Self-sufficiency seems to be THE buzzword today. Everywhere you turn– you hear more and more people talking about becoming more self-sufficient, wanting to slow down and “live off the land.”

Self-Sufficient Life
Our little farm – and our take on building a more self-sufficient life

According to an old well-respected dictionary (remember those? 🙂 ), self-sufficiency is the “ability to maintain oneself without outside aid, or being capable of providing for one’s own needs.”

But for us – living a self-sufficient life means becoming more in control of how we live and spend our time.

When we started our Old World Garden Farms project a little over 3 years ago, it was to create a more simplistic life with our little farm.  What was a three acre overgrown plot at the onset – has now come to provide the majority of our food, and more importantly, allow us to appreciate and enjoy life a little more each and every day.

Self-Sufficient Life
Growing and canning our own vegetables, jams, sauces and more has provided a much healthier lifestyle

Our goal from the beginning was simple – to have a well-balanced self-sufficient lifestyle. Meaning that we are responsible for most of our own food through growing and preserving, take an active role in creating as much of what we need ourselves – and most importantly – have a life together that has meaning and real time to enjoy our family and friends.  In short – to live and be happy.

We have a saying between us – whether it’s building one of our projects, working in our garden, or learning some new skill at the farm – Keep It Fun! Because if you are not enjoying what you are doing – why are you doing it in the first place?  That does not mean that every task will been enjoyable (cleaning out the chicken coop comes to mind 🙂 ) – but you can still find a way to have fun doing it.

Almost daily, we receive an email or talk to someone who wants to know what our secret was to slow down and become more self-reliant and sufficient. So – for this week’s gardening / DIY post, I thought I’d take a little time to write down and pass along 9 tips that have really helped us along the way.  There are of course many more that could be added – but these are the ones that have made a true impact.

#1 Simplify and Remove the Clutter

Get rid of what you don’t need – and what you don’t use – and stop buying more!  For us – we are in the midst right now of removing one thing from our house every day for the next 365 days that isn’t needed and creates nothing but clutter.

It is amazing to see how much “stuff” that we have collected that plays no part in our life other than to take up space. And when I say throw out – I mean out of our house – not to the trash.  This is a great time to give away or donate items that can fill a need for someone else.

Second – don’t bring home anything new unless it fills a need and can result in removing something already there. Not only does this tip save you big money on your household finances – it really is amazing to see how little you truly need, and how much your stress level goes down ridding yourself of the excess.  (see: Re-use and Recycle)

#2 Grow Some of Your Own Food – Plant a Garden

We grow everything from our own potatoes to popcorn now. It's a great feeling to know where your food came from!
We grow everything from our own potatoes to popcorn now. It’s a great feeling to know where your food came from!

No matter what – grow some of your own food! Nothing can be more satisfying than growing your own food – even if it’s simply a small tomato plant in a planter on your patio – start somewhere! Trust me, when you grow something for yourself or your family, your entire outlook changes. You begin to realize how much more there is to life than just cell phones, computers and running from here to there.

If you have a plot out back – put in a garden.  If you have a patio, create some patio planters and grow potted veggies.  If you have neither – then find someone who does and rent a small plot, or join a community garden and create your space and get growing.  Our garden is truly the centerpiece of our farm and our food life now – and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!  (see: Simple Raised Row Gardening)

#3 Learn to Can and Preserve

Canning your own food is a great way to become more responsible for what you consume
Canning your own food is a great way to become more responsible for what you consume

It’s not as scary as it sounds – really! It’s one thing to have fresh fruit and vegetables in season – but if you really want to become more responsible for your food – learn to preserve those big summer harvests so that you have more of your “own” food the year around.  You will be amazed at the taste of your own green beans in the middle of the winter – or your own pasta sauce on a cold February day.

If you can’t grow your own right now, buy in bulk from a  local farmer and preserve some fresh food to get started.

Beyond the obvious benefits – you also will save yourself and your family from ingesting hundreds of preservatives in your daily diet from commercially processed and canned foods.

#4 Raise Chickens.

Our chickens have played a big part in our effort to becoming more self sufficient on our food needs
Our chickens have played a big part in our effort to becoming more self-sufficient

Yep –that’s right – get yourself a few wonderful laying hens and be on your way to a better life!   Chickens can not only provide a great amount of nutritious and delicious eggs for your household – the additional benefits they provide for your garden and home are amazing!

Chickens help keep insect populations in check – and the fertilizer they provide your compost pile can supply your garden and flowerbeds with all the natural fertilizer you will ever need.  (see: Why Raising Chickens and a Garden Go Hand in Hand)

#5 Learn To Fail

If we had a dollar for every time someone asked us “how did you learn to do that?” I would be a millionaire.  The key? We learned because we tried it – and honestly – usually failed at whatever it was the first time, and maybe the second and third time too! But we tried it, and kept at it until we learned it. It really is that simple. I always think of my favorite quote when something isn’t working quite right the first time:

“Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.”  Summer Redstone.

#6 Learn To Work with Basic Tools

Learning to work with tools is a must if you want to be more self reliant
Learning to work with tools is a must if you want to be more self-reliant

This of course goes hand in hand with #5. No matter if you consider yourself handy or not – learn to work with basic tools.  In this day and age – if you truly want to learn how to make your own table, fix a door, or in our case – build a barn from scratch when you don’t know how (see: Building our Barn) – there are plenty of resources on-line that if you take a little time – you can learn to accomplish.  It’s amazing when you start to do more and more things yourself – how self-reliant you can truly be – and how much you learn!  (See: 6 Must Have Tools For The DIY’er)

#7 Work a little every day at your goals

We talk about this a lot – and yet it truly is the single biggest piece of advice we could ever give. Whatever you do, find a little time each and every day to work at your dream.  We call it the “15-minute a day approach” – and it really is how we accomplish things.  Tasks can seem insurmountable when you look at them on the whole, but if you just keep at it a little every day – it breaks down into a manageable process.  (see: The 15 minute approach to accomplishing goals)

#8 Learn to enjoy the process – not the result.

We literally built our "new" old barn 15 minutes a day - making sure to accomplish at least something little each day.
We literally built our “new” old barn 15 minutes a day – making sure to accomplish at least something little each day.

# 8 is one of my personal favorites! Learn to enjoy the journey of whatever you are doing right now – it will always seem so much bigger than the end result!  I love our barn – but you know what I love more – the time we spent together tearing the other two down and building it together.  Learn to enjoy the journey as much as the finished product!

#9 Learn To Enjoy What You Have Now.

Staying on the theme of #8, this one can seem so obvious – and yet it is by far the hardest thing for most people to do.  If you want to enjoy life – and be more self-sufficient – learn to enjoy what you have right now – and not what you think you need to get, or need to do next to feel better.  Not only does it let you get to enjoy more of your life – it cuts way down on the stress of always trying to get the next greatest thing. (which almost always turns out to not be 🙂 )

There you have it – 9 simple tips to living a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I’m sure there are plenty more –and in fact, we would love to hear any suggestions you might have as well and learn from them too.

And that leads to one last bonus tip that Mary and I have always and will always follow – and that is to NEVER STOP LEARNING!

Happy Living!  Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms

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