Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

When we left our day jobs at the great Mammoth Cave a lot of people thought we were nuts because in this great nation of ours only one means of survival is considered viable: a good (read high paying) wage earning, job.  We have set out to prove that a beautiful, satisfying life can still be lived without selling our time for less than we believe it is worth.  And, so far, it seems to be working out.  Granted it has only been about a month, but in that month we have made serious strides toward true independence, without depleting our meager savings.  Indeed, our savings have actually increased!

"What is true independence?" you ask, well here at Groundwell Farm we consider independence to be:
Meeting, or even occasionally exceeding, all of the necessities and desires of life through either direct work, or through agreeable trade with people we are close to in everyday life.

Notable exceptions to this form of independence for us would include: communications (e.g. telephones and internet); fuel and parts for the two '81 Volkswagens (one of which is a pickup) that we drive; and entertainment, some of which comes from the internet and Netflix.  There are many areas, though, in which we are either meeting or are well on our way to meeting the goal of true independence.

Electricity - This falls in the desire rather than the need camp.  After all, for many years we lived with no electricity at all, so moving up to limited solar electricity was like having a new toy.

Taking in wattage even during a monsoon.
For a long time we regularly exceeded our electrical limitations through the copious use of a supplemental gasoline powered generator.  But, a while back, that generator died a sudden death.  Though we've since bought a bigger and better generator, it is still not tied into our system.  I consider this a plus, because not only does that make it easier to use for welding and construction projects, it also forces us to stay within a more limited usage plan.

Water - An obvious necessity here, and with no creek, pond or spring on our land, it has been a tricky one to deal with for years.  We got a nice cistern built a few years ago that holds about 1500 gallons of water and for a while paid our neighbor for the ability to hook onto her tap with a hose and fill it.  But we didn't like that our water was still coming from the city (read: Army Corps of Engineers) and was still full of chemicals.  Enter the rainbarrels.  We now have 19 rain barrels running across the front and back of our house.
In the "clean months";those with no pollen, insects, or algae promoting temperatures, we pull directly from the barrels for all needs: filtering for drinking and cooking, watering plants, showering, laundry, etc.  Then, before the "dirty months" set in we make sure the cistern is topped off with clean water that can be used to filter for drinking and cooking.  For all other uses we still draw directly from the barrels.  We plan to further refine the system in the future, but for now it is good enough to keep us  distinctly water independent.

Food - If you read this blog regularly you already know that we grow a lot of food here at Groundwell Farm.  However, though growing food is a major step in achieving food independence, it is not the 'full meal deal' so to speak.  To be truly food independent you must be growing that food from seed you have saved.  This adds in a major aspect to the gardening season.  You need to learn how to produce viable seed from different types of plants then take the extra steps to make it all happen.  With some crops, like tomatoes and peppers,

Rows of staked tomatoes.
it's easy because they are self pollinating.  You simply need to purchase open pollinated seed to start with.  With others, like squash
A hand pollinated squash blossom under protective netting.
you need to hand pollinate to ensure against cross-pollination.  With still others you may need to isolate
One variety of corn being grown far from other varieties to ensure purity.
or wait through two seasons because they are biennial
Sugar beets planted spring 2012 going to seed now.
We are well on our way to food independence where seed is concerned.  Almost all of our tomatoes are being grown from saved seed already, and beans,

corn and many other crops are being grown to maximize the possibility of  providing both enough food AND enough seed for the coming year.  We are also building up our fruit independence through the propagation of small fruits,
Ripe raspberries wishing the rain would stop so they could be picked.
like raspberries, blackberries, currants and gooseberries.  We're also encouraging some of the wild small fruits like passionfruit.

Cash Flow - Because we have not dropped entirely out of society, we still need some cash flow.  This is a tricky one to make independently, but we're doing well so far.  Remember that our definition of independence includes the immediate community, people we actually interact with on a personal basis, rather than a big corporation.  So, our current cash flow consists of selling off excess stuff we have gathered over the years, building a bit for people we know and love,
and trading labor with neighbors in exchange for either cash, assistance with projects or stuff we need (e.g. soil building materials).  So keeping the low level of cash intake we need is also building up our community relationships.  You could call it community independence.

Beauty - Let's not leave out a major desire that lies in the heart of almost every human.  We are beauty independent through walking down to the creek, by dancing in the rain, and by growing flowers.  We focus on perennials, bulbs,
Sword Lilly with Raindrops.
and annuals that produce copious seed.  And of course there are the myriad wildflowers, birds and other natural wonders.  There is no lacking of beauty in the independent life.

If our definition holds as a strong definition of independence, and I think many of the founding fathers would agree,  We are well on our way down the road of true independence.


  1. Absolutely intriguing, Barb .. I didn't realise just how self-sustaining your lives are! Now you've got me thinking about what my definition of 'independence' is .. mind a bit blank right now (it's 2.55 a.m.! here) but will get back to you on that!

    You mentioned cash flow and I was just thinking how wonderful it be for weekend retreats/getaways/workshops for urban types .. I know if I lived in the USA I would love to escape from the whole capitalism-consumerism whirlpool at least for a weekend, learn about farming and eco-friendly stuff, or maybe just sit around and sketch and write! Maybe that's a way to keep cash coming in as and when you need it?

    1. We're likely to go that direction at some point. If not rich folks, then children in need of some real life skills.