Self-sufficiency is the New Day Job by Deb Joelle

GDP_090408 As we established with my very first Deb post where I told y’all that I make my own butter, my husband and I are working toward self-sufficiency. There are multiple reasons for this: the environment, our health, it’s fun, there aren’t many restaurants or places to buy things on the island, and it’s a comparatively cheap way to live.

I have never actually had a full time job, but when I did work at things other than writing, I usually had several part time gigs going at once so I wouldn’t get tied down or bored, and would have time to write or act. After moving to Tennessee six years ago, I haven’t even had any of those types of jobs. In fact, in TN, all I did was write and learn to cook. Since we moved here to this tiny island in BC though, I’ve really made an effort toward doing my share of making our lives as self-sufficient as possible.

For example, last summer, I did edits during the day, and then peeled, sliced, and froze forty pounds of peaches for the winter in the evenings. I also pitted and put up thirty pounds of cherries, four flats of blueberries, five pints of raspberries, and as many blackberries as my husband could pick. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the amount of room required to house the fruits of our one zucchini plant. Next year, we’re going to figure out how to grow half a plant. I have filled the freezer with frozen baked squash, blanched organic spinach and kale, and leftover soup too.

Our pantry is stocked with potatoes that my husband grew and I sorted, onions and carrots, forty pounds of winter squash, apples (dried, fresh & FREE!), many pounds of mushrooms I dried in our dehydrator because they were on sale, along with canned tomatoes, olive oil, flour, oats, pasta, and rice – all in bulk.

In other words, I have a house full of ingredients. This means that part of being self-sufficient is cooking. Which I do…usually making 1-3 meals per day, plus snackage around 5pm. I also make granola, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and ninety-eight percent of the bread we eat.

Another part of my day job is wood chopping and stacking. And fire building, which reduces our electrical use (someday we’ll get a high tech woodstove and reduce our wood use too). And the bonus is I’m getting muscles! A lot of this wood my husband has secured through his own labour – helping someone else haul wood with our truck, and getting to keep some.

And we live in the woods which keeps us cool in the summer…it’s almost like Laura Ingalls Wilder except we have a dishwasher (THANK GOD!). We have reduced our dependence on gasoline by walking or riding as much as we can, and we shop at GIRO – the local recycle/thrift centre. We compost, have three garden plots, and only produce one small can of garbage about every six weeks.

I’m actually not telling you all this so I sound cool or anything (that would be a real challenge anyway, since I’m a total goof!), but so you might be inspired to find ways to reduce both your footprint and your cost of living. It sounds like a lot of work, and in a way, it is, but it’s so fulfilling. And if you’ve never had a carrot out of the ground, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures (after you wash it, of course). The way I see it, the lower my cost of living, the more time I have to write!

Are you doing anything sustainable that I should know about?

11 Replies to “Self-sufficiency is the New Day Job by Deb Joelle”

  1. That sounds *delicious*.

    So far, my excuse for not cooking as much and growing as much as I’d like/should is my smallest kid. BUT he’s growing up and soon he’ll be a helper like his brother…I think I see more garden potatoes in our future!

  2. What an incredible life you have! I want to come live with you for a week and eat everything you mentioned. I think you should expand this into a longer magazine piece…

  3. I can’t wait to be out of the 3rd floor condo and into a house so I can have a vegetable garden! Right now my biggest step towards self-sufficiency is vegetable broth. I actually haven’t made it for awhile, but I’m hoping to get back into the habit. I just keep all the odds and ends of vegetables that would normally go into the trash in a bag in the freezer and occasionally add water and simmer for 5 hours or so. A little cayenne and salt makes a yummy broth that I use to cook with or to make soups.

  4. I make most of our meals so that when we do go out we’re able to go someplace nice as a treat versus someplace where the food is really only so so. I’m always impressed with how much you do.

  5. Inspiring indeed! Love your snackage idea at 5 pm. What a yummy life you lead. Not the life of a goof. It all makes sense. And I love the fact that your debut novel, Restoring Harmony, has so much gardening in it. You live in a place that is very conducive to walking, thrift shopping, woodstoves, gardening…and creativity. Truly an island paradise. As for sustainable ideas, I can’t add a thing to your list. But I love to see a garden that incorporates herbs with the flowers, compatible flowers with the veggies, etc. No spraying for pests. Just like your garden!

  6. How fantastic, Joelle! You have many labors of love and what better day/night jobs are there? Also the mere mentions of your freshly frozen fruits and vegetables are making me drool…*sigh*

  7. Oh, Joelle – you are living the life I (think) I want to live. It sounds ideal. You are absolutely right about living simply and self-sustainably. For me, that just becomes harder and harder when you’ve got kids – and as they get older and have their own priorities and desires. Now of course, if you’ve established this lifestyle and then have kids later, I think it might work out better.

    Will you keep me posted?

  8. I bet you have no need to get on a treadmill or anything! For one thing, all that activity has got to keep you fit, plus I’ve gotta think that’s a really healthy way to eat! Even with the butter.

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