What does it really mean to be self-reliant?


Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to be “self-reliant.” 

We talk a lot about self-reliance (or self-sufficiency) in the homesteading community, and outwardly it may seem as if the goal of “achieving” self-reliance is what ultimately drives many of us to live this lifestyle in the first place.

But what does self-reliance look like in the 21st century? Is it actually achievable, or just a pipe dream?

Is it even possible to be truly self-reliant?

 

Is self-reliance a delusion?

A few years ago, Forbes published an article titled Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance is a Delusion.

In the article, the author explains that he’s a big fan of “shows about doomsday preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, generally people who live off the grid,” citing Live Free Or Die and Homestead Rescue as a couple of his favourites.

He then goes on to say that “there’s a central delusion in these shows that is never far from my mind when I’m watching these shows: off the grid people are not self-reliant, but instead are mooching off of the civil society, government, and safety net the rest of us contribute to.”

What the WHAAA???

He continues, “the people in these shows often describe a very romantic vision of the lives they have chosen [and] the ethos underlying it. They describe themselves as fully self-reliant, and criticize the rest of society as being dependent and lacking in this self-reliance… they nevertheless benefit tremendously from society.”

The author argues that even the most hardcore, off-the-grid homesteaders still rely on modern tools, resources and material goods (even if they’re second-hand) that they are not able to produce themselves.

He also says that most homesteaders will (at some point or another) rely on modern medical treatment, and that they benefit from social systems and services like private property protections, rule of law, and the military which provides them with safety and security.

He concludes that “self-reliance is for the most part a myth. Unless they live in an extremely remote region, use all homemade tools, and will refuse the safety net if they need it, most homesteaders are far from self-reliant.”

Let’s unpack this…

What does self-reliant really mean?

 

Unpacking the myth of modern day self-reliance

I’ll begin by saying that the author of this Forbes article is not completely wrong. Most (if not all) homesteaders do benefit from society in one way or another, and will eventually need to rely on others to provide for them in some way. But this has always been true for homesteaders, and indeed, for humans in general.

We are complex, social creatures and we live in an increasingly complex world. It’s difficult if not impossible to achieve complete self-reliance and independence. And besides, that’s not the goal of most homesteaders anyway. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

The fact is, even back in the pioneer days, homesteaders still had to go to town to purchase or trade for goods they couldn’t produce themselves, and they still relied on their neighbours and friends to help out with larger projects, exchanging goods and services, etc.

As folks aged, they relied on the younger members of their families and communities to help care for them, and many even called the doctor and relied on the medical system of the day when necessary. 

Even back then, homesteaders benefitted from the protection of law enforcement and even from “government handouts” like the free land given to settlers by the government during the days of the Homestead Act.

Going back even farther, humans have always depended on each other for survival. Whether they were members of the first civilizations of the ancient times or the tribes that date back to the hunter gatherer times, very few humans have truly “gone it alone” without any outside help.

Even the family unit is inherently interdependent and so one could make the argument that homesteading family members who rely on each other for various reasons can not actually be considered “self-reliant.”

In reality, small, decentralized, local communities and strong, interdependent relationships with one another are essential to self-reliance in many ways. But then can we really call ourselves self-reliant?

Is anyone truly self-reliant??

Related: 6 Ways to Promote Self-Reliance in Your Community

 

Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century.

What does it mean to be self-reliant?

The concept of self-reliance has been written about many times throughout history. Some of the first and most famous literary works on self-reliance was written back in the 1800’s by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, both of whom spoke about self-reliance and preached the importance of maintaining free will and autonomy over one’s own life.

In his famous essay appropriately titled Self-Reliance, Emerson wrote “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” 

By “a foolish consistency” he was referring to conformity, and was making the case that one should think critically and follow his or her own instincts and judgment (ie. rely on one’s SELF to decide what’s best for them, rather than relying on systems and “the state” to decide for them).

In Thoreau’s famous book Walden (which was all about his experience living a self-reliant lifestyle in a log cabin on Walden Pond), Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

He also wrote that “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” 

Both Emerson and Thoreau (who were friends) seemed to believe that self-reliance is mostly about upholding the core values of independence, individuality and self-determination. 

While this can (and often does) entail relying on one’s own skills and abilities to produce or procure what’s needed rather than relying on others, it can be argued that self-reliance is more of a mindset, an attitude and a way of life rather than a strict adherence to surviving only off of what you can do and produce alone with your own hands.

