What would you do if you lost access to electricity and needed to clean your clothes?
The team at Finding Country answers that question by sharing their method for washing and drying clothes without a traditional washer or dryer.
Your washer and dryer are two of the largest suckers of electric consumption and cost in your home. You could save money and prepare for a not-so far-fetched reality where electricity is down for an indeterminate amount of time.
Learn more about what you should consider as you develop your washing and drying system.
We hear a lot about how much food Americans waste.
Recent estimates from Penn State University researchers show 30% of the food we buy ends up uneaten, spoiled, or wasted in one way or another.
But we rarely see studies about how much food Americans store for emergencies. What we do know is that nearly half of Americans don’t have emergency supplies or first-aid kits prepared for unexpected disasters.
The first step you can take right now to prepare yourself for days, weeks, or months without food is to check your inventory.
Most people realize far too late that they don’t have enough food far too late into a crisis. When they do realize that they need to build their stocks, they typically mass buy the cheapest carbohydrates and proteins on the shelf.
These tend to be dried beans, bread, canned goods, and rice.
Staple foods may vary depending on where you live, but nationally, new stories usually report massive runs on dried beans, bread, canned goods, and rice during times of crisis.
How We Used to Build Our Food Stockpile
Like many people, Matt and I would cling to the core food items outlined earlier in the article when we went to the grocery store.
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak (before the statewide shutdowns and social distancing measures) Matt and I made several trips to the store a week. We would throw 4 rows of canned beans, a loaf of bread, and some bags of rice into the cart without any regard for how much we actually needed to fuel our bodies in the event that we couldn’t get to a store.
We figured we would just keep stockpiling until we ran out of space or lost easy access.
After approaching our food inventory from this faulty mindset, we developed a system that helps us calculate how many days of staple foods we have and how much more we need to add in order to reach the amount of days we want to be covered for.
Introduction to the Staple Stock Inventory Tracker
Our food inventory system consists of 3 parts:
By the end of this 3-part system, you’ll know how many calories you have among the 4 main meal categories and how many days those calories could last you.
Step 1: Calculating your daily caloric needs.
If you hate math like Matt and I do, then you’ll love this tool, which will help you determine your individual calorie needs in less than 30 seconds.
We use the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) calculator for finding your daily calorie needs based on your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level.
When I put my information into the calculator, it reveals that I will need 2,010 calories per day to maintain my current weight.
Step 2: Assemble your stocks into 4 categories.
After you determine your calorie needs for a single day, open up your cabinets or head over to your pantry.
Look at the items you have and divide them into 4 categories:
Make note of how many cans and bags you have of each of these goods.
Step 3: Add up the total calorie count of your stocks in each category. ‘
Once you know how many cans you have, find the calorie count of each can and tally up the totals.
Pro tip: If you organize your cans by product type (i.e. canned corn versus black beans or garbanzo beans) and find the calorie count of one can, then you can multiply that number by how many of that type of product you have.
For example, if I have 8 cans of black beans and there are 420 calories of food in each can, multiply 8 x 420. That will give me 3,360 calories for that particular product.
After you’ve found the total calorie count of all items in each of your primary stock categories, take that final number and divide it by your individual or your family’s total daily caloric needs.
This number will tell you how many days of food you have in your staple stock.
When I conducted this exercise on my own food staples, I discovered that I only had about 14 days of food prepared in dried beans, bread, canned goods, and rice.
Again, I did not include other more luxury items or comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, trail mix, candies, crackers, and the like, however, you certainly can tally up those numbers to get a very specific and accurate assessment of your entire food stocks.
Don’t Forget About Nutrition
Although we are not nutritional experts, we do recommend considering not just the calories that you are putting into your body, but also the nutritional value of those calories.
Tracking your macros is a great way to guarantee you are getting the protein, fat, and carbohydrates you need to maintain your current weight. Macros is short for macronutrients, and these are nutrients that supply your body with energy. It’s what most of the food you eat consists of.
You may want to calculate the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in each of your staple categories to get an assessment of the nutritional value of your stock as part of your food inventory.
If so, we suggest using If It Fits Your Macros calculator to get a free breakdown of exactly what your needs are.
Once the calculator gives you those numbers, write them down and then follow steps 2 through 3 as indicated above, making sure to divide the total macronutrients and calories in your staple inventory by your total daily calorie count, as well as your daily macronutrient composition.
Have questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
When you know how to identify edible plants, you quickly realize the benefits of gardening without all of the hard work.
According to Plants for a Future, we consume only a fraction of the plant species we could be incorporating into our diets. Although there are more than 20,000 plant species across the globe, we rely on 20 of them to supply 90 percent of our food.
While the edible wild plants available near you are largely dependent on your landscape and climate, there are a few that you can find almost anywhere.
