How Self-Sufficient Living is Important in COVID-19 Times
Written by Matt W (Greenhousestores) on 1st Apr 2020.
From the 430 BC Athens plague to the Middle Ages’ Black Death and the Spanish Flu in the modern era, pandemics have always shaped the way people live whether in cities or in farming communities. The current COVID 19 is no exception to the rule. Presently, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the entire global community in every imaginable way possible, from economy and healthcare to food supply.
The COVID 19 pandemic is affecting our food supply in diverse ways. The surge in demand, hoarding, and acute shortage of essential products have affected the normal operation of our food supply chain, which is why we are already seeing empty supermarket shelves across the UK and other parts of the world.
Most retailers are even imposing limitations on quantities each customer can buy. What we are currently experiencing are signs of potential food insecurity in the near future.
The new social distancing requirements implemented by governments and health authorities across the world to prevent the spread of the virus also mean that consumers now make fewer trips to supermarkets to buy food and other essential items.
As a result, people have increased the size of their purchases. Everyone is stockpiling for fear of running out of supplies in the near future. The entire world seems to be on the brink of a severe food shortage in the next few months.
Labour Shortage Due to Travel Restrictions
Labour shortage occasioned by strict COVID 19 prevention measures such as countrywide lockdowns, self-isolation, and travel restrictions pose an additional constraint to food supply and distribution.
A bigger percentage of productive people are now confined at home either due to illness or self-isolation, which means there is a smaller number of active agricultural workers out there and fewer truckers delivering food to consumers.
It is estimated that coronavirus pandemic restrictions will prevent most of the 60,000 seasonal workers who come to the UK every year from travelling, which will adversely affect food production among other services. It is no surprise why leaders in the farming industry are even calling for the recruitment of a “land army” to supplement the dwindling labour force in the food production sector.
According to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which has over 30,000 members, the expected shortage of labourers due to the pandemic could be as high as 80,000 at a time when they are most needed to avoid crops rotting in farms.
Mark Bridgeman, president of the CLA, says that such a shortage of workers is unprecedented which is why they are calling for recruitment of a land army to support farmers and feed the nation.
Self Sufficient Living UK
In the face of a potential food and supplies shortage due to the pandemic, most people are now considering shifting to a self sufficient living lifestyle. Self sufficiency or homesteading is not a new concept in the UK.
It is a growing trend driven by factors such as climate change and rising prices of energy, which make people reconsider their way of life.
There are many people who have adopted a self sufficient living lifestyle to live within their own means while others simply prefer to get back to nature and use their skills to live a greener, healthier, and more sustainable lifestyle.
Environmentally-conscious people are now adopting self sufficiency in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint to the bare minimum. Restrictions and difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic will also be a major motivator for people to learn to live off-grid and start using self sufficient greenhouse food production methods among other survival tactics.
What is Self Sufficient Living?
There are many definitions of self-sufficient living. Dictionary.com describes self-sufficiency in two ways – as the ability to provide for your own needs without external help and as having full confidence in your own resources.
Self-sufficient living can mean living in a large homestead where you can grow your food to achieve food freedom or living in the suburbs and doing your best to prepare for the worst-case scenario by ensuring that you have enough resources to support you and feed your family through the difficult period.
Self sufficiency focuses mainly on food production but it also covers many other areas beyond food. It may involve other aspects such as curing your own soap, making clothes, designing your house to fit your new self-reliant lifestyle, and even learning how to use manual tools that don’t require environmentally-harmful fuels such as petrol and diesel.
Self sufficient living is a broad concept but it basically implies the following:
- Adopting a lifestyle where you are a producer with, for example, your own self sufficient vegetable garden
- Subsisting on food and other things from your land and livestock
- Living off-grid with the knowledge and resources to maintain your survival systems.
- Ability to face challenges and figure out how to overcome the challenges using available resources
- Living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle with a minimal carbon footprint
Self sufficient living is the ability to develop physical and mental fortitude and measures to provide for your needs from your land or available space if you live in a city suburb. It is a transformation from being a consumer to a producer.
It becomes a lifelong journey when you realise that simple things such as growing vegetables can be a lifeline during a COVID 19 lockdown.
How Do You Transition to Self Sufficient Living?
There are many reasons and benefits of transitioning to a self sufficient living style. Besides the current restrictions and food shortages caused by COVID 19, you could be motivated to live a self sufficient life by the toll your life takes on the environment or achieve food freedom from the dependency that the modern society has imposed on you.
You may also want to change your lifestyle to start eating clean, safe, and healthy organic food that you have personally grown in a sustainable manner.
