Health Benefits of Self-Sufficiency (Part 2)

One of my earliest posts on self-sufficiency touted the health benefits of this form of living. I most definitely stand by that postanything you can do to improve your health is good. In the time since I wrote that post, I’ve lost still more weight and I now control my diabetes using diet alone. In fact, I no longer take any sort of medication to manage health issues. I’m still not out of the woodsnor is my wife. We both know that we have further to go if we want this lifestyle to produce the desired results. However, it’s nice to see the progress that we’ve made.

Some people are under the wrongful assumption, however, that simply changing diet, losing weight, and living healthier will undo the wrongs of the past. My situation is a case in point. Losing weight has actually caused a health problem in my case and I recently had to have my gallbladder removed to solve the problem. Many sites tell you that rapid weight loss will cause the formation of gallstones, but this isn’t quite true. Every medical professional I’ve talked with has told me outright that any weight loss greater than 50 pounds can result in gallstones. If you’re diabetic, the gallstones are especially troublesome because they can cause problems with the pancreasan organ already overextended by diabetes. Certainly, my 4 pound per month average weight loss isn’t rapid and well within the recommended guidelines. My take on all this is that there is no free lunchif you’ve abused your body you’re going to pay a price for it.

However, in the grand scheme of things, losing a gallbladder is certainly preferable to the problems I’d experience if I remained at my former weight. Diabetics have all kinds of increased health risks, including loss of eyesight, heart troubles, kidney damage, and nerve damage. Getting my weight and diabetes under control was the right thing to do, even if it cost me a gallbladder to do it. You can easily live without a gallbladder, but you can’t live without a heart and life is far less liveable without eyes. In fact, if you’re living a healthy lifestyle, you’re unlikely to even notice that the gallbladder is gone once you get over the surgery.

What bothers me in all this is that the medical profession is lax about telling anyone the potential consequences of a seemingly healthy decision. Perhaps the thought is that any discussion of anything negative will only discourage people so that even fewer will take a positive course of action. Everything you do has a consequence, so it’s best to be informed. I hadn’t gotten very far along my current path when I discovered this potentially negative side effects of weight loss, but I had to conduct my own research to obtain the information. Of course, that’s my recommendation to you as well. You need to go into any health-related decision with eyes open. In my case, I made an informed decision and realized early there were risks.

So, what does this all have to do with self-sufficiency? Getting rid of the medications, learning to eat right, exercising nearly every dayall of these goals are part of being self-sufficient. As part of my self-sufficient lifestyle I’ll maintain more of my muscle mass far later in life (my 78 year old uncle can still lift 100 pound bags of feed), but I’ll pay for that ability with additional joint wear, so I imagine that I’ll need hip and/or knee surgery at some point. A self-sufficient lifestyle isn’t for everyone, perhaps you prefer the gym or simply a walk in the park, but getting healthier is a benefit to everythingmost importantly yourself. I encourage you though to research your decisions and make the best decisions you can, realizing that there are always risks that you’ll have to deal with as part of that decision. How are your healthier living goals progressing? Let me know at


Fun is Where You Find It!

There are many aspects to the self-sufficient lifestyle. One aspect is that you don’t have a lot of money for entertainment. However, if you’re self-sufficient, you quickly find that the fun aspect of entertainment has nothing to do with cost. Rebecca and I often entertain ourselves for free (or at least, next to free). So it was this past Saturday as we prepared for Easter. Every year we decorate some eggs for ourselves. Last year we used bought a glitter kit from the store, which didn’t work out as well as we would have liked (the glitter ended up on everything), but did produce a nice result. (I definitely wouldn’t mind trying it again, but would probably do things a bit differently this time.)

This year we used a Paas tie-dye kit to create some colorful eggs that are far less messy and store well too. Our total cost was about $4.00, including the eggs and we ended up with a second set of dye pellets leftover. Perhaps we’ll dye some eggs using the extra pellets during vacation this summer. The tie-dye kit was a tiny bit messy, so I wouldn’t recommend it for younger kidsat least not if you don’t want everything, including the kids, dyed spectacular colors. Here are the results we achieved:


As you can see, they’re quite fancy and looked nice displayed in egg cups on the table (the holder shown in the picture was used only for drying). To get this effect, you wrap a piece of material around the egg, place the egg in a special holder, and inject colors using a syringe type device into holes in the holder. It took between 2 and 3 hours for us to complete the task. During that time we had a lot of fun and laughs, especially when a set of colors would produce unexpected results. We found that you need to leave the egg in the holder for a few minutes after injecting the colors to obtain optimal results. The bottom line is that you can have a ton of fun for nearly nothing if you try. So, how do you have fun on a budget? Let me know at


Considering the Economics of Accessibility

People have asked in the past which book of mine is my favorite. I have a number of answers to that question. In one respect or another, all of my books are my favorite because they all answer different questions and help a different group of people. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the reason I write is because I truly enjoy helping others.

