Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden) self sufficiency

Being – Self Sufficient – What Does it Mean?

Mary, a reader from England, shared her thoughts about becoming self sufficient in two comments on my last post.  She would very much like to be or become self sufficient but basically thinks that the reality of the situation is that it’s not possible.

She pointed out that we don’t dig for our own gasoline, don’t grow and spin and weave cotton to then sew into clothing, or make our own paint to paint fences etc.

Mary’s points are well taken since it’s next to impossible to be “self-contained” and make and do everything for yourself in our world.  But the positive side that we can point out is —- we won’t always need to do everything — even in a crisis situation.

Should a time of intense difficulty and danger come up us our priority will be our survival rather than things like getting paint to paint a fence.  And no one will be digging their own gas — but rather looking for gas that is already available. Clothes which will already exist will be used more to protect the body and keep it warm rather than fashion.

It’s wisdom to give some thought to the future and what we can do now to help make things easier when dangerous times come upon us.

There is never any guarantee in life that we’ll be fine — even if we do everything we can think of to prepare.  But — it is our responsibility to do for ourselves as best we are able.

Self sufficiency is as much an attitude as a condition.  We should make every effort to strive to take care of ourselves — not only for our own comfort and protection — but so we will not be a burden to others.

While others leave their pantries bare — or with only a 3 or 4 day supply of food – Mary and her husband have planned ahead.  They’ve stocked enough to help get them through a “3 month siege”. Their pantry is “crammed to the gunnel’s with basic food stuffs such as flour, eggs, jams, honey, pasta, spices, dried herbs, dried fruit and pulses (like dried bean and lentils) and other items which don’t perish in a short time. ”

I’d call that a “self-sufficient” attitude.

Other things to consider for times of danger and hardship are:

  • Do you have a flashlight you can depend on?
  • Do you a radio that works on batteries?
  • Do you have a means to purify water to drink without using electricity?
  • Do you have some bottled water already on hand?
  • Do you have ways to cook without your stove or oven?
  • How will you protect yourself if you have to?

Teaching our young children to do things for themselves could mean the difference in their survival as well as our own.

Again — there is no guarantee in this life — but we are still responsible for doing our very best.  And each of us knows when we’ve accomplished that.

Wishing you the very best always —





  • Do you have a flashlight you can depend on?,

    We never use them, we prefer the softer and less night-vision spoiling light of beeswax candles (which I make) in horn paned lanterns (which Spouse makes). But we have to buy the raw materials …

    Do you a radio that works on batteries?

    Several, and two which run on pv panels (no tv).

    Do you have a means to purify water to drink without using electricity?’

    Boiling over a candle under a plant pot – it gets REALLY hot!
    But we generate hot water via a solar heating panel and electricity from pv panels on the roof.

    Do you have some bottled water already on hand?’

    Never drink it. Far too expensive. Our local water supply is excellent, we have covered water butts in the garden which store drinkable rainwater.

    ‘Do you have ways to cook without your stove or oven?’

    The candle trick; the top of our wood fired stove (which I use for cooking in winter anyway) and the stone bread oven in the garden, built to my specs by Spouse.

    ‘How will you protect yourself if you have to?’

    I don’t think I understand that question! We have no weapons – except long bows and quarter staves. But we’re not combative and, if we were attacked, probably wouldn’t resist. It has happened.

    Thinking about it, my best self-sufficient resource is Spouse, who can make and do anything. Except money … I’ve had him for 53 years and wouldn’t swap him. who needs money with such a man? His state pension more than pays the wine bill (I can’t make good wine, or cheese, I’ve tried).

  • The kinds of things you can easily have in your garden that would, indeed, help a person survive… sweet potatoes, asparagus, and amaranth. Putting aside seeds that can be sprouted (jam-packed with nutrition) is good, and developing an understanding of the plants that grow wild in your environment is important. Everyone should have a barrel into which they can collect rain water from the roof of their shelter. Make sure you have rechargeable batteries and a solar battery charger, too. Just a few things to think about. And, as you’ve made clear, Theresa, the organic way takes time and thought (vs dollars and pesticides and commercial fertilizers), but the long-term effect is that you have a sustainable source of food. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us…

  • Mary I enjoy hearing about how you do things.

    Virginia I really fall short when it comes to developing an understanding of the plants that grow wild here. I think a better knowledge of that could be critical in times of crisis. Thanks for adding your input.


  • Virginia said that sweet potatoes, asparagus, and amaranth would help you survive. But asparagus is only growing for a few weeks, that is the edible spears. Here in Yorkshire it’s difficult to grow sweet potatoes and I tried growing amaranth for the seeds but they got wet through and rotted. Some of my West Indian neighbours grow it but call it callaloo, they only grow it for the leave though. Luckily they often have too much and bring me some. We have vegetable and fruit swapping sessions, I’m not good at growing onions so I’m plied with those. My speciality is giving them seeds and young plants I’ve started in the greenhouse and, best of all, fresh golden yolked eggs.

