MENF 2011: Small steps are better than no steps at all

The task of becoming sustainable, local-reliant, and ready can be a daunting one. If you’re just beginning, it can seem impossible. Yet, it turns out that far too many people want to do it all instead of doing what they can do when they can do it. It turns out that small steps are better […] Continue reading

The task of becoming sustainable, local-reliant, and ready can be a daunting one. If you’re just beginning, it can seem impossible.

Yet, it turns out that far too many people want to do it all instead of doing what they can do when they can do it. It turns out that small steps are better than no steps at all when it comes to these sorts of things.

For instance, are you growing your own food? No? Well, that doesn’t mean you suddenly have to start growing tomorrow the 730,000 or so calories the average adult American should consume ever year. Instead, start with a window box planted with some herbs and lettuce. If that’s not enough for you, look into a desktop aquaponics setup. When you’re ready, plant a single 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed. Then move on from there.

As it turns out, it’s usually the small steps that produce the biggest changes in each of us and how we live our lives that then prepare us for the big stuff. We can learn to tend a potted food plant, change our buying habits at the grocery, recycle more, or stock up a few extra batteries long before we’re ready to learn to tend an acre garden plot, abandon the grocery, commit to a zero waste lifestyle, or stockpile a year’s supply of readiness goods.

But those small steps add up. Over time, and if you’re consistent, you’ll naturally gravitate toward the larger and larger commitments. That is what happened to me and to many people I know who are on the same path, and it cannot help but happen to you too.

So, your challenge now is to seek out your first small step and do it. Then seek out another one and do it. And keep doing that until you get where you wanted to go.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...

MENF 2011: It takes a village

While it is possible to do, there are very few people who manage to establish complete self-sufficiency, and it is my belief that such an effort is counter-productive and, in many ways, wrong. Perhaps a better term for the effort I advocate is “local-sufficiency” because I believe that it really does take a village to make […] Continue reading

While it is possible to do, there are very few people who manage to establish complete self-sufficiency, and it is my belief that such an effort is counter-productive and, in many ways, wrong. Perhaps a better term for the effort I advocate is “local-sufficiency” because I believe that it really does take a village to make things work the way they should.

In our efforts to establish things like sustainability, resource sovereignty, and long-term readiness, we have to realize we cannot do everything. Part of what we must do is build communities of people all working toward those common goals; communities that build on individual strengths and buttress individual weaknesses.

Unfortunately, Americans are a stubbornly independent lot, and we tend to think the pinnacle of success is “going it alone.” It is my experience that such thoughts are often a recipe for failure at the best and for disaster at the worst.

Instead of trying to make ourselves independent from everyone, we should be working to pick who we are dependent on and to develop relationships that can sustain us regardless of circumstances. In order to do so, however, such an idea requires us to rethink how we approach almost everything we do.

We have to identify the things we are good at, the things we do well enough to help others, and the things we won’t or can’t do ourselves. We have to identify that there are things we do right now that don’t work and find ways to do them better.

Once we do, we will realize how much of the way we approach life right now is inefficient, wasteful, and just plain wrong. It is at that point that we can look around us at our relationships and communities and start building the kinds of networks necessary for sustainable, sovereign, ready lives.

And once we do so, we will discover that we will have freed ourselves from so many of the problems that have dominated the last half of the 20th and first part of the 21st centuries. Such liberation should be something we all strive for.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...

MENF 2011: More on not having to go it alone

I think it is a human trait to view new undertakings, especially ones that are large or difficult, as occurring in some kind of isolation. Yet the truth is that very few people are really going it alone at anything we try to do. The growing desire so many people have to establish sustainable, ready […] Continue reading

I think it is a human trait to view new undertakings, especially ones that are large or difficult, as occurring in some kind of isolation. Yet the truth is that very few people are really going it alone at anything we try to do.

The growing desire so many people have to establish sustainable, ready lives is a perfect example. I know when I took over Innisfree Farm, I felt like I was doing it all by myself, especially given the attitudes of the farmers I interact with most often. I believed that I had to figure this out myself and that I wasn’t going to get any help.

