Being Self Sufficient

Pickled eggs
Ed Buchanan, a 74-year-old farmer who farms just for himself, can survey his little kingdom back here in the hills beyond Dillsboro and exult in sovereign independence.

Here stacks of hay, there pyramids of corn, beef cattle in the pasture, a milk cow in the barn, hams in the smokehouse, potatoes in the root cellar, the can house filled to bursting, chickens scratching the yard.

And with an eye of triumph, he can look upon his piles of wood and laugh at winter’s frown.

Ed and his wife Clearsie are so self-reliant they don’t have to worry about the high costs of living and fuel shortages.

“No matter what happened,” he said, “we could get by without any pinch or discomfort. We’ve plenty to eat. We’ve got plenty of wood to keep us warm and to keep the cookstove going for cooking. We can make do with what’s at hand and live quite well. We always have. Living off the  land and doing for ourselves in something we’ve always done. It was the way I was brought up. We raise practically everything we eat. Only have to go to the grocery store for sugar and coffee and soda, something like that. We get plenty of eggs, plenty of milk and butter. We’ve got all kinds of canned stuff my wife puts up. We’ve got plenty of potatoes, both kinds, and plenty of beans. We’ve got our own chickens for laying and for eating. I killed three hogs Thanksgiving Day. They weighed five hundred pounds a piece. I sold one to my son. That left us with four hams. my wife put up sixty pounds of sausage.”

—John Parris – “Independent As All Git-Out”


Reading about Mr. Buchanan and his wife Clearsie sort of makes me jealous.


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  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 10, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    My Aunt Merrill said that the only things they had to get from the store when she was growing up was the 3Ss. Soap, Sody and Salt.

  • Reply
    June 10, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Thats the way we were when we were kids. We raise all of our food. Dad would get coffee and his prince Albert and sugar at the store. We grew every thing we ate. It makes you hiumble and proud . I thank God for my parents for the love and teaching they gave me.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    June 10, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Tipper I really enjoyed reading about Ed and Clearsie. I deeply admire people who lived like that. My grandparents were that way and I grew up hearing stories about the joys and sorrows of an independent, mountain life, and the joys outweighed the sorrows. We are blessed to live where we can enjoy doing a few of those same things.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 10, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Admirable way to live! It makes me think of my granny–she always had cows, chickens, hogs and a big orchard & garden. She was one hard working woman!

  • Reply
    June 10, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Since my ancestors came here in the 1730’s, they all were self sufficient all the way up to my parents. Even after my parents married and moved north for jobs they still continued to have a big garden and my father hunted which provided more food. I always knew if a catastrophe happened my parents were “Survivors” and would be able to take care of them and us. They were always canning food even after they retired and it was just the two of them. I marveled at their abilities to take on building projects they had never done before and actually make something useful and beautiful. It is a lot of hard work which can be done while you are young and strong but as old age and health problems creep up on you that type of living cannot be sustained. Wonderful though while one can do it.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 10, 2019 at 10:50 am

    For 60 years or so, we were a sufficient family. I never tasted a candy-bar until I was about 10 or 12. That’s just how it was when you live on a farm. Daddy and Mama knew how to be self-sufficient, they learned that from growing up during the Great Depression. Everyone is all gone now, but it was nice while it lasted. We always had plenty to eat, and friends were plentiful. My older brothers had friends that helped us with the chores, so they could be free to play.

    Us boys would have liked to stay home, but Daddy and Mama saw that we were there in Church every time the church house doors were open. That was important for our Family and I’m glad they made us go. It probably kept us from getting into meanness.

    Daddy was the smartest man I ever knew, he could fix anything and way before I was even thought about, he killed wild hogs for necessity. Nice blog today. …Ken

  • Reply
    June 10, 2019 at 9:53 am

    This mostly brings me concern, as it seems each generation becomes less able to be self sufficient. My Dad’s family raised everything almost except sugar and flour. They had huge family, and all worked hard. He had once said he was not aware of the Great Depression because they always worked hard and had plenty to eat. They took a horse with sled into twn and sold, produce, milk, eggs, and butter. While my Dad always worked at a job, they still continued with the old ways of paying cash and growing most of what was consumed. I have kept a lot of the old ways, but always depended on having a job. Most of the younger children are just not interested in learning self sustaining skills. I do not dwell on it, but I fear for the future of our children.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 10, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Modernity discourages self sufficiency. It’s too hard to write into the tax code. How can the gubment take from the rich and give to the poor when they have previously declared them to be the poor? I suppose they could demand a portion of the wood from your porch but that would force those with their hand out to burn wood. They could come into your root cellar for society’s share of your taters but that requires the recipients of your “riches” to peel and cook them. And your chickens! Who wants chickens with feathers outside and guts inside? “Come on folks! We know you’re hiding something! Where are you keeping the nuggets and the fries? Where is the cow that gives milkshakes?” Look, this bacon is caked in salt. We can’t give that to someone to eat. The FDA forbids it. Besides that they would have to slice it and cook it over a wood fire. Knives and wood fires are dangerous too!”