My reasons for writing “Accessibility for Everybody: Understanding the Section 508 Accessibility Requirements” are many. However, one of the biggest reasons that I wrote it is because there are good economic reasons to make applications accessible to everyone. Not all of these reasons have a direct monetary impact, but I do express them in the first chapter of the book. The fact of the matter is that if your application isn’t accessible, you’re costing your company time and money. If you’re a store owner, you’re losing money every second that your organization uses applications that aren’t accessible.

people associate accessibility with those who have special visual or
audio needs.  However, accessibility affects quite a large group of
people, including those who are colorblind. Did you realize that about 8% of the male population is colorblind,
which means that if your application isn’t accessible to this group
that you’re losing out on 8% of your sales right off the top? Can you
really miss out on that many sales? In short, accessibility is truly for everyone and everyone includes you.

It amazes me that some organizations just don’t seem to get it. Accessibility affects more than those people across the street; they affect you personally. At some point in life, you’re going to need an accessibility aid. Our eyes get older and can’t see as well, the ears refuse to hear, things wear out. So, the accessibility features you add to an application today will ultimately help you in some way. It’s the reason that I read about lawsuits such as the one between the National Federation of the Blind, NFB, and Google, and have to scratch my head. I have to wonder why such a lawsuit is even necessary.

Another reason I wrote my book is to show how easy it is to make applications accessible and to inform my readers about the laws regarding accessibility (laws that our government doesn’t enforce).  Creating an accessible application with the tools available today isn’t a major undertaking. In many cases you’re looking at a few extra minutes to add features such as speed keys and titles that a screen reader can read (the same titles appear as balloon help that sighted users also rely upon). It’s true that applications that make heavy use of full animation or video can become harder to make accessible, but these applications are in the minority. Most business applications require very little extra work.

If you think buying a book to learn about accessibility is just too expensive, I encourage you to make use of the free resources available on the Internet. Companies such as Microsoft want you to create accessible applications because they realize that it’s in their best interest to do so. These resources are incredibly easy to use and they make life easier for everyone. I’m always happy to hear about your insights regarding accessibility, so feel free to contact me at


Calculating an Hourly Wage

Yes, I know that most people work in the garden for the sheer joy of doing so. In fact, many gardens do really end up as places to putter around; there are a few of this and a few of that, but not a lot of anything. However, when you begin looking at your garden as a means to feed your family all year round, it takes on added importance. The garden is suddenly larger and consumes a great deal more time. It’s entirely possible to get sucked into a black hole of activity and to begin wondering what you’re really getting from your efforts.

It won’t help that many people won’t understand the obsession to produce the majority of your own food. Some people will make snide remarks about how much it must cost to garden in the first place and how you could better spend your time working a second job. A lot more people won’t make any comment except a halfhearted, “Wow” and think something completely different. So just how do you handle the naysayers?

Well, there is always the argument that food from the garden is significantly fresher than the food purchased in the store and therefore more nutritious. It’s almost certain that someone will rebut your argument with the latest article saying there is no significant nutritional difference between the food you grow and the food in the store. Of course, you can break out your equally compelling article, but fail to convince the other party of anything except that you must be a fanatic. The truth likely is that there are instances where your garden grown food is indeed superior, but that the effort in growing it will eclipse any benefit for most people. In short, they really don’t want to hear that your food tastes better or is better for you.

You could also make the argument that the food grown in your garden is pesticide free. Whether such an argument holds any weight with the person you’re talking with depends on their knowledge of the adverse effects of pesticides. Many people are of the opinion that the media has done a good job of denigrating pesticides and that they can’t possibly be as harmful as many people seem to think; some people simply don’t care.

The only argument that appears to hold weight with many people is how much you make when working in the garden. So, just how do you figure it out? The best approach is to start by weighing the food you bring in from the garden. For example, one year we brought in about 50 pounds of green beans from our garden. At the time, green beans sold for $1.50 a pound in the store (they’re over $3.00 a pound now, but that’s not an appropriate comparison; I don’t have any fresh green beans now either). So, it would have cost me $75.00 to purchase the green beans in the store.

