Have You Learned to Be More Self-sufficient?

| 5/11/2009 11:08:48 AM

Tags: country skills, self sufficiency, living on less,



In uncertain economic times, it's just good ol common sense to hone your country skills and reduce your dependence on the grocery store, the department store, the gas station, etc. In what way(s) are you striving to provide for yourself? Maybe you've finally decided to try your hand at vegetable gardening, or sewing. Maybe you finally added more insulation to your home's attic or joined a carpool. Many people just needed that extra economic push to stop procrastinating. Share your stories with us by posting a comment below!

6/17/2010 11:19:56 AM

Mother Earth News has been a savior to us! Living in Chicago, we found the pages of Mother Earth to be spiritual. Not knowing what we wanted, but knowing we wanted something different than the city life, this magazine provided all the answers! Growing up in the country, we discovered through the articles, advice and beautiful photography, that what we wanted most of all was to go back to where we came from. After reading a years subscription to Mother Earth, we bought and remodeled an old farmhouse in the country, started an organic garden, make our own soap, candles, deodorant, wine and beer. More than anything else though, we learned the importance of being self sufficient and respecting nature, taking the time to slow down and examine all the natural beauty that Mother Earth provides for us so freely.

john m_3
6/15/2010 6:39:59 PM

these are great comments. we are retired and living in san marcos texas, the bottom of an ancient sea. lots of limestone. with the climate change, we are dealing with chill hours for the fruit trees, serious drought, and it goes on and on. living in the city limits here, water is very expensive, the city is always finding ways to raise money. so we went to rain catchment. at present we have a capacity of 7032 gallons. we want to reach 10,000 gallons. the soil is shallow, bed rock is not far away. so, we are solving our water problems and have found that hay mulch works great. remember cow and horse manure is great for the garden, well they eat hay and absorb nutrients, bypass them and put hay as a mulch. then turn it or not for a new planting. remember ruth stout? this works. we want to be sustainable. if we had to depend on our garden, we would be very hungry indeed. my mother grew up on a share cropper farm in the depression. i asked her how they survived. she said that the family gardens did not produce much if it did not rain. i was thinking that the farms back then were self sufficient. they were not. everything was canned, meat included, hams and bacon were smoked and provided food as did our friends the chickens. and mom told me that when i got hot here in central texas, they had to eat all the pork because it was begining to go the the dark side. so, gardening is tough here. we can lowquat jam, fig preserves, oops, ran out of characters

rick vanhorn
6/12/2010 10:02:53 PM

Last year I toke an early retirement from my employer in North Dakota and moved to a place in Arkansas on 7.5 acres with a year round creek. I went from a house of 2,000 sq. ft. to one of 860 sq. ft. I have raised beds and a 60 x 60 garden with an orchard with apples, pears, and peaches. I have also started grapes, blue berries and rassberries. I also have six laying hens and a couple of crazy roosters. I do the composting thing. In fact I have three of them set up so that they can be left alone while one is being used and refilled. I do some lawn care for people that are not full time residents so I have lots of grass clippings and garden waste. I raise lots of produce and start about mid Febuary in my 10 x 20 greenhouse which has a sprinkler system powered by gravity from a water source (tower) that is filled by rain water collected at the house and then pumped into the 250 gal tank by a solar powered pump. The solar power also supplies the exhaust fans, that came from a auto salvage yard, used to circulate the air in the green house. As of this writing, I'm about to plant my third planting of lettuce and beets. I do not know how they will grow now that the hot weather is here but we'll see if it works. As far as being debt free I have not reached that part as the economy kind of made everything move in the direction of moving to a less expensive area to live. My lowest electric bill has been $38.00 and most expensive one has been $60.

6/11/2010 5:39:31 AM

Lots of great comments here! Like many, tried my hand at gardening last summer and loved it. I had to let it go this year, due to a particularly grueling pregnancy, but have great plans for it (as well as a small flock of city chickens) for the future! We try to buy as few packaged products at the store as possible, and this includes the bathroom. Driven by all-too frequent trips to the bathroom on account of the pregnancy, I have started using washable wipes in the bathroom. We also use vinegar, baking soda, coconut oil and lemon juice for most of our personal products (shampoo, deodorant, etc.), as well as house hold cleaning. I love that I can actually eat most of the products I"m putting on my hair and skin! I enjoy making our own soap, too-- I have dreams of someday creating an ash barrel for making my own lye for the soap-- anything to be more self-sufficient!

6/10/2010 7:26:07 PM

Continuation: I also want chickens to sell any extra eggs along with my produce and herbs. We built a water jacket for the coal/wood stove which heats the water to 100 degrees,then goes into our electric WH. We are experimenting with this. It did help but not as much as we had hoped since our state took the cap off our electric and the cost went up 30%. I also plan on trying my hand at making cheese if I can find the right farmer for the cream. We already buy halves of beef and pork from a local farmer to get us through the winter and half the summer. Better half is a hunter and fisherman, and we make our own smoked sausage, jerky, and "slim jims", smoke some fish, and ribs.

