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My wife and I are working towards being self-sufficient. Or as self-sufficient as one can be in the 21st century.

The problem is, the word "self-sufficient" has been used over and over so many times that it starts to lose its effect. I think another good term would be "indefinite sustainability". Meaning a lifestyle that can be maintained for a long time.

What "exactly" does it mean to be "self-sufficient"?

In my opinion, it would be easier to change your lifestyle, then try to adapt your current lifestyle. My goal is to have a blend of both, my current lifestyle, and a lifestyle that can be maintained with as little help from the outside as possible.

Within the next year my wife and I are looking at moving to a rural area. We already live about 4 miles outside of Jasper Texas. But we want to move a little further from town.

When I was a child, my great-grand parents on my mom and dads side of the family lived in rural areas.

On my moms side of the family, my great-grand parents lived in a small house on the banks of the Neches river just south of Dam B. My great-grand father ran trotlines all the time and caught some huge catfish. They made their weekly or monthly trips to town for beans, bacon, medicine, and other basic supplies. The house they lived in was a very basic 4 room house - bed room, kitchen with a tv, fridge, stove and oven, bathroom, and enclosed wrap around porch.

On my dads side of the family, my great-grand parents lived on a homestead with around 30 acres in a rural area. They had cows, a horse, garden, barn, chickens. And one thing they seemed to have a lot of was peace and quiet.

Both places had several things in common. They caught or raised some of their own food, and they lived off the beaten path. I want to achieve both in the near future.

Over the past year or so I have been putting a lot of thought in my homesteading project. The goal is to have a garden and livestock that complement each other.

Here is my plan for a combination chicken yard / garden. This is my original plan and was not lifted from another site.

Access to each side of the chicken yard / garden would be controlled by 2 doors in front of the coop. For one year 1 door would be open. When I am ready to work the area where the chickens are, the door to the coop will be closed and the opposite door opened.



On the backside of the fenced in area are a couple of acres for growing corn, watermelons, pumpkins,,,.

One of my main goals is to have a garden and chicken yard that work together.

Length – 100 feet

Width – 50, maybe 60 feet. The width will be divided in half with a dividing fence running long ways. This leaves a section 25 or 30 feet wide by 100 feet long.

Sixteen 4 foot x 8 foot raised bed per side, 8 per quarter.

During the off season, the side of the garden not being used will act as compost bins and a chicken yard. Table scraps and grass clippings will be dumped into the raised beds. The chickens will dig though the compost bin, keep it rotated, and add their own fertilizer.

Rainwater off the chicken coop can be caught, stored in drums and used in the garden.

Something else I could do, is build some rabbit coops, then add the rabbit droppings to the garden. Since the garden is fenced in, maybe let the rabbits run free inside the garden from time to time.

Water

Water is the biggest of my concerns. The plan is to put a well in. Besides having an electric pump, also have a manual pump, something like a Bison.

Rainwater can be collected off the shed and the house, then use the rain water to water the garden.

With a nearby creek, I thought about using a solar trickle charger to pump water from the creek into the garden.

Livestock

Under my plan, my main sources of meat would be chicken, goat and supplemented with wild game from time to time.

I do not have the goat yard figured out yet.

Electricity

The thing that has made on modern life possible.

The plan is to have solar panels attached to a deck in the backyard. Solar is still a ways for me, but the plans are in the back of my head. I want to get the garden complete, or at least 1/2 way running, then look into solar.

What I thought about doing, is where the power go into the house, build a shed there with all of the solar controllers. Power goes out, go to the shed, flip a switch, and then we would be on battery backup.
 

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Self sustainability is a little misleading. It is possible if you accept the inherent limitations. To work in a big way a small community of like minded individuals with differing trades and talents would be necessary.

I'd have no way to saw lumber, but I could trade or barter with someone with a saw mill if we were close enough.

Like you I prefer to go it alone with my family. Trust is a pretty big issue here. You would have to really trust the other people, buy a tract of land and divvy it up to maximize the sustainability of the many.

Nice post!
 

