Two years ago my wife and I sat down and drew up a three-year plan for being capable of full self-sufficiency. The idea wasn’t that we would be 100% self-sufficient after 3 years, but that our plan would enable us to push the “full self-sufficiency” emergency button and get the machine running within weeks (rather than years) if it ever became necessary. Ironically, within months people would begin talking about that virus over in China, and within the year we would witness the true fragility of our national food supply chain. Talk about validation. . .
Our plan focused mainly on infrastructure. We built a greenhouse (post coming soon), we expanded our garden area, we began fencing our entire property, and we introduced pigs (as well as a structure to contain them). We also made a list of tools that a self-sufficient homestead needs (i.e. a generator, freezers, a tractor, chicken processing equipment, electric fence netting, etc.) and have been accumulating from that list as we are able.
Next year will be our third year, and as that initial vision comes to a close we want to have a fresh vision for the future to carry us forward. By the end of next year, if the Lord blesses this work, we will have all of the pieces of our current homestead in place. Our goals will no longer be focused on adding new systems, but on improving the systems we have. How do we hope to improve? Here are the big three areas for improvement:
- Soil/pasture Quality: Our lawn-turned-pasture (all 0.75 acres of it) is in desperate need of help. The forage quality is poor to average, at best. 20% of our land has significant topsoil erosion. Over 50% of our land is in 100% shade. Generally, we need to add a significant amount of nutrients back into our land. But we have a plan! To start, we’re over-seeding with quality forage seed and introducing sheep and chickens in a rotational grazing program to put pressure on the weeds and improve the overall soil quality. We’re also addressing the shade issue this winter with plans to remove several large trees. Lastly, we’ll be bringing in large amounts of both homemade and commercial compost and topsoil to build back the most eroded areas of our land.
- Animal Feed: We’re committed to maintaining an organic program on our land, but feed costs are rising quickly and poor crop yields this year threaten to make things a lot worse in the coming months. Our future vision is to depend less on other farmers for our animal feed and to grow as much as we can on our own. Anyone who asks me about our homestead these days will hear a LOT about comfrey. This incredible plant has captivated me. If all goes to plan, our homestead will be covered with comfrey in the coming years, and this will provide as much as 50% of our pig feed and 75% of our chicken feed.
- Preparedness: Having a homestead is great, but we still rely greatly on the outside world to keep us running. The power company, the water company, the gas station, the freight companies, and even the other farms that provide our animals and feed – disruptions with any of these suppliers could shut us down immediately. So while there probably is no plan that completely saves us from a catastrophe on that level, we do see many ways that we can provide a buffer for ourselves and cushion the blow of a major supply disruption. Obviously some answers are easier — like building a supply of food in the freezers and keeping fuel on hand — but others are more difficult, like maintaining an animal breeding program or securing an off-grid source for power and water. We want to be doing what we can to have what we need, but we’re not in ideal circumstances to be going overboard.
It’s exciting to think about what the next several years may bring to our homestead. The path to self-sufficiency is perhaps more rewarding than self-sufficiency itself.