30 Days to a Simple Life
30 Days to a Simple Life is a compilation of the last two posts on The Road to a Simple Life, with a few others tossed in. In all honesty, There are other, more recognizable terms for this: self-reliance and self-sufficiency are two. We use the term sustainable, because we feel it better describes what we are trying to do. We try to keep what we have healthy and producing year after year, and spend less with each season.
Think of your 30 Days to a Simple Life as a Sourdough bread starter. Start with a little flour, water, and natural yeast. Mix it up and let it sit until bubbly. Remove a little, and replace what was used. This way the original starter lasts a long time. Rumor has it some starters began in Egypt around the time the Red Sea parted, one that dates back to 1874, and Lucille’s from Newcastle that is 129 years old. To know that your farm and Simple lifestyle can last that long is amazing!
Just so you know: This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission but it does not affect the price you pay!
Help for Your Own 30 Days to a Simple Life Journey
To help you on your journey, I am posting 30 days of suggestions for things you can do to sustain your journey of 30 Days to a Simple Life. Each day I will post a new one here, so be sure to check back daily. Keep in mind – you cannot literally be self-sufficient, or sustainable, in 30 days. This lifestyle takes hard work and dedication, each and every day. You may or may not have the room to do everything on the list (livestock and apartment complexes come to mind), but you can find the ones that work best for you. Just remember, the less dependency you have on industry and outside sources, the more secure your life becomes.
You have done your research, and read the posts. It is time to take the next step. Once you have read the daily challenge, be sure to post and let us know where you are on your own journey, where you want to go, and the ups and downs of getting there. Some of these posts are duplicates from the original posts, but are fleshed out a bit. Any questions? Just ask, and if I don’t have an answer, I know people who do.
Now, it is time to relax and enjoy your new journey for 30 Days to a Simple Life!
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I know I said only 30 days to a Simple Life, but this one is simple.
It is just a reminder that being 100% self-sufficient is improbable, and it is okay if you aren’t. The best part about this lifestyle is that you can do as much as you choose. You can do one or two and stop there. You can try to half of them, or all of them. The thing to remember is to not try to do it all at once. Take it slowly, and learn one lesson before you tackle another. The most important thing is to enjoy doing it.
Your 30 Days to a Simple Life should have at least netted you a big pat on the back for trying. I am so excited you made it this far! Now, go ahead. Keep moving forward. Relax and enjoy your new lifestyle!
No, Thank You
If you really aren’t all that interested in being completely self-sufficient, it is wise to learn how to do a few of these things, or at the very least, have instructions on hand. If anything major happens to force you to do things on your own, you will be able to pull your family through the first tough days as you learn to adapt to a new way of life.
This list isn’t complete. There are other things like personal safety, security, hunting, foraging for foods, making candles, and many other things you can do to increase your level of self-sufficiency. I believe it could easily become a never-ending list. From time to time, I may add to the list, and if you want more information on any of these or others, let me know.
A Note of Encouragement for your 30 Days to a Simple Life Journey
Don’t listen to the old adage about teaching a dog new tricks. You got this! If you find a better or easier way to do something, definitely share with us. Anyone traveling this road is always looking for short cuts. If you need additional information or have questions, I will try to answer, or find someone who can help. Let me know how it works for you. I love hearing from my readers, and can’t wait to see how you are doing!
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Day 30 – Test Yourself
Choose a time to test how closely you have met your goals. Whether it be a day, weekend or a week, find out exactly where you stand.
Make a menu and cook every meal from scratch. Make repairs or build a project from scratch, using just what you have on your homestead. Check your budget to see if you are under or overspending. Create one handmade gift.
Use your journal to keep track. Where are you succeeding? What is falling through the cracks? What area needs to be shored up? Just as in school, periodic testing will help you determine what you have learned, and what skills you need to work on next.
Be sure to cut yourself some slack. Living a self-sufficient lifestyle isn’t a ‘do it in a year and be done’ thing. It is a life-long journey. As with all journeys, we may take a wrong turn, encounter a detour or just have to recalculate our directions. As time goes on, you will find that these new segments you have included in your life will become habits that are done automatically.
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Day 29 -Teach Your Children
One of the best guarantees for a bright future is to teach our children. I have talked to many young kids, from the age of 6 to 23. It amazes me to know that over 80% of them do not have the basic skills – how to cook, sew on a button, or create a budget. Food comes from Wal Mart, cleaning house is something Mom does, and money is something you get when you ask your parents or is a gift for birthdays and Christmas.
Too many of them don’t know how to spell – last I checked, ‘Thx’ does NOT spell ‘Thank you’. In their technology-pickled brain, they have lost basic communication skills, as well as the ability to do simple tasks that will help them navigate the world of ‘real’ life – or what happens when you leave the office, basketball court, etc.
If this world ever does enter into a survival mode – whether from Economical Collapse or ‘The Big One’, The Country Boy refers to kids like that as ‘the 70%ers’, as in ‘the 70% that will not be able to survive’. Maybe it is time to take the game controls and cellphones away from our children for a while. Instead, take them hunting and fishing. Teach them how to garden. Spend time teaching them that living a good life goes way beyond finger exercises – that actual face-to-face conversations are much more fulfilling.
It doesn’t stop with sewing, money management and responsibility in feeding animals. It also means social graces and manners. Teach them understanding, compassion, mercy, grace. Teach them politeness, kindness, tolerance and appreciation.
These are the people who will be running our cities, states, and country someday. These are the people that we have to live with, associate with and trust with our lives and freedom. Isn’t it better to teach them young?
For more on teaching your children or becoming a mentor, here are a few, more detailed posts on the subject:
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Day 28 – Visit with Your Neighbor
Do not make the mistake of thinking this is not part of your Self-Sufficiency Journey. It is probably one of the most valuable things you can do. Given the opportunity, most of us would overload our days with a chore list long enough to wrap your entire house like a Christmas present. We all need some downtime, and interactions with others are necessary for our overall mental health and wellbeing. Make time to just sit down and visit with a friend, a neighbor or family. Set aside a few hours once a week, or at least twice a month, to do just that. Bring some of those homemade cookies with you and just talk.
Listen to Your Elders
Our older generation has a lot to teach. Around here, most of our neighbors had no choice but to live as self-sufficiently as possible. They are my go-to people when I have questions. Considering most of them have lived here all their lives, they know the land, the weather patterns, what will grow and what won’t. They are also a vital source of information on animals, local garden pests and might even share a recipe or two with you.
They know ‘people’, and can help you arrange for odd things like getting approved in a Boll Weevil Eradication Program. This helps when you want to plant some heirloom natural colored green cotton, but can’t until you have been approved by the BWEP. I have learned many skills from my neighbors, and value each and every moment I have spent just talking. It has been well worth a few cookies or a cake!
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Day 27 of your 30 Day Journey – Build Something by Hand
There are all kinds of projects that are beneficial for any home that match the skills of a beginner to a master craftsman. One of the simplest projects we have built is a cold frame. It is great to have to get your seeds started early, or to grow lettuce and other tender greens during the winter.
