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stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

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How far do you think people can go when combining self sufficiency with full time careers?
Sun 27-Sep-09
7:16 pm
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fn
Newmarket
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I had a very interesting email yesterday from a reader who wanted tips on combining self sufficiency and full time careers. So I thought that I’d put this topic on the forum.

We fell into self sufficiency when we realised that our future looked pretty bleak pension wise. We want to be able to enjoy the good things in life but not spend a fortune. We are in no way totally self sufficient but every year gradually move towards our goal of being ‘comfortably self sufficient’.

Basically my advice would be that you have to enjoy your self sufficiency projects. Danny loathes gardening but enjoyed (sort of) tending his potatoes. I love gardening so growing our own vegetables and fruit is a joy for me. I also get a buzz out of preserving our harvests (bottling (canning), making pickles, chutney, piccalilli, jam, marmalade, fruit cheese and butter. And now the dehydrator whirls as my fingers fly across the keyboard – we have already started to experiment with our dehydrated vegetables with great results. I prefer to use preserving methods that don’t include the freezer. We have two small ones and they are great for storing meat and fish but what happens if there is a power cut? They also cost quite a bit to run. 

We have discovered that you need to be able to produce something that people value to be able to trade for the things you don’t have. Honey, home cured bacon and ham are our gold bars. Suddenly we are given asparagus, the pick of people’s orchards and much, much more. 

I reckon that you don’t have to produce everything yourself to be self sufficient. You need to get together with other people and trade. Hone your skills on projects that you enjoy. We don’t shoot but love game. Most of the people that we know love old fashioned home cured and smoked bacon. They can’t buy the equivalent of our pancetta in Waitrose.

Also I think it’s important to share your knowledge. Having secrets doesn’t really go with self sufficiency.

We gave up watching T.V. three years ago when I started writing this blog and Danny set up a side line business. We just didn’t have time to do both. Moving towards self sufficiency is my main focus and takes up most of my spare time. I love it when I collect warm eggs from the nesting box or discover that nasturtium seeds can be pickled and used as capers (thank you Duncan). Learning new skills takes time too so it's best to start now. 

We both work full time but are finding our journey hugely satisfying and fun. And that’s my last point – if it’s not fun, forget it. 

What do you think?

Sun 27-Sep-09
8:12 pm
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JoannaS
Latvia

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At the moment I am studying and my hubby is taking a career break that I guess could be permanent but don't tell him I said that. We are fortunate to have reserves due to being lucky/blessed with the housing market and living in cheap Latvia helps that. We have a renovated Soviet era apartment which we own outright with a 150m x 4 m veg plot which we rent for a grand total of £3 a year. That has kept us self-sufficient in veg apart from tins or jars of beans, and tomato paste or sauce and we even have given stuff away. Next year we would aim to be self-sufficient in tomatoes and potatoes as well as we are now leasing a 33 acre piece of land and are having two large polytunnels built. The things I see us not being self-sufficient in on that kind of acreage are tea and coffee, although we could start drinking more herb teas, sugar (how do you process sugar beet to make sugar?), flour - although we might get that far you never know and salt. Those are the things I can think of off hand, so no I don't think you can be totally self-sufficient and I don't think it would be much fun either being your own island, we are meant to live in communities. Not sure what our careers will look like or whether we will be small scale farmers full time, we shall see and take our time about it.

Sun 27-Sep-09
9:14 pm
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SOL
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stevia is the natural alternative to sugar.

http://www.stevia.net/growingstevia.htm

I am not sure  how  selfsufficient we could be.  I would probably need to do 'Tom and Barbara' and turn the whole garden over to veg.

I would love tp move to a house that had more land and was out of this rat race,  slower  and where I rarely see a car.  We dont have that type of money. but I can dream cant I

P.s. I am scared of flapping things so unless I get therapy we wouldnever have chickens

Mon 28-Sep-09
10:52 am
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Danny
Scarborough, England
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I think Fiona captured our philosophy well: small space self-sufficiency involves using your imagination, not just growing vegetables. We are lucky to have a large-ish garden compared to most people and that is a big asset, no doubt about it.