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No man is an island. There are extremes within the topic of Sustainability. To many, once you have to go to the feed store or gas station you've failed when it comes to sustainability. The majority of preppers who attempt that route fail. (why live a PAW lifestyle when you don't have to) Those who do have a supporting community to help.(yes I know some of you can do it and love doing it, more power to you)

Unless you are able to work full time on your farm or are able to hire the help needed. What you can aim for is a set up where you do have the ability to ramp up planting and breeding to feed your family long term. What you stock up on is knowledge and experience.(along with all the normal preps) What you also want to do is set things up so you can sustain yourself in some degree of comfort. (yes it would be nice to have a handpump in the yard, it would be even nicer to have one inside the house!!) IMHO the more "basic"comforts you have the higher the odds of your survival/sustainability.

Indefinite sustainability? Not without a community.
 

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I am with you on this one. When I bought my place years ago there were around 2,000 people in the county in which I live. now there are nearly 100,000. Too much for both my wife and me. We have land but it is too far away (6 hours in no traffic). Met with my oldest daughter last night and she and her husband want to move out near us with same idea to be more independent of the system and off the grid. My son in law is a solar tech. GB
 

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Kev,

Great post. This same idea has been on my mind for awhile, and I was actually just having a convo with two friends about starting a little community, based on a communal living set-up.

The aspects required obviously would be a garden, chicken/goat/pig/rabbit pens, some sort of fishing nearby or a stocked pond, solar electricity and perhaps the "earthship" style of thermal mass walls.
(For those who havn't heard about these, they are walls made of tires packed with sand. They hold heat throughout summer and release it slowly throughout winter for even heating all year round, and feature large banks of south facing windows for indoor gardening year round. Less firewood chopping.)

You would need a fair bit of money just for accomodations for 8-16 people. Then you would need some sort of a decision making process, as in a council on the concepts of farming/gardening, labor distributio, security, community morale and what goals the group is going to work towards.

I love this idea, and only lament the fact that I am unable to come up with any sizable investment $. I would trade my modern life in a city of a million for a dirty as one where I can sit on my porch drinking homebrewed beer looking out over the crops.

Its a dream I hope to see come to fruition one day.
 

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Just some thoughts (from an armchair analyst),

Re the creek, if there is enough speed you might get the water up with a hydraulic ram pump. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_ram

I've read that East Texas gets a fair amount of rain. There's a rainwater harvesting calculator at
http://rdcisterns.com/rainwater-harvesting-calculator
Yield is roughly 600 gallons per 1000 square feet of catchment per inch of rain.

If you've got the time, space, money, water and energy (phyiscial, mental and electrical), you may want to add an aquaculture component. Some ideas to consider - duckweed, spirulina, aquaponics. Good square foot yields, lots of info online. {I've accumulated lots of web links.}

Re electricity, post hurricane Sandy I've seen comments that solar and windmill installations get hammered in high wind. Solar is still the fastest and most scalable setup, but down the road when you have time and more manure, you may want to set up a methane digester w/ generator. I don't know how much influence future manure has on your current layout planning.

Re comments by REM, mrsols, seawind, I have to agree. We can attempt to insulate ourselves from the world, but no one is truly self sustainable unless they are willling to completely cut themselves off from the world and go way low-tech. It is not enough to produce food and energy, you'd also have to produce your building materials, clothes, hunting equipment, et.al, and the spare parts to maintain your technology.

Sounds like you have a reasonable, scalable plan. I don't think you can achieve self-sustainability, but you can definitely achieve a good way of life. Best of luck on that :).
 

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All of the above. My dream is to have a largely self-sustaining homestead. To be part of a sustainability or eco village would be best of all. Now to convince my husband that we don't have to live on a busline...
 

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Here's my thoughts, the more self sufficient you are, the better, but as it was said, no man is an island. I come from a VERY large (some say huge) farm family. We own almost the whole valley we live in. I am surrounded on three sides by Amish. We are pretty self sufficient. 100%? No. Not only do I think we could NOT be 100% self sufficient, even if I were to take in count the whole neighborhood, but I wouldn't want to be.

First, this internet thing makes me reliant on my provider. I don't do TV but I do enjoy a relaxing hour of surfing the net at night. Could I give it up? Yes. Would I want to? Obviously not because I'm here. A true self sufficient person is one that is not online.

