It’s no secret that the majority of people in modern American society are living on the top of a house of cards. Many spend their days working and playing in such a way that removes them from the basic facets of survival; food comes from the store, heat comes from the knob on the wall and water spits out of the sink, every time. Even your bodily waste and garbage are taken away in the manner most palatable by all. While pondering all of this, I compiled a little list of things to consider and tips to help people get back to the principle of a self-reliant life. Ensuring you have knowledge regarding the base necessities for life persisting will ensure you’ve always got a leg up.
Install a wood stove. Even if you don’t use it as your primary heat source, keeping a functional wood stove in your home means you’ll always have the ability to keep your house warm and cook food. Simply knowing how to put one in or having an old one out in the shed doesn’t quite cut it: having a stack of seasoned wood available and the implements to cut and split wood is key. Side bonus, good exercise cutting and stacking firewood.
Gardening/composting. A base level of knowledge regarding the hows and whys of growing food is needed to really understand how labor intensive small-scale agriculture is. Getting a good book on permaculture is a good head start on the intellectual side of things, but starting with even one indoor tomato plant can get you hooked. Eating game meat you shot with potatoes and a salad you grew is a pretty rewarding meal. Side bonus, you’ll learn how fruits and vegetables are actually supposed to taste. It’s noticeably different from what you buy at the store!
Preserving food. Canning foods is a great place to start when it comes to preserving the bounty of your harvests. I’ve eaten moose and vegetables 10 years after they were canned and they tasted great. Canning being far from the be-all-end-all though, learning the basics around smoking meats and dehydrating all manner of edibles will keep you and yours fed long down the road. Even an afternoon spent learning some food preservation techniques can give you a huge advantage if you’re ever found needing to stock up for a winter. Bonus points if you can your foods using a hot water bath on your wood stove.
Brewing/distilling. Brewing and distilling alcohol in the forms of beer, wine, mead, liquor and medical grade alcohol is not only a fun hobby with enjoyable perks, it is also a skill set that predates the modern age by thousands of years. Homebrewing mead, beer and wine is perfectly legal at the federal level within 200 gallons annually. Owning and operating a still can be legal, if you work around the lettering of the law. Federally, it is illegal to distill spirits for consumption so I advise you not to do so, but there are ways to legally operate one for research and fuel alcohols. I’m no lawyer so you should look into state and federal regulations on your own. Suffice it to say, it’s fun and pretty easy to make delicious homebrew. Aside from enjoying them yourself, these jugs of happy would make a great barter item in an emergency and a useful antiseptic.
The theory of a self-reliant life really just asks “What am I totally reliant on other people for that I can’t do without”? It always comes down to the survival pyramid. Ask yourself what aspect of your life you could get closer to the roots in and find a way to incorporate a little of that into your daily life. I think you’ll find it’s enjoyable as well as satisfying.