Even Henry David Thoreau lived on someone else’s land (Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly owned the land next to Walden Pond). He traded homegrown beans for rice and other commodities he couldn’t produce himself, and he likely used tools that he didn’t make himself to build his log home. And he almost certainly didn’t make the the ink or the paper that he used to pen his legendary essays on.

But in comparison to the rest of civilized society, he was definitely much MORE self-reliant than the average guy (or gal).

Which brings up an interesting consideration:

Maybe becoming completely self-reliant IS a delusion. Maybe it’s just not possible. But maybe that shouldn’t be the goal anyway.

Instead, maybe self-reliance is about the constant pursuit to be MORE self-reliant, even if absolute, 100% self-reliance is never truly attainable.

And despite what others may say; Despite the opinions of a suit-clad, New York City-based economist and Forbes contributor who admits to believing this lifestyle “seems like a hard life,” I would argue that complete and total self-reliance isn’t the point or the goal.

In fact, I don’t believe there is an end goal! Self-reliance is an ongoing pursuit, or journey, if you will. And it’s a noble and worthwhile one.

Not to mention, it’s precisely this ongoing pursuit that keeps things interesting. If anyone were to ever “achieve” self-reliance, what else would there be left to work toward?

The pursuit – the JOURNEY – is what drives us.

 

Self-reliance is a term that gets used a lot in the homesteading community, but what is self-reliance? Is it actually achievable, or is it a delusion? Is true self-reliance even possible? We explore the myths, misconceptions and realities of what it really means to be self-sufficient in the 21st century.

What I know for sure…

What I know for sure is that self-reliance shouldn’t be regarded as an all-or-nothing venture. Just because one can never attain complete and total self-reliance doesn’t mean the only other moral option is to give up trying altogether and conform to modern society’s standards and expectations.

We are an “all or nothing” society it seems. We often think that if we can’t do something perfectly, what’s the point of even trying?

But as with just about everything that’s worth doing, working toward greater self-reliance and independence is worth doing imperfectly. Don’t be dissuaded by a lack of experience or knowledge or by where you live or even what you’re “legally allowed” or physically capable of doing. Even one small step toward being more self-sufficient is a step in the right direction.

My advice is to start with your mindset. I wrote a post about this way back when I started blogging, all about the traits and attitudes that make for a successful homesteader. I believe that having the right mindset is a foundational first step on the path to any goal or dream you’re working toward.

Then take it one step at a time. Have realistic expectations and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly and all at once. Take comfort in the fact that no matter where you are on the journey, you’ll never run out of interesting and empowering new skills and things to learn and try.

Above all, enjoy the pursuit. At the end of the day, it’s the pursuit of our goals and dreams that makes life worth living. Actually achieving them only provides a momentary high.

I’ll leave you with one final quote by Henry David Thoreau (whose literature I definitely recommend reading!)…

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

In other words, you do you!

To the pursuit of self-reliance! To independence and individualism! And above all, to the pursuit of dreams, and to never letting the haters stop you in your tracks;)

What does self-reliance mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below👇

 

Ready to take the next step toward greater self-reliance?

While we may never achieve total self-reliance, we can work toward becoming MORE self-reliant and less dependent on corrupt and unreliable systems and industries who consistently put their own interests ahead of ours. But it can be tough to know where to start or what to focus our attention on, and it can be even more difficult to go it alone. 

That’s why I decided to create the Society of Self-Reliance; a monthly membership and private community that focuses on the many different themes and aspects of self-sufficiency. From growing and preserving food to crafting your own herbal medicine to learning basic construction and survival skills to creating greater financial independence, we’ll be covering all the different aspects of self-sufficiency over time. But more importantly, we’ll have a private space to connect and learn from one another. Because remember: A strong community makes for greater self-sufficiency!

I’ll be opening the doors to the Society for a limited time next week at a discounted rate for the first round of students.

If you’re ready to take the next step on your self-sufficiency journey and reclaim your independence, join the waitlist here!

