When I read the letter from RG, I thought, “Did my husband write this?” We have been in the same spot, also at year three of striving for preparedness and self sufficiency. I wrote SB over a year ago; it was the article on Year One at the New Retreat. We have continued our preps and property improvements and are still working very hard. I suspect we will never reach that point where we have thought of everything.
Since my husband travels as part of his work, a great deal of the work around the property falls to me. When he is home, he really does a lot and it’s great. But nevertheless, I work hard. I think it is easy to get overwhelmed and fall into the trap of believing that everything has to be perfect and complete. I have put some thought into this recently, and here are some of the strategies I am using to continue our preps and work towards lightening my load:
- Don’t try right now to be fully self sufficient. Try instead to be ready to implement self sufficiency. That means buy some groceries now, have a fertile, tilled garden space and good seed ready to go. Like us, we’ve had the practice on the gardening. Last year my garden was wonderful; this year it looks awful. I tried planting some old seed (sugar beets, corn, and carrots) just to use up old seed and experiment with growing fodder for my cattle. Lack of rain did not help, and so only some things are coming in. I am tilling up part of it this summer and will throw some clover seed in to add nitrogen back to the soil. Instead of worrying about trying to make the garden produce this year, I am going to free up more time to do those other things I need to do. In the fall, I will add some manure and prep the garden for spring. I also plan to shop for fresh heirloom seed, having not seen one sugar beet come up this year. I also have the backup supply of food to lean on. When the SHTF, we have family joining us, and they can share in the work of planting and caring for a full garden.
- Raised garden beds are a good long-term investment if planted with perennial food items. Last year I built (six) 4ft by 12ft beds. Then, my husband helped me set them in the ground. I made them two feet high and paid to have good compost mix brought in by the truckloads. I planted some permanent type plants. They have not required near the maintenance the rest of the garden needs. One is a dedicated asparagus bed, which I intentionally have not harvested from yet as a way of letting the root systems develop further. Other beds are planted with strawberries, rhubarb, and herbs. These all come back on their own. I have tomatoes and tomatillos, some of which have also returned on their own. My potatoes also returned on their own. Even though I dug them up last year, a few always hide and they grew back in the same rows. Even non perennials I have planted in raised beds have been less work. I’ve decided to build six more garden beds. They are a time saver and a back saver, and they’re easy to weed. I think this is a smarter way to use my time for now.
- Let fruit and nut trees do the work. I have been lucky enough to discover full grown fruit trees on our property– most recently mature and freely growing cherry trees. I have hazelnuts growing freely but planted some walnuts as well. We also planted a very large orchard when we first moved in, and I don’t have to put in near the same amount of work on them as I do the garden. These nut and fruit trees have been a great time saver. I planted some blueberry bushes as well, which I think I will move to a raised bed this fall. Other ideas would be to plant blackberries if you have piece of land that stays wetter, or think about planting gooseberry bushes. Anything that you plant once and it produces year after year can save your energy.
- Having the right tools helps. For instance, filling and moving the water containers for my poultry flock was getting hard on my back. I bought a simple garden wagon to cart the waterers around. A simple tool made a job a lot easier for me. I use it for moving bales of hay and salt blocks, too. I would encourage others to reconsider their tools used in the most common and difficult tasks.
- Throw money at a problem. Even for those who are not in good financial shape, take into consideration the cost of hiring someone to help with work versus the cost of medical for an injury and also weigh the value of your time. If for instance you are 60 years old (like me) and want to save money by doing it yourself, imagine the potential injury and cost of medical afterwards. Or, consider if you work for $20 an hour and can pay $10 an hour for some labor, hire someone and continue to work at what you can do. Sometimes it just pays off to hire someone for some help. Another thought on this, if you have a savings account or an IRA you can draw from, does it make sense now in your situation to purchase something that would solve a major prepping issue for you? Consider the potential risk that your savings might get confiscated in TEOTWAWKI. Would it pay for a water well, solar panels, tractor, diesel tank, propane tank, generator, some good weapons, et cetera?
- I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea it’s easy to find like-minded individuals. I think they will emerge when the time comes, but I do know who lives around me. Since I have dairy farms around me, I know who has milk. I know who the big fishermen are around me and who my fellow hunters are. None of them grow fruit like I do, and I’m sure we can find grounds for barter. At present, I don’t feel I need to produce everything my family uses.
- Remember the Sabbath, go to church, and rest on Sundays. It is so easy when you are overwhelmed and have a long list of “to-do’s” to try to make up time on Sunday. I confess. I am one of those who has worked on a Sunday trying to get some task done, only to be tired all week. I find that getting the spiritual nourishment and physical rest on Sunday gives me more power to get things done later.
In summary, to newbies just getting set up, I recommend starting with fruit and nut trees, raised garden beds, get to know what your neighbors, grow and do, buy good labor-saving tools, and spend a little money where it’s smart to do so. Respect the Sabbath. It is hard work to strive for self sufficiency, and these are my tips to make it a little easier.
Good luck to R.G.! I would also like to hear from others their ideas on how to work smarter, not harder. Not all of us are young spring chickens!