If you want to get away from the artificial technologically driven products that dominate the market today, the best time to start your self sufficient lifestyle is now. Homesteading is an adventure that comes with many economic, health, and personal improvement benefits.
Here are a few factors to consider when you want to transition to self sufficient living:
Embrace Frugal Living Practices
Self sufficient living revolves around frugality. You’ll not be self sufficient when you still value materialistic and extravagant ways of life.
The first step in self sufficiency is to avoid getting into debts by spending on unnecessary things. Learn to live within your means and find every possible way to save your income.
Learn to live a simple life. When you embrace simple living practices, you will not spend money on every gadget you come across or even eat out every time. You’ll not waste money on expensive clothes that you’ll rarely wear. A simple lifestyle means that you won’t need much and you will therefore spend less.
Prepare Your Home for Self Sufficiency
It is important to start by ensuring that your home is fit for sustainable living before you embark on your self-sufficiency journey.
You may consider getting a professional Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for your home to know how well insulated the home is and if you need to improve its energy efficiency.
For example, a home with double or triple glazing prevents excessive heat loss while upgrading walls, floors, and roofs of your home will significantly help to maximise energy efficiency. You may also consider replacing all traditional bulbs with energy efficient LEDs throughout your home.
Make Your Home Work For You
To succeed in self sufficiency, you’ll need to let go of all your modern thinking patterns. For example, modern thinking tends to dictate that you change houses for bigger ones after every few years.
You’ll need to break away from that pattern and find innovative ways that you can use your present home over the long term to provide for your needs. Assess the kind of home you have and how you can use it to achieve your long-term goals.
You can also create a homestead exactly where you currently are. For example, if you live in an apartment with a balcony, you can create city vegetable gardens and grow your own food. If you reside in the suburbs, you may be having plenty of space that can be transformed into a self sufficient greenhouse.
If you are lucky enough to live in a home with a few acres of land, you have the luxury to grow enough food to feed your family with a surplus to save or sell.
For example, a 2-acre piece of land is more than enough for a large garden, orchard, berry patches, grow organic food in a greenhouse, and even keep some livestock.
Involve Your Family in Your Journey of Self-Sufficient Living
If you have a family then it is highly recommended to involve them in your self sufficient lifestyle. This is important because you may not succeed in living a frugal or simple life if your spouse or children are still enslaved to modern extravagance and uncontrolled spending.
Try to come to some form of family agreement by showing the rest of your family the value and benefits of self sufficient living. You’ll accomplish much when you work together with the rest of your family.
Practical Steps to Self Sufficient Living
Judging by the on-going trends of the COVID 19 pandemic worldwide, food will soon become a scarce and highly sought after commodity.
To ensure that you have food security during these trying times, here are some of the key steps to take while there is still time.
Start Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables
It is important to ensure that you have a good supply of fruits and vegetables to give the vitamins and other nutrients you need to protect your body from severe symptoms of COVID 19. Fruits and vegetables also provide natural flavours to your meals.
If you haven’t started growing fruits and vegetables, start doing it now, regardless of your level of experience or knowledge. There are numerous types of vegetables that you can easily grow in your balcony or garden without the need for specialist knowledge or skills. Most people are already growing tomatoes, lettuce, and beans quite easily on their patio or garden.
Now that you are in self-isolation and don’t have the luxury to socialise, time is one thing you have in abundance. Use this time to learn how to plant and manage your garden, whether it is a small balcony garden or your entire yard. There are numerous online resources with helpful self sufficiency tips on how to build and manage city vegetable gardens.
One thing to remember when growing your organic vegetable and fruit garden is the importance of using natural organic fertiliser such as compost and animal manure. Organic fertilizers are healthier and more economical than chemical fertilisers. You can easily compost plant materials such as autumn leaves or recycle animal manure nutrients to not only get organic fertiliser but manage pests. For example, wood ash helps to deter slugs and snails from your crops.
To get the most out of your garden, you can plant successive crops in different seasons. For example, at the beginning of the year, plant cold-tolerant crops such as spinach, peas, and kales and the weather warms up plant heat-loving plants such as peppers and tomatoes.
Remember to reapply mulch every time you replace your garden with a new crop. The goal is to maximise your garden’s usage by inter-planting different varieties of vegetables and fruits.
Determine Your Staple Crop
It’s great to have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from your garden but you may not have everything you’ll need to enrich the flavour and nutritional benefits of your meals.
You can, however, find your staple food that will be the backbone of your regular diet. Staple foods include anything from rice, wheat, and millet to potatoes and cassava.