  • Reply
    June 10, 2019 at 8:55 am

    I have to wonder how many people could be self sufficient in today’s world even if they had their own little kingdom like Ed and Clearsie did. One of my daughters could survive if forced to live off the land. The other daughter wants to learn about gardening, but never seems to have the time.

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    June 10, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Love this story. We have been doing much of the same thing here in Michigan. Homegrown food is healthier than store bought. Enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    June 10, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Beautiful, encouraging account of lives well lived, Tipper!…..1975-1985 when the children were young, I raised three white milk goats, a big billy and a horse at a hundred year old three story farm house and barn on a hill above the Ohio River in southwest Indiana….We didn’t garden much but got a lot of our food from a farmers market….It was a great life…..Now we are retired to the North Georgia Mountains and we love our life once again in the country on a hill surrounded by forests, lakes and mountains….And once again we are going to a farmers market down in Blairsville to get a lot of our produce…..Once again it is a good life that we are thankful for.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 10, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I agree. Kinda makes me envious to. Folks who can live like that cannot be coerced much, if at all. It would be really nice sometimes to be able to tell the powers that be, “Thanks but no thanks. We don’t need anything from you.” At one time, pre-1930 or thereabouts, that was the idea.

    I wish the NPS would have a program of having people live this way on the national parks, such as in Cattaloochee, as a different form of living history. But I do not know how successful they might be recruiting folks to do it. The pool of qualified candidates would seem to be very small, which – if so – would be instructive in itself.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    June 10, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I’m jealous only because I’m ashamed. That sounds like a good way to live. Talking to my great uncle and my mom and dad this last year makes me see the sense in this kind of living.

    I think I’m too far gone to live like they do. But, im looking for a place in between. There is a strength in self-sufficiency.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 10, 2019 at 7:53 am

    As a child I watched all my relatives live this way. We moved to town but still went back to the farm to help out on weekends. We always came home with something canned or butchered. I especially loved when corn came in. I was allowed to take home as much as I could pick and carry.
    I cannot imagine this generation doing the work it takes to live this kind of life. They would have to put down their phones.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 10, 2019 at 7:41 am

    This column mirrors my youth during late 1950s thru 1970, we grew or raised the majority of what we needed. We had an acre of garden, 2 acres of Cane from which we made Molasses, 15 acres of corn and approx 5 acres of hay. We raised and sold or slaughtered several hogs which we cured and Hickory Smoked the meat of which we sold the hams and consumed the rest and kept milk cows for our needs and sold milk and butter. It was a hard life but was fulfilling in that it instilled a sense of pride and self sufficiency.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 10, 2019 at 7:20 am

    Sounds like my grand parents, Tip, and it sounds like a good idea but never forget it’s a lot of hard work! There was a time that that was a way of life. It wasn’t a choice it’s just the way it was.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 10, 2019 at 7:12 am

    Tipper, that sorta makes me jealous too. Although I live on two acres close to town, I don’t raise enough garden to feed us thru one winter. I also don’t have any wood for my fire place. Gotta fix that chainsaw. The abandoned family farm is one hour away and has no house or barn, so that’s not practical. I dreamed of moving back for years and now it is too late in life to make that kinda of change. I do have enough trees (fire wood) over in the holler to last for years.
    I guess Ed and Clearsie skipped the fast pace of living. Hurrah for them.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    June 10, 2019 at 6:35 am

    I remember those days….growing up in the Ivy Log section of Union County, GA. I grew out a hog and that helped pay for my first electric guitar. It was a Silvertone made of Masonite. I thought if Chet Atkins played an electric guitar, I needed one. At some point in time we sold our milk cow and got our milk from Aunt Minnie Mauney Teague. When Aunt Minnie got her electric churn the neighborhood women all flocked in to marvel at it.

  • Reply
    Liz wagoner
    June 10, 2019 at 6:19 am

    Tipper you just described a way of life in Happy Valley Tennessee in the 1940’s. We didn’t suffer with all the rationing an other miseries of those war years. We lived well off the land and didn’t even know how poor others thought we were. Church and Jesus were essential elements to us and I bet Ed would tell you the same. Love your daily input

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