6/10/2010 7:23:43 PM

Back in the '70s, we bought 2-1/2 acrea and had a 1 acre garden. You name it, we grew it. I canned and froze everything, and made our bread and butter. Job priorities foced us to give up most everything, but a few years ago, after heart surgery, we decided to enlarge our garden again. Although it's onlly container gardening, we now have 67 tomato plants, some brussel sprouts, onions, carrots, potatoes, and yellow wax beans. Due to Coumadin, my better half can't have too many greens, or else we'd have all the fixin's for salads like we used to. Broccoli is also out recently. We live in a 1500 square foot home we built into the hill using most materials from the bungalow on the property we had to tear down because of flood damage. We heat with coal and wood now, compared to just wood in the bungalow (boy do I miss the wood heat but don't relish getting up 3-4 times at night to replenish it). The stove heats our whole house without a problem and I cook on it during the winter. Three years ago, my better half bought a dual-fuel cooktop because the electric was killing our budget. One 100 pound tank lasted 2-1/2 years. Now that both of us are semi-retired, I'm going back to making my own bread and butter. I would also like to get a few chickens if I can talk better half into it. I finally have a herb garden, too, and hope it will be successful. I plan on canning and freezing my produce (smoked tomatoes are great in chili and stews), and maybe seling the excess.

nicole l
6/10/2010 2:57:20 PM

I have always had a garden. Canned, dryed and froze my success. I just bought a house 1 year ago and trying to really live simple. Simple is peaceful and not hectic!! But I do have a question for everyone...when you are trying to simplify when you live in the rural areas how do you get decent internet service. I think I may be missing something. Then if I do spend that type of money for lets say satelitte internet is it good or does it go out with cloud cover? What have been your experiences?

james cox_4
6/10/2010 12:47:07 PM

We grow a lot of our own veggies, do a lot of canning. We also just started making our own laundry detergent..comes out to less than a penny per load..We composte everything we can and reuse/recycle other things giving things a second, third or fourth purpose in life. Another thing we hardly every buy something "new" right out of the chute. We try yard sales, freecylcle, craigslist and other avenues to find things that we normally would pay a premium for. Living near a collelge (Penn State) We find many good supplies being thrown out by college kids.. Lumber from Lofts built in aparments, even vaccum cleaners that were not working..only to find they were clogged or just needed a new bag put in them.. you would be suprised. Some items we keep for our own use others we pass along to other folks..all in all we try to watch our pennies and let the dollars take care of themselves...

james cox_4
6/10/2010 12:38:51 PM

We grow a lot of our own veggies, do a lot of canning. We also just started making our own laundry detergent..comes out to less than a penny per load..We composte everything we can and reuse/recycle other things giving things a second, third or fourth purpose in life. Another thing we hardly every buy something "new" right out of the chute. We try yard sales, freecylcle, craigslist and other avenues to find things that we normally would pay a premium for. Living near a collelge (Penn State) We find many good supplies being thrown out by college kids.. Lumber from Lofts built in aparments, even vaccum cleaners that were not working..only to find they were clogged or just needed a new bag put in them.. you would be suprised. Some items we keep for our own use others we pass along to other folks..all in all we try to watch our pennies and let the dollars take care of themselves...

james cox_4
6/10/2010 12:38:40 PM

We grow a lot of our own veggies, do a lot of canning. We also just started making our own laundry detergent..comes out to less than a penny per load..We composte everything we can and reuse/recycle other things giving things a second, third or fourth purpose in life. Another thing we hardly every buy something "new" right out of the chute. We try yard sales, freecylcle, craigslist and other avenues to find things that we normally would pay a premium for. Living near a collelge (Penn State) We find many good supplies being thrown out by college kids.. Lumber from Lofts built in aparments, even vaccum cleaners that were not working..only to find they were clogged or just needed a new bag put in them.. you would be suprised. Some items we keep for our own use others we pass along to other folks..all in all we try to watch our pennies and let the dollars take care of themselves...

james cox_4
6/10/2010 12:38:27 PM

We grow a lot of our own veggies, do a lot of canning. We also just started making our own laundry detergent..comes out to less than a penny per load..We composte everything we can and reuse/recycle other things giving things a second, third or fourth purpose in life. Another thing we hardly every buy something "new" right out of the chute. We try yard sales, freecylcle, craigslist and other avenues to find things that we normally would pay a premium for. Living near a collelge (Penn State) We find many good supplies being thrown out by college kids.. Lumber from Lofts built in aparments, even vaccum cleaners that were not working..only to find they were clogged or just needed a new bag put in them.. you would be suprised. Some items we keep for our own use others we pass along to other folks..all in all we try to watch our pennies and let the dollars take care of themselves...

6/9/2010 10:25:35 PM

I don't flush the toilet anymore. I instead compost my excrements as outlined in The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins (Google it). Done right the process is odor free and requires only very little water, in which case rain water can be used. Instead of creating sewage and waste, I return those nutrients to the soil via composting. I also grow as much of my own fruits and vegetables as space allows.

