Self-sufficiency. This is a word we toss around a lot, especially in the preparedness and homesteading fields. What exactly does it mean? Does it really mean being 100% self-reliant, depending on no one else? Is that even possible?
Going by a strict definition, it means sustaining oneself without using any outside resources. The truth of the matter, though, is that it is simply not possible. Every living creature on this planet relies on others, and humans are certainly no exception.
Every animal needs food to survive. Wild animals hunt and gather the way they always have.
Humans, though, are usually part of an inter-dependency with other humans. Instead of being hunters and gatherers, we are usually consumers, buying our food from those who do produce it.
To buy food, we must have money.
To get money, we usually need jobs.
A job means giving up the time required to take care of our own needs, and it usually means living close to other people – so that we are within easy reach of jobs, goods and services.
This vicious cycle has removed us from the very basics of self-sufficiency. Producing our own food requires a huge time commitment, and it usually means not being inside a town.
Humans also need water, shelter and warmth, and usually that comes from a faucet, a mortgaged or rented home, and electric, oil or gas from a company.
Self-sufficiency, then, means deciding to not rely on others for those things which we can do ourselves. It means finding ways to produce food, shelter and warmth for ourselves.
There are many ways to be self-sufficient.
- Grow vegetables.
- Tap maple trees for syrup.
- Cut firewood.
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- Collect rainwater.
- Buy from local farmers.
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- Start a home-based business.
- Install solar power and minimize your power needs.
- Create compost.
- Barter with friends and neighbours.
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- Learn advanced first aid.
- Sew and mend clothing.
- Build with wood.
- Learn to preserve food.
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- Raise meat animals and learn how to butcher, or buy meat directly from a farmer.
- Bake your own bread.
- Make candles.
- Raise bees.
- Homeschool your children.
The list varies, depending on your skills and location.
However, when we look at that list, one thing quickly becomes apparent – it is impossible for one person to become highly skilled, or even basically proficient, in all these things. Never have humans lived in complete isolation.
A medieval village would have had plenty of simple agricultural workers, but also a midwife, blacksmith, cobbler, miller and baker, a potter, a glassworker, priest, fletcher and bowyer, a full time brewmaster, and a tinker, and many others!
No one could work the land to grow their food and become skilled enough at all the things necessary for even a minimally civilized life.
Self-sufficiency does not mean isolating ourselves from all other people, but reducing our dependence on external resources and developing pride in our ability to do things for ourselves.
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