The Country Boy can weld, so he has made gates, pig traps and other items out of steel. Shelves can easily be made out of cinder blocks and boards. My cousin, Rose, made us an island and a clock out of pallets. There is just no end to what you can do with what you have on hand.
Take a look around and see what you need. Determine whether or not you can build it, rather than buy it. If you are a beginner, start small. Before you know it, you will be able to build just about anything you need!
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Day 26 – Learn to Knit or Crochet (or both)
I know I talk about this one quite a bit, but primarily for gift giving. However, knitting and crochet are not just for gifts – they are also great for the home and family. Scarves, gloves and blankets help to keep your family warm. Dishcloths and pot scrubbers help to keep your kitchen clean.
You can also make items to decorate your home. Take a close look at this photograph of a tablecloth. Looks like the typical country version of the blue and white check, right? Now. Take a closer look.
This tablecloth was crocheted by a friend of my Aunt Dot’s. It is made up of tiny crocheted granny squares that are eventually crocheted together to make one large tablecloth. You don’t have to limit your granny squares to afghans. Using a smaller thread, you can make lightweight throws, pillow shams, clothing, or yes. Even a tablecloth. Your projects are only as endless as your imagination.
Where to Start on the Creative Portion your Simple Life Journey
Knitting and crocheting were two of the first skills I wanted to learn. It took a while, but I am at least able to do the basics. You can, too. As your skills improve, you can branch out into sweaters or blankets. I can’t wait to learn how to make a blanket in the new bulky yarn and knitted on your arm. These are probably two of the oldest crafts around, and have survived for good reason – there are just too many things you can do. Definitely one of the most beneficial skills for self-sufficiency!
Although I don’t have the pattern for this tablecloth, there is a similar and adorable one you can make in the book Molly Makes Crochet. Don’t know how to knit or crochet? Don’t let that stop you. I was surprised at how easy both crafts were to learn. Here are a couple of great books that can get you started:
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Day 25 – Beekeeping
Learning this skill is dependent on several things: space, investment and most of all, allergies. If you are allergic to bee stings, then please do not attempt to add this to your self-sufficiency list. If you aren’t, and if space allows, this may just be one of the best investments you make.
Beekeeping is relatively simple, but it does take a monetary investment. Over and above the hive boxes, you will need frames, wax inserts, veil, gloves, and other assorted tools. But a successful hive easily will pay for itself through pollination and honey.
I am new to beekeeping, but the first thing I did was to get a mentor. Johnny and Audi are extremely knowledgeable about the craft and have been very helpful in teaching us how to maintain hives. They were also the ones who taught us how to collect a hive from a water meter box.
With only one current hive, I have already noticed an increase in my vegetables and herbs. I love working in my garden as honeybees work close by. The buzzing of their wings is soothing and offers encouragement. It helps me to look forward to the day we reach our goal of having five to seven hives on the farm.
Join the Club
If you have never kept bees, but think you want to, consider joining your local Beekeepers Club. There is a wealth of information at each meeting – from the talks, discussions, to the other folks in the group. Like any hobbyist, beekeepers will talk your ears off, and still not impart everything they know. It is also one of the best ways to find a mentor who is willing to show you the ropes. If you are in the Natchitoches, Louisiana area, stop by for a visit to the Natchitoches Beekeepers Club on the second Monday of each month. Check out the Facebook page for times.
Still don’t think you can do it? Check out one of my mentors – Elaine was four when this photo was taken, and she is a very knowledgeable and talented beekeeper in her own right.
If you think this would be a good fit for you, visit me over in Product Review for several great books on the subject, including how to build your own equipment. You can also visit The Perfect Bee. They offer an introductory course as well as a blog, a place for newbies to ask questions and a store where you can buy some of your equipment.
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Day 24 – Learn to Make Soap
There are two types of soap you can make: Melt and Pour and Lye. The melt and pour is easy and can be done in your kitchen. If you choose to venture out and make lye-based soap, it is imperative that you read all the instructions first, follow all safety practices (one of which is to keep vinegar close at hand in case the lye splashes), and have a friend or family member there to help you for the first time. Where melt and pour is easy, lye-based is a bit more difficult and can be temperamental, so it takes practice.
Still, being able to bathe with a soap that does not include a lot of chemicals is a luxury – and probably gets you cleaner than store bought. For an easy how-to for making melt and pour soap, visit me over at the DIY page.
For a great book on learning how to make Lye Soap, try: The Everything Soapmaking Book: Learn How to Make Soap at Home with Recipes, Techniques, and Step-by-Step Instructions
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Day 23 – Saving Seeds
One of my earliest goals on the farm was to grow a garden from seed to seed. I ordered primarily heirloom seeds so I could do just that. I haven’t completed all the seeds I want to do, but I have mastered the easier ones such as Lemon Squash, Boston Pickler Cucumbers. Bell and Pimiento peppers, and Clemson Spineless okra.
By doing so, I am able to select seeds from the best plants, and save money from having to order again. Some are a bit more difficult, such as tomatoes, but I am still trying. One day, my cellar will be full of jars and packets of seeds from everything we grow.
Take saving seeds to the next level. Make your own seed packets. They are easy to do, and can be done inexpensively with paper, scissors, glue and a market. Or, you can invest a few dollars in other supplies to make them as fancy as you want. Visit me over in DIY for instructions on how to make them yourself!
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Day 22 – Weaving & Spinning
You may initially think that this one isn’t for you. However, you may be surprised at how much you enjoy doing one or both. Spinning and weaving can be relaxing and enjoyable, and you don’t even have to have a huge wheel or loom to do it.
For spinning, consider using a drop spindle. Long before spinning wheels were invented, drop spindles were used for spinning yarn and thread. It’s easy to learn how to use one and can produce some wonderful hand-spun yarn. Use that yarn yourself, or give it as a handmade gift to someone who loves to knit and crochet.
As for looms, you can purchase something as small as a four-inch hand held loom to a full 12-shaft floor loom, depending on your desires, space and available funds. The small looms, called Pin Looms, can create wonderful pieces which can be turned into scarves, throws, toys, placemats and just about anything else you can imagine.
Both spinning and weaving are perfect for those who want to dig deeper into making items for your family and home. Handwoven table runners, dishtowels, blankets and rugs also make wonderful gifts that will be cherished for years to come.
One of my favorite small looms is an 18” tri-loom. I have one that is 7’ for shawls, but this one is easier to work with. It makes small triangles, which can then be used as a shawl for a baby or sewn together to make a throw.
Here’s a Hint: Not sure you want to invest in the larger wheels or looms? You can easily make inexpensive small looms and a drop spindle yourself with just a few supplies. If you or someone you know has great carpentry skills, you can also make larger looms. (I have a list of looms for him to make, if I can just talk him into it!) Visit Back to Our Roots for easy instructions on her DIY Drop Spindle. Make one for yourself and as a gift for a friend. (And while you are checking out Back to Our Roots, go ahead and see what else Cery has to offer. She has some great information on Frugal & Simple Living!)