But if you are living in a city high-rise, there is loads you can do that involves trading your skill(s) for other necessities, just like good old-fashioned barter. Possibly our culture of expecting lots of things to be handed to us on a plate has developed a mental barrier to thinking and doing for yourself.

If you don’t have any skills, you could start with curing your own bacon. That is simple and anybody can do it. If you are able to smoke it too, then all the better. You can keep bees in a town garden. You can trade an hour of your time in exchange for a box of end-of-day vegetables. You can construct your own simple solar dehydrator to preserve seasonal fruit and veg.

I think that we have much to learn from our North American cousins who have a far more advanced and traditional culture of preserving, bottling, canning and storing up for leaner times. Maybe that’s because the frontier mentality is relatively recent history there.

Not saying that you should don your coon skin cap and go hunting turkey in London’s Hyde Park but even modestly successful partial self-sufficiency starts with a change of attitude.

It really is all in the mind, combined with developing new skills and using your spare time in a more productive manner. And a sprinkle of perseverance.

Says preacher Danny Surprised

Never knowingly underfed

Mon 28-Sep-09
5:10 pm
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maureenmcn
South Devon

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Self sufficiency is a wonderful thing to strive for but do not be fooled into thinking that it is easy! I combined a part time career, looking after very (at the time) four disfunctional teenagers, a young toddler, an ageing father, a veggie plot and a collection of also disfunctional livestock! It was very hard work but great!!!! Although I have since moved and am lucky enough to live in a part of the UK which is just as SOL described unfortunately I do not have the garden or land to grow food or keep animals now.

SOL if you ever find your dream coming true worth getting the chicken therapy as nothing to beat the wonderful feeling of gathering the warm, newly laid eggs or seeing them hatch into fluffy chicks despite dealing with the flappy bits! Now the foxes are another matter................................

Maureen

Mon 28-Sep-09
5:47 pm
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SOL
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Hey Fiona and Danny, I am still on the look out for a chimnea for smoking purposes, but as I am only just trying to re-educate myself to like ham, I think Bacon might be far off.  But PB is well on board as he loves bacon.  and I think the thought of him not having to cook bacon down the end of the garden on the BBQ, is spurring him on to get me to eat pork products.  I have a friend who can get me good duck breasts.  Nothing like a bit of smoked duck thinly sliced for a starter... hmmmm

Long story, I blame alot of my "problems", pork eating and flapping things on tv programmes.  The programme that put me off pork was called pandoras box.  I think it was in the late 80's early 90's.

I think chickens look cute but then they flap or do something weird and I run off.  I have tried to hold a chick but I panicked and nearly dropped it.  Barbara I am not.

I have seen a pretty ideal house for us.  We have to sell this house first and then if we bought it we would never be able to leave the house, go on holiday, wipe our bums etc as we wouldnt be able to afford it.  It has an acre and a half.  I would keep half for garden and archery and the other would be veg and fruit.

Smile

So we really would have no money but to tell the truth, I am fed up of holidaying and I am getting to the stage, where I am seriously unhappy on holiday if the bed isnt comfortable.  I should be on that programme "grump old women".  I nod along and cackle like an old witch when I watch it.  Although it is on late, so I tape it on sky plus and watch it at a reasonable hour!  LMAO  it is on at about 10.30, far too late for me!

p.s. Danny I am loving these smiley faces things at the bottom of the post bit.  top banana they are.

Mon 28-Sep-09
6:44 pm
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fn
Newmarket
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A house an an acre and a half sounds perfect. You wouldn't want to go away on holiday as you'd have so much to entertain yourself there.

We haven't been on holiday for years. Sometimes I think that I'd like a break somewhere new but actually I love just taking a few days off to catch up here.

Archery sounds fun Laugh

P.S. We cure our own ham too but we don't eat our chickens yet.

Mon 28-Sep-09
9:51 pm
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Stolistes
Suffolk

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Thanks for that Fiona - it was hugely encouraging and great to see that there are so many like-minded people out there.

