Sunday, August 15, 2010

Becoming self-sufficient

I'm a huge believer in if you CAN do it yourself then you SHOULD do it yourself, therefore its no great surprise that I'm on a mission to become 98% self-sufficient with a strong focus on living healthfully!!

I thought I'd list some of the things we're doing to be as self-reliant as we can on a just under quarter of an acre section:

  • Chickens - we have 5 chickens at the moment which make for eggs and, as time goes on, freezer chickens! They're fed on kitchen scraps and leftover bread from the local primary schools big breakfasts (yep they put on a breakfast every morning for the kids - awesome ae?! And our lovely neighbour, who is one of the breakfast ladies, brings the bread home for us).

  • Food storage - After the storms and powercuts of the last two years, plus losing a good portion of food when our chestie blew up just before christmas, I'm not entirely confident that bulk refrigeration is the way to go!! So I've been on a mission to find as many different ways to store food, fairly longterm, as I can. So far I've canned fruit, fermented vegetables, and dehydrated both. I've just brought a dehydrator and am waiting very excitedly for its delivery (should be tomorrow!) so I can read the recipe book and try dehydrating some apples I have stashed and have a go at some meat jerky! In regards to storing meat, I've asked the big guy what he thinks about building me a smokehouse but he reckons we'll hold off on that for now since he likes our neighbours (though I did point out they'd most likely be queueing up to borrow the thing!), so I've been reading up on other forms of meat preservation. Theres pickling, dehydrating and saltpacking but other than dehydrating I'm put off just by the names of the others! However I was really intrigued when I read about canning meat!! Apparently you chop up the cheap scungy cuts, pack them in a canning jar, pop them in a pressure cooker and bam - tender, gravy-laden meat, canned meat!!! I'm now stalking various pressure cooker auctions on Trademe and leaving my name and details at all the local (and some not so local) secondhand stores! I've also been looking at different options to store eggs, fruit and veges to keep them fresh but since thats still a work in progress I'll have to update you on my investigations abit later! Popping back to where I commented on fermenting vegetables, yep I know the concept of leaving food to 'ferment' (which kind of seems like a polite way of saying rot!) is abit offputting but has anyone ever actually tried it?? I started with sauerkraut, moved on to fermented salsa, then turned my hand at apple butter and I'm soooo converted! I'm actually going to write a whole seperate post on it because I think its such a good food storage option plus so so good for you (and I know you'll all wana hear about why I cried when I first tried the salsa, not to mention the escaping apple butter saga ;)) so watch this space!

  • Vegetable garden - yep oldie but a goodie! The more I can grow, the less I need to buy. I'm being especially daring this year and planting carrots :gasp: and all the beans I can think of since they make up a big portion of our wholefoods diet. I'm still tossing up whether or not to try a grain of some sort but I might need to hold off on that til I work out how to get the vegetable part growing! I'm actually a total brown thumb and I swear my plants actually shrivel up and die when they see me but I persevere, plus bribe the big guy alot coz he seems to have the knack! Is anybody into gardening in a big way?? I'd be totally interested in getting someone who knows what they're doing to so a post for me??!

  • Meat - ok so we have abit of an advantage on alot of people since we own cattle and graze them on family land but since I'm typing specifically about our journey I thought it was worth a mention! We grow our own cattle, the big guy shoots them, we both skin them (except when I'm pregnant cause then I pull my shocked 'are you seriously asking me to make an effort' face ;)) and chuck them on the back of the ute then toss them off again at the backyard butchers lol sounds abit...hick-like... but hey we get easily a years worth of meat for maybe $500 and an afternoons work!

  • Clothes - well this half falls under the 2% thats not self-sufficient and thats mostly because I really don't know how to sew. I've taught myself what I do know and even then its abit hit and miss but I'm getting there, albeit rather slowly! The half that falls under self-sufficiency is the boys clothes since I am at the point where I can run up pants, shorts, tshirts, sweatshirts and pull-on pjs for them, and probably knickers if I had to. Adult clothing, however, is a tad more complicated so maybe thats under the 2%... Hmm this bulletpoint isn't very clear but I'm sure you can work out what I'm saying :)

  • Dishes/crockery/etc - hmmm ok so this is a funny one. YES we are capable of making our own plates and dishes, serving wear, etc, using our skills in pottery (mine and they're minimal haha) and stainless steel turning (well he's an engineer, what can I say, hes got the smarts!), however at this point it would be extremely complicated and drawn out! We are instead going for the no-plastic look in our home and investing in some good quality bamboo and stainless steel mugs and dinnerware with a sprinkling of glassware for cooking. We're slowly building up the type of stuff we want which has excellent long-term wear and no health side-effects. Is this something you'd be interested in for your home? I'd like to hear what you think.

  • Dairy products - we now purchase raw milk from a local dairy supplier (yes all legal!) as we have that bit of extra money now and my goal is to make our own cheeses, hard and soft. Once we're on our block we'll have a milking cow and I'll be doing our own butter too but at this point I'm working with the limited resources we have. I'll put up a post with photos of my attempts at a later date.

