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What is The Independence Days Challenge?

The Independence Days Challenge is a practice that I picked up a few years ago from Sharon Astyk, the author of Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation (affiliate link). You can find Sharon here and here.

I have blogged about the Independence Days Challenge many times in the past. But, just in case you don’t remember or haven’t even heard about Independence Days, here is what it is and why I do it.

Why An Independence Days Challenge?

These days, it seems that many of us are coming around to the view that we (North Americans) are rapidly moving down the economic ladder, from middle class towards poor, and while doing so, we must suffer the vagaries of a fragile economic system and the oligarchs who run it according to their pleasing.

If that wasn’t enough, the Climate is limping on its last legs towards a global warming catastrophe. I believe that pretty soon we will be past the tipping point (if we aren’t already) and then we will find ourselves merry skipping down the road to Hell in a hand basket.

I don’t know about you, but I’m worried.

Participating in the Independence Days Challenge is a way to get ready and to become less dependent on our current economic and political systems for our daily bread. Additionally, the activities of the Independence Days Challenge provide some peace or respite from the stress of making my way down that road.

How and What To Do?

There are eight activities to perform (if possible) each week. They are listed to the right on this page. They are as follows:

  1. Plant Something: You should grow some of your own food, medicine, supplies, or what ever. For example, I grow some of my own food (for me and my family), cutting flowers that I enjoy having around the house, insectiary flowers for native wildlife and beneficial insects, and some cover crops. Ideally, you should plant every day of the year. That might seem impossible, depending upon where you live, the resources you have, your health, and time constraints. However,  it is amazing what can be done with only a small space, only a few inputs and not much work. At the very least, you should start gardening so that you will simply know how to do it. Some day soon, this may be an essential skill.
  2. Harvest Something: Naturally, you will harvest things from your garden. However, as Sharon points out, there are many wild foods living around us, like nettles and dandelions. We only need to learn about the world around us.
  3. Preserve Something: If you grow enough food, you will need to learn how to save some of it for later. You can also learn to preserve all sorts of wonderful foods that you can’t purchase easily. Think luscious gourmet preserves and tangy naturally-fermented side dishes. You may also find that the Farmer’s Market is the cheapest place to buy fruit and veggie, when in season. You can preserve some of the bounty for the leaner times of year.World_War_II_Patriotic_Posters_USA_Conservation_Fuel_1LG
  4. Waste Not: Just like the WWII home front, minimize waste, conserve and make do with less. You can do this a number of ways. For example, purchase products with minimal packaging, , use glass instead of plastic baggies to store your left-overs, recycle glass and paper, compost kitchen scraps, figure out what to do with last night’s left-overs (so they don’t get slimy or fuzzy in the back of the fridge), give usable/good condition cast-offs to charity, consume a greener/more sustainable alternative commodity, use less, or just go without.
  5. Want Not: Make sure you have the necessary tools and supplies for the future (not necessarily the Apocalypse). You could plop down a load of cash for this, but that often isn’t necessary. Terrific tools can be picked up cheaply at garage and estate sales. I have purchased garden tools, kitchen tools and wood-working tools at estate sales for a fraction of their original cost. Additionally, or alternatively, you may be able to borrow or share equipment. For example, my brother-in-law is lending me his food dehydrator.
  6. Eat The Food: Of course, you should eat the food that you grow (and grow what you eat). Additionally, learn new cooking skills and new recipes. Do you know how to cook when the electricity of gas is out? Do you know how to substitute one ingredient for another in your favorite recipes? Start learning now. I consider learning new cooking skills and recipes to be a culinary adventure.
  7. Build Community Food Systems: I try to purchase foods that I don’t grow from a local grower, such as through a food co-op or the Farmer’s Market (see #3, above). Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a good option for many people. Check out Local Harvest to find a CSA near you. If you have time, volunteer in local food security organizations (i.e., food pantry, community garden, etc.). Get to know your neighbors. Give seeds (that you saved) and “starts” to your friends and neighbors. Invite people to tour your garden and/or teach them how to grow food. Get involved with your municipal government to promote sustainability and food security.
  8. Skill Up: Practice, practice, practice the skills you already have. Learn new and useful skills.

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