Tips For Living A Life Of Self-Sufficiency

on March 25, 2016
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self-sufficiency

Quick, what are the first things to come to mind when you think of self-sufficiency?  I asked my husband this question and his thoughts were the same as mine. We both thought of being off-grid, producing the majority of our food, and having a reliable water source.  What were your first thoughts?

I was born into a self-sufficient, farming family. My grandparents were the single most influential people in my life. I realize now, I took so much for granted. I didn’t pay enough attention to what they wanted to teach me. I’m thankful to have learned most everything I know about self-sufficiency from them, but I have had to learn some things the hard way because of youth’s folly.  Those are all precious memories to me, especially the older I get.

Today, homesteading is not just a way of life, for many it’s more like a movement. You hear words like freedom, security, and simple living when you  hear someone talking about starting their homesteading journey. I’m thankful to have been able to live this life to varying degrees for over 50 years.  In these uncertain times, more and more people are moving away from cities and seeking a new start in rural areas. 

For those who practice self-sufficiency, not much would change is suddenly the power grid goes down, or the dollar crashes.  With the help  of friends and family, we’d be able to continue living the self-sufficient homesteading life we love so much. There are also some tools and skills necessary to living a life of self-sufficiency.

Manual kitchen tools

Having a quality set of knives is a must for any homemaker. It’s easy to purchase cheap knives, but you’ll find frequent replacement of them becomes costly. The time and energy you’ll save in keeping them sharp and replacing them will more than make up for the extra cost of purchasing a good set of knives. I have two knives my grandmother used. I use them every day. They were of good quality, obviously, because I still use them. I can’t even remember the last time they had to be sharpened.

A hand power mixer is a must for me. I remember helping Granny make pies and cakes using hers. I felt like a big girl turning the handle of her hand powered mixer. When we lived on the grid, I used my Kitchen Aid almost every day. I have some off grid friends who have solar power and they still use their electric when the sun allows. Maybe I’ll get one again when we have our solar system in place, but I’ll always have hand powered kitchen tools because you never know.

My husband bought me one of my favorite tools around 10 years ago, a Borner slicer. It’s saved me hundreds of hours of labor when processing all kinds of produce. There are several cheaper brands, but you can see from the photo that after all these years of use, it looks and functions as good as new. This tool has paid for itself many times over. Electricity or nor, I’ll always have this tool.

While there is something nostalgic about a stove top percolator, we find it a most useful tool for self-sufficiency. It can be used over all types of power sources so we never have to miss a cup of coffee! We use it on our wood stove, an open fire, and the Coleman camping stove.

The sense of smell is the sense most strongly tied to memory. Those in the medical field say it’s the last sense to go.  The smell of coffee percolating and bacon frying makes me feel I’ll open my eyes and be waking up in my grandmother’s house. 

Skills for self-sufficiency

Don’t wait until it’s down to the wire to learn some basic skills for self-sufficiency. If you’re planning on moving to a homestead one day, take the time now to learn some of the skills you’ll need. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

I learned to cook from scratch from my grandmother. It’s probably the skill I appreciate most. Nothing says lovin’ like a home cooked meal. From scratch cooking allows me the satisfaction of knowing what’s in the food I’m presenting my loved ones with. The symbiotic relationship between the nutritional needs of the human body and seasonal foods available is no coincidence.

self-sufficiency

There’s an old saying, “The better the ingredients, the better the meal.” The truth of this statement makes organic gardening a must for us. Although I’ve been gardening since I was able to walk, I’m constantly reading and learning. There’s a great learning curve for me now since we made a move last year (November 2015) from the deep south to the wilderness of the Idaho panhandle. Yep, that’s from a zone 8 to a zone 6/5; from pretty much gardening year around to a 90-100 day growing season. So see, you’re never too old to learn and we never learn everything.

The first thing I always advise someone who asks me about getting started in homesteading to do is find an old timer in your area. They are most always willing to share their years of experience. I take advantage of every opportunity to sit down with one and soak up anything they want to share with me.

There are so many skills they had, oh my heart aches with what I’ll never know that my grandparents knew! They not only knew to harvest at a certain time of the year, but also certain times of the day. This allowed them to take advantage of optimal taste and nutrition of certain foods, especially foraged foods. There’s so much to learn, I know I’ll be learning for as long as I live.

Raising chickens for eggs and meat is a mainstay for any homesteader seeking self-sufficiency. The skills required to raise a healthy, thriving herd of animals or flock of poultry is necessary to successful homesteading. This past year, our nation experienced an egg shortage due to the loss of egg layers to the bird-flu. Egg prices went through the roof and stores limited the number you could purchase. Now the crisis is apparently over, egg prices are not coming back down. Those of us who had our own flocks were totally unaffected by this dilemma. 

self-sufficiency

Restoring life to the soil is something many homesteaders have to deal with. The homestead herds and flocks play a vital role in aerating and feeding the land. Animal husbandry skills, including butchering, also produce things like eggs, butter, wool, meat, and other of life’s necessities. Can you still make it if your local grocer quit selling the staples of life? Or are you of the mindset to able to live without some things?

Food preservation is a skill which goes hand in hand with gardening and animal husbandry. Granny always said, “Waste not, want not!” Letting something waste in the garden or of what we’ve butchered is unthinkable. Although some things in the garden slip by me, they are not wasted. We feed them to the chickens, cows, pigs, or compost pile. It gets recycled in some way.

