Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sustainable, Self Sufficiency - The Third Phase of the Revolution, Part 4

Partly, I'm a control freak.  Partly, I'm a cheapskate.  Pretty attractive combination, I know.  Whatever the motivation behind my thinking, it dawned on me that the average American (and Brit, as well) has become enslaved to big government and big business.  Others control, or want to control, what we eat, wear, drive, what kind of, and how much health care we can have and how much we're going to pay for all of it. 

In response to what I felt was an ever increasing encroachment on my autonomy, I decided to do something about it.  Along the way, I've realized that some of the things I've discovered would benefit millions of others.

Phase 3, began merely as a baby step towards self sufficiency.  Brittan and I developed a 3 year plan to grow all (or as close to all as possible) of our own fruits and vegetables.  Because we live in surburbia, we didn't know how much we could accomplish.  So we did our research.  We soon discovered that our thinking about needing many acres and a tractor to supply our nutritional needs was out dated.  It was good news.

We discovered raised bed and container gardening.  In particular, we found the earthbox and the square foot garden.  By using these systems, and supplementing with ordinary buckets, we have taken huge strides towards our goal.  And we do it in a fraction of the space that one would expect.  Visitors often comment, "Your garden isn't nearly as big as I imagined."  That makes me happy, because that's the point.

Becoming self sufficient doesn't require a ranch in Montana.  We can begin right where we are.  We can do it at our own pace and fit it into our individual budgets.

We found that the start up costs were a bit steep, because we did so much at once.  We started with three or 4 large raised beds, about 10 earthboxes and another 10 buckets.  We more than doubled that for this year's garden.  Next year we'll add a bit more, but not a lot.  An individual, or family, could begin with just an earthbox, a square foot garden or even a couple of buckets.  But be warned, it can become addictive.

We eased the pressure on our bank account by working the garden into our budget.  When you don't have other debt, you can do things like that.  So we built one bed at a time and bought earthboxes three at a time.  While you don't need to use our timetable, I do recommend having a plan.

Somewhere along the way, we've had a couple of pleasant surprises.  One is, we've discovered that 'slow food' has.... flavor.  The stuff you buy in the store, even the fresh produce, simply doesn't compare to what we grow.  It isn't even a close race. 

We also discovered, nutrition.  We are filling our bodies with nutrients and are exempting all the chemicals found in store bought food.  Our diet is better balanced and more filling.  And it tastes good.  I said for years that I hated vegetables.  Turns out, that's because I'd never tasted any.  Heck, I even like squash (besides the fried kind.  I always like that).  Next year I'm giving eggplant another chance.  That one will take a miracle.

Our plan is working, financially, too.  We are saving money.  As an example, red, yellow and orange bell peppers range in price from a buck ninety nine to $5.99 a pound at various outlets around our area.  Green ones are a bit cheaper, but still are never less than fifty cents a piece.  A packet of 30 bell pepper seeds is less than $2.  A third of that seed packet will provide the average family more than enough bell peppers for the year.  Plus, you'll have some to give away, or sell to recoup your costs.  This is not rocket science.  Do the math.

A plan like ours can be implemented almost anywhere.  I know of urbanites who have their gardens on their roofs.  Some use their patio's.  Others carve out spaces in various parts of their yards and work the fruits, vegetables and herbs into the landscape.  Many of the varieties are quite lovely. 

The clock on the wall tells me it's time to get ready for work, so I need to wrap this up.  I'll finish next time, by explaining the final step in the evolution of my thinking.  I hope some of this is making you think, too.