How to Be Self-Sufficient
Want to learn how to be self-sufficient in a world with increasing food shortages, supply shortages, and skyrocketing prices? Want to get out of the city and live a more down-to-earth and frugal lifestyle? What does it mean to be self-sufficient? Wikipedia tells us that it means ‘needing no outside help in satisfying one’s basic needs’.
For some people, it’s being able to save money by growing your own food or living in a more affordable house. But for many people, it’s knowing you will have food to feed your families when store shelves are empty due to soon-coming shortages. Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes from economic crashes to natural disasters, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know you are prepared for any disruption. It’s good to remember that careful planning is your road map to family security. You’ll soon see the benefits of having your children grow and learn in a more natural environment. They just might have more fun playing with baby rabbits and puppies than playing digital games all day! And, there’s just something about feeding the chickens and gathering eggs that kids love. They will be able to plant seeds and watch them grow – then have the excitement of harvesting what they have grown. It’s a great learning experience! Plus, you could earn additional money with even a small hobby farm.
Perhaps you can’t get out of the city but still want to become more self-sufficient? Maybe you live in an apartment or condo and are limited on space? This article is geared more toward having your own small homestead property, but there are many things you can do with less storage availability. Here are my top 12 ways to become self-sufficient:
1 – First of all, you have to make the decision, because it’s a lifestyle change for sure. Will you have to quit your job and find new ways to earn an income? Or can you keep your present job and work from home? Is this something that you and your spouse agree on? It will take both of you working together to make this change happen. It pays to be ‘handy’ and know how to take care of basic carpentry, plumbing, electrical needs. What sort of tools do you have and are familiar with using? What about preserving the food you raise? It requires equipment and know-how. Are you comfortable around animals? And what kind of animals do you plan to have? This new lifestyle can be a steep learning curve if you’re not prepared for it.
But, the rewards are many! Your stress level will greatly diminish, your children will learn responsibility and your whole family will be healthier due to more outdoor exercise and eating nutritious organic food.
2 – You’ll have to find your place! Can you move anywhere you choose? Have you thought about where you would like to live? Maybe it’s right where you live now – and you want to become more self-sufficient! Where you choose to live should have a good climate for growing food. We are in Middle Tennessee, and it’s an awesome place to have a self-sufficient lifestyle. There’s an abundance of woods, streams, lakes, hunting, fishing, and more. The growing season is between 60 and 90 days depending on the specific location. Find your specific growing zone here.
I’m just like you! I wanted to find a few acres for my family! So, I know how to find the right property for your self-sufficient home! I know what to look for! So, call me! I’m here to help…
Find Homes with 5-25 Acres
The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It
3 – Grow a Garden! Now that you’ve found your place, let’s talk about your new adventure in becoming self-sufficient!
The first thing you should do is find the perfect place for a garden. Watch the sun and how it moves throughout the day. Most crops need 6 or more hours of sunlight daily and a southern exposure is usually the best. You might have to cut a tree down if it shades the area too much. You can grow a garden pretty much anywhere you have sufficient sunlight. Even a sunny window in an apartment will grow some vegetables. Look for dwarf varieties of tomatoes and grow them inside. They produce delicious cherry tomatoes on a plant that’s about 12-18″ high. Perhaps you have a small room or closet that you could set up with a grow light to have year-round food? If you have a small backyard, plan it well and it will produce for you. Be sure to check with HOA rules if you live in a restricted neighborhood. Could you fence in an area to use? If not, you could use raised beds and landscape around them so they look nice.
The best gardens that I’ve found utilize the raised bed method and/or grow bags! They produce well with much less work than traditional gardens that have to be ’tilled’ and ‘hoed’ all the time.
The raised beds can be whatever size you need. I like to use 4’x8′ beds if It’s possible to walk around all sides. If you have box up against a wall or barrier, then it should be limited to about 30″ wide so you can reach the plants. They can be 8″-12″ deep depending on what you plan to grow in them.
Do research on the depth of various roots to determine how deep you want your garden raised beds. You don’t have to till the soil or do much weeding and the plants grow very well. You can even put them up on legs if you don’t want to bend over to take care of your plants.
