“No man is an island, entire of itself.” John Donne
What is Self Sufficiency?
In the purest sense of the term, self sufficiency means the ability to survive on only that which you are able to gather, grow, make, or raise on your own. The thought of self sufficiency conjures images of weather worn pioneers plowing swathes of prairie to plant grain, chopping firewood by axe, and stowing root vegetables in a cellar for the winter. In truth, even the pioneers were not truly self sufficient. They brought tools with them from back home, bartered or bought goods from homesteads nearby, or traveled to the closest general store for supplies. Still, they were much more self sufficient than we are today.
Our society has become so dependent on the grocery store, big box stores, and the world economy, that most of us could not survive for long if our supply network broke down. The number of people who know how to garden, preserve food, raise livestock, and hunt has dwindled over the last 50 to 100 years. We don’t really need to know how to do these things anymore, because we can buy whatever we want, charge it on a credit card and forget the cost to the environment and our sense of self worth.
So what can be done about all this? Most people won’t do anything. They will continue to live a plastic, throw-away existence, never knowing anything different. The important question is, what will you do about it? Are you tired of relying on the store for everything you need? Do you long to return to a more simple lifestyle? If so, keep reading.
The first step is to stop purchasing stuff. Oh, I don’t mean you need to go cold turkey and live in a cave. Just stop buying meaningless junk. Really think about your purchases. Do you need to buy new clothes, a new car, that awesome lap top, or the latest thing-a-ma-bob advertised on those late night infomercials? Can you make do without them? Before you buy, really consider whether you need it or just want it. If you need it, try to find the best quality product…not just some cheap junk that will fall apart in a year. Buy the best quality you can afford so it will last. What I’m getting at is, kick the addiction to a throwaway lifestyle.
The next step is to look at your living situation and ask yourself what you can do for yourself. Is there room for a garden in your yard? Maybe you could plant a few fruits and berries instead of the ornamental shrubs and trees you see in every subdivision yard. Or maybe you can plant a few containers of tomatoes and lettuce on the balcony to your apartment. If there is a community garden nearby, you might be able to rent a space to grow produce and get to know other gardeners.
Can you keep chickens, goats, or other livestock? Even apartment dwellers might have the option of keeping beehives on a rooftop in the city. For those things that you can’t raise yourself, look into local food sources. Is there a local farmers market that offers produce, honey, eggs, fiber, and meat? This is definitely better than buying honey from China and eggs from the industrial laying houses. If you know how, hunting is another option for procuring your own meat from wild sources, and foraging can be a great way to find nutrient dense greens and fruits. Learn to cook more of your meals from whole foods, and ditch the ‘take out’ mentality. Look for other people in your area who are interested in the same lifestyle and get to know them. You might be surprised at what resources they have found and are willing to share. Having a back up community surrounding you is a very comforting and educational experience.
Becoming more self sufficient doesn’t mean that you need to quit your job, move to the mountains, and live in a shack. That might get old real fast and you would find yourself dreaming of burgers and fries pretty quick. It’s important to make small, reasonable changes in your life and keep at it until those changes become second nature to you. If you start buying the raw ingredients to make your own wholesome foods and this takes the place of buying white bread and Twinkies, you have made a step toward self sufficiency.
Some of you may very well want to take additional steps toward self sufficiency. Of course, there are many more skills you can learn and steps you can take toward this goal. My goal in developing this blog is to help others find their way along the path of self sufficiency. I hope that you are encouraged by my experiences and you will follow along on my adventures.