I dream of making my little homestead into a closed-loop system. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. Now that would be self-sufficiency.
Alas, there are things I can’t produce or grow here. For example, its much too cloudy in the winter for solar panels. The climate won’t allow me to grow all my food (this family comes close). I need a car to drive to town sometimes. I’m not in a position to produce textiles and wearing skins and beaver fur is out of the question.
Also, a closed-loop system would require more than one person doing productive work! Might be do-able with a large family like the Duggars (83 Kids and Counting) or in a small community (like these ones).
The idea of self-sufficiency appeals to those of us who are rebelliously independent and would walk 10 miles before asking for help. The ones who don’t take orders well and like to design our own playgrounds. Those who see there’s a better way and are dang-well going to do it that way, even if it takes me longer, costs me some bruises, and makes the other girls think I’m weird…erm… unconventional.
You don’t need to live in the country to be more self-sufficient. These ideas work for city-folk too. The Dervaes family, who live on a small city lot smack-dab in the middle of Pasadena, are leaders in sustainability and self-reliance.
12 ways to fulfill the need for autonomy:
1. Grow your own food. ‘Nuf said.
2. Preserve the harvest. Can it. Dehydrate it. Freeze it.
3. Forage for wild foods. Research local wild plants and find out which ones are edible. Here’s a sampling.
4. Get off the grid or just use less power. Produce your own electricity. Collect rainwater. Get a composting toilet. In some areas of the world you can collect free firewood. Make your home as energy efficient as possible – insulate properly and seal drafts. If no one is in the room, turn off the light! Air dry clothes. Plug your electronics into a power bar and turn it off when you’re done– all those little ‘On’ lights use power. If you are super-self-sufficient you could even produce your own beeswax and make candles! No electric lights needed.
5. Reuse. A little imagination leads to greater self-sufficiency. A bicycle wheel becomes an overhead pot rack. Stacked magazines and an old belt become a chair. Bent cutlery becomes a key holder. Newspapers become seedling pots. A tennis racket becomes a jewelry hanger. Horseshoes become handles. The old school bus becomes a chicken coop. Wooden pallets become….just about anything. The wood from a decrepit old shanty in the forest next to my property will become the walls in the unfinished room in my house.
Clean it up, sand it, stain it. It becomes my new walls.
6. Fix it or clean it. Learn skills. Sharpen your tools. Replace the screen on the door. Sew the hole in the pants. Apply a fresh coat of paint. Glue the sole back on the shoe. The internet and the library are abundant with DIY instructions for fixing just about everything. Thanks to Youtube I was able to fix a plumbing leak myself.
7. Do without. Do I really need that???? For tips on becoming a non-consumer check out The Non-Consumer Advocate.
8. Make your own. It only takes simple ingredients to make cleaning products (baking soda, vinegar) and personal care products (aloe vera gel, shea butter, cornstarch). Although you have to purchase raw ingredients, in the long run, they will be cheaper and last longer. I made my own dryer balls from an old wool sweater (its gotta be 100% wool – no sythetics).
Unravel & cut up the sweaters, roll the pieces tight into balls, tie some knots to keep them together, stick them in the dryer. Voila! Free dryer balls.
9. Be frugal. Buy second-hand clothes, furniture, kitchen gadgets, hand tools, toys, housewares, and electronics. My TV, which is only used to watch movies anyways, cost $15 (its dang heavy but was good exercise to get it in the house). My DVD player was $5. Borrow books, CDs, and movies from the library. I like to avoid malls, big box stores, chain stores, franchises, and boutiques. That way there is no temptation. I once heard an Amish woman who was taken through a mall for the first time, say, “I was fine before I came in here but seeing all this stuff makes me think I need it.”
10. Stay healthy. You can’t be self-sufficient if you are sick or injured. Stay safe – use mechanical equipment and tools safely. Eat well – avoid junk food. Stretch everyday – your joints will thank you. Brush. Floss.
11. Walk, bike, or ride your horse. Isn’t it time for the hitching post to come back into style? There are times that living off-grid means living far from town but if you can, use your legs instead of a car. You won’t need as much money for gas, insurance, or maintenance. For me, the nearest village is a 35-minute bike ride or a 1.5 hour walk. When I plan it right and I’ve got the time, I can do my grocery shopping at the village store (they sell local veggies!), get clothes at the second-hand/donation store, get pet food at the farm supply, and carry my recycling to the bins there. I fitted my bike with an old milk crate for transporting stuff.
My bike on the trail into town. Milk crate is strapped on using metal tie straps.
12. Go paperless. Replace paper towels with rags made from old clothes or towels. Replace toilet paper with a bidet attachment. I installed Astor Deluxe Bidet purchased from Amazon.
Self-sufficiency, frugality, and green living go hand in hand. Mother Nature and your pocket book will love you. Plus, the huge sense of self-satisfaction that accrues from self-sufficiency is fantastic for mental health!
May the independence be with you, oh, rebellious ones!