Recently, I was thinking how we throw around the terms “self-sufficient”, “self-reliant” and “sustainable”. The big three. I won’t pretend to be an expert in any of these but I have learned the difference between the three, and why it’s darn near impossible to be all three in all aspects of our life. So don’t feel bad about wherever you are on this journey, because truly we will never be done. It’s just a step at a time to achieve all three in each area of our lives and it really could be endless.
When we are self sufficient, we are able to be producers for ourselves instead of just consumers.
Self reliance is the skills we have in our toolbox to be able to produce things for ourselves.
Sustainability is when we are able to produce or live in a way which requires minimal inputs from outside of your environment.
Now read that again please. It took me a while to get it clear in my own head.
For example, take eggs. I get hens to produce eggs so I don’t have to go to the store. Now I am self-sufficient in one area of producing my own food. So now because I can look after my flock, practice animal husbandry, and understand egg layer management and what is needed to keep the eggs flowing, I am now self-reliant on my skills as a chicken tender (sorry, couldn’t resist). But then, instead of buying chickens to lay eggs, I am going to hatch my own. So now I am not reliant on outside inputs (or minimally) and my egg production becomes sustainable.
Make sense? Now imagine doing that in every aspect of your life, and for everything you consume. The thought completely tires me out and at the same time is exhilarating. We will NEVER be done. We will never BE DONE.
So where do we start?
I believe we must start with what we consume the most, and the most important things we need to survive: food, shelter, and water. For most people, our food is the easiest. Starting to grow your own food, figuring out what skills you need to do it, and then learning how to do it with minimal inputs.
You can do this, too. I promise. Starting with seedlings from the garden centre, start learning to grow a garden to feed you for three months of the year. Then learn to start seedlings. Then learn preserving skills to extend your sufficiency to 6 months, then a year. Then learn how to save seeds or even trade with friends and family so you can become more self reliant.
And for goodness sakes, don’t forget to pass the skills on to others.
When our consumption gets broken down into bite size pieces, it can feel so much more manageable. I can tackle one area at a time. And then I can make better decisions for our family instead of tossing in the towel on everything.
Remember those egg producing chickens? I can decide: this year, am I going to let my broody hen sit on a clutch of eggs and hatch them OR am I going to take them from the egg hoarding momma hen and skip a year as my hens are quite young and robust or I have a bunch of things already on the go? OR am I going to buy day old chicks this year because I want to ensure I don’t get roosters I then have to deal with ? This is a dance you tend to forget until there are bleeding cockerels duking it out over their pretty little hens. And unless you are going to butcher and eat them (sustainable meat right there), it can be hard to find homes for roosters. We grow meat hens as well as egg layers and I far prefer the taste of those to stewing roosters.
But the beauty of it is we get to choose. The power is entirely with us to make these decisions.
What’s next for us? We would love to get a little bigger acreage( it’s in the works…stay tuned!) and have a milk cow. But in the mean time, we may get a milk breed sheep. I would love to master cheesemaking on a small scale before becoming overwhelmed with gallons and gallons of milk, as romantic as that sounds.
Also rainwater collection. And then there is solar energy, herbal remedies, tinctures…….the list goes on and on.
Instead I will just sign off and go tend to the baby chicks. I love letting momma hens be momma hens.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you human mommas. I hope you all have the very best day surrounded by those you love.