I hope to see you inside:)

 

 

 

 


CATEGORIES
HOMESTEADING
REAL FOOD
NATURAL LIVING

1 Comment

  1. Lorraine

    Good points and love the quotes. Many people consider me “a granola” because I cook from scratch and use very little process foods. I like to eat “real food” that taste good with herbs and spices that we grew in our garden or picked up at a farmers’ market or what my husband hunted for meat. I consider myself “a modern day homesteader” for I like my indoor gas stove, washing machine, dish washer, refrigerator, freezer and of course indoor bathroom. I am more in tune to what I purchase and consume. I prefer to repurpose anything I can for another use, can, dry and freeze food, make my own cleaning products. I only produce one garbage a month and I could go longer but just want to empty the can after a month. I live the reduce and reuse concept all the time and always try to think of ways to do this more than I have for years. I mend clothes rather than throwing clothes out. I cut old t-shirts for rags. I love to do some crafts when I can find some spare time as well. I love to decorate with real greens, pine cones and assorted dried plants and seeds from the outdoors for afterwards I can compost it all. There is so much all of us can do to help Mother Earth stay healthy. We all have our limits on what or what not we are willing to do and that is okay but any little bit by everyone helps. I prefer to enjoy friends and family at wherever they are at in life and not be judgmental for we all can only try our best and keep our sanity at the same time. I enjoy being in tune with nature and enjoying the outdoors and trying my best to keep the environment and my home healthy with taking the time to do all I do. It is time consuming but I find it satisfying to care about Mother Earth and all she has to offer us to enjoy. Love watching wild life so much. My husband says, we are easily entertained. I enjoy following you for you keep it simple, positive and very productive in your creating.

    Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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I don't know about where you're from, but around here the Christmas decorations have been on store shelves since August and the first carton of eggnog I saw at the grocery store was in September! ⁣

I'm all for celebrating the season, but I think it loses something when it becomes Christmas all year long (or at least when it spans 2 or even 3 seasons!)⁣

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Do you like to start celebrating Christmas as early as possible or do you prefer to wait until December like me?⁣

Let me know in the comments 👇
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What’s in your bug out bag??

Yesterday I was in my Stories sharing a bit about emergency preparedness and what I’m doing to get prepared for whatever the future holds.

I also asked YOU what emergency skills or supplies you recommend having in your back pocket “just in case,” and one of the responses I got was to have a bug out bag packed and ready to go.

This got me thinking it was high time to pull out my bug out bag and go through it because it’s been a couple years since I last did so. I decided to share it with you here and show you what I keep packed and ready to go and go through what needs updating and what I’m missing.

If the concept of a bug out bag is new to you, have a watch through this video and check out this article on 15 Emergency Preparedness Items You Need to Have Packed and Ready to Go: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/15-emergency-preparedness-items-you-need-packed-ready-to-go/

Also, if getting more prepared for anything and everything from a power outage to a natural disaster to a medical emergency to a man made disaster like a war or a cyber attack is a goal of yours, be sure to check out the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, which is packed with great advice on emergency preparedness for any situation. (Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com)

I’d also love to hear from you!

Do you keep a bug out bag packed?

What do you keep in it?

What types of emergency situations are you preparing for in your area?

Let me know in the comments 👇

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Do you have what you need on hand to take care of yourself and your family in the event of a worst case scenario?

With everything going on in the world these days, we’re getting more and more serious about equipping ourselves with the tools, supplies and skills needed to handle emergency situations if the need arises.

Between growing nuclear tensions, the ongoing threat of pandemics, cyber attacks and a looming energy crisis, medical staff and supply shortages, and general “everyday” medical, financial and other miscellaneous emergencies, we’d all be wise to be prepared BEFORE the next emergency happens.

One of our neighbours passed away very suddenly last week (just 50 years old 😔) and it reminded me of just how quickly things can go sideways. As far as we know he suffered a heart attack, and while his wife did everything she could to save him, by the time the ambulance arrived it was too late. It was a wake up call for me, that not only do we need to be prepared with supplies on hand, but with knowledge and skills too. I’m definitely looking into booking a refresher First Aid course and highly recommend everyone reading this do the same if this is a skill you need to brush up on!

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My hubby @ryan.sakawsky covered many emergency scenarios and how to prepare for them in detail in the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, you can subscribe and read the latest issue via the link in my bio, or by visiting https://modernhomesteadingmagazine.com/subscribe/

I’d also love to hear from you! What are you doing to prepare and/or what skills and resources would you recommend that everyone acquire now before it’s too late?

Comment below 👇
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31 3

If you feel like your garden struggled more than usual this year, or that many of your homesteading efforts were in vain, you’re not alone.

In fact, I heard from more people than ever before this year who were struggling with their gardens; With extreme or unpredictable weather; With pest problems that seemed worse than usual; With all manner of things that seemed to be conspiring against them and their efforts to grow food.

The fact is, gardening and homesteading comes with an inevitable amount of failure every year, and some years are going to be worse than others.

