Suburban self-reliance

I've read a few books and articles over the past year about people who live on small plots of land, yet are able to produce most of their own food.  I'm still trying to decide whether these stories make me feel envious or overwhelmed...  Since I'm just learning about gardening and animal husbandry, it seems like a huge time and energy commitment.  Not to mention the steep learning curve...  I want to do it all, but the idea of slaughtering a chicken is very intimidating for me.  I wouldn't have a problem eating a chicken I raised, but I'm not sure how I feel about actually killing and butchering it myself.  An attitude like this points to what I feel is one of the biggest problems in today's society: people want things, but they don't want to do it themselves or do the "dirty work" to achieve things.

I'm determined to change this attitude in myself, especially as it pertains to food.  In the society we've evolved into, the average person is far removed from the processes that sustain us.  Some people don't even know how to make a meal unless it comes out of a box, much less how to preserve home-grown produce to last through the winter.  Personally, I don't like to live like this.  It makes me feel very insecure, as I'm relying on so many other people just to have the basics to survive.  I don't think that I'm an extremist; I'm not going to become a hermit who completely withdraws from society to live off the land in some ramshackle cottage in the woods.  But I do want to do what I can to make myself less reliant on others for the basics (water, food, energy), and I want my children to also have these skills. 

I don't think people realize how fragile society really is.  After a disaster or major social disruption of some sort, it takes only 72 hours without strong governmental intervention for the social order to start to disintegrate.  Anyone remember all the looting after hurricaine Katrina?  Or the effects of the widespread "Northeast Blackout" of 2003?  I was visiting family near Detroit that weekend, and stores immediately sold out of bottled water, ice, gasoline, and other emergency supplies.  It doesn't take long at all for fights to start over the last remaining supplies, and it seems much more prudent to have supplies on-hand instead of trying to beat the rush to the grocery store.  Personally, I don't think stealing food from a grocery store after a natural disaster is truly "looting", it's just people doing what they need to do to survive and feed themselves.  But would you want to be in the way of people who are that desperate?

Especially in light of the fact that we plan to bring children into this world, I feel very obligated to be able to provide for ourselves under most any circumstances.  I'm not worried we're all going to die from swine flu, or that the nuclear holocaust is right around the corner.  But I do believe that I cannot (and should not!) rely on the government to rescue me from a disaster or emergency situation.

So, today I'm going to really go through my stored food and figure out what I really have and what I really need.  There's no reason to have 10 lbs of flour if I don't have anything to make it edible...!  Throughout the month of May, I'd like to make sure I have a true 1 month supply of food and fuel that is organized and accessible.  I'm also going to build a small raised garden bed for the seeds I started a few days ago.  Then I can concentrate of building up the 3-month supply that was supposed to be last year's resolution!

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