Self Sufficiency and Sharing Resources

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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The garden box looks like it is ready to fall apart. That is due to a bear walking on top of it. 

Most homesteaders seek what is referred to as “self sufficiency.” I have blogged on this topic in the past, but there are so many facets to the subject that writing could be extensive and exhaustive. Being able to grow your own vegetables is personally rewarding and provides a source of food that you know hasn’t been washed in something or treated before you get it. Gardening is the most often used term when talking about food self sufficiency.

Our personal garden is still producing well into the fall season. It is a small garden, but then it only has to provide for two people. Insects are not a problem in the mountains but rodents are a major problem, which is why we grow most of our vegetables in an aboveground garden box totally encased in hardware cloth (photo above).

Beyond producing your own vegetables, there are other aspects of self sufficiency. Having livestock is not allowed in our community due to deed restrictions, so that is not something I can intelligently write about. Raising livestock and fowl is another aspect of being self sufficient and before you purchase property, it is wise to make sure you can have livestock before you invest your time and resources in the parcel of land.

Rural Law Enforcement

There are multiple aspects to self sufficiency that are not always so obvious. Where we live, at the outermost end of our county with a low population density, we don’t have an abundance of law enforcement personnel or wildlife officers. In fact, our one wildlife officer covers several counties and on the rare occasion I have called law enforcement, the only officer on duty was many miles away. If you have someone breaking the law and the response time is slow or non-existent, you may end up having to deal with the situation yourself.

If you have not been trained or have had experience in dealing with a poacher, vandal, or thief, the situation could easily escalate if you end up having to deal with it yourself. These types of people don’t usually just say “darn it, I was doing wrong and got caught.” They will fight back or get belligerent. If you are not capable of handling a situation like that, it is best to do what you can from a distance and not try to resolve it on your own, because the consequences could escalate and turn dangerous.

Having an idea of what you would do ahead of time is important so you are not left to reacting to the moment. Our nearest neighbor is almost a mile away and while we have a manager for our community, I have seen a mob mentality suddenly spring up in our community and that is a recipe for disaster. My plan would be twofold: If they were on our property and posed an imminent threat, I would take any necessary measures to protect ourselves and our property. If they were not on our property or posing an imminent threat, I would take photos and wait for law enforcement to arrive even if it was the next day.

From my observations, seeking self reliance is not much different than the numerous examples we witness each and every day. Our politicians don’t talk with each other but instead talk about each other. Our community leaders don’t talk with the people they represent but close ranks and wait for problems to come to them. In short, people don’t seem to talk or interact with each other very much any more.

Building Community to Share Stories and Resources

One good aspect of self sufficiency is that there are blogs like this where people in different communities and different parts of the country can have meaningful dialog with each other, if desired. People striving for self sufficiency seem to want to share successes and failures with each other and having a place to do that facilitates dialog. Unless people talk with each other on a meaningful level, obstacles will remain in place and our society will continue to be divided and fearful.

I have been around for ¾ of a century, and when I was young, my family and our neighbors all had gardens and we shared within our community with each other. It wasn’t called self sufficiency back then — it was referred to as exercising good common sense.

One neighbor had a cherry tree (my mouth still waters when I think of those tasty cherries). We had a peach tree, another had grapes, and another had an apple tree and all fruits were shared. On our street, the houses mostly had a front porch and during evenings, the neighbors would sit on front porches and talk to each other or just walk around the block to say hello to each other.

I just recently saw on the news a shooting because one person thought the other person looked at them wrong. We seem to have lost our ability to communicate with each other and that leaves many fearful and untrusting. Even though there are numerous social media sites, we don’t connect with each other anymore on a more personal level and hence, have become divided and polarized over issues that are hardly worthy of our attention.

Self Sufficiency Means Community Development

We need to learn to talk with each other once again, whether it is over self sufficiency or another topic. We should not be forced into self sufficiency due to an economic downturn, but instead be prepared in case it ever does occur again.

Self sufficiency doesn’t mean isolation. It means being more reliant on ourselves for some of our basic needs, but it certainly doesn’t imply eliminating others from our lives. A group of self-sufficient people can work together to form a community like I recall in the post-depression years described above.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lives in the Sangre de Christo mountains of southern Colorado, go to their blog They live in a small cabin with their four German Shepherd Dogs at 9,800 feet elevation. Read all of Bruce’s remote-living blog posts for MOTHER EARTH NEWS here.

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