The absolute most important thing about a garden is the soil! If you have good soil, your plants will be happy and you will reap the benefit of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. We use a mixture of rich topsoil (that you can buy (in bags) at a garden center or have delivered if you need a larger amount), peat moss, mushroom compost, and Black Cow fertilizer. You will want enough of these soil amendments to ensure that the soil is loose for easy root growth. After you’ve planted your crops, side-dress them with Epsom salts mixed with 20-20-20 fertilizer for good measure. Sprinkle it by hand next to the plant, but not on the plant. Although some plants like a higher or lower pH, this mixture is a good general place to start. Now just plant your crops, keep them watered, and watch them grow! Hint: Before you put the dirt in the boxes, put down some brown paper or cardboard and it will keep weeds from growing.
Plant fruit trees as soon as possible because it takes several years for them to mature enough to produce apples, pears, peaches, etc. Strawberries, black raspberries, and blueberries will also be a welcome addition to your food supply. The berry bushes will require some strong hardscape to grow on, so plan ahead for them.
Strawberries (and many other plants) can easily be planted in an array of rain gutters or PVC pipe to keep them off the ground. I love being able to pick a few strawberries for french toast in the mornings. You can buy different varieties – some will mature in May/June and some are everbearing, which means they grow through the summer season. They are so easy to freeze and use all year for delicious desserts.
I learned the hard way to install a wire enclosure around the garden area to keep critters from eating all your bounty! I promise…the animals know the very minute your crops are ready to eat and will get to them before you do. It’s worth the time and money spent to build an enclosure. It can be as simple or as elegant as you want.
Some crops aren’t as attractive to the little critters, and can be left to grow without being in the enclosure – but you can bet those juicy strawberries, blackberries, and tomatoes will go fast if you don’t protect them.
Food self-sufficiency is about more than growing your own fruits and vegetables.
4 – Chickens! – So much fun to have around! The kids love them and you have all the farm-fresh eggs you can eat. They have such interesting little personalities. Letting them free range is both good and bad. The good is that they will eat insects and keep your yard free of little biting things – but the bad is that you won’t have the chickens very long.
Large birds, raccoons, foxes, and other large animals really love a chicken dinner. I like to keep my chickens in a large coop with an attached run so they have plenty of space. I, personally, don’t like to keep roosters. They are loud and most of them are cruel to the hens. You can do very well without them unless you want to breed the hens. But, for egg production, all you need are the girls.
There are some breeds that produce more eggs than others. Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Isa Browns are some of the best producers of large brown eggs.
You’ll have to be careful with an HOA if you want to have chickens. They are against almost all HOA rules
5 – Rabbits! Be sure to add rabbits to your list of must-haves. Children are totally captivated by them and love to hold and play with the baby rabbits. They are easy to take care of, quiet, and produce a lot of protein for your family. There are many different varieties to choose from. Do you want pets or meat rabbits? It just depends on what you want them for. You just need to make a covered space available, build some cages and you’re ready to go.
For meat production, a mixture of New Zealand and Californian rabbits make a good combination. It is recommended that you have 1 buck and 2 does to start with. You’ll also need some ‘grow-out’ cages for the babies (kits). Each doe should have her own grow-out cage, so 2 does means 2 grow out cages. The does can have up to a dozen in each litter, and they will require some space before they are old enough to sell or process. If you want a breed that is lovable for pets, try the Dutch Lop. They are ever so cute and friendly to kids.
If you really want to be self-sufficient and not have to buy feed at the co-op, there are a few plants you can grow. Plant shrub willows, comfrey, and kale to provide most of the nutrition for your chickens and rabbits. You can also plant a specific garden for them…utilizing plants that they like to eat and are good for them. Just designate a specific area for this animal garden and don’t mow it. Let it grow up, then cut it down and let it dry out Then just tie up little hay bales that will feed them all winter. The only time you will need supplemental pellets to feed the rabbits is when the doe is kindling and producing milk to feed the little ones. She will need an extra boost at that time.
More Food Self-Sufficiency
6 – Goats – In addition to the meat and eggs from the chickens and rabbits, goats will provide milk and cheese for your family.
Goats are larger animals and require more space and care. They need a sturdy fence at least 5′ high, otherwise, they will jump out and you’ll be chasing goats.
7 – Bees! It’s getting harder to keep bees. I’ve tried, but they didn’t make it. I don’t know if it’s pollution or chemtrails, but bees are dying out all over the world.
Most communities have beekeeping groups that meet and will most likely have some good ideas for you.
Bees provide wonderful honey for your family, which is not only good to eat – but is medicinal as well.
Preserve your Bounty!
8 – Canning! Many people are intimidated by the thought of a pressure canner, but it’s not that difficult to learn. There are also ‘water-bath’ canners that don’t use pressure. What you’re canning depends on the method you use.
