The Art of Self-Sufficiency

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

Many years ago I was at a job interview and the interviewer asked the question, “What are your goals?” By that point in my life I was getting weary of the 8-hour-per day grind, listening to employees whining and complaining about everything, and just feeling like I was missing life.

My answer to his question was a very matter-of-factly orated, “I want to be retired from corporate life, living in a cabin on the river, in as self-sufficient a manner as possible by the time I am 35 years old (I was 32 at the time). He laughed, and his response was “Yeah, I read Mother Earth News too.” Is it just me, or does everyone dream of living their own life on their terms?

I got the job, and when I was 36 my late husband and I bought 88 acres on a river in Cumberland County, Tennessee. A year later the place I worked for offered an early retirement incentive for folks who wanted to retire, so I did! We cut and milled trees to build a cabin, purified our own drinking water, had a composting toilet and a small garden, and I played in the woods a couple of years. We needed more income, so I had to go back to work for 14 more years. At least I got a taste of it for the time being.

You might think that you need lots of property, lots of knowledge, and lots of money to be self sufficient. Not so. There are many different levels of self sufficiency, and all of them feel good. Of course, a lot of folks start out with growing some of their own food to become more self sufficient. You do need some property to grow the veggies, but a very small (10x10 garden) will produce a surprising amount of vegetables.

Making your own soap and body care products such as shampoo and moisturizer is another way to avoid chemicals in the store bought products, and get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.  Making clothes, doing your own mechanic work, building construction–it all gives one great satisfaction, but there’s another way of being self-sufficient that most of us never even dream of.

The most wonderful aspect of life that I discovered during my self-sufficiency exploration was the spiritual part; the part that no one can see but me. Taking control of that aspect of my life has been the most amazing journey. Most people don’t pay any attention to their innermost being, but it’s as real as the nose on your face. And truthfully, the only way to access it is through self-sufficiency; after all, it is the self.

I discovered that my self is not some pie-in-the-sky abstract theory, but is truly a reality. The way to access your self is through sitting quietly and watching your thoughts. After doing this for some time you will realize that your mind isn’t interested in being with your body because it’s always off on some tangent, and your body isn’t part of your self because it changes all the time and your self doesn’t. The realization that I was a crowd of three was just the beginning.

After sitting quietly on a routine basis for several months, I also noticed that I didn’t get upset over things that used to bother me. My patience with others increased, my desire for entertainment (tv, movies) drastically reduced, I didn’t enjoy drinking alcohol as much, and I found myself reading more books and finding company with like-minded people. Seems like discovering my selfmade me like me a lot better. You’ve probably heard the saying, “How can you expect someone else to like you if you don’t even like yourself?”

It’s time for us to let go of the excessive amount of external stimulation we’ve got going on in this day and age and go inward. If people would just start slowing down, sitting quietly, and introspecting, there’s no limit to how wonderful the world could be. It’s time to become self-sufficient!

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Be careful what you ask for

Be careful what you ask for

Have you ever come to that point in your life where you ask the question, “Seriously, what am I doing with my life?” I asked myself that question during my 30’s, again in my 40’s, and then again in my 50’s.

The answer in my 30’s was to quit a good-paying government job to pursue “the good life” off the grid and in the woods. That lasted about 2 years, I was then back to work. The answer in my 40’s was to leave a 25-year marriage that had turned abusive and start again on my own. In my 50’s I started looking inward, looking for answers to life there.

I made up my mind that I wanted to learn about the inner part of me. I made a list of what I wanted. Yes, it was a “pie-in-the-sky” sort of list, but hey, it was my dream, so I made it large! The list was:

  • The next man I met I wanted to be a spiritual man. I was over “macho” men, men who drank a lot, and I was not interested in rich men. He needed to know how to cook.
  • I wanted to figure out something spectacular to do with the farm before I died. It’s a wonderful place with a creek, pond, a cave, woods, and pasture. Too special to just let it go.
  • I wanted to figure out what makes us humans tick. Get some answers.
  • I wanted to learn how to meditate.

So, these questions led me down a path of crystals, moon watching, ancient wisdom, festivals, folklore, yoga, and meditation. One of my friends invited me to a yoga studio to listen to this spiritual teacher from India (Avi). I heard him talk and was interested, but left the studio with no plans for future interaction since he was just visiting America.

Turns out that Avi decided to stay back in America when his friend returned to India. He said, “My work is in America because we’re stressed and we need meditation.” Lol, is he ever right!

He was staying with several people on a rotational basis and when I found out he was still in America, I invited him to stay here some too, since the upstairs of the house was just cluttered with my crafting habits.

One thing led to another, we collaborated on his mission in America, and voila! Meditation Farm was born. We made the upstairs into a sleeping/work/study/yoga area for Avi, and we’re developing the farm into a meditation retreat where Avi can teach folks how to de-stress and seek within.  Now my retirement days are filled with meeting hall construction, book editing, video filming and transcribing, meditating, and I’ve got a front row seat with an awakened spiritual teacher. How’s that for getting a dream fulfilled?!

The only thing I would have changed is that I was sort of looking for a spiritual man closer to my age. Oh well, I have no time for romance anyway–got lots of work to do!  Be careful what you ask for…….you just might get it!

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Chusi and her babies

Chusi and her babies

Back in September we noticed a stray squash vine growing, just off the back steps, with several green squashes on it.  The fruits really couldn’t be identified as any one specific squash, as it was a volunteer plant, and squash plants interbreed very readily. 

Avi kept his eye on these squashes for a couple of weeks and one morning I heard him yelling, Terry, Terry, come here!  I went out there and he pulled back the leaves of the plant and lo and behold, there laid Chusi, a beautifully colored, perfectly healthy, nice size—- ummmm RATTLESNAKE!!!  Avi said he had his face down in the plants and just happened to see her out of the corner of his eye, just inches from his face. 

I use the word “her” with confidence, because the next day she began having babies (omg).  We really wanted to relocate her but couldn’t find anyone available to do so, so we decided to just let nature take its course.  I had to chuckle at one phone call we made to a “wildlife removal specialist”—she said “could you take a picture of the snake and send it to me so I can verify that it is a rattlesnake?”  I told her that I could, but she was coiled up with the rattle right next to her head and she wiggled it when we got too close! 

Every few hours we would check and there would be another baby.  And then another.  And another.  When she was finally through multiplying, there were six baby rattlesnakes!  Seeing all the babies all wadded up in a pile was a little unnerving, sort of like one of those bad dreams you might have once in a while, but everyone remained calm throughout the entire ordeal. 

Of course we checked “the Google” to see what the behavior of a rattlesnake having babies would be, and turns out that the babies stick around mom until they’ve all molted, about a week or so.  Sure enough, they all molted, one-by-one.  Nat Geo at our back door! 

The Google also said that mama would be very hungry after giving birth.  She was.  We checked after a few days and she had an enormous bulge in her mid-section that stayed for about two days.  She didn’t move for about 3 days, just basked in the sun while her babies danced and played all around (lol)! 

After about 20 days I went out and had a talk with her.  All the babies had moved along and I told her that she was welcome for the secure place to have her babies but that it was time to move on.  She did.

BTW, the name “Chusi” is “snakeflower” in Native American language.

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