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Self Sufficiency
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Is It Possible?

The greatest compromise will be the acceptance of money as a necessary evil. It will always be an issue and there has to be enough of it; so anyone thinking of trying an alternative lifestyle needs to review the situation to decide which current and continuing expenses can either be reduced or cut out altogether. It boils down to saving on costs. Maybe home-generated power is out of the question; but even an existing residence can be made more energy-efficient. Insulation in walls and roof-spaces helps retain inside temperatures for longer, so heaters and air conditioners don't have to be on for as long. Double-glazing on exterior windows and glass panels also keeps the heat or cold at bay to a degree. Exterior blinds that can be raised and lowered are more efficient than the interior kind. I realise all these things require an outlay of money, but less will be eventually required if a portion of available funds is invested with the future in mind. There are also a number of other cost-saving ideas that can be found in Money Matters MM06. Most are free and just require a little thought and a slight change in routine.

As well as pruning back energy costs, home-produced food is also worth consideration. Admittedly, not everyone has enough land to grow extensive crops or run livestock, but there are ways to utilise relatively small spaces for the cultivation of vegetables, fruits and herbs. See Healthy Living HL29 for some ideas. Even small savings in the kitchen will assist with the weekly budget; and you'll find that the little you may be able to grow will taste better and is far healthier than supermarket fodder.

Some adventurous people who are determined to make a go of an alternative lifestyle may have the wherewithal to up stakes and begin again from scratch. It is arguably the best way, as long as certain important factors are taken into consideration before taking the plunge. Whether buying a block or an acreage, location will determine any future success, as will weather. Knowing in advance what each season generally brings means no nasty surprises. A property that looks lush and green in spring could become a parched dustbowl in summer and a swamp once the winter rains hit. Presumably food production will be on the agenda, so these things matter. Soil type and condition also dictate the kind of crops and livestock that the land can support well, or not at all. It is worthwhile taking samples and having them tested for elements present that might be detrimental such as high salinity or residual chemicals from previous usage. Livestock as part of the ecology works; but animals have particular requirements that need to be met. Unless there is sufficient area for grazing of a reasonable quality, supplementary feed will have to be purchased. As an example: except for the cost of buying a few chickens and building a coop, they provide eggs and fertiliser for free, as long as there is plenty for them to eat that costs nothing. Having to buy in laying pellets and wheat seems to defeat the object. So, the land has to be able to support whatever it is destined to be used for. Money spent bringing it up to standard can only be justified if the returns eventually exceed outlay.

Pretty much as it was for the first colonists, a ready supply of fresh water is essential for own use as well as reticulation. In areas where it rains a-plenty, seeds sown and crops planted will be taken care of by Mother Nature; initially, anyway. Regions subject to extended periods of drought dictate the need for water storage, plus some kind of irrigation system. Should the raw material for this be provided by the local water authority, it will have to be paid for.

Then, of course, shelter from the elements also comes into play. Construction of buildings, especially the main residence, can be costly; and even if wood is the material of choice and there is an abundance of trees on the property, permission for felling may have to be sought from the local authorities; and, of course, plans for any structures will probably have to be submitted.

There are so many reasons why self-sufficiency is really just a pipe-dream for most; and I could go on till the cows come home listing them; but that might put people off trying. Any small stand we can make towards independence is proof that we are not dumb animals to be restricted and herded by officialdom. And should governments and the system founder at some future time, at least we'll have learned enough of the basics to survive on our own, hopefully for years to come.

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