6/9/2010 8:28:19 PM

Over the last 20 years, we have done and are still doing many things that saves money. The greatest saver I've found is to not waste and not wasting is also good for our world. Shut off all lights that are not in use. Connect your computer, microwave, coffee pot, kitchen range and any other items that have LED lights that stay on to a power strip with a switch and shut them off when not in use. We grow as much of our own vegies as we have room for. Take care of and use leftovers. Add kitchen waste (potato peelings, egg shells, coffee and tea grounds and any other fresh vegetable waste. No meat or meat by-products) to your compost pile. This is free fertilizer. Take care of and maintain what you have so that it will last a long time. We have a pickup with 250,000 miles on it. Buy used vehicles instead of new. Stock up your pantry and freezer when things are on sale and then buy only when and where they are cheap. Every paycheck, put as much as you can into savings, even if it's only five dollars. Then when you need something, pay cash if possible. Interest payments eat a large hole in one's budget. We go into the city once a month and do all of our shopping and if we have a doctor's appointment, we do it on the same trip. Avoid multiple trips. Gas is expensive. You can even double up with a friend and take turns driving. The most important thing I learned was the difference between "I want and I need".

6/9/2010 7:11:03 PM

My best friend is from switzerland and she has a hobby farm outside of town. She is enormously successful for one reason. She is aggressive at marketing. Her farm is organic, animal friendly, no medicines etc. Every Friday morning she is up way before dawn and picks as much produce as she can hold in her van and then spends half a day driving from restaurant to restaurant showing her wares. Whatever is left over at the end of the day is what she serves her family for dinner. Liz doesnt wait for customers she puts her produce and herbs right under their noses and has enormous sales now from chef's that know she is coming. You have to be pushy sometimes, if you have a good product get the heck out there and show people. Drive up their driveways, open your trunk, show them this weeks fresh produce. If you have to embarras them into using your fresh stuff. Call them on their menus, ask them where they buy their produce. It works for her, she cant grow enough stuff anymore and has made a lot of friends in the process. She has also added a bit of bartering and exchanging for product. A chef might not have the money for a side of her organic beef but has kitchen equipment he never uses. She takes this in trade and then sells it to another chef down the line. At a mark up price of course. The other thing she does is listen to chefs. Two chefs in town wanted white asparagus organically grown and were willing to pay extra for it. She learned and has 6 chefs buying it n

elizabeth hollingsworth_2
6/9/2010 3:25:21 PM

we've been working on becoming debt-free for several years. not there yet, but in good enough shape i can stay home. i grew up on a farm & hubby grew up working in garden. last Oct, started developing 5.5 ac inherited from my grandpa. have 9 chickens in a portable electric fence & movable coop to improve our Fla soil. have a small solar system in a kit to start to learn. property line cleared (big big job), but electric fence not up yet to keep out dogs & other critters. have some wild blueberry bushes i will divide this fall. lots of wild blackberry bushes. praying they'll make it to harvest. hope to get some U-pick fruits & veggies & make jelly, put up veggies, etc. planted 2 olive trees & free fig trees from fam & 7 mulberry trees from neighbor. invested in an auto drip system for trees. best $ ever spent. started a veggie garden this spring 4 1st time in years. planted late, not harvesting yet. using org. fertilizer & hay as thick mulch. started flats of diff herbs. in process of planting them @ home & farm. fire ants are awful & vicious. i hate to, but we're probably going to have to put out that stuff you get @ Walmart to at least chase them away from where we work most often. wanna: move out to farm; do bees, worms, meat & dairy goats; do own milk, cheese, yogurt; soap & cleaning stuff; enough solar panels to run refrig, freezer & a/c (too hot w/out it here); wind power; more fruit & nut trees; bigger garden, etc etc etc

jan steinman
6/9/2010 3:02:53 PM

Lots of things, where to start... "Debt free" was always my mantra, and we violated that recently to our regret. We purchased land larger than our needs, with the intention of having equity partners, so that younger people with fewer resources could have a place to call their own. But then the housing bubble burst, and the world financial system crashed, and we find ourselves sitting on a pile of debt that was supposed to be short-term and retired by now. C'est la vie... On the other hand, we're currently supplying nearby six families with goat milk and eggs, and make biodiesel from the waste oil from four restaurants. Now if we could only stay here... I'd post a link to our website, but an editor slapped me what I did that before.

6/9/2010 2:59:31 PM

No Way Jan! Sorry, I didn't know. Thanks for saying something. I can't remove it, but maybe everyone can ignore it? I wish Mother would compile a list of our small farms so we could work together. Small farmer/homesteaders working together can make this work, but we need contact. It's so hard to find others, even with all the forums.

6/9/2010 2:59:24 PM

I have been using the cash only system of purchasing for the last 3 years trying to become debt free. I'm getting there slowly but surely. This year I tripled the size of our garden and added wheat which I will try in different forms to add to our diet including using our own small mill to make flour for baking. We already have our fruit production to a pace that serves our family but the garden and live stock are still lacking. We started raising chickens this year for pest contrl,fertilizer,meat and eggs. Will enlarge our planting next year to grow our own chicken feed. We only have 3/4 of an acre so are saving for at least 5 acres, preferably 10 so we can also have cows and a sustainable wood source for heating.

6/9/2010 2:55:55 PM

Oh, yeah, and working on the debt-free thing! Young couple with 2 small special-needs kids, only one debt!!! Another $47K and we will home-free, (pun intended, smile!).

