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Self Reliant vs Self-Sufficiency is an adventure

Last night I was reading  an article titled,

Self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and freedom 

by Phillip Brewer

at  WiseBread

I felt as if he answered one of the questions I have been struggling with for the past 5 yrs. I read a lot of blogs about people who are finding some acreage, urban homestead, growing own food, edible front yards, back to the basics and ponder how do they do it all! Me pics # 22 031

A few years ago, when my youngest child was in high school, I decided to dedicate more time to “growing food” on our city lot. I started reading everything available on how to produce more food in small spaces. Due to time restraints in the past, I never was able to devote much time to grow food. I always had a small kitchen garden but never as much as I wanted to due to busy schedules until a few events that happened together over a few months.


It all started with my middle daughter deciding she wanted an above ground pool in the backyard. We filled the area with sand to level it to put her small pool in that she and two other people could float in at the time. I do not care for pools, ( prefer lakes to swim in) and the idea of tearing up some of my green space for this big container of water was annoying at the time, but being a good mother( I am sure debatable by my kids) I decided it would be okay for a bit. It was in place for about two months until her younger brothers friend broke the pool.


 I was left with an area of sand that was about 10 feet by 10 feet right out my back door. Then a storm came through the next month that they said was not a tornado and took out many of our older trees. Many of the trees were cut off just as in a Vincent van Gogh painting. There was nothing left but tall stumps that eventually some greenery grew out of and looked hideous! You could not drive a car down the road for days, and we did not have electricity for a week. We spent time cooking outside, and it gave me time to ponder what to do with all the changes in our backyard. People were helping each other clear their yards, and since we were in the dark, we all started getting to know our neighbors. It was a time of reflection for us all.

2010 garden pictures 529

This was taken 3 yrs ago it is now pea gravel. I found a picture in some old photos. Not the best quality, but it shows our sand dilemma!

After the debris had been taken away from all our yards, we found more sunlight. Where the pool used to be, was now lacking a large maple tree that split in half. The entire area was full sun. These two events seemed to spark in me the motivation to transform our sand dilemma into a space to socialize with family, friends, and neighbors.


I started to grow more food than I had in the past. I read the book “Lasagna Gardening ” by Patricia Lanza and decided to tear up more of the grass and create more space to integrate food with my flowers and herbs.

August 2012 Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash

August 2012 Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash

Getting back to his article…it makes sense to me. We work to buy things but to be self-reliant we work to create the things we don’t have to buy. In 2000 when I was diagnosed with cancer  I was determined to eat organic food, but organic food purchased at the grocery store and even sometimes at the farmers market can be expensive! So I started tearing up my lawn in back and front to put more food in that I could eat organically. I have found over the years it is a FULL-TIME JOB!   In the article, they talk about how one adult may work outside the “urban homestead” while the other does all the work at home. I agree!

2010 garden pictures 047

I no longer teaching but am involved with working with other people in our community growing food in the city. His article gave me the freedom to accept that I am not lazy. I am up early, work all day at it and even into the night. I work more now than I did at my job outside the home. So freedom does come when one is self-reliant/self-sufficient. But it is HARDWORK…and his article talked about much more, but what I walked away with was one quote  “it’s a hard way to live.” …ain’t that the truth!

31 replies »

  1. How true… working in the garden is indeed a full time job… by the way, like you, I am (still) in the teaching business… and hopefully will be for the next ten years or so…

    • I can see the “teacher” in you when you write your posts you always share some new knowledge of a unique plant I have never heard of before.You educate me every time I stop by your blog. robbie:-)

  2. So true, even a small garden is a LOT of hard work! I read a lot of homesteading and self-sufficient sites, as well, and sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough. But, I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and I’m doing the best I can within the constraints of my budget and physical limitations. Great post!

  3. You are right, it IS alt of hard work but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, it only has to be what we want it to be…what is ok for ourselves. It doesn’t matter what others are doing.
    Your photos are beautiful, tell me please, what theme do you use?…I love it!!
    Thanks for the follow, am reblogging this because they are interesting thoughts here and I am pleased to have “found” your blog:)

    • That is a great way to look at it—” it only has to be what you want it to be”-love that:-) You are right we just have to not care about what others are doing. We grow all our vegetables from spring to December here on our lot. Busy the past few weeks starting all our fall vegetables.It is a lot of hard work, but the rewards are so great! We save money, get healthy, and help the environment( all the bees are enjoying our yard).
      I enjoyed reading your blog, too. I had to look and see what theme I was using-lol. I use Sunspot by Automattic. I use to have my blog on blogger for two years, and when I moved over to WordPress I felt like a kid in a candy store.They have so many great themes!

