Thursday, April 27, 2017

And More Self-sufficiency: Preparedness In The Burbs

The suburbs. Rows of houses just about all the same. I have fond memories of growing up in the suburbs. Most of you live in some sort of suburb. Living there brings with it challenges to becoming self-sufficient. Usually a home in the burbs has a yard. Hopefully enough room to throw a baseball with your kids. Look at your yard in a new light. Plan to use the room you want to devote to self-sufficiency with a garden. This should be the top priority. There are few things we can do that are more important to being self-sufficient. Being self-sufficient does not preclude preparedness in the area of food storage. Your one year supply of food, and water storage are the most important things you can do to become self-reliant and prepared. Learn what works for you in your climate, in your soil, and especially what your family will eat. Talk to others in your area who garden to find out what works. Talk to farmers you may know. The county or university extension centers offer lots of literature and advice on gardening. The Internet also is a good source. If you don’t have the net, find a friend who will let you use it or possibly your local library has public access. The library can be an excellent resource as well. Check for garden clubs in your area or your local nursery may have some helpful advice. A recommended book on gardening with space in mind is “Square Foot Gardening”, by Mel Bartholomew, Rodale Press, Pennsylvania. Gardening in small spaces or indoors is possible and available for those who are really limited on space. Next could be fruit trees. There are many nurseries that sell dwarf fruit trees. Dwarf trees are always more expensive but when you consider that they take less space, are easier to harvest, and are easier to maintain, the price difference is of no consequence. Many of the same sources cited above can help you with a small orchard as well.
Learn to can and bottle so that you may enjoy the fruits of your labors. Canning is a dying art. Growing up in an LDS home I thought everyone knew how to can. I’m learning now that many didn’t teach their sons or daughters this valuable skill. Many children weren’t interested in learning and so the art seems to be dying. I think it stems from the fact that most women are back in the work force. I realize some must work and some want to but...that’s another article. There is a great website concerning canning, at This site has recipes, and a home canning videos othat deal with the fundamentals of canning.
The suburbs bring limitations on your self-sufficiency but these problems are not unsurmountable. Check with your local laws and don’t forget to check with neighbors even if it is legal. You don’t want to damage relationships. If you can have some animals inform your neighbors of your intentions and also of your plans to make keeping this animal a good experience for everyone. Chickens can be kept with a low impact on your neighborhood. A family of six can get all the eggs they will need from only three to four chickens. Both my wife and I grew up in the suburbs of a large city and both our families had gardens, fruit trees, small vineyards, and chickens. My Father-in-law even kept bees. So, we’re living proof that it’s possible. When living close to neighbors, do not keep a rooster. They are noisy. You don’t need a rooster for eggs unless you want fertile eggs.

Keep the chickens in a small, well-made yard and coop. They don’t require a lot of room. If you do keep them in a small space, you’ll need to feed them. A small yard will also be cleared of vegetation in a hurry. They also take care of bugs. Be aware of predators, too. There are cats that may try to get to your chickens when they are small. Dogs take over after that but if you have a good backyard fence this won’t be a problem. You can always put a top on the small chicken yard. There are many mail-order game bird catalogs that sell a netting to go over yards. You can get rid of most of your table scraps if you don’t compost for your garden. Chickens will eat almost any food that we will. DO NOT give them chicken. They will eat chicken but then will peck more than usual at each other. Don’t let them have any raw eggs in any way either, because they will start breaking their own eggs.
Other animals are possible if legal and if you have the room. A cow requires either a lot of feed or a pasture. Goats require the same, but better fencing. Sheep require less room than a cow but will need pasture or feeding. Feeding these animals can get expensive. Rabbits are great for fur and meat, and require little room. They only require cages and separation of sexes unless you want them to breed, because they will breed like, well... rabbits. Exotic birds are really not that difficult to care for either. Emu & Ostriches (Ratites) don’t require much room but like all large animals, require feeding or pasture. Ostriches will graze but Emus don’t do much grazing.
Ostriches are temperamental and sometimes aggressive while Emus are much more docile and smaller. If you have room for a cow (maybe a second fenced-in lot). Maybe even a water buffalo would interest you. They are larger than cattle and easier to handle.
Alternative energy or fuels are another way of becoming self-sufficient. Most homes have electricity but what if it went out? Could you still cook, keep warm or run simple things like lights? Consider alternatives. Light is easy to supplement. There are many lamps that run off a variety of fuel. Always be careful with liquid fuels. Store them properly and always use them with caution. Check with laws in your area for fuel storage. Keep extra wicks for kerosene lamps. Some camp lanterns require mantles so don’t forget a supply of them. There are always barbecues or campfires for cooking. Have sufficient wood and charcoal briquettes on hand and also stored properly. Learn to cook on camp stoves or campfires or even a woodstove if you have one. Warmth can be found in fireplaces, wood stoves and campfires. Plenty of blankets and quilts are a good idea whether in a survival situation or not. We have a quilt for each bed in our house. My wife makes them and gives them as Christmas, birthday, wedding or mission gifts. This is another art that is slowly dying. Quilting is more popular than canning though, so maybe it won’t die out.
Wind, solar, turbine or generator power is also making a comeback. All are technical, but possible to learn. There are solar and wood burning water heaters. These save money and will help us to become independent. Solar panels can run anything from simple lights to whole households. We have electricity and propane in our home. I like the idea of being able to cook and heat water in our home without depending on electricity. A small propane tank is not really expensive nor hard to install. We want to get a second water heater that runs off of our propane in addition to our electric one. There are kerosene stoves, refrigerators, freezers and of course lights and lamps. These additional appliances will be something you acquire slowly over time.
The above suggestions I know are vague and not detailed, but I just wanted you to be aware of many things you can do in the suburbs to become more self-sufficient. You can probably think of many others I haven’t mentioned here. Pick one of these items, or one of your own, and set a goal to acquire these items and skills. One area at a time will eventually make us all self-sufficient for the uncertain times we face and help us save money. Remember the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be Prepared.”
Semper Paratus
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