TOPIC: SELF-RELIANCE FROM A SUSTAINABLE PERSPECTIVE
When we think about self-reliance and off-grid living, most people think about solar panels and wind turbines. Yet, true self-reliance is more nuanced and goes much deeper than the corporate version of sustainability.
Authentic sustainability has to do with individuals, families, and communities being resilient. Not only are such people able to subsist in the absence of modern amenities, but they are actually able to thrive, independent of government or corporate provisional oversight.
Let’s talk about how we too, can become authentically resilient and self-reliant.
1. Build Your Community
During good times and difficult ones, it is important to keep your community close. There is power in numbers. Having a reliable circle of neighbors, friends, and family can be the difference between life and death, thriving and barely scraping by.
In the modern world, we’ve become more disconnected from one another. Social media and the online arena are poor substitutes for real relationships. Though we can use social media to connect with others, even over vast distances, we should also seek to build in-person connections too.
Being sustainably self-reliant means you and your family are provided for, independent of outside supply systems. The reason this is important is that heaven forbid there is a grid down situation, regional conflict, or a natural disaster. Our online friends won’t be able to help. We will need to rely upon our local and in-person friends.
Common sense tells us that it’s good to be prepared. Part of being self-reliant involves having an emergency plan. During natural disasters, government authorities and emergency service providers may be unavailable for prolonged periods of time. Yet, if you’re prepared and have your own emergency equipment, you’ll be able to not only help yourself but your neighbors also.
Find like-minded people within your own community who are open to planning for the future. Build relationships with your neighbors and local business owners. Be friendly and open to conversation with strangers. You never know who you’ll meet, and what wonderful friendships can arise out of a chance encounter!
Ever seen a store during a Black Friday sales event? If we ever encounter a run on local grocery stores, they are the last place you would want to be to get food.
Ideally, you want to already be stocked up and have good relationships with your local farmers. Knowing which farmers have the types of food you regularly eat, in advance, could be a saving grace in difficult times. Plus, you are helping your local farmers stay in business.
Neighbors and friends are a great place to start. Keep your cash at home and find out what your community has to offer. For instance, you might know someone that would be more than happy to teach you how to play the piano in exchange for a regular delivery of your delicious homegrown tomatoes. The more skills you possess, the more valuable you will become to your community, and in turn, the more you will have to barter with.
2. Have Your Own Sources of Food and Water
Being able to eat and drink is the foundation of sustainable self-reliance. Here are a few different ways to diversify your food resources.
Many of us remember our grandma’s wonderful “victory garden”. This older generation survived war, the great depression, and made it through hard times because they were resourceful. Many of them kept robust gardens.
We need to revive this old practice, as it appears that hard times are returning. In order to be more resilient, we can produce much of what we need and consume right from our own yard.
They say the best time to plant a fruit tree was 20 years ago, but the second-best time to plant is now. Fruit trees are a low-maintenance way to ensure that you and your family will always have plenty of food to eat. The time will go by anyway, so we might as well plant a few fruit trees.
Meat, especially organ meat, is some of the most nutrient-dense food there is. Liver, for instance, has nearly every nutrient the body needs; it even has vitamin C! Having your own livestock animals is the most surefire way to keep your family well-fed during times of scarcity. Animals like chickens, cows, sheep, and even bees, are a great long-term food investment.
Water is life. Digging a well can be expensive, but if you have the funds, it’s a smart investment in the future of your family farm. Even if the tap turns off, you’ll still have your own source of water.
Similarly, if you have the resources to dig a pond, it’s well worth it. A well-made pond can help alleviate drought, keep your garden and livestock hydrated, and it can be a source of food also. If your pond is deep enough, it can be stocked with fish.
3. Become a Kitchen Master
Now is a fabulous time to learn the basics of food gathering, preparation, and preservation. Here are a few considerations.
The most nutritious food you’ll likely ever eat comes right from your very own kitchen. When we cook from scratch, there are no food preservatives, added fillers, or artificial flavors. We get to enjoy clean, real food. Best of all, home-cooked meals are often more flavorful and delicious than commercially prepared food. You’ll know what’s going into your meals and you’ll have the pleasure of knowing you’ve incorporated quality ingredients. Therefore, learning how to prepare your favorite dishes at home is a great place to start.
