Why Be More Self-Reliant?

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto
article image

A lot of people will say that it is easier, more efficient and infinitely more practical to pay for what you want to get, rather than go to the trouble of making or doing it yourself. In our age, when stores are so reliable and offer a mind-boggling array of products and professional services can be obtained for almost anything, wouldn’t it make more sense to shell out a little more money and make one’s life a lot easier?

Or, to rephrase this, why would I go to the effort and expense of building, cleaning and maintaining a chicken coop, buying and caring for chickens, providing a constant supply of feed and water, dealing with predators, pests and diseases, when I can simply go to the supermarket and buy a dozen neatly packaged eggs?

Why should anyone sweat and work hard repairing a water heater, or building their own house, or sewing their own clothes, if it’s possible to invest that time and energy into earning more money, which can be later transferred to professionals to do the same job more neatly and more effectively? There are many reasons.

A radical homesteader from Connecticut who prefers to call himself Xero says, “Consumerism to a large degree only exists because it profits off of our own loss of skills. Over the last hundred or so years people have undergone what I see as a horrifying loss of survival skills.

Without these skills, without the ability to survive on one’s own, one must depend on already manufactured, and continuously manufactured goods and services to stay alive. These goods and services cost money. In order to get said money, one must submit to paid labor. Sometimes one can find labor that is fun and fulfilling, but that doesn’t represent the majority of folks, especially on a global scale.” 

Many handy skills, especially anything connected with building, home repair, electricity, etc., do indeed save a lot of money directly and with comparatively little trouble. So can growing your own food, if done right. But there are other things to take into account as well, such as:

Food quality and freshness – the food obtained from one’s backyard, whether it’s vegetables, eggs, milk or meat, is infinitely superior to anything that can be bought at regular supermarkets for a price anywhere near reasonable. It is fresher, tastes better, offers more health benefits and you know exactly what it was or wasn’t exposed to.

Food variety – when I go out to the garden to pick some fresh mint for my evening cup of tea, I’m getting something I can’t obtain from a store-bought teabag. I don’t usually encounter fresh mint or lemon balm at the store. At my own backyard I can grow different varieties of vegetables and herbs, raise alternative egg sources (such as ducks), and in general provide something more interesting, food-wise, than standard supermarket fare.

The satisfaction of working with one’s own hands to create something useful or edible is unequaled. It gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment unsurpassed by anything else.

The emotional and mental effect of a simple life – for some people, living on a plot of land and homesteading is an emotional necessity, no less. It’s what they need to do to stay sane and productive. Others are content to live in an urban setting, but find that they need frequent contact with nature and growing, living things in order to de-stress and preserve their peace of mind.

Locally sourced production makes sense ecology-wise and community-wise. There’s something incredibly satisfying to know you’re consuming food that had been grown right where you live.

Home-raised animals are healthier and happier and lead far better lives than commercially raised ones, even if both end up in the pot. Thus, by keeping some chickens and goats or a cow, you are actually reducing the amount of suffering in the world. When I see our chickens happily strolling around the yard in the afternoon sunshine, I often can’t help but think of their unfortunate counterparts locked up for the entirety of their short lives in commercial battery coops, never seeing sunlight.

And finally, but perhaps not least importantly: products and services that are readily available today might not be so in the near future. It is the belief of many wise people that our current economy is not sustainable. I do not have the ability to predict whether we are facing something like the Great Depression in the near future, or simply economical fluctuations, or even nothing at all – but it’s good to be prepared. In case prices go up and store shelves empty, the people who know how to grow their own food, fix their own roof and make a little go a long way will be a lot more comfortable than those who have become used to a lifestyle of frivolous spending.

Anna Twitto’sacademic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.comAuthor Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna’s Mother Earth News postshere.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.