6/9/2010 2:47:24 PM

We are blessed with many home gardeners and farmers sharing their leftovers with us, for both animal and human consumption. We have a half acre of land and a very large, but well-built older home. We try not to use heat or A/C whenever possible, and raise goats, chickens, and rabbits (it's our newest addition!). Everything is used and re-used. We garden in raised beds. I sew and am planning on building a loom to begin making rugs out of old clothes for our hardwood floors (they get quite cold in winter). We use as many natural and home-made products as possible, from soap to toothpaste, cleaning agents and antibiotics. We reach out to others around us to try and spread our love of simple living, which seems to create a small community inside the larger community we live in. It's a great way to live! FYI, we also sell our dairy goats and sometimes home-made things if you want to see us at nigerianmeadows.com. Just expanding our community, lol!

linda pointer
6/9/2010 1:08:53 PM

Debt-free came first. Hubby and me on 3/4 acre city lot, have 4 fun and fascinating pet chickens for eggs (city ordinances don't allow them, we use the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, no roosters, high fences), peach, orange, kumquat trees, blueberry, blackberry, strawberries, bananas, grape vines just started, with herbs and veggies in raised beds. This year we had corn which produced enough for two of us, no extras but super-delicious. Veggie and chicken waste goes in the compost tumbler which produces good soil every three months or so. Gradually we're turning our Florida sand into real dirt! We have a hydroponic system powered by one solar panel which keeps veggies going through the killer Florida summer. Collect rainwater and air-conditioner run-off in two rain barrels, hope to soon get more barrels plus a cistern. We're hoping to get a tilapia tank for fish farming and a worm box. We just keep working on sufficiency, adding new things as we are able. It's healthy, it's fun, it's the way we want to keep living.

6/9/2010 11:35:40 AM

Wow-nice work everyone! I do notice, however, in about 30 posts, that no one mentions becoming debt free. We felt that was step one. We both had good jobs and a retirement check for about two years. Lived on the retirement check and threw everything at the mortgage. Now all paid off, and have grid tied solar with a small off-grid system to run ham radios and wi-fi. Have solar water heater. Doing chickens and veggies and preserving, drying, wood heat etc. Only regret is that I did not shop for a house more carefully. would have liked to have a house or lot lay-out that would have allowed a renter, either for income or for caretaking/yard help. For those of you who are currently shopping, keep that one in mind!

katherine tyler
6/9/2010 10:57:39 AM

My husband is disabled with heart/lung problems, and receives a small disability check each month. I've always had to work to "make ends meet." However, last year I lost my job and have been unable to obtain a replacement income. Then our heat pump broke! Fortunately, we do have a woodstove, so we collected firewood, (My husband helped when he could), and closed off most of the house, keeping doors closed, towels under the doors, and curtains or blankets hanging in the hallway. Our 1800 sq. ft. 4 bedroom 2.5 bath ranch was basically paired down to 4 rooms: the living room (where the woodstove is), one bedroom, one bathroom, and the kitchen. We only heated the bathroom if we were going to take a shower, and only heated the kitchen if we needed to keep the pipes from freezing. Although we had the coldest winter in years, with wind chill factors at 20 below zero, we made it without electric heat! The other benefit: Both of us noticed that we had far less respiratory congestion. It seems that not turning on the heat meant not stirring up mold, mildew, dust mites, and other nasties that collect in the heat/air conditioning ducts. You can do it!

gayle beaupre
6/9/2010 8:50:06 AM

Planting my own garden, spinning, knitting, weaving and sewing all my own clothing. Making my own soap, candles and most everything else I need. Now if I could only raise bees and chickens where I live, but alas the zoning laws prevent that. I use only heirloom seeds in my garden and save them from year to year. Gardening is completely organic.

6/9/2010 8:30:40 AM

I'm always looking for good ideas to simplify and to decrease my impact on the earth. One thing that I haven't seen mentioned on here: I have a bucket in my shower to catch water as I wait for it to get warm - and use that water to flush my toilet.

7/9/2009 8:06:08 PM

Voluntary simplicity becomes a way of life quite quickly.I've given up using Supermarkets as far as possible..can't find toothpaste or cheap chocolate elsewhere!I use our weekly Farmers' Market and let the professionals do the hard work as it's in their best interests to use water economically and produce reliably.Also use only local producers and shops and belong to LETS, our local barter group.I raise geese,pigeons and hens for eggs and swap the 'extras' for olive oil,wine etc.I'm lucky to have talented,knowledgeable,skilled people in my community who know everything I don't and can always be called on for advice,help etc.

6/10/2009 11:23:35 PM

For the first time, I have bee successful(so far) with tomatoes. It is exciting to see the blooms, and I can hardly wait to pick the first one, and it cost me 6.00 in plants. The tomatoes at the grocery store are 1.49 a lb and usually a bit beat up by the tim ethey get to North Dakota, so this makes me at least "feel" I am getting more self sufficient, besides my family is as eager as I am to eat OUR tomatoes.

mj ibarguen
6/9/2009 8:52:52 PM

Kathy asked "what to catch rain water in"...we have 6 55 gallon drums from a feed store at $15 each, but DH has recently hooked up the second HOT WATER HEATER that a neighbor was tossing. He just adds them to the series, with the joining pipes at the bottom. As the first barrel fills, it sends the water to the next one and so on. It takes 1/4 inch of rain to fill the 2 barrels on one corner of the house, and 1/2 inch to fill 4 barrels at the other end. And talking about re-purposing, he took our broken dryer out to the garden and put compost in it. Gives it one turn a day and hopefully we'll have 'garden gold' in a few weeks. I'm very proud of my repurposing hubby!