After a round of severe storms that spurred up deadly tornadoes hit the Middle Tennessee area in early March 2020, many individuals and families were in shock.
The destruction was widespread and crushing, leading to homes lost and businesses closed.
Although Finding Country is headquartered an hour west of Nashville, Tennessee, we were thankfully not hit by the storm. But we were prepared to help others that were hit.
We loaded up a van of supplies: chainsaws, flashlights, candles, bandaids, gloves, safety goggles, food and water, and more. Driving as far into town as was physically safe, we walked around neighborhoods performing a delicate tango around downed power lines and debris.
More than 40% of Americans aren’t confident in their ability to withstand a natural disaster, according to You.Gov survey data. Fewer women than men say they’re prepared for emergencies. This is concerning when you consider the speed with which some disasters can wield their influence and the longevity of that influence in others.
Especially in the first few minutes, hours, and sometimes days of a disaster, the only relief you can rely on is that which you or your immediate community can provide.
When Outside Sources Fail
Preparation for disaster is vital to surviving the initial blow of an emergency, as well as rebuilding after the threats subside. As more households in a community are prepared, the community itself increases its resilience and decreases its reliance on federal and state government efforts.
In the past, those hit hardest by disaster have been failed by political leaders who are unable to coordinate and dispatch assistance due to the complexity of their system’s hierarchy.
For example, following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, volunteer firefighters were delayed by FEMA for two days of training unrelated to the emergency at hand. It took four days for former president George W. Bush to assign aid packages and deploy National Guard troops to the area.
Between misguided decisions made by officials and lengthy authorization processes, formal and large-scale disaster responses aren’t as reliable as we’d like to think. So, it’s important to take responsibility for our own safety.
4 Most Important Elements of Any Disaster Preparedness Plan
Depending on where you are and what your socioeconomic level is, you will encounter different types of disasters which will impact you at varying degrees. Despite the uniqueness of any given situation, there are 4 elements that are crucial to nail down with any disaster preparedness plan.
There are two ways you need to look at communication in terms of your disaster preparedness plan. First, you want a way to be communicated to in times of emergency. This means you’ll need to sign up for alerts from federal, state, and local organizations through apps and other modes, as well as have alternative notification sources that aren’t reliant on an Internet connection or even landline networks. Use the resources linked in the checklist at the end of this article for setting up a communication infrastructure for alerts and notifications with modern and traditional applications.
Second, you and your family should memorize each other’s phone numbers and the phone numbers of important people or organizations (like schools, businesses, doctors, etc.) in your lives, if you haven’t already. With a phone book at our fingertips through today’s mobile phones, we’ve largely avoided the repetition of dialing numbers into a keypad. For the sake of preparation, commit to memory a few contacts. Ready.gov has a PDF Emergency Plan for Families that can be adapted to individuals and roommates.
Some disasters will require you to shelter in place, while others may encourage you to find a safer spot. Tornadoes and hurricanes are perfect examples of emergencies where you’re home may not be the best place to ride out the threat. At the most basic level, know the conditions you’ll need to meet if you’re staying at home versus seeking out shelter in a less familiar place. For disaster-specific recommendations, consult the Ready.gov website here.
In some instances, you may have to completely avoid danger through escape. An escape plan takes into consideration the type of shelter you’ll need, the locations of those shelters, the different routes you could take to get to your destination, and the means of transportation you’ll need to use to get to safety.
Imagine what you would do if certain roads in your city were blocked off or if gas stations were packed or out of supplies. Walk through as many escape scenarios you can think of. Have places of escape in mind that are near and far. Have alternative routes and transportation methods available. Know whether you could bring all members of your family, including pets, with you to public or private shelters. The places you decide to go may change depending upon whether they’ll accept the family dog or not. Again, Ready.gov lines this out in a much more comprehensive manner than we ever could, so go here for a more detailed approach to structuring your escape plans.
The final core segment of a disaster preparedness plan is materials - the items and tools you’ll want to have in your home or car so you’re ready to put your plan into action at a moment’s notice. From assembling a first aid kit to storing extra food, water, and a supply of sanitation and personal hygiene products, the raw materials you have at your disposal prior to an unexpected event can determine your ultimate response to it. Set yourself up to have several options by preparing for the worst while you’re at your best.
Although Ready.Gov says people should be prepared for 3 days without external assistance, some states with distinct landscape and environmental characteristics like Washington and Oregon propose guidelines to prepare for two weeks of self-reliance following a disaster.
Disaster Preparedness Checklist
Because community resilience starts with individual preparation, spend some time building your plan for when disaster strikes.
In times of emergency, peace of mind will be created by your ability to straddle both the digital and physical worlds.
