|Ann's Weekend Homestead|
One of the top items to do if you want to be self-sufficient is to grow or raise food, harvest food and preserve that food. You need to have a garden and fruit trees. I've found creating a garden and growing vegetables the easiest step in becoming self-sufficient for food. Starting a garden with laying cardboard on the ground and then adding layers of free compost material, establishes an instant garden bed for seeds to thrive. I've been planting heirloom seeds for the past three years and not only do you get great tasting vegetables, a lot of seeds can be saved for next year. The amazing thing is that tomatoes left to rot in your garden over the winter turn into tens of tiny tomato plants that have self-seeded in the garden. I'm actually weeding out tomato plants. Zero work and zero money for tomatoes every year. Also, it's good to move towards perennial vegetables to reduce the annual costs and get earlier spring harvests. Perennials that are easy to grow in a Canadian garden are rhubarb, strawberries, artichokes and sunchokes.
The second item I have started is raising chickens. I had zero experience with chickens so I opted to start with three pullet hens (already a few months old). Now I've added five more hens to the flock. This gives me lots of eggs. I hard boil eggs for an easy breakfast to eat on the commute, I scramble eggs and serve with bacon for a meal one day a week and I use them in baking. I can still buy chicken elsewhere so I haven't had to kill a chicken for meat, but if I need to provide meat for the family I can. The hardest part of raising chickens is ensuring you have a predator proof chicken coop. Otherwise your hens will be eaten by wildlife. You can't use those flimsy ready made chicken coop kits from the hardware store. Picture crafty raccoons, weasels and maybe bears trying to get in for a meal.
Also a note that item 1 and item 2, growing vegetables and raising chickens go together. The compost from cleaning out the coop and vegetable scraps will turn into soil building compost for the garden.
The third item is setting up secure home heating. In Canada, we get some very cold weeks in the winters. About three years ago the winter was colder than predicted and there was a huge spike in propane prices across Canada. This doesn't seem possible in a country with a lot of refined fuel anada but it seemed Canada sold most of it's propane to the United States and that left a shortage and high propane costs for Canadians. After that winter, we decided we needed a alternate, secure source of home heating fuel. We invested in a large wood stove. This cost around $3,000 to buy new including the proper chimney installation. The following winter we invested in a wood rack. This third winter coming we have calculated that we will have paid off the wood stove from savings on propane. Now we save money every year on home heating fuel as well as having a heating system that works when the power is out and can be fueled with local wood.
We still have some gaps towards self-sufficiency, but I feel more prepared now that the family is practicing skills to become self-sufficient.