Monday, February 29, 2016

A Self-Sufficient Life in 2016: 5 Final Tips

We've reached the end of our Self-Sufficiency blog series, my lovey readers. It's been wonderful hearing from you and learning with you over the past 8 weeks. I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing!

To round out our time together, I have five final tips to hopefully send you on your way toward a secure, independent way of life. Let's do this!

Bounty Preservation
I think we can all agree, I am a little nuts about food. The one piece of advice I always try and drive home with the majority of my sustainable lifestyle posts is to grow your own food. I don't care if it's one dinky cucumber that you grew in a coffee mug on your counter, I just want to motivate everyone who stops over to Flaws, Forgiven to try, just try, to grow something, anything, for consumption. Did you know you can eat Dandelions? They count.

Assuming you've tried/are trying to grow you own food, I thought it would be nice to provide you with some resources for preserving your precious bounty. I live in a cold-weather climate and my growing season only lasts about 4-5 months, give or take a few weeks. This means the plants I choose grow fast and plentiful - if I get a bumper crop (meaning, a ton of produce), there's no way I could eat it all before it went bad. I also really like to eat things other than potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables all food preservation it is!

Some homesteaders swear by dehydrators. Others love to freeze. I am pretty big on canning, mostly because it doesn't involve any plastic and doesn't depend on refrigeration. I like the idea of having safe, chemical-free, healthy food to eat even when the power goes out. I picture me and my girls all huddled in the living room spooning canned beans and corn onto our dinner plates while the candlelight flickers and the jar of apple pie filling waits to be opened for dessert and I feel comforted. I'm a weirdo, ok?

One of my all-time favorite things to can is bone broth. You can check out my bone broth post here. I make one huge batch a couple times a year and those jars last me about as long as a kid-filled house can hang onto their health in the wintertime. In an effort to keep my bone broth pantry stocked, every 3 months or so I buy some chicken backs when they go on sale and use my crockpot to simmer them down overnight. I get a smaller batch than the one listed in the post above but it works and is easy and I love it because canning rules.

So on to the resources!

This fall, fingers crossed, I will be canning up a storm and not dealing with the chaos my own mind creates. I'll be writing and smiling and taking pics to share with you guys here. In the meantime, if you're interested in seeing pictures of life around Dancing Feathers Farm (that's the name I gave my backyard), check out my Instagram page.

Kid Hands Rule
Repeat after me: our kids are not weak.....our kids are not weak.....our kids are not weak. I think the most underutilized members of the family are our little ones. When I was young I moaned and complained about vacuuming and dusting and washing the dishes. I still moan and complain about vacuuming and dusting and washing the dishes. But boy am I glad I know how to do it.

My kiddos love to help out. They are skeptical at first, and sometimes whine (ok they always whine), but once they get moving and working on it, they get excited to be helping out and actually doing something that not only makes Mama happy, but makes them proud of themselves.

Now I know what you're thinking. My oldest kid wants to be a farmer, so this is applicable to her. But what about the video game lover? The book reader? The TV watcher?

Can I please tell you a little secret? My oldest kid is all of those things. If left to her own devices she will always try to A) play video games first, B) watch TV or movies, and C) read books. She doesn't inherently want to be outside pulling weeds. Most of the time she cries when I ask her to and sometimes she'll throw a royal fit about how "hard" it is. I make her do it anyways...because this is what life is about. If you want to eat, you need to work for it. If you want to be happy, you need to make your own happiness. If you want to be strong and healthy, you need to move your body and get to know nature.

These are lessons kids don't understand and will never understand until someone they admire shows them the truth and magic behind the realities of life. 

Yes, it sucks to pull weeds....but check it out! A worm! Yes, it sucks to create your own fun instead of sitting around watching TV, but hey! Did you know that if I pump my legs just a little bit differently, the swing will float even higher into the air? Yes, it sucks to get up and out when you just want to curl up and bed down but check it out! The tulips we planted last year are sprouting!!

Use your kids, people. Use them for more than just a chore list on a wall. Use their own little hands to show them the world and teach them about all the wonders within it....and get some help while you're at it.

The only reason I know about any of this stuff is because I read. I read Mother Earth News. I read blogs. I read Pinterest pins. I read emails from bloggers I subscribe to. I read books from the library. My mama sends me newspaper articles sometimes and I read those.

Read. Read all the time. Read nonfiction, too. Head to a section of the library you've never been before and read those books. Type in some keywords in Google and read a link on the 3rd page. Subscribe to news feeds and turn your online time from tweets and character-limited phrases to genuinely helpful, fun articles and resources. Join a forum and read the posts there.