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Day 21 – Fire it Up (Heat with Fire, instead of Gas)
In order to heat our house, we have no choice but to have plenty of firewood on hand. We do not have central heat. We have a fireplace in the living room and a wood heater in the kitchen. Between the two, we keep the house mostly warm in winter. We do have a space heater in two of the bedrooms, but feel they are too risky to use unless we are at home. They also use a lot of gas, so we just prefer to feed the fireplaces.
Residual heat keeps the house warm during the day, and the ambiance adds a lot to our evenings. If you have the means, turn off your central heat and fire up the fireplace. Choose good quality wood such as oak, sweet gum or birch, and you will have a hot fire in no time. The Country Boy says that firewood will warm you a multitude of ways: once when you fell the tree, once when you cut and block the tree, once when you split and stack the wood, once when you haul it inside, and once when you sit beside a fire after a long day’s work.
If you don’t have a fireplace or a wood stove, and if you have the room, take some time and figure out how much it would cost to install one vs what you spend on your heating bill each year. You may be surprised at how much you can save!
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Day 20 – The 3 R’s (Reuse/Recycle/Repurpose)
Did you break a dish? Save the pieces and learn to make mosaic items for Christmas gifts. Are your plastic grocery bags overflowing? Learn to crochet mats to give to the homeless. Newspapers stacking up? Shred them for compost. Clothes are worn to threads? Cut out any usable sections and save for a quilting project, or use old holey socks and underwear for dusting and cleaning rags. (I would strongly suggest washing them first!)
Regardless of what you have that is worn out, or no longer usable for its intended purpose, there are probably many other ways you can use them. I use an old claw foot tub for a garden. My son, James, loves music. One day, he got curious and started scrounging. Within an hour or so, he had created a washtub bass.
Be creative in your thinking, and you can find yourself saving money on using what you have, rather than tossing and buying new. You can do more than make a treasure out of trash – you can make music!
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Day 19 – Canning / Preserving
Some of the best foods I have prepared and/or eaten are those we have grown and processed ourselves. Our jams taste more like the fruit they started out as, rather than a big bite of jellied sugar. The Country Boy traps and processes wild hog, and rarely have I tasted anything as flavorful or tender that came from a grocery counter.
If you have never canned before, begin with something simple like applesauce. That is simply peeling, coring and chopping up apples. Place them in a pan and add just enough water to cover them. Once they have softened, put them through a food mill. Add a bit of sugar and put them back on the stove, bringing them to an almost boil. Place the sauce in clean, sterilized jars, leaving a ½” head space. Wipe your rims and put on the flats and lids. Tighten to finger-tip tight, then process in a water bath canner (according to proper canning procedures) for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and allow to completely cool.
From applesauce, stretch your wings with jelly, salsa and pickles. Get brave and move on to things that need to be pressure canned, such as green beans and other non-acidic food items.
Plan your garden around foods you eat. What type of canned food is in your pantry? Check out your freezer. Do you have bags of frozen vegetables that you use regularly? Determine if you can learn to grow them and can them yourself.
Don’t stop at vegetables. How many seasoning blends do you purchase? What about pancake, cookie and muffin mixes? Dry soup mixes? Try your hand at blending them yourself. To get you started, visit me in the Kitchen for an easy way to make your own Taco Seasoning. Once you figure out how easy it is, there will be no stopping you!
Before you know it, you will have a pantry that can rival any grocery store aisle, and it will all taste so much better, as well!
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Day 18 – Technology vs By Hand
In our world, technology has its benefits. By being able to make deposits through a mobile app, I am saved a trip into Shreveport, where our bank is. It also has its drawbacks. No matter how hard I have searched, I cannot find an app for warning me that the cows have once again escaped at 2 in the morning.
One thing you always have to remember. Most technology is based on microwaves and/or electricity. Without those two things, you cannot get a signal nor power. If you don’t know how to do things by hand, you may just end up sitting idly, twiddling your thumbs.
Begin now by seeing what you depend on technology for, and see if you can switch to hand power. If the power goes out, can you still have lights to see by? I can. I have a Mason jar lamp that burns oil, as well as battery powered lamps and flashlights. We also can cook meals over an open fire.
We have full refrigerators, freezers and pantries; if worse came to worse, we can keep our milk and some cold items in an ice chest that has been submerged in the creek. It may be a long walk from the house and back, but we will gain the benefit of great exercise.
Just how dependent are you on technology? Stop and think about that the next time you are searching for an app or an appliance that can do all the work for you. Sometimes, doing it yourself is just so much more satisfying. It’s a challenge I often wonder how many of our younger generation could actually meet.
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Day 17 – Homestyle entertainment
I don’t know about you, but $40+ dollars just to watch a movie is a little rich for our pocketbook. Instead, we rent one, or even watch the prices in the stores and buy our favorite ones when they are on sale.
A Few Tips
Rent a movie. Go fishing. Take a walk. Cook together. There are so many things you can do to entertain yourself at home, and save that money you would otherwise spend on going out. It will also bring you and your family closer together, giving yourself an opportunity to talk more.
Did you Know?
When distracted by a pleasant outing, such as fishing, taking a nature walk or baking cookies together, your child will likely open up to you, and share more of his or her thoughts, feelings and fears. Spending time together is a great way to ‘get to know’ each other better, to forge stronger bonds, and relax. All of these things work together to create a happier life and a lighter heart.
Host a game night with friends or family. One of our favorite activities has always been playing Dominoes with friends. We usually cook a meal then enjoy dessert while in the heat of battle over the tiles. When our children were young, we usually had Game Night on Wednesdays. We turned off the television and played a few cut-throat rounds of Candyland or other age-appropriate games.
Go ahead. Grab your child and head outside. They might grumble at first, but in truth, they probably are secretly rejoicing at having your undivided attention.
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Day 16 – Home Maintenance
I grew up with a father who was very handy with tools. He taught us at a young age how to use a hammer. In fact, for Christmas the year I bought my first house, he gave me a tool box with all the basic tools in it I might possibly need. I still have both the box and the tools, and they are well worn by now.
There are simple things we can do to help maintain our homes. Got a lose screw? Tighten it. Is the hole stripped out? Squeeze in some wood filler and let it dry. Then put the screw back. It may only be a temporary fix, but more often than not, it will hold quite a while.
Learn to change out sockets and light switches (being certain that you have turned the breaker off before starting).
What a Drip
Fix that leaky faucet yourself. Most times it will just need a washer (gasket), and those are simple to replace. Get a plumbers wrench and unclog the pipe. Find a homemade drain cleaner (you can start with baking soda and vinegar). If that doesn’t get rid of the clog, invest in a drain snake. If you are just trying to get a ring or small item out, that plumber’s wrench will make the job simple. Just remember to have a bucket underneath it to catch the water that is still in the drain.