On your journey to self-sufficiency, you’re going to meet a lot of naysayers. There will be plenty of people, especially those you love and care about, who won’t understand your desire to live simply and forgo a few creature comforts so you can feel more secure with what you can provide for yourself.
That’s why Finding Country compiled 40 statistics you can share to explain your decisions to people who may think you have purely emotional reasons for wanting to run off to the country and build yourself a farm.
These statistics touch on the primary aspects of a self-sufficient lifestyle: your finances, food, health, and safety. They paint a picture of the serious failings of our current systems and could show others why it’s important to you to have a back up plan for as many scenarios as possible.
Many Americans are up to their knees in debt. The numbers are so astronomical that the average American cannot even grasp it, and therefore, doesn’t devote much brain space to it. But our financial status dictates how we live our lives, so it’s important to understand the ramifications of debt and how an inability to pay it off hinders our paths to become more self-sufficient.
The global food system is fragile and unreliable to the extent we would want it to be. We’ve become so disconnected with food production that most of us would be at risk of starvation if we didn’t have grocery stores and convenient food delivery systems to rely on.
We’re leading stress-filled lives that are only making us sicker and costing us more in terms of financial and physical distress.
Threats come in many shapes and sizes. From natural disasters to inefficient systems, your safety is under attack constantly.
Many American citizens, approximately nine of every 10 households, could be getting up to $1,200 as part of the stimulus package President Donald Trump recently signed into legislation.
The move was made to help people cover rent or mortgage payments and monthly expenses like food and gas. However, if you’re still employed or have a relatively consistent stream of income coming in, you have more options for utilizing these funds than you might think.
Conventional wisdom would encourage you to use the check for those purposes as well as paying off loans or any type of credit card debt. While eliminating debt is important to do in the long term and a vital cornerstone of self-sufficiency, this stimulus check is not going to be a regular occurrence.
The CARES Act only approves this one check , however, there have been talks of another recovery bill as lockdowns continue and social distancing measures limit business activity. Marco Rubio mentioned its potential necessity earlier this week:
“The appetite is there. I think everyone I’ve talked to recognizes we’re going to have to go back and do more, and probably more than once.”
Regardless of future stimulus packages, we can’t get used to government handouts to cover our recurring expenses because our institutions will eventually cripple under the enormity of the COVID-19 crisis.
Others might recommend that you buy cheap stocks, but again, there is an element of risk associated with this maneuver. If you aren’t already knowledgeable about investing or if you don’t have a dedicated financial advisor, finding stocks to buy in this tumultuous environment might not be the best way to spend your stimulus check. Also, you likely won’t see the return on stock market investment for at least a decade.
So why not use this stimulus check to prepare and advance yourself in the short term? You can participate in recovery efforts by stimulating the economy while also engaging in an activity that gets you closer to a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Here are a few ways you can use your stimulus check to become more self-sufficient right now:
1. Stock up on non-perishable food items and first aid supplies.
If you haven’t been purchasing food in bulk or getting additional first aid supplies, this would be the time. Dedicate a portion of your stimulus check to shopping online or having your family’s dedicated shopper stop by the store for one, large haul on the following items:
With supply chain disruptions causing interruptions for consumers, it may be harder to acquire nutritious staples like beans. Research bulk food sites like bulkfoods.com, where you can find 5 pounds of kidney beans for a little over $80.
For more first aid supplies, check out this comprehensive list with suggestions from the Mayo Clinic. It will also be more difficult to obtain products like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer during these times, but you can still limit unnecessary travel by ordering other essential first aid supplies from online vendors that remain in operation, even if at limited capacity.
2. Get garden inputs.
You could also take greater self-sufficiency strides and allocate some of your $1,200 check towards starting a garden and immediately setting it up for success.
The great thing about gardening is most of what you need is provided through natural means. The sun does most of the work for you, however, you will want to ensure you can plant seeds or seedlings in good soil.
To get good soil, you’ll need to add elements like compost and manure and peat moss. If you don’t mind lower production levels and want to avoid pesticides, you won’t need much more than that. Potting soil may be useful, especially if you’re starting seeds versus planting seedlings.
3. Order a water purifier.
Water purifier bottles are sufficient for the casual hiker, but in a dire situation, you’ll need capacity to purify several gallons of water.
Community Lifestraw is a consumer brand that developed in the late 1990s after Denmark-based company, Vestergaard, helped The Carter Center, a non-profit founded by Jimmy Carter, create a system for preventing Guinea worm disease.
Their products were initially intended for massive humanitarian relief projects, but since 2008, they’ve offered water purifiers strictly for in-home use. While their Lifestraw Family model will suffice for common household filtration, the Lifestraw Community model makes more sense for the individual and family that has or hopes to have a rainwater collection system.