Of course, I have costs when raising the green beans. The seed packet was $2.00. I also had to water the green beans. Computing the value of the water is a little harder when you have a well; you need to approximate the amount of time the water is used to water the green beans, multiply by the flow rate of your hose, and multiply by the electrical rate for your area. I estimated that I spent another $5.00 on water (mulching significantly reduces the cost of the water). I didn’t have any cost for fertilizer; my rabbits supply all I need free of charge. (Well, not precisely, but where else would I use it?) We also don’t use any pesticides on the green beans, so there is no cost there. The profit from our green beans then is $68.00.

My wife and I worked about ten hours total on the green beans. So, you take your profit and divide it by ten to come up with an hourly rate of $6.80. That’s below minimum wage, but you’re definitely not working free of charge. Now, you need to consider the supplementary benefits of gardening. For example, the cheapest gym membership in our area is approximately $43.00 a month. Because we were in the garden, there was no need for a gym membership and we can add that cost to our hourly rate. By working in the garden, I’ve also reduced my weight, which has reduced my blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Instead of four pills each day for my diabetes, I now take one; another cost savings I can add to my hourly rate. There are also fewer runs to town, which means a cost savings in gas. By the time I added everything up, I figured that I had earned about $8.00 an hour gardening.

Just how is it that I can say that I earned $8.00 an hour growing green beans though? After all, there isn’t any additional money in my pocket. The gain comes from not spending money. By making the money you have now go farther, you don’t have to spend as much time worrying about where to get more. In short, the benefit is real. By saving the money I did, I was able to use the money I earned for other things that I can’t produce myself.

There are some pitfalls when your self-sufficient and you need to consider them as well. For example, when you only grow food for the summer, you don’t need to worry about storage. If you’re like me and grow food to last all year, you need to consider the storage costs as part of the cost of the food. Many people turn to the freezer for storage. Some foods do require freezing if you want to keep them (some foods don’t store well at all). However, you need to consider other means of storage. The lowest cost long term storage method is canning. When you can your food, all you need to consider is the cost of the electricity or gas used to can the food, the partial cost of jars (they last nearly forever), and the cost of lids (around $2.50 for ten of them). However, don’t overlook techniques such as drying. My wife dries a number of vegetables in the form of chips. For example, nothing tastes better than a bag of zucchini or egg plant chips in winter; it’s a taste of summer from vegetables that don’t store particularly well in any other way.

I’ll discuss storage techniques in a future article. In the meantime, think about how much you make each hour growing your own food. You might be surprised at how much profit there is in having fun!


Health Benefits of Self-Sufficiency

I remember the discussion well; my wife and I were on a short vacation in the mountains of California one day (Julian for those of you who know the little town in Southern California) and we were talking about gardening. It sounds like a topic that is a long way from self-sufficiency or health, but there is a connection; even we didn’t know it at the time though. That discussion happened over 15 years ago. Today, we’re living a different sort of reality, much of it stemming from that innocuous discussion.

At the time, I weighed in at a gargantuan 365 pounds (perhaps a little more) and had a 54 inch waist. It was hard to find time to exercise and even harder to find money for a gym membership. Exercise consisted of walks, when time allowed. Today, I’m much lighter, having lost 127 pounds (so far) and my 42 inch waist is much smaller. My blood pressure has gone way down, my heart rate as well. In addition, I take far less medication today than I did at one time and my diabetes is under control. The technique I’ve used has also naturally decreased my LDL cholesterol and increased my HDL cholesterol.  The entire process has required a little over 12 years to complete; a long time granted, but the process has been slow and continuous.

You might wonder how much it cost to lose that much weight. That’s the interesting part. My wife and I now grow about 95% of our own food. We eat higher quality and fresher food and spend a whole lot less money in the store. In short, instead of paying for a gym membership, we exercise and earn money (in the form of store and medication savings) while doing it. You won’t find that sort of deal anywhere on TV.

The interesting thing about the approach I’ve taken is that my weight loss has been slow and continuous. The exercise I get by producing the things I need has actually increased my stamina and strength, while reducing my weight. I never get bored exercising this way because each day brings something new. One day I’m stretching while picking weeds in the garden, another day I’m lifting bushel baskets full of produce. Each day brings something new and the tasks I perform change by season. There is no falling off the cart because the change I’ve made is a part of my lifestyle now; I wouldn’t consider living any other way.

This entry has been short, but I wanted to introduce you to the idea behind self-sufficiency. It’s a method of producing what you need, gaining some substantial health benefits, and making money while you’re doing it. No, you won’t get a pile of cash from your garden, but wouldn’t you like to spend less at the store? What would you do with the money you save by reducing the groceries you buy in half? That’s what self-sufficiency is about; it’s about doing for yourself.

Keep your eyes peeled for additional posts in this category as I have time to write them. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts about self-sufficiency. Write me at