When the toilet is constantly running or won’t flush, it’s usually a simple matter to replace the guts. A visit to the hardware store will get you everything you need. Replacing the wax seal is a little more difficult, but still doable. Get a Home Repair how-to book that can show you step-by-step how to do most small maintenance jobs yourself.
Learn to do as much as you can, and save the professionals for the big jobs. It isn’t difficult, and the savings can be considerable.
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Day 15 – The Half Way Point in your 30 Days to a Simple Life Journey – Time to Take Stock!
Today, you have been working your way towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle for fifteen of the thirty days. It is time to stop and look around. What is working, and what isn’t? How can I improve? Do I love it or hate it? Ask yourself all the important questions and find the answers. Adjust as necessary.
No matter what the questions, or how you need to make adjustments, be sure you stop long enough to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for a job well done. It may not be perfect yet, but know that you have done very well just by getting started and making the attempt. Don’t forget that perfection comes with practice. Remind yourself that becoming self-sufficient is not an overnight thing.
Remember, you are changing habits. The ‘professionals’ (whomever they may be) tell us that, depending on the person, behavior and circumstances, it could take anywhere from 60 days to a full year before exchanging one automatic behavior for another.
If it all feels too overwhelming, just start with one thing, then add another when the first becomes a comfortable fit. Before long, you might just have to stop and think about all the habits you have shifted to a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Tell us which of the first 14 days you have implemented on your own journey. Which ones work for you, which ones do not? Are you struggling with any of them? Let us know. Maybe we can help, or offer you support and encouragement!
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Day 14 – Car Maintenance
It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I am able to do simple maintenance on my own vehicle. There are things we all can do – keep the windshield wiper fluid full; check and add oil; put antifreeze/water in the radiator; check all fluid levels; even change a tire, or check the air pressure and add accordingly. Changing the oil takes a bit more time, and is a dirtier job, but it can be learned. Doing these simple tasks helps keep your vehicle in running order.
When there are bigger problems, you can either do them yourself, ask your spouse (The Country Boy does most of our maintenance), or shop around for a trustworthy, reasonably priced mechanic. If your car is under warranty, you may have no choice but to take it to the dealer. But if it isn’t, keep in mind that a dealership charges upwards to three times more than a qualified mechanic, and from past experience, the dealership’s don’t do as good or thorough job.
Keep an emergency kit in the back of your car. I have a few tools, jumper cables, some extra water and radiator fluid, windshield cleaner, a roll of paper towels and a quart of oil, transmission and brake fluid. I use a plastic milk crate to keep all my stuff in. Since we live in such a rural area, I often drive for over an hour to shop. My trip takes me through areas that are unpopulated for miles. I also keep a small ice chest filled with water and a snack – just in case.
The Bottom Line
Learn to do the little things to keep the big things from occurring as much as possible. And having an emergency box on hand might just be the difference between ten minutes on the side of the road and hours waiting for a tow truck.
Before your children get their driver’s license, make sure they know at least the basics of car maintenance; at the very least, how to add water and change a tire. It can relieve just a tiny bit of stress you will have with them being a new driver and off on their own.
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Day 13 – Clean (out) Your House
How many things do you have in your home that contribute to excess spending – whether it be time or money? Do you hire someone to clean it? Maybe it is time for you to do it yourself.
Find a system that works for you. Take a full Saturday, or break it up in daily sessions. Pick up behind yourself, and train your family to do the same. It only takes five minutes or less to make your bed each morning.
Do you spend hours dusting? Consider whether or not you really need all those knickknacks sitting on the shelves. Clean out. Clean Up. Maintain. You will be surprised how much less time it takes you to keep your home clean. And by doing it yourself, instead of hiring someone to do it, you even save money in the process.
Want to save even more? Think about making your own cleaning products. They are easy to make, simple to use, and leaves your home smelling fresh and clean. For a great book on natural cleaning products try The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel Maier.
Give your income a boost and host a Garage Sale. Offer all of those unwanted items, then tuck the earnings into your savings account for that project you have been wanting to do.
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Day 12 – Handmade Gifts
“Handmade gifts always come with attachments – Love, Appreciation, Thoughts & Prayers” – The Farm Wife.
Handmade gifts are only limited by your ability. Your ability is only limited by your desire to learn. Learning a new craft, such as weaving, spinning, sewing, knitting, crocheting, or even woodworking or welding, is all a fundamental part of being self-sufficient.
The next time you have to give a gift, think in terms of the recipient and what you can make yourself that reflects your love for that person. Knit a scarf, and attach a note that reads, “When you wear this, consider yourself being hugged by me!”
Make it Personal
Do they love to cook? Prepare a basket with homemade ingredients. Lemon and/or Vanilla Extract, a jar of cookie mix and a cookie cutter or two is always a welcome gift. Toss in a handmade apron and I will be begging to be on your Christmas list!
Try your hand at sewing a throw. Some are as simple as cutting and tying, or you can go whole hog and quilt it. Either way, it reflects the love and warmth you feel for the recipient.
Want to go all out for your gardening friend? Build them a cold frame out of scrap wood and old windows. While you are at it, make one for your own garden. You will be glad you did!
The best part about giving handmade gifts is that it doesn’t mean you have to go into debt to give the latest greatest invention. A true gift is one that is created with love. Learn to show that love with handmade gifts.
Visit the DIY page for all kinds of handmade gift ideas!
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Day 11 – Raising Livestock
Not everyone has the room to raise large animals. However, there are smaller ones that will tuck nicely into your backyard. A small flock of chickens (two to six) can provide a family with fresh eggs. Some of the best egg laying breeds are Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns and Buff Orpingtons. There are breeds that are good for both meat and eggs, such as Black Australorp or Speckled Sussex.
You can also order Cornish X chicks to raise strictly for meat. These usually take 6 to 8 weeks before they are ready for the freezer. This is probably one of the hardest parts of self-sufficiency, but to be truly sustainable, you will need to learn to do this yourself – although you may be able to find someone in your area to do it for you.
Rabbits produce quickly and can be put in the freezer. Both chickens and rabbits also produce a wonderful secondary benefit of compost for your garden. Like to fish? Use fishing as a two-fold benefit: provide food for your table and a fun day of family entertainment. You can also maintain the old custom of putting a fish head in your garden – but be sure it’s done right, or your garden will smell awfully fishy…
If you have the land, the cost of keeping large animals is still more cost effective than purchasing the meat in a grocery store. Plus, the meat is so much better, and you can control the way they are raised. Grass fed? Your choice. No hormones? You are in complete control. Organic? Go for it!
Regardless of what you choose, be aware of the time it takes to care for your animals. A chicken coop will need to be cleaned weekly, at the very least. So will areas where you keep rabbits. All of the animals will need fresh water, food and a safe, dry, comfortable place to live and sleep. Cows require hay in the winter, when grass is non-existent. And also keep in mind that most animals are ‘herd’ oriented, so you will definitely need more than one.
