I made a commitment to myself that I would one day stop depending on the local grocery store. I am committed to produce everything I am able to produce; granola, yogurt, snacks, cheese, butter and bread. I can grow my own vegetables and fruits. I can create foods to replace meat and dairy products. It takes effort and planning but it can be done!
As I became more proficient at producing my own food and more committed to being the producer rather than “the consumer” I found that the big jobs could be broken down into smaller, more do-able tasks and dispersed over the days of the week. Each time I did any baking or cooking, I multiplied my efforts by making enough for the whole week rather than just enough for one meal for one day.
I planned a rotating meal plan so I knew exactly what I was going to make each week. I filled my refrigerator and freezer with meals I made ahead. With a lot of planning and experimentation I was able to gather and store the foods I was using regularly, to eliminate time spent and money shopping each week. I was able to come up with quick mixes for anything that I made often, to eliminate the preparation time for each meal. I was able to make bread for the week knowing exactly what kind of bread I was going to need for each meal that week; pitas, pizza crust, subs, rolls, etc. I was able to plant a garden and produce fresh vegetables and fruits and even freeze and dehydrate some ahead for later in the season when the garden would be resting. I was able to make replacements for meat and dairy products for the week with plant sources by learning to make soy milk, almond milk and mega-meat. Each step I learned to do, gave me that much more variety to offer my family and improved my family’s health significantly. I was consistently reaching my production goals.
Reality Steps In
As my life became more and more complicated with the expos I was attending and conferences I was offering and books I was writing, my husband took up the slack, taking the responsibility for all of the regular production schedule that I had been doing. The kids pitched in too. Then my husband landed a job out of state and had to be away. All of my food production came to a screeching halt. My garden needed watering. My beans weren’t getting cooked. My mail was stacking up and my emails were out of control. I had deadlines to meet and no one to help.
This situation made it so real to me that if we were ever going to be able to teach people how to keep this kind of self-reliance going, we need a community to work with us. We can’t do it all. If we are going to go “back in time” so to speak, to make our own bread and our own cheese, milk our own cows or raise our own chickens, we must also go back in time to an interdependent lifestyle where everyone worked together. We must have support and assistance. If the cow needs to be milked and I have to be teaching a conference in another state, I must have neighbors and friends who are equally invested in the cow who will milk the cow! Those that we teach will have the same reality in their own lives and will need to organize a group of like-minded people for support.
You may find that making your own bread and growing your own garden is easier when you work together with other people who have the same goals, dividing the tasks or doing them together, side by side. For instance, why not organize a group that meets weekly to grind enough wheat for their families? You can also mix up your quick mixes while you are together.
If you are an elderly woman who lives alone, you might not have the motivation to make your own bread and plant your own garden, but you can work together with a group to help motivate them to eat whole foods or to be prepared for emergencies. You can be a motivator even though you don’t need a lot of food for your own needs.
I suggest that whatever your age or living situation, organizing with other neighbors to create a garden spot and share the responsibilities of a garden is more productive than doing it all by yourself. I spent many more hours in our community garden than anyone else did, but who’s counting? I didn’t mind a bit. I was grateful to have a place to garden and to have friends to share in the harvest.
At that time I was teaching classes and trying to write this cookbook while also keeping up with all of the self-reliance cooking I was committed to. It was more than one person could do. My husband took up the slack by taking on certain food production tasks each week. He loves to make mayonnaise, hummus and tomato sauce. He doesn’t mind whipping up breakfast or dinner as long as I have all the necessary ingredients ready, such as homemade yogurt, pitas, pizza crust, butter, soy milk and quick mixes for waffles, pancakes, crepes, and Mega-Meat.
After a strenuous year of trying to do both teach and keep up with my own home-making goals I found that I wasn’t able to do both. I had to choose one or the other. I had to choose my home and family, of course. That is the whole point of writing the book! I know that if I stop being a producer so that I can go to work to be a successful teacher and business woman promoting my book, I will not be living out the lifestyle I am preaching! So I switched my focus from teaching to filming home videos of My Production Schedule. This turns out to be a better way to demonstrate and teach anyway. I don’t have to advertise. I don’t have to drag all my pots and pans. And I don’t have to supply samples!
Though I learned how to make all of the groceries on my shopping list and eliminated trips to the store, I found that it took great organizational skills to keep track of it all. The makings for each meal had to come together at one moment in time. When I make bread dough I usually don’t have the energy to also make my own pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese for pizza on the same day. I had to pace myself and just do what I can with the amount of time and energy I had. So I made a Production Schedule that divided all the tasks into projects and assigned them to specific days each week so that all the groceries would be ready in time for the meal they were intended for.
A Community is Like a Torus
Gardening together in cooperation is a true torus. The torus sends energy up, out and back in every direction. When we put out energy to plant and tend a seed, the seed digs into the earth and sends energy back up to us. We take in the energy and give back to the plants by weeding and watering. The plants send up seeds for the next planting. We gather them and plant again. It is a perfect torus. The more people who are involved in a single garden, the more energy that goes in and the more energy that comes back to us.
I hope this article will start the conversations going about creating a more interdependent lifestyle. I know I need people in my life, and I can’t be the only one that does. As I talk to people about the ideas I have been kicking around, every one of them have said they thought about the same thing. It is on the hearts and minds of the thinkers of our society. We know that some parts of our society are changing drastically. Our cities, as they are designed today, may not be the best place to be if and when food shortages begin and civil unrest arises.
In the midst of this revelation about community that was coming to me, our city was doing some repairs on a water main in our neighborhood and our water had to be turned off the whole day. The whole street had its water turned off. I couldn’t run next door, establish a friendship with a stranger, to use his bathroom or to wash my face or brush my teeth, because his water was off too. It suddenly occurred to me that a crisis could come at any moment that cut the water off for a period of time and if everyone in the neighborhood has their water off at the same time, we would all be in a lot of trouble. Water is the one thing that you cannot do without—even for a short time. I bought four 50-gallon barrels several years before this when I first started learning about self-reliance. They are full of water and ready to use in my garage. I was the only one on my block that had water for this minor reality check.
I began to gather other families to experiment with an interdependent lifestyle. My garden buddies and I worked together to make meals straight out of the garden. My friend made zucchini relish enough for both of us. I made salsa and tomato sauce for both families. This greatly increased what we could do with our own time and productivity. This is when life starts to get interesting. This is the secret to world hunger. Not mass producing for the entire planet so that they don’t have to do anything but shop, but instead increasing individual self-reliance and interdependent production to assist each other to have more time and energy for greater things than just eating.
This is when my mind went to work organizing and planning a community that would work together and pool all the skills, energy and resources they have for the good of all. It’s not a new idea. It’s an old idea that has been lost because we don’t need each other anymore. We can go in and out of our homes and never say hello to our next door neighbor. Everything we need it at the superstores. We can go in and out of a superstore and never run into anyone we know. With automated check-out stands we do the whole thing without speaking to another living soul. Our shopping carts are overflowing but our souls are starving for a close knit community.
Our lives might be easier than generations past, but our body, mind and spirit suffer the consequences of a lack of community. Our time is “used up” with the task of earning a paycheck to buy the necessities of life, instead of creating the necessities of life with our own hands. The activities that once exercised the body and fulfilled the soul such as digging in the soil, chopping wood or kneading bread have all been eliminated and replaced with activities that often bring stress and emptiness such as telemarketing or bill collecting.