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While there is a dearth of sustainable agriculture and readiness mindset in my specific locality, thousands upon thousands of people around the US and around the world are doing some version of what I am doing. All I have to do is seek them out and ask for advice.

And that’s all you have to do too.

Whether you’re trying to plant a window box or a thousand acres, put together a 72-hour readiness kit or establish an off-grid thousand-acre farm, there are people out there trying to do the same thing you are doing. They want to talk to you, to share their experiences and advice. Not a small number of them even want to help you succeed.

None of this is to say such undertakings are going to be suddenly easy. It has been my experience on the farm that the most worthwhile undertakings are hard because they are worthwhile. Yet, knowing that there are people you can turn to to commiserate, ask questions of, and even ask for help makes the going easier even if the work is hard.

If I may suggest, the fact that you are even reading this blog post is the first example you can cite of there being others out there willing to offer advice and help. The whole reason I established this weblog is so that I can share my experience with others with the hope that it will help others struggling through the same things I am. I am always willing to hear from you, to listen to your stories, to offer advice when I am able, and to help build networks of people trying to do what we’re doing.

Over the next while–I can’t really say how long it might take–I hope to add to this site large quantities of information on organizations, publications, and resources I know and have used to make my effort easier. Along the way, I also hope to build a network of people who are doing the same thing and who are willing to offer the same commiseration, advice, and help I would like to offer.

And you should do the same. Maybe you don’t want to maintain a weblog, but you can still seek out your neighbor who also gardens or your local sustainable agriculture group. You can go to farmer’s markets and actually talk to the farmers or seek out conventions and fairs on the subject. By doing so, you’re helping build the network and make things a little better for all of us.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...

Mother Earth News Fair 2011: Learning we’re not going it alone

My wife and I attended the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania this past weekend. For us, it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by thousands of people who care about agriculture, sustainability, and readiness as much as we do. The fair, I think, had something for everyone. […] Continue reading

My wife and I attended the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania this past weekend. For us, it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by thousands of people who care about agriculture, sustainability, and readiness as much as we do.

The fair, I think, had something for everyone. I attended sessions as diverse as one on building an electric motorcycle to one on urban gardening to one on using permiculture on a farm. There were sessions on everything from alternative energy to alternative medicine to alternative building.

What I took away from the fair more than anything, though was the realization that we’re not alone in what we’re trying to do and that there are an amazing amount of resources out there, sometimes for free, for anyone interested in trying.

The fair also jump-started my thinking process, and the result will be, I hope, a series of blog posts over the next couple of weeks on things I came to realize or wonder about during my trip.

Finally, I recommend this event to anyone who cares about the future. I will post information about next year’s fair as it becomes available, and in the mean time, I hope to pass my inspiration from the last one on to you.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...

10/10 Challenge 2011

Last year, I challenged readers to plant a 10 foot by 10 foot plot of wheat by October 10th as a proof that it can be done. I am challenging everyone to do the same thing this year. But wait, there’s more: This challenge isn’t just about proving you can grow your own food, although […]

Last year, I challenged readers to plant a 10 foot by 10 foot plot of wheat by October 10th as a proof that it can be done. I am challenging everyone to do the same thing this year.

But wait, there’s more:

This challenge isn’t just about proving you can grow your own food, although that is an important part. It’s also about being ready.

To that end, I challenge you to do any or all of the following:

  • Plant a 10 food by 10 foot plot of fall planted cereal grain by October 10th. Such grains include winter wheat, rye, and some kinds of barley and oats. Good sources for this kind of seed include Bountiful Gardens and The Sustainable Seed Company
  • Install and plant a cold frame with fall plantings of lettuce or root vegetables.
  • Purchase a small patio greenhouse and populate it with potted vegetables.
  • If you have an existing garden, consider planting and covering rows of lettuce or root vegetables.

You can do this, but you have to do it. Your first step toward feeding yourself can start with this.

DLH