Be sure to check with your local Zoning Board to make certain that raising chickens and rabbits are allowed. If they aren’t, you may want to get with like-minded friends and neighbors to get the laws changed. In the meantime, find someone who already has them. You may be able to try out your newfound skills of bartering and trading!
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Day 10 – The Art of Barter
Sometimes, especially when we are processing jars and jars of jam, we realize that we truly now have more than we can possibly consume in a year. There are days when the chickens lay so many eggs, our refrigerator can’t hold even a slice of processed cheese. We know we can sell our extras, but some days we opt for the old fashioned.
A couple of years ago, my bee mentor swapped me a lesson on capturing bees for several jars of my Carrot Cake Jam. I love to swap eggs for produce we can’t grow. The Country Boy swaps tractor maintenance for usage of equipment he doesn’t have. There are so many items and services that can be used as bartering, and it is a win/win situation for all involved. The ticket is to realistically place a value on your product, and swap it for like value.
Stretch that Budget!
Learning the art of bartering is a good way to stretch your budget and obtain items you need or services that you simply cannot do for yourself.
In order to learn to barter, you need to keep in mind some basic rules. The first is to determine what you want, and what a fair market value would be. When trading an item for services, calculate the value of the item vs the cost of the service.
I would have no qualms about trading vegetables for an hour or two worth of babysitting. The going rate of housekeeping is somewhere around $50 to $75, depending on the size of the house. I know it would take lot of veggies to make that swap, so I would have to consider something else.
A second consideration is with whom you are bartering. It is advisable to keep your bartering within a circle of people you know. To barter with strangers is asking for potential problems. Even though they initially agree with the value of each item, there is a chance they may think differently down the road.
Give your items an honest assessment as to value. Even if I found someone crazy enough to trade me a good quality used tractor for a few dozen eggs and a jar of jelly or two, I know it isn’t a fair trade. We have dropped the price of baling equipment when we traded off an old Jeep CJ5, but never eggs. Another thing to keep in mind is to not offer for trade something you don’t already have in your possession. I won’t offer one dozen eggs a week for a year, when I know my girls don’t lay very well in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. There is too much of a chance I couldn’t honor that deal.
Is bartering the right thing for you? Try it on a small scale first, and see how you like it. If you do, you may want to do some more research on it – and there is plenty of information about it on the ‘Net.
And if you still aren’t sure but have some fabric, yarn or canning jars you want to get rid of, let me know. I still have some jams, jellies and delicious homemade applesauce I’m willing to barter with!
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Day 9 – Learn to Sew
In the ‘old’ days, you could walk in any home and find a basket sitting on the floor by a chair in which the woman of the house usually sat. In this basket you would find an assortment of needles and thread, a box of buttons, scraps of fabric and a wooden egg. Close by, you would probably find another basket filled with clothing or other fabric item. In the evenings, the woman would sit, pull out the first item of clothing and look it over carefully.
From there, she would pull out a needle and some matching thread. A ripped seam would be sewn together. If there was a hole, she would skillfully attach a fabric patch. Missing buttons were replaced with one from her button box. She would then carefully fold the clothing item up so it could be worn again. If it happened to be a sock that came out of the repair basket, no problem. She would insert a wooden egg, and with a larger needle and a piece of thin yarn, she would repair the hole – which is a technique called darning.
Not Everyone is Perfect
I have a confession to make. If I tried to make you a dress or blouse, you probably wouldn’t be brave enough to wear it in the privacy of your own closet – much less in public. For some reason, I just cannot make clothing. I can, however, mend and patch just about anything, including rifle slings. Most of the pillows on my couch were handmade, as well as a dust ruffle and pillow shams for my bed. I know how to reupholster and can make coordinating cording. I even understand and have done French seams. But I cannot sew in a sleeve or a collar. Go figure.
By learning to sew, I have saved money on things that I otherwise would have had to spend many hours at work just to have. Sewing is also a means of creating handmade gifts, which cuts my Christmas and Birthday gift-giving costs into pennies, rather than dollars.
If nothing else, learn to sew well enough to reattach a button or mend a seam. You will get more life out of your clothing, which in turn helps to save money. Now, if I could only learn the art of repairing my shoes, I would be stepping high!
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Day 8 – Grow your Food
Nothing tastes better than vegetables harvested straight out of the garden. We know that the first line of self-sufficiency begins with growing your own food. But an added benefit is that there is no comparison for fresh. The produce you find in the grocery stores have been hybridized for certain qualities – size, color, and shipping. Notice that taste and health aren’t on that list. Don’t believe me? Next time you go shopping, take a few moments to study the tomatoes. Most of them are roughly the same size, shape and color. The reason for that is hybridization plus they are picked before they are ripe in order to be shipped and received before they begin to rot.
Instead of depending on the grocery store, grow your own vegetables. Even if you choose a hybrid variety, they don’t all ripen at the same time, and they do have some distinguishing shapes and colors. Better yet, try growing heirloom vegetables. Especially with tomatoes you won’t get two that look the same. And rather than eating food that tastes like cardboard, you will get rich, delicious flavors. Another benefit is that most store-bought fruits and vegetables have been grown with chemicals. Yours won’t, which will make yours healthier for you and your family.
Most of us plant at least a tomato plant or herbs in the spring, but are too scared of inclement weather to try our hands at fall gardening. There are many things you can grow, beginning in late August or mid-September – depending on your growing zone. Greens, squash, broccoli and cabbage are just a few that can withstand a little cold. Last year, In November, I was out early in the morning harvesting a half-sink full of Lemon Squash – some of the best tasting squash you can get. This year, I am eagerly waiting to see if some of my volunteer cantaloupes will have time to ripen before the frost gets them. Even then, I may just put a bit of plastic over the top to try and keep them going for a little longer.
A great versatile choice is greens, which can be grown in early spring or fall. Choose a varied selections of leaf lettuce – Lola Rossa, Black Seeded Simpson, Spinach and other types. Heirloom seeds can be ordered from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds . The best part is that you can learn to save the seeds and use them for next spring or fall’s crop.
Don’t forget to grow herbs. Most are super easy to grow. Fresh herbs in cooking are so much better than the dried store bought varieties. And even if you don’t have a lot of room, they can grow well on a sunny window ledge. (Here is a great starter herb garden to try, or even to give as a gift!)
If you live in an apartment or have little to no yard, most vegetables and some fruits are easily adaptable to containers. You just need a sunny spot, some good soil and a pot or two. A half whiskey barrel is large enough for you to grow both a vegetable and a companionable herb. Try growing a tomato plant in the center, then surrounding it with basil, oregano or cilantro. Squash, potatoes, cucumbers, pole beans (with a trellis) and strawberries are some other container considerations.
Go ahead. Don’t let the weather changes or space limitations stop you. Just start planting!
*Want to take your gardening to the next level, and learn to garden with the Moon phases? Check out Raising with the Moon (and other great books on Gardening) in Product Review.
