Thursday, September 20, 2012

Self-Sufficiency? Self-Reliance?

I've been reading homesteading/farmsteading/gardening blogs for a couple of years now. I'm far from an expert at any facet of the vast range of subjects involved. We still live in a house in the suburbs. Our garden is laughably small (though we do have three chickens) and we still have to spend 40+ hours a week at our jobs.

Anyway, I've been thinking about how the goal of many homesteaders -- and something I've been enamored with the thought of -- is becoming self sufficient. I think some folks mean it literally: "We grown/make everything we'll ever need here on our property." And others tend to strive to get closer to self-sufficiency: "The more we can do ourselves, sustainably, the better."

I think I fall more into the second camp. But there's more to it than that. Self-suffiency might be a misnomer. And there are too many shades of gray.

One thing I do feel strongly about is that we need community. Even if we're able to make or grow or raise everything our family needs, we still need community. We need neighbors and friends. We need teachers and mentors.

Of course, it's much easier to say this than to make it happen, especially for an introvert like me.

Whenever I read a blog post about someone with a large project they're working on, I wish I lived nearby so I could help. I love helping out with projects, even (especially?) the manual labor aspect, where just trying hard and spending calories can really make a difference in someone else's success or happiness or well being. I love that. I don't have many (any?) specialized skills and the ones I do have are really not that well suited to farmstead life. But I can carry stuff. I can move stuff. I can dig, pull, push, chop, swing, pound. I'm reminded of "crop mobs."

When my next door neighbor was working on his chicken coop I was over helping whenever he'd let me, but it took me literally TEN years of living next door before I was comfortable enough to approach him. Did I mention I'm shy?

I read about clubs that meet and people who offer classes for homesteaders and the various skills/trades that are associated with it. That's what we need more of. As people learn to grow more of their own food -- for whatever reason -- and live a more basic and sustainable life, they'll need help getting there. We'll need teachers and mentors. Luckily there are so many great people out there on the Internet willing to share and to teach. It's a community of its own.

1 comment:

  1. I know that we get lots of people calling us asking if we will mentor them. This is great, but the number of them that are really serious, versus those "kicking the tires" and then giving up when they find out that it costs more to raise your own food in this day and age, and also requires a huge commitment of time and work tends to make us turn most people away. Reading your post, however, certainly makes me reconsider talking with those who want to come work with us and learn.