I was talking about this with Mrs. Dirty Boots last night.
What exactly does being self sufficient mean?
I guess it means different things to different people. I would love for you to leave a comment after this post and let me know what it means to you.
EDIT: Please note that this is a long post. I seem to have got a little carried away. I believe it IS important though. Please read it and leave a comment about how you feel about it.
This article kind of sums up at least my attitude to the way we live here on our Spanish mountain. I talk about what it means for me to be more self sufficient and how we got to where we are now. Personally it is not about being a green guru but being more self reliant and although it is about frugal living in part, it is more about making the most of what we have, and changing it if we don’t like it.
What Being Self Sufficient Means To Me
Unfortunately a lot of it comes down to money. One of the larges problems with leading a more self sufficient life is the mortgage. Many of us own our own homes, or at least the bank does in reality, until we pay them off just before death.
Not to boast but we nailed that one when we were 31. We bought our first house when we were about 26 or so and then spent no money for the next 4 or 5 years.
This is something a lot of people are not prepared to do. We saved, we renovated and then we did the same thing another 2 times. Becoming mortgage free early in life meant a lot of sacrifices. We didn’t go out drinking or partying much. We put our money (yes we had jobs then) back in to renovating rough old houses and sold them. From making £5000 or so on the first one we jumped massively on our second one and made what seemed like a fortune.
Of course this is not so easy to do now but I wanted to point something out.
We had friends who always moaned that they couldn’t afford to buy houses yet they would be out every night peeing their money up the wall.
Was what I always thought, and said.
People simply aren’t willing to make sacrifices to get where they want to be. We have.
If you haven’t got money, don’t spend it. Yes I would love a compost tumbler or three but times are hard at the moment. We need to make sacrifices to get where we want and this is something many people do not do. Spending money is great, and trust me, if we had it we would spend some. What it comes down to is your priorities.
Do you want to buy a spanish stone cottage and live off grid like we do?
If you do, then why not work towards it. A sacrifice of a few or even five years could mean that you live the rest of your life how you really want to.
It is now the best part of a year since our money finally began to run out. Since then I spent countless hours learning how to make money writing online. You may remember the post the other day about how to make money writing. That took me nearly half a year to learn but learn it I did. It seems so obvious now but that’s life.
What Do You Want To Do?
I don’t often get too philosophical but this is it guys. No second go.
Do you want to sail around the world?
Do you just want to grow some veggies and spend a little less on trying to forget your working week on the weekend?
Change the job, save for the trip of a lifetime, or pack it all in and become a world wide traveller working on fruit farms for the next few years.
Whatever it is there is no reason why you can’t do it. Is there?
I don’t know your situation but you do. For us, we sacrificed spending and going out for a dream. Okay, our house is a long way from being finished but it will get there. We wake up to mountain views instead of another terraced house across the street and the fear of getting another brick through the window.
This is what being self sufficent means to us:
Growing Vegetables And Fruit
This is not just about saving money. We know where the majority of our fruit and veg comes from because we grow it. Well, maybe not the fruit yet but we are getting there.
Growing your own vegetables means you taste what food should really be like. You get funny shaped carrots, odd looking tomatoes and it tastes of something. This really does ground you and make you feel a part of nature. It is the best.
Of course, this is next to impossible in the present climate. The days of renovating and selling on for lots of cash are behind us for the most part. But, is your house too big? Could you work less if you moved to something smaller or in a less affluent area?
Would that make life better or worse? I don’t know but you do.
Many people work all the hours they can (and hate it) just to pay off a mortgage. For me personally I hated going to work. It was like someone was sucking the life from me. I would rather work less and own a smaller house. Of course, now we work a lot of hours but we work for ourselves.
Working From Home
Many people enjoy their jobs and like going to work. For us a work from home lifestyle is perfect. We can spend time shouting at the Dogs, wondering why the chickens keep being scared of bread, cry because the tomatoes look funny again and all other joys of being on our own land when we wish.
If going to work for someone else fills youwith despair then get out of it.
Either follow what I wrote about and link to (top left) or find something else. For a few years I made a second full time income selling DVDs on Ebay. It is not possible now because it is too competitive but there are other ways to work from home selling on sites like ebay and Amazon.
Find a dropshipper and put things up for sale. You don’t need to spend a penny unless they sell. Become a Dog walker, use your imagination. There are a million ways to earn a living for yourself if you really hate going to work for others.
Learning New Skills To Be More Self Sufficient
Learning how to do things for yourself gives a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It also saves money. We have learnt how to install solar systems, build stone walls, plumb and wire a house.
Lay concrete, tile roofs, install windows, install septic tanks, grow vegetables, preserve produce, make a chicken house………….
Kill the chickens and eat them (never again, gave me nightmares).
A lot of the work would not garner much love from a profesional but it is satisfying to be able to do things for yourself.
Just trying something really can surprise you.
What Else Being Self Sufficient Means
Stop Wasting Water
In the UK I never really thought about water usage. Turn on the tap, magic. I love baths but now they are a total no no.
