The idea of self-sustainable living has been talked about more and more on the Web in the last several years. Living off the land can be accomplished in a variety of different systems.
Some who crave self-sustainability want a simpler lifestyle but still want some modern conveniences. This was us. We bought a house in the country and went about doing as much as we could ourselves.
We grow and preserve a lot of our own food, and we get our meat products from local farmers. We have a wood stove for heat and a large shed full of wood.
However, we’re also hooked up to the local power company and the local Internet provider. We’ve created sort of a hybrid self-sustainable lifestyle. However, if need be we’re set up to do things completely on our own.
Then there are some who go completely self-sustainable with no modern conveniences. And no help from the outside world.
Whether you want to choose a hybrid option, or go full bore into self-sufficiency, there are things you should know.
As someone who left the ‘burbs six years ago in search of a more independent life, I can attest to the fact that living off the land takes some research. And an enormous amount of work.
Table of Contents
- What It Takes To Living Off The Land
What It Takes To Living Off The Land
Living off the land requires a degree – that’s for certain. But I’m not talking about your typical college degree. No, learning to live off the land requires a degree in the school of life.
The first year we lived on our hobby farm, I planted a large (by city standards) garden. I knew gardens took some work, and I knew farm life would take some work. I’m a strong girl with a hard-working family, so I thought I was prepared. I thought we were prepared.
I wasn’t. We weren’t. I remember one afternoon particular, sitting in the sun after of a long day gardening. The previous three days had been packed with cleaning up trees after a storm that had hit.
As I weeded the garden, near exhaustion, I laid back in the nearby grass. And I cried. And cried.
I was beat. Exhausted to the point of collapse but with hours of work still ahead of me. I knew how to work hard, but I didn’t have a clue what it took to live off the land.
The next couple of years would take some new perspective if we were to stay here. I stepped up my self-taught education and got to work, learning how to work.
I’m going to give you a Cliff Notes version of what you’ll need to do to live off the land. If you’re prepared beforehand, you can avoid some of the shock-value education I received and be prepared in advance.
Here are ten things that are vitally important to know before you make your journey to a self-sustainable life.
1. Your Level of Expertise
I did quite a bit of reading on prepping and self-sustainable living before our move to the country. But it wasn’t nearly enough. While it’s true there are some things that are better learned by experience, book knowledge is important as well.
I suggest you have a fairly thorough knowledge of the six areas listed below before you make your move. I’ll share a little bit about each one here.
I’m guessing a big reason you want to live off the land is to get back to a more natural, self-sustainable diet. Eating organic foods has been one of the biggest blessings to living off the land – at least to our family.
Home grown and stored foods taste better, and they’re usually better for you. However, it’s important that you understand the process for growing and preserving food before you start.
You’ll need to grow your food and keep it safe from bad weather, bugs and animal intruders. You’ll also need to know the methods of food preservation and how to perform them safely.
Here are some of my favorite books on this subject:
- Root Cellaring, by Mike and Nancy Bubel
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery
- The Ball Book of Canning and Preserving, by Ball Canning
I have to say that there’s nothing like tasting raspberry jam you made from berries grown in your own yard. Or apple pie from apples picked off your own tree. We need food to live. If you can get a good handle on sustainable food production and preservation, you’ve learned an invaluable life skill.
Living off the land requires medical knowledge as well. I’m lucky that I come from a family with some medical professionals. But I also have an innate love for learning.
Since I was very young I’ve been the type of person to soak up random medical facts. And the knowledge has benefited me in many ways.
Knowledge is power, my friends – especially in the world of self-sustainable living. If you can learn basic medical knowledge, you’ll gain two benefits:
- First, you’ll have the necessary tools for keeping you and your family safe and healthy to begin with
- Second, you’ll know what to do when a medical situation arises. You’ll know whether it’s something you can take care of yourself or if you’ll need to see a doctor
This is important because you’ll likely be living further from traditional services such as a hospital or doctor’s office. Here are two books that have served our family well as far as medical knowledge is concerned.
