Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dreaming of Self Sufficiency

For several years now I have felt an urgency to live a self sufficient lifestyle. Partially because of how remote our homestead is, and maybe because I have little faith in our government and economic structure. Throughout my parents lifetime, our economy has known no limits, our knowledge has barely kept up with how fast infrastructure and technology have grown. That is coming to a close and times are a changing.

My dad called me a farmer recently in a joking sort of manner and then followed up by basically saying that it wasn't a complement, and that it is generally viewed as a less than respectful or admirable position in society. He basically said that "farmer" was more or less a derogatory term. Well, that was news to me. I'm thinking that maybe it was good that he waited until I was twenty-nine before telling me that because by now it has no relevance. I was flabbergasted. I rather haughtily responded by saying that farming was the most admirable profession I could think of, and that nothing seemed more sensible than being able to grow my own food and to feed others.

It is really too bad and may in fact be our downfall, that our society has these stigmas around farming. We are so out of touch with where our food comes from and what we are putting into our bodies and how we treat the people that grow our food! There is a growing awareness of the necessity for more farmers and government assistance for small farmers in our country. What a difference it would make if our President would actually make some changes in how our government treats small farmers. But that is a topic for another day. For now I'd just like to dream about having enough money to set my family up to where we would be completely self sufficient if we needed to be.

So, if I had the money, or as the song goes, "if I had a million dollars" this is where I would be. I would have a piece of property that is at least 30 acres. We would be on a south facing hill that dips down into the flats for pasture. Our home would have a well, a large wood-stove, a wood cookstove and be able to be off the grid, powered by solar energy. We would have a creek, stream or pond on our property. We would have one barn with does, chickens, sheep, pigs , ducks, alpacas, black angus or other cows for meat and livestock guard dogs in it, with our buck goats apart from the rest, on their own. Leading out from our barn would be different fenced off pastures, big enough to sustain the animals during the warm months. We would also have enough land to grow grain and grass crops such as wheat, barley, oats, brome hay and experimentals such as millet, amaranth, quinuoa, field peas and alfalfa. During the summer months all of our livestock would be on pasture. We would also harvest enough hay and grain, and store it for lasting through the winter.

We would have a huge garden, or rather fields of vegetables. We would grow enough vegetables to sell CSA's (Community Shared Agriculture Shares). Feeding twenty to thirty families would be a nice start. We would also have enough established raspberry, rhubarb and strawberry plants to offer u-pick, during the good seasons. We would raise enough chickens to supply our extended family with chicken meat and eggs. If laws allowed, I'd raise enough goats to supply our friends, family and interested customers with fresh milk, cheese and other raw milk dairy products. I would have a pottery wheel and make pots for fun, gifts and extra to sell. I'd have a spinning wheel and loom to make our own clothes, blankets, rugs, towells etc. I'd also make our own soaps, herbal medicines and candles (all of which I make currently).

As far as food sufficiency the hard things are spices, coffee, oils, wine and chocolate. Some spices can be grown here. We'd probably have to do without chocolate and coffee. I'd like to experiment with growing some cold hardy grapes. I'd also like to try making wines out of different fruits and vegetables. There are numerous fruit trees that are showing up in the catalogs that are hardy enough to withstand our winters. Including apple trees, apricot, pear, currants and many more that I can't think of at the moment. So I'd love to have a small orchard in our hills with all kinds of hardy grafted fruit trees. We would probably be able to make our own beer. We'd just need to grow barley, wheat, hops, and stock up on some other brewing supplies. As far as oils go, we'd probably make due with animal fats, but it would be interesting to try and grow enough sunflower plants and try to press the seeds for oil. Fortunately crops that grow in abundance here are cranberries, blueberries, wild raspberries, edible plants and medicinal herbs, salmon and moose

So that's about all I'd ask out of life. Well in addition to a large happy family of course. After we build our main house and barn, I could see multiple small cabins here and there throughout our woods for family and close friends to reside in. For what could be better than having all our family and like minded friends close by during tough times.

You can call me crazy but I think it is more important to invest any and all money into building a self reliant homestead than say investing in stock or saving money for college. I don't think our society will be turning up our noses or looking down at farmers much longer. And, don't worry dad, as an aspiring farmer I'm planning for your future too.


gotomakan said...

I've never thought of "farmer" as a derogatory term. What would an appropriate, "politically correct" word for that occupation be? Anyway, I think your drive for self-sufficiency is admirable, and your dad should be proud of his hard-working daughter.

I don't think your dad and I ever agreed on much, and now that I'm grown up and we probably have similar views on the government and religion, it's funny that I can disagree with him on this!

Love you! Thanks for keeping me updated on your goings-on.

TriciaB said...

I think maybe sometimes he says things he doesn't really mean without thinking before saying it! I know my dad does!

But anyway, I think your dream is awesome and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition and helping out with it! I've never wanted a normal 9-5 job. What could be better than working on your own land to provide everything you need?

I've been researching alpacas recently. I would love to have some someday.

Emily said...

Tricia you are correct. I am sure that if my dad knew I'd be writing about his comments, he would have thought before he spoke. My intention is certainly not to make my dad look bad, (because he is a wonderful man, father, husband etc), but rather to highlight the fact that I think within his generation there are stereotypes concerning citizens who do not work "regular jobs". I think his comments stem from this, but more importantly his desire for family members to have the best. He is thinking that we will never get rich as farmers, but our end goal is not be rich with money but rather rich in family and food security and independence.

aubryz said...

Hey I think we are twins separated at birth! That is exactly what I would do if I had the extra money. We would do a few things different, dual purpose dairy/meat cows instead of goats. (My husband has some weird issue with goats.) But other than that, oh yeah, farm, crops for animals and people, chickens, pigs, cows, rabbits and ducks too. I make most of my own clothing from recylced clothing and fabrics like sheets. We've started as much as we can on our tiny 1/2 acrea lot. Next spring we're going to start selling 5 small csa shares. So I don't have a farm yet! I'll just start small!

RD Momma said...

I feel like I've found my Alaskan counterpart! I stumbled upon your blog when researching names for our own homestead and herd name for our goats (American Toggenburgs) and have found so much awesome information from you. The more I read, the more I wish we lived in Alaska vs. Wyoming! We started raising our own chickens and dairy goats just this year, and I started getting into medicinal herbs during the last two years and making my own salves and tinctures this year. I look forward to reading more of your posts and gleaning even more awesome information from your experience. Thanks for existing and making your information so readily available for those of us just getting started in self-sufficiency.

As for your dad, we have encountered a few "derogatory" comments from my DH's family as well. It is interesting the views they have, especially since many of their own grandparents were farmers...