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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coming Full Circle Back to Self-Sufficiency

Me (in the middle) with cousins on grandparent's farm
My family has always been proud that each generation has risen above our parents in terms of education, income, and standard of living. My grandparents, although very intelligent, were barely literate. Both of my grandfathers had been coalminers and subsistence farmers in Appalachia. My parents did not graduate from high school. They have always told stories about living without electricity, plumbing, taking care of the chickens, hogs, milk cow, big garden, preserving food, and sometimes going hungry.

They were proud that their children were not raised that way. My parents moved us to a northern industrial city where they worked in factories. We usually had a garden, but no chickens, hogs, or milk cow. My husband's background is similar. I went to college, eventually got an advanced degree and until recently lived in urban areas. Our daughter has her advanced degree and is a manager in NYC. She has gone to school and traveled in Europe--we haven't! She and her husband live in an apartment without even a window box. Each generation has become farther removed from self-sufficiency.

My husband and I retired and moved to NC in a mountainous, isolated, rural area with many acres. It reminds me of where I was born. We have become very serious about preparing for hard times, both short term and long term. You already know what I am going to say for you are probably experiencing the same thing. Now we are spending a great deal of time and energy trying to learn what my grandparents and parents always knew--how to survive on what you can grow, kill, preserve, and make yourself.

We initially focused on preparing our emergency kits, food storage, medical supplies, and water storage and treatment. We found that was actually the easy part. We knew from our efforts 30 years ago that to put away a year's worth of food and supplies is not enough. It was certainly more than most people did, but we could have been in a world of hurt if TEOTWAWKI happened. We found that our storage food was not easy to rotate. Everything was freeze-dried meals in #10 cans (not very tasty) or grain in large buckets packed in nitrogen that we weren't real sure what to do with. We made a few loaves of bread, but that was about it. We still have the #10 cans of freeze-dried food, but gave away the buckets of beans and grain to some LDS families when we were making one of our cross-country moves.

What are we doing different now? We are changing our lifestyle to become more self-sufficient. I have no doubt that our grandparents are in heaven laughing at our sometimes pitiful attempts, but would appreciate that we are trying. It breaks my heart that we lost the opportunity to learn all we could from them. Thank goodness for the APN preppers, and homesteaders who are willing to teach me.

Specifically, here are a few of the things we are doing to make ourselves more self-sufficient.
  1. We have no debt--no car payments, no mortgage, no credit card balance. In playing a "what if" scenerio, we thought what if my retirement check stops or is significantly reduced? What if our 401K savings become worthless? What if Social Security is unavailable to us? We don't want to be in a situation where a bank or the government can take away our property and home.
  2. We store what we eat, and eat what we store eating more unprocessed food. We grind our own wheat and other grains for bread, granola, oats, etc. We make our own hominy and corn meal from dry corn. We make soy milk, tofu, and tempeh from soy beans. We cook dry beans instead of from a can. We grow and eat sprouts. Unprocessed food bought in bulk costs much less than convenience food from the grocery store so we save a lot of money and can rotate our storage food. To become even more self-sufficient, we need to grow these items ourselves as some of our friends on the APN Forum do.
  3. We are growing much of our food in a garden that is getting bigger each year. This includes freezing, drying, and canning what we grow.
  4. One of our next big projects is to install an external, wood-burning furnace/hot water heater. We have an unlimited supply of wood for fuel. Our home is currently heated with electricity.
  5. We also plan to install a solar system this year so that we can be independent from the electric company and electric bills. We consider this to be a good investment while our dollars still have some value. We would also like to be able to generate our own electric power in the event it becomes unavailable.
  6. We are learning how to hunt and protect ourselves.
  7. We plan on raising some animals such as rabbits, chickens, and/or goats for meat, eggs, milk and fiber.
8. We store over 200 gallons of rain water and are adding to that system. Our water source is well water, and we have a septic tank.

9. We are making and using our own laundry detergent, bar soap, soft soap, and shampoo.

10. I installed clothesline poles and hang my clothes outside rather than use my clothes dryer. I think this must have been the first solar-powered appliance!

My grandparents didn't have solar for electricity--they used oil lamps for much of their lives and a wood-burning kitchen stove. Water came from a bucket dipped into the well. An outhouse and slop jars were the substitute for plumbing. A washtub set up in the kitchen was used for a bathtub. I really don't want to have to go back to those times--but know I can if I have to.
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