Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Striving for self-sufficiency: Not quite reality
One thing I have learned by being a homeowner on the property I chose is as hard as I strive for self-sufficiency, I cannot quite make it in suburbia. Oh, I have made modest gains in supplying my own food, decreasing the amount of lawn, using rain water and decreasing my use of potable water, but I only occasionally eat homegrown food. I still rely heavily on grocery stores for the main share of my food.
And while I compost my food and yard waste, some spoiled food still makes it into the garbage bin. Plus I need to import composted horse manure to supply most of my compost needs in the garden. I still buy most of my seeds, buy the seed starting medium but am able to reuse items around the house for seed-starting containers. While I use all the leaves I can on my property, I still need more leaves to chop and use for mulch. This is where neighbor's piles come in handy. Both imports mentioned here (leaves and compost) are gained through hard work and minimum distance traveled, but still need to be brought onsite to accomplish what I need done.
I have planted all the trees on my property and unfortunately, none of them will be for food use. However, they were planted to shade the house and reduce cooling costs in the summer. As we are undergoing record heat in May where it feels more like July, this is definitely something I desire. Too bad the payoff is in the future, not the present, but the four additional trees will add value when I sell my property. The fifth one is too far away for shade, but does add beauty as it flowers in the spring. Another item reused extensively are the rocks I discovered as I dug all the holes for the trees. While the rocks jarred my arms as my shovel hit them, I have been able to line the bottom of potted plants, hold down newspaper, cardboard and straw, mark the location for succession planting and edge a foundation bed with the limestone. I have a modest suburban rock pile, but it has served me well.
However, I keep as much as I can onsite, only occasionally exporting items (rose bush and raspberry shrub trimmings with plans to rectify the situation this year) and importing vast quantities. However, I am decreasing my reliance on the conventional system for my needs by outsourcing to curb shopping, growing my own food, generating my own fertilizer (compost), using gray water and rain water, reusing items rather than choosing disposable ones, shopping secondhand and being frugal. All these actions align with my personal values. So while I still commute daily to a job in my gas-guzzling car and rely on this form of transportation over most others, I strive to make all I do at home count and slowly increase my self-sufficiency even if I know I cannot supply all my needs onsite.