One review from a user in Lebanon, Pennsylvania explained why the Community model is a better option for those who want more control over their water sources:
“We have an unconventional use for this product. Due to the hardness of the water in our area, we collect rainwater in order to minimize the "dust" put out by the minerals in the water. We use this in our ultrasonic humidifiers. But it should really be purified first. We'd used the LifeStraw Family for years, but it just took too much time to filter. Went to this "big boy" here. It is really worth the cost.”
Lifestraw is great for removing viruses and other bacteria from your water, but Kangen Water offers more than a purified beverage. Using innovative water technology, Enagic products specialize in alkaline water ionization. Some argue that the higher concentration of hydrogen in this type of water delivers myriad health benefits from improved digestion and metabolism to increased energy and decreased aging.
Although those benefits are hotly debated, the health risks are low of consuming alkaline watters, so it’s primarily a matter of preference.
Whatever purification system you choose, the ability to use any water source in a pinch is crucial to developing more self-sufficiency into your lifestyle. So, find a system that works best for you and meets your water consumption needs.
4. Start an emergency savings account.
Most experts, including financial advisor Dave Ramsey, suggest that Americans set aside a $1,000 emergency fund. In reality, if you want to cover a worst case scenario unexpected expense, $1,000 is likely not going to cut it.
According to a Bankrate survey of 1,000 Americans, the average blindside expense comes out to 2.5X the recommended $1,000 emergency fund at $3,500.
While it’s better to have some savings than no savings at all, I would suggest anyone striving for a more self-sufficient lifestyle to work towards building an emergency savings fund of at least $5,000.
Instead of putting those expenses on a credit card that compounds an exorbitant amount of interest over time, compound your savings account by putting a little bit of your funds into it each month. You would rather gain money than owe it at the end of the day, wouldn’t you?
5. Take a course or get a certification.
Right now is quite possibly the best time to invest in your personal and professional growth. Some of us are out of a job and desperately need to pivot so we don’t have to rely on spotty government checks, complicated loan processes, and high interest credit cards that rack up debt and could severely limit our future plans.
In the spirit of creating value for customers, several online learning platforms are extending killer discounts so people can learn a new skill during this period of economic decline and social distancing. You could learn to code for less than $24, brush up on your digital design and editing techniques for $20, or become certified in using Salesforce’s tools or implementing Six Sigma project management, and so much more.
Mashable put together a huge list of options with online courses in a variety of industries, teaching several different types of skills. Whether you’re out of work or have more free time than usual because you’re working from home, investing in your education could be a short-term action that results in long-term benefits. Consider using your stimulus check to make yourself more marketable so you can find a job after this is all over that supports your self-sufficient lifestyle goals.
6. Build a website to promote your skills.
If you don’t have a website already, now is the time to create one. Even if you aren’t in a digital field, I recommend carving your own space in the online universe so you can showcase your unique skills to potential employers.
Getting a new job or finding clients for a side gig is so much more about the story you convey about yourself than the services that you offer.
Here are the core pieces of information I would recommend including on a website with the purpose of selling your skills and/or services:
You may think that building a website is extremely expensive, when in fact, it can be very economical. With the plethora of affordable website builders available today, there really is no excuse for not having a website of your own.
Weebly offers an entry level plan at $6 per month, while Wordpress’s starter plan costs $8 per month. Both have free themes that you can base your website’s design around. In addition, you can typically purchase a domain for around $12 from sites like GoDaddy.
All in all, you’re looking at a yearly cost of about $84 to $108. So, what are you waiting for? Take a step towards financial freedom with your stimulus check and build a website that tells your story.
Generally, accepting government money wouldn’t be a sign of self-sufficiency. If you’ve filed taxes in recent years, you’ll likely get the check deposited to your checking account on file with the IRS or mailed to your home anyway.
Ultimately, you have the choice to take funds from the government or leave them. But if you do choose to take them, consider taking this one-time bonus and leveraging it for yours and your family’s self-sufficiency.
If you’ve ever said, “I’m going to start a garden,” and then proceeded to never start a garden, there could be a reason beyond laziness for your inaction.
Setting goals are an important aspect of a self-sufficient lifestyle because research shows that people who do it are more autonomous. Self-sufficient people rarely ask for permission; they experiment and test their way into independence.
Self-sufficient goals should be around the 6 pillars of self-sufficiency: water supply, shelter, food, energy sources, finances, and entertainment.
These are the elements of our lives where we rely most on outside sources to carry the burden of our consumption. To slowly chip at the chains connecting us to those outside sources, we must set goals that define where we want to become more free and how we might venture to do so.
In order for you to reach your self-sufficiency goals, they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
For example, instead of proclaiming, “I’m going to start a garden,” reframe the statement as follows:
I want to start one planter bed in my backyard and grow three different types of vegetables to supplement some of my grocery store expenses.