Why? Well partly because we have not got the room and mainly because we pay for our water as we use it. We have all our water delivered on a tractor. We pay 60 euros for 7 thousand litres so we try not to waste it.
But do you know what? Without even being frugal we don’t have to buy water for 8 or 9 months of the year. This is simply because we collect the rain water of the roof in a large 7 thousand litre tank under the living room. When it is full we pump it up to our holding tanks at the top of the land.
And this is in Spain.
Surely people in other countries could collect rain water in tanks or a collection of water butts and use it to service the house?
I never thought about it in the UK but now I we ever moved back (no way) I would dig a massive hole in the garden and get off the main water supply. Anywhere where it rains even a little can be almost self sufficient in water quite easily.
All you need is a pump to pump it back to the house. Easy.
When you find out how things really work it is amazing how conscious of waste and cost you are.
Being Self Sufficient In Electricity
I won’t even pretend that those in many areas or countries can be self sufficient in electricity. The cost of the initial installation makes it impossible. Our system is far from perfect and if I could do it over again I would make considerable changes. However, with four panels we have had plenty of electricity all Summer, and that means a laptop running all day and the TV in the evenings.
Maybe you can’t be self sufficient for all your power but you can get inexpensive solar panels and at least generate some of your own electric.
When we lived in the UK we had a routine much like everyone else. Go to the supermarket every week and buy the same old stuff every week. Boring.
It meant we ate the same type of meals all year round. You can buy the same vegetables and fruits from supermarkets whatever the time of year.
It leads to un-inspiring cooking and a set number of meals.
Growing your own vegetable really changes that. You want to eat what you grow so you look at different menu ideas and you end up cooking a much larger range of meals (well, I mostly do the eating). The cook books are always out to search for a new menu for whatever is ready in the veg plot at the moment.
It really does make such a difference to try to be selff sufficient in vegetables. You eat seasonally and we feel kind of like we let ourselves down if we buy more than a few potatoes and the odd pepper from the local market.
Try to grow your own if you can. Apart from anything else it really does open up a whole new world of recipe ideas, and the taste is fantastic.
Being Self Sufficient Means Not Throwing Food Away, Ever
I watched something the other day and it said that in the UK about a third of all food purchased was thrown away. Don’t quote me on that but is was a ridiculous number.
We have composted for years and this just seems crazy. I know lots of new initiatives are coming in that try to get people to put their food waste seperately so it can be composted by local councils but why do we not do it ourselves?
Either give left over food to the Dog, get some Chickens, or make a compost bin. Better yet, buy the best composter and let me make some money. Which brings me on the the next point.
Being Honest To Earn A Living?
Many people involved in becoming more self sufficient seem to be almost evangelical in their supposed purity of purpose. Never mind that they spend their lives driving to and from work every day, spend their money getting hammered on the weekends to get over the weeks work, which is for some planet consuming producer of unnecessary goods.
I try not to judge people, each to their own. I just find it dishonest. Some people have seen TV shows where someone wants to build an environmentally friendly house. They buy a plot of land with a house on it, knock it down, and build an eco friendly house made from knitting and locally grown organic grass.
It’s dishonest. That person has gone to work every day in a high paying job, knocked down a property and wasted money on a new build and they say they want to be more ecologically sound. Why not be honest and upfront and state that
“Yes, I know this is not eco or part of being self sufficient but I want a new big house and I would rather it had a lower impact on the climate and resources.”
For me it does not add up.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not honest in what I/we do either. Any regulars will now know that we make our money writing blogs etc and trying to make money from writing in general. Life is a contradicition isn’t it?
I talk about things that I have no real interest in on occasion as it brings in the money. I know this though. I see it as working in a shop and selling stuff that I don’t like personally.
I don’t pretend I am helping to save the planet by getting people to buy stuff but it is them or us I am afraid. What seems to be happening is that people want to preach about the virtues of being self sufficient but still spend stupid amounts of money on everything apart from the vegetables that they grow.
I know this may come across as slightly superior but it is not my intention. I just wish we could be more honest about what we really think. If we simply like growing veg or being off grid why can’t we simply say that without having to tell everyone else that they MUST do the same. We all have our own philosophies about life. Let’s just be honest about it.
Are We Self Sufficient?
Fairly. I don’t know if anyone can be really. We all rely on the modern world and the many ways it can improve our lives. We need money to get by.
We do pretty well at providing for ourselves but we are totally broke and loving it. We love our veggies, our composting, being off grid and now working for ourselves. The Internet may not be exactly green but personally I am not so much intersted in being green as being self reliant.
You won’t like this but I am still totally undecided about the whole environmental issue full stop. Are we ruining the planet , in some ways yes. Are our actions going to destroy it? I just do not know.
For me at least leading a self sufficient lifestyle was partially an accident because of where we live. It really brings it home to you when you have to order water in a foreign language just to have a shower and when you actually now know how much electric you consume because you have a little meter telling you how low your batteries are getting.
So, what is your world view. Want to share your plans on becoming more self reliant?
Anyway, just wondered.
What does being self sufficient mean to you? Do you have a plan to get there?
For a more self sufficient future