Monday, January 4, 2016

A Self-Sufficient Life in 2016: Phase 1 - Identify Your Goals

The start of the year is contagious. I'm not talking about the various viruses that may be weaving themselves into your home via kids returning to school, or the sick, sweeping panic of the political system as it winds up to deliver blow after blow of dollar-seeking propaganda, I'm talking about a sweet, clear perspective of freshness. A contagious, shared inhale and exhale. A new start. Whether we look forward to it, curse it, or anywhere in between, the start of every year yields a sense of beginning, motivation, and purpose.

January is typically a busy month for me. I was born this month, exactly three days and twenty-two years before my oldest daughter was born. My wedding occurred this month, although on paper we were married back in December. I'm winding down from the holidays and trying to fit back into routines. And last, but certainly not least, this month is busy because it's filled with planning.

Oh am I ever a planner. 

You wanna know what I do when I get sad? I plan vacations. Trips. Parties. Events. Dinners. These things might never (and rarely do) come to fruition, but I plan them anyways. Planning things, daydreaming, and seeking out the wondrous possibilities in front of me keeps me peppy. It brightens my day. 

And this year is no different. This year, I've planned a number of things already. And one of them has to do with you, dear readers. Oh yes.

If I had to name one area of my life where I've found new life, new joy, and new learning opportunities, it would be my journey into self-sufficiency. 

It started innocently enough. I felt a deep, deep sense of anger at the fractured way I was living my life. I worked to pay for a home I never saw, for kids I missed all day, a car that burned fuel racking up miles to the office each day, and food I didn't have time to prepare. I was tired, I was frustrated, and I was angry. And I still am. You see, despite quitting my corporate job and working from home, our household is still dependent on the income of my husband. He essentially switched places with me. We still shop at a commercial grocery store stocked with food from Mexico and I still buy clothes made in China.

I'm still chained to the dependent life. 

My dream is to personally make a big enough dent in our cost of living to actually make a difference in the quality of our lives. And I want to do it without the typical American budgeting tricks like shopping at WalMart, cutting coupons, or relying on cheap man-made goods to get me through. I want purity, I want community, and I want to learn how to do things the way nature intended. I want, with the help of rain, sun, dirt, and neighbors, to do this on my own. I want a self-sufficient life. 

And I'm not alone. 

The organic craze has exploded. Chicken-keeping is something women actually find cool again. Even some of my best dear blogging readers, who blog in a completely different genre, participate vividly when prompted with questions about a self-sufficient life. 

And so, for the next 9 weeks, while we cozy up under winter's chill and wait for planting time to begin, I invite you to follow along as I unwrap 9 different phases of developing self-sufficiency. And I"m not only talking about the hippie, tree-hugging, permaculture sense of self-sufficiency (althought that's bound to appear now and then because those things are glorious), I'm talking about an all-encompassing, personalized sense of self-sufficiency...according to you. These phases are customizable.....I will explain my application of each phase, but how you apply them your own life will be completely dependent on you, your wishes, abilities, and efforts.

I could not be more excited to share what I learn as I walk, talk, and learn it, myself. 

So where do we begin?

I am a member of an incredible Facebook page for small-scale homesteading and self-sufficiency. One of the admins, a man named Rich, consistently adds his input to a repeat question I see time and time again on the page: "I want to get started with living off the land, producing my own food, and breaking ties with the grid, but how?"

His answer time and time again: Set. Your. Goals. 

I'm not talking about things like, "I want to be healthy," or, "I want to make money doing stuff I love." I'm talking about clear, specific, attainable goals. They don't need to be mind-blowing, huge goals, although you're welcome to shoot for the stars if you want to. I prefer to start small. When I accomplish small goals it helps me build the confidence I need to tackle the bigger, more mind-blowing tasks in my life.

A few of my goals for 2016:

1. Make at least 2 recipes from this cookbook a month.

2. Save enough money by bypassing store-bought items to take a vacation.

3. Write 20 articles for supplemental income.

4. Plant at least 5 new varieties of vegetables this year.

5. Offset an entire year's worth of onion costs by growing them instead of buying them.

6. Restock the chicken flock and secure egg buyers. 

7. Learn how to sew a dress for each kid. 

8. Add three more raised beds to the backyard.

9. Replace once-a-week eating out with once-a-week homemade pizza night.

10. Revamp freelance writing website and gain at least 3 new clients. 

Notice the goals are specific. And unique. Do websites and gardening typically fit together? No, but for me and my life, my website will (hopefully) earn me enough money to offset the startup and reoccurring costs involved with planting, chicken-keeping, and making my own household products. Even homemade hummus is made from something...and that something isn't free. 

Keep in mind self-sufficient doesn't need to mean devoid of income, especially when you are just starting out. Raised garden beds can be built from cheap materials, sure, but then you need to fill the beds with dirt. Dirt, strangely enough, isn't dirt cheap. 