I love my olive oil. Olive trees do not grow in big enough numbers in Wisconsin to give me all the olive oil I need. It is shipped up the Mississippi River for me to buy. I use it to cook and to make medicines. I do have a Piteba to make my own oil but I can't make it fast enough, nor grow enough to keep it in use all the time. So I need outside help for my fat source (as most people do. that's why we crave it because in the RW fat is hard to get).

What I am saying is that we can each take more and more care of ourselves maybe we can change the world so that we don't have to worry about it being forced onto us. The carpet can't be yank out from under us or if it is, we don't have as far to fall if we already know how to take care of ourselves a great deal more than most people do. Not by stockpiling but by living a simpler life.

That's MHO anyway. If we didn't need as much from the people who seek to control us with that need (like dealers do junkies) we wouldn't have to worry about the crashes that can come from having those needs taken away from us.
 

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Self sufficiency would be very, very difficult; however, sustainability coupled with trading would be very doable. I think a good idea is to extend this plan to include integrating into the community where you setup this homestead. You will need other people. Some people's setups might be more suited to producing something you don't have and vice-versa.

Develop something - food, crafts, skills - that you can use for trade. Get to know your neighbors. Establish a bartering / trade system now before things get bad. Perhaps you don't have much access to firewood, but you know someone sitting on 100 acres of woods. See if you could barter chickens or do odd jobs in exchange for the wood. That would help both of you become stronger and you would have a relationship and could help each other in a survival scenario.
 

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raised bed gardens waste a lot of space. They look cute, so people like 'em, but they don't gain you anything; you can just till and plant that whole area, without the raised beds.
 

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For all the nay Sayers out there please explain to me why Kev cant be self sufficient? I mean really be specific.

As I recall the pioneers, mud farmers and fur traders of the Pre-America/early America - the new world never had Internet, utility companies or seven elevens. They hacked their lives out of the wilderness, by the sweat and blood of their hands and buried their children along the way.

ill be the first to agree that no man can be his own island, but those who are like mined can build a nation against all odds.

So if they made it, why can't Kev?
 

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Maybe I thought of this cause I'm sitting here with "Sands of Iwo Jima" on, but think back to the Japanese military guys that came out of the jungles years after the war ended. They survived someway with no solar panels, dried foods, or much of nothing else. Just something to think about.
 

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For all the nay Sayers out there please explain to me why Kev cant be self sufficient? I mean really be specific.

As I recall the pioneers, mud farmers and fur traders of the Pre-America/early America - the new world never had Internet, utility companies or seven elevens. They hacked their lives out of the wilderness, by the sweat and blood of their hands and buried their children along the way.

ill be the first to agree that no man can be his own island, but those who are like mined can build a nation against all odds.

So if they made it, why can't Kev?
Okay, first I read Kev's post, which said he still wants to live a similar livestyle to what he has now. That's what I was going with. Driving a car means having money. Having the internet and a computer means having money. Living in a home that you do not make the repairs on (not a log cabin or a grass hut on some island) means having money. That's what I was going with.

I have said it many times before that people look to the past with not always a truthful eye. Are there people who lived without outside help? Yes. Most went mad and/or died at a young age. Trading is a part of our early society. I did a whole disertation on the history of trade and your early Americans traded with EVERYONE, from the American Indians that kept many of them from starving, to trappers, to other farmers. Prostitution was a huge industry in the wilderness. And while burying children may sound noble to you, most people probably want something better for their children. At least I hope so.

Also, comparing that time in history with today may not be realistic. American Indians still had skills that allowed them to trade with the colonial farmers. Today many of those skills are lost. Eating catfish from the Mississippi was a way my father would spend his summers, now eating those same catfish in the amounts he did would have a person going mad from mercury poisoning. The zebra muscle has destroyed a good deal of the fishing industry of the Great Lakes and our deer herds are affected with diseases like CWD.

The world has changed, and not always for the better.

I know people who live up on The Black Jack, a maze of rivers. They live simply with no electricty, no internet, not running water, no education. They still come in and drop bait to make roach traps for 6 to 8 weeks every year to get the little bit of money they need. They do not live completely self sufficient.

