Thursday, 21 November 2013

Super Self Sufficiency

The concept of self sufficiency has come a long way since The Goode Life first hit our screens. No longer seen as eccentric or unnecessarily difficult, the tide of fashion has turned and with people once again taking an interest in sourcing local produce, either for health, economic or ethical reasons, interest in growing your own seasonal produce, poultry keeping and rare breeds is at a high. This isn't just a countryside quirk, reserved for us privileged folk with plenty of green space and fresh air. In the towns and cities community projects are in place to encourage people to take an interest in growing their own veg and interest in allotments means there are waiting lists for plots; in 2013 there were 52 people waiting per 100 plots in the UK.

As well as being an interesting and rewarding hobby, growing your own can be a handy way of earning a little extra cash. If you decide that your plot is produce more fruit, veg or eggs than you can keep up with or store, you will no doubt find it very easy to sell; organic fruit and veg and free range eggs are desirable products and you may well find people in the local community eager to take them off your hands.

One line of business that is growing in popularity across the country is alpaca farming. These characterful creatures are small enough to be kept on a couple of acres (around five alpacas per acres is recommended) but also make brilliant 'guard dogs' – scaring off foxes and safeguarding your poultry. Alpacas are a specialist animal and will require enough space to exercise, special camelid feed and warm, dry, spacious shelter. They will need regular toenail trimming to avoid foot problems and movement licence regulations must be observed. Not to mention the hours of your time everyday devoted to their care.

In the spring or early summer they will need to have their heavy coats shorn. Alpaca wool is exquisitely soft and very fashionable and can sell at a high price. As alpaca numbers rise and a high demand is placed on mills, it can take a long time for the raw fleece to be spun and dyed into usable wool. Whether you plan to sell the wool or enjoy using it to create your own products, it will certainly be worth the wait.

Chickens are a popular choice in gardens and smallholdings; what could be more rewarding than a constant supply of tasty eggs, freshly laid each day. Chickens require space to roam and exhibit their natural behaviour and if you live in a residential area you will need to consider your neighbours; in an enclosed environment unpleasant smells may be a problem as well as other environmental factors. Your chickens will also need a solid, sturdy pen or chicken house to keep them safe from foxes overnight. If you are feeling charitable, the British Hen Welfare Trust rehomes ex battery hens. These birds respond brilliantly to the change in scenery (and fortune!) and will have many more egg laying years ahead of them.

Whatever self-sufficiency project you have in mind or are able to facilitate, you will be reaping the benefits each time you enjoy the fruits of your labour.  

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