Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Self Sufficiency

I've been thinking about doing a self sufficiency post ever since Zebu and Brooke asked for it but I kind of got hung up on what a misnomer "self sufficiency" is. You see, it's like cooking from scratch, where there are different levels or definitions of what "from scratch" means. Does it mean I buy the meat from the store and the flour and then make something with it? Does it mean I grind the wheat and buy the meat from a neighboring farmer and then make something from it? Does it mean that I grow the wheat and thresh it and grind it *and* raise and butcher the animal and then cook with it? None of us is or probably ever will be "self sufficient" in the true sense, we can only reduce our dependence on the larger economy.

A while back some friends and I listed ways in which we live outside of the economy. I was remarking that our super-plain Amish neighbors can survive because in many ways they have "checked out" of the larger world and created their own sub-economy that allows them to live on the scale they desire. I am fortunate to live where I do so that I can avail myself of their businesses and services; which allows me to live in this twilight zone of somewhere between the "real" world and the Amish sub-culture. Some of the things that I listed:

  1. garden and save seeds

  2. preserve food (I like dehydrating better than any other method)

  3. raise your own meat (especially important with pork. *especially* Chinese pork because it's fed on human waste and is linked to brain tumors)

  4. grind my own wheat. even better to grow your own.

  5. heat with wood and cut what you burn

  6. sew my own clothes

  7. wash on cold and never use a clothes drier

  8. stay out of grocery stores, buy locally at family owned bulk food stores

  9. make my own maple syrup

  10. raise bees for honey

  11. have laying hens

  12. use homemade cleaners

  13. make my own toothpaste (does a better job *and* avoids cancer, what could be better!)

  14. make my own soap

  15. use cloth diapers

  16. use cloth pads for monthly "issues" ;-)

  17. don't buy plastic. I don't store food in plastic because it leaches chemicals into food and especially so if you microwave it

  18. don't own a microwave

  19. cook in cast iron or stainless steel. I'm assuming that everybody knows that aluminum and teflon are bad for you.......

  20. spin the wool from our sheep

  21. cut the men/boy's hair at home

  22. mend clothes

  23. make our own candles

  24. raise/gather the herbs we use medicinally

  25. stay away from doctors when possible

  26. make butter and soft cheeses

  27. don't eat out anything that you can make at home

  28. have milk goats

  29. avoid immunizations. think you're safe now that mercury was removed? think again and read this

Now, some of those aren't so much self sufficiency as they are healthy living, but I threw them out there anyway. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means and some things on the list I have done/or can do but I don't always do, like candle making. I suppose if someone were just starting out I'd say to concentrate on growing your own food and especially meat or find a local source to buy from.

Any questions? ;-)


  1. I really like your post..I tell people all the time that we are so spoiled, that if we lost communications and power, we'd fail. Nobody it seems, knows how to really survive. Everything is instant and disposable. I know only ONE family who grow their own veggies and fruits, brew their own beer, bake their own bread goods, only purchasing milk, eggs and occasional meats, always cook and never to out, never use a clothes dryer, ride to work on bicycles, make their own furniture, make their children's toys, nurse their own babies and make their own babyfood. She sews and knits. He's a biologist who lived with the chimps in Africa, and she's an architect. They live in San Diego.

    How do they do it all? They don't own a television. The biggest time waster in the history of mankind! I still can't bring myself to give mine up! I wish I were more like them. If we lose all conveniences, they've got a sporting chance. I will fail miserably...for self-sufficient I am decidedly NOT.

  2. Awesome post, Paris!

    Yes, there are levels where we are all different from each other in the true sense of self-sufficiency. I think that we all do what we can and try to find ways to do what we can’t. For instance, we don’t have local family-owned bulk food stores here, and we live in town so don’t have an option for having any farm animals to supply us. But, maybe there is a way to buy from someone around us. How blessed are you to live by the Amish! I have been impressed by them for years!

