How We Promote Food Independence.

Happy Independence Day, sweet readers. I hope you're spending your holiday exactly as you wish, whether that be with friends and family, or in the solitude of your home or garden. Where ever you want to be, I hope you're there.

John and I are spending the holiday with my grandparents, parents, brother, sister, and their significant others at my grandparents' house on the lake. It couldn't be any more perfect, I think. However, traveling and being away from home makes me appreciate our home even more. Many of you would agree that there's no place like home.

Speaking of Independence Day, our home is where we assert most of our independence and take advantage of certain freedoms. {I'm not talking about walking around in my underwear.} John and I wanted to reduce our dependence on the grocery store for our food. And on others for the things we need to grow our own food. And on the system that produces, manages, and transports our food.

There are so many ways in the last three years that we have {slowly} began to assert our food independence, and we'd like to share a few of them with you.

We grow our own food. 

This includes:

  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • zucchini
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • green and purple beans
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • lettuce, kale, swiss chard, and other leafy greens
  • a variety of hot and bell peppers
  • a variety of herbs
  • sunflowers (for the chickens and birds)
Every year we try a new vegetable, and every year we learn something new. For example, one year I grew eggplant and okra. We didn't like either of them, so we knew not to grow them again. Another year I had a miserable tomato crop, so I did a lot of research to prevent blight and blossom end rot. I've only recently started a garden journal, which will help me detail the best solutions for our little family.

We keep backyard chickens. 

This is our first year keeping backyard chickens (for the purpose of eggs) and we've found them to be a great addition to our little homestead in the city. Not only will our small flock provide us with enough eggs to more than meet our needs, but they also eat almost all of our leftover kitchen scraps. They also scratch and peck around the yard in a spacious, mobile enclosure giving fertilizer to the lawn.

We compost. 

Anything the chickens don't get, or can't eat, goes into our compost bin. I am a lazy composter, which means we simply add 'greens' and 'browns', some water on occasion, and let it sit. We'll stir it up once or twice a season, but at the end of fall, we empty the bin into our raised garden beds to fertilize for the upcoming spring.

Composting is easy, and something you can discretely do to keep non-trash items out of the landfill. Please, please consider adding a small composting bin or pile to your home.

We collect rain. 

While this year has become a very wet one so far, there have been many summers where we've experienced extreme drought in Eastern Iowa. We have 14 (!!!) rain barrels on our small city lot. This ensures I can still water my garden during a summer drought.

We've found that it takes almost one 50 gallon barrel to water all six of my raised beds and some of the edible landscaping. Calculating that, we have enough water stored to water my garden every day for 15-16 days. Granted, in an extreme drought we won't water daily, which will give us a few weeks of stored rainwater for garden sustenance.

If you have a small garden or a container garden, think of what one or two barrels could provide. They aren't expensive to make, either.

We have edible landscaping and container gardens. 

While we have much improvement to make in this area, we have added edible landscaping to a few places around our home. For example, around the tree in our backyard, we have leaf lettuce and other herbs that do well in the shade.

Also, on our front porch we have potted herbs instead of flowers. They're just as pretty and green as flowers, too!

We barter. 

There are many things we can't grow or raise in the city, like bees. Recently, we were talking with our trash collector who lives in a neighboring town. He has a hive in the city (legally), and agreed to trade us honey for eggs this fall.

Bartering or trading for things helps both parties, and is free. It is also a unique way to 'double-down' by allowing two parties to be food independent.

We shop locally, and at farmer's markets. 

When it comes to vegetables that don't grow well in our backyard garden, or baked goods and speciality items I don't know how to make, we make a stop at our local farmer's market. This market is smaller than the mega-markets held every few weeks, and it's held twice weekly only a few blocks from our house. The prices are fair, and the convenience definitely tops that of our local grocery store.

We preserve food. 

We grow more in our gardens than we can eat fresh. No doubt. We preserve food for the fall and winter months, and the rest is given to family, friends, or local food banks that can accept produce donations. This is one way we ensure we're not buying pizza or pasta sauce from the store. We don't purchase frozen corn because we have our own. I make my jams and jellies for our morning toast, rather than buy it.

Especially if you live in an area where you can't grow produce all year long (like Iowa!), it's essential to preserve a bit of the harvest. This asserts your food independence year round. Check out our Recipes page for some of the items we've preserved so far. 

We share our surplus. 

Anything and everything we don't eat fresh or preserve is shared. We do not let produce rot in the garden when someone else can use it. Last year we donated a lot of excess produce to a local food bank that was able to accept donations of fresh foods, and we intend to do so again this year.

We collaborate with my parents. 

My parents live on a farm in the country. They have much more space than we do, so they gladly grow plants that need more space. This includes sweet corn, squash, pumpkins, melons, and more. They plant more than they need and share the excess with family and friends. We do the same. 

We believe in alternative therapies. 

Food is medicine. Good food can make you feel energized and healthy, and bad foods (or foods that don't agree with you, particularly) can make you feel pretty shitty. We've found that by asserting food independence it naturally led us to a better, healthier diet.

Recently, we've also begun using essential oils for cleaning and emotional well-being. I'm excited to share some of my thoughts with you in a few weeks. 

How do you assert your food independence, or general independence from The System? Share your thoughts, please! 

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  1. Awesome post Kelli! I especially love this time of year because I find my trips to the grocery store and quick and I don't need to purchase much. My goal is to plant a much bigger garden next year and step it up. We subscribe to a local CSA and I visit the farmers' market often but I think I'm ready to take on the challenge of producing more of my own food :)

  2. So, so glad I found your blog, Kelli! I do many of these same things (still in the dreaming stage of chickens). Always love finding kindred spirits! :)

  3. Regarding the rain water collection, how do you deal with mosquitoes?

    1. Hey Jantina :) Thankfully we haven't had too much trouble with mosquitoes since we use the water often and regularly. It doesn't stand still for long. However, I noticed after a vacation, we had the beginnings of mosquitos. We used the water in our garden right away after that. Not sure what others might suggest for longer-term water collection? I suppose you could treat the water in some way?

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