I can remember asking Papa why he planted so much when the pantry was full from last year. His answer struck me and stays in my mind all these years later. He said, “You never know what will happen with this year’s crop. You don’t want to use up all you have and then find out you can’t replace it or you don’t have seeds enough for another year. No, It’s better to have to much and be able to share, than to have to little and be in want. Do all you can and leave the rest to God.”

Learning to dehydrate, pressure can, and smoke your food can help ensure you won’t starve when you run into lean times.  Many people depend on their freezer to preserve foods. I am not one of them.  I don’t have a freezer. In the past, I’ve lost many foods stored in the freezer because of extended power outages. No, it only takes a little effort, to learn to dehydrate and can your foods. The shelf life of properly dehydrated food is indeterminate. We are still eating foods dehydrated in 2009! Once re-hydrated, they taste like just picked, really!  The only food I still pressure can is tomatoes and meat. Many people dehydrate tomatoes and meat, but I just love the look and taste of canned tomatoes. It’s probably from warm childhood memories.

Living a life of self-sufficiency is about acquiring the skills which enable us to live a natural, healthy lifestyle. It’s the most satisfying way to live for us. It’s who we are which makes it what we do.

Don’t be afraid or overwhelmed to begin your own journey to self-sufficiency. Set your goals, prioritize them, and take small steps to achieve them. Remember, homesteading for self-sufficiency isn’t a destination, it’s a journey! You’ll never have a time when everything is done, the work is part of the joy of the journey. Relax and enjoy it!

Do you have tips for living a life of self-sufficiency? Share them with us in the comments! 

Safe and Happy Journey,

Rhonda and The Pack

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8 Comments

  • karen

    Good advice. I didn’t grow up knowing how to do any of the things we would consider ‘self-sufficient’ today. I started teaching myself these things as I grew, starting with making jams. I now grow much of my own food, keep backyard chickens, dehydrate, freeze, and can some things. When Hurricane Isabel blew through our area about 12 years ago, we lost power for two weeks. Thats when I really started getting intentional about learning how do many things for ourselves. I know many people thing I am crazy for all the ‘extra work’ I make for myself but I just keep keeping on! This year, I plan on growing many varieties of dried beans, things we eat all winter long. I ordered my seed from ‘Bakers Seed’ because they seemed to have the best selection. I don’t can many items anymore because I feel dehydrated/dried food preserves more of the nutritional value. I also know that if for some reason I had to move my food storage quickly, I could do that easier then if I was trying to haul jars. I keep a freezer full but I don’t stock it with expensive meats. Something I am going to try this year is preserving my eggs for the winter. Around September, I am going to put aside extra eggs for the winter. The thought of eating eggs from the grocer is gross to me. Have you tried this and did it work for you?

    March 31, 2016 at 7:05 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      I’ve never preserved eggs, other than pickling for pure enjoyment. We eat so many I’ve not had cause too. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. If you preserve the eggs, let me know how it goes for you.

      March 31, 2016 at 7:56 am Reply
  • Scott

    I live in the suburbs of Houston but can’t wait to get back to the farm. I also learned so much from my grandparents in south Texas growing up: making soap, gardening, raising chickens, etc. but thought this was old fashioned. How foolish! I miss them so much but am grateful for all I remember and will put to use one day. I am practicing with 34 fruit trees on my small lot. Neighbors think I’m crazy, but you are absolutely right when you say we need to be prepared for whatever may come!

    April 3, 2016 at 5:45 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      I’m glad to know you have great memories and learned from your grandparents, Scott. 34 Fruit trees! Wow, now that’s an orchard! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and plans with me.

      April 4, 2016 at 10:27 am Reply
  • Gary Bamford

    I’ve had a croft since 2006 never had new things. I farm the old way take the weather. I always use the moon and nature. We get it very cold on the mountains in winter and can manage very well. I make most things myself. I’ve been smoking food for quite some time. My main income comes from the chickens as I hatch very early in January and use a wood burner to brood. I’ve just got some layers that will lay in excess of 300 eggs a season. I do keep up with The Farmers Lamp. All the best .

    June 30, 2016 at 9:51 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      Gary, Thank you so much for letting us hear from you. It sounds like you have an amazingly self-sufficient lifestyle. I’m so happy for you. Please keep in touch and let us know how things are for you. Thank you for being part of TFL Community.

      June 30, 2016 at 1:16 pm Reply
  • Laurel Chaykowski

    We just moved out to the country five years ago after my living for over 30 years in the city. I did grow up a farm girl, though, so I remembered a lot of what I’d learned. Of the many new things that I learned since moving out here are how many wild plants are edible and how to use them. I’m continually learning about this and experimenting with different recipes. I make dandelion fritters, dandelion crepes, lamb’s quarters with garlic. I’ve also learned how to make farmers’ cheese and poor man’s capers. I’ve learned that we can eat sweet potato greens, pumpkin leaves and all parts of the sunflower. Sometimes the things I learn make me almost giggle with happiness. I make my own bread, sew my own clothing and even make rudimentary shoes out of old tires. Add to that soap, body spray and deodorant making. All this in only five years. Not that I’m super smart or anything but once you truly commit to learning to be self-sufficient, the sky’s the limit.

    July 1, 2016 at 8:41 am Reply
    • Rhonda Crank

      Wow! You are having an excellent time! I’m so happy you shared with us. I too am always learning, especially about foraging. If we get to the place we can’t learn, we’re in trouble! Keep up the good work and let us know what new adventures you get up to!

      July 2, 2016 at 1:04 pm Reply

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