Self-Sufficient~ Starting Right Where You’re At
If this spring has taught me anything at all, its that I was not prepared or self-sufficient enough. So, in many ways this crisis has been somewhat beneficial. My husband and I both come from very rural backgrounds and we currently live on 4th generation land of my husband’s family in rural central U.S. But quite frankly, we had been slacking.
Life had gotten crazy busy around here, with 4 kids under 9, whom we also homeschool. I stay at home but my husband has to work away from home for our one-income lifestyle. Though I run an online blog, it doesn’t pay the bills but instead provides most of our homeschooling materials for free (which is a huge benefit nonetheless). We had been planting less and less, harvesting less wild foods and overall relying on the grocery store more. Honestly, this was highly short-sighted of us!
How to become more self-sufficient a little at a time…
However, in life we often get second chances or a wake-up call if you will and this spring was that for us. Where we live grocery stores are not near (at least an hour away for the larger ones) and the closer small ones quickly became quite bare. Thankfully, while we had not been practicing much self-sufficiency we did know what could be done to better our situation immediately.
First, we began to “stockpile” certain non-perishable goods. Now, I do not mean we bought 40 cases of toilet paper or hoarded goods. We have a family of 6! We eat ALOT of food here! So, we began buying large multi-pound bags of dry beans, brown rice, popcorn, wheat berries and oats. Honestly, these things were the last to run out locally because most people were more interested in buying pre-packaged foods. Thankfully we were already making 90% of our foods from scratch so this wasn’t a stretch for us!
I also began to bake more homemade breads and made a new sourdough starter. We began eating sourdough everything, from pizza crust to baked pancakes. It was delicious, healthy and I didn’t have to worry about not having the ability to buy milk which helped us become more self-sufficient
One Self-sufficient step at a time:
Where we live we have mostly wooded area but about an acre is cleared for our yard and outbuildings. Our garden spot is raised beds which we are now in the process of expanding. This spring we planted pole beans, potatoes, green onions, strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Our strawberry harvest was surprisingly good for a first year crop and we are looking to expand it again next year until we have at least 6 raised beds of strawberries. We did not harvest enough to put up however we were blessed with another creative solution. Our local grocery store advertised strawberries for 99 cents a pound. I called and asked them if they would sell 50 pounds to me. They were happy to do so and allowed us to pick the flats we wanted at a fantastic price. I made jam, syrups and froze gallons of fresh, delicious berries. I plan on doing the same thing with all other fruits and veggies as they come in season that I’m not able to raise or buy at a farmer’s market.
We have always hunted for fresh venison and turkey. This Spring, however we made the decision to buy a high-quality meat grinder so that this winter we can kill and process a year’s supply of meat. Our plan is to buy quality beef locally to mix with the venison as ground meat and sausages. Our family also splurged on an American Canner so that we could can outside on propane AND can two batches of meats at once (I currently have a Presto I use indoors). The plan is to can a huge portion of our meat so we don’t have to rely on freezer space or power exclusively.
Another thing we have done for several years now was grind our own wheat berries for flour. So, we decided a good purchase would be a manual Country Living Grain Mill (from Pleasant Hill Grains). It can be motorized or used manually (or even hooked to a stationary bicycle). It was a bit more expensive, however it is guaranteed for LIFE! We’re keeping 100 pounds of wheat berries in the freezer at once so we have plenty in-case there is a shortage (like this spring).
Changing our thought patterns…
I think the biggest change is in our mindset. We had grown very dependent on frequent shopping and really had no plans to expand our current gardens or independence. Now, we see that is VERY shortsighted and are taking daily steps to fix that! We won’t be to our ultimate goal of food independence by the end of this year but we are MANY steps closer than we were. And I think ultimately that is a huge success. Often we think if we can’t go 100% into something then its not worth going at all, but that simply isn’t true. If we can start and take one step forward, then we are closer to a goal instead of going backwards or staying at stalemate.
So, what can you do to become more self-sufficient? Can you learn to produce, process and consume your own foods? Can you start to stockpile things that will get used by your family that you personally can’t produce? Can you learn to live a different, less consumer driven lifestyle? If so, then start slowly working towards these things. Take baby steps and feel the immense pride that comes from knowing you are responsible for YOU!