Self-sufficiency pt 2: Why do it?


Okay, all the information from part one of this article is interesting, but why the hell do people do this stuff, anyway? We can’t speak for everyone (and few of them would want us to), but here’s our reasons, in no particular order (Matt’s interjections are in his special phonetics as well as italics):


  1. Just in case. We want to be prepared – or at least less hurt – by tough times. “Tough times” could mean a systemic hiccup as mild as the recent “economic downturn” or as serious a failure as something from the Change (S. M. Stirling) or World Made by Hand (James Howard Kunstler) books. We also thought it a good idea in case one of us loses their job (we’ve tested that one). It’s good to have a back up plan: what if you can’t afford to go to the grocery store or there’s too much snow blocking the road to get there even if you had the money? I don’t always use homemade soap, but I do know how to make it if I can’t get it for some reason.
  2. Accountability. When we grow our own, we know where our food came from. We know what’s in our soil and what our animals were fed. We did the planting, the weeding, the feeding, and the harvesting, so we don’t have to worry that the work was done by someone who wasn’t fairly compensated. (We get the food, so we’re pretty well compensated.)
  3. Savings. $1.50 can buy you one shrink-wrapped head of romaine at the grocery store, or it can buy a packet of as many as 1,000 seeds that, with perhaps a little extra money spent on water and soil amendments, can give you more romaine than you could eat in a year. Most foods are cheaper when you make or grow them yourself. We also save money on home improvement – there’s need to call a mechanic or plumber because we’re learning how to fix these things ourselves. There’s no cable bill because working toward self-sufficiency is pretty entertaining three seasons out of the year, and if there’s a spare moment in the winter, it’s easily filled with a book or a handicraft.
  4. It’s fun! I enjoy canning. Knitting reduces your blood pressure. You’d be amazed at how many people want a peek and an impromptu lesson in husbandry when they find out you have chickens and pigs in your back yard. You make friends with the like-minded and the curious. (If nothing else, you’ll be everyone’s best friend when you bring a case of homebrew to the 4th of July block party.) You learn something every day.Making things with your hands brings yew closer to our ansestors witch is just plain kool.
  5. Pride in a job well done. I have said a thousand times that I can work much harder for me and Matt than for someone else, no matter what the job. Plus, the rewards are direct, not delayed like they are at your average wage-earning job: when I clean the chicken coop my reward is that the chickens are healthier and lay more eggs more regularly; however, when I work for someone else I give them the product of my labor and wait two weeks for money that I then translate into something I need that someone else made. This “pride” expresses itself not just in a strong work ethic, but in a sort of contentment that you just don’t get from buying something off the shelf. There’s a great amount of satisfaction to be had in filling up your larder, mending a torn garment, or looking out over a burgeoning vegetable garden.
  6. Piece of mind. Halfing every thing yew knead too komfortably survive indefinetly within the boundaries of your property is a hell of a feeling. Eye am reasonably sure it is wear the term content originated. Dude, I just said that.


  1. You think you’re so much better than us. I’m not sure I fully understand where this spiteful remark comes from, but I think that some people think that when we hold up an example of our efforts that we are not saying “lookie!” but rather “bet you can’t do this.” Self-sufficiency is not a holier-than-thou thing, generally – it’s more of a calling (or a voice in your head that just won’t shut up until you do what it says). If you are a standard consumer, but you think about what you do, if you have consciously decided that you are OK with your way of life and that some other lifestyle isn’t for you, then that’s fine with us – we’re not proselytizing. Although I have to admit that if you’re a completely unthinking sheep who does whatever the shiny box tells you to then, yeah, maybe we do think we’re a little better than you.
  2. We’re poor. We haven’t got a lot of money, and we’d like to stretch what we’ve got, but I think we’re still in the middle class – if only because the poverty line is so far down there it may as well be called the homelessness line. Since I quit my nasty job (and hour-plus commute) in May 2010 we have lived off of Matt’s income alone. The bills get paid every month and we don’t miss any meals. We even still go out from time to time. Butt eye still half to sell blud on the white market to make ends meat . . . Don’t listen to him.
  3. It’s time/money inefficient. Sum pee pole say that growing and or raising your own food is knot worth the effort. That working 40 plus hours a week more than makes up for the work in gardening, or that growing your own food does not pay because the time spent is thyme yew kould be making a wage to buy food “jheeper”. This is a rather skewed outlook bekause the thyme spent in the garden is money Eye do knot have to make at a job Eye hate. Money that should be spent on the only thing it is good fore, buying the stuff Eye knead to make my life sew that Eye never have to punjh the klokk ever again!

— Amanda

photo credit: southeast portland can-o-rama, july 2010: jars labeled via photopin (license)


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