If you’ve been wanting to become self-reliant but are unsure how to proceed, consider these 12 steps to becoming more self-reliant to get you started. If you’re already on your path to self-reliance, there may be some items in this list you’ve never considered but after some thought, may decide to pursue. The items are in no particular order of importance.
Often this is one of the first steps someone chooses to become more self-reliant and for good reason. Freedom from supermarket produce means you can be certain of how vegetables were grown and are no longer subject to escalating food prices or potential shortages. Whether you start small with a garden big enough to only supply fresh eating through the summer months or one big enough to feed you all year long, you’ll be glad you embarked on this path.
2. Preserve some food by canning, freezing, drying and/or root cellaring
Learning how to preserve food, even if only a few jars of jam, gives you a jump on others who don’t know the first thing about providing for themselves. Start slow, learn the proper ways to preserve foods especially how to can food to avoid risk of food borne illnesses. With experience, you may decide to expand your repertoire, so, like us, you put by enough to feed your family for a year. And by the way, if raising the produce yourself is out of the question, you can still learn how to put up food by purchasing produce from farmer’s markets, produce stands or joining a CSA.
3. Learn how to cook
This may sound silly but there are many folks who don’t cook because they think they can’t or because they don’t want to. I find this troubling. Food is one of our basic needs and if you can’t prepare a meal for yourself you’ll be one of the first to suffer when/if takeout or restaurant meals become unavailable. There’s no need to be a chef. Nor do you need to spend hours in the kitchen every day. Simple, home cooked meals, preferably prepared from scratch, are all that’s required. If you embrace gardening, there’s no point in growing vegetables and fruit if you don’t prepare and cook meals that feature what you grow. Learning how to do this is vital for self-reliance.
4. Heat with wood
All 3 of our homesteads have included forested land not only because we enjoy the woods but also because we are committed to heating with wood. For over 40 years wood has been our only source of heat. Having the firewood come from our own woodlot gives us a sense of security that no matter what happens to heating oil or other fuels we’ll be toasty warm. For those hooked up to the grid, wood heat means you’ll still be warm even during a power outage with the added benefits of being able to cook which brings us to the next point.
5. Cook with wood
The kitchen range at all 3 of our homesteads has been a wood cookstove. For the reasons given above, we’ve never had any other appliance. I grew up with an electric range so had to learn how to use a wood cookstove but that is not as challenging as you may think. I use our cookstove year round to cook, bake, do my canning and blanch vegetables for the freezer. Bottom line anything that can be prepared with a conventional stove can be made with a wood cookstove. http://inthewilderness.net/2022/01/06/consider-a-wood-burning-cookstove-for-your-off-grid-kitchen/
6. Install solar panels
For our entire homesteading career, over 40 years, we’ve been off grid. But if we were grid tied, we’d still seriously consider installing solar panels. Perhaps there are tax incentives to do so, but even if not, you may be able to produce some power when the grid is down while your neighbors are without.
You could have the best of both worlds as you have access to the power grid but you’re also producing power which the power company might buy back from you in the form of credits. At night or during cloudy spells, the grid provides your power. What a sweet deal! Especially if at the end of the month your net energy production is more than what you used from the power company. In that case the power company owes you money!!! Wow. There’s nothing like watching the meter spin backwards! Bottom line, this could help defray from the cost of solar panels. CAUTION! – a qualified electrician must do this grid-tie installation. This is not a DIY project.
7. Learn to do basic sewing
Once again there’s no need to become an expert by becoming a tailor or seamstress. Simply learn how to construct basic clothing or at least learn how to perform simple mending to repair what you already have. A seam that’s ripped in the seat of your pants or a hem that’s come undone are example of simple repairs that anyone can do.
8. Raise chickens for eggs, meat or both
Chickens are a small animal suited for most homesteads. They don’t require vast tracts of land for pasture or hay, can be housed in a small footprint, don’t require large amounts of feed to produce eggs and even benefit from being fed table scraps thereby turning waste into edible food for you. They can even manage on their own for a few days so long as food and especially water are accessible. Provided you don’t have a rooster, chickens are unobtrusive as they create little noise or smell.
9. Raise some of your own animal feed
It’s great to raise your own animals for food but relying on the local feed store for the animal feed is hardly being self-reliant. What if the feed store closes? What if there’s a shortage or outage of feed? While we’ve never completely eliminated the need for store bought feed, we’ve always tried to raise as much supplemental feed as we could. Field corn and sunflower seed heads make great supplemental poultry feed. Root crops and cabbages can be fed to pigs or cows. If you need hay, growing your own will not only make you more self-reliant but be a big savings too.
10. Learn to knit
Once again there’s no need to become an expert but learning how to make practical garments such as socks, sweaters, hats, gloves and mittens is a beneficial skill especially if you decide to raise sheep or other animals for fiber to spin into yarn. I was lucky in that my mom knitted and she taught me the basics at a young age. From there I’ve challenged myself to make more complicated patterns but that really isn’t necessary. Sticking to the basics is what counts. A simple but very practical and useful project for any beginning knitter is to make some cotton dishcloths. http://inthewilderness.net/2020/06/28/quilting-weaving-and-other-worthwhile-homestead-pursuits/
11. Learn basic carpentry
I’m not good at this one but I do know the basics even if I’m not proficient in performing the task. Fortunately I have a husband who is. Learning how to build or at the very least repair things is a critical step to greater self-reliance
12. Learn basic plumbing and electrical
I’m even worse at this than carpentry but fortunately have a man who’s a genius (editors note: genius is a strong term… let’s say I’m able to generally avoid electrocution and major flood events on the floor) at this stuff. We actually have pretty good division of skills/labor in that I’m in charge of food and the kitchen and he keeps the water flowing and the solar electric system cranking out the amps.
To incorporate all of the above may not be feasible or of interest to everyone and that’s fine. Furthermore there is likely an item not in the list that others may view as essential. For example, learning how to do your own butchering of animals, but that’s a topic for another day. Whatever the case may be, embrace all items that you feel comfortable with and run with them. Certainly the more of these steps/skills you incorporate into your daily life the more self-reliant you’ll be.
Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!
Ron and Johanna
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