You want to be self-reliant but don’t want to relocate to a cabin 100 miles from anywhere to do it. That’s not a problem, self-reliance is not about hiding from the work. Self-reliance is about learning to be less dependent on government entities, conglomerates, international trade, political alliances, etc., and more able to provide for yourself and your family regardless of what is happening elsewhere. Self-reliance is also not about cutting your ties with friends, family, and community. Rather, it is about strengthening those ties and learning again about the value of many hands and many skills coming together to ensure the survival of the community. So, with that in mind, here is your top ten list for becoming self-reliance in your suburban home.

  1. Garden—start growing your own fruits and vegetables. No matter how small your yard, you can grow organic produce to feed you and your family—and very likely enough to trade/barter/sell/share. Use heirloom seeds and learn to save your own seeds so you do not need to rely on someone else for your seeds. Grown in containers and raised beds. Learn about biointensive, permaculture, lasagna, or square-foot gardening—find a method that suits your situation and get growing!
  2. Chickens—yes, chickens in suburbia. More and more suburban neighborhoods are allowing at least a few “pet” fowl. Chickens can provide eggs, meat, and manure all of which makes you independent of others. The bonus—you will be amazed at how much better your own eggs and meat taste compared to that stuff they sell at the store. And, no more buying manure in bags!
  3. Rabbits—quiet, docile, easy to keep and a great source of protein at the dinner table! Get a breed that also produces wool, and you are getting even more bang for your self-reliant buck! The manure is fabulous for your garden and excess will be greatly coveted by rose growers in your area.
  4. Compost—reduce your garbage volume, increase your soil nutrients, and increase your produce output by simply composting your kitchen waste, junk mail (non-glossy), newspapers, and lawn clippings. Worried about a “smelly” compost pile outside bothering your neighbors? Try vermicomposting!
  5. Alternative power—wind, solar, wood, and “passive” individually or in combination can get you “off the grid” and smiling happy and warmly next time the power goes out. In some states, if you produce excess energy, your energy company has to buy it from you. How sweet is that!
  6. Barter/Trade—Get into the “other” or “local” economy by bartering your skills or resources for resources/skills other folks in your community have that you need. Have too many eggs from your chickens? Trade . Know how to build furniture or buildings? Barter for something you want.
  7. Preserving the harvest—learn how to “put up” for the winter. Start canning your extra produce or the great produce deals you get at the local farmers market. A pantry full of jars of food you put up is so much better than store bought pseudo-food.
  8. Cooking from scratch—learn to cook….from scratch. Making spaghetti sauce with your own tomatoes rather than opening a jar of Big Food Manufacturer’s idea of sauce is nutritionally better, tastes better, and will fill you with a sense of self-sufficiency you never felt before.
  9. Crafts (knitting, crochet, spinning, DIY)—learn how to spin your rabbits’ fur into yarn and then how to knit/crochet/weave it into items for your household. Learn how to use tools to build useful items around your suburban homestead. Spend less money on ready-made and enjoy a better way of spending your leisure hours rather than watching mindless tv (unless you are watching DIY shows that is!).
  10. Medicinal herb garden—self-reliance also extends to your healthcare. Many of the other steps will improve your overall health dramatically. But, you or your family will still likely have health concerns arise—be it a burn, cut, headache, sore muscle, or something more serious. While some things will require the help of trained physicians (setting broken legs for example), many things you can treat at home with herbs grown in your own backyard. Learn what herbs you can grow that have medicinal value and how to safely use those herbs. Just keep in mind the “medicinal” part—these are medicines.

Today is a great day to start on your journey to self-reliance. Take a step at a time. Rome wasn’t build in a day and neither will your independence. Start with one step and build from there. You will be glad you did!