Self-Sufficiency: Not Just For Tree-Hugging Hippies Anymore!

When my marriage ended, my Immediate Goals suddenly became very basic and specific. I didn’t want my children to be homeless. I didn’t want the three of us to be hungry. I didn’t want us to freeze to death when winter came. And if at all possible I didn’t want Luke and Elizabeth to suffer the emotional devastation that I went through as a child when my own parents divorced.

The homeless issue settled itself: Steve’s parents welcomed him back into their home with open arms, he was happy to move back in with them, and they all wanted Luke and Elizabeth to remain close by. So the kids and I have stayed here in the only home they remember, and for the most part that’s worked out fine for everyone.

I spent last summer and fall collecting firewood the way a squirrel hoards nuts, and barring any unexpected natural disasters it looks like I can safely check “Do Not Freeze To Death” off of this year’s list of goals.

Emotionally, the kids have actually thrived far better under the new arrangement than they did during the marriage. Luke is practically a new person, open and confident and affectionate and so much happier than the wary, slightly neurotic child he was only a year ago. Elizabeth…well…honestly, who knows WHAT goes on in Elizabeth’s head? But she seems to be comfortable with the new status quo. And she has requested that I not remarry, because things are so nice just the way they are. Yeah, I’ll, um, take that under advisement.

That just left the food issue. And it was kind of a global issue at the time of our separation, with worldwide food shortages and scarcity riots hitting the news and some grocery stores beginning to ration rice, and food prices in general soaring to new heights. What I really wanted was to reduce or eliminate my dependence on others for our daily meals, as much as possible.

I already had a great garden, but when Steve lived here most of our food came from the store. After he left I began to experiment with different kinds of meals, things I could prepare from whatever was growing on hand, and our grocery bills dropped dramatically. Last summer we ate like kings just on produce from the garden and orchard and the homegrown beef in the freezer, and nobody missed the old menu.

But I still felt dependent — on the seed companies. What if some year I couldn’t buy seeds for whatever reason? Or what if something happened and I wasn’t able to do the big spring planting job? What would we eat then? I started looking into edible perennials: plants that, once established, will live for years or decades and produce bigger crops every year. And I discovered that there are TONS of perennial options that I never even knew existed! Seriously, I could almost do away with the annual crops completely, if I weren’t so fond of tomatoes and bell peppers and those troublesome watermelons.

The subject of food gardening seems even more relevant now, with the economy tanking the way it is. A lot of folks are talking about putting in victory gardens, even if they’ve never grown anything before.

So I’m going to start a new series here about perennial food plants and edible landscaping. Not everyone has the space to set aside a big garden plot, but almost anyone can incorporate edibles into their yard in creative and attractive ways, and reap the benefits in health, food quality and financial savings.

Stay tuned!

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Categories: Family, frugality, Gardening, Health, kids, Life, Self-Sufficiency | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Self-Sufficiency: Not Just For Tree-Hugging Hippies Anymore!

  1. Mia

    I’ve been doing herbs for years. Have my lavenders, thyme, basil, two different rosemarys, mints (though I have to be careful with those because Shawn is allergic to the pollen). Over the years I’ve done carrots and tomatoes on my apartment patios…all sorts of peppers back in Anaheim. I think that sooner or later we’ll see more of these dual purpose gardens…like the ones in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Space is a premium and so many of the crops are beautiful. Why waste the space on a boring boxwood when a tall BBQ rosemary that blooms in a riot of lavender colored flowers will do so much more!

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  2. Debora

    I’ve just started getting into herbs, but I’ve ordered a LOT of new kinds this spring. I love the idea of scenting my property and seasoning my meals with fresh herbs growing everywhere for the picking. The more I read about their healing properties the more varieties I want to try my hand at!

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  3. Your first paragraph- That was the scariest time for us too!! Boy you DO NOT know that feeling until you are there yourself!!
    You have done an amazing job with your self-sufficiency. Watch out there might be people begging food from you in the future… Scary times to come I think. I hope I am wrong.

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  4. OH I got 2 eggs so far. I was sooo excited! LOL. I only have 5 chickens left- coyotes, hawks I do not know for sure. No more free range chickens though! I could not bare to lose any more. I am getting to be a sap in my old age!!

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  5. Debora

    I hope we’re wrong too, but I’m with you — I think things are going to get a lot scarier before they get better. I’m happy to share what I can, but hopefully the victory garden idea will spread and more folks will start providing for themselves.

    The coyotes are BAD this winter! I’ve had to lock up my flock too; I’m down to seven of the new pullets and only TWO of the older hens left. But we got our very first two eggs from the pullets today, so that was cool. They hate being cooped up though.

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  6. I used to live out in the wild. Miami can be crazy.

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  7. Debora

    LOL! I’ll take the wilds of Anza over the wilds of Miami any day! There’s crazy and then there’s CRAZY. ;^)

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