Saturday, January 16, 2010

One lesson learned

One of the things I've learned since we departed Suburbia back in Aught-5 is that for us, anything approaching self-sufficiency is a bit unrealistic. Maybe if our home and land were paid for and I didn't have to work full time, we might be able to get a fair bit closer than we are now.

Then again, I think true, independent self-sufficiency is pretty unrealistic for anybody. It's very hard to go it alone, in the cut-hay, chop-wood, haul-water, Pa Ingalls sort of way. Especially absent both skills and community support.

I'm confident that we could learn to do any given aspect of this. But not everything. Not filling all of our needs all the time. I've come to accept "no man is an island" in a different and more complete way than before. I mean, how better to establish ties within a community than by buying and trading for some of these things?

What's important about this lesson for us, is that it changes what we're looking for in a home and a property. By accepting that we don't need enough space to do it all, we can reduce the amount of land we need to acquire, pay for, and maintain. We can focus on those things that a) we're good at, b) we feel strongly about, and c) will mesh with our circumstances.

Plus, downsizing would free up both time and money, allowing me to focus more on all my goofy permaculture-infused dreams and flights of fancy.

I've got a basic wish list of things I want out of a homestead. They don't all have to be present initially, but they have to at least be feasible:

A large vegetable garden
A moderate herb garden
Some room to experiment with calorie & feed crops, like grains, roots, & tubers
Fruit trees (apple, peach, & cherry at least)
Nut trees (Hazel & chestnut at least)
Fruiting shrubs (various)
A few goats (probably Nigerian Dwarf, as indicated by the previous post)

Shelter for goats & chooks (and their feed)
Extra insulation in the home
Energy efficient windows
Rainwater collection

Metal roof
Wood burning heat stove
A partially cleared, partially wooded property
Solar hot water
Solar PV
A small greenhouse
A small but self-sustaining pond

...and of course, a community that has the ability or potential to supply us with other essentials - locally grown food, perhaps wood, perhaps hay, not to mention friendship and support.

(I'm always open for suggestions, additions, critiques, commentary.)

It's probably a pretty typical list for homesteader-types and wanna-bes. We have many of these things already, so it may seem strange that we're moving. It's pretty hard to let this place go in a lot of ways. It really has a lot going for it. But it comes at a price that's higher than we'd like right now. And our immediate area is critically short on some key things.

I'm being slightly vague here lately. Given the State of Things, there are no guarantees that we're going anywhere. But here's hoping the powers that be can keep this whole thing propped up just a tiny bit longer.


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At 1/16/2010 10:07 AM, Blogger Madcap said...

I think that the idea of using a smaller parcel more intensively is much more reasonable for most of us, given the type of economic system and culture we live in. Just having a mindset that stores and prepares for the future and possible emergencies means that the individual is less of a burden on his/her neighbours/community in times of crisis.

And you guys, having a child with such significant needs, I can certainly see why finding community support is a big issue.

I hope you find a buyer soon!

At 1/16/2010 12:08 PM, Blogger Wendy said...

I would add a private septic system (or enough land to build an outhouse :) and a well with a hand-pump to my "wish list", but being where I am, a wood burning stove would be a priority - as a multipurpose feature that allows me to heat my house, boil water (for cleaning, purification, and making tea), and cook. In fact, if I had my druthers, I'd have a wood cookstove.

The self-sufficiency question is a big one for me, and while I completely agree that it is unrealistic to believe that each individual can satisfy all of his/her needs, I also think that we should be able to provide for most of the basics without any outside help (i.e. shelter, water, and some food), but my goal is to also provide some of my "wants", like electricity :).

For me, being mostly self-sufficient is about cutting costs, because if I supply it for myself, I don't have to buy it, which means I don't have to have as much of an income ;), but also it's about security, because if a water main breaks or the power lines snap, it could be very bad if those are my only alternatives, and I *need* those things to survive.

At 1/16/2010 10:40 PM, Blogger knutty knitter said...

I am not a gardener although I do grow lettuce and herbs and a few other things, so being self sufficient means making and supplying other necessities like preserves, knitting, teaching, crafts etc.

A pair of decent socks ought to be worth at least a dinner or two :)

That said I am quite capable of growing stuff if I need to. I have most of those skills anyhow - I grew up with them.

viv in nz

At 1/19/2010 7:36 PM, OpenID helwen said...

You have food and shelter-type things, but don't forget clothing and shoes. You need a source for clothing and/or cloth for making your own, and the same for shoes only probably in leather, or leather and cloth, or maybe some plant materials for woven soles (not as durable, but has its uses).

And even if your community provides those things, you'll likely want to be able to do some of the repairs yourself, so a basic level of skill in working with fabric and leather is a good idea, without worrying about mastering either.

Hm, and if your plant focus is food, then looking for a community with medical supplies (herbal or whatever) and experience would be good.

Community is a most excellent thing :)

Heather G

At 1/29/2010 5:17 PM, Blogger Leslie Hawes said...

Is that place in NC next door to the Breakfast Fairy with the cantaloupe, sausage and biscuits still for sale?

At 1/31/2010 11:47 AM, Blogger e4 said...

All - Thanks for the feedback.

Leslie - Sadly, no. But I guess there are more fish in the sea, so to speak....

At 8/14/2010 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, I have to disagree. Self-sufficiency IS attainable, but it's VERY time consuming. Anyhow, the goal shouldn't be self-sufficiency... it should be preparing for self-sufficiency. For example, I have a woodstove. It's for when we can no longer afford propane. But if we can afford propane, we're going to continue using what we have, because it's easier and affords us more time with our family - time NOT spent cutting/splitting, loading, stacking, lugging wood.

We have a deep-well hand-pump for when we can't afford (or no longer have) electricity. We do NOT use it, we use water from the tap. But the goal is to be prepared, NOT to be self-sufficient. Yet.

Dunno if I'm making sense... but the goal is to be able to be an island if SHTF, but not LOOK like it now. So that people will move on around you, leave you alone, and then after bunkering for a while, you can thrive on not just what you have prepared, but what they left behind. No?



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