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10 years ago, my family and I created our first vegetable garden in the front yard of our home in the Santa Monica suburbs.

What started as an attempt to connect more deeply with nature evolved into a different passion. After we harvested our first veggies and used them for our dinner, we fell in love with the idea of becoming more self-sufficient.

We loved that we knew exactly how our produce was grown, and that I didn’t have to depend upon a grocery store a car ride away to supply my family with nutritious food. A journey that began with a delicious salad has led us to our 100-acre homestead, Patina Meadow, where we are continuing our pursuit by increasing our garden production area, growing our flock of chickens, and more.

Image by Kate Dearman

But, like the beginning of this story shows you, you don’t need a large farm to begin your journey to independence. As we head into winter, it is the perfect time to start planning for next year, so you’re ready to hit the ground running if you would like. So, today I wanted to share some steps you can take to be more self-reliant!


I always recommend people start this journey in the same way we did, with a garden.

Image by Kate Dearman

I’ve covered creating a larger garden in previous posts, but what if you’re short on space or time? No problem. Container gardening is a versatile solution that allows you to cultivate plants in pots, hanging baskets, and even recycled containers. You can grow everything from tomatoes and potatoes to aromatic herbs. Container gardening brings the green into small spaces, making your surroundings more beautiful and functional. Certain perennial plants like dwarf varieties of fruit trees, blueberries, and herbs like rosemary & thyme can be planted in pots too!

Behind Leila, you'll notice some lemon trees in pots! Pots are also great because it allows us to bring our citrus trees inside during the winter months. Image by Kate Dearman.

If you want to delve deeper into gardening, I recommend checking out The New Organic Gardener by Eliot Coleman. It is a wonderful resource for all things gardening!


If local regulations permit, consider keeping a few backyard chickens. They provide a steady supply of fresh eggs and even help with pest control in your garden.

Chickens are relatively low-maintenance and can be accommodated in small spaces.

If you want to learn more, check out the book, The Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard Flock by Anne Kou. We also share some of our tips and tricks in our book, Patina Living.


Self-sufficiency often requires acquiring new skills. You may have heard the saying, “A jack of all trades is a master of none,” but that isn’t the full saying! The complete verbiage is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but better than a master of one.”

Leila and our good friend Kerri have been learning more about herbalism. Here's Leila harvesting Tulsi for a tea! Image by Kate Dearman

If you can learn how to sew, mend, forage, cook from scratch, and perform basic home repairs on your home, you can not only be more self-reliant, your confidence will grow in the process.


But with that being said, you don’t need to do everything alone, and in fact, I wouldn't recommend it!

Image by Kate Dearman

Join a local gardening club, or a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, or head over to your local farmers market! Connect with like-minded individuals who share your passion for sustainable living.

You can exchange knowledge, seeds, and even surplus produce for eggs if you would rather not raise chickens or visa versa!

Image by Kate Dearman

If you take one thing from this post, it should be that it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. 10 years into this quest, we aren’t fully self-sufficient, and truthfully, unless we absolutely need to be, we don’t want to be. We enjoy certain luxuries that come with this modern life and don’t feel the need to completely isolate ourselves from them. But, I will say that taking small steps towards independence has made us more confident in our abilities and healthier both physically and mentally.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below! Happy growing :)



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