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Day 7 – Learn to Cook
Now for some of the fun things. Not everyone loves to cook. Some people actually can’t, but it isn’t difficult to learn. There was a joke in our family that said my sister Amie couldn’t boil water without burning it. She wasn’t that bad, but she wasn’t that good, either. Today, Amie is a Registered Dietitian and cooks with the best of them. Her jams and jellies are always in demand and she never hesitates to bring something delicious to any potluck. If Amie can learn, then there is hope for everyone out there!
Is your freezer really filled with prepared meals that are served in a microwave or foil dish? For Pete’s Sake – learn to cook! Preparing meals at home aren’t just healthier for you and your family, they are also healthier for your budget. Most meals can be prepared at home for half the cost (or less) than what you can buy it for in the grocery store or restaurant.
Start simple. Make something such as scrambled eggs or an omelet. Once you conquer easy, move to recipes that include five ingredients or less (there is actually a cookbook out there with that title). If you aren’t comfortable moving forward, call a friend or family member who loves to cook and ask them to teach you.
Learning to cook is one of the best investments in time you can make. Yes, it does take time. No, you probably won’t be creating a Boeuf Bourguignon anytime soon. But you can make simple meals that taste better than anything you can buy in the freezer section. You can also double the recipe and put half in the freezer for another meal down the road.
Learn the Basics
Don’t laugh, but one of the best ways to learn to cook is to start with a kid’s cookbook. These have simple recipes that don’t take a lot of ingredients or time. Aunt Dot ordered Our First Cookbook using Proof of Purchase seals from bags of Imperial Sugar. Mom had me in the kitchen at the age of five learning the basics. Aunts Dot and Evelyn kicked in not too much after that to expand my lessons. I learned how to bake bread and carry on the family recipe traditions. One of my roommates and I used to spend Saturdays in the kitchen expanding our skills. It just takes practice.
Don’t fret if the first few don’t turn out well. One day, I’ll tell you my story of the Lasagna I baked, trying to impress my friend Jim…
The one thing we consume the most of is bread. This is a great place to start. Need some help? Here is a post I created that will get you started: https://www.thefarmwife.com/country-white-bread/. Most bread recipes you use can be converted into rolls – just separate the dough into small balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Allow to rise until double in bulk, then bake. You will need to adjust the baking time.
Once you get a few loaves under your belt, then stretch your wings. Remember the analogy of Sourdough Starter? A starter is easy to make, and the resulting bread is delicious.
Go Forth & Conquer
Once you have mastered the basics, then the world is your oven. Just remember it takes time and patience. If it doesn’t turn out right the first time, try again with a few adjustments. By the time you have it all figured out, you will better appreciate all the things you can grow in your garden. Can you taste the spaghetti sauce that includes your fresh tomatoes, basil and oregano? Oh, yeah. Call me when it’s ready.
*For some great cookbooks, visit me in Product Review!
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Day Six – Work Towards Financial Balance
This is the last one of Finances. I promise. But please understand. Part of being self-sufficient is being able to be content with your new lifestyle. Concerns about finances, or the lack thereof, is something that can wreak havoc on our comfort. If we can take control of those, we can turn our focus onto the other things that are more enjoyable.
Those late fees will stretch your budget until it looks like a squiggly river with no end, and can easily make you feel like you are drowning in debt. Maybe it’s time to get into the habit of paying the bills on time. I work hard to pay each one as it comes in the mail, but there are days when I have no choice but to pay them on payday. Either way, they get paid within a week of arrival.
Do the Math
The easiest way to find ways to cut spending is to do the Math. One thing I learned is to be careful with the ‘pay by phone’ convenience. Our electric company charges and additional $2.95 for the ease. With two electric services here (one for the house, one for the barn), that comes out to be $5.90/month, or $70.80/year. My question is: Is it worth the convenience? What else can I do with roughly $70.00?
I write the check and stick it in the mail. Yes, I have spent $5.88 on postage for the year, but that still means I have ‘saved’ $64.92 by sending my payment via snail mail. I can apply that money towards another bill, put it in savings, or spend it on something else I really need.
Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you have saved any money. You may have saved $.10 on a $1.00 can of tomatoes, but you still spent $.90. Are you just buying them because you have a coupon? Is there another brand that is cheaper?
Ask The Right Questions
When Wilson is playing Hide and Seek with his cat buddies, he knows to look hard and dig deep to find them. To effectively trim your spending, you do need to ask yourself the right questions. Think about what you are spending, how you are spending it, and how you can reduce your expenses. Then get busy. Be a Wilson. Look hard. Dig deep.
Learn to Save
We actually spend less money on monthly bills (mortgage, utilities, etc.) on 60 acres than we did on a house on a lot in the city. In fact, I am technically 90% debt free, with that other 10% being the mortgage. But what money we save goes straight to the cows, chickens and gardens, at the very least. With the way things are going in the world, we are beyond grateful that the Country Boy even has a job, and that I am able to do part time work to help supplement our income. If we didn’t have any savings and something major happened, we would be in a world of hurt.
Words of Wisdom
My Mama gave me words of wisdom when I was young, and I still do my best to follow her guidance: ‘Pay God first, yourself second, and do everything in your power to live on what is less. No matter how tempting, always strive to live below your means.’ It isn’t always easy. Many times I have failed – due to my own stupidity or just having to deal with major catastrophe after major catastrophe.
But by the grace of God, we are still on this farm. And even when the savings account balance is barely enough to keep it open, as soon as I can, I put more in – even if it is only $5.00. It really does add up. And there will come a time when you need it. Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about when he said, “A penny saved is a penny earned!” You have definitely earned your money.
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Day 5 – Cut your Outgo
I know you may be tired of the financial aspects of self-sufficiency, but they truly are important. One of the biggest issues we have with Life is that it costs too much to live. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather spend my money on things I need and want that will last. I don’t want to waste my money on material things that won’t last, need an upgrade every six months, or won’t stay together after the first few uses. So, just bear with me – there are only a couple more to go before we get to the fun stuff.
Is it Necessary?
The question to ask yourself is, “Is this really necessary?” More than likely, if you are truly honest with yourself, 85% of the things you buy are not necessities. They are simply wants. It can be difficult to tell the difference. One of the first things you need to learn is to distinguish what a true need is. A ‘need’ is defined as ‘absolutely necessary for life’. Water, food, shelter, clean air and clothing all fall into that category. A new MP3 player, cell phone, X-Box and Louboutin shoes do not.
The Country Boy and I were in Verizon a couple of years ago. His phone had died completely and it had to be replaced. While he was looking at all they offered, he almost choked when he saw one for $700. Please know – he doesn’t always have a filter on his mouth. Before I could stop him, he asked (out loud, I might add), “What idiot would pay $700 for a phone?” A young man standing close by stopped and blinked. Yep. He was holding one of those expensive phones. Can you guess which one The Country Boy chose? You guessed it. He chose the $15.00 one, only because they didn’t have the free one in stock. He still has it, and it still works just fine.
