Saturday, 7 June 2014

Cost Effective Self sufficiency or Self Sufficiency at any cost?

I try not to write posts that tell people what they should or shouldn't do, there are plenty of other bloggers doing that.

This is just about what happened/happens here.

22 years ago we fell into the trap of believing that we could be as self-sufficient as John Seymour in his books- whatever the cost.

 We had just bought this  five acre smallholding and thought we ought to try everything. Back then the plethora of gadgets and gizmos to make you more 'Self Sufficient' were not on general sale (and before internet) So if you wanted to make your own sausages or press your own apples the machinery to use was difficult to find and expensive.

We had goats and sometimes had some spare milk but goats milk is naturally homogenized so it takes a cream separator  to make the cream. Of course we bought a secondhand electric cream separator. This is a gadget that uses lots of cones of metal, which after use all have to be washed and the amount of cream we got from our goats milk NEVER EVER equaled the cost of the separator. How often do we use cream? - Christmas and Strawberry time. We would have needed to keep goats and make cream for 100 years to have paid back what that machine cost!
We sold it.
I bought a cheese press and quickly discovered making hard cheeses is an occupation which needs space, more milk than we ever had to spare, a cool room and lots of practice. ( Soft cheese is much easier )
I sold the cheese press.

One year we had loads of apples and C kept spotting apple trees when he was out at work. So we bought an apple crusher and a press. We spent hours crushing the apples and pressing them to make juice and cider. Which was so sharp it was undrinkable. The next year we used only eating apples, but it wasn't a good year for apples so we only had a few pints of juice. The next year there were even less apples, everyone decided they didn't like the sharp home made brown murky apple juice. When we next had lots of apples we stored the apples or sold them. It made much more sense.
We sold the apple press.

We began to understand that we couldn't do everything - we couldn't afford the cost or the time. We also learned that John Seymour wrote a lot about Self Sufficiency but didn't always practice what he preached.

That's when we started looking more  closely at what we were doing before investing large (or even small) sums of money on things, and when our family shrunk to just the two of us we had to re-evaluate things again.

Here are the things we've thought about and  do because they really are cost effective.

Growing everyday vegetables that we know we will use/sell
Keeping chickens and selling the eggs   
Baking bread.
Making meals from scratch.

And some thing we don't or won't  do because we believe our time/money is more efficiently spent elsewhere

Making soap, washing powder or liquid
Making clothes
Growing winter vegetables to sell. They need too much space for the return.
Keeping other types of birds/animals. Been there, done that.
Freezing too many vegetables ( taking up freezer space better used for more expensive fruit)
Planting any more  trees. We've planted several hundred trees, many planted for the future, but now we think we've done enough here and we won't be here for ever.
Investing a lot of money in  exotic vegetable or fruit growing until we know we have room/like them/can sell them.
Take up pottery and make our own plates as I think John Seymour suggested in one  of his books. There are enough plates in the world already - you only have to go to a car boot sale to see them!

Another thought.
When people talk about self sufficiency they are usually meaning in food.
 Here are a few other little ideas employed here

The clothes prop that keeps my washing line up in the air is a long branch from a Rowan tree with the bark peeled off.
Hair cutting with clippers.
Heating the house with wood
House repairs and building

I think the right way to self sufficiency is not trying to do everything. Sometimes knowing how to do something is a good idea but if doing it will cost you more money or take up time better spent elsewhere perhaps the actual doing of it doesn't matter.

I've just re read this and it's not well written.
Apologies, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

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