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  • Cat Harvey

Practical Self-Sufficiency: Say What Now?

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

By definition, self-sufficiency is the ability to provide for yourself without external help. Historically, it was not only possible but often unavoidable. To survive, people had to grow or forage their own food, as well as use natural resources for building, heating, clothing, crockery, and more.

When you put self-sufficiency in the context of modern life, suddenly things become a lot more complicated. Even the very fact that I was able to use my laptop to write about this attests to that. If anything, we are at a disadvantage, because as it stands, our lives are very dependent on external resources and services.

What Self-Sufficiency Means to Us

When people enquire about our decision to move to the Lithuanian countryside, our answer includes becoming more self-sufficient as one of our main reasons. But what does it actually mean to us to be self-sufficient?

Essentially, we want to gradually transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle, where we have control over as many factors as we can necessary for our survival. Among others, these factors include:

  • Food. Not only do we aspire to grow a major share of our food, we also want to be able to cook and preserve our crops to make them last. In addition to growing our own crops, we like to forage and where possible, we try to source food from local farmers.

  • Water. Although we are quite lucky to live in a place where groundwater is abundant and easily accessible, it will take some time and effort to establish a water system that can be sustainable long-term.

  • Building. We are looking to utilise building methods that make use of “waste” materials, such as old tyres, rubble, glass bottles etc. Where possible, we would like to use reclaimed construction materials, such as timber, roof sheets, bricks, and smaller fixtures like doors and windows. For example, one of our projects for 2022 is to build a greenhouse using old windows “rescued” from the rubbish tip. Finally, it would be great to have the ability to grow renewable building materials such as timber and bamboo, as well as take advantage of natural resources like clay and sand, that can be found on our property.

  • Heating. In addition to growing timber, we hope to be able to sustain our firewood needs. In the future, we might have an alternative way of heating indoor spaces and water using compost or solar heaters.

  • Power. In order to gain even a partial level of self-sufficiency, it’s essential to have alternative power sources. Living in such a remote location means that powercuts are not only more common, they may also take longer to fix. As well as finding ways to generate and store electricity, we strive to have alternatives to activities that usually require electric appliances, e.g. cooking, washing, cleaning etc.

  • Transportation. Right now, we live a solid half-hour drive away from the nearest town. Having a car is not optional. Making the journey by bike or on foot is simply not sustainable, especially if the purpose of the trip is to get weekly groceries, or take an animal to the vet. However, the more self-sufficient we become, the less frequent those trips will need to be.

A Long Way to Go

As it stands, we are nowhere near the level of practical self-sufficiency we want to achieve. But that’s no reason to give up! We just need to acknowledge our current circumstances and make changes accordingly.

  • Our work is entirely remote, which means we are very dependent on having a power supply, internet access, and functioning tech required for the jobs.

  • Although we have some access to water, we are not yet at a point where we can have a reliable water supply all year round.

  • The house is mainly heated with firewood, which is currently a mixture of purchased materials and logs from the small woodland on our property.

  • Having a car is non-negotiable. We have to have a car to do our shopping, washing, recycling, and more.

  • We still have so much to learn about growing and preserving food! Although we had some success during our first growing season, there is definitely room for improvement.

What does self-sufficiency mean to you?

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