Sleep on It
Early in our marriage, the Country Boy and I began creating a habit of ‘sleeping on it’ when it came to certain purchases. At the moment, we felt we really needed or wanted it, but wasn’t real sure if it was wise spending. So we would go home, think about it, then go to sleep. If we still felt deeply about having it the next morning, we would consult the budget and see if it was doable. Surprisingly, it was rare that we got to that point. More often than not, we would either decide against it before we went to sleep, or wake up with that same decision made.
The key word is ‘Necessary’. Is this something that means literal life or death if we don’t have it? Do we want it just because it is the newest, latest, greatest gadget and everyone else has one? Have we already used up everything we currently owned that it would replace? Can we live without it and its convenience? Can I make it/grow it/produce it myself? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you spend your money.
Make it a habit to really think about the overall cost before you pick up any item. To get in the habit, ask yourself those same questions with every item you pick up. You will be surprised at how many ‘necessities’ become simply wants or habits. And by walking away, your budget will thank you!
Take the cost of any one item. Determine how many hours you have to work to be able to own it. Don’t forget any extra charges (batteries, repairs, etc.) that may be ‘hidden’ in the original price. Many times, when you factor in the hard work you do, that item no longer seems as necessary.
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Day 4 – Set Priorities
Finally! A quiet day. The only homework you have is to think. Well, and make a list of those thoughts. But you can do this one sitting down. I do recommend a quiet place, so you can do this without distraction. Grab yourself a cup of coffee – or iced tea or hot chocolate – and settle into your favorite chair. Arm yourself with a pad of paper and a pen, so you can take notes as you work through this project.
In our world, our animals actually take priority. Some days it seems like they eat better, and more regularly than we do. But we have no choice. They are living breathing creatures, but do not have the ability to feed and water themselves.
The Reality of Priorities
Priorities are what is truly important – not just thought to be important. In the big scale of life, what holds the most weight? Having a quality family life? Balancing the budget, and having enough left over to save for emergencies? Organizing your time, so you have more to spend with your family? Actually taking time out of your day to spend on daily prayer and devotionals? Think about what is important to you and your family, and put them in the proper order.
One way you can figure out the priorities is to list each activity in which you are currently involved. Do it by day if you have that many.
Here’s an example:
|Church||John - Baseball||John - Trumpet||John - Baseball||John - Tutoring||John - Swim Club||John - Baseball|
|Lunch w/ Parents||Sue - Ballet||Sue - Piano||Sue - Dance||Sue - Tutoring||Sue - Swim Club||Sue -Recitals|
|Youth Group||Mom - Book Club||Mom - Bunco||Mom - Volunteer||Mom - Knitting Group||Mom- Cards||Mom - Dominoes|
|Dad - Coaching||Dad - Boys Night||Dad - Coaching||Dad - Men's Night||Dad - Shopwork||Dad - Golf|
Budget Your Time
Here’s a tough one to ask yourself – How important is it your children be in after school activities every single day of the week? Considering the amount of homework most kids have, it is a wonder they have time to sleep. Maybe you need to re-evaluate their schedules (and remember, your time is spent moving them from school, to activity, to home every day).
Teach them the importance of family time. Give them time to play with their friends and use their imagination. I understand after-school activities can be important, but have them choose their favorite and stick to one. On the other days, spend time as a family.. Finish homework early, then have a family game night. Take a walk together. Use this time to teach your children how to cook, how to sew, how to work with tools. Just enjoy being together.
This activity is designed to help you budget your time. Decide what activities are truly important. Let everything else begin to settle to the bottom. By doing this, you can also trim some of the fat from your budget by saving on activity expenses and gasoline. It helps form a stronger bond with your family. By restructuring your priorities, some of those extraneous things might create a happier home environment.
Dealing with the Pain
Just beware: removing favorite activities may be painful at first. When I made the decision to give up my Tuesday night Bunco, it just about broke my heart. We played once a month, and I love every single woman in the group. But in order to make my farm a priority, I had to make some tough choices. Bunco was just one. However, I was able to spend those few hours by coming straight home from work and getting extra time in on the garden, laundry and other farm chores. Sometimes doing the right thing just hurts, but ends up being beneficial in the long run.
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Day Three – Take Stock
The first few days focus more on getting set up, and knowing what you want to do and where you stand. Are you ready for the next step? It’s time to take stock.
No, that doesn’t mean livestock. (Sorry about that. Those two just cannot stand to be left out of anything!) It just means that you need to step back and see where you stand. If you don’t know that, there will be no clear path to reaching your goal. Here are a few ideas on taking stock:
What is in your refrigerator/freezer/pantry? Is it mostly filled with prepared food that comes in a microwave safe or foil dish? Maybe it’s time to make a menu and start cooking! (Remember: use up what you have, but to the best of your ability, start replacing the food in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer with things you have grown yourself.)
• Can you sew? Make it yourself.
• Can you knit? What a great project for late evenings while watching television.
• Do you really need a mechanic just to put washer fluid in your car, or change your oil?
• Will something you already have work for a bookcase? If not, build one.
• What tools and equipment do you have, and what might you need?
• Do you know how to can and preserve your food? You don’t have to have a garden to do this. Just visit your local farmers market, or get to know a neighbor that has too many vegetables at the end of the season.
• Is there space to plant at least some semblance of a garden? If you have a flowerbed, or even a sunny location to put a pot or two, then the answer to this question is ‘yes’.
• How much of what you have is necessary, how much is sentimental, and how much is clutter?
Take a good look at your daily life. Is there anything you can do yourself? Can something you already have replace what you are considering buying? Do you have it just because it is a convenience? Take stock of how you are living, and see where changes can be made.
Now that you have taken stock, it’s time to put that information into action. Starting with the first one, make menus that incorporate what you already have. Do you have canned tomatoes and tomato sauce? How about a roast, sirloin steak or a pound of hamburger? Do you have a can or frozen bag of mixed vegetables? With a few spices, you have the makings for a great pot of Vegetable Beef or Hamburger Soup.
If you have clothes that need repair, instead of replacing them, mend them. Set up a basket with clothes that need hemming or a seam fixed. Each evening when you are able to sit down for a minute, pick up one item and do the repairs.
Make a List
If there are things you will need – such as certain tools – keep a list in your journal. As you prepare for the project that needs it, then purchase it. One of the best places we find tools are at garage sales and thrift shops. They are less expensive, and some just need a bit of cleaning. I also get quite a few canning jars and supplies as well as other things I need at both places. And shopping this way is so much easier on the budget.
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Day Two – With Homework
This is a two-part homework assignment. The first part is getting down to the nitty gritty of the financial end of sustainable living. Part Two is keeping track.