You can use canning to preserve your own crops, and also save money by buying in bulk at the farmers market. It’s easy to preserve fruits, vegetables, and meat. Yes, you can easily preserve meat. Most everyone loves ‘bread & butter’ pickles. You can do a ‘meat and 3’ – by layering your choice of meat with vegetables – and you’ll end up with a full meal in a jar. All you have to do is heat it up when you’re ready to eat it.
Make a large pot of delicious soup and can it for your family! It’s easy and so much better than what you buy in the store. Plus, you know the ingredients!
9 – Dehydration! – This method is one of the best to use if you have limited storage space. You can dehydrate most fruit and vegetables. I’ve even successfully dehydrated eggs and hamburger meat. It’s fun to experiment and practice!
You can easily dehydrate apples, tomatoes, corn, carrots, beets, squash, onions, peas, corn, and broccoli with excellent results. When they are finished, they will be brittle and hard. You can eat dried vegetables like veggie chips or use them in soups and stews. My favorite is dried pineapple. It’s candy! I like to dehydrate a variety of vegetables and mix them together. Then I vacuum seal them for use later in my stews.
Actually, you can vacuum seal almost anything…flour, biscuit mix, pasta, candy, cake mixes, and more! You can buy a vacuum sealer online or in many stores.
Mini-Farming on 1-25 Acres
What you can do depends entirely on how much land you have available. With careful planning, you can grow a lot of food on 1 acre, but 2-5 acres is ideal especially if you plan to have some small animals.
10 – Water! When you’re looking for your place, water will be the most important thing to look for. It’s vitally important to have a water source. City water is great if it’s available – but you always need a back-up source!
You’re in luck if the house has well water, but a stream, pond, or river will suffice. You can usually dig a well, but it’s expensive. Some wells in the Ozarks are 300′ or deeper. If it’s the perfect place but no water source, you can buy large tanks to hold water…but you’ll have to take steps to keep it fresh. The tank should be a black or dark color to keep light out…otherwise, algae will grow and you’ll have a mess.
Many homes in the Branson area have well water, but I was frustrated to find that most don’t have a manual pump. This means that if the electricity goes out for any reason, then you don’t have water! It’s possible to add a manual pump, but you should have it checked out by a pump installer to be sure about your specific location. If you decide to install a manual pump, here’s a great one to use.
What About Power?
11 – Power! You will most likely have electricity (unless you live off-grid), but it’s good to have a backup plan – just in case! There’s always lanterns or candles, but what if there is a power outage that lasts a long time? Solar panels might be your answer!
Depending on your budget, you can run your entire self-sufficient farm on solar panels or just have a few panels for specific items.
A generator might better serve your needs, but it will require a steady supply of fuel that might or might not be available. Consider your needs and determine which options are best for your situation.
Propane gas for heat and cooking is a good option. If you have a large tank, you could easily keep 500-1,000 gallons on hand. But, be sure to keep it filled. The tanks can either be above ground or buried. They can be rented from the local propane dealer or purchased. Some propane dealers will limit the size tank on your usage, but if you purchase your own tank, it can be as large as you can afford.
A wood stove is great for keeping your house cozy and warm in the winter. If you can position it in a central part of the house, it can keep your family comfortable during cold weather. Plus, there are a few that will accommodate cooking pots/pans on top to do the double-duty of cooking while heating the house.
Last But Not Least – INCOME!
12 – Income! Will you be able to keep your job and work from home? Or will you need to supplement your income with what you produce on your self-sufficient homestead?
Here are a few thoughts in no particular order:
- Sell what you grow! Eggs, chickens, rabbits, canned food, jams/jellies, fruit, vegetables, honey, goat’s milk, or cheese. These products can be sold at local farmer’s markets or Craigslist/Facebook Marketplace.
- Sell rabbits to Pet Stores.
- Sell Firewood and Hay
- Start a home-based internet business doing what you know how to do.
- Have teaching seminars on your homestead to teach others what you have learned.
- Grow microgreens and mushrooms to sell to Upscale Restaurants in your area.
- Build a Greenhouse and sell vegetables year-round to local restaurants.
- Raise fish to sell or have pay-fishing if you have a large pond
- If you’re qualified, teach classes on gun use and safety
- If you have a barn, you could board horses
- Raise beef cattle and pork to sell
There are many ways to earn money on a small farm – just put your thinking cap on and go for it!
As always, please contact me or call 615-428-8500 with any questions you have. I’ve been on this self-sufficient journey for several years and would love to share my experience with you! Hope to hear from you soon.