Let’s try another angle. What if your goal is to find a place for you to live more independently? Maybe you’re tired of paying rent for an apartment in the city and your roommates aren’t on board with your desire to own chickens.
Whatever the case may be, getting your own piece of property with as few restrictions as possible is a huge step in any self-sufficiency plan, so a goal structured to help you achieve that would be wise to develop. Here’s how you could frame it:
I want to obtain land with cash and build a 2 bedroom home on it without going into debt to be financially free.
As most of us know, simply setting a goal is never enough. There is research, planning, and preparation behind every Instagrammable accomplishment.
But when you put a goal into specific terms, you can almost see yourself achieving it long before you ever realize it. A SMART goal defines direction and provides a sense of purpose even when you hit obstacles (which, no doubt, you will on this journey to self-sufficiency).
In addition, you’ll get a more accurate assessment of the time it might take and the resources that you’ll need to reach your goal.
If you’re ready to commit to a more self-sufficient lifestyle, download our free Self-Sufficiency Goal Starter below and build your self-sufficiency goals for each of the 6 pillars.
Share your dreams with us in the Finding Country Self-Sufficiency Challenge Facebook Group!
1. Grow food wherever you can.
Maybe you don't have your 40 acres and a mule yet, but do you have an apartment balcony? A back patio? A yard? Even a windowsill can produce a surprising amount of food if done properly. Food scarcity is a very real possibility, with supply chains collapsing globally and reckless government intervention destroying farms throughout the world. The current disruptions that we're seeing on grocery store shelves are likely only the beginning. A discussion of the food supply collapse is beyond the scope of this article, but it certainly is worth further research on your own. The growing inability of the system to deliver food to market will not only cause an inaccessibility of staple crops, but will quite possibly cause large-scale problems in nutrition as well.
If your growing space is limited to a window, growing a sufficient amount of food may not be possible, so focusing on high-nutrition foods may be a better fit. Popcorn microgreens can be grown anywhere from the dash of your car to a closet with a grow light. You can literally grab the popcorn kernels from your pantry, and grow a great protein-dense and delicious green in a matter of days with loads of vitamin A, C, B and E, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. You can also grow herbs like rosemary, oregano, and basil indoors, which are highly nutritious, easy, and a great flavor addition to basics such as rice and beans.
If you have a deck or patio with room for containers, there are a ton of options available to you. Dwarf/micro tomatoes, herbs, lettuce and other greens, and even potatoes do well in containers.
If you have backyard space, the list is endless. There are commercial farms on less than 1/10th of an acre growing over 5000 lbs of produce annually. If you are limited on space, consider space-efficient or nutrition-dense crops such as string beans, peas, and potatoes. (P.S, you can plant dried beans right out of the bag). As you get closer to the end of the growing season, consider crops such as turnips that may be left in the ground during the winter to store them for later.
Also, don't discount the power of community gardens! You may have a space within walking distance to plant for free, and you can also learn from and network with other gardeners. Gardening has a learning curve, and the more you can learn from others, the less mistakes you have to make on your own.
You may also consider chatting with neighbors who have large yards. You may be able to work out a trade exchanging a portion of your yields for growing space. As the food crisis worsens, people will be more receptive to such ideas.
2. Store and harvest water.
As the current disease scare wreaks havoc on workplaces, essential utilities such as water, sewer, internet, and electricity are not immune from disruption, Access to water is the single most crucial element to survival, and often overlooked. If you are in an apartment, your water planning is probably going to be limited to storage. Should things get desperate, every receptacle becomes a water storage tank. I remember chatting with a friend who was a child in Iraq during the first Gulf War. He shared his memories of watching his parents do everything possible to store water as services failed. The bathtub, sinks, cups, and bowls, and even toilets we used to store water for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning, and plants. They even ripped apart their walls to access the water in the pipes.
Water is essential to both homesteading and survival. The good news is that there many not-so-draconian ways to capture water. You can get 5-gallon buckets at many stores, and save plastic soda or other bottles for storage.
If you're more interested in capturing water, rainwater collection is the single best addition to just about any living situation. A used 55 gallon food grade barrel can be bought for very little off of sites such as Craigslist or Facebook marketplace, or even a garbage can can act as a catchment device. Simply place it underneath a rain gutter for tons of free water! Where I live in Tennessee, a 1000 square foot roof can collect upwards of 35,000 gallons of water. I can boil it for drinking and cooking, clean with it, or use it on my garden for far better yields than I would get from my chemical-laden tap water.
3. Get your finances in order.
Time for some tough love. You are probably spending recklessly. At least, that's what the stats say. Americans have long pursued the illusion of wealth over reality. Our ego causes us to buy cars we can't afford and houses much larger than we need, and to rack up high-interest credit card debt for purchases that only serve to boost our status in the cult-like culture of obsessive materialism.