      • 🙂 I think in many ways society has us believe we NEED to aspire to what others are doing, but that’s just plain wrong and leads to unnecessary stress. We here just plod through what we need for us. We are just going into spring, hurray!!!
        Cheers for that, will see if I can change successfully I think, I really like it 🙂

  4. So true that it is hard work. I am learning how to prevent the wildlife from eating everything I plant and which to plant together. I spend so much time outdoors in the gardens, but it is satisfying work and the rewards are so worth it.

    • It is hard work, and require a lot of your time. I do enjoy being outside, too. It is a “good tired” after you have worked all day in the garden. I just never realized before I started growing all our vegetables , fruits and herbs that it was such hard work. I really have respect for people that farm for a living:-)

      • I too have respect for those who do it on a larger scale. We had such a good season last year, I was unprepared for the struggles I would face this year. To earn a living from the land would be so hard with Mother Nature being so unpredictable.

      • I had a bad year in the spring. I had to start my beans over 5 times! Almost the end of August and I am now harvesting pole beans. Yum. Locally we have some young 20 somethings that are starting their own organic farms ( outside of our urban area), and I admire them doing something that others would find so difficult.

      • It took 5 tries for you to get pole beans. I’ve always heard pole beans were what you should start with as a new gardener as they are the easiest to grow. You made me feel better about losing so many of my plant. It was really frustrating to start them indoors from seed only to lose so much. I had 110 cabbage plants started indoors. I transferred them to the garden and shortly after we had a very late frost that killed all but one plant. So much for all the sauerkraut I had dreamed of.

        So many youth today are going back and embracing small scale farming/hobby farms and organic gardening.It’s wonderful to see, I hope your local youths succeed as they are our future.

      • Yes,it took 5 tries!:-) I have never had problems with beans in my yard until this year. Every time my beans would start growing something would come along and eat the tops off to the ground! I then started pole beans, and something was eating the tops off of all my pole beans. I figured it must be the baby bunnies or chipmunks. I did catch them running away when I would approach the beans. Once all the other greens started growing in the garden I found they left them alone, but that was after I moved them closer to where my dogs sun in the yard. They did not bother them one bit! lol…now we have pole beans growing. I may try to grow them later in the season next year. I had problems with my pea starts being eaten ,too.
        One year I had an entire tray of purple cauliflower started, and I put them out in the spring garden ( March), and something came along one night and ate ALL of them to the ground! I never did find out what ate them that year, but I have decided to grow more than I need and I keep some of the starts in another area just in case they all are eaten in one area. It seems what ever is eating my seedlings early spring is only coming in to the back section of the yard. I just wish I could catch it in the act. Just this week it was eating my peppers. It would bite off half the pepper and leave the other half!

      • How frustrating. I thought our wildlife were bad. Have you tried to spread your dogs fur around the plants? I’m not sure which part of what I did worked but I keep spreading the dog fur whenever I have it. For bunnies you might want to try spreading crushed egg shells, I just read they won’t nibble around them because the sharp edges bother them. I also spread hydrated lime from time to time to deter animals, of course that has to be reapplied every time it rains.

      • I am copying your suggestions and putting them in my file! Those are great suggestions. I have never heard of the crushed shells-interesting and I compost my egg shells, so just put them near the plants. My dogs don’t have much fur, how about cats? We have three cats, and Simon is a long hair. I get a lot of fur from him!

      • You could try your cat fur. I used to be a hairdresser and my grandfather used to have me save all the hair for his garden to cure the rabbits from nibbling. Human hair doesn’t seem to work well for the deer though. I simply compost any hair I have no. Yes, I crush the shells fine ( the finer they are crushed the more calcium will reach the plants) and sprinkle around the base of the plant and the surrounding soil. If you only wanted to deter the rabbits and other small animals you wouldn’t have to crush them quite so finely. Hope it helps.

  5. This sounds like a wonderful article. I have to agree it must be a very hard way to live, but also very rewarding and fulfilling. I have a pretty large garden and it doesn’t produce a whole lot of food – I always think what if I had to rely on this for the food I eat? Of course, if I had to rely on it, I would spend more time at it, baby it, can it, freeze it, and make certain things were not overcrowded or struggling. All of which I don’t exactly practice right now. I just dabble, but even the little dabble brings so much fulfillment!

    • It is a lot of work, but I am finding for health reasons I enjoy growing more of our food. Once you grow more of your own food you just can’t go back to the limp supermarket Kale, Swiss Chard, lettuce, Spinach. I don’t have a lot of space, but we do squeeze out of our lot a lot of food.:-)

  6. Our garden keeps terrifying us. 4 acres of wilderness populated by possums and wallabies hell bent on scarfing anything green is a hard mistress for 2 middle aged student hippies but we keep finding reasons to get back out there and do more. Spring has sprung here and so it begins for another year…

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