Becoming self sufficient

cws451

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 18, 2013
87
3
43
East Tennessee
hello everyone So im looking for some ways to save money but also have fun doing it. I have started with chickens and turkeys and Im starting a garden here shortly. Does anyone have any idea of stuff i can do with low start up costs?
 

RJSchaefer

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 18, 2013
180
7
88
Rockford, IL
Cheese! I love making cheese. I whip up a batch of mozzarella, use the whey to make pizza dough (that gets frozen) or feed it to the birds/dogs/ducks/rabbits/lawn. Always makes me feel like a mad scientist. All you need to start is a stainless steel pot (clearance or thrift shop), a thermometer (thrift shop), stainless steel spoon ("..."), a strainer (you probably already have one) and some cloth. Some say to use cheese cloth. I've found old, 100% cotton pillow cases, cut into 8 pieces and hung from a cabinet via twine work just as well. I have a dedicated cheese pot for those times I just can't bring myself to scrub but need to make dinner. It also doubles as a convenient storage device for all the supplies.

Cottage cheese is the easiest. Milk (skim or 2% works best) and plain white vinegar. For mozzarella or cheddar, you need different ingredients, such as rennet (hard to find, I order) and citric acid (easy to find). All told you're looking at ~$50 on the cheap to start cheese making.

Vermicomposting (aka a worm bin) is a ton of fun (unless you're queasy about worms) and a great way to use up kitchen produce scraps. Use a rubbermaid bin ($5) and order worms ($20). They self-sustain as long as they have adequate scraps.

We started keeping rabbits this year. They can be purchased relatively inexpensively if you only plan on meat production. We got 6 for $60, since pedigree didn't matter. The cages were tough. I wanted to make the system extensible in case we grew it into a side business, so we've spent ~$150 fabricating them. You can do it a lot cheaper, though, especially if you beg/borrow/steal materials. They hang on the wall in the chicken coop. My daughter is brainstorming a way to collect the droppings to sell as fertilizer on Craigslist, to bankroll her Angora rabbit dreams. Once every few days we spend about 3 hours rotating which rabbits get to roam free in the chicken run, to exercise them out of their cages.

For the garden, this is going to sound crazy, we don't have very good garden soil. It's quite compacted. Instead of tilling, or investing in raised beds, we picked up tires that were dumped at a nearby (abandoned) farm. Each tire was "washed" in a rainstorm, then wrapped in black plastic and filled with a mixture of bagged topsoil, "fertilizer" from the coop and sphagnum moss. We're doing potatoes, squash, pumpkins, spinach and broccoli that way.

If there's something you're really hankering to try, get on a local farmer's website and see if there's anyone in the area. Instead of doing a full-scale garden, we're running our experiment and trading work for veggies with a farmer down the road. My daughter is trying to find someone who raises Angora rabbits who will let her come help in exchange for know-how. It's a great way to get your feet wet, gain experience, and not waste money on start-up costs.
 

cws451

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 18, 2013
87
3
43
East Tennessee
wow thanks for all the information. I love cottage cheese so i will have to try that!!! Do u raise worms? do they repoduce fairly quickly? the reason y i ask is this would be great snacks for my chickens and turkeys?
 

cws451

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 18, 2013
87
3
43
East Tennessee
i have thought about raising meat rabbits as well. But i have never tried rabbit before so im not even sure i would like it :p
 

UnlabeledMama

Chirping
7 Years
Oct 9, 2012
270
9
93
Western North Carolina
I am new to the self-sufficiency bandwagon, but I've always been one to dive head first into a project!
wink.png
Things I have started in the last year:

Chickens for eggs
Garden
Raising rabbits for meat and to sell
Planted fruit trees
Canning
Line Drying clothes

Things I have always done:
Making soap
Herb garden
Composting
Cooking mainly from scratch
Stocking up my pantry from sales

That's all I can think of off the top of my head!
 
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RJSchaefer

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 18, 2013
180
7
88
Rockford, IL
wow thanks for all the information. I love cottage cheese so i will have to try that!!! Do u raise worms? do they repoduce fairly quickly? the reason y i ask is this would be great snacks for my chickens and turkeys?
They do reproduce pretty fast. I started my [new] bin beginning of last month and I could already see a slight increase in numbers.

The extras can be snacks. You can also sell them as bait, sell their castings, etc, if you get too much.
 

Ole and Lena

Songster
8 Years
Jul 22, 2011
389
44
123
Wright Co Minnesota
Fat of the land. Maple syrup (next spring), berries, wild fruits and nuts, fish and game, etc. There are many opportunities on public lands, also some surprising stuff growing in vacant urban lots and along rivers and RR tracks.