Only buy clothes to protect you from the elements and look decent for work
Only buy food that is nutritious and tastes decent.
Cancel Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Read books and watch Youtube videos that educate you instead. Yes, entertainment is a necessity to some degree, but not to the extent to which we're used to. If you can't give up some entertainment, you simply don't possess the willpower to be a homesteader. Get your priorities in order.
If you have to buy a car, buy something used that still has a lot of life left. Never buy a brand new car. Never lease a car. There's no need to expound upon this, as every financial adviser worth their salt probably has a lot to say about getting deeply in debt over a car that is more luxurious than you need.
When you ask the question "Do I actually need it" every time you make a purchase, you'll embark on an incredible journey that is deeply personal, spiritual, and fulfilling. You'll start to explore what you truly value, and you'll be forced into creative pursuits to fill the void that mindless materialism brings.
Frugality and financial planning will change your life for the better. And land is expensive.
4. Educate yourself.
Homesteading is 90% learning. Nobody starts out life knowing how much water tomatoes like, or how to pick crusted poo from a baby chicken's bottom. Living a more agrarian lifestyle has an intense learning curve, much of which you find out by simply making mistakes. However, if you are unable to achieve a physical location to start on, it's actually a blessing in disguise. It means you can get a jump start on the learning process, by consuming every relevant book, Youtube video, and Finding Country article possible. It'll also help fill the time gap left by the previous step from cutting out unnecessary entertainment!
5. Build skills.
If your goal is a more holistic, self sufficient lifestyle, you may find that your current job is untenable in the long term. Rural land gets cheaper the farther you get from metropolitan centers, but employment opportunities decrease accordingly. There is a great argument to be made for self employment with an agrarian lifestyle, as you need to be on site constantly to manage crops and animals. It also cuts commute time and costs out of the equation. As we're all locked down at the moment, now is the time to explore broadening your interests as they apply to the business world. You can turn what is a personal tragedy for many into a life-altering opportunity by pursuing any number of educational goals that further your measurable value to society. This could range from obtaining a professional certification or learning how to sharpen tools.
6. Understand real estate.
If you truly want to own a homestead of your own, and you're on a budget, you need to be smarter than all of the other buyers. There are a plethora of alternative ways of obtaining land, including short sales, foreclosures, and owner financing options. Reading up on the basics of real estate transactions is invaluable, as is simply checking online listings every day to garner an intuitive sense of the market and to prepare yourself to recognize a great deal when you come across one. Understanding pricing can also help you set goals and budgets to get closer to ownership.
7. Work on a farm.
Now is the perfect time to get outside of your comfort zone and begin the process of understanding agriculture. Due to labor disruptions, many farmers are actually desperate for help right now. You can make connections to free or cheap supplies, learn invaluable skills, and literally save lives by helping bring food to market. You may even make a little money. If you're unsure of where to start, you may research smaller organic or permaculture farms in your area, or start a WWOOF account, which links farmers to laborers seeking educational opportunities. It's truly a win-win.
8. Find your community.
It may be counterintuitive to try to build or find your community of like-minded people in a world of social distancing, but in a way it's a more viable opportunity than ever before. This is a great time to reach out to fellow gardeners in your neighborhood, help the elderly person near you get supplies, or chat with your prepper friend about survival. Community and networking is crucial to surviving hard times and is definitely an essential (And often overlooked) part of homesteading.
9. Learn to forage
There is so much around you that is edible! From dandelions to oak trees, nature is full of abundance that can not only feed you, but also offer vital immune system-boosting nutrition as well as medicine. Your local library likely has a ton of great foraging books, and a quick search of Youtube and Google will reveal a wealth of information that is specific to your region. This is also a great family activity for virtually anywhere with access to an outdoor area such as a park, yard, or forest.
10. Make your homesteading plan.
You can buy land. You can build a homestead. There is viable land for sale for as little as $500 in the United States. It may require any number of sacrifices, such as changing your employability, moving to a new area, or living on rice and beans for a time, but almost anyone can draft a plan to buy a place of their own, and then achieve it. Take time to sit down and define your homesteading goals, and develop a 5-year plan to get there. If you need a starting point, check out our 30 Day Self Sufficiency Challenge.
.There can be no doubt about it, homesteading is going mainstream. With healthcare facilities becoming overwhelmed, food shortages looming, and the economy in free fall, more and more families are seeking to build the kind of self sufficiency that is central to the burgeoning homesteading movement. Unfortunately, "Getting back to the land" appears out of reach for many, particularly as unemployment skyrockets and economists say the word "Depression" for the first time in about a century.
Never has the been a better time, or a harder time, to build your garden and cabin in the country.
