Letter Re: Illusive Self-Sufficiency


I have a question for you and the SB readers. This is our third year living on our rural retreat and fifth year prepping in earnest. We have animals, a large garden, stored food, and other essentials. We’ve come a long way, but I can’t help but think when I survey everything how far we still have to go to become truly self-sufficient. Our garden wouldn’t come close to feeding our family year-round, but I’m already stretched to capacity with the current size, not to mention the animals and general farm chores (like cutting and splitting wood for the winter). Of course, I still have a day job, but it is flexible as I am self-employed. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, all my time would be freed up for manual labor, but still, true self-sufficiency seems like an illusive dream.

I’m curious how others are doing on their quest towards self-sufficiency and if they have any sage advice to share. Thanks – RG

HJL Replies: True, complete self-sufficiency is tough to achieve and generally results in compromises and lifestyle choices that we wouldn’t normally choose. When you have no one else to depend on, you have to produce everything yourself. In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in remote Siberia found a family doing just such a thing. The story is quite moving but has a practical side to it. Sans contact with other people, communications skills suffered as did their living conditions. The name of the game was bare minimalist survival, as that was all they could do. Certainly, survival in Siberia is much tougher than independent survival on a tropical island where things grow of their own accord. Locations such as Siberia, or semi-arid deserts, like much of the southwest, mean that much more of your time is taken up with simply providing enough calories to survive.

This is the reason we believe you should surround yourself with like-minded individuals. You can still maintain a relative amount of individuality, yet have the greater strength of the group when it comes to tasks requiring specialization or protection. It’s hard to find the time to shoe your own horse when you are tending a garden tasked with all of your food needs, but one man can certain shoe a village of horses and barter that service for garden produce from those who farm.

Total self-sufficiency can be achieved, but it’s not a lifestyle that I would choose to live when other options are available.