About two years ago I gave up a cush and fairly lucrative job teaching college to experiment with self-sufficient living. Since then I have struggled with what to say when people ask me what I do. The conversations are a bit awkward, at least for me.
First, I am not retired. It is difficult to remember the last time I worked this hard. Self-sufficiency consists of farming, but not the industrial type. Self-sufficient farming is physical and limited, but is rewarding and incredibly efficient if done correctly. But self-sufficient living is not limited to farming; I am not “just” a farmer.
Self-sufficient living relies upon the ability to fix things, to build things, to plan things, to heat and cool and keep alive. Self-sufficiency by its very nature is the dichotomy of retirement. It is the realization that retirement is synonymous with inability.
Secondly, I am not a contractor. While it is true that much of what I do during the day is carpentry-based the job title is not fully described by carpentry. While it is true that cabinets and counter tops are installed, they are also built often with wood that was milled right at the farm. But, I do not own a sawmill and I am not a cabinet builder. I sometimes must repair machinery or bring old machinery back to life, but I am not a mechanic.
Lastly, I make money and money is necessary, yes, but self-sufficient living is an act that strives to make money much less necessary. The hours in the week working at Trollcastle Farm is directly deposited into the bank account but does not come in the form of a check. Rather, it comes by not having to pay someone else; often money does not exchange hands. Money comes from not having to buy all the material that I use, all the food I eat.
So, what do I do? I run a business, a sole proprietorship. I fix and build things; I grow things, I am a caretaker of the little piece of land that I have. I work. I am a working man. I do what needs to be done. That is what I do.