How to Become Self-Sufficient and Live Off-Grid
Back to Basics
The 21st century has seen two major issues arise that affect our whole planet: climate change/global warming, and the financial collapse.
What more incentive do we need to try to reduce the negative impact that we have on the environment, our use of fossil fuels, and our need for energy exhausting products and services? By endeavouring to achieve at least a basic level of self-sufficiency and to utilise alternative energy sources we can do our tiny bit to extend the life of our precious planet and all life upon it.
Don't rely on the government to have the answers or implement them correctly; take the step yourself...plant the seed, and watch it grow. Becoming completely self-sufficient may be more of a dream than a reality, but I'm doing my damnedest to get as close as possible, and so should you. Remember the words of the song "From little things big things grow" and use that as your guide to a better, more fruitful, and healthy lifestyle, for you and your children.
- A good place to start is to get some poultry (chickens are probably the easiest to start with). These will provide you with a regular supply of eggs, meat, and manure to fertilise your garden. They are inexpensive, just requiring table scraps, some grain, seed, or chicken pellets, clean water and preferably some time each day to free range.
- A vege patch is essential. It's easy to set up a no dig garden, and seeds are very inexpensive. Once you start growing your own veges you can also save your own seeds and reduce costs even further. Check with the seed and punnet supplier for what to grow when, or in a myriad of magazines such as Gardening Australia.
- A ready water supply is also essential, and you should treat it as a precious commodity, installing rainwater tanks to catch all roof run-off. If you live on the land have dams or bores, or a stream if lucky enough. Grey water should also be utilised to water veges and fruit trees.
- Fossil fuels are adding to the planet's woes, and becoming scarcer, with many believing 'peak oil' has already been reached. We should all take responsibility for protecting the resources we have left, and turn to alternative/clean energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, etc. Initially they may cost a little extra, but once their use becomes mainstream, prices will quickly fall. For example a small solar set up to power a small home or cabiin (such as my own) can be purchased and set up for as little as $5500. If you are frugal (get rid of the electric toaster, heater and kettle) there is no need to pay from $25,000 dollars plus as recommended by the Solar shops....check out a caravan or boating store instead.
- Plant a herb garden close to the kitchen, so you always have a ready supply of herbs to add to your home cooked meals: thyme, chives, garlic chives, parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, chillies.
- Build a compost heap; add all kitchen scraps (except what the chickens get), grass clippings, weeds and garden clippings, chicken manure, comfrey, cardboard etc. Cover with some old carpet or a tarp, and keep watered. When it all breaks down, add it to your garden soil to grow wonderful plants, fruit and veges.
- Recycle. recycle, recycle: Try to find a use for everything instead of throwing it away, for example the cardboard inners of toilet rolls can be used as seedling pots and planted straight into the ground to decompose later. Scavenge the rubbish tip for transformable or reserectable items, building materials, etc.
- Make your own: preserves, jams, pickles, chutneys, and cordials from fruit and veges you have grown yourself. Tastes better than anything from the supermarket and more satisfying too. Also make soaps and shampoos with your home-grown herbs added (and no dangerous chemicals).
- Buy, or build your own composting toilet. there are a number of good ones on the market: Natureloo, Rotaloo, Ecolet, Clivus Mulstrum etc. We have a Natureloo and it works well, and the best thing is that they don't use water, don't smell, and you can use the compost to plant fruit trees and ornamentals on and make them thrive. Also, the effluent does not go into / pollute the waterways. I have also built my own composting loo which is very cost-effective and quite simple, using readily accessed/recycled items including a wheely bin. Feel free to contact me if you want detailed instructions.
- Buy Grass Roots, Earth Garden, and Organic Gardener magazines (available at most Newsagents). Full of helpful hints, and inspirational stories of others striving for self-sufficiency.
Rubbish Is in the Eye of the Beholder
Frequent garage sales, markets, and even the tip in search of useful items for your home and garden. What some class as junk can be valuable finds to others. For instance, wooden packing boxes and 44 gallon drums can be used for a variety of uses. The drums can be used as furnaces, or cut in half and placed over tree stumps to burn them out, or made into wood-burning heaters or water heaters. Old bed frames can also be put to a number of uses. I joined three single bed frames together and made an outdoor toilet shed to house a composting toilet. Old tires can be used to grow potatoes in, protect young trees, or even to build walls out of. If you are into garden sculptures keep your eye out for old gates, wagon wheels, truck springs etc., etc. ... let your imagination run wild.
As with most other items in our lives we can also do the right thing by buying pre-loved clothing from op shops, second hand clothing and thrift stores. If you or a family member are a knitter or crocheter you can recycle old jumpers or sweaters by unraveling the item and using the wool to knit something else more suitable such as scarves.
If you aren't one of the wealthy few you can even be lucky enough to pick up designer label clothing from these stores that you wouldn't normally be able to afford, and often in almost new condition.
If you can recycle your own old clothing, for example cutting off the legs of worn out or ripped jeans to turn them into shorts, please do so. If not, donate anything that is still in good condition that you no longer want to the above charity stores, or to other people you know may appreciate them.
Home Made Cob/Pizza Oven
My wife and I did a Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) course together and in one of the lessons we were taught to build a cob oven. We had previously read articles about them in Grass Roots and Earth Garden magazines and were anxious to have a go.
We immediately went home and built our own, using crushed termite mound (these are readily available where we live in Australia), sand, straw, lots of water, and cow manure and linseed oil to help bind it together. It was a good day's physical work but well worth it and we were delighted with the finished product.
We have since moved to another property, so we built another and also one for some friends. You can not only cook pizzas in these ovens, but roast meats, and even bake loaves of bread.
Commercially built pizza ovens can cost up to $1000. Materials to build these cost us virtually nothing apart from labour, because most of the material was on hand.
- Permaculture: Australia's most significant intellectual export? Opinion ABC
The gardening philosophy known as permaculture was started by Australians. Despite having spread around the world, it is not often listed amongst our nation's great achievements.
- 12 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Homestead Property | The Prairie Homestead
A good general guide of questions to consider when buying a rural property.
© 2009 John Hansen