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Our first goal here on the farm is and has always been to be as self-reliant as possible. I often stop a moment to check to see if I am within the guidelines I’ve set regarding this. Some days I do pretty well, others, not so much. It’s a challenge, even on the best days. In order to help me stay on track, I’ve listed out 10 questions that I have to ask myself to determine if what I’m about to do, or what I want to do is in keeping with my desired self-reliant lifestyle. I’m going to list them, and see how many you can answer.

1)  Am I spending my hard-earned money wisely?

One of the ideals behind being self-reliant is to be a good steward of your money. The money I earn should be used to tithe, pay bills and taxes, buy only the groceries I cannot or am currently not growing myself. Some of it should also be going into savings so I don’t have to borrow any, thereby putting myself deeper into debt. Some of it should also be going to pay down my mortgage so I can pay it off sooner than expected. The rest should be going to feed my animals and provide necessities like gas, insurance, tractor parts, fencing materials and all the other things needed on a farm.

2)  Am I actively doing what I need to do to grow as much of my own food as possible?

I can honestly say that my garden looks horrendous right now. With all the rain we’ve been having, my garden looks like a mudpit, but it has been recently tilled. Still, the time to plant is a few months away, so there is hope! I do need to get better on the compost end, which is hopefully in the works for this year.

3) Am I cooking the food I have put away, rather than taking the lazy way out and going out to eat?

With a rare exception, Randy and I do well, here. I have two freezers full of meat and a cellar that still has a few jars of last year’s veggies put away. To be honest, Randy and I really prefer to eat at home. It seems that every time we go to a restaurant we take a few bites and decide that we can cook it better and cheaper at home.

4)  Do I cut my food dollars by making as much at home as I can?

Here again, we do okay here. I make my own bread, can a lot of my own vegetables, jellies, jams, relishes and fruits. We even can soups, deer meat, and pork, and we’ve talked about canning our own chicken. Some of our girls are getting on up in years, and in order to be realistic about the poultry end of our farm, we know that keeping the non-layers as pets just isn’t cost efficient. However, they will be tough as far as eating goes, so canning them for soups, dumplings and casseroles makes the most sense. Canning them also helps to tenderize them a little bit so at least they are edible.

5)  Am I raising a large portion of our food intake?

Yes. The farm provides eggs, beef, pork, chicken, fish, some fruits and vegetables. We are hoping to soon expand that – not so much in variety but in quantity. It also provides at least a small portion of the food my animals eat and the compost to grow the vegetables.

6)  Do I repair as opposed to replace?

I will always be so thankful that I married a man who can fix just about anything. Buying new can be costly, so if we can fix it, we do. And there are many times that, if it can’t be fixed, it just doesn’t get replaced.

7)  Do I reuse?

All the time! I think the bane of my existence is plastic butter tubs and mayonnaise jars, and if anyone has a lot of canning jars cluttering up their cabinets, I’ll be happy to take them off your hands!

8)  Do I repurpose?

I can’t tell you how many times The Country Boy and I can be found digging through some junk piles to find odd items we can use to create some idea we have. Randy even has a ‘network’ of junk piles. I’ve walked outside many times to find a neighbor digging through ours, and if Randy goes missing, I just have to figure out what he’s working on to determine which neighbor’s junk pile he’s off digging through!

9)  Am I learning the art of Barter?

This one is a little tougher, but I have managed to swap farm sitting with Ayn, used my jams and jellies as a trade for something else. It’s one of the areas I really need to work on. Now, if I can just get my doctor and dentist to take some beef or a chicken for trade, I’ll be doing good!

10)  Do I maintain my health and well being as inexpensively as possible?

Ugh. With the price of healthcare, it is almost impossible to do this without paying out the nose. But to combat some of the costs, we try to eat healthy, wear appropriate seasonal clothes, keep our Tetanus shots up to date, and do our very best to stay out from underneath the hooves of our cows.

With the cost of living so high these days, you don’t have to live on a farm to try and live as self-reliant as possible. You can still ask yourself these questions, and see how you measure up to your own goals of living as inexpensively as possible. Don’t know how to can? It’s easy to learn, and you can also use some of your home-canned items to give as gifts, thereby reducing the expense of buying presents – especially at Christmas time.

Self-reliance just takes some practice, and the more you practice the better you get. And if you need some practice with bartering, I’ve got some great jelly I’ll trade you for some fabric scraps – The Country Boy made me a rug loom for Christmas and I am learning how to use it!