If you are anything like me, you have aspirations of moving to fully sustainable living on your homestead.  Perhaps you are there already.  As I have written elsewhere, even if you are not at that point, you don’t need to wait to begin adjusting your lifestyle appropriately.  You can start today with adjusting your financial decisions, changing what you eat (and where you get it), growing and storing more of your own food, and countless other ways.

There are some very good resources on the Internet to give you some ideas to assist in your transition (or if you are already living sustainably, you might also find some new ideas).

Get Rich Slowly – a blog by J.D. Roth, noted by Money Magazine as most inspiring money blog, is a blog that I read regularly.  With lots of ideas about frugal living, Mr. Roth also has a great article titled An Introduction to Homesteading.  He has some great ideas you can implement.

Homesteading isn’t something that can be done only in rural areas; even urban dwellers can benefit from simple self-sufficient activities:

  • Buy food stuff in bulk or on sale and preserve them by canning, freezing or drying.
  • Purchase a layer (standard-size chicken or bantam) for eggs and/or meat. Many cities allow you to have a chicken or two.
  • Container garden and create a neighborhood co-op, bartering different vegetables with one another.

The Modern Homestead – a blog by Harvey Ussery.  Excellent articles on homesteading!

Planning Ahead for Preserving

It seems like it would be putting the cart before the horse to think about canning already.  Really, there is still some snow on the ground around here.  However, I want to be “putting food by” this year so I need to be planning ahead of planting.  If I put some thought into what we would like to be eating next winter and how we will preserve that food, I should plan what that food will be (and how much) so I can plant appropriately.

I expect to improve my skills at freezing and dehydrating this year.  As for canning, I have never canned, so I can’t really improve skills I don’t have.  But we will be canning this year.  I didn’t put up any tomatoes last year even though I had a huge crop – and by huge, I mean WAY more than we could consume.  I regret not canning all of those tomatoes, especially in the middle of winter.

If you haven’t thought about canning, you should.  I think it is an important part of self-sufficiency.  It should help you reduce your reliance on the grocery store and what you spend there.  It is also a dying art.  I recall both of my grandmothers and my mother canning every year.  My parents had an enormous garden and we ate its bounty throughout the year.  But my wife does not can, nor was she taught this art by her mother; something that previous generations had passed on.  In fact, most of the women I know do not can, nor do they know how.  And why should they?  Food is plentiful at the store.

But what happens when the day comes that food is not plentiful at the store, or money is tight, or both?  Should you be relying on outside systems for your daily nutritional needs?  I would argue that it is just plain foolhardy to put off learning any longer.

I will be picking up a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, considered the Bible of preserving by some (or most?).  I was also considering a copy of Putting Food By by Janet Greene.

If you are looking for more information on preserving, canning, freezing, and dehydrating, definitely check out Ball’s site  It has a lot of information, resources, recipes, ideas, and also some crafts.

And if you intend to can this year, start thinking about what you will be preserving.  You’ll need to plan your planting accordingly.

Hard but rewarding work

I had every intention of getting this blog going last year.  My mistake was setting it up in the spring when I was actually at the height of planting my garden.  Then one thing led to another and, as anyone can plainly see, it was shelved.  Well, it is high time to pull this idea back off the shelf, blow off the dust, and get started!

The point of this blog is to be an encouragement to others that leaning toward an agrarian or self-sufficient lifestyle.  The principles of agrarianism and self-sufficiency will be quite necessary in the days ahead.  With the impending implosion of our debt based, consumer driven economy, the reality of this will become apparent for many of you that have put things off.  I believe that some people, rather than relying on government for their help, will turn to God and begin to cut the ties of this bondage.

In these scary economic times, the first place that people will turn is to grow their own food.  This tends to come out of necessity to save money.  If this is you, be encouraged.  It is hard work, but it is rewarding work.  There is no greater satisfaction than sitting down at the dinner table and enjoying the fruits of your labor.  But you will need to persevere.  The road is long and hard.  You will find that a great deal more work goes into growing your own food than running across the street to the grocery store.

I use a garden plot that is provided by the city.  This year, our family intends to expand that operation to include more plots and possibly some additional land.  We may be driven to find additional land elsewhere as the demand for garden plots grows.  Last year, with the economy beginning to falter, more people made the decision to start a garden to, hopefully, alleviate some of the paycheck-to-paycheck cash crunch.  When I went to pay for my plot, the woman at the park district told me that this was the first year in all her time working for the park district that they had sold out every plot.  I suspect that demand will be even higher this year.

Sadly, by the middle of summer last year, many of these plots were overgrown and abandoned.  People find that tending a garden is a great deal of work and they are simply unwilling to sacrifice their modern (and busy) lifestyle to do it.  This is sad for a number of reasons.

First, it shows a lack of perseverance.  What if the Pilgrims who came to this country, after finding out that the work was harder than anticipated, had decided to pack up and go back to England?  What if the Revolutionaries had decided that fighting for independence was too hard?  America is known for rolling up its sleeves and going to work when things get tough.  If your family’s survival depends on producing food, then you need to persevere through the hard times.  Turn off the television and get out there and do it.

Secondly, and I think this is most important, is that to give up on growing your own food when you realize how hard it is will put you behind in your learning curve.  And the economy is worse this year so the need is even greater.  What would you do if the economy totally collapsed?  Would you be able to survive?  Could you care for your family?  These are important questions and if you haven’t worked toward self-sufficiency when the going was easier (notice I didn’t say “easy”), then what will you do when it is not only harder, but critical to your survival?

I don’t want to be bleak, but these are very real things to think about and they have been weighing heavy on my heart for these past few months.  That is why I want to encourage you to persevere if you are already working toward self-sufficiency and to get started if you haven’t already.  It is hard work, but it is rewarding work and you will be better off for it.  And I will commit to continuing this blog with (hopefully) helpful ideas and encouraging words as we go on this journey together.