In the West, the way we dine out and eat convenience food is changing. Restaurants are increasingly dealing with food and supply shortages, while the wholesale cost of food is going up. Even worse, many people are finding that they simply can’t afford to eat out as often as they would like to, due to inflation and other financial constraints.
On top of everything else, food manufacturers and suppliers are pushing the use of GMOs and highly processed food products. With all this in mind, taking the time to learn how to cook at home will set the foundation for your family’s optimal dietary health, which they will increasingly appreciate in the years to come.
Being able to preserve your own food is probably one of the most important skills to have. Gardening can be labor intensive, so we want to capture all that energy input and store it away for when we’ll need it most.
Food preservation can seem overwhelming, so start small. Pick one food item you would like to preserve. On a day off, take your time, and learn how to preserve something basic. Once you are successful, this little achievement will build your confidence for attempting other home-preserving projects.
To learn more about preserving food, read our article called “Preserving Orchard Fruit”.
Most of us are used to going to the grocery store once or twice a week, and we have very little stored in our home pantries. We waste and consume more car gas when we shop this frequently, plus shopping takes up more of our valuable time.
Our modern practice of frequent grocery shopping stems from the fact that we take things for granted. Subconsciously, we believe that food will always be plentiful, and we treat our local grocery store like a communal pantry. Decades of food abundance have created a false sense of security. More than ever, we have become complacent and increasingly reliant upon centralized food systems.
Having an extensive home pantry is one step we can take to become more self-reliant and food secure. When we create space in our lives for a large home pantry, we can more readily take advantage of grocery store sales and promotions. We can also store away all the produce our own land provides for free! Ideally, it’s a good idea to have 3 or more months of food on hand at any given time.
By being well-stocked at home, we can learn more about what we habitually buy and consume. This practice also teaches us to think ahead and will save us money in the long run…which frees up funds we can spend elsewhere on the homestead.
4. Wean Yourself Off of Corporate Consumerism
In our modern society, we have essentially become domesticated and co-dependent upon corporate governance. Few of us know how to “survive in the wild”. The first step to becoming self-reliant involves relearning how to be “wild”.
The satisfaction of doing your own home improvement projects is immense. As “Do It Yourself” types, we’ve learned the joy and freedom of fixing things around the home and farm.
- Know the Basics of Construction – Teach yourself how to use a hammer, drill, level, and tape measurer. Basic construction skills come in handy all the time, and it sure beats hiring someone else to do the work. You’ll save thousands of dollars (or Euros) and a lot of time.
- Learn How to Make Your Own Soap and Bath Products – Like preserving, soap-making can seem daunting at first, but it’s really quite easy once you get the hang of it. Once you’ve tried your own soap, you’ll never be tempted to buy commercially made soaps again.
Instead of hiring a specialist or technician, try to learn the skills you’ll regularly need. If you do hire a tradesman, be involved, and learn as much as you can from them as they provide their services in your home.
Here are a few trades every self-reliant person should know:
- Car Mechanics – Basic things like changing tires, replacing brakes, and being able to change your car’s oil are a good start.
- Learn the Basics of First Aid – Knowing how to stabilize and take care of a sick or injured person is an essential skill everyone should possess. This also includes gaining knowledge of botanical remedies and medicines. Medical equipment and supplies for such purposes should also be kept on hand.
- Take a Sewing Class – Knowing how to mend and sew your own clothes will make you more self-reliant. Knitting and crocheting are also useful skills.
A good example of this is paper towels. We waste so much by using paper napkins and paper towels. Instead, we should be using washable hand towels and cloth napkins if we want to be more sustainable and self-reliant.
5. Learn the Old Ways
Our ancestors have a lot of wisdom to share, if we offer our ears to listen. In many ways, our ancestors were more sustainable than we are today, and long before there was a term for it. Additionally, ancient or antique technology is fast disappearing. The more we commit ourselves to learning the old ways, the more this valuable knowledge will be preserved.
