How To Become A Little More Self Sufficient

August 4, 2016, by Ken Jorgustin

steps-to-self-reliance

Most all of us are very dependent upon other systems (infrastructure) to literally keep us alive. Naturally, this is a result of many technological and societal advances that have enabled a more convenient way of life, a ‘modern’ lifestyle.

It’s a good thing in the sense of progress, however the thing is… the more dependent we become on other systems, the more we rely on them for our survival… and there is a certain amount of risk that goes along with it.

For most people, this dependence and associated risk is not a thought that enters the mind. But for a few of us, we recognize that it exists, and to an extent we try to offset it with some preparedness.

A question is this… What can we do to become a little more self-sufficient and a little less dependent upon modern critical infrastructure systems that literally keep us alive today?


 

First we must identify some of these systems.

Food
Water
Electricity
Fuels

(there are more, however these seem pretty important)

And then we must discover what we can do to offset reliance, in order to become a bit more self sufficient.

For starters, we don’t need to go ‘all out’ to completely sever our external reliance’s on these things. Although becoming 100% self-sufficient is an awesome goal, it is very, very difficult (and rare) to fully accomplish in reality. So to begin with, take small steps. Do what you can to soften your existing reliance on external systems.

 
FOOD self-reliance is very difficult. Why? Because our bodies need at least 2,000 calories of food per day – along with a good nutritional balance. Your typical backyard summer garden will not even come close to providing that kind of caloric count for an extended time… HOWEVER, your typical backyard garden WILL set you off in the right direction to be a bit more self-sufficient.

I don’t care how small your starter garden is – you need to start somewhere. Next year, MAKE IT BIGGER. Learn from your mistakes this year. What worked and what didn’t work. Do more of what did work…

The next food step for being more self-sufficient is preserving some of what you grew in that garden. Seriously, this is important. Canning some of your harvest is not as difficult as you might think. It does take some time, but it is a ‘must’ for self-reliance. Learn how to preserve some of your harvest for off-season.

You should also practice home canning by purchasing certain foods from the grocery store that are on sale. For example, once in a while when chicken is on a deep discount, we purchase a quantity and ‘can’ it. We not only save lots of dollars on the chicken itself, we also save dollars by not having to keep it all in the freezer!

Related: My Pressure Canned Chicken

 
WATER is a critical resource more important than food itself. While it would take a major disaster to interrupt our municipal water supplies, we should not ignore it’s importance.

A critical step towards being more self-sufficient in the water department is to acquire a good drinking water filter. Unless you live in a dry desert region, many of us have some sort of water source fairly close to where we live. Perhaps a stream, river, pond, or lake. A means of gathering that water and filtering it for safe drinking is a tremendous step towards risk deterrence.

Additionally, store a good quantity of water in your home. Maybe it’s simply a stack of several cases of bottled water. Or you might fill a water barrel for emergency. These simple steps will alleviate (for a time) your reliance on a municipal water source.

I have a well (actually a shallow ‘dug well’ at a natural spring) and I still keep water barrels filled for ‘just in case’ my water pump fails (to offset the time to get it fixed). It’s never a bad idea to store water!

 
ELECTRICTY is the life blood of nearly all things ‘modern’ including our systems of infrastructure. Although the prospect of a long-term power grid failure is beyond the scope of this article, the more likely short-term outages can be fairly easily offset with an ordinary generator.

A generator for home emergency usage does not have to be huge. I know of many folks who have 6,000 watt or 8,000 watt generators (or higher) however you typically don’t need nearly that much power to operate critical appliances within your home. For example I am able to easily run my critical systems with a 3500 watt generator while only consuming a fraction of that power to operate the fridge, freezer, furnace, and some lights. While a whole-house monster generator is great, you can get by with less – just saying.

Solar power has become very popular. However most of these home systems today are ‘grid-tie’ which feedback solar energy into the grid – which you are credited for on your monthly bill. The problem though is that most of these grid-tied systems will not produce electricity for the home if the grid itself goes down (some will), and ALL of them will NOT provide any power for the home at night.

This is why I have built my own ‘off grid’ solar power system (with a battery bank) which provides entirely separate and independent power – not related or connected with the grid. My home is connected with the grid; however, I also have the capability of an entirely separate power source (kind of like having a separate generator). You can really go ‘over the top’ with these systems but the good thing is that you can start small…

If you want to reduce your electricity consumption, one of the most effective ways is to replace all of your light bulbs with LED lights. I have done this throughout my home and it made it big difference (especially important for solar systems). It’s worth the investment and these LED bulbs have come down in price. A typical 60 watt incandescent bulb is now only 8 watts as an LED light source!

Regarding becoming further self-sufficient against your electrical utility company, just think of all the things in your home that ‘require’ electricity and then find alternatives for them. For example, a solar oven is very effective for cooking (it’s similar to cooking with a crock-pot), so long as the sun is shining and it’s not freezing cold outside.

Think about cooking without electricity. What are the alternative methods for doing so…?

 
FUELS are an integral part of all modern systems. Oil, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, are all resources that mostly power our industrial age. The cost and availability of these fuels are influenced by politics, nations, trade, markets and other factors. To minimize your reliance (in general) is to explore alternatives. During times of plenty and low costs, most people are not concerned about it. However, if resources get tight (for any number of reasons) then you will pay more for it (them). At the time of this post, fuel costs are relatively low and are apparently plentiful. But it will not remain this way (e.g. War, production cuts, trade wars, currency valuations, depletion, etc..).

Think about the ways that you can offset your reliance on these fuels. Maybe a wood or pellet stove to compliment your existing heating system. Get a bicycle and ride it instead of your vehicle if it’s appropriate for a short trip or commute, etc.. (A bicycle is a great prep item).

If you have a homestead, you already know about the importance of fuels to power your ‘tools’ (tractors, tillers, mowers, etc..). So having a decent (and safe) storage of such fuels will ‘buy you some time’ during a temporary disruption. With that said, it’s painful to consider long-term alternatives for such tools – requiring much manual labor and extremely slower production – but it’s something to consider. At least start with some basics…

Side note: There is great appreciation for the incredible and very hard work and manual labor that was required of our ancestors before the modern conveniences of today’s life. When you really think about it – it’s remarkable. A ‘day in the life’ way back then was truly back breaking…

 
Okay I’ve rambled on for more than 1300 words, so I’ll stop here. The point is that there are things that we can do to at least reduce our total dependence on today’s critical external systems that literally keep us alive. Every little step that you take is one more towards being a little more self-sufficient.