Being self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-sustaining – in other words doing it by yourself – turns out not to be quite as simple as that. I’ve been reading up on the concept as it applies to growing and/or raising your own food and I’m struck by the fact that although our pioneering foremothers may have managed to do it all themselves, in the 21st century most of us require some help. That’s not a bad thing, mind you (and I suspect I personally might need more than a little help as we get ready to start our hobby farm endeavor) and frankly I’m a bit relieved to find out that even the back to the basics movement has its share of helpers and short cuts.
If you plan to start a hobby farm and produce many of the things you currently buy at the grocery store, it’s probably a good idea to put these things on your shopping list because I’ll wager they aren’t already in your kitchen:
For dealing with the fruits and veggies from your garden:
• food dehydrator (for drying fruits – range in price from $40 to over $500)
• pressure canner (these can range in price from a low (small, simple variety) of around $70 to over $400)
If you have dairy creatures and plan to make yogurt or cheese:
• cheese press (you can make these yourself if handy, otherwise expect to pay between $40 and $150)
• rennet (enzymes used in cheese production)
• yogurt culture
• sourdough starter
Planning on brewing your own beer:
• Hydrometer (an instrument used to measure the specific gravity (or relative density) of liquids)
• Pre-hopped malt extract
With all of these at the very least you’ll be able to serve up a hearty ploughman’s lunch – bread, cheese, pickles and beer!
If you have a yen to try any of these yourself, I recommend the book “The Homesteading Handbook” by Abigail Gehring. It covers all these topics and much more (building a chicken coop, a wind turbine and a self-composting toilet, natural pest control and how to make candles and soap, for instance) and is filled with beautiful color photographs and illustrations.