However, I think I can offer some encouragement from my own life. About a year ago, I was living in a cramped low-income apartment in Nashville, Tennessee. As a full-time musician, my income tended to be unreliable at best, roughly averaging out around the state's minimum wage. Living from a tip jar makes saving money very difficult, and the low revenue stream coupled with my self employment status made any kind or mortgage impossible.
But I couldn't shake my dream of owning a little land in the country where I could grow real food, hunt game, and leave the frenetic superficiality of the city behind. Though it seemed hopelessly out of reach, I ogled real estate on online sites every night, flipping through endless pages of farms and wooded lots.
Then one day I found it. Out of the blue I stumbled across one of the roughest properties I'd ever seen. It was a bank foreclosure, and was listed for a mere $11,000 for very good reason. It had two decrepit mobile homes, one of which was placed on the property illegally, and was literally cut in half. It had tipped back and slid down the hill, somewhat resembling the almost vertical Titanic, except instead of the ocean, it was sinking into massive mounds of garbage, tires, and waste. For decades, drug-addicted tenants had trashed the 1.2 acre property in spectacular fashion.
But underneath the rubble, I saw my homestead. There was a good south-facing slope, a seasonal stream, and mature forest. I began to cobble together what money I could. Fortunately, my parents raised me with an extreme degree of frugality, and I had a bit saved. I sold off every possession I possibly could, and made up the difference with a credit card (Not a method I would recommend, as it took nearly a year of stark poverty to pay it off, but it was really the only possible way for me to enter into home ownership at that time)
It's been an incredibly difficult journey, but with endless trips to the dump and many thousands of garbage bags later, a working small-acreage permaculture farm has begun to emerge from the abused property. Soil has been amended, invasive plants cleared, the Titanic-esque mobile home removed, debt paid off, fruit trees planted, ponds started, and floors finished.
As I plant my second garden, I've been reflecting on how this property began as a massive liability, and has turned into a financial asset for me. When they shut down the venues and touring over the recent health concerns, myself and all of my musician friends lost virtually all of our income overnight. The entire industry we've spent our lives building our skills in is suddenly gone. But I've been weathering it just fine, thanks to my homesteading lifestyle. I have no rent or mortgage, no water bill, very little electricity usage, and all of the food I can harvest.
All this to say, it's possible. There are few people making less than a traveling fiddle player in Tennessee. But with time, careful planning, frugality, and lots of sacrifice, a self-sufficient lifestyle is not beyond your grasp. If you're determined to get started regardless of budget, check out our article: 10 Ways to Start Homesteading on a Low (Or No) Budget.
It’s been one week. One week since I moved from the suburbs of Nashville to Hickman County, Tennessee.
I’ve moved many times and into various types of places, but this move was the most drastic. I used to occupy a 10 x 9 extra bedroom in the house my cousin and her husband bought a year and a half ago in La Vergne.
Now, I’m living in a roughly 500 square foot A frame cabin that was probably around when Indians killed Edwin Hickman, whom the county is named after, at Defeated Creek in the early 1800s (trust me, the irony isn’t lost on me).
With a space to call my own, it’s like I’ve unlocked a new level of a game. All of the projects I yearned to do can actually be done, starting with gardening.
Let’s be clear, I have no experience gardening. I’m from Indiana, so I grew up on casseroles and pies sourced from the finest canned ingredients you could find half price on a Kroger shelf. During the summer, my brothers and I survived on Spaghettios and grilled cheeses made with the holy grail of dairy blocks: Velveeta.
It wasn’t until I graduated college and moved back home for a year that I got into a health kick which would change my perception of food forever. Every day, I drove straight home from my internship in Indianapolis to the gym where I ran 3 to 6 miles and lifted weights. Then, I went home, showered, and made the family dinner. You could say it was my rent.
I started buying ingredients from the outer aisles of the grocery store, avoiding the inner shelves like the former high school classmates I didn’t want to bump carts with. Whole grains, vegetables representing every shade on the color wheel, and fruits for dessert.
Such is the tale told in every Weight Watchers commercial; I felt better than ever. Processed foods weren’t weighing me down like an anchor tossed over the side of a ship anymore. I felt free.
A year later, I received a job two states south in Tennessee. I met a guy on Tinder who is every bit as weird and health-obsessed as me, and he introduced me to permaculture principles like the Ruth Stout method and silvo farming.
So when I finally got out of the city and into the country, the first order of business was to try this gardening thing out for myself. I’d be lying if I said it was easy.
One weekend in the sun, and I can already say with complete confidence that gardening will test the limits of my personality. Instead of taking a begrudging outlook on it, I’m accepting it as the stage of life I need to be in; the lessons the universe believes I need to learn right now.
1. Patience is your friend.
Building a planter bed is a process. As my shovel grappled with the rocks scattered within the ground, I learned quickly to abandon all hope that this project would be complete in one day.
