There are many aspects of “the olden days” we feel a certain nostalgia for– a better connection with nature, strong communities, independence, and close families. These aspects can all be implemented today with one unifying goal: self-sustenance.
I spent many years on the side of a mountain in Alaska at the end of a dirt road. Having always lived in towns and cities, my family decided to make the most of our new home. My father taught us which berries were edible and how to hunt and fish. My mother taught us how to garden. Every fall she would have me and my sisters pick the ripe raspberries from the garden and the wild berries on the mountain so she could make jams, jellies and juices.
My first real job was on a vegetable farm. Aside from the camaraderie, the greatest benefit of working on that farm was all the free produce. After we were done with work for the day our boss would let us go into the fields and pick as much broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, beets, swiss-chard, potatoes and carrots as we could carry. My mother would then blanch, freeze, or can everything we brought home. In other words, my mother encouraged me and my sisters to work with the land to fill the pantry and freezers.
My father took us hunting and each year we eagerly awaited moose season. After a moose (or bear) was shot we harvested all of the meat. None of it went to waste. We would pack it out and spend two days processing all of it for the freezer and pantry shelves. Fishing was the same.
By the time I was 14 I knew how to ethically hunt, efficiently harvest large game, filet and process salmon, smoke meat, identify and harvest wild berries, search for other wild edibles (fiddle heads, rose hips, fireweed blossoms, etc.), and assist with the canning.
Why is all this important?
My husband and I want to become as self-sufficient as possible. While this may seem like a large goal, in reality, the steps to getting there are quite simple. Why should one shop at Meijer for produce when Morlock’s farm stand is open? Why buy milk from the store when your friends have a cow or goats? Why buy meat from Walmart when the local butcher shop buys from the farmers in the county and does everything in house? Spend the spring planting a garden and tend to it all summer to relish in its’ bounty in the fall. It is a lot easier to do a one-stop-shop at Walmart for meat, milk, eggs, produce, etc. but it is much more rewarding to not.
Some of this may not seem like it’s self-sufficient because you’re not doing everything yourself. However, that’s where the aforementioned highlights of the olden days come into play. When staying within your local community you will build relationships with the butcher, become friends with the old lady whose goat milk you buy, and look forward to the weekly visits from people who buy your chickens’ eggs. You are building community with the people surrounding you. Real relationships. By planting a garden you’re connecting with the earth in a very real way. By asking the old lady at church to teach you how to can jellies you are spreading joy of passing on valuable and hard-earned knowledge. And all of these things can be done with your children and passed on to them. Harvest season will become a family affair. Hunting season will be the highlight of the year when your oldest son gets his first deer and his siblings help him dress it and bring it home where we all take part in putting it up.
By becoming self-sufficient within the local community you’re becoming independent of supply-chain crises, building up positive relationships with those whom you live with, learning to work together as a family, and discovering how to work in union with God’s first book.
One thought on “Self-Sustaining Lifestyle”
I think you reveal an interesting paradox when you point out how being more self-sufficient actually helps you better recognize your dependence on others around you. While becoming independent from supply-chain crises, you are in better place to recognize your dependence on nature and your local community. It seems there is actually a greater humility required to choose to be as self-sufficient as possible because you are depending on the gifts of God’s first book–hoping that nature will take its course in your favor to give sun and rain to your garden, that the deer will cross your path when you are out hunting, that the chickens will have a normal cycle of fertility to consistently lay eggs for you, etc.
It is easy to get complacent and entitled when you get everything neatly laid out for you in the store, usually with multiple options and brands for each item. When you choose to get things as locally as you can, it seems you can better live in that state of gratitude because you know and recognize the real things–soil, animals, persons–from which the good you enjoy have come.
On the other side, maybe this is also a challenge for us to be more humbled and grateful when we cannot be as self-sufficient as we would like, and we are dependent on the natural resources and hard work of people from other places that we can’t know and recognize. The gift has come a greater distance, but it is still a gift of God’s first book. It’s just harder to recognize it as a gift when we have not cooperated with nature to see it come into being.
Thanks for writing about this! It brings back some of our conversations about “soilty” and helps me better see that even our best self-sufficiency is really a greater dependence on God.
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