Striving for Self-Sustainability (+28 Tips)

This post is going to read more like a journal entry. It’s a rant, but it’s also an expression of so many feelings I have. Instead of just writing it in my journal though, I thought some of you may be interested in it. Here we go.

We were coming back from “my birthday vacation”. We experienced one of the most beautiful drives in America on the way up, camped among the pines, and spent just enough time in ‘Frisco for us to enjoy ourselves. The extended weekend is one I won’t forget.

Driving home from something like that is never fun (especially when the drive is 9ish hours). We were anxious to get home and coming down off the high you experience when you do something new.

What does this have to do with being self sustainable you’re asking?

Well, the drive home, it was horrible. From San Francisco to Los Angeles we had the unfortunate experience of driving through “agri-business land”. You know that apple you crunched on for lunch? And that “milk” you had with your cereal? Yeah, it probably came from the “Land of Gloom”. That’s what I’m calling it.

The dust hung in the air like smoke for hours. The temperature outside and in the car dropped nearly 10 degrees. (For those of you who don’t know…California is a desert! Man just decided since the growing season is year round that we should irrigate and fertilize the heck out of the place so you and I could get food.)

The place looked like something off of The Lorax, everything was dead. I felt like we were driving through a black and white film, there was no color. It went on like this for hours. Dead fruit trees as far as the eye could see. Thousands of acres. Underneath the neat rows of trees the ground was white, it honestly looked like snow around the bases. But it doesn’t snow in southern California. The ground was white from fertilizers and pesticides, perfect little rows of it under the perfectly shaped (and yet dead this time of year) trees, rows and rows and rows of fertilizer/pesticide snow. It was disgusting.

The only color for miles was the red ink on the signs, declaring there was a congress-induced drought. It is true, California is going through a drought right now, so expect your groceries to cost more this coming year. We drove through apple trees, pistachios, almonds, figs, grapes, you name it.

For hours there was no place to stop, not that anyone would want to. The dust hung low, one couldn’t see more than a mile ahead and it was cold. A couple hours into it is when I could smell them.

The white tops of buildings were just far enough from the highway that one couldn’t see through the dust. But I knew by the smell what it was, it was a CAFO. These lots went on for miles. Some of them were close enough to the road to see the black and white spots of the cows, they were dairy cows and thousands of them were crammed into a small fenced lot with nothing but mud, and their own feces of course, to stand in. The stench burned your nostrils when you inhaled.

A couple miles into CAFOville, there were a couple lots right next to the road. One one side were cows that would be used for meat; black and brown cows packed so tightly in between these fences they could hardly move. The lots were so big, my brain had a difficult time analyzing what my eyes were definitely seeing. As far as you could see, cattle bouncing up and down, shoving others, obviously uncomfortable and panicked.

On the left, were dairy cows in the same state. Only they did have just enough room to lie down, despite having to lay in their own crap, many of the little ones were doing just that.

Among these cattle were long white dome-shaped buildings with no windows. Chicken houses. Thousands of chickens, pumped full of growth hormones so you can have nice, plump breasts on your dinner plate tonight. Breasts so big that these chickens are unable to walk. It smelled terrible and after having seen the cows, I could hold my tears back no longer.

My husband did not judge me like some people would have. He knows why I didn’t eat meat for nearly two years. We were smack dab in the middle of why. I was sick with disgust and full of anger over what our food has become. I wanted to pull the car over and smash down all of those fences so those animals could run away.

As a cherry on top, one of the last things that came as a surprise, which nothing should have at that point, but the miles of dead trees kept things from getting too exciting, were the sprayers. Pulled behind a little enclosed tractor was this machine that went up and down above the trees, like a teeter totter. The stuff coming out of it was the brightest yellow I’ve ever seen. The machine looked happy, bouncing up and down ever so playfully over the tree that would soon sprout the fruit we eat. No cares in the world, except to exude the very chemicals our government tells us is “okay” to ingest. How dumb. The guys who apply these chemicals are in full haz-mat (hazardous material) suits. They can’t be serious.

So, now do you see how this article relates to self-sustainability? Just in case not, here’s the deal. We are no where near SS in our house. While it is the hope that one day we will be, the goal is to be as SS as possible. If that means only growing our own herbs, that’s fine. When you get fed up with how things are done, you don’t accept how things are done, and you do them yourself.

28 Ways to Becoming More Self-Reliant

1. Grow Your Own Herbs Anyone can do this. You just need some seeds (buy from independently owned, heirloom, non-GMO companies like Baker Creek, Seeds Now, or look for seed exchanges in your area), pots and a window or balcony. Okay, maybe a bit of water too.

2. Compost You’ve already bought the produce, now use the scraps to make some brown gold. Even if you’re putting the scraps in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid, go for it. You don’t need a ton of space or fancy containers.

3. Plant Some Vegetables And by some, it can just be jalapenos or tomatoes or spinach, something your family eats a lot of.

4. Buy Multi-Use Products Why buy a gazillion bottles of cleaning solutions when baking soda and vinegar can clean just about everything? That’s just one example.

5. DIY Make your own soaps, lotions, make-up, cleaning solutions, cooking mixes. Change your own oil on your vehicles. Cut your own wood (or have my dad do it). Do things for yourself, stop relying on other people to do everything for you.

6. Collect and use rain water to water your yard, flowers, and garden.

7. Preserve your harvest or that of your neighbors. Learn to can and dehydrate. Most things can be frozen.

8. Get Animals Raise chickens for meat and eggs (and use their poop in your compost!). Get bees to pollinate and enjoy their honey.

9. Use a clothes line to dry your clothes.

10. Get solar panels.

11. Use, reuse, and find another way to reuse one more time. Do this for everything. Think you can’t reuse that yogurt tub? Use it to freeze your homemade bone broth in.

12. Cook from scratch Bake your own bread. Make ice cream, ketchup, pickles. Anything and everything.

13. Barter.

14. Get a bicycle. Ride it as often as you can.

15. Go without Do you really need all those clothes? How about that cheese on your salad? I know, that sounds so silly, but really, start going without things. First off, you’ll be surprised how much money you can save. People are surprised when I tell them that I drink my coffee black. That’s because when I was in college I couldn’t afford those fancy-schmancy creamers and sugar. Just go without people, seriously. It’s good to deny yourself things you really want sometimes. Doing so will save you money, time, and free your body of so many toxins. Want to know my newest “going without” routine? Sure you do! I rarely wear mascara anymore, simply curling my lashes makes them look so much better, but I don’t need mascara.

16-28. Slow down and think about things. Make a list of how you’d like to become more self-reliant. Slowly begin to check things off your list. Don’t get intimidated. Ask for help. Research. Start small, dream big. Read. Be informed. Make things happen. Feel empowered. Kick some butt. Spread the love.

How are relying on yourself these days? Any big plans to become more self-reliant?
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