Depending on the type and size of land you own, you can focus on a staple crop that will ensure that your family enjoys organic sources of carbohydrates and proteins for a long time.
You can also study the cuisine of the cultures in your area to find out which crops perform best based on your local climate. The most common crop in your native region will definitely be the one that gives the best harvest in the region.
Livestock as a Source of Protein and Organic Fertiliser
Self sufficient living will also involve a relationship with domesticated livestock. Some people may disagree with the livestock concept on the grounds of lifestyle or religious choices but I personally find it almost impossible to subsist over a long time on fruits and vegetables alone.
This does not mean that you cannot live a self-sufficient life as a vegan or vegetarian, but in my opinion, self-sustainability on a strict veggies diet may be more challenging without buying store supplements. At minimum, you could raise poultry as a source for eggs.
There are numerous options when it comes to domesticated livestock including chickens, ducks, pigeons, sheep, goats, and even cattle. Find out the best animals to keep based on the size of land you have. Learn how to feed and house them in a sustainable way.
Learn to use everything the animals produce besides meat. In fact, we eat very little meat from most of the animals we keep. The fertiliser, milk, eggs, and other products we get from animals are far more important than a single roast diet. If you have to butcher livestock for meat, make sure that it is done as humanely and respectfully as possible.
Keep in mind that your livestock produce will be a vital source of organic fertiliser for your garden. When you feed your livestock from your land and they produce manure, you’ll have the necessary nutrient cycle to keep your land and lifestyle completely self-sufficient. You can also manage soil fertility by combining animal manure with vegetable compost.
The most important step in becoming self sufficient is to find ways to manage your energy supply. Most people choose off-grid living as the best option.
Although the up-front costs of purchasing and installing off-grid equipment can be high, you can easily recoup the costs and start making great savings on energy over time. Keep in mind that self sufficient living is a long-term project so if you are in it for the long haul, embrace off-grid living.
Wind turbines and solar panels provide clean and less expensive energy. Start-up costs range from £3,000 to £8,000 depending on the type, brand, and size of equipment you purchase. Both solar and wind turbines work perfectly in most parts of the UK. You can also use them to supplement your mains supply and reduce your energy costs while helping to preserve the environment.
Off-grid living also includes using water sources beyond the traditional piped water. Keep in mind that your family, animals, and plants need water to thrive so any interruption on the grid supply of water or if the water supply is cut off for any reason, then all your hard work will be lost.
If you can drill underground water and install an effective irrigation system, you’ll significantly enhance your self sufficient lifestyle.
Transform Waste into A Resource
The phrase reduce, reuse, and recycle is familiar to most people. When you reduce, reuse, and recycle things, you will benefit your home, your wallet, and the planet.
So how do you implement the 3 Rs in your everyday life? You can do it in many ways. For instance, when you go shopping, look for products with minimum packaging, avoid over-buying (after all self sufficiency is all about frugality), and limit the number or amount of disposable products that you buy.
Avoid throwing anything to the bin before you have seriously considered other ways it can be reused or even donated instead. For example, worn clothes can be reused as cleaning rags and non-recyclable food packaging make good storage containers. Keep all biodegradable waste in a heap or compost bin to be used as fertiliser for your plants.
Aim to reduce waste going to landfills as much as possible. Above all, avoid throwing out leftovers when you are growing all your food. Find ways to reuse every bit or scrap of inedible food. You can use it as manure at the very least.
Self sufficient living is important in these COVID 19 times. As more people are restricted from going to work to avoid infections, food and other essential supplies are expected to become scarcer by the day. Your best option is to embrace a self sufficient lifestyle in which you grow your own food and provide for you and your family using your own resources.
Self sufficiency is an on-going process that involves building infrastructure and adopting simple living practices. It may seem challenging when starting out but as you continue building your own independence, you’ll become better at using available resources to provide for your needs without much outside help.
Your focus should be to live with as little help from outside as possible. Devise ways through which you can carry on living if you no longer had access to resources outside your home or farm. If you can continue supplying your needs for survival sufficiently without access to supermarkets and commercial food vendors using food you have grown, then you are already self-sufficient.
COVID 19 provides a perfect example of how external factors can affect the economy and food production worldwide. This is why the UK society should start focusing on adopting sustainable living methods such as off-grid living and growing organic food in a greenhouse to ensure food security at a personal level in future.
As supermarkets and businesses across the world limit access to food and other supplies due to lockdowns, travel restrictions, and social distance restrictions, it is important for people to stop stockpiling and start embracing self sufficient lifestyles.