Is it possible for a single person to be self-sufficient?
The answer to this question is a resounding NO!
The reason for the answer is extremely simple: there isn’t enough time in a day for a single person to do all the things that would make for a totally self-sufficient lifestyle. Trying to do it all without some help would lead to exhaustion, burnout, and a generally negative attitude towards living a sustainable lifestyle. (“I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work.”)
Sustainability does not come free. Despite what many detractors of Permaculture say about this school of thought, it does take a boatload of effort to get everything started well and keep it running smoothly. It may get easier over time, once the systems are in place, but it’s never a matter of being a “lazy farmer”. There will always be something to do, even if it’s not directly “farm”-related. Planting, harvesting, fertilizing, building, maintaining… and then there are the after-harvest activities of preserving and sharing the surplus. Animals don’t take time off, and being a good animal husband is as important on a small-holding as on a large farm.
Most of these activities are labor-intensive and time-consuming. In short, exhausting!
In 2021 I have had the pleasure and privilege of attending an online Permaculture Design Certificate course with Tom Kendall at Permeco Inc. out of Queensland, Australia. I did not go into it without any prior knowledge, as I have been an avid follower of Geoff Lawton’s work for many years, but I must confess that I had many misconceptions. Permaculture is not all about swales and mulch and food forests and composting just about everything. OK, that too, but mostly it’s about shaping your activities around three main ethics and a set of principles that accompany them. If you don’t have that right, then everything else is just farming.
One of the three ethics of Permaculture is PEOPLE CARE. That does not simply involve being nice to fellow human beings, but fostering a very real sense of community. Community members help each other and play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There are some things that I simply can’t do, but someone else can. And vice versa. And by bartering skills and products, we can all live a great life.
Here in South Africa, we have the (oft-neglected) philosophy of Ubuntu. It all reflects back to being part of a community. Trying to do things by oneself leads to all kinds of bad outcomes.
It’s time for all of us to get back to our roots. And when we get back to our roots, we might be so lucky as to find our tribe, too!