5/26/2009 8:28:28 PM

"Rain Water" Reply to Kathy (from 05/15): I use two 30-gallon barrels from a car wash. The owner gets his detergents in those barrels and then cleans them out and sells them for cheap (like $10). I put a plastic storage tote on top of the barrels with a hole in the bottom, and then I put the whole mess under my eaves (no gutters here). If you have gutters, it's even easier to send the downspout into the barrel. To get the water out, I use a $12 plastic siphoning barrel pump (available from your local barrel/container vendor). It's not the best setup, but it's doing the job!

5/20/2009 12:59:18 AM

I have been embracing volutary simplicity for years, but have lately been really working to provide more on my own for my family. My vegetable garden is much larger this year. We have chickens so we have eggs to share. My husband is quite a handy man, so we build most of what we need. Our current project is an expansion on our chicken coop.

5/19/2009 6:44:28 PM

Gardening and now have ducks in the backyard for eggs. Waiting impatiently for the eggs! www.whatupduck.com

paula mcneely
5/19/2009 4:10:00 AM

When I bought my dream house with 1.96 acres I had really big plans. Unfortunately, 4 knee replacements, a broken sternum(breast bone), dislocated shoulder, a broken leg-2xs, a broken back-2xs has put most of my plans on the back burner, perhaps permanetly. However, I happen to live within an Amish community. I live in the middle of a square comprising 5 Amish families. Some of the best friends I will ever have. The families comprise of a husband, his wife & youngest daughter to my northwest. To the southwest lives his youngest married son & family, including their little girl with cancer. To my southeast is another family of husband & wife. Their youngest married son lives in a seperate house practically right out their back door. The oldest married son & family, including twin boys live to my southwest. Family #1 raises lots of produce & fruit for a living selling at a farmer's market & to local grocery stores & also from his home stand. He is well known for his wonderful produce. He also makes poly-vinyl lawn furniture. His son has livestock & some of the best sweet corn you ever had. He sells the corn to local markets also. The family that lives to my southwest raises bees & makes honey, sells free range eggs, rhubard & asparagus. He also makes & sells bee boxes, etc. I have the most interaction with the 1st & 2nd families. Samuel needed quick access to a phone because of his daughter's grave illnes, to call the vet & to order feed grain. His father, Abe also needs phone access to market his produce. In return for the phone usage, (they both have house keys for emergencies if I'm not here) & rides to town or the hospital I am the recipient of the best produce areound, including strawberries, raspberries, watermelons & cantalope. All I have to do is ask, or not-it will just turn up. The same with the sweet corn-I prefer the white kernals, tho he grows yellow & bi

joseph carlin
5/18/2009 10:38:39 AM

We moved from the city 2 years ago and have been slowly moving into producing more ourselves. Since moving to our little acre and a third, we've built a coop and currently have 6 hens (after a fox intrusion) with new residents on order for the newly secured coop. Hens are currently meeting our needs, but before our predation losses we were also selling enough eggs to cover feed and trade with the neighbors for some veggies. We've also planted strawberries, raspberries, and blueberies in a 16x8' patch, a few grapevines separately, about 2 dozen fruit trees, and a couple of raised beds for vegetables. Fruits and berries are looking promising so far this year, but obviously the trees are all young. A good part of our heating is woodburning and I cut and split the majority of last years wood though my property obviously does not have a sustainable woodlot. Yesterday I made omelettes using fresh eggs from the coop and spinach fresh cut from the garden. We're nowhere near self sufficient, but we do have some production all around and if nothing else it will help smooth over any short term supply problems.

5/18/2009 7:20:23 AM

At first we were forced into self suffiency due to poor financial choices and a chaotic work history. Then as time went on I began studying for my degree and learned how being more self sufficient was resulting in better health for myself and my family. I recently had this slammed home to me in a big way. My husband is unemployed, again, victim of an economy based on consumer driven goods. Since March, he has lost approximately 25 lbs. because he is no longer eating on the run or eating highly processed foods because he couldn't stop to take a lunch break. I have severe asthma. I began making my own cleaning products 1 year ago to cut down on my chemical exposure and have seen my breathing improve to the point that I have been able to stop my prescription medicine. Eathing healthier, home based meals, more whole grains and little to no processed foods has greatly improved our quality of life. I have friends who farm on a small scale so I am able to trade work with them for goods in return. We are forced due to circumstances to seek out free or low priced entertainment which means that we are getting back to nature, walking, hiking, fishing, camping which means we get our doses of fresh air and Vitamin D. All in all, it's a satisfying life.