  • Condiments - firstly I so love that word haha, and secondly this is an awesome way to save some moolah (money for those not in the know) and eat healthfully! I make our tomato sauce, salad dressings, flavoured oils and such. Its so easy!! What do you make?? Favourite recipes??
    • Cleaning/personal body products - finally I am on a mission to make all our household cleaners and our body products from scratch. I already do all our cleaners, however I brought a 20L container of B.E.E washing machine liquid off a friend who had purchased it only to discover she was allergic to it. Once this is finished I'll be making my own powder again. I've also found a recipe for crockpot soap so watch this space for a future post on that! I have been given quite abit of baby products and am wading my way through the stuff I'm comfortable using and flicking the rest off (have you ever read what those long and unpronounceable names on the back of the containers actually are and what they can do??!!) so as soon as I'm finished with them I'll be making my own again!

    So there you go! I may have missed a bit of stuff but I think I've summed most of it up. I'd love to hear what you do to be self-sufficient and save money round the house.

    I was thinking I'd do a post on bulk shopping since I'm now shopping for all my drygoods once every 6 months with a goal of spending no more than $600 - averaging out at $100 a month. My first shop came to just under $500 so I'm stoked with that especially as 4 and a half months in I'm not even close to running out of most things!! Would that interest anyone?? Let me know :)


    Kathleen said...

    Woo hoo, crock pot soap sounds awesome. I've been investigating different soap recipes but haven't tried any just yet. We have six chooks (love them, they are just lovely & make wonderful eggs!) and have a big organic/biodynamic vege garden. Well, not so big right now as our winter gardening isn't very good, but we're gearing up for spring!

    Jakes Mama said...

    Hey Kathleen yep I did a little jig when I found it since I've really wanted to turn my hand to 'real' soap!! I'm just uhming and ahhing and ordering the materials then I'll be giving it a go with a blog post following not too long after :)

    So I've heard of organic but biodynamic??? Seriously - me and gardens have an uneasy truce and I know not much if anything about them except... nope actually no except LOL I'm a garden-tard!!! Please tell me more :)

    Kathleen said...

    Here's a wee linky about biodynamics :) It's like organics with superpowers! My hubby is the winemaker at a biodynamic winery and we live on the property, lucky us!

    Linzy said...

    I am going to start a vege garden, my Dad is just growing some seeds for me in his greenhouse so I can start. I am not too crash hot at gardening either so fingers crossed it goes well.

    I have been trying cost cutting and have been shopping monthly for quite a while now, have managed to save a little bit on my grocery bill. I have also been baking each week instead of buying biscuits, muesli bars etc. Not sure if it saves us any money though as we seem to go through the baking quite quickly!
    Would love to hear about your bulk shopping on drygoods

    Jakes Mama said...

    Yay for seedlings! I actually get coke bottles from my very helpful neighbours (yep the bread ones), cut them in half, add seedling mix, sew seeds and fit the top of the bottle back on top so I have mini greenhouses and it works so well - as long as the bigger little one doesn't get into them ;)

    Good job on the cost cutting. It takes abit of jiggling and working out but if you stick with it you'll get it down to a fine art :)

    With the baking we ration it. 2 pieces a day for each person. I use my lactation cookie recipe coz it makes soooo many plus one lot of muesli bars and a cake. That actually most often carries us through 2 weeks coz we've got the hang of the rationing ;) I also make a big dessert for after dinner a couple of nights a week for just me and the big guy and we usually eat half one night and the other half the next night which helps stretch the baking out coz we often get the munchies while watching TV :P

    Linzy said...

    DH has a sweet tooth so I ration the boys and have started rationing DH's lunchtime baking. It's the "after dinner baking" that disappears quickly so I have just starting cutting down on the amount I bake each week and once it's gone we go without.

    I am finding the cost cutting a little hard as I can't work out where else I can cut costs so any ideas you have or more info about the bulk buying would be great. I started going through your blog last night and working out which 'recipes' I can use at home once my current supplies run out. I am really starting to get hooked!

    Linzy said...

    I would love to hear about your bulk buying. I am due to do my monthly supermarket shop next weekend but if I can get organised in time I might do a bulk buy for several months instead

    Jakes Mama said...

    I'll do it tomorrow!

    Lindsey said...

    You are an angel, thanks heaps!!

    Jakes Mama said...

    I just hope it ends up being useful - what would you find helpful to know?

    Lindsey said...

    Where do you go to bulk buy and what exactly do you mean by dry goods? And how did you decide/work out what to buy and the quantities? I am not really a fan of supermarket shopping and each month it takes me about 2hrs if I don't have to take the boys. I love the idea of doing 1 big shop twice a year then only having to pop in quickly each month for perishables etc

    Aethalia said...

    You mentioned you wanted to know about other ways of storing food. Well my Dad who seems to know all sorts of random stuff was telling me about a natural refrigeration system not long ago. Hmmmmm I shall now attempt to describe it.

    Inside your house you have a lowered box that goes through the floor, down onto the ground (only works on old houses on piles). It is made out of a material that is porous and can be kept wet so it cools down- Oamaru stone is perfect. Above the box is a chimney that is made out of a material that will heat up. It heats up in the sun and draws the cool air out from under your house, which is made cooler by the wet oamaru stone, and viola you have a fridge!

    I think that makes sense, took me a while to figure out how to write it! Google evaporation cooling, im sure you will find a page out there. :)

    Im thinking of giving bulk buying a go, I already do it in a small scale, if there was a natural disaster we would be okay for a couple of weeks (everyone thinks im mad!). Where abouts do you shop? Do you get the prices from online, or do they have a catalouge or something? Your blog is great, keep it up :)

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