    You inspired me to get oil lamps. I have one, had some mis-haps (have a post on that) and am still looking for replacement chimney, metal turner thing, along with more lamps. Not only are they pretty, but in times of disaster, there you go! That is my thought in a nutshell. When disaster comes, and it will, I want to be stocked up on food, water, clothing, etc. Secondly, I want to, as you put it so well, “reduce our dependence on the larger economy” I want to get away from plastic; I want to recycle; I want to become self sufficient in that our government is becoming more and more controlling. If money is no longer accepted some day, and everyone has to have a stamp on their hand or forehead to buy, well, I want to be able to have the means for my family to survive.

    I would love to keep an ongoing conversation about this with interested readers. More than one brain come up with more was to save, conserve, and help our earth.

    I used your list to measure myself, so here is my non-inclusive list.

    I PLAN ON…


    Saving seeds, but first finding non-sterile seeds. This is scary. There are three companies, I have heard, who now control the seed industry. They are hybrid, which means they can’t reproduce, which means we can’t grow our own food.


    Grow herbs for medicinal and holistic purposes

    When we can afford it, buy organic meat and eggs. (This is a huge concern to me)

    Find a source for farm fresh eggs. (I’m not sure if they would be any more pure. Maybe you can answer that for me…?)

    Purchase a grinder and grind my own wheat

    Wood Barrel Stove (Hubby said we wouldn’t want to burn it in the house, so I guess we could have it in the garage for times of power outages, though it would be great to have an in-home wood burning source. Hmmm….?)

    Install a clothes line

    Continue to shop thrift stores for clothes and other items

    Make homemade cleaners (open to suggestions here). I currently use vinegar-water solution for glass and windows.

    Homemade Toothpaste (Would love that recipe, Paris)!

    Use cloth pads for monthlies (Would love to hear how those work for you, Paris…comfort, fit, design?)

    Buy more cast iron cookware

    Get rid of old Teflon cookware

    Would LOVE to get wool to spin into yarn and make into material. Get a spinning wheel and a loom and learn to use. (Daughter is making a scarf with alpaca wool)

    Make my own butter and cheese (?) Is this healthier Paris. The store butter just has salt added, but they milk is tainted. So, would organic be as good as homemade?


    Make my own laundry soap

    Use vinegar instead of softener

    Use my cast iron skillet almost exclusively

    Other small things…cut open lotion containers and use all remaining lotion...reuse baggies and tinfoil (when hubby doesn’t throw them out! : )…keep my heat pretty low and just bundle up…

  3. Thanks Paris! ;)
    Cool! We do/have done almost (if not everything) in your list!
    I hope that made alittle sense. :D

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone! I will write a how-to post in the next couple of days with recipes, websites and other tips. If you're interested in something specific let me know (like Zebu did) and I'll try to answer.

  5. Can you explain a little bit about dehydrating food? I've never heard of it outside of fruit for trail mix. Do you dry veggies and everything? Does it take a specific machine, or can you use what you have?

    Thanks for this post! It's really inspiring.

  6. Very nice post Mrs G. I am alsways shocked when people continue to use teflon. We have only used cast iron, especially since we have birdy boy, teflon fumes can kill birds. Anywhoo, I enjoyed your post.

  7. Jenny, I will cover dehydrating in the upcoming post and try to answer your questions.

    Lauren, I know what you mean. I've made the mistake of assuming that "everybody" knows this or that and have been rather surprised when it was a completely new thought to them. So, I'm trying to err on the side of "nobody knows anything" now which might seem insulting, does it? I don't mean to be, but so many people have such radically different lives than we do that it just doesn't seem safe to assume anything anymore.

    Robin (is your name Robin?) I agree about the TV, it's a huge time waster. We have one, though we can only watch DVD's not "real" TV. We watch more in the winter but almost never in the summer.

  8. An excellent post!
    Wow! I am so envious.
    I must say that one day...well, we are slowly making the attempt but living in the city (just a half mile outside of Detroit - yup - right there at the infamous "8 Mile") makes it quite difficult.
    But, we hope to one day, when -IF- the economy improves, to live as I believe we were intended to.


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