Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I woke up in the middle of the night not long ago, with words from the radio news ringing in my ears. Debt ceiling, default, melt down. “If this is the great it” I thought, “and the economy really hits the fan, where is our security?” In the clarity of the morning light a few hours later, I could see exactly where; in the land, in our gardens, in our manual labor skills. Homesteading is an excellent way to live in independence and self-reliance and when we look forward and ask ourselves how we can provide for ourselves even in 10, 20 or 30 years from now, homesteading seems perhaps even more as a viable option. It's generally assumed and widely accepted that cheap fossil fuels won't pave the way much longer for goods, food and material from all over the world and some things that are now taken for granted won't be as cheap or abundant, if they will be at all. Most peoples’ means of making a living and providing their needs will change dramatically within a few decades and fending for oneself might not only be a viable option, but a necessity.
The Hostel is our “cash crop” now and even though people might cut their vacation travels, they are likely to go to a budget option for lodging if they do venture out. We already notice the surge there is for people to learn homesteading and self-sufficiency skills and our guess is that that will only increase. I fully appreciate that we live a life where a lot of stuff has to get really bad out there for us to be negatively affected by it so even if turns out to be an ill-conceived assumption that the Hostel will keep supporting us, we already live a pretty low-cash kind of life. My thoughts on our future economy aren't so much what to change, but more like; stay on track. I don't want to stray from the goal of growing our own food or raising our own meat. Rather, I think it'd be smart to already now to take steps to free us from commercial grain feed, for example, which is nothing but a novelty of an abundant fossil fuel world. I wouldn't take on endeavors dependent on fossil fuel; heated greenhouses, farming that involves machinery, energy intensive livestock (heated spaces, butchering facilities ect) , artificially cooled spaces for produce storage. I wouldn't do greenhouses at all, since eventually the plastic will need to be replaced and we can only guess what that will cost to fix. Eating fresh produce year round (the main reason for most people with unheated greenhouses here in Maine) can be gained by a proper root cellar that will last for generations. I wouldn't even get a freezer or hook us up to the grid and risk losing that constant strive we now have for developing the skills and creativity it takes to get by without. If we don't create dependencies on fossil fuel novelties, we won't be as easily hurt when they disappear.
The apple orchard we're breaking ground for is a part of our future economy plan. Apples as a part of a diversified economy can be a very worthwhile investment to make now, if (when) commodities like fruit from California or Argentina won't be as cheap and readily available as today. Nut trees takes a long time to mature but could turn out to be of great significance to fill the oil and protein slot in our diet or as a cash crop. Usable land is another investment to consider; either for pasture or as a source for fire wood or lumber trees. Trees like spruce, oak and maple can be planted to ensure a future supply of fuel and building material.
Homesteading skills are to me just as valuable for a secure future, perhaps more so, than any material assets. To me it's a great comfort to have experience in growing and storing food, if the external supply would be scarce. It's a comfort to know how to build shelters, fix things, raise animals, forage wild edibles or any number of abilities like that.
I have no intention of painting a bleak picture of the future; rather, I think a future with more homesteading, small farming projects and food production and a better utilization of backyard resources sounds great! I also believe that there will never be a better time or place to start preparing for that future then right now and right here.