In the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, Mike Fitzgerald of @omnivore.culture gets vulnerable and shares his own homesteading struggles, and the insights he gained from a rough year in the garden.

“I held in my heart an overwhelming level of optimism for the 2022 growing season… I couldn’t have been more wrong and could not have possibly prepared for what awaited me in the upcoming months that paved the way into summer,” he begins.

To read the full story, click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky or go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe or log in and read the latest issue 🍁

(Quote in the reel by Mike Fitzgerald, “Rolling With the Punches,” Modern Homesteading Magazine | Issue 29 | Fall 2022).

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The world is changing faster than ever.

We’ve barely had time to adapt to the “new normal” and still things are continuing to shift, change, and in some cases spiral more each day.

From rising inflation and persistent supply chain issues, to a looming recession and food shortages that are expected to get worse after a very tough farming year, to a war on European soil and the threat of cyber attacks and (God forbid) a nuclear attack, to the future of digital IDs and increasingly pervasive government control over every aspect of our lives, it’s no wonder more people are looking for ways to escape the matrix and “opt out” of the system.

I consider myself an optimistic realist: I hope for the best and I live fully and freely in the moment, but I prepare for the future accordingly based on what I can see unfolding in our world. And honestly, I find this “sweet spot” to be incredibly empowering.

This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

That’s why I created The Society of Self-Reliance: A private membership that connects you with the resources, support and community you need to reclaim your independence and become more self-reliant in every aspect of your life.

From growing and preserving your own food to crafting and using herbal medicine to life skills like how to manage it all and stay calm in stressful situations, how to prepare for emergency situations and much more, if you’re ready to learn invaluable skills that will help you take control of your family’s food security, health and wellbeing, time, finances, and ultimately over your own future, The Society of Self-Reliance was created for you!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reopening the Society doors for a limited time starting next week, and wanted to give you the heads up NOW so that you can get on the waitlist and make sure you don’t miss out when enrollment opens.

To learn more or get on the waitlist, click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky or go to thehouseandhomestead.com/society

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Add a tablespoon or 2 of this syrup to your coffee or homemade latte for a better quality, better tasting PSL for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay at a coffee shop.

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In the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, I sat down with Ann Accetta-Scott of @afarmgirlinthemaking to talk all about what people need to know about buying and selling a homestead property.

Ann and her husband Justin recently moved from their two-acre homestead outside of Seattle, Washington to a 40-acre homestead in rural Tennessee. Ann and I sat down to talk about the realities of buying and selling a homestead, moving across the country to pursue your homesteading dream, what to look for when you’re searching for your next property, pitfalls to avoid (if you can!), and what you can do if you’re not ready or in a position to make your move just yet.

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Check out the full interview in the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine: link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe, login to the library (if you’re already a subscriber) or view a sample of the current issue!

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31 0

This is why people don’t trust our medical system!!!

I very rarely go on a rant about current events but this has me feeling really fired up…

My husband and I each got an Amber Alert on our phones the other night along with millions of other British Columbians, informing us of a child abduction in Vancouver. It made the suspect sound like a dangerous kidnapper and said “do not approach. Call 911.”

As it turns out, it was the mother of the child (a 3-year-old boy), who had refused medical treatment without getting a second opinion and follow up blood tests, so the Ministry of Child and Family Services was called, she was arrested and her son was taken from her and was administered medical treatment in the hospital without consent and without a guardian present.

There’s a lot more to this story than I’m able to share in this video or this caption, so I’ll post some links below where you can hear directly from the mom what happened, and check out other IG accounts that have been in direct contact with her and the father. But the point is this was a GROSS misuse of our Amber Alert system, a GROSS abuse of power (turns out the boy wasn’t sick in the end anyway), and has now traumatized this family for life.

Doctors are not gods and as mothers we do not co-parent with the government!!!

This hits close to home for me because I too have been through the medical system and had my concerns dismissed, was misdiagnosed and given wrong information, and was treated with obvious contempt when I got a second opinion.

In this day and age of rampant medical coercion and the erosion of bodily autonomy over our own bodies and over those of our children, this story highlights the dangers of the very slippery slope we’re on.

As parents who only have the best interests of our children at heart, this could happen to any one of us. We can’t let this be normalized. Remember “first they came for (fill in the blank), and I said nothing. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Check out my stories for the full video that the mom, Wiloh made explaining the details of what happened or check out the comments for links to learn more & support this family.
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95 27

I’ve hesitated about posting this reel over and over because I know I’ll probably get backlash, hate and vitriol from some people in return. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t speak the truth that’s on my heart and mind…

If you haven’t noticed, there are currently thousands of Canadians sharing their stories and using the hashtag #trudeaumustgo on their social media posts right now in response to the divisive rhetoric and actions of our prime minister over the past few months. But our media has downplayed the issue and has attributed most of the hashtags to “bot” accounts and foreigners trying to influence our politics.

