I've had several people wanting to know my plan when they find out I'm working toward self-sufficiency. The thing is, I have ideas. I don't have a list of specific goals for production levels, and some things I haven't decided yet. I know I want to make better use of the space & resources available to me. Here's what I have in mind so far:
1 - Eat weeds! Why leave the weeds or rip them out only to leave them on the ground or in the compost pile when we can eat them?! I've been harvesting dandelion leaves & alfalfa and dehydrating them to make a nutitious herbal tea in the winter. These are plant foods that I haven't been using much, so it's a new step this year. I'll be adding mint & parsley from the garden for added nutrition & better flavor. I'll be harvesting rosehips for the first time this year, too. You can make jelly out of rosehips, but I'll probably just use them in tea.
2 - Chickens. This is one thing people typically think of when we want to become more self-sufficient. The problem is that we see pictures & blog posts talking about how wonderful it is to have backyard chickens & to eat fresh eggs...but we don't know what it costs. The chicks we bought cost $4.00 each. Then there's the cost of the feeding tray, the water dispenser or dish, the brooder box with a heat lamp (& sawdust to go in the box) when they're babies, a coop outside for when they're bigger...it's not cheap to raise chickens. There were other breeds that were only $3.50 each, but Buff Orpingtons are good for egg-laying AND for roasting, so we're getting a better deal for the money we spend to buy & raise them. We already had the brooder box, heat lamp, pine shavings, & the outdoor coop. Even with all that, and with all the grass & weeds & kitchen scraps they eat (which all help supplement the storebought feed but don't replace it), we've spent $74 so far on 10 chickens and we'll need to buy more chicken feed for them in a week or so...and they won't start laying eggs until November or December, so we'll be buying a lot more feed for them before we ever see any return on our investment. I'm hoping that we'll keep getting enough eggs from the older chickens to sell a few in order to help pay for the feed for all the girls. Another thing I want to start doing is to get new chicks every year so we'll have enough to eat and still have plenty to provide our eggs. We'll see. As part of this self-sufficiency journey, I'll be working on figuring out how much money we spend on the chickens & eggs, and I plan to continue exploring options for feeding the girls more economically.
3 - Plant fall crops. I have heard of this before but haven't done it. This year, I'm going to plant lots of peas as the main fall crop - partly because they didn't get planted in the spring & I can't stand a whole year without eating fresh peas (yum!), and partly because it will help with goal #4.
4 - Get more settled into biodynamic gardening practices. We've been using biodynamic principles for several years, but I haven't been diligent about the crop rotation schedule. This year, I'm making that more of a priority than it has been in the past.
5 - Expand the area we can use for gardening and/or raising animals. There is an unused area in the back of our property, and I plan to make it workable soil. We'll have more garden area, or an area for keeping goats, or both.
6 - Eat from the back yard first! In the past, I would use garden veggies as I felt like adding them to whatever I was making. I continued to buy most of our food from the grocery store, and I gave away a lot of the garden veggies. Now, I look at what we've harvested from the garden and plan my menu around that. I have still given away a couple of zucchini (if you've ever grown it, you'll know why!), but we're eating a lot more of the garden goodies than we have in past years.
7 - Preserve the harvest. This is something we've always done, but I'm doing more of it from now on. I already mentioned dehydrating weeds. Other things in progress or coming in the near future include making fruit leather, drying apples, fermenting veggies (i.e. traditional sauerkraut & other similar foods), storing root veggies for the winter, drying our own parsley, bottling grape juice...I don't plan to shop for much (if any) produce at grocery stores.
What do you think? Can we do it? Do you have dreams, plans, or practices of self-sufficiency you want to share with us? Tell us all about it!