rebecca montalbano
5/17/2009 10:12:15 AM

My husband and I with our 4 children were living on a half acre in the Birmingham area, and we were growing vegetables, harvesting rainwater for garden and landscaping, and implementing energy saving ideas in our home. We moved to a 3.5 acre place in a rural area an hour away and we've expanded our garden from two 4 x 8 raised beds to a 60 ft x 60 ft area of fenced garden to protect from deer. We've added 13 hens (will be laying in July), 9 rabbits, one worm bin (see current issue of Make Magazine for instructions) with more to come, and are about to add pygmy goats as soon as we complete our fence from scrounged (and some new) materials. We've bartered computer IT services for used fence materials for the garden, and we plan to continue to barter as much as possible. Our neighbor moved away and abandoned her barn loaded with horse poo that we've gotten permission to use as needed. As soon as the animal pens and structures are complete, we will begin implementing our rainwater harvesting system for use in the garden. We plan to use a natural spring on the property to feed a small fish pond that we will stock with bream, bass, and/or crappie for eating. I am just starting to do canning, but have always used the freezer to store extra food that we grow or find on sale (or barter for). 13 hens should lay enough for the 6 of us and a few to trade or sell. We LOVE working with the hens and are about to get more to raise and sell. They are a JOY! I'm making bread (I have Celiac Disease and must be gluten free), yogurt, and many other home-cooked foods for our family to reduce and soon eliminate our dependence on packaged foods and convenience foods. We LOVE experiencing this kind of life with our young children and are enjoying the character it is building in them.

5/15/2009 3:09:12 PM

When the children were young, we had goats, chickens, ducks (cats, dogs), a fairly large garden, and bee hives. Since the children have grown, we have only the vegetable and flower gardens (and accompanying compost bins, etc.) so that we have the opportunity to travel a bit. We have been gardening organically for more than 20 years but don't know how to become a "certified" organic grower. I try to provide 90% of our produce needs by canning, dehydrating, and freezing. This time of year (May) we do have to visit the farmer's markets, but only for a month or so until our foods come in. In addition to the large vegetable garden we have strawberries, blueberries, grapes, Asian pears, apples, cherries, raspberries, and (yet to produce) kiwis. We heat with a wood stove quite comfortably. I hang laundry out when weather permits (NJ is so variable!). I bake bread and cook from scratch 90% of the time- I do sometimes use store-bought pie crusts! I find the slow-cooker and the pressure cookers invaluable. We're blessed.

5/15/2009 6:57:23 AM

What do you all catch your rain water in? I live in the City but would like to use that water for flower beds etc. Right now I use the water from my dehumidifier in the basement to water the beds. I will also look in the archives I am sure there is an article somewhere :)

5/14/2009 11:40:04 PM

I have been working on being more self sufficient for years, it is a nice feeling to not be concerned if I will be able to feed my family in these hard times, I have a year round garden and raise chickens for eggs and meat, I also raise rabbits for meat, all the manure from the animals is used in the garden or to feed to worms which in turn can be sold or used as feed for the chickens, I also raise several crops for feeding the animals to help offset their feed costs and I am able to sell enough animals each month to pay for the rest of their food, I live on 5 acres in Northern California and am in the process of putting in fruit trees and more berrie bushes, also looking into solar and wind I do not know if I can get off the grid but I can get close, planning on putting in a grey water collection system for non edible plants and a rain water system for edibles.

5/14/2009 3:44:20 PM

We started becoming more self sufficient a bit before the economy went down hill. We started home schooling our kids about 9 years ago. A few years after we began home schooling is when we starting changing our ways. We first started learning about food. How Home Cooked meals, using the most natural ingredients that you can find are the best. From there, we just kept doing more and learning more. We added a wood stove, and then a Pellet Stove. We grow a lot of our Vegetables and Herbs, in the summer time. We are learning about Soap making. One of our friends has been sharing her laundry soap with us,which she has been making, but soon we want to start making our own. I have been making my own house hold cleaners with baking soda, and other natural ingredients. My son even makes our own Pizza! We aren't 100% where we want to be...but we are on our way!

5/14/2009 3:27:51 PM

I am slowly trying make my yard work for me. I built 5 raised beds 4x8 and have already established an herb garden on the terrace off my deck. I have tilled the ground above the herb garden to further my growing needs. I am also using a portion of my front side yard to grow Okra, Eggplant, White Acorn Squash and Zucchini. Next year I want to extend the front side garden to the sidewalk with flowers as a buffer. Hopefully the clover I planted will help with the soil conditions. I have convinced my husband to recycle more and increased my compost area. I am trying very hard to produce enough vegetables to sustain my husband and I through atleast the beginning of winter. I think I have my work cut out to meet that goal!

robin weber
5/14/2009 2:21:12 PM

As soon as I moved into my new house I started learning about ways to sustain my mini-farm (1.25 acres). I have always gardened so flowers and veggies were first on the list. Flowers for butterflys and bees and veggies for me and friends. I have a horse, for compost and have trained her to drive a buggy, just in case. I have chickens and turkeys for eggs and manure and pest control. I have a rainwater collection system and have decreased my household water use by decreasing the amount of times I flush the 'John' and decreasing loads of laundry to only full loads. I plan on starting two beehives and am learning how to make soap, salves, and household cleaners as well as laundry soap. Along with normal recycling I use my chainsaw to fuel my fireplace in the winter which keeps electricity use down and keep my AC set at 83 in the summer. With the ceiling fans and my concrete block construction home, it is very comfortable. I also plan on getting a generator to power the fridge and water heater in case of loss of electricity. I am a camper by nature and know how to cook and do most everything else without it. I know how to fish but not hunt. I am afraid I have to draw the line at hunting... I am always looking for new and inexpensive things to learn to become more self sufficient and help my friends that are not so inclined.

