Country-Style Living: 8 Ways to Increase Self-Sufficiency
There’s something special about every step we take toward self-sufficiency. And if you happen to have a reasonable parcel of land, and are willing to work hard, you can go a long way towards it. How far can you go? For most of us, it’s a matter of doing things that help us to need less from the outside world rather than being able to do without it altogether. After all, we all have medical needs from time to time, and gas isn’t the kind of thing you can produce in your backyard. Nevertheless, we can reduce our dependence on society substantially with a few simple additions.
1. Go Solar
Sick of an unreliable grid and rising energy costs? Going solar is a big step towards self-sufficiency. Look for solar companies in your area. Solar installers in Iowa, for example, will know local conditions and will be able to give you the best advice for going off the grid. You can expect your installation to last for 20 to 30 years, but storage will be an additional expense if you really want to cut ties with your utility company. However, if you live in a remote area, it’s probably worth the investment. Ever noticed how your utility issues take ages to get repaired?
2. Grow Your Own Food
Do you have unproductive land? It takes surprisingly little space to grow at least some of your own food using sustainable gardening principles. Most people opt for greens, root crops, legumes, and fruit crops like tomatoes and squash. But your starch can also be home-grown, at least, for some years. Potatoes are actually quite easy to grow and store well. Grains are somewhat harder work since you will have to thresh and grind your own flour, but if you have the space and the time, it can be worth a try. Thank goodness, you don’t have to do everything by hand unless you’re an absolute purist.
3. Preserve Produce and Save Seeds
If you’re successful at growing crops, you’ll be able to preserve much of what you can’t eat in season. Some types of products have a long storage life and just need to be stored well. Pumpkins, for example, can last up to four months, and potatoes can hold up to six months. Dried beans (the kind where you eat only the seeds) and dried peas will last for a year, and possibly even more. Other crops will need a little more help: pickling, canning, dehydrating, and fermenting are all ways to get more out of your produce, and there’s always freezing to fall back on.
Seed saving will reduce or even eliminate the cost of buying new seeds every season. To be successful, choose open-pollinated and heritage varieties that run true across generations. Store your dried seeds in airtight containers to help preserve viability.
4. Harvest Rainwater
Water is a big limiting factor in becoming self-sufficient, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can harvest from every roof on your property. Guttering leading to properly sealed rainwater tanks gives you a reservoir of (reasonably) clean water that only needs filtration and boiling to be as good or better than anything you can get from a utility. Even if you don’t use rainwater for your potable water supply, it’s great as washing or irrigation water. Unless gravity is on your side, you’ll probably need a booster pump to get good water pressure, but you can get solar pumps for the job. Country-Style Living: 8 Ways to Increase Self-Sufficiency
5. Ditch a Few Appliances
Washing your own dishes in the kitchen sink or hanging your washing out to dry in the sun is actually not all that time-consuming. You’ll love the clean, fresh smell of air-dried washing – somehow driers just can’t compare. With two appliances off your list of “necessities,” you’re already more self-sufficient than you were.
Try a few other tasks the old-fashioned way. Hand-washing laundry (this is going to be controversial) doesn’t actually take that much time. Try it and see for yourself. Most items just need squishing through soapy water and squishing in clean water until it runs clear. The only nasty part of the job is squeezing out the washing. It can be a bit of a strain on the wrists!
6. Raise Chickens
Most people are at least a bit squeamish about slaughtering their own meat, but chickens will provide you with eggs as a source of animal protein. Predators, including dogs, will be among your biggest problems. A secure chicken run with roosting boxes and a concrete footing that blocks predators willing to dig their way in will help to mitigate the issue – and it will be easier to find those eggs! Chickens are pretty smart at hiding them when they’re free-ranging. If you’re within city limits, check what bylaws allow. Most US cities forbid roosters and limit the number of chickens you can keep. Country-Style Living: 8 Ways to Increase Self-Sufficiency
7. Not up for a Cow? Goats are Easier
Definitely not for the urban farmer, goats are a good investment for those with good pasture and a craving for dairy products. They’re a lot easier to keep than cows, but you’ll still have to manage your pasture. Goat cheese is actually very easy to make and could serve as an extra source of income for your homestead. As for goat’s milk – one gets used to it! Additional responsibilities will include having very good fencing and a safe barn or shed where your goats can sleep at night. From time to time, you will need help from a veterinarian.
8. Turn Some of Your Produce Into Cash or Trade Goods
At some point, you’re absolutely going to want things you can only buy for cash. So even if you’re quite serious about being as self-sufficient as possible, getting cash from some of your products are going to be a help. If you’re still happy to hold down a job, a few extra dollars earned from your homestead won’t go amiss. There are people who will love your product just because it’s homestead-grown and artisanal. Find out about farmers’ markets in your areas and consider upping production on certain types of produce.
Do you have like-minded neighbors? A bit of bartering could be just the thing when you both have surplus items to trade. It’s the oldest form of commerce, and it can be quite a lot of fun. Country-Style Living: 8 Ways to Increase Self-Sufficiency
True Self-Sufficiency is Rare: Stick to the Simple Life
I’ve met a lot of people who are into self-sufficiency, but none of them is completely independent. Even the one who comes closest has to hitch rides to get into town, needs doctors and dentists, and buys items he can’t produce. Self-sufficient? Not really! The truth is that we’re a social species and need each other to live well, even when we can theoretically survive on our own.
Simple living and the ability to “stand alone” or need less outside input in certain areas can be a pleasure. Allow your family to enjoy some modern comforts; enjoy a good relationship with society. But feel rewarded when most of the food on your table comes from your own homestead, or you find an “old” way of doing things that’s really better for you.
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Country-Style Living: 8 Ways to Increase Self-Sufficiency