  • Let me elaborate briefly on my, “right on” comment. Truly, unless you live like John the Baptist, you are not fully self sufficient. How many people in history live a fully self sufficient life? There has never been a time in history where the majority of people ever lived like John the Baptist. He had a special purpose. But, in general, we are meant to live together in a community sharing skills and talents. For Ex: The guy who sells the sheep’s fleece has nearly perfected his knowledge of the skills needed to raise and sell whereas you, perhaps, may have nearly perfected your knowledge of gardening. Bartering, selling, trading – it is a natural and good human function. We are meant and built to benefit from each other’s talents. If we need further evidence for this fact, we need not look any further than the creation which which we, as organic gardeners, are trying to mimic. It is God’s design to share. What the bottom line with our modern, “self sufficiency” challenge and the reason for the, “right on” comment is because it is a utter fact that our current system is unsustainable, illogical, and completely detrimental to every plant, animal, fish, mammal, bird, etc. on earth. To separate yourself as far as possible from that A-Bomb works towards modern, “self sufficiency!” Amen!

  • Ah, well… I guess Mary, I was mistaken. And something else about your comment that is clearly obvious… everyone’s garden and garden circumstances are different! 🙂

  • Virginia — I can think of nothing better to survive on than Asparagus in season! And whose to say that the crisis won’t take place then. 😉


  • All, what a wonderful discussion! I agree with BearfootMama. After my question to Theresa on how she is working towards becoming more “sustainable” and everyone’s responses to what that means, I began to think about civilization and how man is relational.

    He is built to have relation with others and builds communities where we can best serve each other by sharing/bartering/selling our talents. Not only did we come together for trade, but we formed cities to protect ourselves from marauding thieves.

    My hubby and I live in the city. We don’t have lots of land to have a big garden, but the space I have I use to grow food and we have plots over in the community garden as well.

    Our home lot size is small in comparison to how I grew up – with lots of land. In our neighborhood we live close enough together to hear our neighbors conversations in the back yard on quiet evenings. Should something occur, we have taken preparedness courses and have thought out a plan as well as stored emergency supplies.

    One thing gets me…what would I do if my neighbor seeing that we were prepared with food, etc and his family had none, broke into our home to take some food? Would I use a gun or even a knife on someone with whom I have been living with for many years? This is a difficult question for me to answer.

    Of course it depends on a case by case situation. Perhaps I will do as my friend Joe and buy a huge store of spam and hand that out to those who are not prepared. He himself has chosen to hunt squirrel in case of crisis.

  • Great posting Rachel!
    Glad you joined in — especially since you started it. 🙂

    The question about “what would you do if —–” is one that I’ll bet many of us have. I know I do.

    When this country was settled the indians gave and gave food to the white man. The white man didn’t want to grow food because he wanted to grow crops like tobacco and crops that he could get money for. (Sound familiar?) The indians finally said — we don’t have any more to give. The white man stole the food and killed the Indians to get what he wanted.

    You hear of all kinds of stories through out history of one man robbing another to supply his own needs —- even if it’s his fault he didn’t prepare.

    I think we all have to have good moral fiber no matter what the hardship. I do feel that we can defend ourselves if we have the means. But again — your question is a good one and a hard one to answer. I guess it would depend on the circumstances.


  • The hard question to answer – I’ll tell you what we’d do…

    First, if we take what our country has done on the large scale and imagine it happening in our backyards, we may actually be a functioning country. But instead, we watch in grief as our great Eagle swirls down the worm hole.

    For example: If a stranger came into my neighbor’s home illegally, took over their home, stole their government benefits, stole their job, demanded benefits that even the rightful owner doesn’t receive, refused to work, then came to my home and demanded that I give them the bounty from my garden that I had worked hard for to feed my family, they’d have a fight on their hands to say the least!

    Sometimes we must fight for what is right – it is simply a fact of life b/c we live with evil elements and must deal with them accordingly.

    I believe that if this very scenario happened to most people in this country in their own backyards, they would see more clearly what’s happening. And behaviors and voting practices would change drastically. But, unfortunately, most can not see this.

    Thus, I completely agree with Theresa – it is the very lack of moral fiber (around us) which prompts folks towards working to be more self sufficient.

    History has proven the perpetual fight between those who give and those who take – war after war with so much suffering.

    No system created by God works this way. Our entire universe is based on mathematical equation; 1 + 1 will always equal 2. Ecosystems work together and if one element is out of balance, it throws the whole thing off kilter. But, nature is designed to eventually balance itself back out because it was designed to do so.

    Not so with humans who have their own individual wills. So, b/c we are dealing with a huge lack of moral fiber, the option we face would be to let them take the food that you have grown for your family to survive —- while they never learn their lesson – and then they continue to take until no one has anything left to be stolen and taken and all suffer – or to fight.

    The answer for us: We would choose to fight. “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

    Let the word, “work” encompass many elements of personal growth, wisdom, intelligence, individualism, etc. If he chooses to remain in perpetual ignorance then he isn’t going to be allowed to take my tomatoes – no Sir! If he chooses to do his best, contribute positively to society and finds himself lacking and in need, then, I will freely give of everything that I have and then find ways to give him more until he no longer lacks.

  • Well said Bearfoot Mama!!
    Thanks for taking the time to post that — took some thought — but really got the point across! Needed to be said.

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