Regardless of your opinion around the COVID-19 pandemic and the events over the past year, I can rest assured many people have witnessed how fragile the overall system truly is. Food, education, transportation, financial, and many other areas were thrown for a loop. There is a growing number of people that are taking an interest in becoming self sustaining and less fragile and more resilient. What do I mean by that? When we look at where we were as a country just 50 years ago, a large majority of families lived on small farms, producing their own food, sourcing their own heat (wood), generating income (through small business), and attending proper education (very small pubic schools). On top of that the majority of families had little to no debt, one stay at home parent and an overall simple lifestyle. Their work required calluses on their hands, spending 10-12 hours a day outside in the elements, prepping, planning and careful awareness around precious resources and the environment. (water, weather, seasons, crops, soil) These families had what many would consider a harder life than many of todays families. But what these families did have though was freedom and a level of fulfillment watching the fruits of their labor and what it would produce. Hours spent in the garden would produce a years worth of vegetables, hours spent cutting down harvestable trees would produce a years worth of heat, hours spent moving pasture raised chickens produced a large majority of the meat for the year, hours spent building relationships with your local community and neighbors would provide the rest of what else families could not produce on their own, for a fraction of the cost today that involves corporations that reduce margins to zero for many producers. Small towns once supported each other and were nearly entirely independent and self reliant. Today though we find ourselves strapped to the cubical treadmill working 40 hours a week, and commuting 10 hours a week to a job in many cases that has zero purpose or inspiration in our lives to pay for our debt and to purchase the next life preserver so we can continue to tread water to survive. Many of our children our depressed, inactive and anxious. Adults (and now children) are finding short term happiness through consumerism which keeps the mega corporations happy and that wheel churning away. We spend 4-6 hours a day on social media, Zillow, and Amazon living vicariously through "what we wish we had". Something is deeply missing in many of our lives, and I would wager many of you feel that in the pit of your stomach. The great news is everything you need to feel content and happy is right in front of you.
So what does all this mean?
Gandhi said it best, "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Quite simple really. Be the example you wish was emulated throughout the world. That does not mean, tell the world what should be done, it means actually LIVE IT and through your example YOU will change the world.
Your actions should directly correlate with your beliefs. This is harder than it sounds. For example: You think the iPhone is ruining social connection and your kids future. At a minimum limit your usage to 30 minutes a day for both you and your kids. Best case scenario, DO NOT PURCHASE IT AT ALL. See what I mean by difficult? Another example: You believe in global warming but you driveway 45 minutes to work each day. At a minimum get a job that is closer to your house. Best case scenario ride your PEDAL BIKE to work. If you believe one thing but live another = a life filled with discontent.
I do not want to dive into "life coach" mode, so let's cut to the chase.
What are we doing to become more sustainable, more free, less dependent on the fragile system, increase our connection with nature and build some calluses on our hands while banking our Vitamin D reserve.
Stage 1: Last fall I started prepping to build a garden. The prep looked like this....
Made a few calls to local towns and tree trimmers and asked for 2 dump truck loads of wood chips to be delivered. Cost = free
Made a few more calls and visited a local farm and picked up 20 yards of horse manure. Cost = $50 for gas to pay for transport
Purchased 150 ft of chicken wire from locally owned store = $80
Was given a few used fence posts from a friend= $0
Purchased 8 , rough cut 2 x 4's for additional fence support from the Amish = $12
Rented a skid steer from local business to spread the material = $150 (a wheelbarrow is free but 60 yards of material was too much for me)
Purchased a variety of seeds = $50
Started composting = less waste = less landfills = great garden material = free
Hours spent building the garden = Lots of time collecting sunshine, fresh air, building callouses, getting stronger, and building immunity through soil connection.
30 x 30 garden is 10 feet from our kitchen and ready to roll for planting in about 3 weeks.
Stage 2: Hunt for Meat
3 Deer in the freezer, 140 lbs of ground, steaks, and jerky = 3 bullets and $400 in processing fee ($0 if you are badass and do it yourself)
Raise chickens, pigs and/or beef
OR purchase from your local farm, in bulk if possible ( I recommend NOT supporting grocery store meat/ vegetable's at ALL costs)
Stage 3: Learn to can, dehydrate and smoke your food
Purchased a smoker = $150 (a GREAT INVESTMENT, your food taste great and a tank of propane lasted us 6 months)
Found canning supplies in our shed
Stage 4: Continue and Improve community relationships
Weekly raw goats milk pick-up from local farmer = cheap
Built relationship with local sheep farmer= affordable
Seasonal blueberry picking= cheap
Found local wild apple trees = free
Built relationship with buying club for Wild Caught Alaskan Fish = $ moderate but best fish on the planet
Built relationship with local Amish community for rough cut wood= 20% of lowes prices
Built relationship with local Menenite family for heavy equipment rental = affordable
Stage 5: Have a power/heat source
Purchased a generator = $750
Heat with wood = Free if you harvest yourself or $70 ish/cord (have not done yet)
Go solar with a Tesla Powerwall = varies dramatically (currently researching)
Stage 6: Improve physical durability
Physically exert myself somehow, everyday
Be in nature and the elements
Choose harder over easier (stairs versus elevator, bike versus car)
Walk barefoot, crawl, grapple, climb, and lift.
For those that are looking at stepping up to the plate or are continuing their self sustainability lifestyle I fully believe your local community and its members have 80% or more of what you need to accomplish this lifestyle. A few simple house visits, some research and hard manual labor and you will be well on your way.
While I am not completely anti grocery store, as I haven't yet started wiping my ass with leaves, I do believe we can purchase 80% of our goods from local farms, friends, and small businesses (that support local). Track your monthly "goods" expenses, what percent is going to China versus the Texas CAFO Farm versus Deansboro NY?
Quite possibly the best thing that could have happened to society over the past year is opening peoples hearts, and minds to becoming more self sufficient, supporting local, becoming more physical/anti-fragile and less dependent on the corporate mega hamster heroine wheel.
Cheers to bountiful gardens, happy animals, strong bodies and loving relationships.
Our batch of pasture raised chickens will be ready in approximately 8 weeks! Boneless chicken breasts, chicken wings, broilers, and quarters will all be available to our Farm Members! Member pricing can be found on our website here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the password. Our Farm membership is growing weekly. If you are interested in reserving your spot and secure access to the healthiest meat on the planet, send us an email. Our small farm has limited membership availability.
P.S. Our 100% Grassfed beef will be ready late summer!