Self sufficiency

Oh dear. There’s so much to be self-sufficient in. The transition from coddled city mouse to self-sufficient antechinus is multi-layered and multi-faceted.  Where do you start?

Well, I actually have no idea what’s the best way, but we started where it was easiest.

What I mean is, for all the things you can be self-sufficient in – power, water, waste disposal, food, tools, etc – there are varying levels of self-sufficiency. You can grow your own vegies, but still need to buy mulch or seeds. Or you can try to gather your own mulch and save your own seeds. But then what about the plastic water tank you store your irrigation water in?

Each level represents a step out of dependency: you start by extracting yourself from the outer levels first, say, from dependency on the greengrocer and his suppliers. Then you take the next step out: perhaps you save your own seeds and become independent of the  garden shop and their suppliers.  When you’re really in the zone, you can work towards independence from plastic water tanks, or even irrigation hose.

It’s analogous to beer (and what isn’t?).  If you’re not self-sufficient at all, you buy it from BWS or similar.  The whole beer production has been done by someone else, and you’ve simply swapped some money for it.  If you’re a step out of dependency, you buy a homebrew kit and do the last couple of steps of production at home (ie fermenting and bottling).  If you’re a further step out of dependency, you make up your own mix of brewing sugars, and perhaps even add your own hops.  And so on.  Complete beer self-sufficiency would mean something like: growing, harvesting, malting your own grain, growing etc your own hops and sugar, and doing all the things that beer kit companies do in order to make that sticky liquid you get in the can.  Which is quite daunting at first.

So, we figure, we’re going to start with the metaphorical equivalent of a homebrew kit. That is, we decided to start from where we were (ie pretty much dependent on “the grid” for most things) and measure progress by how many steps-back-in-the-production-chain we’ve made.

So for example – let’s move away from the beer – we were very lucky, in that when we moved here, there was already a small solar system installed, and heaps of water tanks, and a composting toilet.  So once we figured out how to work all these things (I’m hoping I’ll get around to writing about that soon), we patted ourselves on the back for a job well done – already off-grid for electricity, water and sewage disposal.  Easy!  Of course, there’s always a next step in the chain.  We’re still reliant on the solar company who made our panels and batteries, the plastic and zincalume companies who made the tanks, and Clivus Multrum, who made our composting toilet.  But if we were “on grid”, we would be dependent not only on equipment manufacturers, but also on the companies that use that equipment to generate power, treat water, and dispose of sewage.

Since then, we’ve kept going with the steps-back-in-the-production-chain thing, and luckily it turns out that the things we thought were daunting at first, aren’t that daunting once you get close to them in the chain.  For example,  we used to think that you’d have to be pretty obsessed to grind your own grain to make bread.  When we first moved here, we’d pretty much only ever made bread in a breadmaker, with industrially-milled flour.   But now that making wood-fired bread every couple of days has become a (mostly) enjoyable habit, the next steps back in the production chain – grinding the grain and even perhaps growing the yeast – just seem kind of exciting, and not daunting at all.  Or perhaps we’re just naive – I’ll let you know.

One step at a time…

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