5/14/2009 2:09:15 PM

For the past 10 years I've been working toward becoming more self-sufficient. I've learned how to do so many things, through friends, reading Mother Earth News and other sources, and feel so good when I do something I wasn't sure I could. In the past month alone I've repaired my own radio, washing machine agitator, and learned how to change the tube in a bicycle tire on my 25 year old Ross (Never even had a flat tire before!). I mend clothing, and walk or ride my bicycle for as many errands as possible. One of my favorite things to do is to figure out how to re-purpose items, rather than have them go to waste. My daughter and I live in a small city in Maine, on less than 1/10 of an acre. Each year I’ve expanded my gardening, much of which is in containers. This year I’ll have herbs, Roma and cherry tomatoes, a variety of lettuces, pickling cukes, rainbow chard, spinach, strawberries, and squash. My step-mom and father grow potatoes and pumpkins, as well as apples, on their land. In season, I’ll go out and forage blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Some friends of mine have nut and peach trees, which I help them harvest. We all share our surplus harvests with each other. A couple of friends and I have our own little equipment pool. If they need a step ladder, I’ll lend mine, and if I need something they own, they’ll reciprocate. This keeps us from needing to own every little item, some of which I might use only once in my lifetime. We share the use of a rototiller too. We try not to buy anything new, if we can re-purpose something we already have, or find it used. Sometimes I’ll figure out how to make what we need. It may not always be pretty, but it works! Right now I’m trying to become debt-free, so that I can work less and do more things for my family. We still have a lot to learn, but aren’t doing bad at all for a 41 year old mom and her just turning 20 daughter.

carolyn overbo
5/13/2009 9:30:20 PM

We live on 63 acres in drought-stricken Central Texas. We have a garden, chickens, goats and a rainwater collection system. I have been researching local "wild" food for us and our animals. The goats love to eat mesquite beans, because they are sweet and nutritious! Last summer, I gathered some and ground them in my vita-Mix blender and made cookies. We also have mustang grapes and sweet mountain grapes. I plan to try making vinegar from the wild grapes to use for pickling zucchini and green tomatoes.

billie kariher-dyer
5/13/2009 4:13:43 PM

I started to make my own soap several years ago. I have also learned how to make my own yogurt, cheese, and am learning mead and beer making. I make my own bread and have recently purchased a wringer and wash tub and am doing my own laundry by hand with the exception of the really large stuff. I do these things for many reasons. First they save money, Second they are good for the environment, Third doing these things myself (especially the washing) give me a workout that I don't have to pay the gym for. I live in the city in SoCal so my only gardening option was to wait in line for a community garden plot. This year my number came up so we are already reaping the benefits of our garden that will produce year round here. All of these things also assist in my state of mind. I like to know that I can do it myself and do not need to depend on some corporation to survive.

criss kraus
5/13/2009 12:11:45 PM

I have been gardening for years but have expanded as much as I can. Since I live in the city I do container gardening. Much of my vegetables come from my garden and I freeze or can the surplus. Thanks to my grandparents, I have used non-hybid plants and have always save seeds for next season's planting. I work from home and that requires I run a file server that generates a ton of heat. Add this to the southwest desert and my AC costs were high. So last year I got a one-room stand alone AC unit and put it in my home office. I was able to turn the household AC unit to 75 and run the stand-alone room AC unit only when I work. Cut the electric bill in half the first summer! Five years ago, replaced all my drapes with thermal backed drapes as I couldn't afford to replace the windows themselves. This saved on heating and cooling. Last year I also replaced all the washers inside and outside. That first month saw a $15 reduction in my water bill. Who woulda thought a little ol'washer could save that much? Two years ago I sold my vehicle and now I walk, take public transportation or ride with friends. This also caused me to plan my errands better so they took the least amount of time and travel. My friends and I now have a monthly errand Saturday where we spend the month planning what stores and our route. No more running to the store at the last minute - we plan things out instead. It's a great 'Ladies Day' too. Instead of giving or throwing away old bedspreads I now purchase scrap material and re-cover them. Even though I adopted the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mentality over 10 years ago, through blogs like this, I have found ways to step this up and do even more.

pam kaelin_2
5/13/2009 11:03:02 AM

While I have been gardening, I am expanding my vegetable garden this year. I am also getting into a lot more canning, preserving and dehydrating and learning to use my pressure canner more. But the big thing I've learned to do is hunt game. I live in a very rural section. The rabbits were starting to do heavy damage to my new garden, so they have found their way into my freezer. I haven't fished in years, but I'll be doing that again this summer, not only for relaxation but mainly for the food.