- Where there is No Doctor, by David Werner and Carol Thuman
- Where there is No Dentist, by Murray Dickson
Armed with a basic knowledge and supply case of medical and dental products, you’ll be prepared for many medical occurrences.
Note too that as far as medical and dental issues are concerned, prevention is key. Eat well, exercise safely and practice safety measures in all that you do.
Preserve food according to safety recommendations. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If you are considering living off the land, you may be considering raising farm animals as well. You may want to use them as a food source, a work animal or for other reasons.
Growing food is a part of farming too – food for your animals and food for yourself. Whatever your plans are for farming, it’s important to know how to raise and care for any animals you own. It’s also important to understand the work and tools needed for farms as a whole.
You can learn about farming from any number of books or other written or online resources. Or you can ask farmers or other currently living the farm life.
Raising, caring for and using farm animals as a food source is a process that requires a wealth of knowledge. Caring for a large plot of land and growing large amounts of food also requires an in-depth education. Learn what you can before you step into these roles for your real-life experience.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, living off the land will require some type of income source. Luckily, there are many options for producing income in a self-sustainable life.
You could sell food or food products from food you grow on your land. You can sell fresh fruits and vegetables or canned products such as jam. Hiring yourself out for labor jobs in which you use your skills is a possibility as well.
Other options are to raise bees and sell honey, or raise chickens and sell eggs. Think about what types of income sources fit with your skills and personality. Then work to use those sources to create multiple streams of income for yourself.
Minimalism doesn’t have to be a part of self-sustainable living, but it sure can help. The less stuff you own, the less stuff you have to maintain and store. This means you’ll need smaller living quarters and will likely have smaller housing expenses.
The smaller your expenses, the less income you’ll need to produce to fund your lifestyle. Peruse minimalist websites and books and see if you can incorporate some minimalism into your new, self-sustainable life.
Self Defense and Security
Self defense and security is always important but may be even more important when you’re living off the land. If you’re living in a remote area that is plush with wild animals, you’ll need to be prepared to handle their intrusion.
Just last summer we had a 500-pound bear visit our yard. When we first moved in, we had a visit from a large Gray Wolf. We also had a rabid opossum enter our barn.
When you’re living off the land, you have to be prepared to defend yourself from various potential predators. While it’s true that all wild animals aren’t interested in tangling with humans, a tangle is sometimes unavoidable.
For that reason, you need to know how you’ll deal with these types of encounters. You’ll need a plan for defending yourself and/or your family.
You may encounter not-so-friendly people as well. Knowing self defense moves or carrying pepper spray could be one avenue for helping you stay safe on your land. Owning firearms for dealing with wild animals is another.
Another danger could be bad weather. If your lifestyle includes living in something other than a typical home, you’ll need shelter options for bad weather. Educate yourself on all of the various potential threatening scenarios and make a valid plan for dealing with each one.
2. What Type of Land You’ll Buy
If you are moving to a more remote area for your new life, consider carefully before making a land purchase. Whether or not that land has a house on it, you’ll want land that is good for a self-sustainable life.
The soil will need to be right for growing food; not too low and swampy and not too wooded. It will also need to be good for building if you plan on putting a home on the land.
Again, research is key here. Familiarize yourself with the difference between “good” land and “bad” land and buy wisely. Getting land that fits your individual plans and needs is vital.
3. Your Shelter Options
Shelter options are vast in the world of self-sustainable living. Some people choose to live in a traditional home, while others choose a tiny home or a shanty. Others live in an RV or a tent.
Your shelter choices will depend on your family size, your financial situation and the level of comfort you’re expecting. What type of housing you choose is up to you but be sure to research thoroughly to uncover all the facets of each choice.
4. How You’ll Get Power
If you decide you’ll need power for your new lifestyle, you need to choose what your source will be. If it’s the local energy company they’ll need to install a box to get power up to your home. However, if you’re going to truly live off the land you’ll probably end up going with solar power.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to research the ins and outs of installing and using solar power. If you’re going full “live off the land” and not using any official power source, you’ll have different questions.
