The famous Texas heat is finally upon us after several months of cloudy skies and rain. Luckily there are tons of great places to take a dip while enjoying the natural beauty of Central. &
Introduction To Self Sustainability
In my last post I talked about what self sustainability means to me and a little bit about what I do to grow and raise the food for my family. I meet many people who have an interest in being more sustainable, but feel like they don't know where to start or that they don't have the time or that they don't have the space. In this post I will start to address the question of how to get started by focusing on the first of four rules that my family employs whenever we take on a new project. They have worked for my family and they can be for yours too.
Making things work at home
Believe it or not, you don't need to live on a farm or ranch to raise your own meat and you don't need a degree in horticulture to successfully grow your own food. Whether you live in a condo with a single windowsill, a home in a subdivision, or have a few acres out in the suburbs there are a variety of ways that you can grow your own meat, fish, veggies, and herbs at home.
I know people who are successfully growing a small garden and raising both poultry (quail) and rabbits in their Los Angeles condo! The size of your home is not an issue and our central Texas climate certainly makes raising plants and animals easier than it would be in some other parts of the country. With a little bit of work and desire, you can find a niche that is right for you.
When taking on projects my family has found that following these simple rules help to ensure success:
1. Make a list of priorities for your project
2.Do your homework and seek expert guidance
3.Try before you buy
MAKE A LIST OF PRIORITIES
What are the direct and indirect things that you want to get out of your project? Is it eating organic? Reducing your carbon footprint? Having grass fed meat, fresh eggs and/or fish? Think about what is important to your family and what would give you the most benefit for your efforts. During this time it is important to think about what your family likes to eat. Look at past grocery lists. When writing down the list of things that you want to grow keep an open mind to new things, but be honest with yourself! If you know you have an aversion to collard greens or okra, no matter how easy they are to grow, it is probably best to leave those off your list and focus on food that your family will enjoy. This is an investment of time, money and heart so be sure to set yourself up for success.
Do you cook with fresh herbs? We just recently put in a 8x10 herb garden. Fresh herbs at our local store are expensive, usually $3.00+ for a small bunch of Thyme or Oregano. For the same money we were able to get 4 inch starter plants at Home Depot (which can be grown on a windowsill). In just a few short weeks they turned into medium sized plants, providing plenty of leaves that are organic and couldn't be any fresher.
How about fresh fish? Aquaponics is a recent interest of mine. Turns out you can raise your fish in small pool or container, while growing your veggies over the top! Hydroponic stores carry complete setups that are easy to install, but can get pricey. Cheaper solutions can be found on DIY websites for people who want to build their own. This is a way for anyone with enough space for a fish tank to be able to have fresh veggies and fish.
Is it a priority for you to reduce your consumption of factory farmed meats? Rabbit and quail are easy, low maintenance, and very popular choices in part because they can work for everyone from apartment dwellers to small farmers. If you have a little more space lambs and goats are fantastic red meat alternatives. They are feed efficient and don't have the long term time commitments that cattle do. Depending on your local zoning, you can keep sheep or goats on as little as a quarter of an acre. This is enough space to support the red meat needs of an average family. Note: If the idea of processing your animals is too much for you there are butchers that you can take your live animals to who will take care of everything.
Eggs are a ubiquitous staple in most kitchens and keeping a few chickens for eggs is cheap and easy. Here in Austin a law allowing chickens in the city just passed! Another example of how supportive Central Texas is of the sustainable small farm movement. Now Austinites can keep up to 6 hens for egg production in their residential neighborhoods. 6 hens will keep most families in enough eggs for themselves and usually some to spare for friends and family.
Start by putting together a list of the things that you want to accomplish and then prioritizing that list. When going over it think about the items that will give you the biggest bang for your buck refer back to it through out the project and measure yourself against it once you are done. It can really help to get the most out of your work.
Growing your own food can be hard work, but it is also rewarding, fun, educational, and delicious. Always remember all plants and animals require food, water, shelter from the elements, protection from predators, and of course love.
In my next post I will be talking about incorporating homework and expert guidance into your homegrown food projects, mistakes that we made, and lessons that we learned.
You can follow our small farm and contact us on Facebook. You can search my website here to find exciting potential homesteading properties in the Austin Texas area. When looking remember that there are loan and grant programs provided through the USDA, FHA and others which provide financing options with little to no money down. There are affordable properties available, you just need an experienced realtor to help you find the right one.
I am located in the Austin area and work predominantly in residential real estate. I have been a realtor for over 10 years. I was inspired to get into real estate after buying my first home. It was a ....