As for finding a deserted island...well, that's a dream many people have. Which is why so many of them are being over developed by the rich or protected by the countries that don't want them over developed by the rich. There isn't tons of them out there waiting for someone to go live. If a person found one two things would probably happen. The country that owns it would kick them off, or once people saw it was being done they would swoop in with their millions, buy up the island, kick you off for squatting, and build a huge airport and resort to make even more money.

Welcome to the modern world.
 

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In regards to those Japanese Soldiers, yes they survived for a long time in the jungle, however many of them were found out and caught because they were stealing from small farms in their area. Successfully securing food/supplies from local farmland can in itself be a survival skill (taught in many military E&E courses) it still means dependance on the outside world.

Community is the way to go for 'indefinate sustainability'. One big change that I think will have a big impact on alot of people in that situation is when the 8 hour work day becomes a 16 hour work day. Even modern farmers wear many hats including but not limited to horticulturist, veterinarian, auto/diesel mechanic, carpenter, metal fabricator, plumber, roofer, geologist and meteorologist. Many add husband, father and teacher to that list. I think being a "jack of all trades" to begin with would make a world of difference (this applies to all SHTF scenarios IMO)

Division of labor would be a great help and everyone involved should learn everything they can about every job to be done so if someone is ill someone else can fill in. I am an advocate for preppers local to one another having meets and building friendships. I encourage these people to assist each other now, before a major SHTF or some such. Perhaps a large storm has put several trees down on your property and caused some damage to your home. What's the better option, calling a tree service and a contractor? Doing it all alone? What about several friends get together with a couple chainsaws and a log splitter? Everyone can split up the wood after all is done and maybe have a beer and bull session at days end. People could begin with the most damaged property first and go from there. Building these kind of relationships now will not only make your community a little better but will be a great asset in a SHTF "indefinatly sustainable" collective farm type situation.

Sorry for the long winded reply just my .02
 

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The system will not allow us to be 100% self sufficient.

First of all we are social creatures, interaction with other people is a psychological and physical need.

Second, in today's world we also have the need to pay the "man" his dues.

I think I have more of an issue with the definition of self sufficient or the way it's being presented.

In a WROL

Basic human needs would be:

Water
Food
Shelter
Security
Human interaction

In to days world we also need to include: paying the man his dues

be that home mortgage
Property taxes
Payroll taxes
Car payment
All those social restraints, all the hoops and loops we have to jump through just to survive in today's world.

Looking at it in a practical way and considering this is a "prepper" "survival" "homesteading" self sufficient" forum.

It might be logical to takes steps to improve or maximize the WROL or bare minimum human basic needs and in the process reduce all those social restraints.....Granite the "the man" is going to get his share of your hard labor and harvest, that's just how it is. :thumb:
 

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I am an advocate for preppers local to one another having meets and building friendships. I encourage these people to assist each other now, before a major SHTF or some such. Perhaps a large storm has put several trees down on your property and caused some damage to your home. What's the better option, calling a tree service and a contractor? Doing it all alone? What about several friends get together with a couple chainsaws and a log splitter? Everyone can split up the wood after all is done and maybe have a beer and bull session at days end. People could begin with the most damaged property first and go from there. Building these kind of relationships now will not only make your community a little better but will be a great asset in a SHTF "indefinatly sustainable" collective farm type situation.

this paragraph is so exactly how i feel that i had to comment on it. i understand op-sec i really do and i understand not instantly trusting everyone you meet on the "evil internet" but i am convinced that if we do not try to learn from each other, help each other, and share with each other then when s*** really does hit the fan the great majority of survivalists/prepers/homesteaders are just as thoroughly screwed as the "sheeple" maybe not as quickly screwed i will grant that but screwed none the less.

in my opinion it boils down to united we stand, divided we fall
 

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Okay, first I read Kev's post, which said he still wants to live a similar livestyle to what he has now. That's what I was going with. Driving a car means having money. Having the internet and a computer means having money. Living in a home that you do not make the repairs on (not a log cabin or a grass hut on some island) means having money. That's what I was going with.

I have said it many times before that people look to the past with not always a truthful eye. Are there people who lived without outside help? Yes. Most went mad and/or died at a young age. Trading is a part of our early society. I did a whole disertation on the history of trade and your early Americans traded with EVERYONE, from the American Indians that kept many of them from starving, to trappers, to other farmers. Prostitution was a huge industry in the wilderness. And while burying children may sound noble to you, most people probably want something better for their children. At least I hope so.