Questions such as “What will be my heat source?” etc. Be sure to think through all of the needs and scenarios you might encounter. Have a plan for how you’ll be prepared to deal with them as it relates to a power source – or a lack of one.
5. How You’ll Get Water
Water is another concern. If you’re going traditional with a traditional home, you can have a private water well dug. However, those wells are run by electricity if you’re not installing a manual pump.
If you’re not using a manual pump, you’ll want to think about installing one as a backup. Otherwise, you’ll be without water if the electricity goes out. Having an alternative power source such as a generator could be an option for your well too.
If you’re going full immersion where you’ll be getting water from a nearby creek or lake, that’s a different story. You’ll need to have a plan and process for sterilizing the water for consumption.
And you’ll want a plan to get water if the water freezes. Educate yourself on how to do that and what supplies you’ll need.
6. How You’ll Get Food
We’ve talked about this in various other sections here, but you’ll want to consider your food sources. Will you grow all of your own food? Will you hunt and process animals for meat? Will you own farm animals as a food source?
How will you store and preserve your food choices? Do you know how to can meat, vegetables and fruits? Will you have a deep freezer for long term storage? Will you build a root cellar?
Remember that you’ll need to have food sources throughout all of the seasons for where you live. Think carefully about what types of foods you’ll eat, and about how you’ll get and store them.
7. Your Communication Options
This is another important consideration if you want to live off the land. If you have a traditional home with a power source you may have wifi or a land line. This will give you access to reaching others not living on your land.
However, if you are foregoing all sources of electronic communication, you should have a plan for communicating with others. The plan may be as simple as letting people know where you’re at so they can come and find you.
But you’ll need to be able to communicate with them as well. How will you do that? Do you have a viable transportation method?
How will you get to a doctor or hospital in case of emergency? If you have a phone you can dial 911, but what if you don’t? Or what if the power is out?
Have a plan for each person/entity you may need to contact, and how you’ll do that – or vice versa.
8. Your Dependence On/Interaction with Others
I’ve found that our hybrid self-sustainable lifestyle sure is easier with community around. When a storm rolls through or something else happens, neighbors here are running to help those in need.
However, you may decide you want to go it alone. It’s up to you for figuring out a plan regarding how much you want to interact with/depend on others.
Think carefully about the pros and cons of going it alone vs. working together with others. Make a plan for how your community fits in with your plan for self-sufficiency.
9. Your Financial Situation
It’s absolutely important to consider your financial situation as you prepare to live off the land. Depending on how “off the land” you’re living, you will need to have money.
You’ll also want to consider being in a situation where debt obligations aren’t a factor. Financial independence may not require being debt free. However, if you’re simply planning on making income by working the land, debt is probably a factor to consider.
Your money situation should be such that you’ve got plenty of surplus income each month. And the less financial obligations you have, the better.
Income, expenses and financial emergencies should all factor into play as you make your plan for self-sustainable living.
10. Your Mental Attitude
Your ability to have a positive mental attitude is also hugely important. As I’ve learned in our semi-quasi living off the land lifestyle, the work is tough.
Growing and preserving your own food is hard work. Managing a large plot of land is hard work. Living further away from society has many, many benefits. However, it can feel isolating at times – especially during a long, cold winter.
Knowing what you’re in for and being prepared for the ups and downs of self-sustainable living is important. In fact, I’d say it’s vital to success.
11. Your Physical Health
Physical health is another factor important when considering living off the land. It takes quite a bit of physical work to produce food, chop wood for heat or whatever.
For example, if you have horses you’ll need to be able to throw around 60 lb. bales of hay. You’ll need the strength to keep your land in good shape. Canning food takes the ability to stand on your feet for hours at a time.
These are just some of the things to consider if you want to live off the land. Be sure to factor them all in – and more – before you make your move to self-sustainability.