Become Self-Sufficient? Yes You Can

>> Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Permaculture, homesteading, sustainable living, they all go hand in hand. They all describe the cultural goal of living ‘with’ nature as opposed to using it for personal gain without giving any thought to its health. Attentiveness to the needs of Earth requires the constant and sustained effort that these ideals embody.

When mankind undertook the domestication of animals and the cultivation of landscapes for his personal consumption, he accepted an unwritten responsibility to, in return, provide the sustenance required to maintain those systems now that they no longer depended on nature to provide. The resulting symbiotic relationship has not always been honored in the healthiest manner possible. Mankind introduced chemicals in order to ‘persuade’ nature to give up more, and at a quicker pace, than was previously possible. We have not always been able or willing to replenish what we have taken. As a result, we have witnessed the collapse of entire eco-systems while certain species of animals have disappeared forever.

Self-reliance and self-sustainable living are prized goals of the ‘back to the land’ movement begun over fifty years ago. It is rooted in a basic life ethic which recognizes the intrinsic worth of every living thing. Many people romanticize the sustainable lifestyle but not quite as many are capable of ‘pulling it off’. To put it bluntly, we have become spoiled by our creature comforts, our ability to ‘run to the store’ at a moments notice for butter or an outfit for this weekends party or even a family meal.

Returning to the land and becoming self-sufficient requires talent, perseverance and an education in what true self-reliance entails. It can be done, but you have to be willing and committed to making it work.

That being said, here are some words to hopefully define what many see as ‘trading convenience for a life that fits their moral values’:

Permaculture -
Permaculture is about harmony between people and nature. It is sustainable land use design. Only when you know how the wind and the sun flow over the land, how the animals move, how the soil is composed and what plants naturally flourish there, can you begin to design a system that truly fits there.

The use of traditional farming methods, knowledge of local flora and fauna, and knowledge of cutting edge ‘appropriate technology’, to create human settlements that sit lightly on the earth.

Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimized, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.

Homesteading –
Do It Yourself is the mantra of every homesteader.

Personal self-reliance, a belief that the primary reward of work should be well-being rather than money. This is the single most important requirement for being a homesteader. Changing your own oil, growing your own food, collect and use rain water instead of using municipal or well water, supplement your home’s heating system with solar panels, all of these things are the marks of a homesteader.

“Homesteader" might be the antithesis to "consumer." Even the term "consumer" implies that one only consumes: continually buys, uses up, and buys more. A true consumer gives nothing back to the planet in return. A homesteader, on the other hand, creates, nourishes, and nurtures. A homesteader is a worthy steward to the Earth.

Anyone can be considered a homesteader in any environment, suburbs, urban, or rural. If you grow your own food and raise a few animals for your personal consumption, then you are considered a homesteader.

Sustainable Living -
A lifestyle that attempts to reduce our use of Earth’s natural resources through changes in transportation, energy consumption and diet. Proponents of sustainable living aim to conduct their lives in manners that are consistent with sustaining a balance that is respectful of Earth’s natural ecology and cycles.

The recent downturn in our economy brought many new faces to the idea of self-reliance and sustainable living, but, as is often the case, when things start improving those faces tend to fade back into the crowd of those not yet willing to sacrifice their big fuel guzzling vehicles and expensive manicures. I’m not trying to be judgmental here, it is what it is.

Even those people willing to send us closer to the bottom of the fossil fuel well faster than the rest of us can do something to help society. Stop buying non-recyclable materials, start recycling and continue doing it, flex your political muscle to force more widespread acceptance of renewable energy, and put your money where your polluting tailpipe is by scaling back on those unnecessary, over-sized, ego-boosting, fossil-fuel-guzzling, road hogs.

We are in this mess together, like it or not, and we really should ALL try to do our part to make it last as long as we can.

The home gardener has taken the necessary first steps towards becoming self-sufficient. You can too. Learn how to grow your own food, hoe to preserve it, feel yourself becoming physically and mentally healthier and soon you will begin to hear that small voice inside you saying ‘yes I too can break away from the energy grid that is sucking money right out of my pocket’. Before you know it you will be referring to yourself as self-sufficient.


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