5/13/2009 11:01:45 AM

We have been raising chickens for our own egg supply for the past five years and recently moved onto a small homestead (7 acres) and have planted our first garden. We have a plan to become more self-sufficient and now are on the path to learning. We are already reaping some of he rewards from the garden! And the chickens continue to supply us with farm fresh eggs.

5/13/2009 9:52:32 AM

I have expanded our garden and am learning to grow heirlooms so that I can save seed as well. We put in 8 fruit trees and three citrus, next to go in will be half a dozen blueberry bushes. I am also learning about winter gardening and food preservation techniques like lactofermentation and dehydrating, so that we can keep saving on the grocery bill after the summer garden is done producing. Another self sufficiency skill I'm learning is to "upcycle" or reconstruct old or outgrown clothing into new garments for my children, and to make home decor items like curtains and pillow covers. I also have learned how to make our own bar soap and household cleaners.

5/13/2009 9:28:35 AM

This year I made my garden into a raised bed garden. I used cedar salvaged from my fencing blown down by hurricane Ike. I put in eight beds 6' x 3'x 18" high as well as 4 beds 3' x'3'. It took 5 truck loads of dirt to fill them half way up. All are lush and growing good. I have three beds total of slicing, cherry, and roma style tomatoes. White and yellow sweet corn. Three beds of potatoes and much more. My biggest problem was keeping the chickens out until everything had grown up enough to withstand their scratching. A good looking fence fixed that. We are looking at a good harvest over the next few months. With our climate here near houston I should be able to grow all year around without too much effort.

george works
5/13/2009 9:22:13 AM

Five years ago my wife and I retired to a tiny Caribbean island. Although we are engineers with no farming experience, we realized that the economy was heading for a tumble eventually, and our island is at the end of a very long supply chain. We cleared and fenced our land and now raise about half of our fruits and vegetables, mostly from saved seed. We also raise goats, cows and chickens that supply all our eggs and most of our meat (except for local fish). We also get most of our electricity from solar panels on the roof, and our water from rainwater collected from the roof and stored in a cistern. Raising our food and maintaining our home and equipment takes nearly half of our waking hours which we regard as a good trade for the improved food security and excellent food quality. However, we have also learned the impossibility of complete self-sufficiency, at least with our present quality of life.

5/13/2009 8:59:22 AM

I took early retirement back in June 2008. Since then I have done extensive research into sustainable living. I'm a city girl and was fairly clueless. I now have a garden, we're recycling, cutting our own grass with an old fashion push mower, I've cleared my home of toxic cleaners and I'm actually cleaning myself. I'm not getting my nails done anymore and I'm volunteering whenever possible in our community. We're involved in the local organic community. We are not running our A/C like we used to and with the ceiling fans going and the windows open most of the time, the fresh air is wonderful. There are those hot days... when the air goes on! We are talking with our extended family about joining forces to buy a lot of acres and building a sustainable homestead. My two sons are grown and on their own but would seriously consider building on our land. We have horses and we are recycling their poo into landscaping and gardens. We are catching rain water for outside use. The list goes on and on. We are pleased with our efforts so far but we have so much more to learn.

dominic ebacher
5/11/2009 5:12:52 PM

We've gone from gardening a little to gardening a lot. I learned to use a chainsaw and harvest wood for our sustainable woodlot to use in a woodburning stove rather than pay for (electric) heat. We started raising chickens last year, and the flock is up to 20 hens, which is enough for all we can eat plus extras to pay for the feed for all the hens. I learned to cut my own lumber using a chainsaw and a chainsaw mill - lumber that we used to build 2 new sheds, and learned principles we can put to build a barn next year. I put in an orchard, learned to graft fruit trees so that expanding the orchard doesn't cost so much for the trees and because I couldn't get the varieties I wanted - the varieties that taste the best aren't what you'll find at grocery stores, and they are rarely the varieties sold by nursuries in our area and specialty nursuries cost a bundle for 1/4 acre worth of trees. Planted 1/4 acre of blueberries and the same in strawberries and rasberries. Within 3 years, we will be sustainable for fruit production based on our own needs, and start being able to offer some for sale or use as animal feed. Learned to recycle our own wastes to get more value from the same amount of feed. Cycling wastes through a worm bin allows us to reclaim the nitrogen we paid good money for in the form of feed and fertilizer and allow us to feed it a 2nd time when we feed the worms to our chickens. The castings created in the process ammend the soil, and build equity in our garden for the future. We've also both positioned ourselves to start moving into careers that are independent of location, allowing us more freedom to take advantage of remote rural locations where land is even cheaper than where we live now while still earning a decent living. Written out it sounds like a lot - but at each step, we just tried to do what made sense given our values. When you step back and look at it, we've come a long way, just by taking sm

5/11/2009 1:02:44 PM

Over the past few years gardening has changed from something I dabbled at, to a major yearly project that provides a significant portion of what we eat. This spring, in addition to the usual annual vegetable garden, we focused on getting several different kinds of perennials in: blueberries, grapes, red and black raspberries, elderberries, four fruit trees, and asparagus in raised beds. Now I'm becoming more and more interested in medicinal and unusual culinary herbs. I figure it can't hurt to have an herbal medicine chest out in the yard.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!