I’m used to the corporate pace. I’ve sat in many conference rooms while men in tan slacks and women in sharp blazers preached the benefits of “minimum viable” execution. So, I can create something from nothing in a day without too much trouble.
But this planter bed was different. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to show my friend (and the world on social media) that I could build not just any planter bed, but a Sistine Chapel, masterpiece of a plantar bed.
My hope faded as the tip of the shovel met sturdy roots from the trees on the outskirts of the planter bed. I didn’t know any better, so I took a saw to them, carving a path for my soon-to-be-planted vegetables to sprout. Or so I thought… I learned afterwards that 1) I could have damaged the tree (duh) and 2) the roots actually provide the planter bed with wood that will eventually deteriorate, producing a richer, healthier soil.
2. Perfectionism is the enemy.
I didn’t know while I was building the planter bed that I had already made a mistake with the tree roots. I still believed I was on track for the perfect bed that would knock everyone off their feet.
But, the light was fading fast. The sun was three quarters of the way crested across the tree line. A screen door screeched as my neighbor across the street descended from his mobile home.
“You look confused,” he shouted in my direction.
How did he know? Was I that obvious? Hovered over my iPhone scrolling through the directions my friend gave me in Facebook Messenger, which should have been straightforward, but might as well have been calculus in that moment.
“1st layer sticks, grass, and leaves
2nd layer sod (Upside down)
3rd layer is crumbled up original dirt mixed with some sand (Not too much), peat moss, and compost/manure
Then a thick mulch layer of leaves”
The industrial-sized refrigerator hole in the ground tainted me. “Find the derivative of this patch!”
For the past year, I had been watching my friend amend his soil, construct siding from fallen down branches, and follow the Ruth Stout method like the Ten Commandments. When it came time for me to practice what I had only been participating in the past 12 months, I stumbled over the steps more than I had imagined I would.
Not many factors are consistent in gardening, but failure is a definite outcome. More often than not, you’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Building a planter bed gives you the opportunity to bask in your ignorance. It’s not everyday that you get paid to learn, so don’t allow failures to hold you back in the garden. You’ll earn so much more in knowledge about your land and understanding of nature’s processes the more you fail that it’s worth any feelings of inadequacy.
3. Accept help from strangers.
After I laid down the layer of sod, it was time to pack on some compost and manure. The day before I stopped by Walmart. You can get several pounds for just under $3.
I also bought two 25-pound bags of potting soil from the local co-op, which slouched over the compost and manure bags. As I lifted one bag of potting soil with the underside of both arms, I exhaled loudly, forcing oxygen into my lungs like a baker frosting icing onto a cake.
My neighbor took notice, and he asked if he could help. This is the same neighbor who was chopping wood at 9 p.m. the night before, which I remember thinking was strange at the time.
At first, I declined his offer to help. Then I realized I was in “ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar” country. This new town I moved to was immune to cutthroat commutes and ticking clocks hanging over metal-framed cubicles. Preferred currency was whatever a person might need at any given time: meat, money, or manual labor.
I decided it would be rude of me to reject him.
“Wait one second, I’ll grab my wheelbarrow from the back yard,” he said.
Whether you’re in the country, a suburb, or city, let people who express an interest in helping you, help. If you aren’t going to be the superhero who builds the perfect planter bed in one day anyway, then what do you really have to lose? It would do you well to gain an ally in your neighborhood who might be willing to barter with you, especially when you have perky seedlings growing on your back deck.
4. Systems are nice in theory, but harder in practice.
Have you ever heard the joke that we pack for the people we want to be on vacation, not the people we are? As it relates to your garden, make sure you plan your garden for the gardener you are, not the gardener you want to be.
With gardening, there is a system for everyone: the lazy gardeners who don’t want to do or spend too much, the traditionalists who want to grow as their ancestors grew, and the enthusiasts whose dreams are bigger than the space they have.
Whether you choose a permaculture setup, raised beds, or a traditional tilled vegetable garden, the nature of your garden and lot location will likely dictate for you which systems will work for your conditions.
With gardening, you learn to make sacrifices. Should you use the system that proves most successful according to nature? Or should you tend your land to meet your lifestyle needs and take a few hits to your productivity as a result?
You’ll learn in the first few hours of building a planter bed that systems break down often, and the idea you started with is usually not the product you end up with.
Get Out There and Garden
The journey from planning a planter bed to putting seeds in the soil is daunting to the beginner. As a beginner gardener myself, I recommend disassociating yourself to the outcome and immersing yourself in the process, no matter how long it takes. Erase the limiting belief from your mind that “you don’t have a green thumb.” No one does if they never put their thumb in the ground.
Writer, runner, baker...in that order. On a personal quest to become as self-sufficient as possible. Join me @marathonacres!