowers Floating in Herbal Tea

The last writing goal is to blog at least once a week. This is the one that will push me in the “time and resource management” area the most. It’s easy to have my husband jump in and care for the kids so I can work on my books for several hours at a time on the weekends. It is far more difficult for me to juggle the kids needs, the errands, the cooking, the chores, and my homework, and still blog as often as I’d like.

There is another reason that the 13 in 13 challenge appeals to me. The tagline of my blog, “Prosperity in Any Economy” is really about  developing skills. I’ve focused primarily on cooking so far, but prosperity is about so much more than budget cooking and food storage from scratch. It’s about expanding your skills, creating your own opportunities, and encouraging self-sufficiency.

I encourage each of you to check out both the 13 in 13 challenge and The Survival Podcast. Best wishes to each of you and your families for the holidays and for a prosperous and happy New Year!

About the Author Homesteading Mom

Homesteading Mom is run by Cat Ellis, an herbalist, prepper and aspiring homesteader. Cat is the author of two books, Prepper's Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic. Cat Ellis also blogs at,, and

  • I am happy that you choose what you have in your 13 13 challenge. The reasone being I benift too. I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to reading and learning more from you once a week. I also am looking forward to your books and will be the first in line to buy them. Blessings on your expanding skills.
    • Thank you so much Debbie! Did you get to check out the entire list at the page? I put a link in the article to my profile page and the specific 13 skills I picked. It was hard, though, since there were a lot of others to pick from that I also want to learn. Soap making is one of those perennial skills I keep saying that I *want* to learn, but haven't gotten around to. I didn't put it on the list this time either, since I've found such lovely handmade soaps and shampoo bars from Swanfire Farm.
  • Thanks for posting the link to your profile. It gave me some good ideas on how to organize mine. I've been having some problems getting my profile set up but hopefully it will get sorted out. I've been kicking around a book idea too but it looks like you've got a much better start on yours. I also want to start teaching classes, and increase my beeyard, and... It was hard to pick just 13. :-)
    • Limiting it to 13 was really tough. The book thing... my final project from my herbalism course provided the framework. So, there isn't nearly as much to do, like there would be if I were starting from scratch. What kinds of classes did you want to start teaching?
  • Cat, I have been creaping on your website lately and am hoping you might have an idea for a problem we are facing. We made the urban-to-rural move last September and, of course, are having a very busy Spring trying to figure out the beginnings of our more independent homesteady-ish life. The big problem in the past week has been deer ticks. Like we are being attacked by an angry hoard. Any natural lotion or spray type recipes to recommend? Thanks, Steve (ps. the website address i typed in above is my wife, not me. She is much better at chronicalling our adventures)
    • Steven, I apologize for not seeing your message sooner. As far as ticks go, I've had the best luck with tea tree oil. Honestly, it's not the most pleasant scent (and not the worst either), but it beats the heck out of Lyme Disease. I made a spray with 10 drops of tea tree and 3 drops of lemon essential oil in a small spray bottle. It seemed to help. But, ticks take a day to actually burrow into your skin. A shower ever evening after being outside should, in theory, just rinse the ticks away before they get a chance to dig their heads under your skin. Hope that helps, Cat
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