So how did our ancestors survive and thrive in a world without modern amenities? Well, they pretty much did everything themselves. The more we can emulate this lifestyle the more self-reliant and “off-grid” will truly be.
Additionally, teaching our kids how to live this way will ensure that they are always well-fed and are able to survive, no matter what’s happening in the world.
Make time to regularly hunt, trap, and fish. These skills often come with a steep learning curve, and the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Part of being self-reliant involves having full autonomy over your energy needs. Keep a few cords of wood on hand at any given time. A wood stove will not only provide warmth but is a useful way to prepare food.
Own a dog or two. Larger dogs are a great protective resource for on-site security. They will benefit you and your family in countless ways. Plus, they are lovable, reduce stress, and promote longevity. Additionally, dogs can be utilized to manage livestock and they can assist with hunting activities.
Cats too, are a great ally in self-reliance. Not only do they cut down on rodent and pest populations (which can harbor disease), but they are wonderful companions too. There’s a reason our ancestors have always kept these elegant creatures around.
As people seeking self-reliance, we want to learn how to gather our own food and resources. Mother nature is overflowing with abundance and foraging is a great way to capture some of her resources. However, foraging takes many years and a lot of research to master. It’s one of those skills that need to be learned over time. Here are a few great books to get started: ‘The Forager’s Harvest’, Nature’s Garden’, and ‘Incredible Wild Edibles’, all by Samuel Thayer.
Being self-reliant is a mindset and way of life. It’s not something that can be learned or adopted overnight. Learning how to be self-reliant takes time, often requires many attempts to master, and vital skills are gained through necessity. There is a definite acclimation or adjustment period. From year to year, self-reliant persons learn what works and what doesn’t, from trial and error…and a little help from great friends who may be more experienced.
We hope you’ll join us on our journey, as we seek to become more and more self-reliant. I can tell you, so far, this road to self-reliance has been a rewarding adventure.
The most important details in this text are the five ways to become more self-reliant. These include building a community, having an emergency plan, creating an information network, and mapping out, supporting, and buying from local farms. Building a reliable circle of neighbors, friends, and family can be the difference between life and death, thriving or barely scraping by. Additionally, it is important to have an emergency plan, create an information network, map out, support, and buy from local farms, and be friendly and open to conversation with strangers. The most important details in this text are the steps to self-reliance, such as having good relationships with local farmers, learning how to barter, having own sources of food and water, growing a victory garden, laying the foundations for a thriving orchard, keeping livestock, digging a well, and utilizing ponds.
Taking the time to learn these skills will set the foundation for optimal dietary health. The most important details in this text are the steps to becoming self-reliant and food secure. These include stocking up for the season, weaning off of corporate consumerism, becoming a DIYer, and learning the basics of construction. Stocking up for the season helps us learn more about what we habitually buy and consume, and it also teaches us to think ahead and save money in the long run. Weaning off of corporate consumerism involves relearning how to be “wild” and becoming a DIYer.
To be more resilient, it is important to diversify food and water resources, such as growing a victory garden, laying the foundations for a thriving orchard, keeping livestock, digging a well, and utilizing ponds. Digging a well and pond is a smart investment in the future of a family farm. Become a kitchen master to learn the basics of food gathering, preparation, and preservation. Cooking from scratch is the most nutritious food, and home-cooked meals are often more flavorful and delicious than commercially prepared food. Canning and preserving is an important skill to have, as it can capture all that energy input and store it away for when needed most.
Learn how to make your own soap and bath products, learn new trades, learn the basics of first aid, take a sewing class, recycle, reuse, and avoid wastage, learn the old ways, emulate our ancestors’ lifestyle, hunt, trap, and fish, and make time to regularly hunt, trap, and fish. These activities will help us become more self-reliant and “off-grid” by teaching our kids how to live this way. The most important details in this text are the skills needed to become self-reliant. These include having a wood burning stove as a backup, utilizing pet resources, knowing how to identify plants and harvest directly from nature, and learning to be self-reliant through trial and error. Being self-reliant is a mindset and way of life that takes time, often requires many attempts to master, and vital skills are gained through necessity. Finally, the author encourages readers to join them on their journey to become more self-reliant.