Also, comparing that time in history with today may not be realistic. American Indians still had skills that allowed them to trade with the colonial farmers. Today many of those skills are lost. Eating catfish from the Mississippi was a way my father would spend his summers, now eating those same catfish in the amounts he did would have a person going mad from mercury poisoning. The zebra muscle has destroyed a good deal of the fishing industry of the Great Lakes and our deer herds are affected with diseases like CWD.

The world has changed, and not always for the better.

I know people who live up on The Black Jack, a maze of rivers. They live simply with no electricty, no internet, not running water, no education. They still come in and drop bait to make roach traps for 6 to 8 weeks every year to get the little bit of money they need. They do not live completely self sufficient.

As for finding a deserted island...well, that's a dream many people have. Which is why so many of them are being over developed by the rich or protected by the countries that don't want them over developed by the rich. There isn't tons of them out there waiting for someone to go live. If a person found one two things would probably happen. The country that owns it would kick them off, or once people saw it was being done they would swoop in with their millions, buy up the island, kick you off for squatting, and build a huge airport and resort to make even more money.

Welcome to the modern world.

I can tell by the way this post is written that the writer has been there and done it. Thank you spaewyfe. To go back a step further, even the Indians had extensive trade routes before the Europeans arrived.

Personally I have been able to say for years, that if people left me alone, I could subsist indefinitely. That being said, if I am prospering and people around me are starving, people are NOT going to leave me alone. Now I might be able to survive the first couple of assaults but on a not so long term basis, I would be overwhelmed and killed. On the same line of thinking, although I could subsist, I could not even come close to the lifestyle I have now. Although I am doing things like working on a solar powered system and I can install one myself, when this system fails, which it inevitably will, I can neither manufacture the solar panels nor the batteries or any other parts of the system. I can take any other single system I use and come to the same end results. Eventual failure.

Now I have lived without all the modern systems, actually no, on a long term basis I have never been without a motor vehicle. I have taken month long trips with a canoe or a backpack, but that wasn't a lifestyle, it was vacation time and always used modern goods and supplies. I've lived for several long term stages in my life without electricity but if I include purchased batteries and LED lights, indeed I did have 'electricity'. Also at no time did I do without at least kerosene lights. Yes I know there are substitutes but oil refining is not one of my many skills. I guess I could and actually I am able to manufacture candles but now we are getting down to a way of life I don't really choose to live. I have even learned skills like flintknapping and making self bows but when I get serious about hunting and not just playing, I get in my pickup, grab my rifle, drive a few hundred miles, stay in a tent, and then many times ride a 4 wheeler or canoe into game country. All bought and all something I can not readily make for myself.

I have enough land and gardens to grow just about one hundred percent of my needs, but that is only just about and doesn't include wants. I'd either have to make a long dangerous trip to the coast to boil down salt or trade for it. I truly like the varieties I cannot grow for myself. Pepper, spices, oranges, bananas, above poster mentioned olive oil, and dozens of other foods that I am accustomed to.

What it boils down to is first your DEFINITION of self sufficiency then how much deprivation can you live with. We can all cut down on our immediate dependence on society but almost absolutely by necessity it will very quickly in the future, require a replacement society in order to survive with even the most moderate amount of health and safety and comfort. So strive to decrease your dependency, but without literally unlimited sums of money, talking many millions of dollars here, you are not going to reach true self sufficiency, not even close.

My humble opinion is, and I know this will rankle the ones of certain political persuasions is to work at building a fairer, more sustainable society that will improve the quality of life for everyone. I would venture to call it something like a productive society, where everyone has equal rights and at the same time RESPONSIBILITIES and one that will protect our deteriorating environment.

The optimist side of me says this can be done. The pessimist side of me says we will never choose to do this until we fail first.
 

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Over the past year or so I have been putting a lot of thought in my homesteading project. The goal is to have a garden and livestock that complement each other.

Though he does this on a large scale and for profit, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms does just that, and be a good model. Tons of youtube vids to learn from.

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

Here's a good intro.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3
 
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