Our first 3 steps to improve self sufficiency

The first challenge in becoming more self sufficient was knowing where to start. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Well, there’s no manual, but after 2 years we’ve well and truly past the starting point. So these are the things we did to start on the path towards what we call ‘city sufficiency’.

1 – Started gardening

Nearly all this space is garden now!

This was always something we knew we’d do, and we’d successfully grown food to some extent at each of our last two rental properties. We started modestly and prioritised, as the time and effort required to grow even a small portion of our own food was a challenge – especially while also holding down a day job.

The first thing we started doing was putting in fruit trees. Fruit trees typically take 2-5 years to begin fully producing, so in the first few months we planted (either in pots or in the ground) the trees we wanted most.

Then we started our vegetable garden. Initially we focused on an amount of garden which we thought was easily manageable – a space about 3 metres by 1 metre. This meant we could begin getting our hands dirty, while figuring out what might grow where over the longer term.

We started by planting mostly feed crops for our rabbits and chickens, with vegetables for us being a secondary concern. As we gain experience and confidence this balance is changing, with our summer garden this year focusing about half and half on animal and human food.

2 – Began raising chickens

Chicken

With our 4 Brown Shavers and 3 Rhode Island Reds being part of our fur family, we were never going to be raising animals for meat. However we are more than happy to keep chickens for their eggs, as this neither hurts the chickens nor us. Not only have the chickens made us self sufficient in eggs, but they serve a greater purpose, as the health and welfare responsibilities that come with owning animals reminds us each day about what we are doing to be more self sufficient.

Of course, chickens might not be your thing – especially if you have little to no outdoor space, and particularly if you live in an apartment. Lots of people recommend quail (which can be kept in a very small space and provide meat and/or eggs) or meat rabbits as indoor-friendly alternatives.

3 – Examined our ‘stuff’

This is actually a process we started long before buying our home, and one which will continue (I often do the 25 item challenge in weekends). Preparing to move house is an ideal time to take another look at all the things you have – though there’s really no bad time.

There are lots of different methods and guides (from Marie Kondo’s ‘life changing magic’ to J D Rockefeller’s ‘how to’) that can help declutter your possessions, but we just took the approach of looking at each item we have and working out whether we used it – and if not, whether we were attached to it and really wanted to keep it anyway. For anything that isn’t going to stay, we always consider whether we can recycle or donate it, before turning to the landfill option.

In conclusion…

Over the last two years I’ve written about lots of things we’ve done, but the three steps here are where we started our journey. They won’t work as a starting place for everyone, and that’s fine – but they were logical for us. The important thing if you want to make a change is that you start somewhere, some time – and there is no time like the present.

Settling down

I don’t know if we found 25 things to donate/recycle/dispose of last weekend. In fact, we haven’t made the trip to donate what we did decide we could do without, so technically we’re still at zero.

However, it does feel a lot more organised and nicer around here. I’m not completely sure why – we’ve rearranged bookshelves and cupboards so things work better, and maybe that’s enough for now. I appreciate how long it takes to really settle into a place – it requires much more than unpacking the moving boxes for a house to become an established home. I think we’re still working through some of that, as we slowly realize the potential we saw when we bought this place.

The days are officially getting longer again, and maybe knowing the seasons are changing is also having an effect on me. Whatever it is, I won’t argue!

I hope we actually get enough of a break from rain (and wind) soon for me to copper spray the fruit trees. Copper is a harsh treatment, but it’s supposed to stop leaf curl (although we still had a bit of it last year), and it’s better than inorganic alternatives.

We’re feeding the chickens lots of protein at the moment, getting them ready to go back into lay as the daylight hours increase. We’re getting between one and three eggs a day at the moment, and I’m looking forward to when the Rhode Island Reds who hatched at new year start producing.

Anyway, it feels like things are settling down a little – no doubt not for long (because change is a constant and I hate to stand still), but right now, it’s quite nice.

-G

Busy today, busy tomorrows

It’s been another productive weekend so far, with most of the housework done, and garlic planted in one of the raised beds. Last week I wrote about planting garlic in the main garden, but all the bok choi I transplanted seems to have taken well, so space is starting to be at a premium.

I even dreamed about starting seedlings last night, a clear sign of what’s on my mind.

With the weather decidedly wintry this weekend, there’s not likely to be much extra time to spend in the garden today (we were lucky to plant the garlic between downpours). Hopefully I can do another round of “25 Things” instead – there must be opportunities to free up a little more space by taking a second look at some of the stuff we’ve accumulated.

J and I have spent a lot of time this winter looking at what we’d like to do with the house over the next few years, and developing a list of priorities. Hopefully over the next couple of months we’ll be able to start putting concrete plans in place for some of the most important things – but the full list will keep us busy for a while yet!

-G

Short and sweet

A short update this week – no update at all really. It’s been cold here, and until yesterday I hadn’t seen the house or garden in daylight all week. It’s the time of year when all I want to do is hibernate, but I know there are plenty of things I need to be getting on with.

Today I should transplant some bok choi around the main garden, as we have a bunch of plants all growing much too closely together to be healthy. We’ve been having more problems with our chicken feeder as well, and I need to keep an eye out to see if the girls are using it.

We haven’t quite finished sorting through everything we took out of our bedroom before the walls and ceiling got re-done, and as a result the room (and particularly the closet) look amazingly uncluttered. The reverse is true in our spare room, though. Some things will almost certainly end up at op-shops, but looking through it all is something we’ve been putting off.

Anyway, there are a few things I can do from the comfort of our living room – where I have coffee brewing and the heat pump running – so I might get on with it.

-G

25 Things

I almost got bored this morning, which never happens (there’s always something I can/should be doing). So I set myself a challenge.

Recently I’ve been feeling stressed about the amount of stuff we’ve been building up, so I challenged myself to find 25 things I could donate, recycle or throw away (preferably in that order).

I’ve found more than 40. They include:

  • 2 trenchcoats that don’t fit me (and coming into winter, I’m sure someone else would really appreciate these)
  • 3 business shirts I won’t ever wear (for varying reasons of fit/ugliness/damage)
  • 3 jumpers I also won’t wear
  • 18ish DVDs and blu-rays we won’t watch again (and if we did, I also have digital copies of most of them)
  • 2 books, one of which we have two copies of, while the other is damaged beyond readability
  • 2 salt and pepper shaker sets we don’t and won’t use
  • 6ish kitchen utensils we have multiple of and/or won’t use
  • 4 CDs I never play – and I don’t even remember what’s on them
  • 2 bus/train timetables which are out of date and never used
  • 6 other random one-off things we don’t need

They’re each small things, but they make a good difference.

– G