I used to collect enough wild grapes along the bank of a river right in town to make a year's worth of wine, vinegar and jelly for our family. You can also get into fishing pretty cheaply, especially for catfish and "rough" fish. The basics of a cheap fiberglass rod, monofilimant line, hook, sinker and stink bait work well.
 

cstronks

Songster
Mar 12, 2013
751
97
176
New Jersey
hello everyone So im looking for some ways to save money but also have fun doing it. I have started with chickens and turkeys and Im starting a garden here shortly. Does anyone have any idea of stuff i can do with low start up costs?
I don't know what your resources are, or what you consider a relatively low cost, but if you are looking to raise food then you should check out aquaponics. This is basically small scale fish-farming. Breeds like tilapia and catfish work well. Aside from a large Rubbermaid water tub (100 gallons for like $50), or any other stock tank, all you need is a filter and fish. Aquaponics guarantees that the seafood you are eating is not genetically engineered (or OVERPRICED)!! You can also grow a variety of garden plants over the water. I've seen many people grow lettuce on top of ponds because the roots feed the fish and the entire system takes care of itself. Definitely something interesting to look into in regards to growing your own food!
 

Life is Good!

Songster
9 Years
Apr 14, 2011
1,179
227
236
suburbia Chicagoland
Maple syrup making - need either red maple or sugar maple tree. Silver maple never runs well for us. Box elder works also, but I've not tried that tree, despite having many on our property. Need stainless steel stock pot sets (Harbor Frieght, $19.99 for set of 4 graduated pots) and a stove to boil it over. We use a propane stove (camping stove) outside to boil off most of the water and finish it inside under easier to control environment. Glass canning jars to hold your produce. Taps were $3 at local museum (forest preserve). To collect the sap, clean out plastic milk jug, make small hole near top of jug to hang off tap. Done. Collect when weather is just starting to turn warm - 40 during daytime, 20's at night is the best season. This year, the season was 3wks. Last year, it was 5 days. Each year is different.

Grape jelly making - super easy. Need grapes and sugar, small amount of butter if you wish to control foaming. Many many youtube videos to help make it work. (same with maple syrup).

Garden - if you cannot put in beds, simply heap dirt in row formation with walkway between. Walkway can be covered with grass clippings, mulch or other materials so the mud is less. Plant away! What to plant? The foods you eat. Potatoes are super easy and fairly prolific. Tomatoes. Squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans, peas, lettuces/spinaches.....plant what you'll eat. Last year we tried broccoli - never got cool enough to develop heads - great looking large leaves, no heads! We plant brussel sprouts, but only eat them in the winter, so plan harvests accordingly!

Chickens. Meat and eggs.

Bees. Top bar hive going this spring for about $60 for 2 hives - bees are working hard. Next spring we can harvest some honey to replace sugars we use in baking. Read, read, read!

Edible landscaping - fruit trees, sunflowers, artichokes, so much more! There's some really nice new books that have come out in the past 3 years on this topic. Check you local public library and start dreaming!

The problem here isn't knowledge - it's figuring out what you WANT to do. What you CAN do is nearly limitless!
 

ChickensRDinos

Songster
7 Years
Aug 19, 2012
2,242
240
208
Los Angeles
I just recently started an aquaponics system. It did require an initial investment but my yard is very very small and I want to experiment with how self sufficient I can get even in an urban yard. I built the greenhouse myself which saved money and am using an old 330 gallon tank that used to store cooking oil as my fish tank -- I found it on craigslist.

I am growing vegetables completely soil-less in rain gutters inside the greenhouse and have 30 tilapia fingerlings in the tank. The "nitrogen rich" (fish poo water) waters the plants and the plants absorb the nutrients, cleaning the water which then goes back into the tank for a beautiful little completely organic and edible ecosystem. I am growing my own duckweed in a used kiddy pool and also do red worm composting. The fish can eat the duckweed and the worms. I plan on breeding guppies for them at some point down the road but have not found a cheap enough tank for them yet.

My whole set up probably cost about $800-1k but you could definitely start a little smaller than I did and spend less. It really is just a one time investment because once you get going there is very little maintenance expense and I will not be buying as much food commercially. I will be growing a lot of food and higher quality food at that and think I will definitely save money in the long term. I spent extra on little solar panels for the pump and fan and a few fancy things that were not critical.

I am just starting out on my first crop by I think it is REALLY fun so far. I try to put as much back into the little eco system as I can. I dry the chicken poop (sort of pre-compost it to lessen the acidic-ness) enough to give it to the worms, who feed the fish, who feed the plants, who feed the chickens. It's like magic. The aquaponics system does require daily care to check the water PH.

I also have 6 laying hens. I grow my own fodder for them and farm mealworms (really easy and really really cheap). I am thinking about adding meat rabbits into the equation at the end of the year.

I love to try to learn how to do as many things as possible myself. I recently learned how to sew. I change the oil in my car. My partner and I laid our own kitchen tile. I bike to work whenever possible. Sometimes it is just about the little things. You can save a lot of money.
 
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