To me (and everyone is different), self sufficiency means no longer spending my income in places that do not share my means no longer being dependent on people and things that do not jive with my goals in life. I will always need to shop (I can't grow my own olive oil, man!), but I want to buy my things and spend my money supporting people who care about our planet, our kids, and our health. And if that means I learn how to make my own cheese, stitch my own pillowcases, and chomp my own carrots in the process, then awesome. More life skills to market myself with.

Because that's the second part of my definition of self-sufficiency - I will know I've reached my goal of a self-sufficient life when me and my immediate family members are doing what we love instead of doing what we hate...or kinda just tolerate. I'll know I've made it when I am making ends meet doing what I love and when my immediate family members aren't forced to drive into a cubicle for 71% of their lives. I know. Sounds a little nuts, yes? Idealistic? Unrealistic? 

But no. People do it every. Single. Day. Every single day, someone realizes her talents, her dreams, and her capabilities and she packages it, markets it, and sells it with pride. And everyday, people buy it. They share it. Others buy it. And a lifestyle is made. It happens every day, people. And everyone has a right to realize that dream. You like yarn? I bet if you like it enough to make your own, people will buy it. You really need to love it, though. You need to be dedicated to making it real, despite what others think, or how hard it is, or how much you want to give up. There are millions of people who give up and walk around living and dying according to the clocks and agendas of others. 

You don't need to be one of those people. And you can start by identifying what you want and setting specific goals to get there. I'll do it with you. Let's go.

What are your goals for the new year? Anyone trying to eat healthier, start a new hobby, or worry less about money? Anyone out there have a lifelong dream you've never realized? Oh and if you enjoy pictures of chicken butts, homemade food, and garden greens, check out my backyard farm's new Instagram page. I created it exclusively for my journey toward we're sure to see some epic fail pics on there eventually! I am so excited to continue this journey with you next week, dear readers, and as always, thank you so, so much for reading :)

Ready to check out the next phases? Click below!


  1. Good luck with your goals!

    I love homemade pizza.

    1. Thank you girl! And yes. Homemade pizza is the bomb. I've actually decided that it will be a weekly Friday night thing from now until I'm dead.

  2. Hi! I've missed you during my little blogging break. Yes it IS contagious isn't it? I have done my vision board and am journaling my journey this year to be who I want to be. I can't wait to meet her! And will you teach me how to sew a dress?

    1. I've missed you too Kristen!! I would LOVE to see a picture of your vision board - is it on your blog? I'm gonna hafta go check. I love your mentality about "can't wait to meet her" when referencing your new self. What a completely inspirational way of thinking! And yes...once I figure the dang thing out, I'll show you how to sew a dress! HAHA

  3. Now I'm all inspired! Great post Jen. My goals are very similar, I want my husband to do what he loves and be home more often. I figure we can lower our monthly expenses by lowering our grocery bill. I'm so excited because our goats are due in March, and then we'll be able to quit buying milk, and cheese, and yogurt! For us, that's more than $100 a month. Already I love passing the egg aisle and the meat aisle. I love your goals, I think I'm going to figure out what mine are now. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop, I always enjoy your posts!

    1. Thank you Jennifer!! :) I am so excited to hear about your goats....chickens are a gateway livestock for sure because I am completely head-over-heels with the idea of getting a dairy animal. I am torn now between sheep and goats....but will likely go with goats! So excited for you!! Hoping I get to read about all of your dairy endeavors! :)

  4. This is such an amazing post and so motivational. My goal is financial independence though I think I like self-sufficiency better. I've had a lot of set backs recently in terms of emergency spending - tree came down in a storm, bought a new vehicle after I could no longer take the maintenance on my old when any longer. I did set a couple of attainable goals this year which I hope will help me become financially independent in the long run. Also, always enjoy your self-sufficiency posts.

    1. Thank you Savvy! I am so excited to have you on board with the series! I was definitely thinking of your financial goals - I remember them from last year. Life happens for sure but the goals are still goals and still attainable, you got that right! Keep setting and reaching and I just know we'll touch at least one of them eventually. Sounds like even with your setbacks you were able to get a few hard-earned things (new car! WOOT WOOT!)

  5. Oh how this resonates with me, Jen! I am currently working to correct my finances with the end goal of liberating myself from the rat race. We just found out today we were approved to rent a house which allows us to garden. I have a homesteading girlfriend who is helping me get started on some raised beds. I will definitely be back to read and keep me motivated on my journey. ❤

    1. Yes! That is so exciting Carlene!! Gardening is a blast - I never thought I'd like it - I have a brown thumb! But each season I learn a little more and getting those seed catalogs in the mail is like getting little nuggets of gold!! :) So excited to have you on board and welcome!!!