Part One – Business Plan
The first thing you need to do is to set up a Business plan. You may not consider your home a business, but you would be surprised by how helpful a business plan can be. It will help you determine your mission, your goals, the state of your finances and help you identify potential problems and pitfalls. To be able to see ahead of time what is realistic, feasible and practical can save you a world of hurt in the long run.
Every business plan begins with a Mission Statement. A Mission Statement is simply a short paragraph of what you are planning.
Mission Statement for Paradise Plantation:
To live as closely as possible to 1 Thessalonians 4:11, with an emphasis on being good stewards of the land God has given us to use. Design a diverse and sustainable layout for Paradise Plantation that will fit within a 60 acre layout, to include a wooded area for hunting. Raise and preserve up to 80% of our food. Sell, barter or trade any excess fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, and meat that is produced on the farm. Increase traffic to The Farm Wife, and establish speaking engagements and classes in order to teach others how to be as sustainable as possible. Reduce our dependence on outside sources, for food and income.
Keep in mind – Mission Statements can adapt as you make adjustments to your journey. If you initially want to keep chickens for eggs and meat, but cannot get the zoning laws changed, just make that change and move forward.
Part Two – Set up a Budget
Hand-in-hand with a business plan comes setting up a Budget. Being self-sufficient may save you money down the road, but getting started can be costly. You need to know exactly how much income you have each month, and how much you are spending. You can use this budget to ‘trim the fat’, so to speak. Do you really need those $150 – $600 shoes? The clothing line can easily be cut. Is eating out and going to the movies truly imperative? If you learn to cook at home and rent movies that line can easily be cut as well.
Look at each line item in your budget and figure out how you can cut your expenses. You will be surprised how easy it will be if you keep your self-sufficiency goal in mind. Need help knowing exactly where your money is going? Keep a notebook with you and write down every time you spend. Where did you spend it? What did you spend it on? How much did you spend? This is a great way to find ways to cut expenditures. Note: Just because you ‘saved’ ten cents on a $1.00 item, you still spend $.90. Did you really need it, or did you just buy it because you had a coupon? If it was truly necessary, was there another brand that would have cost you $.79? Ask yourselves these questions before you let that coupon tempt you to spend.
If you need help getting started, try investing in The Farmer’s Office. It is a great resource for a farm business, and all of it can be of great help for financially maintaining your home. If you are just looking for an easy budget, try the budget I designed for kids, and change the categories to ones that fit your household.
Part 2 – Keep a Journal
To keep track of any endeavor, it helps to keep a daily journal. Start your self-sufficiency journal with your goal clearly printed on the first page. Next, make lists of what you want to do, when you want to start, and how you want to accomplish it. From there, write daily notes on what took place. It doesn’t have to be a dissertation. Just jot down what took place, what worked, what didn’t, and how you want to proceed.
It also helps to write down how you feel about things. Was it a tough day at work? Did traffic have you in stress mode? Is there joy at seeing the first buds of your future tomatoes? Did see a new recipe you want to try? By keeping notes on all aspects of living a life that is more self-sufficient, you will be able to look back and see your progress. You may even be able to use the separation of days to think more clearly, and find better, or at the very least, different ways of accomplishing your goals.
To help keep you focused, write your goals – or at the very least your Mission Statement – on the first page of your journal. At the top of each page, make a notation of the weather, even if it is just something simple like the temperature, rain, cloudy or bright blue skies.
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Day 1 – Know Your Goals
What exactly is living a Simple Life? The best way to describe it is to let go of the things that don’t matter. Cultivate the things closet to your heart. And to live a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. There is no real way to completely reach a self-sufficient life, and do it without outside sources. I would love to grow all the things I want to eat, and everything I need, but that is impossible (salt and other baking supplies come to mind). But I can get as close as possible with what I have to work with. Just remember, this journey of 30 Days to a Simple Life is basically a mindset for the better.
On any journey, you need to take the first step. To get started on your journey of 30 Days to a Simple Life, take a seat and write down your goals. Do you want to create healthier meals for your family, with as many home grown ingredients as possible? How can you trim your budget? Do you want more time to spend with family? Should you grow the majority of your own food and live life less dependent on grocery stores? Can you live on less income, yet double the joys in life? Write it down. Just remember, self-sufficiency isn’t an overnight wonder. It takes time, patience and dedication to changing old habits into new. Don’t sweat the setbacks, just learn from them and move forward.
Got your goal written? Now, hang it in a place where you will see it every day, and read it each morning. Choose one and start working on it. Each evening, turn off the television and do some research. Make lists of things that appeal to you, and a list of things you just don’t see as doable (some homeowner’s associations really frown on raising livestock in your backyard).
Set Mini Goals
The next thing you need to do is to set Mini Goals. You have figured out where you want to go; now it is time to draw a map. If you are interested in self-sufficiency (to the extent that you can be), determine what the first thing you need to do will be. Providing as much food as possible is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Add that to the #1 slot, and keep going. Next, take each category and make a list of things that need to be done to accomplish the goal. Make the list as long or as short as you want. Ours looks something like this:
- Kitchen garden – approximately 30’x33′, located behind the house
a) 7 – 8 rows of basic vegetables: cucumbers, snap beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers (bell & jalapeno); okra; carrots
b) Companion plant with Basil, parsley, and others as needed and desired
c) Till in compost
d) Gather enough newspapers to lay down between the rows for mulch, and cover with wheat straw or hay
- Supplementary gardens – approximately 20′ x 20′; located between greenhouse and planned orchard*
a) 1st Garden – Rotational. 5 – 6 rows: Corn, wheat, beans or peas
b) 2nd Garden – Rotational. 3 – 6 rows: Tomatoes, cantaloupe (will take up 3 rows – 1 row for plants, 2 rows for vines), peppers
c) 3rd Garden – Rotational. 5 – 6 rows: Great Northern Beans; Red Kidney Beans; Other beans/peas as needed or desired*Fall gardens will be planted with Greens (mustard, turnip, kale, collards, assorted lettuce) and root vegetables
Time to Start
With my goals set and my mini-goals fleshed out, I can now get started on the gardening portion. If you live in an apartment, your main goal may be to start a garden. Your mini goals would include determining the sunniest location, gathering pots and containers, starting a mini compost bin (directions can be found on the DIY page) and determining the best companion plants (tomatoes are a good starting point). N0 matter where you live, or the size of your home, always keep in mind 30 Days to a Simple Life is attainable!
A suburban back yard garden can use either set of goals, depending on the size of your yard. Don’t hesitate to plant vegetables and herbs in with your flowerbeds if you need or want extra space. And if you are planting in containers, take a tip from my friends Wayne and Linda. Wayne used five-gallon buckets. He drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, and lined the bottom with gravel. He added soil and planted. To protect them from harsh winter, he created a greenhouse effect by covering the entire small area with opaque plastic.
Now it’s your turn. Take each goal, and create mini goals. Remember, you don’t have to do everything right now. Get a calendar and add prospective dates for each goal. If the garden is your first goal, schedule the next one out several months. This gives you time to learn how to garden and create healthy, happy plants.