In response, real Canadians are making videos and sharing their stories to show that we are not bots, but real people who have been negatively affected by the words and actions of our leaders, particularly our leader at the top.

I used to consider myself a lifelong leftist and have supported the liberal government and Trudeau over the years, but after what I’ve witnessed over the past few months; After how he has spoken about Canadians who have made a different medical choice or who have protested mandates (which have done nothing to stop the spread of you-know-what anyway); After the hate and division that has trickled down from the top and infiltrated our communities, I can no longer stand silently by.

While I am 💉, a few months ago when I voiced my support for those who stood up against mandates and against the division being pushed on us by our leadership, I suddenly found myself among what our prime minister called the “small fringe minority” of citizens with “unacceptable views.”

I lost followers, friends and even a couple family members. I was told I’d been “radicalized,” although my views have never changed.

So today I’m adding my voice to the chorus of real, everyday Canadians who are taking a stand against tyranny and division in this country. As the saying goes, if we do not stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. I stand for freedom & autonomy, and against division & tyranny.

#trudeaumustgo

(Special thanks to fellow 🇨🇦 homesteader @meggarlandd for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this:)
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284 59

What would you do if the grid went down?

Imagine not just the lights going out, but all power, all digital communication and information. Would you be prepared?

A lot of us THINK we’re prepared for a grid down situation, but unless you’re already living off grid, you might not realize how dependent on technology we really are!

In the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, contributor Ashley Constance of @dirtypawshomestead and @alittleselfreliant shares her experience voluntarily going without power for the day, and what she and her husband, Shawn learned from their grid down experiment.

You might be surprised at the things they discovered and missed on their prep list, and it might prompt you to reevaluate whether you’re ready in case the grid goes down, or even just Google 😱

Check out the full story in the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine!

Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com

#modernhomesteadingmagazine #homesteadersofinstagram #homesteading #modernhomesteading #prepping #nationalpreparednessmonth
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The other day when I had a few minutes to spare, I was out in the garden doing a little work when my neighbour said hi over the fence.

I lamented to her about how busy we’ve been and how hard it’s been to keep on top of this year. Very sincerely, she replied “wait until you have another one,” referring to our baby on the way.

“You’ll be moving back to the suburbs so quick, mark my words,” she said.

Now, I don’t for a second think there was any ill intent behind her statement, but still, it took me aback.

“We’ll never move back to the city or the suburbs,” I replied with a laugh. “This may be hard work but we love it.”

She then repeated her statement and followed it up with “just you wait and see.”

I decided not to continue the back and forth. After all, I told myself, it doesn’t matter if she or anyone else knows what’s truly in your heart. It doesn’t matter if she understands that there’s no amount of difficulty that would make me run back to the suburbs and leave this life behind. In fact, our dream is to upgrade to a bigger property someday where we can grow an even bigger garden and add more livestock to our homestead!

Likewise, I visited the city last weekend for a family event and as always, I had at least a couple people ask me “so when are you moving back to the city?”

Seven years later, and still we have friends and family members who think this is just a phase we’re going through, and eventually we’ll come to our senses and move back.

I used to get offended by these questions because I felt unseen; I felt like nobody took this life that I’m so passionate about seriously, and thought it was “cute” that I was “playing farmer” for a bit, but eventually I had to grow up and become part of the “real world” once again.

Now I just smile and reply “never:)”

Can you relate? How do you (politely) respond when someone questions your lifestyle choices or implies that you’ll eventually come to your senses and come back to “reality”?

Let me know below 👇
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88 16

The fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine just dropped!

In this issue you’ll find:

• Preparedness tips, tricks and advice to help you be ready for anything on the homestead (and in life!)
•The ultimate guide to growing garlic at home and it as both food and medicine
• Drool-worthy recipes that feature garlic as the star!
• Expert advice from A Farmgirl in the Making’s Ann Accetta-Scott on what to look for (and look out for) when buying or selling a homestead property
• Advice on how to learn and grow from perceived homesteading “failures”

And more!!!

Go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com or click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky to subscribe or login to the library and read the latest issue if you’re already subscribed!
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