Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Self-Sufficiency vs. Inter-Reliability

Since finishing our farm class, we spent a lot of time talking about our goals and plans.  We added 24 chickens and a goat to the farm.  We bought a tractor.  We are moving forward and have clarified a general direction for that movement. 

We've settled on a 15 year plan for leaving corporate America.  In 15 years, theoretically, all of our children will be through college.  We are hoping that reducing our income at that point will be possible.  We are also hoping that our farm will have passed beyond the self-sufficient stage and be income producing.  It's hard to picture that right now, looking at so much empty space and wondering where we'll start in filling it.

As a result of the 15 year goal, we've decided to start with self-sufficiency.  This year, year 0, is devoted to education and small steps.  We are starting chickens, bees, gardening and now, a goat.  We are making our property ready for future endeavors.  We are trying to figure out what self-sufficiency means to us.  There are definitions and degrees of self-sufficiency.  As the Daycreek website states, in it's purest form, self-sufficiency is impossible.  Rather than shoot for the ideal, we are going to try to establish what we feel would make us self-sufficient.

Water we've got covered, sort of.  Our water is from a spring.  We don't make it but we don't have to pay for it either.  We do need to put in place a system for getting the water to the barn and storing it.  Right now all the water comes to the house.  That won't be adequate when we increase our livestock.

Our energy requirement is not something we are interested in addressing yet.  Electricity and propane are necessary evils at this point.   There has been talk about solar panels and a wind mill but that is just talk.  It's not in the top priorities.

Food is our primary focus.  We have chicks, 24 of them.  Some will be layers and some will be dinner.  We should be able to harvest the meat beginning in August and the eggs in October.  We also have a goat and while she could be dinner, she won't be.  We may use her to start a herd but none of us are certain that we could eat anything that cute.  My son is convinced that Dexter cows are our answer to the meat question.  My daughter thinks we need to become vegetarians.  It will be interesting to see where we fall out at the end of that debate.  The normal meat producing animals are all possibilities.  We have the required resources for growing just about anything.  Sometimes, too many choices are just as limiting as too few.

Our garden feels like a daunting task right now.  Last year I had a real garden for the first time.  It was a 3X4 square foot raised bed garden.  I enjoyed most of the experience but was thankful for the local farmers market and grocery store for food.  We had plenty of cucumbers, mint, basil, peppers and egg plants.  We also had plenty of green tomatoes that never turned red.  I learned afterward that putting the green tomatoes in a paper bag and letting them sit might have helped them turn.  I'll try that next time.

This year, I want to be more deliberate about the garden.  I want to actually grow most of what we eat.  That means I'd need to plant what we like and figure out how to  keep track of it all.  I know it's possible.  Other people do it and make it look easy.  I want to be one of those people and I don't want to have to work to figure it out.  One of the things I'm learning is that self-sufficiency requires lots of teachers.  Somehow, that interdependence seems like the opposite of self-sufficiency.  Maybe what we are really trying to achieve is reliance our ourselves and those we consider reliable.  So maybe, what we are after is inter-reliability.

As we move more deeply into the life on a farm, I want to enjoy the journey.  I don't want to loose my mind or become bitter and hard.  I want to great each day with a smile and a thankful heart for all the blessings God has given.  I want to know my neighbors and benefit from their knowledge and talents.  I want to share mine with them.  I want to be able to let a carrot grow to maturity without feeling the need to check on it's size. I want to grow what I can and use it to take care of my family.  I want to learn new skills.  I want to learn old skills.  I want to wake up each day with the man I love and be content with our place in this world.  I think that inter-reliability is definitely what I'm trying to develop.

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