We are are taking our first steps to self sufficiency this year - have grown my first veg, and obtained a very small greenhouse.  Am now enjoying my first harvest and have been pickling and chutneying this week!

We have found masses of stuff in the hedgerow and Rich has got full scale alcohol production underway - he has made apple cider, pear cider (from trees in our front garden), sloe gin, blackberry wine and Edlerberry wine.  I've got two lots of marrow rum on the go - I have them hanging from my kitchin ceiling in a pair of tights (one in each leg!).

We've got what we think are bullaces in the garden although they still taste very sour - need to work out what to do with them.  I'm also thinking about having a go at crab apple jelly.

So basically we have alcohol, pickles and chutney under control - just need to focus on other areas now.

There's masses of interesting stuff on your website - it's really interesting.

Need to start thinking about next years vegetables now - and what to do with the plot over winter...

Thanks once again for your response - very encouraging.Laugh

Sun 11-Oct-09
11:47 am
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mutley
Didcot/uk

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my fridge/freezer will be going costs £137 a year to run . tv has gone  not just because of cost but takes up room & there are better things to be doing . was going to get some wallnuts today but its raining lots and got my littel girl so may go monday

Sun 11-Oct-09
6:57 pm
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fn
Newmarket
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Need to start thinking about next years vegetables now – and what to do with the plot over winter…

Even if its just salad leaves in pots (under fleece when the weather gets chilly) or green manure it's good to have something growing over the winter.

Sun 11-Oct-09
7:00 pm
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fn
Newmarket
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my fridge/freezer will be going costs £137 a year to run

Gosh I wonder how much ours costs to run I must check this out ASAP. Thanks mutley

Sun 11-Oct-09
10:22 pm
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mutley
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Garden solor lights have taken mine apart these are like christmas tree lights but only a blue/white type of light and are 32 led on one unit so anyway i have done some celing rings 1 of 32 led and 2 x 16 iner ring 3 rings in total and thats in the bath room ive also done the hall and kitchen. The solor pannels are on the window frame/shelf out side the window and come when it gets dark this gives me free light all night so i can have a late night munch out. There are christmas tree lights in a ring in the living room but thats 240v But only 1.1watts its almost free. have other lights that do differnt jobs too, will go into other later if enough people are intrested as for using a cast wood burner for a computer stool don't haft kill your back so i try to sentences short as possable.

Tue 27-Oct-09
12:18 pm
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fn
Newmarket
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Hi Mutley

These ideas are great. I'm keen to make some light jars as I'm still afraid of the dark. Out here in the country it's very dark when it's dark Surprised

We use Christmas tree lights in our sitting room all year round. They look pretty.

We've manged to cut our oil consumption by 3/4 by simply wearing more clothes and foraging for wood for the woodburning stove. In past years we hardly ever lit this stove as it seemed such a palaver - what a waste!

Wed 28-Oct-09
4:05 pm
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mutley
Didcot/uk

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Wood burnars ,Don't think it will be to long before thay come back into play i have one and its getting close. after christmas the fridge/freezer will be gone and a saving of about £140 or as i see it £140 less i have to work for to . Im sure if we removed all modern applinces from our homes we'd only have to work haft as much. and that's were im heading. Have tryed to have a lazy day but can't sit still i do a bit of cleaning ect , but need to spent more time drying foods as i think the mud will hit the fan in a few years a lot of things comming a foot.

Sun 22-Nov-09
10:21 pm
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marchandoj
Cork, Ireland

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Hi
I work full time for a software company. I try VERY hard to encourage my family (we have 3 kids) to be self sufficient)...we recycle everything, we have a garden (but need help with how to deal with gardening in winter), I make beer, and wine, Jam, chutney, and cook everything I can myself....however saying that it is ALWAYS a huge struggle....By the time I get home from work it is hard to have enough energy to get everything done before time for bed (with my 4 yr old it is 30mins after I get home)..

If I did not have a full time career I could do WAY more, and would find the whole thing more relaxing (i know that sounds strange) but at the moment everything is rushed..

Jane

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