Country Living Series

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is total self-sufficiency possible?

Here's my latest Molly Green article entitled Is Total Self-Sufficiency Possible?

(I regret to say that's not me in the photograph.)

Molly Green is a really really spiffy homesteading/rural living/parenting magazine geared toward women (and enjoyed by many men as well). You might consider a subscription if you like what you see.


  1. This excerpt from a 1903 speech on Socialism seems to state your realization. We can become more asynchronous with the wider world, but, except in very special environments, when forced, we can eek out a subsistence. The stories of survival involve few people, in usually benign climates and fortunate timing. The Donner party found subsistence impossible when they ended up stranded at the start of winter vice the spring.

    “And as for getting the full product of his labor — man's owning all the things he makes — what man ever got the full product of his labor except Robinson Crusoe? In a savage condition a man owns the game he kills, the flint he sharpens and the bow he makes. But the moment you come to any civilization, no man can touch his hand upon a thing, still less make a thing, that a thousand other men have not helped to make — have not wrought upon, or mined, or planted, or fed, or carried, before! And how are those men to be paid if the last workman get it all? Take a pair of shoes. The grain that fed the ox and the bark that tans the hide, and the ship that carried it here from Australia, and the iron for the nails and the machinery, and the machines that made the ship and the nails and the shoe machinery itself — these are all capital, but were made by labor, and must not that be paid ? And how, if the people in the shoe shop are to get the " full product of their labor " — that is, the full price of the shoes ? And this is the great truth that socialists lose sight of — Capital is nothing but old labor. Capital is nothing but the fruits of the earth which have been already gathered, preserved, or transformed; that is, manufactured by past labor.”

    I would also recommend the essay 'I, Pencil' which explains how no one person in all the world knows how to make a pencil ...from scratch.

    But as you reason in your article, we do as a civilization have the ability to come together to put that "old labor", i.e., capital, to use. And with a capitalist system, it works even with human nature's selfish motives.

  2. Good article. I would only add referring to your closing questions that if you couldn't afford hay because of a general collapse than I imagine keeping the animals fenced wouldn't be such an issue either. Homesteaders in general feed more hay these days because they have to keep the animals protected from traffic. If I didn't have to worry about that it would open up a lot more forage Summer or Winter.

  3. and let's face it...R Crusoe and Karana lived in a much more benign environment that you or I do. No real winter to speak of....lots of year round fruit.

    Yet they still worked harder than we do...

    At least in the stories, they did....

  4. Did you see that Tesla has made a battery to power your home? I promise I'm not a spammer. :-) It can harness energy from sun and wind and keep you running indefinitely, off-grid.

  5. Very good article! From having studied domestic history I can assure you that it is a myth that anyone was totally self-sufficient from the time the pilgrims landed to today. Unless they were like Robinson Crusoe, etc. People, individuals and families, relied on extended families and neighbors for well-rounded production of necessities and luxuries. That is why communities are so important, whether they are made up of extended family, proximate neighbors, or a church congregation. We need each other, and each others' skills, talents, and abundance. Finding like minded people and cultivating deep and lasting relationships is important to human survival. You are a great teacher, Patrice, and a fine example of lifelong learning. Thanks so much of sharing all you do.

  6. At our age, we rely on equipment or other people's muscles to do much of the heavy work. In four years, we won't have the teenage son to do much of the labor, either. Husband hopes things will have turned around in the world and we won't have to do as much heavy labor to provide for ourselves the little we actually do at this time.
    After having earned two retirements, my husband would like to actually retire but the world doesn't look like it will let him. Self-sufficiency is out of the question as people age and young ones leave, in my humble opinion.