Self-sufficiency plan grows on us

Summer’s winding down, it’s easy to tell. The days are getting shorter. The sun seems to rise a little later and set a little earlier and I tend to be spending more time in the kitchen.

Literally, minutes ago, I finished grinding fresh, basil leaves and garlic into two batches of pesto for the freezer. It’s nestled in cold storage next to raspberry freezer jam and blueberries. In June, we filled jars full of strawberry jam. In the past few weeks we’ve been to the neighborhood ditch to pluck juicy blackberries from their vines to freeze for tasty tarts in February. And we’ve made several loaves of zucchini bread to serve as breakfast on cold mornings.

We’ve been busy all summer preparing for winter and each time we tucked something away we thought about the Aesop fable about the ant and the grasshopper. While the grasshopper was playing all summer, the industrious ant was making sure his family would be able to get through a harsh winter.

It’s not that we think a terrible winter is heading our way, but we’ve been trying to be more self-sufficient and teach the kids those important lessons along the way.

With the price of gas, groceries and utilities continuing to rise, we’re looking for ways to stay on an even keel. We’ve read articles about how communities may have to be self-sustaining in the future. The most recent we saw was about how our lifestyles will change when gas reaches $20 a gallon. It may never come to that, but what if it did?

It’s interesting to think the future may look more like the past. We’d like to think we’re ready.

Honestly, our garden isn’t big enough to feed us through a winter, but we’d like to make it a bit bigger next year and then add some more items the following year.

We’ve also heard there are opportunities for cooperatives. If you don’t have the space to plant a garden, you can buy into a plot of farmland and join others in growing a harvest.

We don’t have land to raise our own beef or pork, but we have 4-H and FFA kids who do that for us each year. My grandmother and great aunts always had chickens in their small, city back yards. We’re not ready for that leap yet, but I could see us doing it if necessary.

We haven’t fished in ages, but we have the gear. We still have relatives in other parts of the country who feed their families by filling the freezer with venison.

We’re big supporters of Heifer International, the nonprofit organization that provides the needy abroad and in this country with animals to help them become self-sufficient. It’s the theory that if you give a man a fish he eats for one day, but if you teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. For example, for a few dollars we can purchase a flock of chicks for a family. Those chicks will grow to be chickens and provide that family with eggs and manure for fertilizer and eventually more chickens. As part of the program, they give offspring to other families and the program continues to grow and eventually provides for a village. Sheep can provide wool. A heifer provides milk. You get it.

Could we be like those we support and make a go of raising animals for our livelihood? Sure.

Could we learn a trade or develop a talent so we could swap or barter with our neighbors for items we cannot produce like milk and cheese? We believe we could.

Could we walk or ride a bike to church or downtown? We can.

Could we heat our home? Could we come up with a viable water source? We believe if push came to shove we could do it.

The buzz word might be “green,” but really it’s getting back to our roots. It’s doing what people in many parts of the world have been doing for centuries and millions are still doing.

Could we survive like our ancestors or pioneers? It’s in our blood.

Could we be part of a community with the forethought to be so cutting-edge? You bet.

Are we ready if it happened tomorrow? Probably not, but we know people who are. We’d make it, of that there is no doubt, but we could be better prepared and that’s really what we’re striving for here – we’re planting a seed.

Like the ant, we want to plan ahead.