The world of self-sufficiency is ever-evolving, which is funny to me since so much of what I strive to do is rooted in the past. People are incredible and are always thinking of new ways to do things, creative ways to solve problems, innovative ways to live. Read about these things and soak it up. Print it off. Bookmark it. Never ever stop.

Ok I can't say it enough. If you're going to grow, or plant, or in any way ever try and build a self-sufficient life from the earth, learn some basic permaculture techniques. Permaculture is not just about gardening, or homesteading, or animal husbandry. Permaculture is learning how to exist within nature instead of in spite of it.

Permaculture principles are based around a cooperative, self-sustainable approach to life - you provide the tree with a good place to grow, some plants around its base to keep it healthy, and some attention to it's natural needs and trends, and you will literally reap the fruits of your labor.

Trees, natural curves in your topography, the food chain, daylight, water flow, your inherent patters throughout the day....each of these things are considered when using permaculture to organize your life, your ecosystem.

I dabbled in permaculture when I built my herb spiral and my maintenance-free food garden and can I please tell you, I am in love. The entire principal revolves around the natural shape and function of things, so most if not all of the things you build will remind you of nature, the woods, the streams. It is exhilarating and clarifying and so, so fun to build and look at.

Geoff Lawton is arguably the greatest permaculture guru on the planet, but Joel Salatin also uses permaculture principles on his farm out east. And I absolutely love, love, love the permies site.

If you don't already know about permaculture, check it out. I'm begging you.

Avoid the Muggles
This is my final and last tip (cheyah rite).....for this blog post at least.

Non Self-Sufficient people usually don't understand Self-Sufficient people. They love you, and will support you, and will be sad for you, but they won't understand why you're crying over broken eggs.

Because you see, when you lose your vegetables to drought, or chickens to predators, or some of your canned pickles shatter on the floor, you might cry. If you're anything like me, you will weep like a little baby because the self-sufficient life is hard and painful and difficult and unless you do the work, you don't understand the sacrifice.

I lost two more of my chickens late last year, leaving me with only two chickens to last the winter. I was heartbroken and shared my doubts with my homesteading group on Facebook. I received close to a thousand responses (I kid you not). This was one of my favorites:

You will eventually stop mucking all this stuff up. Instead you'll be mucking something else up. When you're homesteading or farming, you're do many, many, complex, inter-related things. you'll never be good at all of them. It's not like working a normal job where you only have to master a few skills and little knowledge to be good.

There is a secret, though. Don't talk about the bad, the deaths, the failures with people who have no frame of reference and won't understand. We lost an alpaca a few days ago. It sucked. He had a bad skin infection that I hadn't noticed under his rather thick fleece until it was rather advanced.

I was treating him, it seemed to be getting better, then he died. I actually think it's possible he may have choked, as he always was a grain "scarfer," but because he was in pain was eating in a strange position. But, see, I got the neighbor to help dig the hole, mentioned it to a few homesteading friends, but didn't say anything to the "muggles."

So, if you haven't been doing it long, you think everyone does it better than you, because you don't hear about their stumbles, trials, and tribulations. But, rest assured they had them, and continue to.

Meanwhile, learn from what you can, and celebrate the successes. You were able to put down your injured chicken yourself, in the rain. You had the knowledge, he tools, the gumption, and the courage to do what had to be done. Many people couldn't. Perhaps you couldn't have a year ago. You are learning, growing, improving, and becoming less dependent on others to make your way through the world.

This is the type of incredible support you will get from strangers who get it. Find people like you and interact with them. You don't need to become besties....just go to them when you need understanding. Love the muggles in your life but lean on people like you when you are in the weeds. Find your Ron, Harry.

And that, dear readers, wraps it up. Done. Finito. At least until next week...when I'll announce my spring blog post series :) Stay tuned! And as always, thank you so very much for reading :)

Did you miss a Self-Sufficient Life series post? Don't worry! Here's what we've covered:



  1. Baah I don't wanna read!! I'm lazy. LOL I'm a lazy consumer that's how those big businesses keep making profits. Need to take advantage more of farmer's markets but they're expensive and I kill plants. Even basil!! Basil is like the easiest one how do I do that?! Bah. You're right kids are not weak, my son seems to think he is and I remind him otherwise lOL :) Have a great one lovely Jen! -Iva

    1. Awww Iva girl! You are hilarious. Hang in there girlfriend!! I am determined to get you a green thumb one way or another!!! Come heck or high water, girl, you will grow something!!